Archive for August, 2010
After a rather rambunctious weekend (comprised of late-night games of Scattergories and Moods accompanied by several gin and tonics), I had no desire to carry out our weekly grocery shopping yesterday. Choosing the path of sloth and Excedrin, I instead came up with a Sunday night dinner composed of things that we already had on hand and decided to leave the shopping for another, less hung over day. You know how it goes.
Rather than feasting on tater tots smothered in canned chili with a side of carrot sticks and peanut butter, I actually managed to put together a well-balanced meal simply… and so can you! The glory of this meal is that it calls on things that you probably already have in your fridge and pantry, so it’s perfect for those days when you don’t have the time or inclination to shop for something special. Also, it comes together in a jiff and is also delicious. It’s so good no one would realize it was a meal inspired by desperation! (more…)
I suppose if I had been patient I could have included this review in my “August Review” post, but I wasn’t and I didn’t so it’ll get a shout-out of its own. For BookPage I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing Matthew Dicks’ second novel, Unexpectedly Milo, which is in stores now. For longish-time readers of this blog, you’ll remember I read his debut, Something Missing, last year, which featured a rather endearing and unusual catburglar as its protagonist (note: Martin did not actually steal cats), and I was duly charmed. So when I saw Dicks had a second book out I was very excited indeed, and I’m happy to report that excitement was not misplaced.
Unexpectedly Milo features another oddball hero, this time a man who struggles with incorporating some rather intense (not to mention intensely bizarre) compulsions into his daily life. Alongside working as an aide to the elderly and infirm, and trying to keep his sinking marriage from becoming a total quagmire, Milo also juggles the need to crack ice from icecube trays, sing “99 Luftballons”, and sometimes smash a weeble between doors and their frames. And let’s not even get started with his Smuckers grape jelly fixation… Oh, and did I mention that despite these rather kooky desires, Milo has managed to keep them secret from everyone he holds near and dear for his entire life? Talk about stressful.
Rather than saying more about the thrust of the plot here, I’ll direct to you my BookPage review, which you can read here. Once more I was delighted and entertained by Dicks’ foray into the lives of those who live somewhere left of center. I love that you never know exactly what to expect with his novels, except of course that you’re in for a cracking good read. If Dicks continues his pace of publishing one book per year, at least we readers who like something a little bit out there will be assured of having one unabashedly fun read per annum. Highly recommended.
One of the things I try very hard to do on this blog is write something about each and every book I read. For some books, this is easier said than done… sometimes I don’t have tons to say about a book because it failed to make much of an impression (hence my tag of “mehcommendation”), but sometimes writing is hard for a very different reason. Sometimes a book is SO GOOD, it just defies my own attempt to grapple with it linguistically. Last year I read The Temple of the Golden Pavilion by Yukio Mishima and it was definitely a case of the second issue. It was a brilliant book, but it was also very difficult and challenging, and in the end, I never felt like I was able to sufficiently collect my thoughts to say anything marginally coherent about it or that would come close to doing that literary masterpiece justice. I must admit, it was the only book in 2009 that I didn’t review, but I’d hate for any of you to think it’s because it wasn’t any good. Y’all know I don’t mind sharing my loathing of a book when that happens to be the case; words rarely fail me when I’m peeved!
After reading Temple I was determined to read more Mishima. I am open about the fact that my knowledge of Asian authors is not nearly as good as it could be, so I was happy to find an author from that part of the world who really wowed me with his poetic prose stylings. One of the things I respected so much about Temple was that while it was very Japanese in its setting and its perspective, I found the writing very approachable and surprisingly western. Yes it could have been a good translation, but I tend to think that in order for literature in translation to really sing, it has to be pretty impressive in its original form as well. The writing was melodic and precise and incredibly evocative. I was really impressed by the psychological depths that Mishima explored in his writing, and admired that he wasn’t afraid of going to some very dark places.
Tony and I have two reviews in the August issue of BookPage that might be of some interest to you, fair readers. My review of Rosecrans Baldwin’s debut novel You Lost Me There is in the debut fiction section, and can be read here. The novel centers on an Alzheimer researcher who struggles with the loss of his wife. It was a really interesting read for me, because I do have a bit of background in memory research, and it’s a topic I always enjoy exploring in fiction. For those familiar with The Morning News, Baldwin’s novel is what you might expect: quirky and intellectual.
For those of you who want more “behind the book” info, I also did a quick Q&A with Baldwin for the web about his debut novel, which you can read here.
Finally, Tony reviews the debut novel from the mastermind behind the television hit Heroes, Tim Kring. Shift is cowritten by Kring and Dale Peck, and takes readers on a wild romp through the ‘60s, and will delight your inner conspiracy theorist. If you’ve been holding your breath for a book that tackles JFK and LSD in the same place, look no further! Except to read Tony’s review, which you can do so here.
After spending four beautiful days on Vieques, it was time for us to start our adventure on the big island itself. Our plan was to drive the ruta panoramica from the east to the west side of the island over the course of two days, stopping one night in a mountain retreat, and the second night in the surfer town of Rincon (known as the “California of Puerto Rico”). Up bright and early Wednesday morning, we made our way to the airport on Vieques and took another 10-minute flight on a 10-seater plane back to the airport in Ceiba. Our rental car was supposed to pick us up at 9 am from the airport, but it didn’t wind up getting there until well after 10. Although the wait was less than ideal, it did allow us the opportunity to people watch (always fun), and resulted in us receiving some pretty substantial discounts on our car when we did finally make it to Enterprise. The guy manning the desk, Axel, was pretty fantastic and very charismatic, and was really excited to hear all about our planned tour of the island. Here’s a tip for you: if you go to Puerto Rico, visit more than the resorts of San Juan. Not only will you see the “real” Puerto Rico”, but the locals will love you for it. People were always really impressed and gratified to hear we were seeing more than just the Hilton resort in San Juan, and were always really interested in sharing tips on how we could best experience their Puerto Rico. Axel told us the name of his favorite lechonera (roast pork restaurant) on the pork highway, which we noted and promised to visit it (you have to know us well enough to know that the pork highway was one of the motivating forces that compelled us to visit Puerto Rico in the first place!).