Archive for July, 2011

26th July
2011
written by Steph

Lying in bed sick with horrible chest congestion that has kept me and Tony up half the night, wracking my body with skeleton-shuddering coughs that have done little to help me get a clear, deep breath, the timing is morbidly apt to discuss The Collector. Anyone who has read this book will understand the sinister parallels between my condition and that of Miranda Grey, the female character who captures the obsessive attentions of Frederick, the creepy central figure at the heart of Fowles’s novel. But before I get ahead of myself, let’s backtrack a bit and give a bit of framework for those of you who haven’t experienced this bone-chilling, spine-tingling read. I have long wanted to read Fowles, but I admit to having been defeated during my two attempts to read The French Lieutenant’s Woman… While I dig its Victorian vibe, I never make it very far in before the overblown prose overwhelms me and begins to feel like drudgery and I move on to less impassable novels. I decided to give The Collector a shot after my friend Trisha blogged about having read it over the course of a weekend over at The Book Case many moons ago. Sometimes it helps bolster one’s spirits when heading into battle with an author when someone you know has actually had success with one of his books, no? (more…)
24th July
2011
written by Steph

It's been a few months since Tony and I last made our way to McKay's. Preoccupied with Borders bankruptcy sales, we haven't had much time for used books when so many new ones were looking for homes, but this past week, all that changed. We were in the neighborhood (McKay's is very close to our favorite Vietnamese restaurant), and decided to stop by to see if I could get a cheap copy of the movie Whip It, my latest obsession. We couldn't, but no trip to McKay's would be complete without a quick jaunt down the fiction aisle, where I swiftly found two books I just had to have! The Distance Between Us is a Maggie O'Farrell title that my collection is missing, and now I only lack her very first novel before I'll find myself in possession of all her novels to-date. I also picked up Old Filth by Jane Gardham, for two reasons: 1) I am convinced she and I will get along swimmingly once I actually get around to reading her; 2) I picked up a copy of The Man in the Wooden Hat on one of my other shopping jaunts which is a retelling of Old Filth from another character's perspective, so I know I would be better served by reading Old Filth first! The other three books, I am happy to report, were actually Tony's choices, as he has a bit of an obsession with Everyman Library editions, so could not resist picking up these beautiful copies of Pale Fire and Pnin by Valdimir Nabokov and One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. You'll recall that I didn't have the best luck with Lolita when I read it last year (it was definitely one of those books that made me feel like I was simply not smart enough to be reading it!), but you may be surprised by the Marquez acquisition. After all, I have been very vocal in the past of my love One Hundred Years of Solitude, so surely I must already have a copy of it on hand, right? And indeed I do! In fact, I actually already have an Everyman's copy of this book. So, why the double acquisition? Well, my first copy was also picked up second-hand, and I wasn't exactly diligent about checking the pages, and it wasn't until I got home that I realized it had been marked up with highlighters. It in no way diminished my enjoyment of the book (or Tony's for that matter), but the prospect of having a pristine copy was too much to resist.

And so now, I find myself with two near identical copies of a favorite book and have decided the best thing would be to share the love. So I am offering up my original, much-loved and marked up copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude to a new home. Apart from the markings (that sadly cannot be erased, but are quite minimal... maybe only 5 - 10 pages of the total book), the book is in excellent condition, including its original dust cover and a ribbon bookmark. If you're a reader who would like to experience this amazing book and have no compunctions about nominal marginalia, then please let me know in the comments below. I'll ship anywhere in the world, for great literature truly should know no boundaries. If more than one person expresses interest in the book, I'll randomly select a winner next Sunday (that is July 31)... so make your desire known by Saturday night at the latest! I now return you to your regularly scheduled programming... which I realize has been far from regular. Two words: SO. BUSY. I should have some new reviews up this week, however, so you'll have that (and maybe this book?) to look forward to!
15th July
2011
written by Steph
We each of us have a Harry Potter story. Now when the franchise faces another ending, this time with the films, it seems only fitting to take some time to look back on my relationship with the boy who lived.

Getting enthusiastic for Harry during the midnight launch of the final book, Deathly Hallows

I am not one of those fans who can say I grew up with Harry, because I didn't. Not really. When Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was first published, I was 14, but it wasn't until the age of 18 that Harry and I finally met. I was in my final year of high school, and my schedule at the time allowed for plenty of "spare" periods which I tended to spend in the library (big surprise) where I'd study and complete homework. More often than not, I'd find myself browsing in the fiction section of our school library, especially when I was meant to be completing my Algebra & Geometry homework. I was a good student, but AlGeo was my Achilles' heel and so I often spent my time reading instead of toiling away when it came up in my work pile. As I stared off into space wondering about imaginary numbers, vectors, and polar space, a paperback version of Philosopher's Stone caught my eye on one of the fiction spinners. By this time there was enough buzz about the series that I had actually heard of it and knew it was supposed to be really good. So I decided that I would give it a try and see what all the fuss was about. (more…)
13th July
2011
written by Steph

I know that I am not the only book blogger out there who is stubborn. I’ve read plenty of posts in which readers proclaim about “refusing to give in to the hype” and steering clear of books that have shot to the top of bestseller lists and set the general public on fire. I like to think that I tend to avoid mass hits in the publishing world because they tend to be directed at readers whose tastes are different from myself, but I do know that part of my avoidance is definitely due to not wanting to give in to peer pressure and jump on the latest bandwagon. Tony is probably the first person who can tell you that I do somewhat pride myself in being difficult and contrary, so it’s no surprise that this aspect of my personality extends to my reading preferences. All this to say that even though I have been told by people for ages that I would love Ann Patchett and that Bel Canto is one of the best books ever, I have resisted reading anything by her until now. I have a copy of Bel Canto that has languished unread for a few years now, but just when I think I’ll give it a try, someone tells me how much I will love it, and I immediately feel like I have to read anything else. When I saw that State of Wonder was being offered up for a TLC Tour, I was mildly interested, but it wasn't until I read the brief summary of the book that I was fully intrigued. I mean, a book that involves doctors and scientists researching medicines in the Amazon sounds like heaven to me, so with that temptation before me, I asked to be part of the tour. And I promise I did so in good faith, or mostly in good faith. I admit that I wanted to like the book, but part of me also sort of hoped that I would hate it so that I could be a lone ornery drummer in a band full of Ann Patchett fans. (more…)
12th July
2011
written by Steph
Once more I find myself in the position of needing to apologize for the lack of updates here at S&TI! It's not for lack of love, I assure, you, but as there is no rest for the wicked, Tony and I have found ourselves quite busy little bees of late. Grad students don't really get a summer break, and I've been furiously attempting to collect data for the first of three studies that will comprise my dissertation... Being deep in the data zone means that I've had little time for reading or writing apart from that which pertains to school. When Tony and I have found ourselves with a bit of spare time, I admit it hasn't been spent on the computer. Including this past Sunday when we celebrated our two year wedding anniversary! Can you believe I've been an honest woman for two whole years?!? Time has flown by oh so quickly.

This photo was taken prior to us going out for a celebratory meal. We decided to ring in two years of connubial bliss by stuffing ourselves silly at a Brazillian steakhouse... After all, I like to say that nothing says love and romance like the meat sweats! We decided that we wouldn't do anything crazy in terms of exchanging gifts, though in the spirit of the second wedding anniversary which suggests a gift of cotton, we finally got a new duvet set for the bedroom. We then proceeded to spend post-dinner lying on our new sheets groaning and trying to move as little as possible in order to let our stomachs deal with the huge amount of protein we had consumed. Like I said, it must be love!

I remember as a child thinking that summer was the time when the world slowed down and time seemed elastic and interminable. Not so these days, as this summer seems to be passing at breakneck speed. Still, I'm very grateful, even if there aren't enough hours in the day, that I get to spend the ones I do have with Tony, who is my very best friend and makes every day complete. I cannot imagine a better person to spend my life with (not even Mr. Darcy!), and I'm so very lucky to have such a wonderful and supportive partner to share my life with. All right, enough with the mushy gushy! I'll be back tomorrow with a review of Ann Patchett's newest novel, and we'll see if we can keep my book reviewing mojo going from there.