Monday, March 31, 2008

aaaaand the winner is!

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao won the Tournament of Books! (That's the March Madness I really get behind.) I was very pleased to see one of my absolute favorites of the year take top honors. Scroll down to read Junot Diaz's response, and be sure to click the links on the right to see how previous matches in the tourney played out.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

2008 book 42

Diane Ackerman's The Zookeeper's Wife
Under the misapprehension that this was a novel, I was at first annoyed with Ackerman's penchant for cramming historical notes into her narrative. I didn't realize until chapter two that it was non-fiction! Heh. It's the story--compiled from memoirs, diaries, and testimonials--of the Warsaw zookeeper and his wife, who saved hundreds of Jews during the Holocaust and were otherwise active in the underground. At times hard to read--not just b/c of the Holocaust, but because family pets and zoo animals are often injured or killed--it's still, of course, a moving story. Ackerman does a good job of weaving their tale into the larger narrative of Warsaw in wartime. A.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

2008 book 41

Curtis Sittenfeld's Prep
This is still a great, though slightly depressing, novel, though maybe two prep school books in a day was a little much. Here is my original review.

exciting weekend links

Jerry Siegel's family got the rights to Superman!!!!!!

And, here's Margaret Atwood on Anne of Green Gables. I LOVE those books!

2008 book 40

Nina de Gramont's Gossip of the Starlings
I haven't quite decided what to think about this book. It's about two rich girls at a prep school in the 80s and apparently is inspired by a true story about a drug best at a prep school in the 80s. It starts off with an epigraph from A Separate Peace, which was a bad sign (we had to read it in middle school, and it inspired endless jokes and stories borne of hatred for Eugene). So I opened the book to find the overwrought styling of a Serious Writer and sighed--but by page ten, I was totally immersed in the story! Unfortunately, it doesn't live up to its strong start and I totally disliked both girls, which made sympathizing with their weaknesses hard. It's also very heavy-handed with the foreshadowing and has a totally lame and depressing ending. Oh, I guess I actually didn't like it that much. I'm going to reread Prep now to cleanse my brain. B-.

Friday, March 28, 2008

more shared items

Here's another round-up of excting things I've shared recently in Google Reader!

The Sweet Valley High series is being updated and will be more gloriously shallow than ever! Man, remember the one where that chick did drugs for the first time and DIED????

Speaking of YA book series from long ago, Goosebumps is being resurrected as well. Those were a little after my time, but one of the kids I babysat for had the entire set and I read quite a few while supervising her homework time after school. They were kind of awesome!

Kitsch Kits! I want the sewing one and the baking one. Those look super handy.

I'm not always an Adrian Tomine fan, but this was pretty funny. Mainly b/c I love Sixteen Candles.

Here's another comic--this one is about Purim! (Speaking of Purim, check out Jewno! It was done as a promo for a Purim party of some sort. I can't believe they got JK Simmons to reprise his role.)

Also a little bit late--these Peep dioramas!

Monday, March 24, 2008


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy
I made some legwarmers this past week--I don't have a good picture of me wearing them (it's surprisingly hard to get a good shot of your own legs) but I made them long enough that I can scrunch them down if I want to. Of course it's not really legwarmer weather here at the moment, but I made them just for the fun of it, really.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

2008 book 39

Eli Gottlieb's Now You See Him
OK, so, a well-known writer kills his girlfriend and himself, and his childhood best friend's life begins to unravel. Gottlieb packs way too many silly plot twists into what could have been a moving book. B-.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

2008 book 38

Elisa Albert's The Book of Dahlia
A somewhat angsty Jewish chick in her late 20s trying to figure out what to do with her life is diagnosed with a deadly brain tumor. As she tries to cope with her possibly impending death, she flashes back to her troubled childhood and teen years. Maybe this book resonated with me b/c I could relate to Dahlia's teen years (especially the pop culture references), but I thought it was a really moving novel. A-/B+.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

2008 book 37

James Morrow's The Philosopher's Apprentice
Of course, as many of you know, I've been a big Morrow fan since my freshman year at Penn State (when all my fellow nerds and I were making our way through his works--actually once we finagled an invitation to his house), so I was very much looking forward to his latest novel. His previous book, The Last Witchfinder, merited a NY Times review and blasted him out of relative obscurity, and it was one of my favorites that year. Unfortunately, this one doesn't come anywhere near to any of his previous works. It starts out strong, as a philosophy grad student walks out og his dissertation defense and is immediately hired to be the tutor of a teenage girl who, after suffering an accident, has lost her conscience. Moving to a remote and mysterious island, he quickly discovers things are more sinister than they originally appeared. Then the book takes an unfortunate turn to the political and ridiculous end of sci-fi. I had to force myself to finish reading it and considered myself lucky for having gotten it from the library and not buying it. It was really a disappointment. C.

Friday, March 14, 2008

2008 book 36

Lisa Lutz's Curse of the Spellmans
Yay, the new Lisa Lutz book came out this week and the library had it on hold for me! I can't find my review of The Spellman Files for some reason, but it was a very funny mystery involving the black sheep daughter of a family of PIs. Here, she's slightly older but definitely no wiser, as she gets arrested for investigating her suspicious neighbor (whom she briefly dated). The whole hilarious, zany, and sometimes moving cast of characters is back and I couldn't be happier. These books just totally appeal to me--maybe because of all the pop culture references? Like there's a reference to Gaslight, and I totally had that movie on tv in the background while reading! Anywya, A and hopes there will be more books in this series.

ETA: Here's my review of the first book in the series (which was one of my favorites of 2007).

Thursday, March 13, 2008

2008 book 35

Pat Barker's Life Class
This is a pretty good book about British artists who get caught up in WWI. I don't really have much else to say about it, really. B+.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

2008 books 32, 33, 34

Marisha Pessl's Special Topics in Calamity Physics
Having some time to kill once in a mall while various parts of my brakes were being replaced, I purchased a copy of this, since it was one of my favorites of 2006. I decided to give it a reread since details were hazy, and enjoyed it very much the second time around. Here's my original review.

Jane Austen's Persuasion
I have several friends who are devoted Austen fans, and one lists this as her favorite Austen work. I did like it a lot, but I don't think it was my favorite.

Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice
Because this one was! Probably liking this one best is cliched, but this one has more of Austen's wit than Persuasion. I recently watched both the 1990s Colin Firth miniseries version as well as the 1980 one with no big name stars (the Colin Firth one is way better--the other is totally low budget), and it was interesting to see which speeches were lifted directly from the text. I seriously cannot believe I'd never actually read this before. What a waste of 25 literate years.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

snl/vampire weekend

Last night I actually stayed up late enough to catch part of Saturday Night Live--which really isn't very funny these days, even when they have a gifted comedian like Amy Adams hosting (seriously, she is hilarious in her first two movies, Drop Dead Gorgeous and Psycho Beach Party, two of my all-time favorites). What really caught my attention, though, was the musical guest, Vampire Weekend. Granted, I've never heard them before--despite reading about them on music blogs for months now--but I wasn't that impressed. Did they sound like a hipster version of Jimmy Buffett, or what? Is that just me? Am I suddenly old and crotchety? (I do turn 29 in just four weeks. Eek.) Do hipsters suddenly like the mellow tropical sounds of Jimmy Buffett? It's ok if they do (I attended several Jimmy Buffett shows back in the day)--I'm mostly just curious.

Friday, March 07, 2008

2008 book 31

N.D. Wilson's 100 Cupboards
A YA fantasyish book set in Kansas involving a boy sent to live with his aunt, uncle, and cousins who subsequently discovers a wall of mysterious cupboards and adventures ensue. It mostly avoided the cliches I was expecting and I pretty much liked it until the epilogue, which was just dumb. B.

more shared links!

Here are some more linked I've shared via Google Reader recently:

Some Canadian humor

More Old Jewish Comedians!

Nostalgia: remember those really hilariously lame celebrity calling commercials?

Don't use Crest pro-health mouthwash.

Fame! I'm gonna live forever! (Because I'm short and Jewish--finally it pays off!)

OMG!! An interview with Michael McDonald where he discusses Yacht Rock (I have all 11 episodes on my ipod).

What kind of cupcake are you?

More rock memoirs--oh, Bret Michaels, will you ever stop being a media whore?

Finally--A bookcase fort! This would have been my ideal bed when I was a kid.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

2008 book 30

Joshilyn Jackson's The Girl Who Stopped Swimming
It's funny--I've had this book on my hold list at the library forever b/c it's been getting such good reviews--and then I found it at the bottom of a pile of books in my bedroom this afternoon. Yup, I'd gotten an advance copy at ALA and totally misplaced it. I'm actually sad that I could have read this book a month ago--that's an extra month to love and recommend it! Because, hey, I love and recommend it. It's about a young mother, Laurel, living with her family in a suburban community in Florida (though several characters went to college in the Triangle--local interest for those who live there!) who occasionally sees ghosts. One night the ghost of her daughter's best friend wakes her up--the girl has drowned in their swimming pool. In the aftermath, Laurel calls on her somewhat eccentric actress sister to come to their aid, and as they attempt to figure out what happened to the girl, their own pasts are revealed to the reader. Totally an A.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

2008 book 29

Jonathan Tropper's The Book of Joe
I was distracted for the first chunk of this book wondering if that crappy tv show October Road is based on it, as it's about a writer in New York who wrote a totally autobiographical novel about his high school experience, and returns to his small hometown in Connecticut when his father has a stroke, and has to contend with all the locals who hate him, not to mention his high school sweetheart. Eventually I got caught up in the story--though the protagonist is an admitted asshole (albeit justifiably troubled), his high school friends and his rebellious nephew are compelling characters. A-.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

harry potter book group?

ABC Family is showing the first three Harry Potter movies again this weekend, which always makes me want to reread the books. So, I'm going to read them all in order in one big lump and get the complete HP experience. But of course it would be fun to have someone to discuss all the little tidbits and foreshadowings with! Anyone want to join me in this endeavor?

2008 book 28

Ruth Ozeki's My Year of Meats
This is another book group book (though it's one I've read before and selected for our group on issues). It deals with a half-Japanese, half-American documentarian, her tv series promoting meat, and the effect her show has on a Japanese housewife. It's one of those books that, if you aren't already a vegetarian, will seriously make you consider becoming one (meat is gross, for real).


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy
Yay, I finished knitting my Argosy scarf! I still need to block it, but I really hate blocking (I only have a mini ironing board at my disposal, and the cat will mess with it anyway). I always love knitting with Noro yarn though, b/c you never know what color will come up next.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

2008 book 27

Gish Jen's Mona in the Promised Land
The final book in the Jewish book discussion series, was, I think, a really poor choice for a conclusion. I should say that I've read it before and enjoyed reading it again--it's the story of a Chinese-American girl growing up in the late 60s and early 70s who decides to convert to Judaism--but it's a really bad mismatch to the other books (none of which really match each other either--the series wasn't cohesive at all and I think whoever chose the books was kind of a numbnuts). It was a nice change to read something more contemporary and that actually had a girl as the main character, but I'm really not sure how discussion will go. Of course I've worried about every discussion and it's always turned out well, but this novel is really a major departure.