Archive for July, 2010

29th July
2010
written by Steph

When Tony and I were preparing for our Puerto Rican adventure, I agonized over what the perfect vacation read would be. I knew I’d be reading it on my Sony eReader, but that didn’t limit the field much. I dug deep and realized I was in the mood for a love story and something that was tropical in setting, since I figured my reading experience would only be ameliorated by being in the exotic haven that is Puerto Rico. And with that, the clouds parted and it became clear it was finally the time to read Love in the Time of Cholera. I read my first Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, just before I started blogging and it was love at first read. I could feel my mind expanding as I read that glorious novel, and I found Marquez’s way with words intoxicatingly seductive. It was a book I read slowly and carefully, anxious to savor each bit of it, determined to absorb all of its brilliance. It was a book that rocked my world, and I soon began to collect other books by this genius author so that I could work my way through his back catalog and revel in his brilliance. But I was also scared, because I’d heard many people state that none of his other books lived up to the transcendence of One Hundred Years. I worried that Marquez wouldn’t be able to capture that magic more than once, so as much as I craved more of his writing, I held off until now. (more…)
28th July
2010
written by Steph

steak tacos with a beet & apple slaw and blue cheese

Growing up, I was not a picky eater (still am not), and certainly wasn’t one of those kids who hated vegetables. My brother went through a phase where he hated carrots and hated peppers, but veggies never bothered me. That said, one vegetable I didn’t get much exposure to when young was the ruby red beet. I suspect my father doesn’t care for them and that’s why they never graced the dinner table, but I decided recently I was at a point in my life where I wanted to explore the less conventional vegetables in order to spruce up meals. After whipping up a beet & pear salad last week (with some kohlrabi tossed in just for kicks), I realized that raw beets are: a) really delicious, and b) actually quite sweet! I’d had pickled/jarred/canned varieties of beets before, and they are nowhere in the same league as fresh, raw beets.

With that in mind, I decided to use up our last beet in another slaw fashion, and suddenly this dish popped into mind. What could be better than steak tacos with beets & apple and some blue cheese? It sounded like a divine combination to me… and it was! Plus, it was a breeze to whip up! These will definitely be on the roster again soon… (more…)
26th July
2010
written by Steph

A few weeks (months?) ago, I had the good fortune to be asked to join Claire from Kiss A Cloud, Claire from Paperback Reader, and Nymeth from Things Mean A Lot in a little group read-along of Love by Toni Morrison. I was thrilled for the opportunity because Toni Morrison is an author whom I feel I can always stand to read more of, but rarely feel confident enough to do so on my own prodding. Still, I’ve dutifully gone out and procured as many copies of her various books that I can find (my only requirement being that they are not horrifically ugly, because there are some less than covet-worthy editions of her books floating about out there) during my frequent bookstore visits. I then proceed to stockpile these books, happy in the knowledge that I have more Toni Morrison ahead of me. But of course, books are meant to be read, and it’s always good when others remind me of this, so this was the push I needed to get back on the Morrison love train (no pun intended, as I didn’t capitalize the “L” in “love”). I’m not sure that if given my own druthers that Love would have been the next Morrison I would have attempted, simply because I still haven’t read Beloved, which is Morrison’s masterpiece and I know I need to read it. So I always say it will be my next read, and then, well, as you can see, it isn’t! That said, I’m really glad that I did read Love because it was a really interesting and compelling novel, and it certainly broadened my notion of who Toni Morrison is as an author in several ways. (more…)
22nd July
2010
written by Steph

Please do not let the ugly cover put you off... there is a newer, far cuter cover now available!

After finishing the first Mary Russell novel, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, I immediately put a hold on the second book in the series at my local library (though not before heading to the used bookstore to see if I could pick up a copy of my very own… no such luck, though I don’t blame readers for clutching these books closely to their chests and never letting them out of their sight!). I was jonesing pretty badly for Holmes and Russell’s next adventure, so when I finally had the opportunity to lay my own grubby paws on book two in the series, A Monstrous Regiment of Women, careful and measured reading wasn’t at the forefront of my mind. No, I pretty much tore through this book in a single day, and you know what? I don’t regret it one bit! (Also, I’ve now procured the remaining books in the series, so I can read them at my leisure whenever the desire strikes!) In A Monstrous Regiment of Women, Mary is all grown up and on the cusp of finally receiving her rather sizeable family inheritance. Now a woman, no longer a girl, things have become rather strained between herself and Holmes, as neither can deny the sexuality of the other any longer (though certainly they try). Confused and conflicted by this change in their relationship, Mary pulls away from Holmes, throwing herself into her studies as well as a rekindling a relationship with her old school chum, Veronica Beaconsfield, a friendship which opens Mary’s eyes up to an intoxicating new world. Veronica takes Mary along to a meeting of The New Temple of God, led by the charismatic and compelling Margery Childe, a woman who champions women’s issues in all shapes and forms, and who Mary believes may be mystic. As Mary is slowly drawn into Childe’s inner circle, she discovers that something is horribly amiss: Childe’s most wealthy patronesses have the unfortunate habit of dying in rather gruesome ways… conveniently leaving behind the bulk of their fortunes to The New Temple of God. Still needing her space from Holmes, Mary takes on her very first case of her own, determined to discover what shady dealings are underfoot, but little does she realize in so doing, she puts her own life (and fortune) at stake… (more…)
20th July
2010
written by Steph

Cloud Atlas is a book that I thought I would never read. I first tried to read it about three years ago when it was selected for my real-life book club. I was really excited, but that excitement soon dissipated when I started to read the book; I just found it torture! The writing seemed overwrought and like Mitchell had looked every word up in a thesaurus only to pick the most obscure option. For those of you not in the know, Cloud Atlas is a novel composed of six interrelated stories that are broken into halves (with the exception of the sixth story which is told in its entirety in the middle of the book). I did not even make it through the first half of story number one, that is how miserably I failed at this book back in 2007. I threw it away from me in frustration at the language and vowed I would never read it because it was an awful book. It’s odd then that given past experiences I should now be writing this review, but how things change in three years! I’ve written that one of the perks of our new eReaders is the ease with which they make looking up obscure words. You just double tap on the troublesome word and voila! A little window at the bottom of the screen pops up with the definition, not at all obtrusive or disruptive, so you can clarify your meaning and head on your merry reading way. Now, I’d like to think that over the past three years of voracious reading, I have in fact become a stronger, better reader, but the ease of looking up words was still a godsend when reading Cloud Atlas this time around. Whenever I encountered words like “peregrination” or “valetudinarian”, no longer did I have to muddle on in a cloud of confusion and frustration, and I think that definitely helped. (more…)
19th July
2010
written by Steph

Before I had the chance to pick up This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper, I had read a good deal of reviews about the book that had stressed how darkly funny the book was. Several readers admitted to laughing out loud while reading this book about a family that comes together to sit shiva when their father (a militant atheist… or so they had believed) passes away. Obviously death and mourning aren’t the typical topics one writes about when aiming to tickle the funny bone, so needless to say, I was intrigued. After all, I would say I probably enjoy inappropriate, mordant humor more than most so if this book is going to appeal to anyone, I figured it would be me. When Judd Foxman’s father dies, it marks the first occasion his entire family has convened and spent time together in a very long time… and for very good reason. As they are sequestered together for a week to remember the late family patriarch, dysfunction is the name of the game and it becomes clear why family time is a commodity best engaged in limited quantities. Suddenly all the old rivalries and obsessions that have lain dormant for so long resurface and demand resolution. Through the brawls, tears, and rekindled romances, the Foxmans ultimately realize that no matter how hard you try to define yourself as something other than how your family has pigeonholed you, returning home always results in some degree of regression. (more…)
17th July
2010
written by Tony

Playa Pata Prieta, Vieques, Puerto Rico

Part One: Getting There, Vieques, Beaches. The photos have been edited, the receipts tallied and the bags unpacked, so now it’s time to set down in writing our experiences in the verdant paradise that is Puerto Rico. Thanks to the diversity of this tiny kaleidoscope of an island we’ll be breaking this review into several posts, those roughly corresponding to the stages of our trip and one final post giving a general overview of our impressions of Puerto Rico as a whole, some handy travel advice and a book review (or two) of sorts concerning some of the travel guides that we used on our trip. So, let’s get right to it. We began our trip with a generally unremarkable drive to Atlanta (the bargain tickets were available from ATL, unfortunately bargain tickets to places of interest are not generally to be had out of Nashville), which was fine once we fought our way out of some unusually bad long-weekend Nashville traffic. We stayed at the airport Westin long enough to kick the clammy sheets into a ball and get up the next day for our 8 a.m. flight to San Juan. (more…)
15th July
2010
written by Steph

Well, she got the malice part right at least...

From a great literary high to a nightmare of a novel, such is the bumpy road of a reader’s journey. When I was offered a review copy of international publishing sensation Rebecca James’s debut novel, Beautiful Malice, I was intrigued. This was the woman who had sprung from the wilds of Australia and was apparently poised to dethrone the juggernaut that is Stephenie Meyer. Seemed like fighting words to me, so I decided to see what James had on offer. At 17, Katherine Patterson has experienced more devastation and misery than your typical teen. Haunted by the events that destroyed her family, Katherine believes happiness is beyond her reach. She enrolls in a new high school, in a new city far from her childhood home, and even changes her last name, all in the hopes of one last chance at anonymity. Katherine is content to blend into the background and keep to herself, but when popular Alice Parrie takes an interest in her, Katherine finds she can’t resist her vibrant and alluring offer of friendship.  Together, the two charge headfirst into an exhilarating world of hedonism and excitement. Caught up in the rush of it all, Katherine begins to open up to Alice, never guessing that Alice might have some secrets of her own, secrets that are far more sinister and deadly than anything Katherine could imagine. (more…)
14th July
2010
written by Steph

Even casual readers of this little blog probably know that I have a deep admiration for Tana French. An admiration that perhaps borders on the cusp of obsession. I devour her books when I get my hands on them, and find myself completely absorbed by the world and the characters she so skillfully crafts for her readers. I’ve been to Ireland, and yet reading French’s books, I sometimes feel like her fiction is more vivid and real than my own experiences! It could be that she draws back the veil on a culture and a people the way that only a native Dubliner can, but I also think it’s just a testament to how compelling an author she is. She could probably write about my hometown of Toronto and make me think I’ve never even set foot there! 😉 Last year after reading French’s debut novel, In The Woods, I prowled the apartment restlessly until The Likeness made its way to me from the library. I was so caught up by French’s characters, I pretty much couldn’t read anything else in that time in between. I just wanted more. I tried to pace myself, but I pretty much rampaged through The Likeness, loving every moment of it, only to feel utterly bereft at the end of it. Why? Because I had exhausted all of French’s published works to date. What was an avid fan to do? (more…)
13th July
2010
written by Steph
Yes, we’re FINALLY back from our grand tour of lovely Puerto Rico! But it will take us a few days to get all our pictures in order and get some posts prepped documenting our trip, so bear with us while we catch up on bookish things in the meantime. I promise pictures and a run-down of our wonderful trip are coming! But in the interim, I thought I’d kick things off with a little warm-up post to help me ease back into this blogging thing. Whenever people start talking about how publishing is a dying industry and paper books are going the way of the dodo, I always wonder how often these people travel. Because as much as people have laptops and ipods and similar electronic devices on planes when they travel, I never see more people reading actual books (and magazines, and newspapers) than when I’m at an airport or on a plane.

No electronic devices...

Even the advent of e-readers seem less threatening to those who cling faithfully to books printed on paper. Why? Because unlike e-readers, you’re never going to get nagged to turn a paperback off until you reach an altitude 10,000 feet… That’s what happened to me yesterday on our flight into Atlanta. I won’t get into arguments as to why I think it’s an inane rule to make people turn things like ipods and ereaders off during take-off and landing (Tony & I already had a rather heated argument about this yesterday), but I will say that as an avid reader, I hate having to sit around for 10 minutes or so without being able to read. Tony thinks it’s no big deal, but let’s just say that getting between me and whatever I’m reading generally does not make for a happy Steph. One of the greatest perks attributed to e-readers is their portability for things like traveling. Slim and compact yet with sizable library space, they eliminate the worry of never having reading material on hand as well as the inconvenience of clunky, heavy books that can take up much needed space in your carry-on bags. That said, for people who are avid readers, does having mandatory reading-free time on flights somewhat lessen the e-reader’s appeal when it comes to traveling? For me, it definitely did. I kept glancing around jealously at all those people with version 1.0 books who could happily read without worry that they might be forced to stop reading mid-sentence or at a critical juncture because the plane was preparing to land. I read to escape and to help pass the time, and I sitting around for 20 – 25 minutes during a flight twiddling my thumbs is pretty unsatisfactory. So I ask all my fellow readers and travelers, where do you fall on this issue? Does your love for your e-reader outweigh a little downtime on flights? Or do you always have a paperback book with you for just such an instance? I’m also curious to know how many people have flown with e-readers and whether you have in fact been asked to turn your reader off at any point during the flight (whether it be a Kindle, a Nook, a Sony, or some other beast) or whether you've been able to read uninterrupted as soon as you've settled into your cramped little seat. Please weigh in and share your experiences!
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