Posts Tagged ‘steph’

16th January
2009
written by Steph
Better than sitting on a cloud!

Better than sitting on a cloud!

It is probably no surprise that Tony and I have a shortage of book storage space in our current apartment.  Our shelves overfloweth, and we have books unconventionally wedged in every which way in order to keep them off the floor.  Because we rent, we can’t put up wall-mounted shelves, and unfortunately we have used up all available space to place larger bookshelves.

So really, the Bibliochaise (pictured right) is the PERFECT solution to our problems.  Apparently you can store up to five meters of books in this thing (an interesting way of quantifying books, to be sure), and it also doubles as seating, which we always need more of!  Can you imagine how great it would be to snuggle up in a chair to read, finish your book, only to grab a new one without even having to get up?  This is the stuff that dreams are made of.  My dream version would be the white wood pink leather combo (chocolate brown wood with lime green leather seating comes a close second).  What about you? (You can permute and combine colors by clicking this link.)

Alas, it appears the Bibliochaise is only available in Europe, and with a hefty £3,500 pricetag, it’s probably just as well and will have to remain a dream.  Tony claims he could construct such a chair of wonder for me, but for now I’ll mentally tuck it away with all the other things with which to furnish my dream home.  How great will this look in my home library replete with built-in bookcases (also courtesy of Tony, naturally)?

16th January
2009
written by Steph
51a0aulcyil1

Since delving into the online book reading community, I’ve come across a few sites that offer members the opportunity to read and review “Advance Reader Copies” (ARC). I figured what could be better than having free books shipped to my door, and eagerly signed up for the titles that looked interesting. Eve is the second such book that I’ve actually snagged in such a way, and is due out in bookstores on Jan 27, 2009.

Eve is a retelling of the story of Adam & Eve, tracing their time together in the Garden, their fall, and their life thereafter. It is told through the eyes of Eve, as well as her three daughters, Naava, Aya, and Dara. Eve’s story is told largely in retrospect, while her daughters collectively tell the family’s story beginning at a later date, beginning around the time the family encounters an encroaching civilization, one that is polytheistic at that.

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15th January
2009
written by Steph
this novel is not very good!

Let me be your messenger of truth: this novel is not very good!

Splat. That pretty much sums up Messenger of Truth, the fourth entry in the Maisie Dobbs series. Normally these books are innocuous comfort reads that are pretty much guaranteed to satisfy me, and are a pretty safe bet if I’m not sure what I really want to read next. Not so this time.

Messenger of Truth sees Maisie called on to investigate the death of artist Nicholas Bassington-Hope, who by the looks of it, plummeted off of his scaffolding in what the police have concluded was an unfortunate accident. As is par for the Maisie Dobbs course, along the way she winds up with a few intertwined mysteries (this time involving coastline smugglers) on her hands, but in the end she cracks all of the cases. I don’t know what it was about this novel, but I found it really hard to read because the story just didn’t grab me this time. I didn’t really care how things turned out this time, and even though art deaths sound all sexy and intrepid, I was seriously bored. At one point I almost considered just skimming to the end or seeing if this book was written about on Wikipedia to find out what had happened, because I was that uninterested. Then again, part of the thing about series is that the continuity that flows from one book to the next is rarely due to the outcome of cases, but rather what happens to the recurring characters throughout the novel. So I stuck with it, but if it hadn’t been part of a series I was already enjoying, I would have likely stopped. So unless you’re already a fan of this series, you might want to steer clear of this one. Because seriously: Snoozefest 2009.

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14th January
2009
written by Steph

This just in: The Morning News has revealed the contenders for the 2009 Tournament of Books.  For those of you not in the know, this is an annual tournament held by TMN in which some of the year’s “best” books compete in a March Madness NCAA type fashion.  Two books face off each week, with the winner of that bout proceeding to the next round.  How do these battles go down?  Each week has a designated reader (generally an author or writer) who reads both books (in theory), and then declares a winner based on his or her own personal set of criteria.  Other than a penultimate Zombie round (in which previously voted fan favorites get a chance to rise again and do battle once more), in order to make it to the final round, a given book must beat each of its adversaries in each round in order to win the prize.  And what is the prize? Well, the author of the winning novel is sent a live rooster, so there’s that.  But for you the reader, the whole tournament is a prize, because not only are the weekly commentaries both amusing and informative, but you get a fancy new reading list!  Past winners have been The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, The Accidental by Ali Smith (just barely…), and Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell.

As I said though, it’s not just the overall winner of the tournament that necessarily shines in a contest such as this.  Indeed, one of my favourite reads of last year, Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris, was an entry (but not winner) in the tournament.  I came to the tourney late last year, and read about most of the books after their rounds had come and gone.  By the end, I read two of the books on the list, and I still enjoyed the whole thing.  But this year, I want to play along!  And I encourage you to do so too!  Here’s the list of books that will duke it out:

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13th January
2009
written by Steph
Crow Lake

I picked up this book on my first trip to Chicago, back in May.  Tony was at a conference, and I spent a couple of hours in this wonderful used bookstore that had an amazing selection.  Crow Lake had been on their shelves for over a year, so I wound up getting an additional discount off of the price.  It isn’t the type of book I would normally see myself picking up and reading, but the description on the back struck me and I decided to give it a whirl.

Crow Lake is about the Morrison family hailing from rural, northern Ontario, Canada, and is told from the perspective of Kate, the third child.  She has two older brothers, Luke and Matt, and a younger sister named Bo.  The tale is told both in the present day (which I feel was really the 1980s), predominantly focusing on Kate’s current relationship with a fellow faculty member in the Zoology department, as well as in retrospect.  Specifically, Kate focuses on the time in her childhood when her parents are killed in a car crash, and how this tragedy ripples through the family and affects herself and her siblings.  The back cover of the book also ominously hints at an imbroglio that ties the Morrison and neighboring troubled Pye family together, and Kate dutifully mentions a dovetailing of the two families is impending through much of her narrative.

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12th January
2009
written by Steph
Apparently they never truly saw each other as a sibling...

Dexter? I hardly knew her!

I understand that Michael C Hall and Jennifer Carpenter are not actually siblings in real life, but this picture, as well as the fact that they recently got married really gives me the wiggins.  I suppose it’s just a testament to their acting skills that they so convincingly play brother and sister on Dexter. [This is really not surprising, because if you watch Dexter you know that everyone at that show is effing amazing.]  And maybe I’ve been reading a few too many novels this year that have featured incest in some way.  I’ve heard that the smart thing for actors and actresses who get involved with co-stars is to pick one who you have essentially no chance of being paired up with onscreen, so that if things should go awry offscreen, you at least don’t have that awkwardness to face.  Still: <shudder>.

I guess this turn of events is better than Michael and Jennifer (really though, aren’t they just “Dexter” and “Deb”?) actually being siblings and then being paired romantically for the show.  Now that would be creepy.

[Unrelated, yet I can't help pointing out - Jennifer, that dress is beyond unflattering.  Next time, try to pick something that doesn't look like you've simply wrapped a towel around yourself to keep your lady bits in check.]

[Also: WTF is up with Hall specifically, and Dexter in general, being shafted for awards?  Tony & I have watched Mad Men, and it's a great show... but if I had to pick between it and Dexter?  I'm picking Dexter hands down.  And who is Gabriel Byrne and what is this show In Treatment?  Is it something I should be watching?]

10th January
2009
written by Steph
Middlesex

It seems like pretty much everyone in the universe who reads this book (and their moms) loves it.  It won the Pulitzer in 2003 (generally a point in a book’s favor, I would say), but it was also named an Oprah’s book club pick (I don’t want to be a snob, but let’s say that I don’t look to Queen O to dictate my reading habits… I certainly don’t think people should read particular books simply at her say so, but I suppose it would be equally wrong for me to NOT read a book for the same reason).  It’s been sitting on the shelf long enough that I vowed to not be daunted by its 500+ pages any longer.

In the end, I’m glad I did, because those pages were immensely readable and wove a very rich tale indeed.  At first glance, Middlesex appears to be the story of a hermaphrodite (lady-man lady!), Cal(liope) Stephanides.  Cal is born with 5-alpha-reductase deficiency, a genetic disorder stemming from a chromosomal mutation.  This results in an insensitivity to testosterone while in the womb, such that Cal is born with the outward appearance of a female; at puberty, however, the influx of testerone causes certain male characteristics to appear.  I found the idea of exploring the nature versus nurture debate with respect to sexual and gender identity through fiction to be a pretty interesting ones and hoped Eugenides would treat the subject with a deft hand.

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8th January
2009
written by Steph

I bet you never thought I post about Gwyneth Paltrow and food in the same entry (and in a positive light, no less!)…

Some of you may have heard that Gwyneth has started an online newsletter endeavor, bizzarely called GOOP.  Maybe it has something to do with her intials?  Who knows!  Anyway, Gwynnie’s whole purpose with GOOP is that she wants to “nourish the inner aspect”, and so in every mailing, she provides advice on things to purchase for your wardrobe, places to stay, restaurants to try, and perhaps most shocking of all, recipes to make.  In one installment, Gwyneth muses about how she’s earned a bum rap in the media with respect to her diet, namely that she follows an extreme one that involves her grazing on grass and not much else.  Granted, when her first offering of 2009 is about a week-long cleanse that focuses on shakes and soups, well, the press might be on to something, is all I’m saying!

Now, Gwyneth has starred in a quite a few movies that I enjoy quite a bit, but I must confess that off-screen I find her pretty insufferable.  I don’t really believe that she noshes on duck burgers and fries when she visits L.A., and I dislike how she tries to have it both ways: all-American girl but also super English sophisticate (no wonder she’s purported to be pals with Madonna).  That being said, I did pick up a tip in one of her recipe newsletters about browning meat.  It might be something everyone already knows, but here it is: if you want your meat to brown, make sure it’s at room temperature before you put it in your hot pan.  If it’s fresh from the fridge, it’ll just simmer and boil in its own juices.  If you’re an impulsive cook like I am, it might be hard to make this happen, but if you’re making a dish where properly browned meat will really sing, then that’s how you’re going to make it happen.

I’ll leave it up to you to search out her recipe for Super Greens Juice…

7th January
2009
written by Steph
The first step is admitting I have a problem, right?

The first step is admitting I have a problem, right?

Sigh.  As much as I resolve that my most recent trip to McKay’s will be my last until I’ve made a sizeable dent in that bounty (if not all the other books that languish on our shelves… and floors, as you will see!), it never is.  When it comes to buying books, I just can’t seem to quit.  And McKay’s really does me no favors, given its fabulous selection AND the low prices.  I reckon that church rummage and library sales might be a tad cheaper, but as I’ve said before, when a “splurge” means plonking down $5, I’ll pay a bit extra for the convenience of being able to buy books whenever I want!

Just 1 day into the new year, and Tony and I found ourselves at McKay’s, as we had amassed enough of a read books and played video games stack to warrant a trade-in.  Our trip was momentous for several reasons.  First, due to the sizeable trade-in amountn we were awarded, we walked out of McKay’s without spending a single penny (in fact, we walked away with credit towards our next spree!). Second, I think you’ll notice that this time round, Tony actively contributed to our spending by selecting several books himself.  I love when I have a partner in crime!

Without further ado, onto the books! (Click to Enlarge)

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5th January
2009
written by Steph

I always knew that today would be hard, since who ever enjoys the first day back to work after the holidays?  But I guess I didn’t expect it to be as emotionally eviscerating as it turned out to be.  The weather has been bleak, but the building where I work has never felt so empty as it does to me today.  I’m sure part of this has to do with the fact that classes don’t start back up until Wednesday, so there isn’t the pitter patter of undergraduate feet and their vapid chatter echoing down the halls, but I know that’s not really the thorn in my paw today.

No, today I’m just plain sad because one of my really good friends here in Nashville has finally moved on to snowier pastures.  If you’ll recall, back in early December, Tony & I went out for a birthday/thesis defense celebration for a good friend of mine.  He’s since relocated to Chicago for a post-doc position, and while I couldn’t be happier for him, I am feeling a bit sad for me.  This is compounded by the fact that another friend of mine just finished up a post-doc in December, and has since made his way back to Australia.  So that’s two friends no longer just down the hall or up a flight of stairs, and in a building where there are few people to whom I genuinely enjoy talking, it’s a pretty hard blow.

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