Tuesday, February 26, 2008

2008 book 26

Maria Amparo Escandon's Gonzalez & Daughter Trucking Co.
This novel centers on a young woman in prison in Mexico. She starts reading to her fellow inmates from great works of literature, but the stories she tells are of her own childhood, growing up on the road with her trucker father. OK, I really liked this book! There was a great interplay between her stories and her prison life. A.

Monday, February 25, 2008

more stuff i've shared

Here are some more links I shared via Google Reader this past week:

Videos of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova at the Oscars (this was the only win I was actually excited about)

The US Holocaust Museum restored a burnt diary from the Warsaw ghetto.

Fun with Mario Paint! I totally had this game, but was not nearly this talented.

Borders is starting a bunch of new concept bookstores, including one for graphic novels. It's nice that comics will be more widely available (I guess?), but I'm still going to shop at Chapel Hill Comics.

Speaking of comics, the Wolverine movie is going to be full of man-candy (a few other actors have since joined the cast, including Dominic Monaghan or whatever his name is from Lost and LOTR).

Finally, here's a nice piece about one of my favorite books of the year, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

no-knead bread

Originally uploaded by wordnerdy
I decided to try the no-knead bread recipe (from the NY Times) this weekend, since people have been raving about it for eons and it's been ages since I baked bread. I was feeling a little anxious about this endeavor when, after letting the bread rise for 20 hours, it didn't look very risen (though the smell assured me that the yeast had fermented) and was sticky as all get-out. It was a bitch to work with and I told my dad I was sure I had a disaster on my hands; things didn't improve when, as per instructions, I preheated my oven to 450 and stuck a big covered pot in there. Shortly thereafter, a crackling noise erupted from the oven and my smoke alarm went off. Yes, the plastic on the pot lid had started to melt. I put the still-horrible-after-two-hours-of-rising dough into an uncovered cake pan (deciding to cook for 30 minutes instead of 45, and at 400 instad of 450) and hoped for the best.

Lo and behold . . . it looks ugly as hell but is DELICIOUS. It's light and fluffy on the inside and nice and crackly on the outside. I totally will make this recipe again now that I know its weirdnesses--five minutes of prep time beats having to mess with bread dough every two hours (though I do like making challah and probably will do it again, and I am still obsessed with my dough hook and recommend it to everyone).

Anyway, yay for yummy homemade bread!

PS. This is the first photo I've uploaded using my Macbook! And my wireless is even working at the moment!

2008 book 25

Tony D'Souza's The Konkans
My cat just stepped on the keyboard and deleted everything I'd written, so here's the short story: American woman doing a Peace Corps stint in India marries a Konkan man (Konkans are Catholic Indians) and they move to America and start a family. Some details are autobiographical and are the richer for it. A few too many historical interludes about Konkans but an engaging story overall. A-.

I also saw Persepolis this weekend, which was awesome! They really did a good job translating the graphic novel to screen and the visuals were amazing.

Friday, February 22, 2008

2008 book 24

Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs
Elizabeth recommended this to me--it's the first book in a series about a young woman detective in the late 1920s. In this volume, the mystery takes a back seat to her backstory, as we learn about her humble roots, her generous benefactor, and her stint as a nurse in France during WWI. On the whole it was enjoyable (though not as good as the Laurie King Mary Russell books), aside from a really silly interlude where Maisie explains how she solved the mystery. Also, she says "golly!" more than once. Heh. B.

Meanwhile, I am super annoyed b/c my macbook suddenly isn't working with my wireless! And my other computer barely works at all, which makes book blogging a very frustrating endeavor. Good thing I started knitting two new scarves today! (While watching the Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice movie, no less.)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

2008 book 23

Denise Mina's Slip of the Knife
Here's a thriller/mystery set in Scotland but mired in Irish politics. When her colleague and former lover is killed, a journalist falls deep into a world of intrigue. Or whatever. There also a subplot about a baby killer going free. I was a little eh on this. Not enough narrative tension or something. B.

Monday, February 18, 2008

2008 book 22

Jeannettee Walls' The Glass Castle
People have been urging me to read this memoir for years, but since two people recommended it to me last week, I decided it was time to give it a go. It's the story of four children and their absolutely insane parents--alcoholic father, mother with some other issues. I HATED it. On every page, I hoped social services would come to give these children a real home. Their lives are astonishingly heartbreaking and awful, and I don't care that 3/4 of them turned out ok, no children should have to grow up like that. It's like when I read Running with Scissors and was aghast that people lived like that. Guess what, this is worse!! Children should always have food and a roof over their heads! I guess Walls is a good writer--she tells her family history with wry humor--but that doesn't make the facts more palatable. Also, I wondered what her siblings thought about her version of events. I'd be mad if one of my sibs wrote a book and mentioned multiple times that s/he was the favorite child. None of her sibs are fully realized people here, though her parents are (horrifyingly so). Seriously, this is why I rarely read non-fiction. It really depressed me.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

2008 book 21

Joshua Henkin's Matrimony
This was a pretty good novel about some college students and their lives for the like 15 years after college--Julian, a wannabe writer from a wealthy New York family, his Jewish-Canadian girlfriend Mia, and his friend Carter, who's from a poor family in California and has a chip on his shoulder. The book jacket description makes things seem very dramatic, but really it's just a nice novel about life and writing. B+.

fun links

I just realized that only two of you read all the random things I share through Google reader, and maybe some of the rest of you would like them as well. So here are some recent things I've shared:

Kitchen Gadgets of the Future

Mind-blowing New Pornographers video (featuring Dan Bejar's hair)

Michael Chabon and Daniel Mendelsohn have a conversation, which reminds me I still need to read Mendelsohn's book.

Interview with George Romero about his new zombie movie (linked even though his previous movies, filmed in my hometown, gave me nightmares as a child)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

2008 book 20

Hari Kunzu's My Revolutions
God, what is the obsession with former 60s radicals? I swear, this is the third book I've read about a former radical living a new life under an assumed name whose past comes back to haunt him. Fleeing his family and the man who has confronted him, he flashes back to his past activities. The guy in this book is British, which I guess makes for a change. Of course, it's even more annoying to read about radicals in Britain, b/c they were just sort of vaguely protesting the world, and not trying to get their army to withdraw from Vietnam. B.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

2008 book 19

I'm on my couch on my new computer--yay wireless and yay working laptop!

Sara Young's My Enemy's Cradle
OK, this one requires some serious suspension of disbelief, and that's not even for the major plot points, which are as follows: a half-Jewish girl living in Holland at the start of WWII with her non-Jewish relatives ends up taking her cousin's place at a Lebensborn (one of those Nazi homes for unwed mothers impregnated by German soldiers, though the protagonist's baby's father is Jewish). Actually it's a totally riveting novel if you're willing to get into it and not be all nitpicky (I am the nitpicky type, but I was engaged anyway). The author clearly did some research on the Lebensborn movement and the offhand descriptions of the home are pretty fascinating. B+.

v-day gift guide

For those of you who might be scrambling for gifts, let me point you to the Chapel Hill Comics' Valentine's Gift Guide! I especially recommend Vanessa's picks for future lovers . . . and those white ugly dolls. Adorable!

Speaking of adorable, my new Macbook just arrived! Too bad I can't get it to connect to my wireless network. I am sure it will work out eventually.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

apollo's song

Apollo's Song came in my latest package of comic books, and I started reading it last night. I have to say, it's really disturbing so far. In several early scenes, the adorably-drawn protagonist tortures and kills cute animals because they're in love. Then he drifts into a dream sequence where he's a Nazi, and some other Nazis are raping a Jewish girl. That's where I stopped reading. Brutality toward animals AND rape? I cannot handle reading about either of these things, especially when they're illustrated so cutely (Tezuka created Astro Boy, and that's how all these characters look). Has anyone read it? Is it worth sticking with?

In happier comics news, Yakitate Japan brought a smile to my face. It's about a small-town boy on a quest to create the perfect bread! Um, awesome. I also received (among other things) the final issue of Y the Last Man and am prepared to discuss it!

For more good titles, check out Chapel Hill Comics' best of 2007 lists. Erin is represented by an adorable kitten!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

partially read

I was 186 pages into Brock Clarke's An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England when I realized that I wasn't going to start liking the frustratingly idiotic and annoying narrator, a moron of a man who had accidentally burned down Emily Dickinson's house as a teenager and then done every possible thing wrong since then. I was mildly interested in finding out his parents' secrets but not enough to keep reading. My instincts were right; I skipped ahead and read the last chapter and knew I would have absolutely hated this book.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

2008 book 18

James Collins' Beginner's Greek
Getting raves all over the place, this is the story of a man who meets the woman of his dreams on a plane ride. When he loses her number, it seems likely to devolve into something totally predictable--his madcap antics trying to track her down, or something. But the second chapter throws a wrench into things, and another twist in chapter three made me wonder what on earth would happen next. Of course the end is totally inevitable and everything wraps up way too neatly, but it was a very sweet and very readable book. A-.

2008 book 17

I know, I know--you're all wondering if I really haven't read a book all week. Well it's true, I haven't! The reason is twofold--first, I didn't have anything particularly compelling from the library (which has been rectified), and second, I have been watching Oz on DVD. Multiple episodes every night! At least, until Netflix decided my addiction to this ultra-violent soap opera needed to be treated, and started sending me random selections from way down my queue, EVEN THOUGH all nine remaining discs of Oz are available. Damn you, Netflix!!

Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey
As several of you know, I never really got into Jane Austen (though I did read and enjoy Sense and Sensibility a year or so ago), but I've been watching the Sunday night Jane Austen movies on PBS for lack of anything better to do. I caught the last ten or so minutes of Northanger Abbey and was intrigued--a girl is unceremoniously kicked out of her friend's house in the middle of the night, some other girl is totally seduced by a dude who is clearly a cad, the first girl is visited by her man who seems to imply that she thinks his dad is a vampire and then he proposes, and a voiceover announces that the two got married as did some other couple, the end. Well, of course after all that I had to read the book! It started off strong, with Austen's very tongue-in-cheek descriptions of the heroine in contrast to more romantic heroines of the time (a friend and Austen fan assures me that this novel is a parody of gothic novels). But then it really got kind of annoying, with those jackasses the Thorpes (what would jackasses have been called in Austen's time, I wonder) and endless descriptions of the Abbey. Whatever. There weren't even any vampires so it was pretty much a letdown. No, just kidding, it's a classic etc. But I am way ready to read something more modern.