Book Meme

Found this over on Bookgirl's Nightstand and just had to play along: Using only books you have read this year (2009), answer these questions. Try not to repeat a book title. It’s a lot harder than you think!

Describe yourself: Along for the Ride (Sarah Dessen)

How do you feel: Beige (Cecil Castellucci)

Describe where you currently live: North of Beautiful (Justina Chen Headley)

If you could go anywhere, where would you go? The Crow Road (Iain Banks)

Your favorite form of transportation: Peace, Locomotion (Jacqueline Woodson)

Your best friend is: You or Someone Like You (Chandler Burr)

You and your friends are: Deep in the Heart of High School (Veronica Goldbach)

What's the weather like: Genesis Books 5-10 (Bernard Beckett)

You fear: Sharp Teeth (Toby Barlow)

What is the best advice you have to give: How to Say Goodbye in Robot (Natalie Standiford)

Thought for the day: Sworn to Silence (Linda Castillo)

How I would like to die: Bone by Bone (Carol O'Connell)

My soul's present condition: Immortal (Gillian Shields)

Imponderables (cat edition)

While I may not be that large for a human, I'm definitely multiples of volume larger than a cat. So it's a bit puzzling when I wake up, our of a relatively heavy sleep, to discover that I'm sleeping damn nearly on top of The Boys - backs scrunched under my side, a tail caught under my hip, etc. And when I move they stretch as if it say "what happened? I was comfy!"

This, of course, from the same Boys that can fall asleep on my windowsill, with the gutter for the window frame pressing into them.


Public Service Announcement

If you loved Hunger Games and want to read Catching Fire, do not - do not read the EW review.


How remiss of me!

While in Niagara-on-the-Lake, I stopped by the Doug Forsythe gallery. Marsha Forsythe's works spoke to me - so, of course, I had to pick up a print to add to my "gallery.

Nice, eh?


La creme de la creme

I used to be one of the elites, one of the “1,300 women in Connecticut and urban gay guys in Manhattan” who read the Critical Shopper column (among many others). I'm here to tell you, I'm neither in Connecticut nor am I an urban gay guy. And the WSJ makes my points about that column for me.

As you know, I stopped subscribing to the Times. When I spoke with the customer service person, as part of their "retention" spiel I was asked where are you going to get your news if you don't subscribe? Talk about elitist attitude! Let's see... the Globe and Mail. The WSJ. The Economist. The Boston Globe. BBC News. (and, oddly enough, the NYTimes' own website) Among others.

A close friend works for the NYTimes; she's been asked to take a pay cut, she's had more responsibility given to her, and her job is uncertain. Maybe if the paper went back to including All the News That's Fit To Print and dropped its elitist attitude she wouldn't have to worry.


Creature comforts

It's pretty hot and humid out, the kind of weather that makes you stick to your sheets and wish it were fall already. So, of course, The Boys need to cuddle with their Mommy.

Last night I had Bogie wrapped around one arm, cuddled into my belly with his heat on my hand. At the same time, Mallory was lying over my left foot and ankle.

Hot? Uncomfortable? Definitely.

But every so often they'd flick their tails and cause delicious goosebumps... and purr.


Vacation: the good, the bad and the ugly

I just got back from a week's vacation in Maine (a house on Little Cranberry Island, to be precise) and thought I'd share the good, the bad, etc.

The good
  • Little internet and cell phone availability (so you can really get away from it all)
  • Lobster
  • Very friendly people
  • Sea air
  • Local restaurant, library, artists
  • Close to NEHarbor, SWHarbor and Bar Harbor

The bad
  • Little internet and cell phone availability (difficult when trying to coordinate with people and/or when something major happens at work)
  • The ferry on/off island stops running pretty early
  • Really pre-thinking your meals
The ugly
  • Eight.Hour.Drive. (one way)
  • Driving through carwash level rain to get home
The incredible


Links Galore


Links Galore


Culture Vulturing, Summer Edition

I've been a busy Lazygal over the past three weeks, spending time on travel and Culture. It's been fun - of course, the problem is, as always, being away from home and the comforts therein. Without further ado, here's what I've had going on in Chicago and Niagara-on-the-Lake:

Up (Steppenwolf Theatre) I've been a fan of Steppenwolf since working (front of house) on Balm in Gilead in 1984. Yet I've never been to their theatre... until this summer. Up is based on the true story of Larry Walter's 1982 balloon/chair flight. I can see this transferring to Off-Broadway, because it's not a Big Play, something the current gods of Broadway seem to require.

Little Brother (Griffin Theatre) is an adaptation of Cory Doctorow's book/polemic against Homeland Security. The production was a little frenetic, and my first impression was that this would make a great college/high school production (it's akin to The Laramie Project). Beyond that... I clearly remember September 11, and don't want to live through another day like that one. Thing One's comment was that, as someone who had protested Vietnam and who held freedom dearly, watching people jump from the Twin Towers' windows made him reassess how he felt about losing some of those freedoms (for those of you that don't know, he works on Wall Street and his office literally overlooks The Pit - he saw the second plane go in to the Tower).

Brief EncountersBorn Yesterday* (Shaw Festival) is, of course, the play upon which the Judy Holliday movie is based (ok, there was also a remake but let's not dwell on that, shall we?). The Shaw's production has an incredible set and the main actors are wonderful in their roles. "Billie" did have a few ticks (it took me a while to realize she was more like Carol Burnett than Ms. Holliday), but the chemistry between her, Verrell, Brock and Devery was very real and made for many amusing (and dramatic moments).

Star Chamber (Shaw Festival) was part of the original Tonight at 8:30 series that Coward wrote - apparently he decided it was too on-the-nose and it has rarely been produced since. This year, the Shaw undertook to present all ten plays, something rarely done. Clearly, this was an update in terms of costume to the 1960s and the Mods but really the themes here are timeless. Self-absorbed actors? Check. Flustered and ignored lawyer? Check. Desire to Do Good albeit blindly? Check.

Albertine in Five Times (Shaw Festival) tells the story of Albertine's life using five actresses ranging from 20 to 70. Her sister interacts with all five, asking questions, prompting memories and helping Albertine make sense of (and come to grips with) her past. Tremblay's play is very powerful and I now need to see more of his works.

In Good King Charle's Days (Shaw Festival) reminded me why I never go to certain shows and talk about certain topics with my father, the Emeritus Professor of Physics. Since one of the leads here is Isaac Newton, of course he had an opinion - not about the acting, or the portrayal of the character, but on the historical figure (note, he's commenting on the person not the accuracy of the play). Thing One and I enjoyed the play up through the last act - yes, Shaw pontificates and bends history and does things to get his point across. But as a work of drama, the first two acts hold. The third act is very weak, and the ending? Let's not talk about that. Benedict Campbell's Charles was well-worth the next strain (we had second row seats), ditto Graeme Somerville's Newton and Ric Reid's George Fox. The others were varied in their abilities with only one totally miscast.

Back to Coward, with Play, Orchestra Play. Usually one thinks of Coward as a writer of relatively light, frothy fare, but in Shadow Play he disproves that. Fumed Oak reminded me of The Autograph Hound (henpecked husband finally rebels, except here he leaves), and Red Peppers had moments but mostly felt like bickering for bickering's sake. None of these grabbed me as Must See Again plays.

Finally, Brief Encounters brought my Coward total to seven. The performance was saw was the final one of an all-day Coward marathon put on by the Shaw. 300 intrepid souls made it to the end; we saw the last two shows of their day. Perhaps the knowledge that this was a Big Day inspired the actors, because this was the perfect series to end on. Hand Across the Sea was (is) the weakest of the series, again proving that Coward can be hit-or-miss. Even there, though, Thom Marriott manages to be watchable - and his Albert in Still Life is lovable. As for We Were Dancing, how many Coward plays leave for intermission with a Bollywood musical number? Truly an inspired choice.

Food in Chicago:
Pops for Champagne I love fries, and Pops has some of the best I've tasted. Couple that with some rose champagne...

Eno. Wine... cheese... chocolate. Who needs more? Oh, all right. Add some olives and charcuterie to the meal. (ps - try the Serena with your dessert)

Adobo Grill This is my new favorite Mexican restaurant! I'm a huge fan of avocado, but not such a huge fan of guacamole... until I ate here. They make it at your table. And the ahi tuna ceviche? Those two are all I need to have a yummy meal. (Thing One and I aren't sure if it's better than, or equal to, Tamales... guess we'll have to eat at both again and judge!)

Shedd Aquarium (Chicago) The last time I was at an aquarium was in the early 1980s. Perhaps I've held on to some romantic notions of what they're like, but the Shedd didn't live up to any of them. A visit to Coney Island or Boston is called for, methinks.

Peller Vineyards
and Inniskillen Winery - two of the many that dot the Niagara peninsula. Lunch at the Peller is a must, but take a tour of the many vineyards; I promise you'll develop a real appreciation of icewine.

Nothing cultural on the calendar for quite some time - I trust you'll agree that I've been there, doing quite a lot and now deserve some time with my books and Netflix.

* thanks to Everything O for pointing out embarassing typo!


My new Canadian friends

Just got back from a long weekend at Niagara-on-the-Lake's Shaw Festival (about which more later). You know how much I hate leaving The Gang, even though I know they're in very good hands while I'm gone.

Well... here are my new friends, who very kindly helped me get over missing everyone:




Their humans, Gloria and Henry, run a lovely B&B, Bernard Gray Hall. I can't recommend staying there highly enough!


Building an ARC

(I know, it should be "ark" and honestly, given that the Pacific Northwest and the Atlantic Northeast seem to have traded places this summer that wouldn't be bad but this post is about books, not boats)

Sassy, among others, complained that there were too few ARCs at the recent ALA conference. Me? I got about 60, my norm. Granted, I grabbed with abandon, but I could have gotten more had I been less discriminating. The trick? Get 'em first thing in the morning, Day One of conference. Beyond that they were pretty scarce on the ground.

LizB and I had a conversation about the whole business about blogging and ARCs. There's been a movement from someone (the IRS? someone else?) that I agree with... sort of. Yes, if you're provided with a product and then paid to review it, you should consider that as "income". But people like me and my bunhead friends who pick up free copies of books, read them and then review? Not so much. On the other hand, I completely agree that we should be transparent about where our books come from - if they're from the publisher, whether requested, won in a twitter contest, or grabbed from a pile in a made frenzy, say so.

The blog with integrity movement makes sense.

The other issue we talked about is that there seem to be fewer ARCs out there, that publishers are cutting back the number sent and to whom they send them. That's too bad. Not just because I love me some free books, but because it lessens the number of opinions Out There about said books. Granted, not everyone that gets an ARC blogs. But the vast majority of my friends that read ARCs are enthusiastic readers and equally enthusiastic pushers of books.

When I read The Lightning Thief, I knew I'd found a great series. And I've raved about it here. Reading that ARC was so exciting: my next step was to talk to a student, Jacob, and tell him about it. How the lead character reminded me of him and how I knew - just knew - he'd love this book. Know what? He did.

Getting ARCs of new series (eg, The Hunger Games) but an established authors of other series is great. Ditto new directions by authors (I'm thinking Benjamin Black, aka John Banville). New authors? Wonderful. More, please. What I don't need quite so much are second books in a series (although I did not pass up the new Skulduggery Pleasant or Catching Fire), so if publishers are looking to cut back, there's a great place.

The thing is, we rely on three sources for ideas for our next read: friends we trust, professional book reviews, and professional readers (book bloggers and librarians). Cutting back on that will lower the excitement for new books, new authors, new series, and stifle conversation about books. Honestly now: when was the last time you read a bad book review in the newspaper? or a bad book blurb? And how many books a week (or month, or year) does your local paper review?

So bring on the ARCs, bring on the conversation. And let's be honest about where we got our copy. Win-win-win.