Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Epicurious has been posting Passover features all week, which are collected here. I am very intrigued by the concept of matzah baklava (in the Israeli menu), but will probably stick with my delicious (and easy!) chocolate-covered matzah. It's like a candy-bar-coated piece of matzah! Yum!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

2007 book 39

Nancy Pickard's The Virgin of Small Plains
So this was a sort of mystery about a young woman who was found naked and dead in a snowstorm in the 1980s by a teenage boy, his brother, and his father. Her mysterious death and her lack of identity haunt the town, who come to believe she can perform miracles. Meanwhile, yet another teenage boy, who left town the day after she was found, has returned after almost 18 years. What will his high-school sweetheart thing? Will the mysterious girl's death ever be solved? What were all their parents covering up?!?!??? Anyway, I liked the way the mystery wrapped up, but the book's ending was more than a little sappy. B.

Monday, March 26, 2007

2007 book 38

Tawni O'Dell's Sister Mine
This was a sweet book, about a former cop/cab-driving woman who lives in a central PA coal-mining town, and suddenly her sister who's been missing for 18 years comes to town, followed by all sorts of shady characters. It has predictable twists and endings, but it was satisfying anyway. B+.

2007 book 37

Pam Lewis' Speak Softly, She Can Hear
Jenny really liked this so I thought I might too, but I didn't. The protagonist is really stupid and I saw the big twist ending coming from chapter one. Oh well. C-.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

2007 book 36

Hisham Matar's In the Country of Men
The narrator of this novel reminded me of the one from The Kite Runner,, maybe b/c they're both jerky children. This one is living in Libya in 1979, with his secretly-alcoholic mother and his often-gone father. Everyone's all up in arms b/c revolutionaries are afoot, everyone is being watched, blah blah. I liked the ending but wasn't really into the rest of it--slightly clueless, unsympathetic narrators are really hard to pull off. B-.

OK, back to avoiding writing a paper.

Friday, March 23, 2007

revolutionary road

I can't believe they're making a movie of Revolutionary Road! That book is DARK. Also, I have pretty mixed feelings about that casting--I'm not sure Leo can pull off the whole smarmy 1950s ad exec kind of guy. Kate Winslet, of course, can do anything she wants (although I wouldn't have pictured her in this role).


Jonathan Safran Foer is still a tool.

(Of course, I'm still a fan of the classic Maxwell House Haggadah.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

2007 book 35

Dana Spiotta's Eat the Document
One of the other librarians at work loaned this to me, and I have to say, she has my taste pretty pegged, b/c I loved it! It's basically about a young couple who were involved in radical protests in the 1970s; when something goes wrong, they both go underground. Most of the story actually takes place over twenty years later, when the girl is the mother of a teenager. It's not clear at first which of several middle-aged dudes her former boyfriend is, which is one of many fascinating things about the novel. Anyway, several major characters emerge as their stories flash back in forth in time, as as their identities start to unravel. Maybe this description sounds cheesy--I was a little leery when I read the back cover--but, aside from some awkward dialogue, it's really well-written. And actually, once I got really into the story, I stopped noticing any possible flaws and just wanted to know what was going to happen--which is, of course, the mark of an excellent story. A.

2007 books 33 and 34

Anthony Pinn, ed. Noise and Spirit: The Religious and Spiritual Sensibilities of Rap Music
This anthology was really hit or miss for me, but the essays by Ralph Watkins and Mark Taylor were pretty good. You'd probab;y be better off just reading Michael Dyson's book on Tupac.

Heather Hendershot's Shaking the World for Jesus
This was last week's book for class, but I forgot to write about it. It's mainly about mass media being produced by evangelical Christians; there's a chapter on Christian music which is pretty good, but could really have been amazing if it was stronger and better-supported. She has some interesting things to say about Veggie Tales, though.

Monday, March 19, 2007

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Originally uploaded by wordnerdy.
Yay!! I got to see the Broken West tonight!! And they were really, really nice guys--I'm not just saying that b/c before their last song, they publicly thanked me for making them cookies. :)

The evening started off with some comedic misadventures as we attempted to identify which of the shaggy-haired hipsters hanging around might be members of the band (we correctly picked out two of them before Ross figured out who I was, saving me from the embarrassment of approaching random dudes and saying, "Um, are you in the band? I have cookies for you . . . "). Thank you to Christina for your valiant text-messaged assistance!

The opening band was really good too--called Ferraby Lionheart, and they totally had a trombonist! I picked up their EP and was thankful I'd put off making a mix cd, b/c one of their songs will definitely be on it.

Then Broken West played!!!! Tall dudes kept standing directly in front of me (whyyyyyy?!?) but I was not thwarted from totally rocking out. The Broken West are my new rock star crushes. I would totally be that dork who wears the band t-shirt the day after the show, but I'm not sure I can pull it off as work attire till casual Friday.

Anyway, thank you guys for playing in Tallahassee!!!! It was SO GREAT to get to see you live!

etgar keret

Here is a great piece on Etgar Keret, who has been receiving even more buzz than usual lately (I think b/c the graphic novel he wrote with one of the Hanuka brothers in their comic Jetlag has been made into a a movie starring the kid from Almost Famous and Tom Waits. Note that the movie's title is lame, and the original story was called Pizzeria Kamikaze). Anyway, I was pleased to see a mention of "Hat Trick", which is something I read back in college when I was doing an independent study on Israeli short stories; looks like it's being translated into English for the first time now, which is great, b/c I've had a helluva time trying to prove its existence before now. No one has ever believed that a story involving a magician pulling a dead baby out of a hat actually existed (though dead baby jokes were really in vogue back when I was in college. Ah, nostalgia. Just kidding, eww.).

Sunday, March 18, 2007

2007 book 32

Decca: The Letters of Jessica Mitford
Of course the Mitfords are one of the most infamous and fascinating families, well, pretty much ever; Jessica is perhaps the one who's most infamous (ok, maybe the sister who loved Hitler and shot herself when England entered WWII was more infamous . . . or the sister who was a prominent British Nazi . . . I like this book about the sisters, for the curious). Anyway, Decca was well-known for running away as a teenager to get involved in the Spanish Civil War; she later came to America and was a prominent communist and author. Her letters are well worth reading--there's plenty of family drama, plus she was friends with many intellectual luminaries (among them Maya Angelou) and there are even a couple of letters to Hillary Clinton, who had clerked in Decca's husband's law office. Decca was really into writing letters--this book was an exhausting 700+ pages and is definitely aimed at the Mitford completist. There are plenty of letters that are funny or compelling, but 700+ pages was a little much for me.

Friday, March 16, 2007

2007 book 31

Judy Budnitz's If I Told You Once
I'm not sure how this book remained off my radar for so long--it's the sort of thing that is typically right up my alley. It starts off strong, with a young girl in a tiny town in Eastern Europe around the time of WWI; lots of folk tales work their way into her narrative and it's all very compelling and exciting. Eventually the voices of her daughter, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter are added into the mix, which is where things unravel a bit. For one thing, the middle two women are wholly unsympathetic, and Budnitz doesn't do a great job of distinguishing any of the women's voices from the others'. Things do pick up a bit at the end, so I'll give it a B+.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


OK, before I start this post, I should probably explain that I was reeeeally into Star Wars when I was a kid. Like, read the sequel-novels, had the poster hanging over my bed, built a model of the Millennium Falcon (and I'd never built a model before!). You didn't know I was a geek, did you.

Anyway, HBO's been playing the original Star Wars movies for the past few weeks and I keep catching bits and pieces of them here and there. So I just settled in to watch the end of Return of the Jedi, which has been my favorite since I was a little girl, b/c ewoks rule, and DUDE!!!! They edited the ending! In the scene where Luke sees ghost-Obi Wan, ghost-Yoda, and ghost-Vader, they edited out old Vader and put in Hayden Christensen! Can I get a big ol' "What the fuck?!" I just don't get it--I mean, they left in Sir Alec Guiness, so why can't whatshisname who played old Vader get to have a few extra seconds of screen time? He gets like two lines in the whole trilogy. Also, I don't want to be reminded of Hayden Christensen and the prequels, b/c the prequels sucked (except for Ewan MacGregor).

I'm the sort of girl who's a purist--and that shit just don't fly with me.

awesome library resource

This book came into the library today and I have to say, as a fervent comic book geek, that it is GREAT. Seriously, Michael Pawuk is the first person to really get it right, in my opinion. He includes all the comics/books I'd include, and really nails all the genres within graphic novels. This is an invaluable resource for any librarian interested in a graphic novel collection--and I may buy my own copy for personal use. :)

Saturday, March 10, 2007


We went to see 300 tonight, and I really liked it! Sure, it was uber-violent, but that was balanced out by really over-the-top acting, a drag-queen-looking villain, and plenty of man candy. The battle scenes were straight out of the Lord of the Rings movies, and I'm not just saying that b/c Faramir was one of the cod-piece-sportin' Spartans. King dude's wife was a total bad-ass, too. All around an enjoyable movie, and the cinematography was amazing.

2007 book 30

Amy Tan's The Bonesetter's Daughter
I reread this one for the next book group meeting, and it was just as good as I remembered. Tan brings in her usual mother/daughter culture-clash themes, but adds in several new layers as a daughter whose mother has been stricken with Alzheimer's discovers her mother's handwritten memoir. Both women's stories are compelling. A.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

2007 book 29

Peter Ho Davies' The Welsh Girl
When I first read the description of this book, I sort of rolled my eyes--it was so Summer of my German Soldier*. I don't know if the jacket-writer didn't read the novel closely or didn't want to really give it away, but it doesn't do this excellent story justice. Yes, there is a POW camp in a small Welsh town in the waning days of WWII, and yes, one soldier and one girl sort of notice each other . . . but that's hardly the main plotline in the book. The girl's story and the German soldier's intertwine, framed by the story of a German-Jewish interrogator working for the British to interrogate Rudolf Hess, who's being held in Wales. See, I'm not giving anything away either, but I'm not making it out to be about some illicit romance, which it really isn't. It's much better than that! Totally an A!


*When I was in middle school, I met the author of this book at some bizarre book knowledge competition. I would give you more details, but that was about 15 years ago and it's pretty hazy. I do remember my team debating Animal Farm or something, which we weren't actually prepared to do. Otherwise that whole day is a blur. [Except, one of the other girls on the team, Annie, was from the grade below me. She was the daughter of an actress on Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood and a talented performer in her own right--she danced, I think. When I was a sophomore in college, I found out from a girl in my dorm that Annie had died in a car accident the year before. They'd been church friends.]

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

this american life

Good news for those of us whose lack of digital cable precludes us from seeing the TAL tv show--downloads will be available on iTunes! Yet another reason to invest in a video ipod one of these days . . .


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy.
I finally got my Holga pictures back from when I was in South Florida! They're very random, as per usual.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

2007 book 28

Elif Shafak's The Bastard of Istanbul
I'm not really sure what to make of this novel, so I'll just dive in with a brief summary. It's basically about two girls, one a Turkish girl, an illegimate daughter who lives with her mother, her three aunts, and various other female relatives. The other is a half-Armenian American girl who travels to Istanbul on a whim to try and find a connection to her grandmother's past. Since the American girl's stepfather is the Turkish girl's uncle, she ends up staying with her family, bonding, learning life lessons, whatever. Parts of the ending are quite shocking and parts were really predictable, and maybe would have been more so if I'd had an easier time keeping track of all the various grandmothers' stories. One of the more interesting things about this book is that the author was put on trial for denigrating Turkishness because the characters discuss the Armenian genocide (she ended up not going to prison). I will say this for her novel: the story turned out much differently than I was expecting (an early mention of a character with eyes full of "fiery intelligence" made me worry I was getting into Danielle Steel territory). I am still going, "wait, WHAT?" about the ending, although actually I wish it had gone on a little longer. Um, I have no idea what grade to give this. We'll go with a B.

Monday, March 05, 2007


Chow gives us a list of indie rock songs about food.

Now I know there are way more than that--just from Shonen Knife!

Also, here is an article on Heidi Swanson (of 101cookbooks) and her new cookbook (which has been on my Amazon wishlist for ages!).

PS. Heroes is on hiatus for 7 weeks! I'm sad.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

2007 book 27

Julia Alvarez's Saving the World
This novel starts off strong, focusing on a 50-year-old novelist who's struggling to write a sequel to one of her previous books, and is distracted by a story of an expedition to provide a smallpox vaccine to Central America in the early 1800s. The novel-within-a-novel mostly works, but the novelist's story descends into melodrama and pointless tragedy quite suddenly, and it just didn't work for me. I hesitate to give anything by Alvarez a mediocre grade, but this is my least favorite of her novels. B-.

happy purim!

Originally uploaded by wordnerdy.
I made hamentashen in honor of one of my favorite holidays! Unfortunately most of them came unfolded while baking, but they still taste pretty good. :)

Saturday, March 03, 2007

2007 book 26

Andrea Levy's Fruit of the Lemon
Levy's follow-up to her novel Small Island,, which won a ton of awards and was one of my favorite books of 2004 (or 2005, I forget), is the story of a young British girl with Jamaican parents who is struggling to find her place in the world, I guess. She has to deal with all sorts of bizarrely casual racism--is England really like that? After a small breakdown, her parents send her to Jamaica, where her aunt tells her all the family stories her mother and father never shared. The protagonist gets totally lost in the second half of the books as these family stories are shoehorned in; we never see her reactions and see very little of her apparently life-changing experiences in Jamaica. The ending feels a little bit like a cop-out too. It's not that this is a bad book--I did read it all today--but it is disappointing. B-.

Friday, March 02, 2007

2007 book 25

Daniel Alarcon's Lost City Radio
Alarcon has written a fairly compelling novel involving a woman named Norma, the host of a radio show that attempts to locate and reunite people after a war has devastated their country. Norma's own husband has been missing for ten years; when a young boy arrives at the radio station from a village near where her husband disappeared, will she finally discover his fate? The twists this story takes are pretty obvious, but nonetheless are satisfying. I have no issue with Alarcon's name being on the list of awesome young American writers that I mentioned in my last post (although like several other members of the list, Alarcon actually grew up in another country).

best young writers?

Granta has published a list of the best American writers under 35 (link via Bookslut, who was really snotty about it for some reason). A lot of writers I like made the cut--Daniel Alarcon, author of the book I'm currently enjoying, Nell Freudenberger, Dara Horn, Yiyun Li, Maile Meloy, ZZ Packer, and, yes, even Nicole Krauss. Sure, I hate Jonathan Safran Foer, and think Uzodinma Iweala is a little overrated, and haven't read a few of them b/c I'm sick of short stories, but it's not a terrible list by any means, and it's a pointer toward some authors I may actually like, if nothing else.