Thursday, April 30, 2009

April Showers Bring May Flowers

April is rushing out on a rainy note here in DC. I still can't believe it is the last day of April. Where did this month go? But I'm looking forward to May, warmer temperatures (though please not in the 90s yet!) and days spent at the pool. I'm really looking forward to this summer. I'm not sure how long I will stay in the DC metro area, but the spring/summer is definitely my favorite part of the year here. I want to soak up every moment, in case I do find myself elsewhere come next summer. 

Last night I walked from my house to meet up with a friend for a late happy hour. Armed with my umbrella I started the 20 minute walk to my destination, hoping my IPOD would keep me entertained. But I walked on a different side of the street than I usually do and noticed the most interesting things - an all female martial arts class, a lovely looking ice cream/gelato store, a Santa Claus look alike on a bike who almost ran me over.  Just little things I never notice in my usual rush to work or home. 

Even though I've walked up and down that street countless times, this time I had nothing on my mind and actually paid attention to these little simple things (Ok Santa Claus bike man was a little abrupt). But I think we sometimes take for granted the little pleasures we can get out of the simplest things. I hope to embrace that more here this summer. 

Photo Credit: BBC News

Monday, April 27, 2009

Handle with Care Review

Warning: If you are in my book club or don't want to read a spoiler about Handle with Care read no further. I finally finished this book, and I've never been that it's done! I was not a fan of this book. I've read another Picoult book and am not sure what to think of her as an author. It's obvious that she likes to hone in on a particular controversial issue (in both books I've read it's been medical). The issue is usually not very common and requires her to extensively research her book. In this aspect, she succeeds.

Picoult's strength (at least in My Sister's Keeper) is making you think about a certain situation in a different way. In that book she made me go beyond my gut-reaction to think, how would I really choose or behave if I was actually put in this situation. Being able to see a complicated issue from a completely different perspective was my favorite part of that book.

I think she tried to do the same in this most recent novel, but it didn't work. Every depressing event that happened, did not in my opinion, lead to whatever she was trying to show us in the end. I came away from this book, learning nothing, feeling nothing except sadness. But not in beautiful/tragic beautiful prose way - just one hit after another.

HUGE SPOILER: I still cannot understand why Willow died in the end. Had she succeeded in her faux suicide attempt, as tragic as that was, that would have even given some validity to the hell her parents had put her through and pushed her to the brink. But to just drown out of no where? I read a review saying wondering what if Willow had survived and her mom was putting the check in her coffin many years later (having never used it, having learned from all their mistakes, etc). I think this would have made a much better ending - but I don't believe this is the case, because her mother visualizes her drowning as she is describing this section.

My favorite dialogue came from Amelia, Willow's older sister. But again, she was put to the side the whole book. Even her "cure" of bulimia was for her parents to ship her off to get help, and coming back at the end of the book fine and "healthy". Even the author pushes Amelia to the side - that was a quick fix to a problem that was just as severe as Willow's.

I can't wait to hear the opinions of my book club members. The book was a page-turner for sure, but only because you desperately wanted something good to happen to this struggling family - and it never did.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


I'm half-asleep writing this post...the hot weather made me squeeze the most I could out of this weekend and I'm ready to crash now. I'd like to stay up and watch the rest of this Yankees/Red Sox game, but seeing as it is 10 pm and only in the 6th inning, that's probably not going to happen. I'd also like to finish Handle with Care because while this book has brought up some serious issue to contemplate, its completely a downer. I'm hoping something redeeming happens at the end, but with only about 20 pages left, I don't have high hopes.

Random thoughts from this weekend:
  • Sitting outside for the first summer-like weather is both very tiring and can cause sunburn.
  • My apartment stays surprisingly cool in 90-degree weather, with only one working AC currently. My AC-less room...not so much. Good luck to me sleeping tonight.
  • Chic-fil-a + a blanket = the best picnic ever.
  • It really feels even more like summer whenever you're drinking Corona.
  • People from Switzerland pronounce "Vs" like "Ws" such as "Napa Walley".
  • Don't put your metro card, that you just received earlier in the week, in your pocket. You will always loose it.
  • The Red Sox can really suck the life out of you. However, I've never see someone steal home plate before, which, as much as I hate to admit, was pretty cool.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day

Happy Earth Day! Earth Day here in the nation's capitol started off rainy, turned sunny, I think rainy again, and finally sunnier, but much cooler. It was a weird weather day, is the earth trying to tell us something? Anyways, I'd like to say that I did something to help the environment today, but other than tossing my empty wine bottle into the recycling bin after dinner, and watching some documentary on sick killer whales on PBS right now, I can't say I contributed much.

However, my roommate was telling me about an book that would fit right into the earth day theme: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver. I haven't read any of her books, but have heard great praise for them. The book is about Kingsolver and her families decision to buy only food raise in their own neighborhood or food they grew themselves. Writing about home-grown lettuce doesn't sound that intriguing, but the fact that she could read about it for pages without completely losing her mind kinda shows to me Kingsolver is a damn good writer.

My roomie even decided to stop by the farmer's market today to try and buy some locally grown produce - things that were in season for this area. Unfortunately, she could only find spinach from CA. I guess that defeats the purpose of cutting down on environmental waste by shipping it halfway across the country. Later, at Whole Foods, they had apples imported from Brazil. Oh well, at least she tried....all thanks to motivation from a book!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Lost Symbol

I think I've read all of Dan Brown's books to this point. I read The Da Vinci Code and was hooked. After Angels and Demons I even went to his other books like Digital Fortress and Deception Point.
Brown's talent isn't in the phrasing or beautiful use of words. Brown is able to take an interesting plot line, build intense suspense and keep you wanting more. I don't read a passage and stop and ponder its meaning, turn a page or break out my highlighter (yes, I do that), but I read through at a rapid pace because I can't wait to see what will happen.

After I read all his books, I remember seeing the movie (it was alright), and now am anticipating Angels and Demons (I like that one even better than Da Vinci Code). I was so happy to find out that Brown has a new book, The Lost Symbol, scheduled to be released in September. Now, I don't even care what the premise of this book is (which does feature Robert Langdon from Da Vinci Code)...I'm going to read it. And Publishers Weekly is even toting it as a much-needed boost to the publishing industry in general.
This announcement comes conveniently weeks before his Angels and Demons is released in the theaters (with Ewan McGregor, yay!). I, for one, can't wait for the movie and the new book!

Monday, April 20, 2009

New York Is the Best Revenge

I've always contemplated moving to NYC. It really is the center of the world for publishing. But I also know that its a tough town. When, and if the time is right, maybe I'll end up there one all these folks.

My favorite line..."When you get laid off from your job, or get dumped by your boyfriend, New York is the best revenge."

I haven't read through all the arrival stories, but I plan to. Maybe one day I'll have my own story to tell.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Random Thoughts

It's Friday and closing I present to you, random bullets!
  • I'm about to begin this weekend by sitting OUTSIDE enjoying some lovely beverages with my lovely coworkers. Yes, I said OUTSIDE.
  • I'm currently reading Handle with Care. It is seriously so depressing, I really just want to finish reading it. Too bad I'm not even halfway through. Reading it after 2 glasses of wine is probably not a good idea either.
  • The Yankees lost so badly in their much anticipated home opener yesterday - get it together boys!
  • Mean what you say and say what you mean....I'm not sure who said that, but it's something to live by. 
That's all I got for now. Happy Friday!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Eight Balloons

Did you know that April is National Poetry Month? Neither did I, until I remembered I needed to come up with a theme for my volunteer reading last night. I went to the library and they had tons of children's poetry books already pulled and ready for the taking. I was brought back to my childhood when I saw Shel Silverstein's A Light in the Attic. I remember loving those books! Remember those wacky drawings? I found a great activity for the kids to do after reading, showed up at the shelter...and no kids came! It was a little disappointing because no kids showed up the month before either.

Despite my disappointment in not getting to share the poems and activities with the kids, I figured someone should be reminded of the wonderful, wistful and often touching works of Silverstein. So, for your reading pleasure, I give you "Eight Balloons". This poems just makes me happy :)

Eight Balloons
Eight balloons no one was buyin'
All broke loose one afternoon.
Eight balloons with strings a-flyin'
Free to do what they wanted to.
One flew up to touch the sun - POP!
One thought highways might be fun - POP!
One took a nap in a cactus pile - POP!
One stayed to play with a careless child - POP!
One tried to taste some bacon fryin' - POP!
One fell in love with a porcupine - POP!
One looked close in a crocodile's mouth - POP!
One sat around 'til his air ran out - WHOOSH!
Eight balloons no one was buyin'-
They broke loose and away they flew,
Free to float and free to fly
And free to pop where they wanted to.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Marilyn's Chamber of Secrets

Last night I went to trivia night at my neighborhood bar. The trivia was pretty intense, but the best part of the night was making a name for our team. Apparently the MC for the night gives a "theme" on which to base your team name, and the best team name wins a prize. This particular week the name was supposed to be based off Marilyn Chambers, a porn star from the 70s who died yesterday. I dug deep down into my creative wit and came up with Marilyn's Chamber of Secrets. Who knew I'd somehow be able to tie my Harry Potter obsession into real life! 

Unfortunately my team not only lost the team name contest to I Hate When She Just Lies There (OK, a little raunchy for trivia night,  but lets consider the theme here), we didn't fare too well in the SEVEN rounds of trivia either. But, I did learn some random, useless info about Ms. Chambers as a result. In fact, she even tried to run for vice president of the US - there's some random trivia for you!
Other inventive team names:
  • Somali Pirates - really no relation to the theme, but still in good fun
  • Barack Obama is a bitch for not coming to the Nats Home Opener  - I wonder if he came if the would still be winless?
  • At least when the Nats lose they aren't shot in the head (the Nats lost yet another game as trivia was about to begin)
  • You can take the porn star out of the trailer park, but bring the body bag (that was just wrong lol)
  • Knock Knock Knockin' on Heaven's Green Door - Marilyn's famous for her role in Behind the Green Door
(There were about 30 teams, so this is just a sampling. Next time I'll write down the good names!)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Half Blood Prince

Happy Easter! I'm back from a relaxing weekend at home, although the trip home took me twice the time due to lovely DC traffic. During my time literally sitting in traffic I was able to finish the 6th Harry Potter book (I promise, I was just sitting there and only had about 30 pages left.)

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was nothing what I expected. I guess, all along I realized that at some point this series was going to get pretty dark. However, I'm still surprised what happened in this one! I literally didn't believe what happened at the end- I was imagining different crazy scenarios to explain it, but in the end it was clear that I had to accept the reality Rowling had created. I'm being vague in case there is somehow someone out there that hasn't read it yet, but I was very wrong in my judgement of certain characters, or how Rowling would use them. Now, I still think there are a few tricks up her sleeve, but I truly have no clue what to expect in the last book. I think she left many things unexplained, or at least things that I didn't fully understand, which I hope will be answered in the last book.

However, I'll have to put the last HP on hold because I need to start reading our next book club novel, Handle with Care by Jodie Picoult. I just realized we are halfway through April (how did that happen?) and I haven't even bought the book. Oops! Hopefully it's a fast read.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Losing Sleep

Before bed I like to cuddle up with a good book. If I lay down and read it, I'll usually gently get tired and casually drift to sleep. If the writer is really good, it might take longer, but it's going to happen eventually. I think I figured out a new way to review my books....does the book keep you awake way past your bedtime? 

Last night I got to a turning point in Harry Potter (book 6 The Half Blood Prince). I could not stop reading, despite the sheer exhaustion I felt from a long day of work, errands and the gym. As it was nearing midnight, I had to reason with myself and force myself to put the book down. (I know midnight is not that late for some of you, but I need LOTS of sleep to function. The randomness of this post will attest to that.) I am in complete suspense about what will happen next. The worst part is I know I wont have time until at least late tomorrow night to pick it up again.  Despite my frustration, its been a long time since a book kept from sleeping, so thank you J.K. Rowling.

And now a random quote from the book that I enjoyed:
"Age is foolish and forgetful when it underestimates youth"

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

"An Elephant's Faithful One-Hundred Percent"

"I meant what I said and I said what I meant. An elephant's faithful one-hundred percent"

My book club met for the first time this past Sunday. The fact that we were able to hold our little gathering outside, enjoying the prettiest day so far of 2009 was a good sign for things to come. We munched on delicious sandwiches, goodies and of course a little cranberry champagne. It turns out that pretty much everyone enjoyed Water for Elephants. So let's get to the official review.

Water for Elephants is a book you can get lost in. The book is written from two different perspectives: The young Jacob's experiences joining the circus and the old Jacob's life living in a nursing home. The "action" parts of the book all take place during young Jacob's time with the circus, involving a crazy love triangle and his passion for animals. However, the group agreed that Gruen's depth of writing shined much more when she was describing the older Jacob. I found myself laughing out lout at some of the parts in these sections. And you would think it would be easier for an author to go into vivid detail while describing the fun, colorful, sometimes dangerous circus, but this wasn't the case, in my opinion. I even found myself wanting to skip over some sections of detailed descriptions during the young Jacob's circus days. While it was evident she did much research, which was interesting, some of the other mundane aspects stayed that way as a result of her writing.

But then, just like that, you are taken back to the perspective of older Jacob and the writing allows you to really experience what he is feeling -- as he grows older and feels he is trapped in a body that doesn't fully represent who he is. And although my book club is full of mostly early-to-mid 20 somethings, we all agreed we were able to relate to his descriptions. So, Gruen was successful in relating something (aging in this case) to a group of young women -- something pretty out of our realm at this point and time at least. I think that is always the sign of a good writer. There were a few serious topics that Gruen touches on, but doesn't really go into great detail that we felt could have made the book even richer.

Overall though, I'd recommend this book to anyone who wants to know a little more about the circus, likes a good love story or is an animal lover. I think above all else, this book takes a deep look into dealing with the aging process, and how you are never too old, or young for that matter, to do anything you want.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Is Nonfiction For Me?

Today on Good Morning America, they interviewed Michael J. Fox and talked about his new book Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist. I've never really been an avid non-fiction reader. I'm not sure why that is really. You'd think after countless literature classes and analyzing fiction to the point that even an enjoyable read become unbearably picked apart, I'd want to take a break. Go on a crazy adventure into the world of reality. But I can't remember the last non-fiction book I read.

Maybe I like getting swept up in the fiction and mystery of something that COULD be real, but just isn't. Lately, however, I've noticed myself becoming more interested in nonfiction. Like this book for example.

In reference to how he dealt with his new life with Parkinson's disease:
"If I had to give up any part of this, how could I possibly protect myself from losing all of it? The answer had very little to do with "protection" and everything to do with perspective. The only unavailable choice was whether or not to have Parkinson's. Everything else was up to me. I could concentrate on the loss -- rush in with whatever stopgap measures my ego could manufacture. I could rely on my old friend from the nineties, denial. Or I could just get on with my life and see if maybe those holes started filling in themselves. Over the last ten years, they have, in the most amazing ways."
"...My identity has so much to do with my ability to self-express, to assert my creativity and productive worth (work), my rights and the rights of whatever communities I'm a part of and therefore responsible to (politics), my freedom to seek spiritual purpose (faith) and to explore the complex bonds I share with those I love most (family) and without whom I would have long since succumbed to darker forces. "

I've never had a strong opinion about Michael J. Fox either way, but I'm sure this memoir is inspiring. After my HP escapade is over, maybe nonfiction is the next thing awaiting me.

What is the best nonfiction book you've ever read?