Archive for February, 2010

25th February
2010
written by Tony

When a piece of metal rusts, it is like a cancer. The oxidation spreads slowly, bubbling the paint before it erupts to the surface like an angry weal that can only be removed and patched over with a new piece of uncorrupted metal. After a certain point the rust can’t be stopped and the entire affected area has to be removed to protect the rest of the undamaged metal. And, even if it is stopped, there is always the risk of return, there is never remission. A chip leads to a flake which exposes the metal’s strength to the corruption of the air and the rust returns, requiring constant vigilance. Set amidst the ruins of a beautiful but economically devastated Pennsylvania steel town, American Rust tells the story of the slow decay of the people trapped by the gutted city of Buell and the prison of its influence. The strength of steel is slowly eroded by the creeping influence of rust born of neglect, and as rust slowly spreads across the closed mills of Buell it becomes apparent that the residents of the doomed city are decaying as surely as the ruins left in the shadows and smoke of the once vibrant smelters and factories. (more…)
22nd February
2010
written by Steph

Celery & Stilton Soup! Yum!

What do you do when you have (for reasons that are somewhat confusing to you) a ton of celery in your fridge and a bunch of blue cheese?  I guess you’ve got the side fixins for some chicken wings, but if you’re me, you make soup!  And a really good one at that!  Of course, this is assuming that you enjoy blue cheese, but if not, what are you doing with it in your fridge? (more…)
19th February
2010
written by Steph

One of my 2010 resolutions that is always at the back of my mind (but struggling to break through to the forefront, I assure you) is that I’d like to read more Classics.  Who doesn’t, really?  We have a pretty wide selection for me to choose from (and with my ipod touch on hand, the possibilities of free public domain novels are nearly endless), so it can be somewhat overwhelming trying to narrow my pick down to single book.  In such times, I tend to wind up creating highly specific restrictions that are ultimately pretty arbitrary.  In this case, I decided that since A Hero of Our Time is considered the father of the Russian novel, and we have a bunch of Russian classics (e.g., The Brothers Karamazov, Doctor Zhivago, The Master & Margarita, etc.,) kicking about the place, I’d better read this one before I tackle any of those other ones.  It only makes sense, right? (more…)
16th February
2010
written by Steph

Ever since falling ill last week, I’ve fallen woefully behind in my book reviews.  Not that I’ve been reading a ton, because I haven’t (that’s how sick I was… a week spent pretty much NOT reading!), but still, I’ve read some and then haven’t had the energy to write about any of it.  It probably doesn’t help that I’ve spent time on some fairly mediocre reads, The Egyptologist, being one such book. This is a novel told through letters and diary entries, which is actually a pretty cool conceit and helps the story flow a lot better than it might otherwise have done.  We open with a letter from one Ralph Trilipush addressed to his fiancée, essentially telling her that if she’s reading this letter then he must be dead.  He left a few months prior to the date of this letter on an archeology expedition in Egypt with the aim of uncovering the tomb of an ancient king whose very existence is hotly disputed.  In the letter, Trilipush mentions that he is sending along his private journals and dig notes so that his fiancée can publish his findings.  The rest of The Egyptologist is made up of these bits of writing allowing the reader to slowly reconstruct what happened to Trilipush.  In addition, we are also privy to the correspondence of an aging Australian private eye, who was hired many years ago to find the illegitimate offspring of a wealthy English shipping magnate; these letters are addressed to the great nephew of Trilipush’s fiancée, and as readers we slowly begin to piece together a larger mystery that is in play and that heretofore has never properly been resolved. (more…)
12th February
2010
written by Steph

[Apologies for the lack of updates this week - I've been RIDICULOUSLY SICK, and today was the first day since Tuesday that I haven't had an insane fever!] For the past few years I’ve been meaning to re-read The Catcher in the Rye, but never seemed to make the time to do so.  Then J.D. Salinger passed away on January 27, and I finally got the push I’d been needing.  Notorious for being a recluse who hated journalists and publicity of any kind, I figured re-reading the misadventures of misanthropic Holden Caulfield would be an appropriate tribute.  It may still have been more attention than Salinger himself would have liked, given that he never stopped writing but simply stopped publishing, but I still wanted to give the man his due. I can’t remember exactly when I first encountered The Catcher in the Rye, but I do know I was likely far too young to have been reading it; I’m sure I was around 9 or 10… what were my parents thinking?!?  I remember borrowing it from the library and being utterly enthralled by it. I don’t think I was a particularly angsty pre-teen, but I remember hungrily devouring Holden’s narrative and reverently cherishing the novel.  Evidently I loved it enough that my parents gave me a beautiful hard-bound copy for Christmas in 1995  - when I was 12 years old.  That’s the copy that I still read from today, and is the copy I’m sure I read from in Grade 11 English when we studied the novel.  At the age of 15, I think I was better placed to see myself reflected in Holden’s narrative, specifically his vitriolic rage against the phonies and the morons who pester him wherever he goes.  Again, I don’t think I was an especially angry teenager, but… I was still a teenager. Just so you understand my love affair with this book, I admit that as pretentious and uninspiring as it may seem now, in my final year of highschool the quote underneath my graduation photo in the yearbook was the following:
(more…)
7th February
2010
written by Steph
Sorry for the one-week hiatus!  Totally unintentional, but things have been busy and movie-watching wound up taking a back seat to other stuff, and it's taken us this long to accrue enough material to bother podcasting. BUT.  We did manage to watch some doozies over the last two weeks... On this week's podcast:
  • We coin a new term - "mehcommendation" - while discussing the mediocre Inkheart
  • Find out why Three Coins in the Fountain is filled with dirty, dirty lies, starting with (but not limited to!) its title
  • Steph finally catches up to 1999 and watches Fight Club... Was it worth the 11 year wait?!?
  • We revisit childhood favorite, Labyrinth, and discuss whether David Bowie automatically makes a movie inappropriate for children...

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4th February
2010
written by Steph
Yesterday I celebrated my 27th birthday!  And when I say "celebrated" I mean celebrated!  Which is of course to say that I received presents and many lovely phone calls wishing me well, and had not one but TWO great meals!  Really, who doesn't feel good when the people you know say, "Hey!  Let's party, because the world is that much more awesome for having you in it!"? So, the first of the festivities involved going out for buffet lunch at our favorite Indian restaurant in Nashville, Bombay Palace.  To kick up the fun quotient, my friends Trisha and Abby joined us for lunch, and Trisha even bestowed dubious Asian candy upon me.  How dubious?  Let's just say that if you never dreamed of using the words "Kit Kat" and "V8" in the same sentence, I wouldn't have blamed you. Then, sadly I had to head back to school, but the afternoon flew by, and before I knew it, it was time to go home and begin the gift portion of the evening!  Tony was very sweet and gave me: a set of Laguiole steak knives (with neon yellow handles!), a large ceramic dutch oven, AND a pair of Ultimate Ears noise-isolating earphones (which I have been lamenting/coveting ever since I wore out my last pair of trusty UE earphones).  A wonderful combination of practical and splurge-y gifts!  You know you are getting older when you get excited about receiving steak knives for your birthday, right? 😉  But seriously, so happy with the gifts because they are all things that I wanted but wouldn't have bought for myself, and those are always the best gifts! And then, it was dinner!  We decided to try a place we'd never eaten at before but was purportedly very good (and ideal for a fancy birthday dinner): Miel.  With a name like that, you wouldn't be wrong if you suspected that the food was of the French persuasion (or, you know, honey), and yes, it was very, very good.  Click through the gallery below if you would like an in-depth photo tour (with descriptions!) of the big meal: The meal was wonderful, and I think we've found a new place we can go when in the mood for a splurge.  I think my favorite dish of the evening was actually Tony's risotto - it was so rich and creamy, and the scallops were cooked to perfection (if you don't believe me, I'll simply say that historically Tony has not loved scallops, but he was won over last night!). The portions were huge, so we took our leftovers home and will be able to relive that section of the meal again tonight! 😉 Lest you think the birthday festivities are done now that my actual birthday has passed, fear not!  The joy of having a mid-week birthday is that you're entitled to celebrate on the weekend!  So tomorrow night, Tony - with the aid of Abby & Trisha - has cooked up secret celebrations (my favorite kind, as it means I have no hand in the planning! 😉 )  Hurrah!  Long live the birthday (and me!)!
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3rd February
2010
written by Steph

My only regret is that such a beautiful book had such an ugly cover!

A few years ago when my real-life bookclub was just setting out, I picked Never Let Me Go as our first group read.  I had heard such good things about it (it was nominated for the Booker!) as well as about its author, Kazuo Ishiguro (though I’d never read him before), and it was also dystopian fiction, which I tend to like, so I thought it would be the perfect book to kick things off.  In some ways, it was, because we all had A LOT to say about the book… unfortunately, most of it was negative.  I remember feeling completely underwhelmed with the story, the writing, the characters felt flat and unemotional and nothing about the novel surprised me (not even the so-called twists).  I was SO disappointed, and quite honestly, I wondered what all the hype about Ishiguro was about.  I couldn’t figure out why the book had been nominated for an award, and I couldn’t understand why people tripped all over themselves to sing Ishiguro’s prose any kind of praise. Despite my poor initial outing with Ishiguro, I felt I needed to try something else by him before banishing him from my reading life.  I decided I might as well try his, ostensibly, best-known novel, the one that actually won the Booker, The Remains of the Day (which I found at McKay’s for the hefty price of 75¢). (more…)
1st February
2010
written by Steph

My review for the February issue of BookPage is now up!  I made a conscious effort to mix things up and read something other than the regular "quirky, indie fic" fare I normally devour and review.  So instead I read The Postmistress by Sarah Blake - a sweeping saga revolving around 3 women just as World War I is about to reach its apex in terms of devastation and scope. I will say that the basic premise of the novel is that this is the story of a postmistress who decides not to deliver the mail (and all the moral quandaries and ramifications of such a decision), but I didn't really feel that was the true heart of the novel I read, merely a sliver of a much richer story.  I hate when novels have flaps with synopses that are misleading or place the wrong emphasis on certain plot points!  I don't normally gravitate towards fiction that is so overtly marketed towards women, nor would I consider war fiction one of my passions, but I did really enjoy this novel, in large part due to the writing, which I thought was a cut above much of what is published nowadays (though at times I did feel that perhaps coherency was sacrificed for poetry).  I thought The Postmistress was a powerful meditation on loss and how we naturally seek to impose meaning and structure on our world, especially in the face of chaos and destruction. To read more of my thoughts on this, you can read my full review here. [Note: I received my copy of The Postmistress for free, but irrespective of this, I would have rated it 4 out of 5 on this blog.]