Month: November 2012

Nov 30

Blogstalker Book Club: The Casual Vacancy

Blogging, Book Club, Coming of Age, Contemporary Fiction, Psychological 38

Hello you Blogstalking Bookworms! Thank you to everyone who clicked on over here from Lauren at Filing Jointly… Finally. It is TIME. Time to discuss J.K. Rowling’s new book (for grown-ups!) The Casual Vacancy. You remember the drill right? I’m going to throw some discussion questions out in bold so we can be all official and such. I must admit there was a small (okay maybe significant) part of me that was hoping this would turn into Harry Potter: The Adult Years, but alas, it was not meant to be. Did anybody else harbor this same secret wish? Gratuitous photo time:

That’s me at the real Platform 9 3/4 in King’s Cross Station, London circa 2004. They put up a sign for the muggles to pose for photos. I may or may not have annoyed the local commuters. Tourists for Harry Potter!

Now that that’s out of the way, I’d like to mention that I made a conscious effort to separate my expectations from Harry Potter. Everyone deserves a chance to re-invent themselves, even bazillionaire authors who have brought joy to millions. I’m a little bit of an anglophile. I love the accents, I love the history, I love the chic lit (Bridget Jones is my Everywoman.) The fact that The Casual Vacancy was a slice of English life was right up my alley. Why does everything sound better British? Examples of my delight displayed in The Casual Vacancy:

1. “Dessert” is referred to on more than one occasion as “pudding.” (You can’t have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat!)

2. “Busing tables” is referred to as “mopping tables.” It actually makes more sense because part of busing tables is wiping them down, like you would with a MOP on a FLOOR.

3. “People Carrier” means Mini Van! How cute is that?! It makes me think of the People Mover at Disney World, which is all kinds of wonderful when your feet hurt from traipsing around the park (or maniacally chasing the characters) all day.

The Casual Vacancy begins with the tragic death of Barry Fairbrother. Barry was an all around good dude. He came from humble beginnings to become a local politician and family man. He coached the high school girl’s rowing team and championed the underprivileged (even at the expense of his relationship with his wife, seeing as he spent their last anniversary writing a puff piece for the newspaper on a local girl from his old neighborhood.) As he and his wife walk from their car to the restaurant where they’ll be having dinner, Barry suffers a brain aneurysm and dies, right there in the “car park.” (Sounds so much more sophisticated than “parking lot” right?!)

Barry’s death sends shock waves through the community. His friends and allies are devastated, while his former enemies on the town council begin plotting how best to replace Barry to advance their cause. What exactly is the cause that’s dividing up the little hamlet of Pagford?

There is a little strip of land under Pagford’s jurisdiction known as The Fields. The Fields is home to a housing project. It houses a pretty rough crowd, as housing projects are wont to do. Crack whores, drug pushers, theft rings, negligent parents- all sorts of unsavory characters make their homes in The Fields. The old guard of Pagford wants nothing to do with it. Like any place though, The Fields aren’t entirely bad. Barry Fairbrother was a heck of a guy and he came from The Fields. Thus, the division.

The town council is divided pretty much 50/50 on The Fields, but with Barry’s death, Howard Mollison intends to install his son Miles in the vacant councilor’s seat to finally rid Pagford of The Fields. Barry’s old allies catch wind of Howard’s plans and seek to find an electable alternative to keep the balance of power in check. After all, the people of The Fields benefit from Pagford’s school system- who knows how many Barry Fairbrothers could be growing up in squalor only to become contributing members of society, right?

While all this political maneuvering is going on, the families of the “upstanding” town of Pagford are floundering. There is a veritable teen rebellion that takes place anonymously online under the guise of “The Ghost of Barry Fairbrother.” The children turn on their parents. In the case of Simon Price, that’s pretty well justified. He’s an abusive jerk who only wants to win the council seat to facilitate his dealings in illegal goods. Andrew sees the anonymous post as the only way to prevent his father from causing even more trouble. Seriously, how much did all of you want to punch Simon?

Parminder Jawanda is already on the town council, but having been one of Barry’s closest allies, she’s a target of derision. She isn’t rotten to the core, but she has a strained relationship with her bullied self-harming daughter Sukhvinder and the poor girl lashes out. Sukhvinder and her mom have issues because unlike the other two Jawanda children, Sukhvinder is awkward and a middling student. I don’t think Parminder is a terrible mother, but she certainly doesn’t realize what an effect her indifference has on her daughter. How did you feel about Parminder? Do you think I’m cutting her too much slack?

Poor Colin Walls feels the need to run for office to honor his good friend Barry. Colin suffers from OCD with bad thoughts. He’s mentally ill and completely terrified that he’ll accidentally molest a child. It sounds weird, but this disorder was covered on one of those therapy shows. It’s a thing (you know, because TV can’t lie. But for real, I’m pretty sure this disorder is legit.) Colin’s son is a complete jerk. Stuart “Fats” Walls has CLEARLY read The Fountainhead too many times. (Irony alert! “Fats” isn’t fat.) He is the epitome of teen douchebaggery. He’s a bully not only to his peers (especially Sukhvinder!), but to Colin as well. How much did you want to punch Fats?!

This image was borrowed from HERE. Please give all credit and all clicks to them!

The undisputed queen of this epic tale of class warfare and dysfunctional families is one Krystal Weedon. She is such a tragic figure. Krystal grew up in The Fields. To say she’s rough around the edges is an understatement. Her mother is a heroin addict. She’s been exposed to rapists and drug dealers and her screwed up 16 year old psyche is the most stable influence in her 3 year old brother’s life. The only “out” she can see for herself is to get pregnant so she can get her own government issue apartment and benefits. She plans to use this opportunity to take her brother out from under the influence of their hot mess of a mother. Krystal serves as the embodiment of The Fields, and is a lightening rod on both sides of the Pagford debate. To some, she’s the underdog who has potential to rise above her circumstances. To others, she’s the loose cannon who punched the teeth out of one of the Mollison girls. How did you feel about Krystal? Sinner? Saint? Or something in between?

There is just SO MUCH going on in this book. When I first started reading I actually thought JK Rowling might be rebelling a little bit from her wholesome image because there were a lot of teen boy erections going on. That really has nothing to do with anything, it’s just an observation. Seriously though, this book is chock full of controversy. I think Rowling does a good job of portraying both sides of the class warfare argument. Everyone wants to help the needy, but nobody wants to live next door to the crack house, you know? Even the Walls family, who are pro-Fields freak out when they find out Fats has been boinking Krystal.

For a small town, this book has a huge cast of characters. The bits I’ve discussed really only scratch the surface. I mean, what about Howard and his tawdry affair? Samantha and her cougar crush on the boy band? Gavin and his stunted relationship capability? Kay, the overworked social worker with self esteem issues? Ruth and her refusal to leave Simon despite the fact that he occasionally beats up her and the children? Gaia’s teen angst? Mary and her grief? Miles and his weird dependence on his parents? And what exactly made Vikram Jawanda so dreamy? Who was your favorite character? Whose baggage do you most relate to?

I really enjoyed this book. I liked that it portrayed people as they ACTUALLY are- flawed with bits of good and bad floating around together. There often weren’t clear heroes and villains (okay, Simon was clearly a villain but even evil Fats showed some redemptive qualities at the bitter end.) I LOVED the sheer British-ness of it all! Overall, I’ve got to hand it to Rowling. Is it Harry Potter? Heck no. Is it good anyway? Absolutely. Well done, Ms. Rowling! What were your opinions on this book? Did you love it? Hate it? Tell us about it!

Thanks for participating in this month’s Blogstalker Book Club! Lauren and I discussed choosing a lighter book (as in, something that isn’t crushingly depressing) for December. We’ve decided to tackle Rachel Dratch’s memoir Girl Walks Into A Bar…: Comedy Calamities, Dating Disasters, and a Midlife Miracle. Join us?

Rachel Dratch thinks Blogstalker Book Club is the COOLEST!

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Nov 29

Outside of a Dog, A Book is a Man's Best Friend…

Personal 14

Good morning, Bookworms! Allow me to complete the Groucho Marx quote from the title… “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read!” Ba dum bum.

I’ve mentioned before that my grown-up job has office dogs. We’re a family owned company with a casual dress code, and the bosses bring in their dogs. In case you missed it, check out this little tidbit about Harley, AKA Pirate Dog. There’s a second dog in my office, a sprightly beagle (who gets less and less sprightly in his old age) named Dakota.

Dakota is hilarious, but he is a chow hound. He’s just about the begging-est dog you’ll ever meet. He also really likes to troll people’s garbage cans for food wrappers. He’s lucky he’s so cute, right?

He also celebrates “Mo-vember.” Beagles approve of prostate exams!

Today Dakota was somewhat less cute. I LOVE English muffins. I love the toasty nooks and crannies and the melty butter or laughing cow cheese… So delicious. So low in calories. So fiber-tastic. I keep them in my office all the time. I typically leave them on my desk, where Dakota is unable to reach. At some point this morning, he managed to get my brand new pack of English muffins. (My theory is that I left them a little too close to the edge, but I’m not ruling out the possibility of chair involvement. Or secret opposable thumbs…)

The remains…

I wasn’t sure at first which dog was to blame, and I planned on trying to read guilt in their doggy faces to figure it out. I didn’t need to try and discern guilt. 5 English muffins is a lot of food for a 35 pound dog. Dakota had a SERIOUS food baby going on. Majorly distended belly. He looked like I do after gorging on pizza. I couldn’t help myself. I had to do it. DOG SHAMING!

“I stole and devoured all Katie’s English muffins. I didn’t have the decency to toast them first. I’m an ANIMAL!”

I realize this post has nothing to do with books other than a Groucho Marx quote, but cut me some slack… I’m suffering malnutrition now. Beagle induced malnutrition. Dastardly dog!

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Nov 28

Song of Achilles: Yes, There’s a Centaur!

Coming of Age, Friendship, Historical Fiction, Mythology, Supernatural 35

Hello Bookworms! I just finished reading Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. You know that tendon in your heel? Yeah. It’s called the Achilles tendon because according to Greek legend the hero Achilles was untouchable in battle because his goddess mother dipped him into some magic water as a baby and he was this protected. The flaw in the plan was that she didn’t go for full submersion, and held his heels out of the water while she dipped him. Thus the heels were vulnerable and he is finally killed during the Trojan War (not that this is the scenario presented in this book, I’m just filling you in on some medical knowledge.)

I’m getting ahead of myself here. Before I go any further, I’ll just come right out and say that this book is basically a love story between two dudes. If you have a problem with homosexuality, I respectfully request that you not read the rest of this blog and that you refrain from posting any nastiness in the comment section. Here’s your get out of jail free card. If you’re uncomfortable with the subject matter, don’t read this book. Or my review. Hate speech will not be tolerated.

You’re still here? Good! Okay so I had a very basic knowledge of the goings on of the Trojan War and I know enough mythological trivia pull out a win if multiple choice is involved. What I didn’t know much of was Achilles’ particular story. Oh what a journey it was! Achilles is the son of a pious king and a sea nymph. Greek mythology is pretty crazy, and according to this account, the pious king Peleus was essentially told to rape the sea nymph Thetis. What a great way to start a marriage! Only NOT AT ALL. Peleus wondered why she hated him. Sigh.

The union of Peleus and Thetis obviously resulted in Achilles. Achilles was a golden boy. He was a super badass warrior without even trying. Enter Patroclus. Patroclus was born a prince, but due to an accident involving a shove and a nobleman’s son’s skull taking an unfortunate bash on a rock, Patroclus was banished from his kingdom. Apparently this was a pretty common practice at the time, because when he’s sent to foster at Achilles’ crib there’s a whole dorm full of ne’er do well princes. Achilles barely notices the other boys, but he notices Patroclus. He chooses Patroclus as his companion and they become total BFFs.

As the years go by and puberty hits, the predictable occurs. You know, you go live on a mountain to be trained by a centaur and THINGS HAPPEN. Not with the centaur. With your BFF. Patroclus and Achilles fall in love. Like for reals love, not politician in a bathroom love. Patroclus chases Achilles down when Thetis hides him in a far off kingdom dressed as a lady. (And she has the gall to be grouchy that he’s in love with a guy. Seriously, Thetis, get enlightened!)

They go off to fight the Trojan War (because you know, Helen and her thousand-ship-launching face.) The Trojan War is frickin long. Daily hand to hand combat for more than 10 years! It’s a good thing Achilles is part god. He barely breaks a sweat. Patroclus is more a lover than a fighter, so he mostly hangs out in the medical tent doling out centaur approved healing techniques. Patroclus and Achilles actually have a pretty nice little war. They get to live as a couple and have some great times. The war is sort of a 9-5 gig. But they know their days are numbered. Yep. Prophesy. The fates never could keep their mouths shut.

I can’t quit you!

It’s no surprise that Achilles dies. I mean, the heel thing! Everybody knows that. But Patroclus? He goes first and it’s HEARTBREAKING. It’s like Brokeback Mountain but the Greeks were a lot cooler about gay people. It was pretty common for boys to have homosexual affairs, actually. It was a little on the unusual side for Achilles and Patroclus to have kept their relationship going into adulthood, but since Achilles could kick anyone’s ass, they didn’t get too much crap from their army buds. Then they go and die and break your heart into a million pieces. That’s alright though- as we’ve discussed, the literary cry is the “pretty” cry.

The bottom line? This book was wonderful! The love story was beautiful, it tugged at all of my heartstrings (there are many of them. My heart is like a harp.) Greek mythology is so colorful and interesting. They knew how to tell a story. And so does Madeline Miller.

I simply must know, Bookworms. How much would you FREAK OUT if you got to live on a mountain with a centaur? He’d teach you to play the lyre!

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Nov 28

Song of Achilles: Yes, There's a Centaur!

Coming of Age, Friendship, Historical Fiction, Mythology, Supernatural 35

Hello Bookworms! I just finished reading Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. You know that tendon in your heel? Yeah. It’s called the Achilles tendon because according to Greek legend the hero Achilles was untouchable in battle because his goddess mother dipped him into some magic water as a baby and he was this protected. The flaw in the plan was that she didn’t go for full submersion, and held his heels out of the water while she dipped him. Thus the heels were vulnerable and he is finally killed during the Trojan War (not that this is the scenario presented in this book, I’m just filling you in on some medical knowledge.)

I’m getting ahead of myself here. Before I go any further, I’ll just come right out and say that this book is basically a love story between two dudes. If you have a problem with homosexuality, I respectfully request that you not read the rest of this blog and that you refrain from posting any nastiness in the comment section. Here’s your get out of jail free card. If you’re uncomfortable with the subject matter, don’t read this book. Or my review. Hate speech will not be tolerated.

You’re still here? Good! Okay so I had a very basic knowledge of the goings on of the Trojan War and I know enough mythological trivia pull out a win if multiple choice is involved. What I didn’t know much of was Achilles’ particular story. Oh what a journey it was! Achilles is the son of a pious king and a sea nymph. Greek mythology is pretty crazy, and according to this account, the pious king Peleus was essentially told to rape the sea nymph Thetis. What a great way to start a marriage! Only NOT AT ALL. Peleus wondered why she hated him. Sigh.

The union of Peleus and Thetis obviously resulted in Achilles. Achilles was a golden boy. He was a super badass warrior without even trying. Enter Patroclus. Patroclus was born a prince, but due to an accident involving a shove and a nobleman’s son’s skull taking an unfortunate bash on a rock, Patroclus was banished from his kingdom. Apparently this was a pretty common practice at the time, because when he’s sent to foster at Achilles’ crib there’s a whole dorm full of ne’er do well princes. Achilles barely notices the other boys, but he notices Patroclus. He chooses Patroclus as his companion and they become total BFFs.

As the years go by and puberty hits, the predictable occurs. You know, you go live on a mountain to be trained by a centaur and THINGS HAPPEN. Not with the centaur. With your BFF. Patroclus and Achilles fall in love. Like for reals love, not politician in a bathroom love. Patroclus chases Achilles down when Thetis hides him in a far off kingdom dressed as a lady. (And she has the gall to be grouchy that he’s in love with a guy. Seriously, Thetis, get enlightened!)

They go off to fight the Trojan War (because you know, Helen and her thousand-ship-launching face.) The Trojan War is frickin long. Daily hand to hand combat for more than 10 years! It’s a good thing Achilles is part god. He barely breaks a sweat. Patroclus is more a lover than a fighter, so he mostly hangs out in the medical tent doling out centaur approved healing techniques. Patroclus and Achilles actually have a pretty nice little war. They get to live as a couple and have some great times. The war is sort of a 9-5 gig. But they know their days are numbered. Yep. Prophesy. The fates never could keep their mouths shut.

I can’t quit you!

It’s no surprise that Achilles dies. I mean, the heel thing! Everybody knows that. But Patroclus? He goes first and it’s HEARTBREAKING. It’s like Brokeback Mountain but the Greeks were a lot cooler about gay people. It was pretty common for boys to have homosexual affairs, actually. It was a little on the unusual side for Achilles and Patroclus to have kept their relationship going into adulthood, but since Achilles could kick anyone’s ass, they didn’t get too much crap from their army buds. Then they go and die and break your heart into a million pieces. That’s alright though- as we’ve discussed, the literary cry is the “pretty” cry.

The bottom line? This book was wonderful! The love story was beautiful, it tugged at all of my heartstrings (there are many of them. My heart is like a harp.) Greek mythology is so colorful and interesting. They knew how to tell a story. And so does Madeline Miller.

I simply must know, Bookworms. How much would you FREAK OUT if you got to live on a mountain with a centaur? He’d teach you to play the lyre!

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Nov 27

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Books of 2013

Top Ten Tuesday 51

Hello Bookworms. It’s Tuesday again, so you know what that means! I’m playing Top Ten Tuesday with The Broke and The Bookish! This week’s topic is the Top Ten books we’re anticipating in 2013. This is a super tough topic. I mean, I feel like I’m forever playing catchup because there are so many amazing books already in existence. Since the release of the final Harry Potter book, I haven’t really been super excited about continuing series… except…

1. Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon. It is the latest in the Jamie and Claire Outlander saga, and the only new release I didn’t have to google, because I’ve been DYING for the next installment. An Echo in the Bone left us with some serious cliffhangers! I’ve been on edge for YEARS as a result. I’m far too neurotic to read series as they come out. I should only read things that are already completed. I absolutely cannot wait. I freaking LOVE these books!

2. Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris will be released in May. It’s apparently the final book in the Sookie Stackhouse series, and given the latest twists (or lack thereof) the series has taken, I’m interested to see how everything ties together. Anybody else think Sookie deserves a normalish boyfriend? I was always kind of rooting for her and Sam. Maybe that’ll happen, and they’ll have telepathic shapeshifting babies or something nice like that.

Sookie + Sam = Supernatural love that can reproduce and lives only the length of a normal human life!

3. The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier comes out in January. I’ve liked everything of hers I’ve ever read, so I’ll probably give this a whirl. It’s touted as historical fiction based on the underground railroad. I wonder if it’ll have a significant tie to period art like her other works…

4. Benediction by Kent Haruf is due out in 2013. My awesome neighbors and I read two of his novels Plainsong and Eventide earlier this year and they were both fantastic. This is about an old man dying of cancer. Frankly it sounds like a downer, but the other two books could have gone some very dark places but ended up heartwarming, so I may trust Haruf with my fragile psyche once more.

5. The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult. Alright, I don’t know just HOW MUCH I want to read this, but I’ve liked the majority of what I’ve read by her, so I might give it a shot. Why am I unsure? It’s about a man who confesses to being a Nazi SS guard. Reading Holocaust novels is like taking a cheese grater to my heart. It’s so important to tell those stories, but they’re SO PAINFUL to read. This one is fiction at least. It’s the survivors’ tales that are the hardest to take. Still, I can’t imagine this book being a walk in the park.

I’m sure there will be tons and tons of amazing books released in 2013, but I’m prevented from knowing ALL THE THINGS. Since I could only come up with 5 books, I’m going to list 5 books made into movies that are coming out in 2013 that may or may not interest me. I mean, the odds that I’ll see these movies is pretty slim. I’ll likely just whine about how books are always better and blah blah blah because I just don’t watch a lot of movies.

1. The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst is being made into a movie? This was an odd little gem of a book I read what feels like forever ago that centered on a distraught man trying to teach his dog to talk after his wife’s death so he could uncover the circumstances. Steve Carell is supposed to be in it. I’m intrigued.

2. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card will be released in 2013 as well. I read this in the aftermath of the Hunger Games because Amazon told me it was similar. It wasn’t really similar, but it was definitely interesting in its own way. I’m not great at being spacial or visual though, so reading about some of the training exercises they went through hurt my brain a little. I’m interested to see how they translate that to the big screen.

3. World War Z by Max Brooks. Honestly, I’ve already heard bad things about this adaptation. I don’t know how you could make a successful movie out of this book because it’s all a bunch of vignettes of the zombie apocalypse. The only thing that ties the story together is the journalist taking down the stories, and it would take some serious creative license to make that work. But who knows? Brad Pitt is starring, and even though he’s not young and sometimes wears gross facial hair, he’s still pretty dreamy. We’ll just have to wait and see if this is a complete dud.

4. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson is about to be immortalized thanks to Leonardo DiCaprio. He’s playing the serial killer, so he’ll probably win like 15 Oscars or something. It’s been a while since I read this, but I recall there being a LOT of conversation on landscaping… My guess is Hollywood will gloss over the controversy of using native grasses as opposed to sculptured gardens… Because, well, that was kind of boring.

5. Catching Fire is coming out. Y’all know I’ll break my “I almost never go to the movies” rule to see more of the Hunger Games. I don’t care that it won’t live up to the book. I really liked the first movie, even though there were a couple of times I wanted to yell at the screen. (I mean, HELLO, Prim did NOT give Katniss the mockingjay pin. I was able to enjoy the movie despite such things.)

So Bookworms, what about you? Any bookish things you’re amped for in the new year?

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Nov 26

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: A Good Read, A Dignified Cry

Coming of Age, Historical Fiction, Supernatural, World War II 37

I’m baaaaaaaaack! I hope all of my fellow American bookworms have come out of their food comas! I know I’m still struggling. A 4-day-weekend is a glorious thing, but I want a weekend to recover from my weekend. Can we make that happen? Ah, well. I knew it was a long shot.

In the few months I’ve been wandering aimlessly about the blogosphere, I’ve been hearing about The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. In fact, I was told that I absolutely HAD to read it so often that I entered a contest to win the book for free. Lo and behold, my craptastic gambling luck abandoned me just long enough so that I could WIN. Many thanks to Jessica of The Bluestocking Society for running the contest!

In case you, like me, have been living in a literary cave… The Book Thief is about a young German girl who is essentially orphaned and lives with a foster family during World War II. Delightful plot quirk: the entire story is narrated by Death. You know, Death. As in, the Grim Reaper (although Death is amused and annoyed by the inaccuracies of humanity’s interpretations of his likeness.) I realize as I write this that I’m using a masculine pronoun to describe a genderless being, and my inner feminist is protesting. Whatever, Inner Feminist, “Death” in my head is a dude, okay? Gosh. Where were we? (Important Note! My Inner Feminist is NOTHING like Ana Steel’s “Inner Goddess” in 50 Shades of Grey. In fact, my Inner Feminist wants to beat the crap out of Steele’s “Inner Goddess.” Cage Match?)

Our protagonist, Liesel, grows up living a nomadic life. Though she doesn’t understand why, her father has disappeared and her poverty stricken mother moves Liesel and her brother around constantly. Though Liesel is 9, she’s never attended school properly and thus cannot even read. It’s revealed that Liesel’s father (at least, perhaps her mother too) was a Communist (or accused Communist… the truth of things never seems to matter much to totalitarian regimes.) Being an open Communist in Nazi Germany is a one way ticket to persecution, and probably death. Liesel’s mother is concerned for the welfare of her children so she travels to Munich to give up custody. Tragically, Liesel’s 6 year old brother doesn’t survive the journey, and his death fuels her desire to learn to read. This is the first time Death encounters Liesel. (Seriously though, Liesel’s Communist parents weren’t exactly picking between Club Med and Sandals. Escaping the Nazis to join the Communists? Stalin was damn near as murderous as Hitler, he was just quieter about the genocide. Humanity. What a mess.)

Excellent cover art! Death and Liesel are dancing!

Once Liesel is established in her foster family, the war begins to escalate. For young German children, that means school and compulsory participation in the Hitler Youth program. Even though Liesel and her foster family’s hearts are NOT into the Nazi party ideology, they have very little choice other than to do what is expected of them. German people who didn’t participate as expected were treated with suspicion at best- dissenters didn’t have a long life expectancy. Which is why the plot thickens so heavily when Liesel’s family takes in and hides a Jew. Max is the son of Liesel’s foster father’s WWI army buddy (seriously, what a CRAPPY time to be alive to deal with BOTH World Wars.)

In a lot of respects, The Book Thief reminded me of Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi (which is amazing and you should totally read it if you liked The Book Thief.) War is a big fat steaming pile of suck. Poor Death is worked to… well, death… with all the warfare and chaos and genocide throughout this book. Anyway, what I think is interesting about these books is that they go behind “enemy” lines. Normal German people weren’t necessarily awful people by any means. They were stuck in a crappy situation. Some of them took the incredibly brave step of hiding their Jewish friends. Some resisted in other ways by refusing to participate in party requests. Some of them stole books out of Nazi bonfires (cough cough Liesel.) Most just tried their best to keep themselves and their families alive.

When I received this book in the mail, I couldn’t wait to tackle it. Jessica was kind enough to include a short note warning me that I’d need tissues toward the end… And oh, how right she was! I’m not going to go into major spoiler territory because I’m just not feeling like it. I will tell you, however, that I cried and cried while reading the end of this book.

It sounds really stupid to say that you love when books make you cry, but I do. I mean, a book must be exceptionally well-written in order to elicit that sort of response. Plus, my literary cry is very dignified. Unlike my real life someone was mean/something tragic happened/someone died cry, my book and movie cry is quite stoic. Minimal mucus production. Classy tear stream. No hiccups and/or howler monkey sobs. It’s my “dab with a hanky” cry. And I love it.

Anybody read The Book Thief? Anybody notice a difference between their book cry and their serious emotional cry? Tell me I’m not alone here!

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Nov 22

Gobble, Gobble, Y'all!

Personal 9

Happy Thanksgiving, my Bookworms! Today I am thankful for you YOU, and all of the cooking karma you mustered up to send to me. Gobble, gobble!

Yes, that’s a turkey on my head. Nothing to see here, people. Move along.

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Nov 21

The Third Anniversary is the Limerick Anniversary, Right?

Personal, Poetry 28

Three years ago today, I got married. Jim’s a good egg, so I’m still pretty glad that we’re official and all. I knew I wanted to commemorate our anniversary on the blog, because it’s my blog and I just can’t read books THAT FAST, okay? Okay. So technically the three year anniversary gift is leather. We just purchased a leather couch. I will consider that our gift to each other. Hear that Jim? You are totally off the hook on presents! I couldn’t just leave it at that, though. I really wanted to write a cheeky sonnet to my beloved. The thing is. I can’t pull off a sonnet. Like at all. You’re getting limericks instead.

I Love Your Bad Jokes

Your humor is really quite odd

The train of thought, kind of a plod.

At home I do laugh-

At most of your gaffes.

But in public, I smile and nod.

Yes, that IS a Bruce Willis record!

I Secretly Love the Vintage Transformers Collection

The Transformers that live in our basement

Inside their impressive encasement?

I pretend to despise

But you know deep inside

I do not desire replacement.

Oh yeah. It’s real.

Your OCD Tendencies Give me Peace of Mind During Late Night Trips to the Bathroom

When I sit on a toilet that’s wet

I never worry or fret

It’s just disinfectant

On the porcelain vestment

You’re the cleanest man I’ve ever met.

I also know how much you love bad clip art!

This is a long, goofy way of saying, “Happy Anniversary, Jim!” I still like you. A lot.

Gratuitous wedding photo!

*****UPDATE*****

I had this post all written up and ready to post on the 21st. Jim didn’t see the piece about not having to get me a present, and thus, THESE arrived at my office:

I swear the flowers are so not a regular occurrence. I don’t want to discourage this behavior though… I LIKE flowers…

Card read, “I didn’t make the nice person with beautiful handwriting write a weasel message again. Love, Jim”

In case you don’t remember the incident of the “weasel” flowers… Read about it HERE. So. Happy Anniversary to us. And Happy Thanksgiving Eve to EVERYONE!

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Nov 20

Top Ten Tuesday: With A Twist

Humor, Personal, Top Ten Tuesday 26

Hi there, Bookworms! It’s time for another Top Ten Tuesday with The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is books that we’re thankful for. However… That’s a little “done.” I mean, my facebook feed has been blowing up with thankful posts this month. So. I’ve decided to talk about books that make me think of FOOD. Thanksgiving is not ONLY about about being thankful for what you have. It’s also about eating a lot. Wahoo gluttony! In that spirit, I’m going to list out the top ten books that make me want to eat too much. Ready? Excellent.

1. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg. I want to eat at the Whistle Stop Cafe really, really badly. Even if it requires the bending of the time-space continuum and, um fiction to become reality. I want all of that delicious southern fried goodness to get in my belly!

2. Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding. I don’t mean to say that I crave whatever Bridget eats (although copious amounts of wine and Cadbury are never a BAD idea.) Since I’m cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year, I absolutely and completely relate to Bridget’s disastrous birthday dinner. I swear if I had blue twine in my kitchen, I too would be a purveyor of blue soup.

3. The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan. I’m not going to pretend to be an expert, but I will claim that my college professor WAS. He told us that food was an integral part of Chinese culture and that it was difficult to understand their religious traditions if he didn’t take his students out for the most awesome meal in the history of ever. I totally credit Dr. Goetz with helping me discover my taste for Chinese food. Anyway, The Kitchen God’s Wife goes into glorious detail about the dishes our heroine prepares out of the money from her dowry. Things that wouldn’t ordinarily sound delicious to me were described in such a beautiful manner that by the end of the book I felt not only that I had traveled China, but that I’d tasted all the delicacies along the way.

4. Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris. Why? Because everything they serve at Merlotte’s sounds like a heart attack in a basket… And dagnabit, I want me some of those fried pickles. Is there anything in this world as delicious as a fried pickle?!

5. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. Why on earth would this make me think of food? Perhaps it’s because the first half of the book, our major characters spend on the brink of starvation. Perhaps it’s because I too would have mourned the loss of my Betty Crocker cake mixes had the humidity destroyed what I had so painstakingly brought to the Congo from Georgia. I totally get it. A lack of cake is a devastating situation.

6. Scarlet Feather by Maeve Binchy. This is the first entry that’s appropriate, because it’s about caterers. Tom and Cathy do some magical things with mini gherkins, and I want to be a part of it. Plus, they’re Irish. So even if the mini gherkins are ghastly, the accents would be positively delightful.

7. The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Yes, this is possibly the most frightening and bleakest picture of humanity’s demise I can think of. Sure, there are some seriously gruesome scenes with cannibals. But you know something? When I finished reading this book, I remembered that the world as we know it HASN’T ended. Pizza delivery is still a thing. For this I am truly grateful.

8. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maude Montgomery. This is in honor of holiday libations. Diana accidentally getting drunk on the supposed “raspberry cordial” just kills me. Imbibe in moderation people! If you simply cannot be moderate, at least have the decency to sleep it off at the dining room table of your gracious hosts. Drinking and driving sucks, y’all.

9. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. My second grade teacher read this aloud to the class, and the scene where they make candy with new fallen snow has always stuck with me. I wanted to try it as a kid, but my mom insisted that our suburban snow would be too dirty. She was probably right, but sometimes I’d eat our snow regardless. Perhaps that’s why my immune system is so awesome. Exposure to dirty snow.

10. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. How could anyone NOT get hungry imagining all the magical sweets in Willy Wonka’s factory? The snozberries taste like snozberries! And how. (I just bought this in a set of Roald Dahl books for my “nephew” at his mom’s suggestion and I’m so stoked! I hope he always loves books, and continues not to mind when Aunt Katie sends them instead of toys. I’ve come full circle.)

The worst part is that I made this meme. Self-deprecating humor: It’s what I’m THANKFUL for.

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Nov 19

Want an Action Movie in a Book? Read A Wanted Man by Lee Child

Book Club, Crime, Mystery 12

Hello my dear Bookworms! It’s Monday, which stinks, but it’s a short week, so that’s something to be excited about, right?

Friday night, we had our latest meeting of the neighborhood book club. Now, I had been calling it “Angry Housewives Eating Bon-Bons,” after a really sweet book I read once upon a time, but I think I’m going to stick with referring to it as “My Neighbors Are Better Than Your Neighbors Book Club.” It seems more fitting. Plus, this week’s hostess made us delicious soup and served it in mason jars… Which means, of course, that my neighbors are not only inherently better than your neighbors, but they’re also more Pinteresting.

This month’s selection was A Wanted Man by Lee Child. I was kind of concerned that I wouldn’t be able to catch up when I saw that this was book number 17 in a series. Luckily, this series is the literary equivalent of CSI. Procedural dramas are good for that sort of thing- you can pick it up anywhere and not be lost. A Wanted Man is a crime novel starring Jack Reacher. Reacher is ex military police. He doesn’t like to be tied down and as a result lives a nomadic life roaming around the country. As A Wanted Man starts out, Reacher is hitchhiking to Virginia (for reasons that must have been explained in books 1-16.)

Does hitchhiking ever end well for anyone? I mean, really. What kind of crazy picks up a stranger off the side of the road? If you’re in this novel, the kind of crazy picking people up off the side of the road are terrorists trying to confound the local police road blocks after committing a murder (I mentally pronounce “murder” in the most evil way possible, but that’s difficult to translate phonetically.)

You’ve probably figured (since this is one of the first ones I’ve ever reviewed) that mystery and crime novels aren’t typically my cup of tea. That’s part of the beauty of being in a book club though, you step outside your comfort zone. I found this to be a fast read and it kept me engaged, but it’s unlikely I’ll pick up another Jack Reacher novel. I assume that people who really appreciate these type of books don’t appreciate spoilers, so I’m not going to discuss much of the plot. After our book club discussion, the plot isn’t what sticks out to me anyway.

Reacher wasn’t given a whole lot of description, beyond the fact that he was an older man, tall, bulky, and had a broken nose. In MY mind’s eye, I saw a rather frightening and not at all attractive fellow. My mind was pretty well blown at book club when the other ladies started mentally casting Jack Reacher’s movie. I can’t even pinpoint an actor I would have pictured as Jack Reacher. The ladies of book club, however, had some ideas.

Hello Handsome!

I voted this down because although he’s one dishy Bond, his American accent is pretty bad.

So yeah. Jack Reacher is pretty much an American retired James Bond. A little less martini and a little more moonshine perhaps, but a similar character nevertheless.

Would it be a terrible thing for me to admit that I might have enjoyed this novel a little more if I’d been picturing eye candy while reading it? Probably. It probably means I’m shallow, but come on. George Clooney makes pretty much everything better. What do you think, bookworms? Are you ever shocked that what you imagined a character to look like was SO DIFFERENT in a movie? Tell me about it!

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