Sunday, September 30, 2007

2007 book 143

Junot Diaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Several years after writing a book of critically acclaimed stories, Diaz is back with his first novel, and it's right up my alley. It's the story of a family of Dominicans in New York--the titular Oscar, his sister Lola, and their mother, along with a boyfriend of Lola's who narrates much of the story. It's chock-full of great nerdiness--if you've never read Lord of the Rings, half of it might not even make sense, b/c everything gets compared to Tolkien! (Trujillo as Sauron is of course apropos.) There's plenty of great comic book geekery as well, including multiple mentions of my own favorite series, Love and Rockets. Diaz touches on some magical realism, imbues his story with plenty of actual history (complete with snarky footnotes), and makes the story of an overweight geeky kid a really, really compelling one. A.

finally, all my tv watching pays off

I've been selected to be a Nielsen family! Or whatever! Finally, my preferred tv shows will have their moment in the sun! Of course, I won't be receiving the booklet thingy until late November, so I just hope all my shows will be on.

Saturday, September 29, 2007


Once finally opened in my town, months after the rest of the free world, and it was such a great movie. It had been billed as a musical so I was a little worried (I'm not into musicals--I hate when people randomly break into song-and-dance numbers), but really it's the story of two musicians who begin to collaborate, so it totally makes sense that they're always singing. The songs were great too--of course I love the Frames (whose lead singer is the star, and who I believe wrote the songs), so I was predisposed to like them. Anyway, totally an A.

2007 book 142

Chelsea Cain's Heartsick
This book was pretty intense--it's about a cop, the former head of a serial killer task force who was kidnapped and tortured by said serial killer before she turned herself in. Now he's back on the job, trying to find the killer of several teenage girls while an intrepid pink-haired girl reporter writes a story on him. Meanwhile, every Sunday he visits the woman who almost killed him, and he frequently flashes back to their time together. As things started to wrap up, I was having trouble suspending my disbelief, but when the final twist was revealed, I really had to appreciate Cain's storytelling. A/A-.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

2007 book 141

Dennis McFarland's A Letter from Point Clear
In this novel, a woman and her brother receive news that their wayward younger sister has suddenly married an evangelical preacher in their hometown in Alabama; the two make a trip down south to visit the newlyweds, but problems arise when the preacher is informed that the brother is happily married to another man. I really enjoyed this novel--it really captures the feel of the slow days at the end of summer, and the small human dramas McFarland captures are very compelling. A/A-.

Monday, September 24, 2007

more east side story

Hey, remember when I found out that West Side Story was almost about a Jewish girl? I'm not the only one who found that fascinating. Check out this story from Nextbook.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

2007 book 140

Alice Kuipers' Life on the Refrigerator Door: Notes Between a Mother and a Daughter
I read a good review of this somewhere and decided to check it out--it's basically exactly what the title leads you to believe, notes between a single mom and her teenage daughter. Of course it's hard to actually write sympathetic characters when they're writing brief notes to each other, or maybe Kuipers just isn't that great at it. She definitely was going for a tearjerker sort of story but I was pretty meh on it. Also, the writing styles were really unbelievable, especially the teenager's. Anyway, C.

Also, I actually watched the premiere of Gossip Girl tonight (it was on right after ANTM and Kristen Bell was narrating, so I got sucked in). It's somewhere between deliciously trashy and sweet! I may add it to my to-watch list. Oh, and since I'm blogging during Top Chef and my TV is in another room, clearly I've grown bored with it. I don't care which contestant wins, though I do hope it's not Hung. Still, I don't care enough to bother watching it anymore. That's what TWoP recaplets are for!

2007 book 139

Amy Bloom's Away
This book has been getting tons of buzz, which usually means I'll love it or totally hate it, but in this case my feelings were slightly more mixed. I think that's b/c it wasn't what I was expecting--it's being described as about a young Russian Jewish woman in the 1920s who flees to American after her family is killed in a pogrom. When she hears that her small daughter may in fact be alive, she goes on a quest to find the child in Siberia. All of which is technically accurate, but the story is really about the journey. Several events require serious, serious suspension of disbelief, but the protagonist's tale is an intriguing one. A-/B+.

Oh, and EVERYONE at my book group HATED the end of My Sister's Keeper, just like I did. It's being adapted into a movie, possibly to star Cameron Diaz.

Monday, September 17, 2007

2007 book 138

Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper
God, I am really in a ridiculous number of book groups. This is for the library's book group dealing with various issues ("medical ethics" is the issue at hand here). It's about a thirteen year old girl who was conceived to be a bone marrow match for her sister with leukemia. When the girl decides to hire an attorney to sue for medical emancipation, all hell breaks loose. Told from the perspectives of all the main characters (except, interestingly, the dying girl), it's a riveting story (I read it all in one sitting), and there is one nice twist at the end. However, the last couple of chapters were totally ridiculous, and there was a tacked-on romantic subplot, both of which call for a seriously downgraded B-.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

new mix

Heaven Club 8
Impossible Shout Out Louds
Frozen Floods lovers
Saturday Waits Loney, Dear
Eli Caribou
What It's Like in Japan Logan Whitehurst & The Junior Science Club
Room With a View Imperial Teen
Mutiny, I Promise You The New Pornographers
Carrboro Schooner
Lake Michigan Rogue Wave
Angela Oakley Hall
Saints Army Navy
Cowboy Man Northern State
Land Mines St. Vincent
My Favourite Book Stars
Paralyzed Betty Wright
Penny In a Fountain Aja West and Friends
Beyond the Rains The Mitchell & Dewbury Band featuring Billie Godfrey
Time to Go John Vanderslice
Squalor Victoria The National

2007 book 137

Evan Fallenberg's Light Fell
I read this the other day but forgot to blog about it. It's about an Israeli man who left his fairly religious family for another man, and twenty years later he's about to reunite with all five of his sons for the first time in those twenty years. The sons are a weird microcosm of Israeli society and the end felt pretty pat, but it was a pretty good read anyway. B.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

fall tv!

Fall TV season is almost upon us, which is the time to make difficult choices about what shows are must-see, which are relegated to the VCR (I am so old school), and which will be ignored completely. Here is what I'm planning on watching, at least for now . . . Feel free to chime in with your own picks!

8 pm. How I Met Your Mother. CBS (I am sooo glad they didn't move this to the 9 pm time slot!)
8:30 pm. Aliens in America. CW. This has the chick from Ned's Declassified and Luke from Gilmore Girls. It could actually be funny!
9 pm. Heroes. NBC. Duh.

Probably I will watch Netflixed tv shows on Tuesday. Seriously, this is a crappy night for tv.

8 pm provides my only dilemma--Pushing Daisies (ABC) or America's Next Top Model (CW)???? I'll probably go with the former--it's got great buzz and a great cast--and try to catch ANTM in reruns some other day.
9 pm. Bionic Woman (NBC). Yes, I've decided to forgo the Grey's spinoff, which is also in this time slot. The critical response has been terrible and I'm not interested in the inevitable Amy Brenneman--nice schlubby guy pairing. Sorry, Piz. Plus, Bionic Woman has Starbuck!

This was my major night for the VCR last year--I watched Ugly Betty and Grey's, and taped the comedy block on NBC (My Name is Earl, 30 Rock, The Office, and Scrubs). Since I now think Grey's sucks, I'll probably tape Ugly Betty and watch the comedies--barring Scrubs, which I've lost patience with.

9 pm. Friday Night Lights. Seriously, this show is soooooo good. Why aren't you watching it? Quick, catch up on the DVDs before season 2 starts! I hate watching football and even I am obsessed with this show.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

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Seeing the Rosebuds for the first time in over a year was pretty much exhilarating! They played hits both old and new and I think won over the cynical student crowd. Anyway, it was one of the best nights I've had in a while--of course I always love seeing them live, but it's a special treat when it's in Florida.

Monday, September 10, 2007

finally, something that makes me more interested in the emmys

I've always had a fondness for Joan Rivers, but I love this new self-mocking thing she has going on. I may actually follow her Emmy coverage this year!

(I should note that the Emmys are pretty much the only award show whose results I sort of care about, since I watch a lot of tv and most years at least one show I really like gets nominated for something or other. I still never watch the actual awards show though. That's what reading blogs the next morning is for.)

Coming later or tomorrow: My annual What-Alicia-is-planning-on-watching-this-fall entry! Please try and contain your excitement.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

2007 book 136

A.B. Yehoshua's A Journey to the End of the Millennium
This is the first book for the Jewish literature discussion group, and I stull think it's a crappy choice to start a book group with. I remember liking it in college (I once wrote a paper on it) but it was a much slower read this time. Anyway, it takes place in 999 and is mainly about a Moroccan Jew with two wives. He's in business with his nephew and with a Muslim partner, but his nephew's new European Jewish wife is trying to break up the partnership b/c she thinks having two wives is wrong. Yehoshua is a writer I love, but this is not one of my favorite books of his. I guess discussion will be interesting, if nothing else.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

new ipods!

Pretty exciting new announcements today. I totally am getting an 80 gig video ipod for the price of the (4 gig) mini my parents bought me for mt 25th birthday. I love the idea of the wifi touch ipods too, but for more money and less storage, it really didn't seem worth it.

Monday, September 03, 2007

2007 book 135

Orly Castel-Bloom's Human Parts
Normally I'm a fan of Castel-Bloom's writing, but between the awkward translation and the very neat endings, this didn't do it for me. She focuses on several characters from different walks of life, all dealing with various heartaches in near-future Israel, which is abnormally snowy, has a serious flu epidemic, and still has problems with terrorists. Parts of it worked well--I especially like Kati, a mother of four struggling with poverty--but it really jumped around too much to give any insight into the characters.

2007 book 134

Victoria Redel's The Border of Truth
The story of a translator working with the letters of Walter Benjamin is intersected with the wartime letters of her father (to Eleanor Roosevelt), who was trapped on a boat from Europe trying to gain entry to the US in 1940. As the translator tries to investigates her father's story, the reasons for his reluctance to reveal his past become clear. Most of this book was pretty good, though various subplots felt slightly shoehorned and there were plenty of deux ex machina moments. Anyway, B/B+.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

friday night lights

Ah yes--it's that exciting time of the year when last year's tv shows are finally coming out on DVD, so I can catch up on all the shows I never got around to watching before. FNL has received raves from pretty much everyone and I've been saying for months that I'd watch it was soon as it was out on DVD, so I can catch up in time for season 2. I just finished watching disc 2 and this show is really compelling so far! I always love watching tv in bulk, though the dvd does feature one of my pet peeves (do we really need the previouslies when we JUST watched those scenes?). Anyway, it's definitely going on my must-watch list for fall.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

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Aaaaand Halloween season has officially started, at least at CVS.