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4th January
2012
written by Steph
What is it that they say about the best laid plans? Something about how they never work out? That sounds about right... Despite my intentions to catch up on blogging while Tony and I were up in Canada, I wound up not even bringing my laptop and was hardly online at all. Instead I slept in late every day, played tons of Mario Super Sluggers on the Wii, tried my hand at NHL 2012 on the PS3 (never making it past the rookies), played some non-video game bowling (and finally broke triple digits!) and watched lots and lots of Mantracker (everyone outside of Canada is missing out, because Mantracker is possibly the best reality show ever made). I managed to read the bulk of one book (but not finish it) while we were away, so I was only marginally better at reading than I was at blogging. I feel slightly guilty about this, but mostly I'm just happy I got some time to completely relax and hibernate. I'm still not feeling entirely recharged, but I'm feeling quite a bit calmer than I did before the holidays. Given that I wrote not a single thing while I was away, I still have four books that I read last year that I still need to write about. AND I need to write one of those fun summary posts in which I recap 2011. Already I am behind the times! Before I do any of that, however, I am instead going to direct your attention to the January 2012 issue of BookPage, in which I reviewed Penelope Lively's newest novel, How It All Began. I did actually read this book a few months ago, so while it's a 2012 book for most, it was actually a 2011 book for me. I've only ever read one other Lively novel, Moon Tiger, but she made a wonderful first impression on me and I'd been wanting to read more of her works ever since. Despite being published 25 years after Moon Tiger, How It All Began is still clearly a Penelope Lively novel. It is perhaps less experimental than MT, as it does largely focus on telling a briskly paced story filled with a dynamic cast of characters, but it still has a soupçon of metafiction, which I really love. The thing about Lively's fiction that always seems to resonate with me is that she unabashedly loves stories and actively uses her work as a means of promoting the idea that we as humans are drawn to storytelling and the written word because of the closure and permanence they provide. Anyone who loves books like I do can't help but feel that one has found a kindred spirit in an author who so unabashedly espouses this view in her books. Fellow readers will also get a kick out of the main character, Charlotte, as she herself is an ardent bookworm (and adult literacy teacher) and large swaths of her storyline are devoted to musings on how reading enriches one's life. The novel as a whole is incredibly engrossing and touching, but that thread in particular really spoke to me. Rather than read my inelegant ramblings here, check out my review at BookPage for the full scoop. In the interim, I'll get to work on putting the rest of 2011 to bed!
23rd December
2011
written by Steph
To every one of our readers who happen to be celebrating something festive at this time of year, Tony and I wish all of you a very happy holidays! As has become our tradition, tomorrow we travel into the frigid North, this year to Canada, where we will spend time with my family and I will fastidiously avoid doing any kind of work, because my brain = scrambled eggs right now. Instead, I am going to try to read at least two books and to venture out of the house as little as possible. Here is a picture of Emmy who decided to bury herself in the couch at the cabin we rented one year at Christmas time... I am using it as my inspiration for this year.

Christmas Emmy

I still have a bunch of books that I need to talk about before the year is up, and hopefully I will muster the energy to do so in individual posts, so if all goes well, this site will be far from dead. I figure holiday hibernation time is the perfect time to catch up on my blogging; hopefully there will be some fun content for y'all to discover in the new year! OK, time to pack and then maybe snuggle with the pups before they get sent off to puppy jail for the holidays (though no tears, because they just get to play with other neglected pooches all day every day, so it is essentially their idea of heaven). Happy holidays!
19th December
2011
written by Steph

Hot on the heels of my dance with Dame Christie, I decided my lust for murder mysteries hadn’t been slaked, so I decided to take a turn with another queen of crime. Not only is Cover Her Face the first published P.D. James mystery, but it was actually my first dalliance with James’s writing at all. After my disastrous first date with Dorothy L. Sayers stemming from my reading Gaudy Night before picking up any of her other books, I have become a rather staunch adherent to reading serial fiction in chronological order, even when others claim it is not necessary, so for those of you who feel similarly and have yet to become acquainted with Detective Adam Dalgliesh, this is the place to start. The following theory is just based on wild conjecture on my part, but I think that readers may be the most idiosyncratic when it comes to their taste in mystery novels. Little old grannies may suddenly profess a penchant for dark Scandinavian noir, and ostensibly there is even a market for readers who prefer crimes that are cracked by animal sleuths (Wikipedia tells me that Lillian Jackson Braun’s “The Cat Who…” mystery series, numbered 29 titles!). Personally, I’m a “Golden Age” mystery fan, loving my crimes to be relatively bloodless, to take place between 1910 – 1950, and to be situated in England if at all possible. I have no idea why that trifecta is pretty much the holy trinity when it comes to mystery novels, but there you have it. To me, these types of novels are pretty much the ultimate in comfort reading, and rarely do they fail to delight me. And of course there are exceptions to this rule (as my love of Tana French, clearly displays), but this is why it’s a rule and not a law. (more…)
14th December
2011
written by Steph

Guys, I am in the thick of it, dissertation-wise. I have been told on multiple occasions that the homestretch of one’s thesis is not for the faint-hearted, and I must agree one thousand percent. I keep trying to buoy my spirits by telling myself that everyone who gets a doctorate has to go through this fire walk at some point and that if it were easy, everyone would choose this path. I just have to keep getting up in the morning and pushing forward until finally this thing caves because I will not let this dissertation beat me. I don’t proudly proclaim the fact that I’ve actually been a grad student for seven years now, but given that that is the case, I certainly can’t back down now. I’ve invested too much of myself to let another six months of mind-breaking work conquer me, so come hell or high water, I will finish. And when I do, I shall rename this site “Dr. Steph & (Not Dr.) Tony Investigate!” OK, not really… Anyway, this is all to let you loyal readers know that I haven’t forgotten you even though this space has been dormant for quite a while now. I’ve just been so mentally taxed of late that it’s left me little breathing room for fun. I’m still reading, albeit less than I normally do, but the thought of writing about any of the books I’ve finished has seemed impossible. Until now. Rather than mope about and give in to my exhaustion, I’m going to push through the waves of fatigue so that I can share some of the books I’ve been reading, because really, don’t books make everything just a little bit better? (more…)
24th November
2011
written by Steph

Whether you're eating turkey today, or just laughing out our little turkeys, we wish all of our readers a happy and safe Thanksgiving weekend! (For the rest of you, sorry you don't get a four-day long weekend. We'll relax extra for you!)

23rd November
2011
written by Steph

Since Thanksgiving is just around the corner for those of us living in the United States, I feel that talking about a book that takes a trip through the madness industry is apt. Oh come now! I can’t be the only one who finds that large family gatherings are something akin to a trip to the loony bin! If, like me, you tend to find that congregations featuring your nearest and dearest tend to be a bit, well, colorful, OR if you just find yourself interested in mental health issues, I’m sure you’ll find this book enjoyable and educational… Whether it also leads you to mentally evaluate how many of the criteria on Robert Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist every person you meet exhibits, well, that’s just another perk, now isn’t it? Like so much non-fiction, I think that The Psychopath Test is a fun read for those who have a pet interest in a certain subject but aren’t actually experts in that field. Those who have, say, majored in Psychology (as I did at university) will find that there are a lot of tidbits that are already familiar (though certainly I learned some things I didn’t already know), but that there is also a lot of glossing over of material as well as oversimplifications made for the sake of engaging storytelling or enhanced accessibility for the layman. That is why, although I found this book fun and interesting, I also found it exceedingly frustrating. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Jonson states anything that is deliberately false in this book, but there were moments where I felt like many nuances were lost (or counterpoints were omitted), so as someone who is more than passingly familiar with clinical psychology (though I will say straight up that although I am working on my Psychology doctorate, my area of expertise is cognition and perception NOT clinical populations) I found myself arguing with this book quite a lot. Just as a fair warning, after finishing this book, I jotted down some notes in my book spreadsheet, and when I imported those notes into Word, they filled an entire page. So yeah, I have feelings when it comes to this book (and yes, a lot of them are crabby and could likely be written in all-caps, but worry not, I've saved you from Caps Lock Steph... this time...). (more…)
22nd November
2011
written by Steph
Thank you to all of you who stopped by to celebrate our blogiversary with us, whether it was simply to wish us well, suggest a book we should read, or suggest a book you would like us to buy you. This time around, I didn't avail myself of magic (unless you consider random probability magical), but instead entered all people who commented suggesting a book they'd like to win into a numbered list like so: And then I went to Random.org and this is what happened:

Which means that the winner of our third blogiversary giveaway is Katie B!!! And as a result, a copy of The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters will be making its way to her, while a different copy of it will make its way to me & Tony. I have to say that all of the books that were suggested sounded fantastic (and I even found out about a few new books in the process), so you've all given me plenty of food for thought when it comes to picking future reads. And of course, I'm guaranteed to be reading at least one Sarah Waters title come 2012. Thanks so much for stopping by our little corner of the blogging world (we know you're busy too!), and here's to another year of fun!
18th November
2011
written by Steph

So, if I had my act together, this is the book I would have lined up to write about for Halloween. It doesn’t really matter that The Radleys isn’t actually all that spooky, because if there is one mathematical equation that always stands true it is this: Vampires = Halloween. It’s just one of those unassailable laws. But, as you all know, life has been chaotic so I instead posted about the Amazon (one day late), which turned out to be a pretty good choice as well. I was actually offered a copy of The Radleys a few months ago, when Giselle from Simon & Schuster contacted me about being on a tour for the book when the paperback was released on September 20. Because being disorganized is my m.o. at the moment, I missed out on the blog tour, but Giselle was still kind enough to send me a copy of the book to read and review here at my leisure. This is a book that I had been curious about, because while I haven’t been part of the latest vampire craze, I was intrigued by the book’s lighter, more humorous tone… I feel like if anyone needs to lighten up, it’s vampires, and this is coming from someone who loved Angel on Buffy the Vampire Slayer! Sure brooding is super hot when David Boreanaz is doing it, but the line between Angel and say, Edward Cullen, is a fine one indeed, and if there is another mathematical principle that has yet to be disproven it is that Edward Cullen = Angsty = Annoying. (There is also the Edward Cullen = Stalker = Creepy equation, but that one is less relevant right now.) Also, apart from the fact that Haig was apparently tackling the whole vampire issue with some much needed levity, I appreciated that The Radleys was purportedly a story that involved vampires without really being a story about vampires. In fact, when the book opens, only half of the Radley family in question is actually aware they are something rather otherworldly. So if, like me, you wish vampires would just die already but you feel like taking one turn around the ballroom with the undead, I am prepared to say that you probably won’t hate The Radleys! Well, not because it involves vampires, at least… (more…)
12th November
2011
written by Steph

This photo may have actually been taken months ago during a trip to Arrington Vineyards, but with the addition of party hats, you'd never know!

It seems like Tony and I are making it something of a tradition to forget our actual blogging birthday until about a week after it has past. So while S&TI! turned a whopping three years old on Nov 2nd, we are keeping up our pattern of neglect for this year and just remembered that now.

I know we haven't been around as much this year as either of us would like (life has been so busy), so we'd like to take this opportunity to thank all of you have have stuck with us and continue to make blogging so fun. Whether you've been with us from the beginning or just found us a few weeks ago, we really love it when you take time out of your busy days to let us know that you like what we're doing or even just to say hi. So thank you, thank you, thank you! To keep with the tradition we started three years ago now, we'd like to take this opportunity to thank you all with something more than mere words. So, we're offering one lucky commenter the chance to pick up a new book on our dime. BUT this year there is a TWIST! Normally, we always ask you to go through our archives and pick a book that we've read that you would also like to read, and if you win, we will send you said book. To shake things up, here's what we're proposing: instead of limiting yourself to books we've read, instead we'd like you to pick a book that we HAVE NOT read but that you would also like to read. Leave us a comment telling us why you think we should read this book (or why you would like to read it), and if we pick your comment (via a random number generator OR via magic; I'm open to either option), then we will buy ourselves a copy of the book of your choosing AND send you one as well. We further promise that we will read and review this book on our blog sometime in the 2012 year - if you'd like to do a joint review of some kind, we're certainly open to that, but if you'd just like us to read it and do our thing while you do yours, that's cool too. We can sort out those details later. So to recap: 1) Pick a book that you would like to read that we HAVE NOT already read and reviewed (you can check out our archives here to see if a book's been covered on the site). You can of course use this as an opportunity to force us to read something you think we will hate for a maximally grumpy review (which you all seem to like), but remember, you'll be getting a copy of the book too! 2) If you live outside of the United States, check The Book Depository website and make sure that the book you want is available there AND that your home country can be shipped to (and since The Book Depository essentially ships everywhere on the planet, that means this giveaway is open worldwide!). If you live in the U.S., you have the added option of picking a book via Amazon. 3) Comment on this post letting us know what book you are choosing and why. Comments will be accepted until MIDNIGHT on the evening of SUNDAY November 19th, 2011. So that's pretty much it. Put on your thinking (or party!) hats, let your imagination go wild and let us buy you a book! [P.S. Per usual, this post will be sticky until the end of this giveaway, so make sure you scroll down for new content!]
8th November
2011
written by Steph

Before I know it, it's going to be the middle of the month... and then the end of the month... so before I forget, I'd better remind you that the November issue of BookPage is out AND, after having taken a few months off, I actually have a review in it! As you have likely gathered from the title of this post, I read David Guterson's newest novel, Ed King, which is actually a modern day retelling of the classic Greek play, Oedipus The King. The original source material is quite a yarn, so you can imagine just how fun and zany this book was! Although knowledge of the original play is by no means necessary, familiarity with Sophocles' version will certainly add to one's enjoyment. It was really fun to see how Guterson chose to modernize certain elements, and one of my favorite bits was how he re-envisioned the Greek chorus. But regardless, however you read this one, whether it be with fresh eyes or through the lens of what came before, this is a book that hooks you right from the start and is full of juicy scandals. Although this isn't Guterson's first novel, it was actually the first book of his that I've read and I really enjoyed it. It was the perfect blend of smart and playful, and even though it was certainly quirky, I never felt like Guterson was trying too hard to be clever at the expense of the story. If I were reviewing it solely here on the blog, I would give it a 4 out of 5. For more of my thoughts on Ed King, you can check out my review here.
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