Thursday, May 31, 2007

2007 book 76

Nicole Mones' The Last Chinese Chef
Mones, a food writer for Gourmet, writes a novel about a 40 year old widowed food writer who receives the disturbing news that her late husband may have fathered a child in China. She heads to Beijing to investigate the claim, and while she's there, works on an article about a half-Chinese, half-Jewish chef who's opening a restaurant, and to whom she is drawn. The story got a bit sentimental at times for my taste, and there was a little too much about Chinese culinary history for my taste (unsurprising, considering Mones' food writing), but it was still a sold effort. B+.

even more harry potter

THEME PARK!! I am so there!!! (Thanks to Kate T. and Christina for the link!)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

damn you, comcast!

NOOO!!! Comcast changed my channel lineup sometime today and I no longer get the Game Show Network! Seriously, I love that Chain Reaction show and used to watch it every night. It's surprisingly challenging! (Sometimes.) Also, I love when they use brand names or people's names (once there was a chain of "BUD L_____ Sensitive" and a girl jokingly guessed "light?" and it was RIGHT! Also Puff Daddy was used once).

Anyway, I'm sad about this. It's all part of their plot to make everyone switch to digital cable (where GSN is now located). I don't WANT digital cable! 70 channels are enough for me!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

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Why not?

2007 book 75

Chris Bohjalian's The Double Bind
A fellow librarian gave this to me to read--I think she was desperate to discuss it with someone, as it has a sort of unexpected ending (I guessed part of the twist ending very early on, possibly b/c she mentioned the unexpected ending, partially b/c I read a lot). Anyway, this novel centers on a young social worker who helps homeless people find homes. When one of her elderly clients dies, a cache of photographs of, among other things, celebrities and of places near the social worker's childhood home, she begins to investigate his life, stumbling into obsession and The Great Gatsby (side note: it's amazing how much of those high school English class discussions actually stick with you!). I had some mixed feelings about this book (and find myself wanting to track my coworker down to talk about it, myself) so give it a B+.

more harry potter

Before I get too caught up in the Harry Potter frenzy (like I haven't already), I want to officially put my predictions on the record!

1) Harry will live.

2) Snape is good, and probably will save Harry in some way.

3) Neville will get to be heroic (this is more of a hope than a prediction--I love when Neville gets to be heroic!).

Monday, May 28, 2007

2007 book 74

Bernhard Schlink's The Reader
This is another of those books whose description makes it seem way more exciting than it actually is. In this case, a young boy in post-WWII Germany begins an affair with a 30-something woman in his neighborhood. Years later, he encounters her again during a Nazi war trial. The description discusses some deep secret she's hiding, which was the most boring and anti-climactic secret ever. I did like the end and have the feeling if this stupid description didn't exist, I'd have liked it a lot more (one of my co-workers recommended it, and she has similar tastes to mine). I guess I'll give it a B.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

2007 book 73

Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns
The author of The Kite Runner brings another novel set in Afghanistan, only this one focuses on two women and how their lives come to connect over thirty or so years. It's very depressing at times--though not nearly as dark as his first novel--mainly b/c it highlights the horrible treatment women had in Afghanistan under the Taliban. I had problems keeping some of the many political upheavals straight, but the two main characters were very well-written and really engaging. I can't decide if the ending was realistic or not, but I liked it anyway. A.

Other good things this weekend: the movie Waitress. It is such a bummer that Adrienne Shelly was murdered--I've been a fan of hers since I first saw that classically lame teen movie Big Girls Don't Get Mad, They Get Even (also starring Jenny Lewis) and she really deserved accolades for this one. I especially loved it b/c of all the pies, and sweet old Andy Griffith (who I met last year when he was at UNC).

Also, we tried a new local pizza place that has elephant ears on the dessert menu! Elephant ears are just like funnel cake! Awesome.

Friday, May 25, 2007

dinosaurs and the bible

This article couldn't be more timely, as this week at my place of work, someone attempted to donate a subscription to this ministry's magazine. (I actually intended to take it home to scan bits and pieces, but the donor wanted it back.)

The most recent issue had a Noah's Ark theme, including a centerfold and proof positive that dinosaurs lived in biblical times AND were passengers on the ark. It also had a letter suggesting that people donate it to their local libraries--mystery solved. I'm not going to get into the rest of the content . . . it sort of makes me laugh and cry simultaneously.

Anyway, I know you all must be bitterly disappointed not to be able to witness this yourself, and I am bitterly disappointed that I cannot share it with you. Maybe you should schedule a trip to the theme park!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

harry potter

Here's a link to some Harry Potter recipes to get you ready for the release of book 7, which is less than two months away!

I wasn't planning on starting my rereads yet--I was going to do a marathon in July--but I don't want to wait!!!!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

2007 book 72

Laurie R. King's O Jerusalem
Yet another Mary Russell book is enlivened by a trip to Palestine in 1918. General Allenby* makes a cameo appearance, as does my favorite old-timey spelling of a word ("orang-outang", first read in a Poe story, the meaning of which I couldn't puzzle out till I asked my dad aloud what it meant). The usual hijinks and adventures ensue, and I'll still not tired of this series so I'll give it an A.

*His namesake street in Tel Aviv is where all the fun is!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

scott pilgrim preview!

Check it out!

Apparently the cover will be revealed on Monday . . . . YAYYYYYYYY!!!!!

Oooh, and look at this other shot from his photostream. If George Michael and other assorted people affiliated with that movie Superbad like O'Malley's stuff, you should too!!!!

Monday, May 21, 2007

2007 book 71

Lesley Kagen's Whistling in the Dark
This novel centers on ten year old Sally O'Malley. In the summer of 1959, her mother's in the hospital, her drunken stepfather isn't around, and her older sister is preoccupied with being eighteen, so it's just Sally and her wild little sister Troo, who Sally promised their dead father she'd protect. Meanwhile, there's a murderer and molester in town and Sally is not only convinced that she knows who he is, but that she's his next victim. It's a pretty riveting story--my only beef is that the writing gets a little too faux-childish at times, and the ending is clear to the reader long before it's clear to the protagonist, which can be a little bit frustrating. Still, I really liked the way the twists and turns played out, so I'll give it an A-.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

2007 book 70

Arthur Phillips' Angelica
I remember not really liking Phillips' The Egyptologist. but this has been getting good reviews and the descriptions seemed intriguing--a Victorian ghost story, a terrible family tragedy, etc. Each of the four protagonists has a turn narrating the novel, which isn't a ghost story, and the tragedy is debatable. Then ending is really stupid and totally unsatisfying. Maybe this would be a better book if it wasn't billed as all spooky and cool, since it is neither of those things, but is primarily annoying. C-.

2007 book 69

Laurie R. King's The Moor
The 4th Maru Russell mystery revisits the scene of the famous Hound of the Baskervilles. I wasn't as into this one as the previous stories--it took a while to get going, and it felt a little bit lazy, cribbing from a previous Holmes story--but it was still a fun read. B.

Friday, May 18, 2007

2007 book 68

Nathan Englander's The Ministry of Special Cases
This novel, about a Jewish family in Argentina during all the crappy political unrest of the 1970s, has been garnering a ton of rave reviews. I was all excited to read it . . . and then I couldn't get into it at all. Seriously, it starts all in media res going on about Jewish cemetaries and things. It did pick up after that, but just as I'd get into it, it would start to drag again. And we're talking about a story involving the disappeared! But the problem is, there's so much bureaucracy and corruption in the book . . . it's easy to feel the frustration of the protagonists, b/c I as a reader was frustrated reading it. The ending was appropriate but I just can't give this book above a B.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

2007 book 67

Laurie R. King's A Letter of Mary
The third book in the Mary Russell series was right up my alley, as it involved the murder of an archaeologist who has bequeathed a letter apparently writted by Mary Magdalene on the Holmeses. I wonder if King is secretly a biblical scholar or is just an excellent researcher, b/c all of her off-hand remarks about Russell's research are dead-on. I've definitely never seen a reference to a furtive patach in a novel before! Obviously I'm giving this one an A and putting the next couple books in the series on hold at the library! Gosh, are there enough prepositional phrases in these sentences? They'd be a bitch to diagram. (I love diagramming sentences.)

Monday, May 14, 2007

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James Bond approves of the new refrigerator.

2007 books 65 and 66

I managed to read a couple of short books last night and today while taking breaks from unpacking and whatnot!

Haruki Murakami's After Dark
I really think that Murakami is one of the most consistently GOOD authors out there. He never disappoints and this novel is no different. It's less, I don't know, epic than most of his novels, but the characters are some of his most likable. The story involves a small group of people who all encounter each other late one night. Meanwhile, the older sister of one of the protagonists is deeply asleep and possibly in danger. I really loved all the characters and I thought the film-like narrative was pretty interesting. A.

Chelsea Cain's Confessions of a Teen Sleuth
This was a mildly amusing Nancy Drew parody. It turns out that Nancy was a real person whose college roommate, Carolyn Keene, wrote a series of more-or-less inaccurate books about her. Nancy grows into adulthood, grappling with her teen sleuth identity and desperate for mysteries to solve. Totally a goofy read. B.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

2007 book 64

Kirsten Miller's Kiki Strike Inside the Shadow City
This was a fun YA book about a group of pre-teen girls, each with special skills, who band together to explore an underground city underneath NY. Meanwhile, they get caught up in danger and mysteries! I figured out the twist ending but enjoyed it a lot anyway. The sequel comes out this fall and I definitely will be reading it. A.

2007 book 63

Laurie R. King's A Monstrous Regiment of Women
I moved yesterday and am tired and have a million things to do, so I apologize if this is scattered! Anyway, the second book in what is apparently a series of books about young eccentric Mary Russell and her friend Sherlock Holmes deals with some feminist biblical scholars and some mysterious murders. After we both enjoyed Beekeeper's Apprentice, Christina discovered all its sequels and encouraged me to read them, and this was pretty worth it. B+.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

2007 book 62

Michael Faber's Vanilla Bright Like Eminem
I am really not into short stories these days, but I'm reviewing this so I had to read it. It's really weird how Faber's stories veer between sort of surreal and/or totally unpleasant, and charming little vignettes. There were a few stories that made me want to put the damn book down for good, and a couple I really liked. I guess that averages out to a B-/C+.

Monday, May 07, 2007

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I was out running errands this afternoon as a break from packing and moving and came across this publicity thingum for Harry Potter 7. I think this lends credence to the "Snape is actually a good guy" theory (which I totally believe), or else why would plot point that be such a big marketing thing?

Sunday, May 06, 2007

2007 book 61

Dani Shapiro's Black & White
The protagonist of this novel is a woman whose mother achieved fame and fortune by taking photographs of her young daughter naked. As an adult, the daughter has cut off all contact with her mother, until news reachers that her mother is dying. She struggles to come to terms with the role the photographs played in her own life while trying to raise her own daughter. Blah. This book was pretty good, but I wished they had fleshed out some of the characters more (like the protagonist's older sister). The ending also didn't do much for me. B-.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

2007 book 60

Jennifer McMahon's Promise Not to Tell
I've been feeling a little bit sick for the past couple of days, so I've been sticking to lighter reading. This mystery revolves around two identical murders that took place thirty years apart--when the first victim's friend Kate returns to town to care for her sick mother and the second little girl is murdered, everyone is terrified and suspicious. As Kate attempts to unravel the truth, she must come to term with her own role in her friend's death, which has inspired a slew of local legends and ghost stories. Anyway, I liked the mystery part (though it was pretty easy to guess the killer) and had some mixed feelings about the ghost story parts, so I'll give it a B.

2007 book 59

Alison McGhee's Falling Boy
This is a sweet novel about a teenage boy in a wheelchair; he spends his summer working in a bakery with an eccentric boy boss and with a troubled little girl hanging around. Gradually the story of his injury comes out, though his boss has half-convinced everyone that he is a superhero. Anyway, I really liked this, and give it an A- because it drags a little.

Friday, May 04, 2007

chabon, chabon, chabon!

The Yiddish Policeman media blitz continues with an interview with Michael Chabon at Salon. It's mostly good, but I disagree with the introduction's assertion that there's a secret cabal akin to the Elders of Zion. I don't want to give the story away, so I can't explain why that is really off the mark, but it IS REALLY OFF THE MARK. I mean, the refrain the article's author refers to is actually "These are strange times to be a Jew," so clearly Ms. Goldstein didn't read the book very carefully.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

grey's anatomy

I am officially over this show! I've been on the verge of forgoing it since the whole George-Izzie pairing, but even a Broken West song couldn't redeem tonight's episode.

I might watch the spin-off though, but only if Piz from Veronica Mars will be appearing regularly (preferably shirtless, as he did tonight).


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy.
I've been experimenting with recipes from that King Arthur whole grain cookbook. So far everything I've made (Milk and Honey Corn Muffins, Maple-Date-Walnut Bread) has been pretty good--but these Barley Sugar Cookies are pretty great! I could barely put this one down long enough to take a photo.

My only beef with the cookbook is that some of the flavors (i.e., the titular honey and maple from my previous efforts, and lemon in these cookies) don't come through as much as I'd like. That's probably just a personal preference, though, and it's easy enough to add more of the good stuff to a recipe!


Why didn't this exist when I was in college? I have been dreaming of late night baked goods delivery for YEARS. That is why I became such an awesome baker. At least current Penn Staters can benefit from the genius of these kids.

cook for the cure

I love all these kitchen products for the cure. I actually do need a set of cookware (I have myriad baking pans and things, but only one small saucepan and one frying pan due to various kitchen incidents), but I'm not sure I need THAT many pink kitchen accessories. Still, if you want to have matching stuff, you may as well do it for a good cause! And that cookware set is a really good deal at the moment. I am sorely tempted--I think pink kitchen stuff would nicely complement my pastel blue KitchenAid stand mixer.

OK, I admit it. I think pink pots 'n' pans are supercute! I am sooooo girly! WTF.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

2007 book 58

Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union
You know how sometimes, when you've been waiting FOREVER for something, and are all excited about it, when you finally get it, it's just not as good as you thought it would be. Well, that is not at all the case here! I read an excerpt from it in some journal or another a couple months ago, and have been waiting with bated breath ever since, and it managed to exceed my expectations. So, nu, what is the book about? I guess people are making a big deal about it being an alternate history murder mystery, but the alternate history stuff is just a really wonderful and elaborate backdrop to a story that is straight-up noir. In this version of the world, Israel never became a state, and the Jews instead were granted temporary custody of a large chunk of Alaska. Of course there's the usual trouble with the land's previous inhabitants, not the mention the 60 years the Jews were granted to live there is about to expire. In the midst of all this, a cop named Meyer Landsman is called to the scene of a murder in his own hotel building. Also, his ex-wife is now his boss. I mean, it's the awesomest noir ever!

Anyway, this story is not in the least anti-Semitic, so whoever said that it was is clearly on crack. Like there have never been Jewish mobsters before--come on, there was a whole CLASS about Jewish mobsters at Penn State (I never took it). Weirdly, I feel like Chabon really tried to keep the Yiddish in check to make the novel more palatable and understandable to his non-Jewish readers. There are a few words that crop up a lot, but half the time he's called kugel "noodle pudding", so clearly there's some self-censorship going on. I mean, that's not important to the story at all, I just thought it was interesting. The whole world of the novel is steeped in Jewish culture, at any rate.

Can you guess that I'm giving this an A+ and an automatic spot on the year-end best list? Gosh I love Michael Chabon!