Thursday, June 25, 2009

Plants galore

First of all, I really like Franz Ferdinand. Their latest CD makes me want to have a party--or workout (seriously, they make working out and running so much better).

Anyway, I've been reading everywhere about Margot Berwin's Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire. Is the hype justified?

Hmm, well, isn't that a pretty cover? No, just kidding, the book was interesting and I really enjoyed the focus on tropical plants, along with their mystical qualities. It's probably just so different (a bit of magic realism combined with plant lore) that it stands out.

Here's the plot: Lila is a recently divorced, youngish, NY advertising executive. She meets a hottttttt plant man who sells her a tropical plant. She discovers that she loves plants, which leads her to this random laundromat filled with plants--including the nine plants of desire. A few mistakes later, the plants are stolen and Lila must make it up to the laundromat owner, Armand. So they travel to Mexico to locate replacements and Lila learns more about the plants and realizes how full her life can be.

I liked the book; however, I think you can see where plotting and symbols tighter. Still, Berwin shows a lot of promise and definitely offered up a unique twist with her focus on tropical plants.

On a side note, it's been pretty darn hot here and I don't have air conditioning (by choice--I love being warm!), so I could really feel her descriptions of the jungle and heat.

Rating: 6.5/10


For my birthday, I requested Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. I peruse through numerous food blogs and Baking always seems to pop up. And since I love baking, well, I figured I should own this classic.

Um, yeah, isn't that cover reason enough to buy this book? After paging through it, I settled upon her Coffee-Break Muffins, which use A LOT of coffee (fine by me!). I brought them into work, where reviews were mixed. The girls seemed to like them; the guys, not so much. Let's just say if you don't like coffee, you'll hate these muffins.

Anyway, I'm excited to try more out of her book--especially the chocolate recipes.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Ah, Poe

Ah, Tap & Gown, with you comes the end of the adventures of Amy and Poe. It's a necessary end, as it'd be hard to continue writing about a college secret society after the main character has graduated, but still, no more Poe is a sad thing. (That being said, Poe did continue on as a patriach, right? Still two patriachs hanging out would be a bit sad.)

Tap mainly deals with the Diggers' trouble rounding up suitable candidates for class D178--and, as it's class D177 doing the picking, of course there's major trouble ahead...and reality hits for Amy and Poe--and everyone else who's graduating.

Rites of Spring (Break) is obviously the gold standard (Poe!!!!), but still I enjoyed this one. Diana Peterfreund has definitely developed as a writer and it's been nice to see how the quality of her writing has progressed. It was a quick read and I'm looking forward to Peterfreund's Rampant. Maybe I'll enjoy killer unicorns as much as I enjoyed Poe?

Rating: 8/10

A rather '20s weekend

This has been a rather 1920s-esque week for me. First, I read Paul Murray's An Evening of Long Goodbyes, which isn't actually set in the '20s. However, the main character seemed to want to live in that era and I honestly had a hard time remembering that the book was set in modern day Ireland. It was interesting in that aspect--Murray did a good job of creating a Roaring '20s feel to his modern work.

I don't think I'd recommend the book to anyone; it was a bit boring in parts and turned oddly serious at the end. Charles, the main character, lives in the old family manor, acting the part of a country gentleman. When he learns his family (just a younger sister and mother away at rehab) has lost all their money, he's forced to leave his home and--gasp--get a job. Throw in some interesting secondary characters and you've got yourself a romp...kind of. Oddly enough, there was a fair amount on immigration in Ireland and all the unrest that's caused. (Glad to see America's not alone in dealing with those issues.) But the ending...ok, here's the thing: part of the ending revolves around a play on words. However, I think the joke only works if you say the words in a British/Irish accent. Whatever; it was a different sort of read...not sure if I'd read it again if I knew what it was going to be like.

Rating: 7/10

So a friend and I went to the movies but our movie had been cancelled. As it was a local theater, they were sooo nice about it and gave us free pass into Easy Virtue instead. Here's my thoughts on that movie set in the '20s:

1. Jessica Biel is a bad actress. I'm a bit prejudiced against her since she's been whining about how hard it is to be beautiful and be taken seriously as an actress. Honey, that's because you're not a good actress. If you were, your beauty would only be an additional aspect (cf. Kate Winslet, Audrey Hepburn, etc.)
2. Colin Firth is wonderful. Too bad he wasn't in the movie that much.
3. The movie was boring and tortuous. Within the first five minutes, both my friend and I knew we had a long road ahead of us.
4. So, at one point, I was joking around about what the ending was going to be. I was kind of serious, but not really. BUT IT HAPPENED EXACTLY HOW I PREDICTED. (If you really want to know, it's this: Jessica Biel's character leaves her wimpy husband for her father-in-law (played by Colin Firth) and yeah, that's the ending. Wow.
5. I just can't get over how much I didn't enjoy this movie.

So there's my roaring weekend for you!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Get Your Burr On

If you've read much historical romance, then you've most likely heard of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Somehow, I hadn't read it but my (future) brother-in-law bought it for my birthday, so now I can say I've experienced Jamie and Claire.
Here's the description via Amazon: English nurse Claire Beauchamp Randall and husband Frank take a second honeymoon in the Scottish Highlands in 1945. When Claire walks through a cleft stone in an ancient henge, she's somehow transported to 1743. She encounters Frank's evil ancestor, British captain Jonathan "Black Jack" Randall, and is adopted by another clan. Claire nurses young soldier James Fraser, and the two begin a romance, seeing each other through many perilous, swashbuckling adventures involving Black Jack. Eventually Claire finds a chance to return to 1945, and must choose between Frank and Jamie.
I think the whole two men in her life thing threw me off from reading the series but it truly was an interesting, good read. It was long and full of adventure--and I was actually distraught, thinking there wouldn't be a good ending. It's easy to see why this series is a classic.
Rating: 9/10

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Actually a biography

In college, I read Kathleen Norris' Cloister Walk and thoroughly enjoyed her writing. So when I saw her Virgin of Bennington at a library book sale for $1, it was an easy buy decision.

From reading the cover copy, I thought it was going to be about her college years and the time afterward--how she led a wild life in NYC to developing faith and moving to one of the Dakotas. But really, the book was about her mentor and employer, Betty Kray, whom she met in NYC.

While Kray's life was interesting and important, particularly for American poetry, a mini-biography wasn't what I was expecting. It seemed as if Norris started out writing about herself but found Kray to be more fascinating.

The book itself wasn't that bad; it was just so wrongly marketed and has such a misleading cover copy that I think most people will be a bit puzzled and then annoyed that Virgin isn't at all what they thought it would be.

Ah well, at least it was my nonfiction read for the month. And it was an appropriate follow-up to Billy Collins, too.

Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Simply lovely

I don't remember when I first heard of Billy Collins; it was probably through my friend Kim, who has excellent taste. So when Angie posted Collins' poem Taking off Emily Dickinson's Clothes, it was an excellent reminder that I've always meant to read an actual book of his poetry. I picked Ballistics, which is a fine example of modern poetry.

First up, I love the cover. It's gorgeous in person. Secondly, I enjoy modern poetry. I even interned for a small publishing house that was putting out a book of modern poetry (that was a glorious summer; sitting outside, drinking iced coffee, reading poetry all day long...sigh). So it's pretty natural that I thoroughly enjoyed Collins' work. His writing is simple yet fraught with twists and bits of humor. I want to read more.

Rating: 9.5/10

Monday, June 8, 2009


Much to the disgust of my brother, I read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance - Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem! by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. I think my brother's disgust lay in the fact that Grahame-Smith is blatantly adding in a shock factor to drum up sales...which, yes, is true, but obviously caught my attention (and many people's).

First up, the cover. It's gross. So gross that I kept it face down when I wasn't reading it.

The book itself...well, yes, it's a gimmick. It was sometimes amusing, sometimes weird and other times, well, bizarre.

I did notice that Grahame-Smith made Elizabeth an anti-Christian character, which wasn't necessary. The reader's guide questions at the end of the book made the author's opinions toward Christianity and the church made it clear that Grahame-Smith wanted to add mockery about that faith. That sort of tainted the book for me. I mean, it's one thing to enjoy the addition of zombies and all that silliness but to add his own worldview and opinions to a classic novel that doesn't say anything on the topic is another matter.

So read it for the gimmick but don't expect much more.

Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

It provoked my thoughts

Cory Doctorow's Little Brother invaded my subconscious. I suppose what really got me about this book is that Doctorow's privacy-invading future is feasible.

Little Brother is a look at America's not-too-distant future, one where its citizens are monitored closely with cameras, chips, etc. Seventeen-year-old Marcus and his friends are happy to simply get around their school's technology to play games and hang out. But when a terrorist attack kills 4,000 people in San Francisco and his group is in the wrong spot at the wrong time, Marcus learns the hard way about freedom, rights and torture. But he believes in a free America, so he starts to fight back using awesome, hacker-inspired methods.

Here's where the story seeps in my subconscious:
I read a few chapters of Little Brother before read. At 2 a.m. I wake up to sirens---really loud sirens close by. And I'm terrified because I think the cops are coming for me. I was honestly expecting them to knock on my door and take me in because I'm part of Marcus' hacking group. I even got out of bed to check to see if the cops were in my parking lot. It took me another minute or so to calm down and realize that I was still kind of in dreamland. How bizarre, huh?

I do recommend reading this YA novel because it does inspire thought. I'm pretty conservative (but honestly apathetic--although I do vote!) politically speaking and while I could see the liberal bias the book takes, I think it's out of legitimate fear of where our nation could head. Intriguing (and dream/nightmare-inspiring) stuff....

Rating: 8.5/10

(Spoiler alert as to why I rated it an 8.5: The end wasn't super believable; I just don't believe a state's police force could overturn national security. That's not legal, is it? Good does prevail in the end but is it sad that I don't believe it actually would?)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Much Better

Maria V. Snyder, you did a much better job with Storm Glass than with Fire Study.

A gorgeous cover like this is a good start, eh? Seriously, I love it--and it's an excellent cover for the book, too. There were lots of glass orbs in this novel and it's nice to have a clear image in your head when you start reading about them.

Storm Glass ties in Opal from Fire Study. She has a gift with magic and glass....but isn't sure what her powers exactly are. Because I'm feeling lazy, here's an edited description from Amazon:

As a glassmaker and a magician-in-training, Opal Cowen understands trial by fire. Now it's time to test her mettle. Someone has sabotaged the Stormdancer clan's glass orbs, killing their most powerful magicians. The Stormdancers require Opal's unique talents to prevent it happening again. But when the mission goes awry, Opal must tap in to a new kind of magic as stunningly potent as it is frightening. With lives hanging in the balance—including her own—Opal must control powers she hadn't known she possessed…powers that might lead to disaster beyond anything she's ever known.

Throw in a little loooooove interest(s) and you've got yourself a good tale. The book does tie in nicely with Yelena's story, too.

I'm being generous giving it an 8, mainly because I was able to guess what was partially going to happen. (I don't like guessing---surprise me, authors!) However, it managed to wipe away the horror of Fire Study so that's a plus.

Rating: 8/10

Quite a wait

Back in January, I added Kristen Heitzmann's Rules of Contact to my Amazon wishlist. I happened to check on it today and see that Amazon says it's going to be released on "December 31, 2035." Obviously that's an error but an amusing one, nonetheless. Guess it's going to have to spend 24 years on my wishlist....