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24th April
written by Steph

Guys, I’m so sorry about the dearth of updates, but things have been so crazy here and time has been short for writing.  Turns out that even when you have a low-key wedding in mind, it still requires a good deal of planning – just when you check one thing off your list, a new one pops up in its place.  I think weddings might be the Hydra of social events…  I suppose I really shouldn’t complain as our planning has actually been going quite smoothly – dress shopping, suit buying, venue picking, all of that has actually been quite painless and efficiently completed.  That’s right, I have my dress purchased!  I won’t post a picture of it here, but I will show you the shoes I have decided to wear on the Big Day.  They are super fun AND comfy, and I look forward to wearing them at the wedding as well as many years to come.  I wanted a pair of shoes that were funky and expressed who I was, and I love the little snippets of blue (now I just need something borrowed and something old!):

That's right - I'm going to walk down the aisle in zebra-striped shoes with blue buckles!

That's right - I'm going to walk down the aisle in zebra-striped shoes with blue buckles!

And of course, we also had our lovely anniversary celebration last weekend, which was fantastic.  We drove Pip down to Chattanooga, and stayed in a cozy little B&B called the Chantacleer Inn (True story, though: I could never remember the name of this place while we were staying there, and wound up settling on a rather crude version that I COULD remember, which is really no reflection of the inn itself but rather my juvenile humor… I won’t post the name here, but let’s just say it involved a perfectly correct term for “rooster” (the inn’s logo featured one), thought it’s probably not the term you’d use in polite company… Tony tells me that Chantacleer is the name of a rooster from a fairytale, but if this is true, I never read that fairytale, so that mnemonic was not helpful to me).  We visited the Tennessee Aquarium, which we enjoyed immensely (though ultimately decided we’d rather hold our wedding locally rather than 2 hours away from where we live), and also had a great time dining out at some of our favorite restaurants in Chattanooga (this one place has the best stuffed poblano pepper appetizer on the planet, AND their margaritas are to die for!  I had two!).  I won’t lie, however… as we don’t have cable tv at our place, one of our highlights of the weekend involved simply lolling about in bed watching Animal Planet and HGTV in our room!  Hey, it just shows that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to show us a good time! 😉 So, looking at my reading log, I realize that I haven’t finished a book in about 3 weeks, which is why I haven’t been able to review anything lately!  I think this is largely due to me feeling mentally burnt out (I don’t have exams to contend with as many other people do, but things at work have recently come to a head, and hopefully will improve from here on out) and just being too tired to read most evenings.  I started reading The Master & Margarita, which Tony highly praised on the site, but I soon realized that while it normally would be the kind of book I would love, it just wasn’t the right time for me to read it.  It has a pretty discursive narrative, and my poor tired brain just couldn’t keep up.  I was struggling too hard to turn the pages and remember what the heck had been happening, that I decided to put it aside until my brain feels less sluggish so that I can fully appreciate Bulgakov’s swift wit.  I’m currently reading something for a top secret project that I can’t divulge at this point, which I realize is horridly unfair, but all this is to say that you’ll still have to wait a bit before I’m ready to post any new reviews!  Tony has one book on the roster that he needs to review, but he’s been utterly bogged down at work, so the time just hasn’t been available to write about it, but eventually you can expect a review on Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory sometime this year! 😉  And I apologize for not having recipes either… we took a bunch of pictures a while back when I was cooking up a frenzy, but at this point I’m not sure that I can trust my memory to write down reliable instructions (or ingredients) for the dishes!  It might be time to call it a wash and start from scratch… inevitably I’ll wind up making many of those things again, and hopefully I can keep up with them on the site! Some of you may consider memes a punishment, but I thought that it might be nice to post some actual content here on Steph & Tony Investigate, rather than simply another excuse for our shortcomings of late.  So, I’ve ganked an old meme off of Claire’s site, which she borrowed from Tuesday, and I thought I’d give it a whirl.  It’s supposedly the über meme, so hopefully all of the important bases will be covered!

Hardback or trade paperback or mass market paperback? No to mass market paperback, but then it’s a toss up between hardbacks and trade paperbacks.  I certainly own far more trade paperbacks, but usually that’s a cost issue.  I generally find trade paperbacks more portable and easier to read when in bed or in the tub (yup, I’m a bath reader!), but if there’s a book I really love and intend to read and cherish for many years to come, then I’ll generally want it in hardback (see: my Folio society collection of Jane Austen’s works, and my gift edition Harry Potters). Bookmark or dog-ear? It depends what we’re talking about!  If we’re simply referring to how I keep track of the current page I’m on, I generally just take a mental note of the page number and leave it at that. I’m really bad about keeping track of my bookmarks, so if I do want a physical placeholder, more often than not, I’ll simply use whatever scraps of paper are convenient. BUT, if I want to mark a page so that I can return to it, then I will dog-ear the page.  So I suppose my answer to this one is: both… and neither! 😉 Alphabetize by author or alphabetize by title or random? Random, I suppose.  Before our book collection got well out of control, I used to have our shelves organized based on a system that made sense to only me.  Generally speaking I grouped our books by genre (all mysteries went together, all sci-fi and fantasy shared a shelf, classics went together, etc.,) although I did have one bookshelf that I used simply to display favorites.  I also had to take into account where certain books would fit – some were too tall to fit on certain shelves in certain bookcases, so that physical limitation trumped my own shelving system.  Generally speaking, even if my system seems like chaos, I do normally know where a book can be found… unless it’s in one of the piles that keep sprouting up on our floors! Keep, throw away or sell? I used to hoard books, but since my addiction to purchasing them has gained ground, I’m becoming more discerning about what actually gets to stick around after it’s been read.  If I loved it, then it stays.  If I think I’ll want to read it again at some point, it will likely stay.  The exception to this is if it is a book I respected but didn’t love and is easily acquired (for example, A Room With a View by E.M. Forster) – in this case, I will likely place it in the Sell pile, as I know that should I want to read it again in the future, it will be easy for me to do so.  And of course, if I disliked a book or simply wasn’t moved by it in any real way, onto the Sell pile it goes! Keep dustjacket or toss it? Keep it!  I might remove it while reading the book in question, but I would never just throw it away!  Gasp! Last book you bought? Erm, many of you know that we tend not to bring home orphans, but rather huge coteries of books.  That being said, the most recent book we bought and brought back was a remaindered copy of Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff & James Norman Hall that we found during a late night browse session at Borders. Last book someone bought for you? Pride & Prejudice & Zombies by Jane Austen & Seth Grahame-Smith.  (It was an engagement gift from a co-worker!)

What are some of the books on your to-buy list? Ha!  More like, what books aren’t?  😉  OK, let’s limit it to five: Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows (collector’s gift edition) by J.K. Rowling The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes (novels & short stories) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Beloved by Toni Morrison The Polysyllabic Spree, Housekeeping vs. The Dirt, & Shakespeare Wrote for Money by Nick Hornby (ok, I cheated as that’s three books, but I consider them a collection!)

Collection (short stories, same author) or anthology (short stories, different authors)? Meh.  I’m really not a short story reader, so I’m kind of ambivalent on this one.  My one beef with the last collection I read is that the stories were really repetitive in style and content, so maybe I’d like anthologies better.  Then again, I own no anthologies and several collections, so call this one a draw. Harry Potter or Lemony Snickett? Harry Potter all the way (though Lemony is not too shabby)!  Can't wait for July 15 (when we'll be on our honeymoon!  I'm mapquesting cinemas in Charleston already! 😉 ). Morning reading, afternoon reading, or nighttime reading? I wish I could have them all!  I love the idea of morning reading, but I generally only have time for reading in the evenings. The books you need to go with other books on your shelves? Well, I am missing the final Harry Potter in collector’s edition form, so there’s that.  But other than that, most of my collections of novels are pretty much up to date.  Oh no, I lied.  I have The Complete Sherlock Holmes Vol. 1, but have not been able to find Vol. 2! Do you read anywhere and anytime you can or do you have a set reading time and/or place? Any time, any place!  I do best reading in quiet environments (these days, even soft music is too distracting for me), but I’ve been known to tote a book around with me at all times as you never know when the opportunity to read might present itself!

Do you have seasonal reading habits? Not really.  I suppose the Winter and Fall lend themselves to darker and longer books, whereas Spring and Summer seem like the time to read more light-hearted fare, but every season is the right one for a truly great book! Do you read one book at a time or do you have two or more books going at once? I’m a monogamist in all respects, reading included.  I have allowed for one non-fiction and one fiction book concurrently, but I never have more than one fiction book going at the same time.  I need to be able to devote all of my attention and energy to a single narrative!  I tend to be an obsessive reader anyhow, so inevitably I’d pick one book and see it through to the end at the expense of other books anyhow.  If a book doesn’t make me want to gobble it down, then I think that generally means I’m not enjoying it that much. What are your pet peeves about the way people treat books? People can do whatever they like to their books, though I suppose I am always annoyed when I think I’ve found a gem at the used bookstore only to find that it’s been highlighted and marked up to all hell.  If I’m critically reading a book, I do dog ear my books and note passages of potential interest (IN PENCIL), but that’s about it.  I try to keep my books in as pristine condition as possible, but that being said, I’m not compulsive about this.  In the end, books are meant to be read, and one with a battered cover and browning pages may just be one that has been thoroughly enjoyed.  I did once hear of someone who ripped the pages out of a book as they read through it (the purpose of this escapes me), and the thought of that truly horrified me. Name one book you've always wanted to read, but have never gotten around to. Great Expectations by My Professor Moriarty (aka Charles Dickens). Name one book you surprised yourself by liking. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.  Before you all start clutching at your pearls, and start deleting me from your bookmarks, let me explain:  The Da Vinci Code is horrifically written.  The writing is completely disposable and uninspired and downright bad.  BUT I read it compulsively when a friend loaned it to me, and I was really engrossed by the story.  It was utter pap, but I had fun reading it!  I don’t apologize for that, but neither would I hold it up as an example of what fiction should strive to achieve! My favourite classics are Pride & Prejudice, Anne of Green Gables, and Huckleberry Finn. The classic I had the toughest time finishing is A Room With a View by E.M. Forester.  I could understand why it was important at the time, and what Forester was skewering, but the prose was overly flowery for my liking, and it all felt rather trivial to me. I would recommend The Count of Monte Cristo to someone who doesn't read a lot of classics or who doesn't generally like classics because it has a little bit of something for everyone: derring do, romance, pirates, deceit… not to mention it’s the ultimate tale of revenge! To me a classic is a book that has stood the test of time.  It wasn’t just popular in its day (perhaps it wasn’t even then!), but it continues to speak to readers and bridge the boundaries of time and space. The type of relationship I have with classics is hot and cold!  I love how involved (and involving!) they can be, but sometimes their length intimidates me.  Still, I have a fondness for them as they remind me of a younger Steph – one who could read tirelessly and got utterly wrapped up in every story she read.  I used to pronounce that classics were the only books worth reading (for the reasons I stated above… if people are still reading them, they must be good!).

Three bookish habits: I fully believe in picking the book that speaks to you at a particular moment in time.  I can never keep lists about what I’ll read next and stick to them, because my reading is so heavily influenced by my mood! I obsessively catalogue my books on Goodreads, even down to my current page number!  The first thing I do upon coming home from the bookstore is to update my Goodreads library.  I also love to rate my books once I’ve read them! I’m very fixated on book aesthetics.  Reading is a multi-sensory experience to me – I love the way a book feels in my hands, I love the smell of books, and it’s really important to me that a book be printed in a clear and legible typeface.  I hate when a book’s type is all smeared or too thick! Three things that distract you: School Dogs The internet Three favourite book beverages: Peppermint Tea Hot Chocolate Ice water Three dead writers you'd love to meet: Jane Austen William Shakespeare Kurt Vonnegut Book Memories 20 years ago: I was six.  So while I don’t think I have any distinct memories of the time, I do remember my dad spending a lot of time reading to me.  It was our special time, and I think it’s a huge part of why we’re still so close today (and always have been!). 10 years ago: My teenage years!  This is around the time I discovered Jane Austen, and was very into reading the Classics.  That being said, most of my reading was largely prescribed by highschool English classes. 5 years ago: Finishing up undergrad, I did very little pleasure reading, as I was so swamped with coursework.  I mostly read easier books at this time, as I could finish them quickly, so I read a lot of Harry Potter, Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series, the Shopaholic books (it’s true, I admit it!), and Bridget Jones. 3 years ago: I began to recommit to reading for pleasure, and began keeping a log of the books I was reading.  I noted a definite shift towards more contemporary fiction.  Harry Potter still featured prominently! Last year: I reached a record high in terms of books read in a single year.  The general trend has been that I’m doing less re-reading and more exploring.  I discovered Marquez and Saramago, and came to realize that I really enjoy Magical Realism.  I decided I would like to get back into reading the Classics (this hasn’t really happened though…) and also getting a more international beat to my fiction.

This year: Started off strong, reading a book every 2 – 3 days, but lately I’ve been in a slump.  I’ve read some good books this year, but none that I feel I have really loved.  I did discover Toni Morrison, which has been an eye opener! This month: Total failure!  I’ve only read one book this month, and I don’ think it even counts as I finished it on April 1st, but read it largely in March.  Hopefully this hiatus will mean I return even hungrier for books than ever!


  1. 04/24/2009

    There are bad memes and then there are good memes. This is good. Wasn’t it fun to answer? I sure had fun reading your answers.

    And don’t apologize for the reading slump.. your wedding is way more important. And I love those shoes! Awesome! Zebra stripes with a bridal gown, how sexy is that?!

    Are you sure you’re up to reading 2666? Hm. Let me know, and I won’t bop your head if you decide not to read it at this time. I would rather see you wrapping up wedding favours than wallowing in a chunkster with your mind half a world away, lol.

    Excited to see you in your gown.. I know it’ll be sometime but really looking forward to that. 😀

  2. 04/24/2009

    It was fun to answer! I don’t really do memes, but I love reading other people’s responses, and actually, I’ve always enjoyed filling out questionnaires and doing quizzes and the like. Hopefully the top secret book will be finished up today, and then I can start reading something that I can actually write about here in the next few days…

    The wedding planning has actually been going really smoothly; it’s just that there’s so much to do! We’re meeting with a photographer tomorrow, and now that I have my shoes (I love them! And they really are so comfy, which is key!), I have to set up an appointment to get my dress hemmed… So much to do, but I’m not really stressing about it. It’s a once in a lifetime thing!

    I still want to give 2666 a shot. Since we’re just tackling the first story/section (for now), I think that’s do-able. One of the reasons I’ve likely been feeling so stressed lately is because I haven’t been making time to read, so having this joint read-along will be a good motivator, I think. If it’s sheer misery, then I might change my tune, but I’m willing to still give it a go!

  3. 04/24/2009

    Glad to hear that things are going smoothly with the planning. Here’s hoping that you don’t get caught up in any time consuming snags while continuing to get things ready for the big day. I do love the shoes you picked out, they look adorable and I like that you can continue to wear them even after the wedding, which is not really typical with wedding shoes. I just want to say that I have really missed your intelligent and thoughtful reviews, and am sorry to hear that you are in a little bit of a reading slump, but it sounds like you have a lot going on right now. Don’t worry about not posting a lot right now, your readers will wait for you!

  4. 04/24/2009

    Very fun reading your meme answers. Can’t wait to hear what you think about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I saw the cover of that one on someone else^s blog and have never laughed so hard.

  5. 04/24/2009

    @ Zibilee: I second your hopes for smooth sailing! I have discovered I’m really not a Bridezilla, and given that we’re planning a very small affair (pretty much just immediate family and a few other relatives), the wedding is lending itself well to minimal fuss (only the good kind, none of the bad!). My whole philosophy regarding wedding attire is that I didn’t want to spend a ton of money on a “one wear” outfit – my dress was within the budget I believed was reasonable ($300), and I specifically picked a fun pair of shoes I can wear again and enjoy! I’m wearing a floor length dress on the day, so it’s not as though anyone is going to be scandalized by my footwear anyway! (And even so, I can wear what I want! I like the contrast between fancy dress and funky footwear!) I’m anxious to get back to reading, so hopefully I’ll be able to wade out of the reading bog I’ve been mired in and can get back to posting more regularly pretty soon!
    @ verbivore: Glad you found the meme enjoyable rather than tiresome! I will have to try yours out one of these days (especially if my reading pace doesn’t pick up soon!). I’m looking forward to P&P&Z… it is illustrated and the few I’ve seen are hilarious!

  6. 04/25/2009

    Ok then, we’re still on! Would you rather we start whenever and just finish anytime around the last week of May? I’ll post on Sunday Salon next week about that. And also, I’m having doubts about the Q & A. You think we should just go ahead and deal with our thoughts our own ways?

  7. 04/28/2009

    Love the shoes, love your meme, love the Professor Moriarty reference!

  8. 04/29/2009

    Congratulations again! The zebra-striped shoes actually look very gorgeous. There’s nothing wrong to be different. 🙂 What color of gown are you matching them with?

    The Master and Margarita is one of my favorite (x2) novel. My heart skipped a beat when I read Tony’s detailed and insightful review that touched on the style of narrative and how different story lines interact. Now I’m really looking forward to reading your thoughts!

    I read at night but I’m even half as productive as I’m reading in the morning, when I have two hours of reading time. usually my beverage would be coffee or juice. I usually read whatever that I have whim for at the moment, and that explains why I keep revising the reading list, bumping one book up and putting another aside.

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