Thursday, November 26, 2009

Cannonball Read - Book 81

Book 81 was The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. I think this was the first translation I've read this year - originally published in French, TEotH is the tale of Renee, an apartment concierge (sort of like a building super, only less maintenance-y) who acts the part of slightly stupid matron while secretly appreciates the finest of fine things, particularly philosophy, Dutch painting and Japanese film; and Paloma, a precocious 12-year-old in Renee's building who has determined that life is not worth living and plans to kill herself on her 13th birthday unless she can find something beautiful in this world, be it movement or art. When Mr. Ozu, a Japanese aesthete, moves into their building, both Renee and Paloma have new worlds opened to them, and while the ending isn't exactly what a reader hopes for, both women realize the joy in their lives.

So, it was good, but I struggled. In fact, I'm pretty sure I outright skipped a couple pages. I'm sure the sections on philosophy furthered the plot, but I'll be damned if they didn't lose me from time to time. I'm no dummy, but even three pages of theory can remove me from the story.

Please, send me something fluffy that I can read in one sitting! Don't forget, at least two hundred pages...

The Elegance of the Hedgehog - B

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


People seem to fit into neat little boxes. You get to know someone one way, and that's where they stay. But then, you find something out, and that pigeonhole is just blown wide open.

Here's what happened: I worked with these two nice young ladies (I'd say they're both in their early 30s, a tiny bit older than me but not much) who were performing in and presenting a show where I work. I saw both of them dance, and they are beautiful dancers. I didn't have their careers figured out, but I knew they did something other than dance for a living. And then I read the program notes. These ladies are both PROFESSORS OF MOLECULAR BIOLOGY. Are you kidding me!? You're insanely talented dancers and smarty-pants scientists!? I was beyond impressed. Good on you, gals.

Then I thought about myself. People are often incredibly surprised when they learn I was in a sorority in college (actually, two, but we can talk about that another time). It's not just that they have a vision of a stereotypical "sorority girl," but that I'm not it. And then, they find out I'm a former pageant queen who's the director of a local pageant. And usually, jaws drop. Again, it goes beyond the broad stereotype to the actual person. I fit in a box of theater employee, dog mom, TV watcher, crazy reader, girly girl, but not a pageant girl. And I'm OK with that.

I'm not calling anybody out for stereotyping. I'm just looking to open the pigeonholes.

Incidentally, doves and pigeons are the same. Those pigeons in big cities are feral pigeons. Creepy.

pigeonholes - B

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Love Is In The Air

Two of my coworkers and another young friend of mine have all gotten engaged in the past three weeks. And just about three years ago, the hubs and I got engaged. I have two people using the marquee at work to propose in the next six weeks (and here's an article about another one that took place over the summer), and I've had three or four inquiries from recently engaged couples thinking about getting married at the theater.
Seems like love is in the air in the fall. Why is that? Does crisp weather make you feel like canoodling? Are people trying to give that big gift before the holidays - or start the wedding planning over the holidays when the families are together?
Whatever the reason, I like it. Good game, all of you.

love - A

Cannonball Read - Book 80

So, Vendela Vida, the author of Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name, is married to Dave Eggers, author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and founder of McSweeney's publishing house. And I don't really like Dave Eggers (we get it, you're literary, now back off). But someone in my book club recommended LtNLEYN, and let me borrow it, so here we are.

I think my biggest problem with this book is it was trying too hard. I finished it, but I never got into it - too much darkness, too many twists. Clarissa, the protagonist, wasn't sympathetic at all, and the family drama (where's her mother? who's her father?) didn't really move me. It seems to me that Vida was trying to write this little gem of a tragic family tale, and instead ended up with junk jewelry: an imitation of a gem.

Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name - C+

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Cannonball Read - Book 79

Book 79 was City of Thieves by David Benioff. Here's the book jacket description:

"Stumped by a magazine assignment to write about this own uneventful life, a man visits his retired grandparents in Florida to document their experience during the infamous siege of Leningrad. Reluctantly, his grandfather commences a story that will take him almost a week to tell: an odyssey of two young men determined to survive, against desperate odds, a mission in which cold, hunger, and the Russian authorities prove as dangerous as the invading Wehrmacht.

"Two young men meeting for the first time in a jail cell await summary execution for crimes of dubious legitimacy. At seventeen, Lev Beniov considers himself 'built for deprivation.' Small, smart, insecure about his virginity, he's terrified about the sentence that awaits him and his cellmate, the charismatic and grandiose Kolya, a handsome young solider charged with desertion. However, instead of a bullet in the back of the head, the pair is given an outrageous assignment: In a besieged city cut off from all supplies, secure a dozen eggs from a powerful colonel to use in his daughter's wedding cake. Lev and Kolya embark on a hunt to find the impossible in five days' time, a quest that propels them from the lawless streets of Leningrad to the devastated countryside behind German lines. As they encounter murderous city dwellers, guerrilla partisans, and finally the German army itself, an unlikely bond forms between this earnest teenager and his unpredictable companion, a lothario who maddening, and endearing, bravura will either advance their cause or get them killed."

It was great. Totally engrossing, and incredibly realistic. And now I need to go do research on the siege of Leningrad - and I love it when historical fiction makes me feel like doing research. Seriously.

City of Thieves - A-

Hence the Title

Good times.

people in movies saying the title of the movie - A+

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Oooooh, I Just Love You!

Many of you may have seen this already, but I can't stop watching and I show it to everyone I know.
This, my friends, is a slow loris:

AND I WANT ONE. They are, alas, illegal to keep as pets in the United States. So I guess I'll be moving.

slow loris - A-

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Cannonball Read - Book 78

Here's the book jacket description for The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein:

"Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the worods of his master, Denny Swift, and up-and-coming race car driver. Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn't about simply going fast. Using the techniques needed on the race track, one can successfully navigate all of life's ordeals.

"On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through: the sacrifices Denny has made to succeed professionally; the unexpected loss of Eve, Denny's wife; the three-year battle over their daughter, Zoe, whose maternal grandparents pulled every string to gain custody. In the end, despite what he sees as his own limitations, Enzo comes through heroically to preserve the Swift family, holding in his heart the dream that Denny will become a racing champion with Zoe at his side. Having learned what it takes to be a compassionate and successful person, the wise canine can barely wait until his next lifetime, when he is sure he will return as a man.

"A heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty and hope, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautifully crafted and captivating look and the wonders and absurdities of human life... as only a dog could tell it."

I don't think I can write a review for TAoRitR - at least, not without reliving the book and CRYING ALL OVER MYSELF again. It was beautiful, and really, really sad.

Don't tell anybody, but I think I'm a dog person. Or maybe a Formula One person. Or maybe... both?

The Art of Racing in the Rain - A

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Cannonball Read - Book 77

I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe is another one of those books that's been out for quite a while that I've always wanted to read, but just sort of overlooked every time I went to purchase a new book. For one thing, it's long - the hardback version I read was over 650 pages (can't that count as two books?). For another, it's the Tom Wolfe version of a tale as old as time: brilliant country bumpkin heads off for an Ivy League university and is shocked at what she finds - drinking, sex, revealing clothing, frivolous spending, more drinking, a fixation on sports, more sex, vulgar music, bitchy girls, more drinking, more sex. I've read books like it before (my neighbor observed that I have a "prep school thing going"). In Wolfe's hands, the subject matter is familiar, yet removed - after all, he was 73 years old when he wrote it and hasn't been an undergrad himself in over fifty years. He relied on research conducted by students at five universities - and you can tell when you read the descriptions of quarters, fraternity houses, and common usages of the words "shit" and "fuck" that current college students helped him. I've lived in a college town since 2005, and some of this stuff was spot-on. But as I mentioned earlier, I've read books with similar subject matter before, and I knew certain things were going to happen. Of course Charlotte would have a bitchy roommate. Of course Charlotte would meet up with two other misfit girls - and of course they would betray her. Of course the fraternity guy would invite her to his formal - what else would he do? Rich, lush, startlingly accurate - but a little stale.

Here is an awesome, albeit somewhat more scathing, review.

I Am Charlotte Simmons - B+

Cannonball Read - Book 76

I went to visit my in-laws this weekend. When I walked in the door, my MIL gestured to the sideboard and said "I read that book the library and saved it for you." No pressure, QueenB! You know those things have due dates, right!? But she assured me that Notes from the Underwire was a quick read - and that at times, it reminded her of me. How could I pass it up?

A quick read deserves a quick review: Cummings is a former child actor (although that's not the only way she wants to be known) with a long-time boyfriend and daughter, trying to be hip and maintain some sanity living in LA; she's worked as a talent agent and now has a popular blog (and apparently, a book deal). She also invented this thing. So Quinnie's been busy. But she hasn't lost her humor - or her snarkiness. I've read lots of books like this one, memoirs/essays with a mother's touch, and this one was pretty good. Best book I've ever read? No. Entertaining during a long weekend? Sure. She might have been trying too hard, but I chuckled out loud a few times.

Notes from the Underwire - B