Archive for September, 2011

27th September
2011
written by Steph
I have spoken before about the rather perilous state of my TBR collection at home. Some of you might think that I am prone to exaggeration or hyperbole, but I assure you, when I say my TBR stack was teetering skyward, I was speaking the truth. In fact, last week, due to what I can only assume was the slightest of breezes the three towers of books we had stacked along the wall in our living room toppled over. I remarked that if either of the dogs had been drinking or eating at that moment, either of them could have been seriously hurt (but especially Rory, our corgi!), since the books would have fallen right on top of them. That was all the motivation we needed to finally go out and get another much needed bookshelf. Behold our success!

Most of the books pictured are unread...

The shelf on the right is the bookshelf we have always had, and most of those books, I am happy to report, have actually been read. The new bookshelf—which we bought for the express purpose of housing our UNREAD books that were simply scattered about the apartment in random, precarious piles—is the hulking one on the left. I think that at most, five of the books contained therein have been read.

N.B. We have two other bookshelves + two nightstands that are filled to the gills, predominantly with unread books... So when I say I have a TBR book/book buying problem, I mean it!

But at least it's a pretty-looking problem to have, and one that will no longer threaten the safety of our loved ones! So let's call it an upside.

26th September
2011
written by Steph

I’ve been blogging here at S&TI! for nearly three years now (I kind of can’t believe that’s true… it seems like we were just celebrating our two-year blogiversary!), and save one or two titles each year, I am very good about writing about each and every book I read. Before starting this site, I simply had an Excel spreadsheet where I noted each book I finished and then jotted down whatever impressions it left me with when I was done. This blog was meant as a way of formalizing and expanding on those notes. I have a notoriously bad memory regarding books I’ve read, so it’s good for me to write about them afterwards, otherwise years later, I’ll remember that I’ve read a book, and maybe even vaguely how I felt about it, but generally that’s about it. Writing hasn’t made my memory any better, but at the very least, I now have a pretty record of my reading history, and I admit that I do sometimes go back and read my own posts to see what I had to say about certain books. In all my time blogging AND keeping my Excel spreadsheet (which I still keep), that is to say, five years now, I have never forgotten to include a book in my spreadsheet once I finished it. Never, that is, until now. I’ve been struggling with a backlog of books to review on the site for a few months now, and just the other day I was getting excited about the fact that the number of books that I need to cover was now down to less than five. I then started to re-organize my GoodReads shelves, and I stumbled across The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist as I was cataloging books for my “Books Read in 2011” shelf and I thought I was going to have a panic attack. I knew I had read this book, and read it quite a few months ago, so how was I so close to the end of my backlog of books and yet I hadn’t talked about this book yet? I immediately opened my book log and scanned the entries for this year frantically. Holmqvist was nowhere to me found! I had somehow completely forgotten to enter this book into the list, something I have never done before! So now I’m in a bit of a pickle, because I really want to write about this book, but I know I finished it back in May and I have no notes on it and so I’m at a complete loss about what I’d like to say about it. I remember that at the time I had quite a lot of feelings about this book, which involves an older woman who lives in a society where if you reach a certain age and don’t have someone who loves or needs you (and no, dogs don’t count) or hold an important job, you get sent to a unit where you are put to good use. Which pretty much means you are experimented on and act as a walking organ farm, as ultimately your organs will be donated to others who are considered more important to society. I mean, with a topic like that, how can you read the book and not have some kind of reaction? I’m sure I had one, but what was it? (more…)
21st September
2011
written by Steph

Exhibit A: Why marrying an artist isn't the worst idea in the world...

Tony and I haven't been watching tons of films of late, but one movie we did watch recently that I ADORED was Tangled, Disney's retelling of Rapunzel. I LOVED it so very much, and have many times since remarked that I think it's a movie every little girl should watch (even if they happen to be 28! 😉 ) because this movie is just so kick-ass. I'm sure no one is surprised to hear that growing up one of my favorite movies was Disney's Beauty & the Beast, but I honestly think this might be better. Sure Belle will always have a place in my bookish heart, but Rapunzel was just so cool with her frying-pan-wielding ways and general "can do" attitude. It's a really great story of a girl becoming a woman and learning how to make her own way in the world, and I just thought Rapunzel was really awesome and the kind of female role model that more girls could use.

But Rapunzel wasn't a chameleon, which is obviously what is depicted in the above image. That would be Pascal, her animal sidekick. I loved him very much too, and upon watching the film, I flippantly asked Tony if he would draw me a picture of him. I pretty much forgot about my request, but the other day, Tony said he had a little gift for me, and when I opened up my email, the above picture was waiting in my inbox. I was having a super crappy day, so Pascal's little smiling face paired with Tony's sweet words really made my day. Every time I see it, I feel happy, which is why this is now my desktop background! Instant mood enhancer! I just loved Tony's drawing so much I had to share it with all of you. And if you haven't seen Tangled, you are missing out and need to get on that! 😀

19th September
2011
written by Steph

I don’t have very many reading rules, but one rule that I have set for myself and that I have managed to observe for the past 3 – 4 years (read: ever since I made it up), is that I only ever read one Jane Austen book a year. Austen is one of my favorite authors, so it would be really easy for me to just read and review her over and over again, but that might get tiring for you guys, so instead, as a means of maintaining balance, I instead limit myself to one book by her each year. Admittedly, this rule also partially stems from my deep-seated fear of running out of Jane Austen novels, and is my attempt to ration them. The thought of living in a world where I have no new Jane Austen to discover chills me to the marrow of my bones. I do realize that since Jane Austen only published six full-length novels that this reading plan would only preserve me from my greatest fear for six years, BUT you’ll note that my rule says nothing about reading a new Jane Austen novel each year, so if I wanted to read P&P for the next decade, that’s totally kosher. As it is, since establishing my One Austen Per Annum rule, I have actually only revisited works of hers that I’ve already read. I still have Mansfield Park and Persuasion on the TBR pile, and even though I always claim that this will be the year that I finally try one of them, it never seems to work out that way. When Nicola over at Vintage Reads pointed out earlier this year that this was the 200th anniversary of Sense & Sensibility, that pretty much sealed the deal regarding which Austen I’d be cozying up to in 2011! My desire to do so was heightened after popping the Oscar award-winning film featuring Emma Thompson into the DVD player a few months back. In retrospect I think that perhaps it wasn’t the best idea to follow up the film with the original source material, simply because Emma Thompson’s adaptation is just SO good, and I couldn’t help but compare and contrast the two and I have to say, Austen’s version didn’t always come out on top. [Also, everything from here on out presupposes that you have more than a passing familiarity with the plot of S&S. Spoilers and in depth discussion ahoy!] (more…)
15th September
2011
written by Steph

As book bloggers, we spend a lot of time talking about all the wonderful ways that the blogosphere has broadened our reading horizons. I can’t tell you the number of wonderful books I have discovered courtesy of fellow bloggers and their rave reviews. BUT. What happens when you pick up a book on a blogger’s recommendation only to find that it’s kind of a stinker? What then? It’s bad enough in real life when someone tells you you’ve gotta read a book and then you don’t care for it, but somehow when this happens in the book blogging world, it seems worse, because you’re publicizing how much you didn’t like the book and are thereby accusing the other blogger of bad taste. So it is with trepidation that I write this review (and maybe that is part of why I’ve been holding off on writing it?)… because The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen, being the first in the Rizolli & Isles series, was a book I never would have picked up on my own, but did so due to a glowing review by a fellow book blogger. Said blogger talked about how the R&I books had become her favorite series and she was just plowing through them because she couldn’t help herself but to read them as fast as was humanly possible. I don’t tend to read a lot of series, and crime thrillers are few and far between on my reading roster, but this blogger was just so effusive that I became curious and decided to give the first book in the series a shot. (more…)
12th September
2011
written by Steph
Along with not being a very good book blogger of late, I've also not been a very good food blogger for even longer. I'd hate for you guys to think that part of why I've not been updating often is because I've stopped eating and have wasted away into a husk of my former self. So not the case! While my cooking has backslid a bit due to the combination of stress and exhaustion related to school and life, I do still try to cook a few big meals each week. You guys know that I tend to eschew recipes, so as much as I loved sharing what I was making here on S&TI! it was always a pain for me to write my meals up like recipe posts. Instead, I'd much rather just snap a picture to document a meal well-made and share links to recipes that inspired the dish and maybe jot down a few notes about things I did to make the food my own. So, I've started up a Tumblr food site where I'm going to document my culinary adventures without the pressure of being useful to anyone but myself! However, the pictures are pretty (thanks Tony!) and as much as I'm doing this to create a little visual compendium of things I should remember to cook more than once, I'm hoping other cooks and eaters out there will find it inspiring and maybe even a little helpful. To me cooking isn't about rules or following the leader, so I'm hoping this more free-form approach will be a better fit for me. Anyway, continuing our trend of starting blogs inspired by things that are said on The Office (trivia time: the UK version inspired the name of this blog!), you can now check out what Tony and I have been stuffing our faces with over at You Should Put Your Mouth On This. It's still a bit anemic and I have no idea about how to comments work over on Tumblr, but I suspect these things will develop in time. [Edited to add that I decided to stop being lazy and figured out how to use Disqus to enable comments over at YSPYMOT. So now you can comment on individual meals should you so choose! Let us all bow down to my mad blogging skillz! 😉 ] Image of Put your mouth on that
10th September
2011
written by Steph

I promise y'all, I am still alive and indeed, I am even still reading (haphazardly) and writing (even more haphazardly!). I've just had so much school stuff to wade through at the moment (did anyone else know that PhD programs are devilishly time-/life-consuming?), that by the end of the day I'm often too exhausted to muster up the energy to read anything above and beyond celebrity gossip websites (If someone wanted to volunteer to weed through my feedreader, which has never been as abundant with unread posts as it is now, I'd love you forever!), and writing is pretty much out of the question. Unless, of course, I'm getting paid some ducats! Money is a powerful motivator after all... It doesn't hurt that the fiction editor over at BookPage also happens to be a good friend, so Trisha lets me comb through the books each month and pick out ones that appeal to me so that I have a halfway decent chance of actually liking the books that I'm reading for them (hurrah for nepotism!). For September, I elected to try Ali Smith's latest novel, There But For The, despite having reviewed one of her books way back when I first started this blog and not having (m)any kind words for it at all. I probably would have been fine living an Ali-Smith-free existence, but her new book did sound intriguing and I quickly flipped through it to make sure it didn't have any poetry before picking it! Thankfully for all of us, I liked There But For The loads more than I did The Accidental, and found it the right kind of quirky with the kind of word games that I could really get behind. It's certainly intellectual and absurd, so it's good that I tackled it before my brain got overloaded by school work and turned to goo, but at the same time, it wasn't a book I felt I had to work at to read so don't let the fact that it's a smart book be a turn-off. After all, I love nothing more than a smart book or a smart woman (hence the PhD program)! For more coherent thoughts on There But For The, check out my full review at BookPage here. Also, I have something like 6 books that I've been meaning to review, only writing has been soooo hard of late. Honestly, using one's brain to think about abstract scientific problems for, like, 50 hours a week is really exhausting. I am going to try my best to get this back-log cleared up as soon as a I can, but please understand that if my posts are less frequent than either of us would like, it's not for lack of love, but really lack of neuronal firing power.