Archive for January, 2010

29th January
2010
written by Steph

Go to a bookshop and find this book!

Despite being shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1978, I’m willing to be most people aren’t familiar with the novel The Bookshop or its author Penelope Fitzgerald.  I’m actually pretty surprised Fitzgerald hasn’t received more attention from the book blogging community, given that we’re comprised of people who love books! And what do you think a book called The Bookshop is about?  Books! The Bookshop is a relatively short novel that chronicles the struggles that a widow named Florence Green faces when she decides to convert an old abandoned house in the sleepy town of Hardborough into the town’s first bookstore.  Florence faces several obstacles along her way, including a skeptical bank manager, a bumbling solicitor, but worst of all is Mrs. Violet Gamart, who wants the old house for the arts center she believes Hardborough desperately needs.  Mrs. Gamart is not one who is easily dissuaded, and she’s determined to ruin Florence’s plans and have the building for herself, no matter what it takes! (more…)
27th January
2010
written by Steph
I believe this is a darn good read!

I believe this is a darn good read!

I can’t remember which post a few months ago compelled a whole slew of readers to leave comments suggesting I read Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller, but needless to say the recommendation, while overwhelming, came in loud and clear.  I’ve been trying to limit my book buying this year because I really do have so many books that need to be read, but when Trish emailed me asking whether I’d like to participate in any of the upcoming TLC Tour stops and I saw The Believers by Heller was on the list, I jumped at the chance to do so (which, yes, this means that I received this book for free).  One way or another, I wanted to know what all this Heller hype was about! The Believers is the story of a family, the Livitnoffs, who have more than their fair share of skeletons in the closet.  Joel and Audrey were left-wing activists, fighting for socialist causes back in the ‘60s.  They have tried to instill their extremist beliefs on their children (Rosa, Karla, and Lenny), but things haven’t turned out exactly as they might have hoped.  Lenny is a layabout who only really excels at developing addiction problems; Karla is overweight, infertile, and in struggling marriage; and Rosa has suddenly decided to embrace their Jewish heritage and is dabbling with orthodoxy.  Things take a turn for the worse when Joel collapses during a trial (in which he was defending someone brought up on charges of terrorism) and winds up in a coma, only to have some of his shady secrets finally creep into the light… Oy vey! (more…)
24th January
2010
written by Steph
Somewhat of a slow week for us here at Steph & Tony Investigate, but that didn't stop us from prattling on about the 3.5 movies we watched.  Why 3.5?  Well, you'll have to listen to find out! This week we watched: Highlights include:
  • Is Jean Claude Van Damme secretly cool?  We discuss this while talking about JCVD.
  • Steph gets passionate about the portrayal of women in guy movies while discussing The Hangover!
  • Is Ink the worst movie ever?  Probably not.  But it might be.
  • We discuss whether Easy Virtue was rented because of Jessica Biel or Colin Firth. (Hint: It wasn't because of Jessica Biel...)

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21st January
2010
written by Steph
For the past week or so, I’ve been dipping in and out of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (I feel the need to clarify, as if some of you are thinking I would be reading some other Great Expectations by some other author…).  In that time, I’ve made it through about 100 pages, so, not really great progress on my part.  I admit, my life has been busy and I have perhaps not been making reading a priority, but I’m sure that I’ve been letting my reading slide because I haven’t been having fun with this book and don’t particularly look forward to reading it.
Just so we're clear, I'm not supposed to be rooting for Magwitch, right?

Just so we're clear, I'm not supposed to be rooting for Magwitch, right?

I have perhaps not outlined my tortuous past with this book, and that is likely because my past is not all that tortuous with it.  Just that I’ve tried to read the damn thing at least three or four times and I find myself incapable of doing so.  I don’t know why I thought this time would be different, but I was confident I would make it through this time so I could finally say, “Ha, Charles Dickens!  This time I have defeated you!” and then I could FINALLY move on with my life.  But no, once again, Dickens has beat me down.  I knew it was over when I could not longer bring myself to pick up the book, so little did I care about our fair and gentle narrator, Pip Pirrip. Actually, it was worse than that because it was more than simply being complacent or apathetic – no I was beginning to actually hate the book, and was actually preferring lying on the bed staring at the ceiling to reading.  Clearly this situation was not ideal. So I’m abandoning ship, giving up the ghost, and letting Pip live his maudlin, tragic life in the pages of fiction, all without me present. I feebly dream that some day I may pick this book up and everything will click and I will suddenly get caught up in this epic bildungsroman.  But then, maybe I won’t, and I think I have to make my peace with that.  Because for now, Dickens and I just can’t dance together. It’s hard to pinpoint precisely, I suppose, why one book captures us and another one doesn’t, but here are two reasons why I don’t much care for Great Expectations: (more…)
20th January
2010
written by Steph
My first perfect read of 2010!

My first perfect read of the year!

Tony and I have been married for just over six months now, and I love my husband dearly.  But last week while reading The Blue Castle, I fell in love again.  With a book that starts like this, you can pretty much surmise that it was essentially love at first sight:
“If it had not rained on a certain May morning Valancy Stirling’s whole life would have been entirely different.  She would have gone, with the rest of her clan, to Aunt Wellington’s engagement picnic and Dr. Trent would have gone to Montreal.  But it did rain and you shall hear what happened to her because of it.”
The Blue Castle is the story of Valancy Stirling, who at 29, is an old maid.  She lives with her overbearing mother and sniveling cousin and has a dull and oppressed existence.  Valancy is kept under thumb, constantly berated, and is perpetually holding her tongue.  She is only able to find solace in two things: the nature books of the reclusive author, John Foster, and the blue castle of her imagination, a place where her wildest dreams come true and romance is no longer an impossibility.  Valancy’s life changes the day she sneaks out to see a doctor (without first getting her family’s approval) and is diagnosed with a severe and untreatable heart condition that will likely kill her before the year is out.  This revelation spurs Valancy to overhaul her life and break out of her shell; she may not have done much with the first 29 years of her life, but Valancy soon learns that it’s never too late to learn how to live, and when she starts to cozy up to town recluse and possible bad-boy, Barney Snaith, she finds it may not even be too late for love! (more…)
18th January
2010
written by Steph
Aw yeah, come to momma...

Aw yeah, come to momma...

I don’t care if you have a treasured recipe that’s been handed down through your family’s generations for the past century – I’m about to share with you a recipe for chocolate chip cookies so good they will blow your mind.  If you thought I got excited about really good bread, you ain’t seen nothing yet.  Just try these cookies and they will rock your world... provided you like chewy chocolate chip cookies.  If you like crispy ones, I can’t help you.  I know there’s been a lot of hoopla on the interwebs about how one should freeze cookie dough for something like 72 hours before actually baking the damn things, but that is crazy talk, because who wants to wait THREE DAYS for cookies?  Not me, that’s for sure.  When I get it into my head that I want to bake cookies, it’s probably because I want to eat cookies in the near future.  Three days is not the near future on the cookie timeline.  But as Einstein said, all things are relative; just make these cookies and see.  They will be gone in three days and you will say that was far too quick.

The secret?  Two things actually: 1) almond extract (it makes the dough - or cookie flesh, if you prefer – simply divine), and 2) sea salt (the combination of salty and sweet is addictive and makes the cookies really something special). (more…)
17th January
2010
written by Steph
The results are in and are conclusive: the new podcast feature is a hit, both for you and for us!  This was a pretty busy week for us, but we managed to squeeze in the following four movies (one of which, I'm sure you've been waiting with bated breath for us to watch): Highlights from this week's podcast:
  • Tony learns just how important good bread is to Steph while we discuss Ratatouille
  • How to incorporate Super Size Me into your life for a healthier 2010
  • Was Avatar deserving of all the hype?  Don't want to spoil it for you, but: no.
  • The Shop Around the Corner proves that oldies can still be goodies (even if they are culturally insensitive)
Additional highlight for you the listeners: we've updated our audio-streaming plug-in for added functionality, namely the ability to rewind time (or skip ahead) so that you can listen to your favorite clips again and again!

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15th January
2010
written by Steph
I promised I would let you all know when my interview with Jasper Fforde was up on the BookPage website (I know you've all been on tenterhooks waiting), so I'm happy to let you know that the happy day has arrived!  Those of you coming down from your Shades of Grey reading highs will likely find this just the ticket to maintaining your Fforde buzz!  I think Friday just got a little bit happier! 😉 The interview can be read here!
14th January
2010
written by Steph
You'll recall that back during our blogiversary festivites, we solicited feedback from all of you faithful readers about what improvements you'd like to see on the site.  Change has been slow to come as real life has been busy, but we did take note of all your helpful ideas and are slowly getting around to implementing them. Most pressing was the need for a page listing all of the books we've reviewed on the site for easy browsing.  I'm happy to say that after a lot of typing, said page is finally ready to assist you in your Steph & Tony Investigate! perusing needs.  The archive can be found here, or alternatively in the red header at the top of our site under "Books Reviewed" (how's that for intuitive?).  I'm not sure how some of you manage to be so fancy and have multiple pages that are broken down by Author, Year Reviewed, and Title (SO MUCH TYPING!), but I hope that for now having a page that lists, in alphabetical order, all of the titles reviewed on this site will suffice! Let us know if any links don't work or if there's just any general wonkiness.  Thanks for your patience, and have fun playing in the archives!
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13th January
2010
written by Steph
Yesterday I read over at the Girl Detective's blog that The Morning News has released the shortlist of this year's combatants in the 2010 Tournament of Books.  For those not in the know, as the title suggests, the ToB is a March Madness style competition where books go head-to-head rather than college basketball teams, and is therefore way more interesting (in my opinion!).  The books are seeded and a tournament bracket will go up so that starting in March, two books will go head to head in a daily competition (M-F), until eventually we get down to two books, one of which will be declared the champion.  Cue the Queen tracks. Each round will have a new judge, though of course the outcome of each match is completely arbitrary, up to the judge's whims.  Even when I don't agree with the outcome of a given bout, it's always amusing to read the judge's line of reasoning, as well as the commentary on how the match went, provided last year by Kevin Guilfoile & John Warner.  It's silly, yes, and true it does emulate a sporting event, but it's essentially a wonderful celebration of books, and that's something I can always get behind. Last year I had read a dismal ZERO books of the 16 shortlisted (though I made my way through about 8 of them by the end, I think), but this year I'm already off to a better start having read two of the contenders last year!  This year the books up for the title are: (more…)
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