Sunday, July 27, 2008


I decided to read this book because of this glowing review by Maureen Corrigan on Fresh Air. It also has 4 1/2 stars out of 5 from 60+ people on Amazon. But I just didn't get it, or at least, I'm not buying it.

This was a very strange novel. Corrigan relates it to The Great Gatsby and maybe that's my problem. I've never read The Great Gatsby. The jist of the book is a guy from the Netherlands raised by only a mother marries an English woman moves to New York and has a son. While in New York 9/11 occurs, the wife leaves and guy decides to start playing cricket again which leads to a strange attenuated relationship with a guy originally from Trinidad. And the novel meanders its way through the next 4 or so years.

But this isn't an immigrant's tale, a New York tale, even a relationship tale. It's mostly a guy's life in crisis and this guy is an emotionally stunted Dutchman. Now maybe if I were an emotionally stunted male immigrant, I'd like this too. But I'm not, and I don't. Corrigan raved about the flowery prose, but that didn't make up for what was essentially an utter lack of plot for me. Nor the giant missing detail that characters are at the tip of India at Christmas 2004 and they never mention the tsunami. You make this giant disaster of 9/11 key to your book, but you ignore the tsunami?

This was definitely a book I finished out of duty rather than desire. I would not recommend it. But there was one little part I loved.

Like an old door, every man past a certain age comes with historical warps and creaks of one kind or another, and a woman who wishes to put him to serious further use must expect to do a certain amount of sanding and planing. But of course not every woman is interested in this sort of refurbishment project . . . . p. 109

Thursday, July 24, 2008

This American Life

This is one of my favorite podcasts though I suppose that would be hard to tell from the fact that I have 4 weeks backed up on my iPhone. But I love the in depth radio storytelling, especially when there's a David Sedaris essay. If you're interested be sure to subscribe to the podcast in iTunes. Each week's show is only downloadable for free for 1 week. You can stream them from their site anytime, but that means you have to be near your streaming source for an hour. And don't forget, if you like the show, and especially the free podcast, consider making a donation to keep the service going.

The Carnivorous Carnival

I've now conquered Book the 9th of Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events. I started reading this series in order to make sure it was appropriate for my then 2nd grader. He's pretty sensitive to scary things in his media and I was afraid the unfortunate events might be too much. But he and I are both enjoying the books. I probably like them even more than he does. But I'm making myself read them at his pace, so it will probably be sometime in the coming year before I read The End.

One of my favorite things about these books is how the author uses vocabulary and phrases that might not be familiar to a kid but then defines them right in the book. For example, in this book there's a discussion of the phrase "in the belly of the beast" which means "inside some terrible place with little chance of escaping safely." I would highly recommend this series for grade school aged children. They would also be excellent to read out loud.

Monday, July 21, 2008


I found this from David Bianculli, TV critic for Fresh Air and his own website TV Worth Watching. He had been watching various DVD sets to while away the hours left void by the writers strike, and this was one thing he highly recommended.

I can't say I agree 100%. I have never watched an episode of House, but I am aware of Hugh Laurie and his portrayal of a neurotic pill-popping diagnostician. I was looking forward to seeing him in what I thought would be a clearly comedic role. But Fortysomething is this strange hybrid of a show. Part comedy, part this is your life, deal with it drama, and part fantasy/sci fi almost. I really had to force myself through the first couple of episodes. But by the end of the 6 episode run (I love how the British can commit to so little TV) I found myself wondering what would happen next to the Slippery family.

Can I recommend this? Only if you like quirky BBC type things and aren't squeamish about the idea of living in a household where your 20-something sons are having lots and lots of sex within your hearing. I think I'm glad I tried it out, but I'm a bit wary of the Bianculli thumbs up now.

Burn Notice

I started watching this summer popcorn TV show last year. It took a few episodes for it to really kick in and to get where I could put up with Fiona. The end of Season 1 was especially entertaining. Very fast paced and by that time I really cared what happened to the characters. Well, except Fiona.

Season 2 kicked off 2 weeks ago and it picked up right where it left off as good, not terribly realistic, but that's okay fun. Michael is yummy to look at. I enjoy Fiona and Sam's bickering. And my favorite part is the MacGyver like instruction in spy craft. You can check out some of that below.

Burn Notice airs Thursday nights at 10 pm Eastern/9 pm Central on USA (which I get in HD.)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Spiderwick Chronicles

My son has read the first 2 books and wanted to see this movie after all the marketing that led up to the DVD launch.  We watched last night, and I really enjoyed it.  

It's pretty dark for a kids movie.  There's a lot of talk about death and a lot of killing of goblins.  The first 20-30 minutes of the movie drags a bit, but once we get to Joan Plowright, yes, that Joan Plowright!, the movie sucked all of us in and kept us going until the end.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What I'm Watching . . .

If you have not yet, check out this funny from Joss Wheedon (Buffy, Firefly), Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother) and Nathan Fillion (aka Kate/Monica's abandoned husband Kevin).

Other internet things I'm watching right now:

Webisodes from The Office and Heroes Webisodes. But Dr. Horrible is better than both of them.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone

Yep, I'm the last person in the world to read it. Actually, I'm the first and only person in my small immediate family to read it. When it came out in 1997 having no kids I missed all the hullaballo. Then as the series progressed I had a small child who was too young for Harry Potter, and so I continued to miss it. But this week, the kid turns 9, and so the time came for me to read Harry Potter and decide if it was an appropriate book for him to read.

This first volume would be fine for him to read (and was a fine read for me). It's got all the fairy tale classics -- orphan with evil caretakers; witches; wizards; castles; owls; a bully; etc. I did enjoy it, but frankly it didn't leave me gasping for the next book. I'm much more interested in finding out what happens to the Baudelaire Orphans (we're only through Book 8 of A Series of Unfortunate Events).

And so far the kid isn't dying to read Harry's saga either. So maybe we'll save it to start another day, a day when the darker books are more appropriate and he can read it all in one fell swoop. Or maybe, just maybe, we'll miss the boy wizard craze.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Blue Latitudes

I picked this up because I've read two previous Tony Horwitz books, Baghdad Without A Map and Confederates in the Attic and enjoyed both very much. Horwitz has a new book out and has been making the talk show circuit. But my library doesn't have it yet. It did have this book I had not read about tracing the voyages of Captain Cook, the discoverer of the Hawaiian Islands. (He named them the Sandwich Islands.)

Most of the action takes place in the South Pacific which is a region of our globe I have very little knowledge of and not a lot of interest in (except for a certain fictional Island.) But Horwitz again made me turn page after page and while I'm not planning a trip to Tonga anytime soon, I did enjoy my armchair traveling with Horwitz and his drinking companion Roger.


This is the second of the domestic fiction recommendations from NPR. (The third was Mrs. Miniver. I have not read that -- yet.)

It was hard to read this book without picturing Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson even though I've never seen the movie. But Meryl and Jack seem pretty far removed to me from the characters as written who are extremely Jewish in cuture if not at all in religious practice.

This book was okay. It's a bit dated I guess. That surprised me and didn't really drive me to want to cook any of them. I'd rate this a pass.

We Are All Fine Here

I found this from an NPR Books feature that has people recommend three books on a given theme. This theme was female domestic fiction or some such thing.

This is really more of a novella than a novel. I read the whole thing in under 3 hours, but it's a moving story of a woman in the middle of her life contemplating her life, her choices, her men and her marriage. I'd highly recommend it, if not the choices the heroine makes.

Killing Floor

I read this because my husband has read all of Lee Child's Jack Reacher novels. He said I might like them too. He was wrong.

For what it was, a crime genre novel, it was fine. The book won a ton of awards. But I don't really like crime fiction. I'd figured out who the 10th man was 150 or more pages before it was revealed. I found the relationship between Reacher and the female cop unrealistic and too convenient. And I couldn't get past small details like the fact that the book was set in Georgia in September (not far from where I grew up) and he never mentions football and thinks that it actually feels fall-like in Georgia in September. Get real.

I checked the second Reacher novel out of the library at the same time, but I'll be returning it unread.

The Spellman Files

Fantastic humorous book about the Spellman family, a family of private investigators in San Francisco. Tons of LOL moments. I can't wait to read the sequel.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Queen of Babble

From Meg Cabot, the author of The Princess Diary series, this chick lit is an easy mindless read with a plucky heroine and a perfect man with obstacles to overcome. The hook of this one is our heroine is into vintage fashion and there's a trip to London and the Dordogne countryside. And a wedding.

While not my favorite chick lit -- that goes to Sophie Kinsella's "Can You Keep a Secret" followed closely by her Shopaholic series and Johanna Edwards' "The Next Big Thing," the novel does end on both a sweet and hilarious high note. So I'll probably chase down the sequels at my local library.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The World To Come

I found this book while wandering through the stacks of the library. One thing about it that appealed to me was the reference to the artist Marc Chagall. I've been to the Chagall museum in Nice, France and have seen his beautiful stained glass window at the Art Institute in Chicago.

But despite the Chagall tie, I almost put the book down when I discovered it is essentially the story of Jews, specifically displaced Yiddish speaking Russian Jews and their offspring. I don't have anything against that community, but it's pretty far removed from my own. But I'm glad I didn't put the book down.

The author, Dara Horn, weaves generational stories with essentially a MacGuffin mystery plot all in the service of talking about life and death and what separates them and what life, the arts and ultimately we mean. It was at times incredibly moving and beautiful. And while I don't agree philosophically or theologically with the author's conclusions and was frustrated by the ending, it was a worthwhile read.