Tuesday, July 31, 2007

exciting literary gossip!

And it's right in my own backyard (well, not right now, since I'm in PA, but in Florida).

Monday, July 30, 2007

P7300355/2007 book 115

Originally uploaded by wordnerdy
Today my parents and I went to see the Dale Chihuly exhibit at Phipps Conservatory. It was pretty amazing, and apparently is even better at night (some of the sculptures light up). I think it's up through November so get to Pittsburgh and see it!

Also, I read a pretty awesome book this afternoon:

Heather McElhatton's Pretty Little Mistakes
McElhatton, a contributor to This American Life (among other things), presents a grown-up version of a choose your own adventure book (the writing is much better too). A girl has just graduated high school--what choices will she (you) make??? I've read the majority of the endings--I think--and they range from tragic to silly to beautiful. I can't think of a book that better fits the adjective "entertaining" . . . I was VERY entertained! A.

Oh, and as of this morning my parents have wireless and my computer is actually working, so hooray!

2007 book 114

Ruth Rendell's The Water's Lovely
When I finished this book, I actually slammed it down and exclaimed, "This book was crap!!" Because it was. It focuses on a young woman who's convinced that her younger sister killed their stepfather when they were girls. As she frets over this, a cast of other characters all come into the story, leading to a bunch of totally unbelievable coincidences and interactions. The mystery's resolution is totally predictable, and the end of the book sucks hard. D.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

2007 book 111, 112, 113

Hey! I'm in Pittsburgh!

Nicola Griffith's Always
I think this was part of a series I've never read, b/c there were lots of references to people that never actually showed up in the story. Anyway, it's about some rich ex-cop woman who goes to Seattle to investigate some weirdness with real estate holdings and has to deal with the weird goings-on at a movie set. It's categorized as a mystery but the tension level was really low. Meanwhile, the protagonist is flashing back to a self-defense course she taught (the author used to teach self-defense--thoguh I think the method I learned for eye-gouging is more efficient than hers) and the problems it caused. The protagonist was likable enough but this may have been a little too formulaic for me (lots of falling in love at the drop of a hat with a local caterer). B.

Michael Loewenthal's Charity Girl
A really fascinating historical novel set during WWI, when women with STDs were imprisoned so they wouldn't infect soldiers. Young Frieda, a Jewish runaway, falls for such a soldier, who of course gives her the clap, and she's rounded up and locked up with a group of women. This part of the novel was stellar, but things start to fall apart towards the end and the book ends pretty abruptly with some serious deus ex machina. I wonder if the author was fascinated by his setting but didn't know where to take the story--that's how it felt. Anyway, another B.

Alix Ohlin's The Missing Person
When a grad student struggling to write her art history dissertation is beckoned home from NYC to New Mexico to deal with her brother, an eco-activist, wacky adventures ensue. OK, not exactly: she falls for one of her brother's cohort, becomes fascinated by two paintings bought by her late father, and has to deal with her mother's affair with a married man. The story was ok, but there was absolutely no closure and things got pretty unbelievable toward the end anyway. OK, I guess I'll give this one a B/B-.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

2007 book 110

Jerry Spinelli's Love, Stargirl
Aw, this was a really sweet followup to the original book about the mysterious and fascinating Stargirl. She finally gets to tell her own story as she moves to Pennsylvania, meets the usual assortment of people whose lives she can enhance, and moves past her broken heart. I will be nitpicky and point out that the continuity between the books isn't perfect, but like many fans, I am still hoping for more to this story. A-.

2007 book 109

Jerry Spinelli's Stargirl
The sequel to Stargirl debuted at ALA, but being unaware that a sequel was forthcoming, I didn't track a copy down. Imagine my delight when a copy landed on my desk today! I actually have no idea who left it for me and hope s/he reveals her- or himself soon so I can properly express my thanks with cupcakes. Anyway, I had to reread the first one since I didn't really remember much besides "normal boy falls for eccentric girl and betrays her in some way that I don't recall" (which is pretty much the gist of it--lots of high school peer pressure and whatnot). I intended to save the sequel for my trip to Pittsburgh, but I don't think I'm patient enough for that. Anyway, I like the original, so give it a A-.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

2007 book 108

I recently received some suggestions that I should add additional tags to my book reviews for specific genres like YA or mysteries, so I'm going to start doing that from now on. No promises on tagging old entries--it's a little bit of a hassle so it'll have to wait for some day when I'm really bored. :)

Margo Rabb's Cures for Heartbreak
This semi-autobiographical novel (Rabb's first after her Missing Persons series) focuses on a teenage girl whose mother suddenly dies of cancer. As she and her family struggle to cope with their loss, along with her father's failing health, she deals with the typical teenage dramas involving friends and boys. I really enjoyed this, and actually wish there had been more of it; it could easily have been a grown-up coming-of-age novel instead of a YA one. Still, it was a nicely bittersweet read. A-.

hope for harry potter fans

Some spoilers appear in this article about J.K. Rowling's appearance on the Today Show, but there are some interesting tidbits for fans!

Monday, July 23, 2007


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy
My photos from NC are up! They are all of the Harry Potter party at Quail Ridge and the commune kids enjoying Jared and Christina's firepit.

2007 book 107

Hey, I'm back from NC! It was a great weekend--I got to see many of my favorite people, read the new Harry Potter (twice!), experience the joys of communal living, go shopping, etc. I also read a book on the way home:

Howard Norman's Devotion
This book has a really interesting premise--a man and his father-in-law get into a fistfight just after the honeymoon, and the book tells the story of the aftermath of said fight and how and why it occurred. I liked it a lot, but there were occasions of very clumsy exposition, i.e., "Who will be your maid of honor?" "Francie So-and-so." "Ah, your best friend since you were 11." Um . . . ok. Anyway, B+.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

2007 book 106

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
I tried to pull an all-nighter to finish it, but I crashed and burned a little after 3 (I got up at 4:30 yesterday, after all). It was a delight to sit outside and eat blueberry pancakes and finish it this morning . . . I thought it started off slow but it got SO GOOD like halfway through. Obviously I won't say anything else yet, but I'm ready to discuss it if you are! The safeword for those who have finished is PHOENIX. A+.

Friday, July 20, 2007

2007 book 105

I'm in NC!!!!! I;ve gotten to see several of my favorite people so far and will be seeing more shortly. And I got to go into my favorite comic nbook store and pick up stuff in person! And I got yummy food at Sandwhich and got to admire Christina's amazing garden. Excuse typos, I'm on Christina's computer (mine is doing that awesome thing where it forgets I have a wireless card) and I'm not used to her fancy keyboard.

I oinly read one booki on the way here:

Naeem Murr's The Perfect Man
This was a really great novel about an Indian boy who's shipped off to live in Missouri with a woman who sort of knows his father's family. It's the 1950s and a small town, so he feels out of place, but still makes some great friends. Their story, along with the town's dark secrets, makes for a compelling read. A-.

T minus a-little-under-7-hours to Harry Potter!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

2007 book 104

Trenton Lee Stewart's The Mysterious Benedict Society
Quickly, b/c I have to get back to the World Series of Pop Culture! This is an awesome book about 4 super gifted kids who are recruited by a mysterious gentleman into a plan to stop an evil dude from doing nefarious things. A.


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy
My computer has only been working in fits and starts--as in, sometimes it starts up and sometimes it throws a fit and freezes up. Good times. Since it's working at the moment, I figured I'd post this picture--I brought my Holga to campus the other day and was lucky enough for it to be a day where someone put bubbles in the fountain!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


When libraries sue famous theorists' widows, nobody wins. I actually saw Derrida speak at AAR in 2001--Kate dragged me, b/c after struggling through my lit theory class in college, I wasn't really interested--and to my surprise, he was an adorably engaging man. I was very sorry when he died, and now I'm sorry that UCI's stupidity may mean that his later writings won't be accessible to scholars.

In other news, my laptop may or may not have died (terrible timing, since I'm going on two vacations in the next two weeks and was planning on bringing it), so book updates may be delayed.

Monday, July 16, 2007

2007 book 103

Stef Penney's The Tenderness of Wolves
This was a really riveting novel set in the wild north of Canada in 1867; a woman's son disappears after their neighbor is murdered, and she sets off to track him down, with the help of a mysterious man. Various other characters are drawn into the case, including the relatives of two young girls who disappeared seventeen years earlier, various Hudson Bay Company employees, and a woman living in a religious community. While reading, I was at first annoyed that the son's secret was glaringly obvious and wished Penney would just officially reveal it already, but as the story really got rolling all complaints fell by the wayside. I almost want to reread it, just to try and figure out the narrator's first name! If anyone knows, will you tell me? A.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

2007 book 102

Leonie Swann's Three Bags Full: A Sheep Detective Story
The premise of this mystery is very silly--a flock of sheep tries to solve their shepherd's murder--but although the book was occasionally hilarious, it really wasn't silly at all. Lots of small-town dark secrets are ferreted out by the sheep, led by the one cleverest sheep in all Glennkill. I really enjoyed this and will give it an A, though it's not really a contender for best of the year or anything. Totally a good summer read though.

Friday, July 13, 2007

2007 book 101

Diana Abu-Jaber's Origin
On paper this sounds like most any mystery book--a gifted forensic expert with an asshole ex-husband and a cadre of eccentric co-workers comes to believe that a series of SIDS deaths are actually baby murders. But Abu-Jaber takes this way beyond the formulaic mystery, as the forensic expert's own past (described as "improbable" by the book jacket, to which I'd add the adverb "wildly") starts to seem connected to the baby killer. The only other book by Abu-Jaber I've read before this was her memoir, The Language of Baklava, and I was expecting something this dark, unsettling--and yet completely compelling and, um, AWESOME. A, baby!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

more harry potter

I just got back from seeing the new HP movie. Actually it may be my favorite in the series--mainly b/c I violently dislike the other four movies, and I only disliked little bits of this one. It was really beautiful, so even when it was annoying it managed to be pretty and I could distract myself. I do wish Daniel Radcliffe would extend his acting chops a little and learn to express emotion in ways other than a) shouting, and b) making tortured faces. The kid playing Ron has learned to make way subtler facial expressions than in the earlier film, so props to that guy. And I still hate replacement Dumbledore. But Imelda Staunton was a genius, and Helena Bonham Carter was clearly enjoying playing mad and villainous Bellatrix. I also liked the hints of Ginny the badass and Neville the avenger. Good times.

2007 book 100

Julia Glass' The Whole World Over
I remember loving Glass' previous book, Three Junes, so was excited to finally get her newest novel from the library. And mad props to Glass, b/c it did not disappoint--even though it's mainly the story of a bunch of New Yorkers just before 9/11. It revolves mainly around four characters--Greenie, who is suddenly being wooed by the governor of New Mexico, who needs a personal chef; her husband, Alan, a failing shrink; her friend Walter, a flamboyant restaurateur who takes in his teenage nephew; and Saga, a woman damaged from a past accident. This novel--despite its length--is something to savor (and I'm not just saying that b/c of all the descriptions of desserts!). Glass really brings these characters and their world--from a corner of a Manhattan neighborhood to the sprawling deserts of New Mexico and beyond--to life, and even the minor characters are interesting and lovable (though the governor is something of a caricature). I give it an A, even though I had some mixed feelings about the ending, b/c the writing and characters are just that good.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

harry potter and the media

This issue is something my mom and I were discussing on the phone last night--specifically, what Harry's fate will be (if I'm right and he lives, I get cookies from a certain coworker and friend! If I'm wrong, I owe her cupcakes).

My mom is insisting that I immediately tell her what happens to Harry, so she won't find out about it while watching the news or signing on to AOL or whatever. Of course, as I pointed out, my mom STILL doesn't know What Snape Did in book 6 (she's just reading book 5 now), so perhaps her usual media outlets won't give this away either . . . or maybe I'm putting too much faith in the media? I know everyone is looking at the Sopranos finale as the model here--I, who didn't watch the show, didn't need to read the recaplet on TWoP to find out what happened the following morning, b/c it was EVERYWHERE. (I wasn't avoiding it, though, since I don't watch the show.)

So I do wonder how long it will take for the media to reveal the ending of HP and the Deathly Hallows. I hope that for the sake of the younger and/or slower readers out there, they manage to contain it for a few days, at least.

I'm not worried--I'll be reading the entire thing Friday night, just like last time.

Monday, July 09, 2007

ratatouille and the jews?

The Amateur Gourmet breaks out from his usual awesome food commentary to examine Rataouille as a parable for Jewish assimilation. He raises some interesting points, but the comments aren't very supportive.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

new mix!

It's been a while since I made a mix, but since summer seems to be the time for lots of poppy goodness, it was overdue! Track list below:

Easy - Tracey Thorn
Lay Down Your Weapons - Scissors For Lefty
Let's not Fall Apart - David and the Citizens
Melody Day - Caribou
Aidan Quinn - Thrushes
I Am John - Loney, Dear
Brief Meeting - The Galactic Heroes
Early in the Morning - Cripple Lillies
Heatstroke - Magic Bullets
Tonight I Have to Leave it - Shout Out Louds
Fato Consumado - Milton Banana Trio
If I'm In Luck I Might Get Picked Up - Betty Davis
Paris 2004 - Peter Bjorn & John
Strange Little Girl - Stranglers
Why I Try To Look So Bad - Comet Gain
C'mon Cupid - Roosevelt Grier
Kaboom - Ursula 1000
Track 01 - Imperial Teen

Saturday, July 07, 2007

2007 book 99

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Less than two weeks till the final HP book is out! I remember before this one came out, parts of it leaked onto the internet; like many other naive people, I clicked a link on some jackass' website that read "Harry Potter fans, click here!" only to be confronted by page 606. Of course that did color my reading of the book--I figured out who the titular Prince must be very early on--but didn't really lessen my enjoyment of it. Still, I've been carefully avoiding anything HP related online till after the new book comes out, just in case.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

2007 book 98

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
The fifth Harry Potter book is my least favorite by a large margin--I always refer to it as Teen Angst Harry Potter. There are some things I like about it--namely the DA, Neville being heroic, and various Weasley antics--but when you spend most of an 800+-page book wanting to give the protagonist a good shake, it can be a little wearing. Having Harry angrily talk in all-caps in multiple scenes isn't my favorite editorial choice, either.

I didn't actually mean to reread this before the movie comes out next week; I was sort of hoping to not really remember all the details, and that maybe the movie would leave out the annoying bits. (I actually have been saying that this is the first HP movie I'd like in a while, since they'd probably just leave in the good parts with the DA and the exciting fight scenes or whatever.) After reading it once again, though, I think this movie will probably annoy me just like the last two. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they'll tone down Harry's attitude problems, but not getting my hopes up . . . Of course I'll still be seeing it opening night. :)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

2007 book 97

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
The new book comes out in just over two weeks!!!!

happy 4th of july!

Originally uploaded by wordnerdy
I made mini vegan red velvet cupcakes with blue and white swirled icing for a 4th of July party. (They're redder in real life.)

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

this american life: the tv show

It's finally available for download on itunes! Yay.

YA book reviews

Actual YA kids review three new books over at Nextbook. I actually have Cures for Heartbreak on my hold list at the library!

Monday, July 02, 2007

2007 book 96

Doris Lessing's The Cleft
I have the say, the best part of being a book reviewer is getting to read these totally unexpected books. I don't think I'd ever have chosen this one, but it was a fascinating and thought-provoking story within a story deal--an aging Roman historian telling a tale of human origins, where the first people were all females and were horrified and confused when the first boys were born. I really enjoyed it--A.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

2007 book 95

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Like I said, I just can't stop! (I read all three in one day.) Now I'm wondering if I can make the final HP book my 100th book of the year, though I think I'll hit 100 before July 21st, since I have three more HP books to read along with a slew of library books. It would be nice to have a big round ceremonial number, but I don't think I can avoid reading anything else for three whole weeks!

2007 books 93 and 94

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
I wanted to wait till July to start my re-readings, but this may still have been a bit early, b/c now I want to go through the whole series all at once! Only three weeks till the new book comes out!!!

I had a pretty fun weekend--helping a friend shop for a wedding dress, then playing with an adorable puppy AND playing xbox monopoly, followed by a bunch of us going for delicious sushi at Kitcho (their Killer Rolls just about melt in my mouth) and then seeing Ratatouille, which was adorable. How could I not love a Pixar movie all about cooking?? The voice cast was great, too.