Wednesday, January 11, 2012

2012: The Year of the Spinster Adventuress

If it's not my favorite character entrance of all time, it's dang close:

"My bunkmate, Lorraine Root. A 37-year old home economics teacher from Muncie, Indiana. Almost 6 feet tall, with horn-rimmed glasses. Chain-smokes Lucky Strikes. Lorraine introduces herself this way: 'I'm a spinster adventuress.'"

This comes from the utterly enjoyable
The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt: A Novel in Pictures by Caroline Preston, with full-color vintage memorabilia on every page (see below). Frankie is a plucky young Vassar grad / aspiring writer, coming of age in the 1920s and dressing the part. Her travels take her across the pond to Paris; en route she meets Ms. Lorraine Root, the aforementioned spinster adventuress.

This book was a lot of fun, and it got me thinking about my Year 2012 Resolution. My Year 2011 Resolution -- trying new things -- was a great success. Line dancing, Atlantic City, waterproofing my basement walls, swimming two miles, and Muir Woods were just a few of the highlights. How to follow up such an eventful year? Why, by becoming a spinster adventuress!

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Watch That Ends the Night = The Book That Stole My Heart

From the spine-chilling cover art to the unforgettable voice of the Iceberg (and with every curl of saltwater in between), Allan Wolf's The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic simply stole my heart. This novel re-imagines Titanic's voyage from the shipyard to the ocean floor, a voyage that 2,000-some-odd souls took along with her. It's a story that's been told and re-told, but the beauty of Wolf's writing breathes new life into the soon-to-be-100 year old tragedy. The still-almost-incomprehensible event unfolds through the voices of about twenty passengers and crew members (and one ship rat) aboard the luxury liner, as well as the Iceberg itself. There are many unforgettable passages that beg to be re-read; here's my favorite:

"I am the ice; I am of water made.
That's why it's now of water that I speak:
Watch how the water licks
Titanic's hull.
Hear how the water makes her rivets creak.
See how, before her trip even begins,
the water is obsessed with getting in."

And one more favorite passage, for good measure (also in the voice of the Iceberg):

"The sun moves low to the west of my mass.
A shadow, cast by my prodigious bulk,
becomes a phantom finger stretching out
to mark the route
Titanic's bow needs trace
across the sea's gray-rippled endless face."

Hubris, humanity, and the progeny of "Greenland's glacial womb" literally collide in this amazing piece of art.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

I declare, it's Do Yourself a Favor and Read ROOM Day!

It's not too often that I read a book so outstanding that I recommend taking a day off just to read it in one sitting. I read a lot of books, and I like a lot of them just fine (some get the special honor of being hurled against the wall -- The Shack, this still means you!), but only the great ones really linger in my mind. Some True Blue Media Gal greats include:
  • Jesus Land by Julia Scheeres
  • Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
  • Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry
  • Unwind by Neal Shusterman
And I will now add Room by Emma Donoghue as the coveted fifth bullet point! Room is narrated by Jack, who begins, "Today I'm five. I was four last night going to sleep in Wardrobe, but when I wake up in Bed in the dark I'm changed to five, abracadabra." But Jack is not a typical five year old. His mother, who is now twenty-six, was abducted by Old Nick when she was nineteen and has been held captive for seven years. She and Jack live in Room, the 11' x 11' universe, where Ma cares for him, feeds him, teaches him, and plays with him. Old Nick stops by to disappear the garbage, creak the bed, and bring the occasional Sundaytreat. Jack has never been outside of Room, but now that he's five, Ma starts to think that maybe Room won't be big enough forever. Now she has to convince Jack that Outside is actually real. This book has suspense, incredible use of language, and a central mother/son relationship that is equal parts moving, inspiring, and disturbing. So please, do yourself a favor and read Room today!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

How do you solve a problem like Human.4?

Long time, no blog! But it's 2011, my year for trying new things. And I think that returning to an old favorite thing can and should qualify as a new thing. But before I get off track, here are some of the new things that I've tried so far:
  • Roller skating at Millenium Skate World in Camden, NJ (oh hey, a two-fer!)
  • Branching out from my usual selection at the Fellini Cafe in Media, PA, or trading Gnocchi Fellini (Gulf shrimp, artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomato in fresh basil pesto) for the Linguini al Polpo di Granghio (crabmeat in fresh tomato sauce with basil)
  • Going to Atlantic City for a friend's birthday party; the agenda included the Continental at Caesars for dinner and then time to dance dance dance at Mur.Mur
  • Roller skating in Downingtown, PA with the Girlfriends Club of Chester/Delaware Counties -- participating in a group activity is the new thing under this bullet point, since I've already covered roller skating
  • A West Coast Swing dance lesson (actually this will occur later this evening, 8 p.m. to be precise, so please think of me)
And it's only March, so heck if I haven't gotten serious about my resolution this year and then some. HOLLA! for 2011. But trying new things doesn't mean forgetting about my favorite things, so of course I've also been reading lots of great books in and amongst all these other new pursuits. Well, some great and some not so great. And that brings me to Human.4 by Mike A. Lancaster.
Kyle Straker, the main character, volunteers to be hypnotized at his village's annual talent show. When he and the other volunteers recover from the hypnosis, they realize that something has gone terribly wrong. Everyone looks the same, but nothing is quite as it should be. Oh, and one of the other volunteers is Kyle's ex-girlfriend. Natch. A lot of running for their lives and raging against the machine ensues. And some other stuff.

There was a great premise lurking about in this short (231 page) debut novel. An eerie, disquieting message about how continual technological upgrades can leave some people feeling irrelevant or downright invisible. And maybe the homeless person that you've heard mumbling to himself has just missed the most recent upgrade, and now he simply exists outside the Matrix. Unfortunately, the premise is stronger than the execution. I did appreciate the fact that, unlike so many other books I've read of late, Human.4 has a real ending and not merely a set-up for the inevitable sequel. 'Cause I just ain't buyin' that.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Evolvement - REALLY?!?!

I heard Katy Perry on American Top Forty with Ryan Seacrest this morning and she said that her fans are looking forward to the "evolvement" of her music. I can't decide if I'm endeared or irritated. Team Endeared: She made fun of Garth Brooks' Chris Gaines phase. Chris Gaines is always ripe for ridicule, and I welcome every swipe at him. Team Irritated: She compared herself to Priscilla Presley. I'm willing to forgive a lot since Katy's given us the best summer song line yet:
"California Girls, we're undeniable / Fine, fresh, fierce, we got it on lock."
So catchy! But even California Girls might want to unlock a dictionary, I'm just sayin'.

Monday, March 29, 2010

What's in my bookbag?

My trip to Texas is fast approaching, so needless to say I've spent the past few days agonizing over which books to take with me. It's an especially big decision this time out because I'm committed to carry-on items only. That means I had to scale back my typical "book per day of trip" equation to a "books that fit in tote bag" scenario.

The Help
by Kathryn Stockett was a shoo-in because it's been so highly recommended by many of my work friends. I'm currently on page 46 and will withhold commentary until I really get farther into its 440+ pages. No surprises here: I'm also taking Eclipse by Stephenie "About Three Things I Was Absolutely Positive" Meyer because (a) Debi and I will be watching Twilight and New Moon on DVD, (b)
it's a plum opportunity to read the book in the presence of Pocket Edward, and (c) Eclipse will hit theaters in June! Gotta be ready for every sparkling moment. A dark horse in the running edged out A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick, my book group's latest selection. My Leftist sensibilities and fondness for graphic adaptations of books I'll never read led to a surprise pick: A People's History of American Empire by Howard Zinn. Plus, I like books with covers that are red.
I am looking forward to paging through this depiction of "trouble in the soul of an imperial nation" with newfound respect for comics as civil disobedience. Oh, and I can't wait to hit up Chuy's, the H.E.B., and Taco Cabana!

P.S. Entertainment Weekly had somethin' to say about A.N.T.M.'s upcoming vampire-themed photo shoot. And that somethin' was, "[It's] either a commentary on how the modeling industry can suck the life out of you or a pathetic attempt to get Twilight fans to watch." Um, if they would just replace pathetic with mind-bogglingly effective, and every known synonym for mind-bogglingly effective, I could get on board.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Dear Tyra: Now I KNOW that you've been reading my letters!

Next Wednesday, March will go out like a mega-fierce lamb when two of my very favorite-est thing will come together for one hour of TV magic. The photo challenge on America's Next Top Model will be a VAMPIRE-themed shoot complete with faux neck wounds, tank tops with suspenders (?), and some ca-razy white contact lenses! So fierce it will curdle your blood. It really won't suck. And as yours truly will be deep in the heart of Texas visiting BFFF Debi D., I am thinking that all of Wednesday's activities will definitely be planned around vampires and A.N.T.M. So overall, a pretty typical Wednesday!

Note to Tyra: Dear Tyra, what is dreckitude? And why the sudden commitment to catsuits featuring MC Hammer pants? I'm just sayin'.

In other news, I removed one of my own stitches today. I am seriously questioning the wisdom of doing this even while thinking to myself, "one down, three to go."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

"And approximately what time did you lacerate your thumb?"

I disobeyed all known rules of logic and kitchen safety on Sunday night when I placed a can lid in the bottom of a bowl in my sink. As I placed it there I thought to myself, "You are going to forget that it's there and you are going to cut yourself on that can lid." But I chose to ignore my own voice of reason and go about my business. Part of my business included forgetting that there was a can lid at the bottom of a certain bowl, because when I went to wash the dishes I managed to gash my thumb on said can lid. And it was a gash of epic (for me) proportions. A bleeder! One trip to the emergency room, four stitches and a tetanus shot later, I'm more or less recovered except for some lasting bruises on my pride. Who knew that to anesthetize the area to be stitched, the doctor has to inject the novocaine directly into the gash itself. Sweet mother. Only five more days until the stitches can be removed. I'm thinking this isn't the time to get in touch with my inner DIY-er.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A feast for all the senses!

A cookbook would have to be pretty special for me to spend the better part of a Saturday reading recipes for Spicy Pulled Pork, Rib-Eye Steak with Whiskey Cream Sauce, and Comfort Meatballs. That's because I'm a devoted vegetarian happily counting down to my 20-year anniversary with a meat-free plate. But I also have a li'l bit of the cattle ranch in my blood, so I was immediately taken with Ree Drummond's The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes From an Accidental Country Girl.
It's part cookbook, part memoir, part photo-diary of her life on an Oklahoma cattle ranch. Each recipe features step-by-step instructions and gorgeous accompanying photos, shot in the natural light of Ree's kitchen. The photos of wheat-fed (YES!) cows, ranch landscapes, and mud-splattered cowboys (swoon!) set the backdrop for recipes that will probably tell you to "cut the bar of cream cheese in half and add both halves to the skillet" or "scrape out the skillet to get every last drop." Ree's bubbly writing adds to the fun: "All I am saying: give cheese grits a chance." Done! Because really, every vegetarian knows that the trick to being a good dinner guest is to politely pass along the platter of Chicken Spaghetti and double up on Creamy Rosemary Potatoes, Macaroni and Cheese (my own personal brand of heroin), or Beans with Skillet Cornbread. Or all three: triple carb delight!

Everything about this book makes me long for an elk ivory engagement ring. And if you know what I'm talking about, you know what I'm talking about. Swoon (again)! Speaking of swooning, Monthly Edward will return soon. Really!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Snow Day Coffee Table

This snapshot of my coffee table gives you a pretty good idea of how I weathered the recent snowstorms that brought the East Coast to a grinding, sliding, salt-encrusted halt. My ever-present water bottle is one of the few plastic items that I still have, and once it goes I'll be down to strictly stainless steel and polycarbonate water bottles. My ever-present to do list is also on display. As is the remote control triad. The DVD remote control came in handy when I watched Dear Zachary, one of the very best and most shocking documentaries I have ever seen. I have thought about it so much since viewing it, but I don't want to give too much away so I will only recommend that everyone watch Dear Zachary with a box of tissues, a pen, and a stamped envelope nearby. Reasons for the latter items will be evident after viewing some of the disc's special features.

The books on the coffee table are all arranged according to reading priority, a little phrase that I cooked up to explain the, um, priority of my reading material. Flash Burnout, Soul Enchilada, and We Are the Weather Makers are all review books with a deadline. Ditto Because I Am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas, a young adult novel in verse that I just loved. And hey, is that Kristen Stewart on the cover of Vanity Fair? Why yes, it's the 2010 Hollywood issue featuring ten whiter-shade-of-pale actresses (it's a fold-out cover) and spotlighting Kristen's bedhead. Vanity Fair gets a thumbs down on both counts. These offenses are glaring and inexcusable. I'm sure Kristen isn't responsible for her own styling in this instance, but – to paraphrase my *Pineapple Express reference* BFFF Debi D. – Hey Kristen Stewart! You are dating the hottest guy on the planet! Run a comb through it and represent!