Thursday, February 27, 2014

Looking forward to March!

Ladies and Gents I am very excited for March.

March means that I can say with cautious optimism that I have survived another Wisconsin winter without any damage to myself or my car. (Though I picked up a cold on Tuesday, I was so close to making all of winter sickness free). It means that thinking about baseball, sunshine, being outside for more than 10 minutes and finally being able to wear my favorite shoes without the road salt eating them up.

Even more exciting then that stuff is what is going to be going on the blog.

I'm guest posting over at Book Bloggers International on the 5th, breaking down some head to head literary smack downs.

There will be another author Q&A with a giveaway thanks to Closed the Cover.

There will be reviews of 2 books that were turned into awesome movies.

There will be men and women who have survived things that we couldn't even dream up in our worst nightmares.

Most most most exciting for me though is that towards the end of March there will be a whole week of guest posters. I figure everyone might be sick of me and want to hear some new voices. 2 dear friends are going to be doing reviews (they are blog-less but are most awesome) along with posts from Ashley (the author tour mixmaster of disaster at Closed the Cover) and my favorite smart fashionista friend Sarah (of Neroli Blossoms)

March is going to be a good month, I can feel it in my slightly aching bones.

And, I found this hilarious corgi picture on Pinterest today, I'm going to include it because it's my blog and I can.

Seriously, I died. I die. Must get corgi.Must get a disguise for said corgi.

Ok, Im going to take some Nyquil and let it lull me off into a (hopefully) deep sleep that only medicine can provide. I hope that you guys are looking forward to March as much as I am!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Book Review: "The Circle" by Dave Eggers

The amount of information that people put about themselves online baffles me. Beyond the normal over sharing ( pictures of lunch, pictures of child pooping on the potty!) I (and others I'm sure) have seen marriages break up, friends falling out, and all kinds of other drama unfold online. And then there's the sexting and nudity. People, stop it. This will only end badly (Im looking at you, teenage girls, especially.)

This long and soapbox-y introduction of mine is for the book "The Circle". The main character of the book is Mae Holland. Mae has a dead end government job in the small, podunk town were she grew up. Two years out of college she really didn't things were going to be this way. She is saved from her mediocre life by her college roommate Annie. Annie went on to get her Masters at Stanford and got a coveted job at The Circle. (For the record we never quiiite find out what Annie does at said job, but she's in Geneva a lot).

The Circle is basically Apple. They don't come out and say it but it is. The sprawling beautiful campus is outside of San Francisco. It's made up of several buildings all named after an important time in history (The Enlightenment, The Industrial Revolution, The Renaissance) and there is a strong  sense of community. You could work at The Circle and never leave. Doctors, stores, gyms, child care, everything you could want is on campus, there's even dorms. This little forward thinking technological utopia is headed by it's 3 founders, jokingly refered to as the 3 wise men. Two of the men are pretty prominent fixtures on campus, but the third, Ty, is a bit of a recluse.

Mae starts out in Customer Experience (basically the call center). She does a bang up job and quickly moves up through the ranks. At one of the parties that the company throws (there's something going on almost every night) Mae meets the mysterious Francis. Francis had a childhood out of a Stephen King story, she finds out later. (Also she finds out later that he is less mysterious, and more creepy and perverted.) His project at The Circle is developing a chip that is put into a bone of a child at birth so that they can always be tracked, supposed to prevent abductions and the like.

 Francis's project is only one of literally thousands happening at the company, but many of these projects involve live streaming cameras.Unmanned, solar powered cameras are placed all over the world so people can see live streaming video from the Grand Canyon, Tienanmen Square, and the beach. They even have designed personal cameras that you wear on your person so that it shares your perspective. You can link the camera online and then anyone (anyone) can tap into your feed and see what you're doing right that second. This is Mae's new job. She wears the camera to attend meetings, events, talks with the bigwigs and more.

Things become strained between Annie and Mae as Mae's star really begins to rise, millions of people tap into her camera to see what is going on at The Circle on a daily basis. Things are really going Mae's way personally and professionally. She starts to have occasional flings with a man named Kaden, who claims that he works at the company but who doesn't seem to be on file anywhere.

Then things start to crumble a bit, even if Mae can't see it. Mae's parents cut off almost contact with her after a horrifyingly embarrassing camera incident. Francis gets increasingly weird. Annie slips into a coma from stress and overwork. Kaden starts telling her that The Circle is getting too powerful and the he fears that it could use it's power to overthrow the government. He wants her to use her influence to try to reign it all back in. Let's just say the book ends on a somewhat ominous note.

I liked this book. It isn't really subtle in it's preachiness about technology, privacy, identity, choice and what makes us individuals. Mae would get on my nerves at times do to her naivete and blatantly disregarding other people's wishes. I give it a 3 out of 5 for a thriller for a tech generation.

Also, I like the cover.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Funny Websites For Funny Book People

Bad Romances showcases some of the worst romance book covers out there. They even have a day devoted to objectified Scotsman. These are cringe worthy, and a little hilarious. If you read these do you try to cover up the cover or do you just read these in the comfort of your own home and not anywhere in public?

Letterheady displays beautiful letterheads/stationary of famous people and important letters. This isn't book related obviously but I'm a sucker for stationary and the fast fading art of handwritten letters. There are some familiar names int here so keep your eyes peeled!

Hey Girl I Like the Library Too capitalizes on the funny Ryan Gosling "Hey Girl..." meme and applies it to librarians and librarianship. It's pretty funny.And Ryan Gosling, come on!

Women Running From Houses is another book cover website. It's strictly devoted to book covers that feature women running away from gothic scary houses. It absolutely falls under the "it's so bad it's good" category.

Better Book Titles  gives books titles that help better describe the books itself. Like "Animal Farm" becomes "If you give a pig a windmill he'll take absolute power". I laughed and laughed. Love this.Some of them are NSFW but that just makes it more fun.

See, book people can have fun too.


The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri 

See also: LOTR…
So much better than Nicholas Sparks.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Book News and Notes - Feburary

Huffington Post Books had a really interesting infograph about the role of librarians in an increasingly technologically centered world. This topic comes up often, among librarians and otherwise.I always roll my eyes when people say that "someday there won't be any librarians, no one will read paper books anymore!" (Sometimes there is more than an eye roll, sometimes there is a certain single finger hand motion.)

People earn this response from me because they obviously haven't taken advantage of the thousands of other things that libraries offer: help finding jobs, story time for children, computer access, all kinds of classes, meeting rooms, community events, etc etc.

Also, I think people have this mental image of a bespectacled, becardigand librarian who is pushing against this massive tide of technology. Good librarians realize that technology is not a foe, it's just another way to reach out to community members.

Check out the infographic and feel free to pipe in with your thoughts, I'd love to hear them!:

Thursday, February 20, 2014

"Beer is Made by Men, Wine is Made by God" - Martin Luther. Book List About Wine!

"Uncorked: My Journey Through the Crazy World of Wine" by Marco Pasanella

It seems to me that if you're a small business owner you have to be a little bit crazy and get ready to have a drinking problem. At least these small business owners will have good stuff to drink!

Marco, a successful designer and architect and his wife, who works for Martha Stewart have bought a charming but old building in the Meat Packing district in New York City. There is retail space on the first floor and they decide it would be perfect for a wine store. 

There are issues: ridiculous license issues with the city, a crazy wine manager who steals, leaky pipes, economic downturn and family issues. Despite all of this they create a beautiful classy neighborhood wine store. Law and Order:Criminal Intent even shoot some scenes there.

The book is full of their interesting adventures, wine facts, and even some recipes. A fun book that made me appreciate wine a lot more! I give it a 3 out of 5.

Invite some friends over. We're drinkin'!

"Wine and War: The French, Nazis, and the Battle for France's Greatest Treasure" by Donald Kladstrup

When you think about France what comes to mind?: baguettes, silly hats, chain smoking, Mona Lisa aannnnd wine. Wine for sure. And chain smoking. But I digress.

Wine is a huge part of France's national identity, it's soul. The wine industry was brought to its knees during World War I, and had barely recovered when World War II reared its ugly head. Many of the vineyards proprietors were wise and saw the writing on the wall about the Nazis and did their best to protect themselves. Some vineyards built secret rooms in the underground caves, some buried their best in their vegetable gardens and many others went through great lengths to try to preserve so e of their stock. One vineyard sunk a few boxes of their best wine in the bottom of the pond, which seemed like a good idea until all of the bottles paper labels started to float to the surface of the water.

Many of the vineyard proprietors were very active in the Resistance, some even smuggled Resistance members into different countries in wine casks. (This was a long, long process, sometimes meaning that the person in the barrel would be in there for hours). The whole upper management of Moët & Chandon were sent to concentration camps because of their contribution Resistance movement. Almost none of them survived.

A winemaker named Ribaud was in a POW camp for several years and to occupy his time and save his sanity he and his fellow prisoners talked about their favorite wine nod food pairings. Ribaud wrote everything down on all the scraps of paper he could find. After the war the book was published and gained national acclaim as one of the first books to pair regional foods and regional wines. Many of the prisoners were considered "night and fog" prisoners. According to the Nazis these prisoners were to be worked to death and then to disappear completely like they never existed.

This book was informative and interesting. I know hardly anything about wine and I could still follow everything. But it wasn't dry and it was pleasing to the palate. (Wine joke fail, so sorry.) I give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Q&A with Author/Tv Critic/Pulitzer Prize Winner/General Funny Man - Howard Rosenberg Plus a Giveaway!!!

I volunteered to do an author Q&A for our friend Ashley over at Closed the Cover. Howard Rosenberg is the author in question and as you can tell from his responses to my questions, he's a funny guy. Also be sure to look for more author info, details about his book "Up Yours!" and a GIVEAWAY at the end of the interview.


1. Your current novel “Up Yours!” is not your first book, but it is your first work of fiction. What differences are there in your writing process when you are fiction or nonfiction?

Apples and oranges. In journalism—tighter, tighter, tighter! In writing fiction, I approach each scene with a much more descriptive eye, then lower it back to earth if it’s overwritten. No one commands me to “Cut 6 inches, Rosenberg.” And writing fiction is, well, so lovely because one mostly doesn’t have to worry about facts. If they don’t work or don’t exist—Voila!—change the little suckers or make them up. Of course, historical fiction is an exception (c’mon, I was a history major). And even a mystery as lighthearted as “Up Yours!” requires a certain level of factual plausibility to be credible.
More fundamentally, a non-fiction piece is factual by definition: straight reporting, interpretation based on a set of facts or clearly labeled opinion relating to facts. As a columnist, however, there were instances when I deployed fanciful writing as satire, at times making up entire dialogues for the purpose of ridicule. My intent was clear, however. At least I hope it was.

2. You were a TV critic at the Los Angeles Times for several years. Since you’ve got experience as a writer and a TV critic, are there any shows on TV right now that you think are particularly well written? 

It all begins with writing, which is almost always the soul of performance art. Even the most talented cast can’t rise above bad or even pedestrian writing. Stage or screen, makes no difference. It’s subjective, of course, but in my view the best-written comedy on TV is ABC’s “Modern Family.” The writing is sohhhhhh fluid and flat-out funny. Yet it wouldn’t work without that stratospheric cast; it’s collaboration. Also in comedy, NBC’s lightly watched but exquisitely twisted “Community” is sometimes brilliant. Love it. And HBO’s “Veep” is superb, politics-skewering satire—very, very smart and a stake right through the heart of hypocrisy. Nor does it hurt that its star, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, is arguably the best comedic actress on the planet. In drama, meanwhile, I’m enthralled by HBO’s new crime series “True Detective,” dark, brooding, deeply mysterious and densely written. And oh yes, at times ugly. Nothing easy or simplistic here, but well worth the discomfort. Yet I’m also addicted to the escapist and grandly flawed “Downton Abbey” on PBS—despite its clumsy script conveniences and gaping plot holes. So go figure.

3. You won a Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. Can you tell us more about that experience?

First, some perspective. I was TV critic for the Los Angeles Times for 25 years. That means I did not receive a Pulitzer 24 of 25 years. So no big head.
I learned of my Pulitzer when phoned by an editor as I interviewed a very classy actress named Jane Alexander in a Hollywood restaurant. I returned to the table and continued the interview, pulse racing, yet saying nothing about the reason for the call. I mean, how could I bring up something like that without sounding like an egoist jerk?
The 10 columns that earned me the Pulitzer included one that ripped ABC News for its hanging-judge-and-jury coverage of L.A. pre-school teachers accused of abusing their little charges in every grotesque way imaginable. Although most of the media piled on, they turned out to be innocent. But my favorite was a piece contrasting TV depictions of death with the death of my father as I experienced it in Kansas City, Mo. It moved me as I wrote it, and still moves me in memory.
 Winning the Pulitzer (in 1985) yielded relatively modest benefits. My teenage daughter still disliked me intensely for reasons that I never understood. And L.A. gridlock did not part for me, sadly, as the Red Sea did for Moses.
The award did earn me a prestigious New York agent (we’ve long since divorced), increased national stature, more financial opportunities, lots of unfriendly scrutiny (this slug won a Pulitzer?) and a probable first line for my obit (Pulitzer Prize-winning Howard Rosenberg kicked the bucket…).

4. You’re an adjunct professor at USC’s school of Cinematic Arts. Has that influenced your writing?

Not at all, unless I’m worse through osmosis. All right, that’s harsh. But reading student papers has taught me that something is terribly amiss in our schools when it comes to imparting basic writing skills. You know, the simple stuff like grammar and “i before e…” Most of my students (I also teach in the journalism school) are very bright, and a few are very, very good writers. Yet each semester I also get a few who have not learned that periods are probably most effective when inserted at the ends of sentences. These are students—often seniors—who can’t craft a cogent line, could not write a laundry list that you and I could understand. How did they get this far? It’s just boggling.

5. The main character in “Up Yours!” suddenly finds himself being a sleuth. Did you have to do any research for that aspect of the book?

No sleuthing research required beyond re-watching every “Thin Man” movie with William Powell and Myrna Loy—which was a joy—and continuing my self-indulgent habit of reading mysteries galore. Quite simply, I tried to envision my wife, Carol, and me facing the sleuthing challenges I gave married amateurs Ted and Liv Milo. But I cheated. I made Ted and Liv smarter. Also braver.

6. What other writing goals do you have?

Mystery fiction continues to head my list. Next time around, Ted and Liv will be off to detective school with mixed—and naturally homicidal—results. I’ve nearly rewritten “The Elvis Murders,” a hound dog of a novel that required a research trip to Memphis during the worshipful annual Elvisathon there; it has to be seen to be believed. And I’m now plotting a revisionist mystery inspired by the beloved but vastly over-praised Christmas classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” that will earn me the enmity of Frank Capra fans everywhere. Please, no hate mail.  

So Howard cracks me up. I feel like we would get along even if the only thing we have in common is the fact that we are underwhelmed by "It's a Wonderful Life." I wonder how he feels about "The Sound of Music?" I regret not asking him about "Justified" and Elmore Leonard. Drat! Maybe I'll get to talk to him again when he puts out his next book.

Book Synopsis
Ted Milo, until recently the Charles Dickens of obit writers, is dislodged from his
carefree new life by a bizarre collision of homicides and hemorrhoids in the fancy
Los Angeles suburb of Friendly Lake. Actually…not so friendly, Ted and his wife, Liv,
soon discover.
Ted has ditched his long newspaper career to embrace the nouveau riche life he’d
always ridiculed after inheriting a fortune from a distant relative. He is floating
blissfully, contemplating the fruits of wealth, little on his fiftyish mind beyond
bladder control, when a visit to a physician turns him into a sleuth with cold-blooded
murders to solve.
 “You’re doing this why, because the Navy SEALS aren’t hiring?” chides Liv when
learning she’s now married to Sam Spade. “And your dream of playing center field
for the Dodgers—dashed?”
Every gumshoe requires a “tomato,” though, and Liv is Ted’s when bodies hit the
slab in this twisty mystery that exposes the warty underside of seemingly tranquil

Author Bio
Howard Rosenberg earned a Pulitzer Prize and numerous other honors during 25
years as TV critic for the Los Angeles Times. He teaches news ethics, critical writing
and a TV symposium at the University of Southern California and resides in a far-off
Los Angeles suburb with his wife, two cats and a bird, all of whom tend to ignore
His favorite pastime is slam dunking and working out with the Los Angeles Lakers.
In his dreams.

And HERE is the link to the giveaway!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Fangirling over "Monuments Men" and Facebook News

So I saw "Monuments Men" on Friday with my husband and my parents.(Yes, Valentine's Day. They brought me some lovely tulips and a box of chocolates. Husband got me nothing. I told him he didn't have to get me anything, but when will men figure out that when you say that you still want something small. Just a card with a sappy note would have been nice. Parents made better dates than my husband on Valentine's Day. Not at all surprising.Though apparently the chocolates were for husband, technically, I ate them anyway). ANYWAY, back to the movie.

These are a few of my favorite things...

 I adored it. It was funny, it was sad, it had legitimately scary/thrilling moments and moments when I wanted to jump through the screen and beat some Nazis to death with a brick.

After loving the book, I was fingers crossed that they weren't going to go all World War Z (completely changing the perspective/plot of a book to fit a movie format) and ruin it. They did not. I know that it's hard to part with $8 to see a movie but please, part with your $8 to see this movie. Even if you don't like art, even if you don't like history, I think you will find something you will like. I mean if nothing else George Clooney is in it in a uniform, that alone is worth the price of admission.

I also learned something in the movie. I knew Hitler was Austrian but I'd never learned his hometown, which is Linz. (They don't advertise that fact, do we blame them? No.) I'm planning an Eastern Europe trip in 2015 and thought Linz might be a good day trip from Prague. But not anymore. Sorry Linz.

(Also if anyone has been to/lives in Krakow/Warsaw/Poland/Prague/Czech Republic maybe Vienna, maybe Salzburg and has great tips about visiting those places do let me know.)

In totally unrelated news..........

I finally buckled and made a facebook page for the blog. Since I'm not very smart with technology I'm still trying to figure out how to add the "Like us on Facebook" button somewhere on the page. You know I thought I was pretty tech savvy until I started the blog. Yikes.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Book Review - "Mistaken Enemy" by Dennis A Nehamen and a few orders of business

I got this book for free in exchange for an honest review

Zach Miller is a struggling writer, so when his friend Preston calls him, with a lead for an intersting story his curiosity is peaked. Zach finds himself in Mescalero, a tiny town on a reservation in New Mexico. The person that Preston found is mysterious young boy named Jivin. Though he is only 12 years old he holds court in his mom's diner where everyone treats him with reverence and respect. After a bit of a dustup with some other locals, Zach and Jivin meet.  Jivin tells Zach that he has a mission for him.

Zach is supposed to go to Israel. Zach is skeptical since he knows nothing about Israel, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and has no desire to get involved at all. Besides, he protests, it's not like he's Jewish (foreshadow). Jivin refuses to give Zach any clues as to what his mission in Israel might be. He's just supposed to go to Israel and he will figure it out when he figures it out. Despite the craziness of it all, he decides to go. His mom, upon hearing his travel plans, is very upset (though she still lends him the money he asks for). He doesn't know why she is so upset, and since she doesn't exactly volunteer any information he goes anyway.

Zach finds himself on his halfway across the globe plane trip sat next to a man named Amir. Amir is a Palestinian living in Israel who tells Zach that he plans on being "the next big thing" in cinema. Zach sees a clip of his work and thinks that maybe Amir is being a little overly optimistic. However, they have an enjoyable time together and Amir offers a warm invitation to have Zach stay at his familial home. Zach says he will consider it, but when they part ways leaving the plane Zach suspects they probably won't meet again.

Zach spends the first few weeks in Israel sight seeing, trying to get a little educated about Israel, and waiting for this mission of Jivin's to fall out of the sky and show itself. Since that really isn't happening Zach calls Amir to take him off on his offer, I think more out of boredom than anything. Amir is STOKED that Zach has called and can't wait to show him around. When Zach arrives at the family home he's in shock. It's palatial, these people have tons o money. Amir's mother and father welcome him warmly but Zach is most taken by the appearance of Amir's sister, Bahlya. Bahlya is beautiful and smart but also very political (she has a lot of hate for the Israelis).

Zach spends the next two months basically living the palace life, and trying to make some headway with Bahlya (the girl is a major tease, so this is pretty much futile on his part.) Things start to get a little bit strained when the siblings really start to try to indoctrinate Zach with their political beliefs. He meets their vaguely threatening friends, and witnesses some surprising violence which starts to make him uneasy, where he usually tolerated their soap-boxing.He begins to suspect there is something deeper at work.

One night Zach is at the mansion by himself and decides to do a bit of snooping (this never ends well, ever!) In his snooping he finds out a couple of things that horrify and astonish him. He immediately knows that he needs to get out of Israel. The next day he makes up an excuse about a sick mother and heads to the airport...he doesn't get there. What follows includes, back stabbing, shocking family secrets, torture, kidnapping, political intrigue,espionage and all kinds of dire straits.

I have some small criticisms.

- Zach is a bit contradictory. The first part of the book he calls bookstores "fossils" but he's a writer and one of his first stops in Israel is a bookstore. He also says he tries to never borrow money from his mom and then three breaths later is borrowing money for a cockamayny (sp?) trip. Not a writing criticism per say, maybe he's just a contradictory fellow.
-It was hard to cheer for a Zach/Bahyla hookup because her character was just so grating. She must have been a super fox for Zach to look past all of her issues.
-The book is told from Zach's perspective reflecting back, which confused me once or twice.
-It took me quite awhile to get into it. I wasn't buying what Jivin was selling.

I give the book a 2.5 out of 5. It's a political thriller but it's also a bit of a fish out of water story with bits of not completely fleshed out paranormal/fantasy-ish elements. If you enjoy reading about Middle East politics I think this book will intrigue you.

Last Saturday I did a review of Gibbin House which also had a giveaway.

The Closed the Cover website was down for a chunk of this week so if you encountered problems trying to enter the awesome giveaway before please try again. However it closes tomorrow so act fast!

So Monuments Men finally came out and I'm going to see it this weekend. If I'm real ambitious there will be a movie review Monday. If Im less ambitious look for a mini review tagged onto another post next week.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Book Review - "Havisham" by Ronald Frame

This book is like the anti-Valentine's Day story of the century. I didn't think about it when I was scheduling my posts, but if you're over the incessant commercials for chocolate and roses maybe this book is the respite that you need.

There are very few figures that cut as sad of a figure as Catherine Havisham. A sad old woman in a yellowing wedding dress and crumbling shoes surrounded by an uneaten wedding feast makes for a memorable character. In Charles Dicken's classic (but not a personal favorite of mine for what it's worth) "Great Expectations" we are introduced to this jilted woman, but we don't know know much about her. Ronald Frame constructs a sad and interesting tale about a promising young woman laid low.

Catherine Havisham is born into a prestigious brewing family in a city outside of London. Her mother dies in childbirth leaving her with her Dad. She is a lonely little girl without much human interaction except for the occasional playmate that is brought in by her Dad.One such playmate is named Sally. She's as close to a friend as Catherine has, but she eventually leaves to find work in London.

This fox is named Bevo and he's at the Budweiser plant in St. Louis. Interestingly Bevo is Italian for" I drink". But I don't think this fox is Italian.

Catherine is sent to live with the Chadwyck family for "finishing". They are a nice family with sons and daughters and its the first time that she feels like she belongs and has a sense of family. She is there for several years with trips back home occasionally where her dad finally begins to tell her about how the brewery operates. Her good for nothing half brother (her father remarries the household cook and fathers a child on the sly) antagonizes her and  steals from the family to feed his bad habits.

While spending time with Chadwyck family attending balls Catherine meets the mysterious Mr. Compeyson . He enchants Catherine, even though she is told that Charles is merely tolerated in the polite circles that the Havisham and Chadwyck  family travel. He actually gets caught sneaking into several parties where he meets Catherine.(Red flag Catherine, red flag)

Eventually Catherine's Dad falls ill and Catherine goes home to assume the running of the brewery. Mr. Charles Compeyson being a gentleman agrees to help her shoulder the burden of running a business. If you know "Great Expectations" you know what happens next; and its not pretty. After her betrayal and what could be graciously called an extended mental breakdown Catherine gets back to running the brewery where she finds considerable money missing courtesy of her ex fiancée. She starts to try to put her life back together but it doesn't stay together for long....After this some characters who are familiar pop up, like Pip and Estella.

(Also when I read "Great Expectations" I was amazed that she was in the same wedding dress for all that time. In this book they say she has copies made, which kind of relieved me because they also said she um...peed herself in horror when her wedding day ditch happened.)

The rest of the story is a little bit familiar, but that doesn't keep it from being sad and heartfelt.Even though I am, at best, indifferent to "Great Expectations" I enjoyed this book. It loses a little something that that you know Catherine never really gets a happy ending. I give it 3 out of 5 stars, even if its more sad than anything else.

Monday, February 10, 2014

"Oh you do not want to be with him"... A Literary Love Conundrum

Just round about time for Valentine's Day I present to you a list of literary men that you just don't want to date.

Lord Byron
I know, he cuts an impressive figure.He had influential friends, an impressive aristocratic title, incredibly writing skills and swag to spare. However, he dies in his mid-30s hounded by debt and broken hearted lovers (including men, women and his half-sister). So yeah one of those people to just love from afar. (Fun Byron fact: he left a tidy inheritance to one of his illegitimate children as long as she never married a British citizen. Sadly she died at 5 years old).

Holden Caufield
Let's talk about what you want in your love life.Is it whining? Self loathing? Possible mental illness? If you want these things I'm going to suggest Caufield, but you really shouldn't want those things so I'm going to say that this is a bad idea.

Draco Malfoy
He comes from a family with a lot of money, seems to be a competent wizard and has some nice quidditch equipment...I guess thats all the good anyone can say about this guy. Otherwise he's a cowardly bully who has all kinds of not nice friends.

This man is synonymous with jealousy, crazy homicidal jealousy and making assumptions.Also a friendly reminder that when you marry a person you also are marrying into his circle of friends. Keep that in mind in case someone has Iago tendencies.

Humbert Humbert
Well he's a pedophile. I feel like I don't have to justify this pick at all.

I was going to include the people from Twilight like "that one guys family is a bunch of animals!" or "that guy really know how to drain a lot of life from the room!" but I didn't want to subject you to such terrible puns. Who did I miss? Who else is a terrible dating choice?

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Book Review: "Gibbin House" by Carola Perla and Giveaway!

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Gibbin House is kind of like a house for misfit toys. Stately Gibbin House is located outside of London, and during World War II it became a place of refuge. The refugees were mostly intellectuals, artists and political dissidents fleeing from the Nazis. (Though most of them were fleeing a little late in the war, not in the beginning). Many men and women came and went during the war, but in 1949 when our story begins there are only 4 residents left.

Professor Alfred is the head of house. He was the one who helped the steady stream of people I'm and out during the war. The house is owned by his friend. He keep the peace around the house and between the somewhat odd assortment of residents.I'm trying to think of the right word for Emil, one of the house residence. The best I can come up with is that he's a bit of a scallywag. He fled Berlin, and is a bit of a man about town working for a newspaper as a reviewer/interviewer. He sleeps late, drinks a bit too much and doesn't seem to care much about others feelings. Jan is a teacher of natural history at a boys school. (Do not call him a botanist-it upsets him...even though he basically a botanist.)  He is socially awkward, has a tendency to ramble on about his subjects of choice, and has a weird reddish quality on his face. Theo is our last resident and most important. He sits in the house's  study by himself translating obscure texts for a local college. He didn't flee the continent for political reasons but he isn't super forthcoming for his real reasons for his flight. When he isn't translating he's working on his novel. These men are all pretty set in their ways and rotate kind of in their own little orbits, being near each other but not interacting more than they have to. Then one day a new planet gets introduced into their solar system. (Did I take that metaphor too far? It's an apt metaphor, just accept it.)

One day Alfred brings home Anka. Anka is about 20 and has recently come from Vienna where she lived with her mother. They lived (and her mother still does) in an attic above some of their family members who have "generously" taken them in. One of them includes August, Anka's lecherous uncle who "accidentally" barges in on Anka and her mother in the washroom all the time. After an ugly incident in the attic Anka is sent to Gibbin House, because Alfred and her mother are friends from the pre-war days. Anka is greeted with a mix of curiosity, indifference, and a little bit of skepticism. Theo especially is worried about what her presence will mean, mostly I think he is worried that she was going to come in and be flirty and demanding and upset the weird balance that the house has struck. He shouldn't have worried. Alfred takes Anka around London and tries to make her feel like London is her home, Jan helps her in the garden and she slowly starts to settle in. Anka also has a unique attribute that makes getting to know her new housemates a little more difficult. (Which took me a long time to figure out, so I'm not going to tell you what it is!)

All of the house members have secrets, and Alfred and Theo have a painful personal history that sets them at odds. Secrets begin to come out about heartbreak, war, betrayal, and lies. What does it mean for the delicate balance that has been struck between these sad men and their quiet new housemate? The book is told from the perspectives with Anka and Theo, and then there are small sections of Theo's (autobiographical, hint hint) novel throughout as well.

I liked this book. It was a book set in Europe in the 40s/50s that wasn't all about the horrors of war, but people just trying to go about their lives. It seems like those books are kind of rare! I liked that when the book was told from Anka or Theo's perspective it had one font, but when their were pieces of Theo's novel it had a subtly different font to help you keep them straight. (It sounds like a silly thing to like, but I just finished another book with flashbacks and flashforwards and I was thoroughly confused. Lots of rereading and no one has time for that!) At first I thought Anka was going to be a little high maintenance/needy for my taste but the more that I learned about her and her story the more understanding of her character I became. I also liked how the characters all related to each other and how it changed throughout the story as well. 3.5 out of 5 stars from this gal.

Author Bio
Carola Perla was born in 1977 in Timisoara, Romania, to parents of Peruvian and
German-Romanian heritage. She spent her early childhood in Lima and Munich,
before moving with her family to the United States.
She holds degrees in German Literature and Art History from Florida State
University. Since 2001 she has been a resident of Miami Beach, where she
co-founded an international public relations firm and worked as a freelance
journalist. Her recent projects include the launch of the Atelier 1022 Art Gallery in
Wynwood. Gibbin House is her first novel.

Book Synopsis
During the Second World War, a Hampstead villa named Gibbin House was a refuge
for artists and intellectuals fleeing the continent. But nearly five years later, this
former beacon of hope has become a prison for the four men who remain exiled
there. The mysterious arrival from Vienna of Anka Pietraru - a young woman unable
to voice the unbearable secret of a mother's sacrifice - will test the men's
perceptions of love and loss. And as Anka unearths old grievances within Gibbin
House, its residents will be forced to decide if they have the strength to begin living
again or if it is simply too late.

Book Details
Author: Carola Perla
Format: eBook and Paperback
Publication Date: September 21, 2011
Publisher: Self-Published
ISBN: 1461074487
ISBN13: 9781461074489

Giveaway Info
The giveaway for Gibbin House by Carola Perla is incredible! There will be a total of
three winners; one grand prize winner and two additional winners.
The Grand Prize Winner will receive:
1. A signed copy of Gibbin House
2. 'Vienna Romance' stationary by ATELIER 1022 Company
3. Limited edition reproduction Stereocard of Trafalgar Square, London - this
Edwardian Era 3-D photograph, dated 1901, served as the novel's cover art
4. Viewing lorgnette
5. Collector's edition prologue 'letter'
Two additional winners will receive:
A signed copy of Gibbin House

Isn't that an awesome giveaway? I want all of that. Go HERE to enter!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Book Review: "Presidential Picture Stories: Behind the Cameras at the White House" by Dennis Brack

Ya'll I was sent this book in exchange for an honest review.

The title of this book basically sums it all up. The book is really broken down into these parts:
A) How there came to be photographers in the White House (from here on abbreviated WH)
B) How different presidents interacted with said photographers
C) Short bios of some of the most prolific photographers
D) Short little profiles of some equipment photographers have used over the years

The first president that had to deal with photographers was Woodrow Wilson. Photographers weren't generally allowed on WH property, making presidential pictures a rare get. This was the case even more after Wilson had a stroke and no one was really quite sure who was running the country, since no one had seen him for so long. (This is a whole different interesting presidential story that is worth a google). 2 phtographers tried to get pictures of Wilson by hiding in the wagon load of hay that was brought onto the South Law of the WH for the sheep that grazed there.No luck!

Harding was the president to give photographers some access to the WH. He appreciated a good human interest story, and used the camera men to help bring some good light on a  somewhat scandalous presidency.Coolidge understood the value of the newsreel and of the photo. He was a good subject to photograph and cooperated with the photographers request. He also loved movies, and thought they were a good way to get current news events in front of the common man.My favorite story about Hoover is that Mrs Hoover didn't like close up pictures of her husband. He wore these collars that stuck up really high and gave him a double chin. What a gal!

*When I tell these stories and I say that someone was liked or disliked I mean as a photography subject and as a person you have to interact with, as a human being. It doesn't mean they were liked/disliked due to policy, party affiliation, etc etc.*

One of my favorite stories is about FDR. He made an agreement with the press (starting when he was campaigning for governor of New York) that there was to be no photos of him looking crippled or helpless, because of his paralysis due to polio. This means no pictures of him: getting in and out of cars, being lifted in or out of anything, none showing crutches or leg braces. As long as the photogs followed these rules he was a pretty willing subject.(Can you imagine trying to make this deal today? Thank goodness there was no TMZ back then).

The stories go on. Truman was friendly and appreciative,Ike got a clock dropped on his head by a photographer and the photographer was sure he'd just "brained" the president (he didn't it was ok). The negative for the famous "taken from the back, Kennedy leaning on his desk reading something" picture was safely stocked in the photographers "lost sock" drawer at home.LBJ was a crazy person/sonofabitch. (The more I learn about him the more I can't believe that he was president).

One of my favorite stories about a group of WH photographers came from Nixon's trip to India. he photographers were banished to the bed of a farmer's truck which made for a long hot uncomfortable ride.They were so hot and thirsty that when they got to their destination they were desperate for some water. They found a servant carrying a tray of glasses and a bowl of water. The water looked kind of gross but they were desperate and, hey it's India what can you do? They found out later that the water had just been used to rinse out cups for ice cream. Those crazy Americans!

The stories about the presidents was probably my favorite part of the book, but the photographer biographies were interesting too.The story about Shelley Fielman being sent to cover the Kennedy assassination is pretty entertaining (the assassination wasn't entertaining, his difficulties getting there/with his equipment were). Then the book ends with some camera history and what they do and what makes them important.

I thought this book was really interesting, and I'm really glad that I got a chance to review it. If Harding or Wilson could see the kind of access that photographers were given at the WH they would probably lose their minds. The pictures throughout the book are very enjoyable too. A great book if you like: American history, politics, photography, Washington DC, presidential history, and getting the inside scoop on a place people rarely get to see. I give it 3.5 stars out of 5!

Author info from
Dennis Brack has photographed the presidents of the United States from JFK to Obama, and he hopes to continue this coverage for years to come. His clients have changed through the decades: Life and Newsweek were major clients over these years and Brack averaged a picture a week in Time for twenty-three years. A major story for Dennis Brack was the coverage of the first Gulf War, and in one week, Brack’s photographs were on the covers of Time, Newsweek, US News, Paris Match, and many other magazines throughout the world. For twenty-five years, Dennis Brack was the secretary/ treasurer of the United States Senate Standing Committee of Press Photographers. This six-member committee determines the photographic coverage of the House and Senate, the conventions, and the inauguration. He was president of the White House News Photographers Association for many years, and last year he was the Lifetime Achievement Award Winner and honored at White House News Photographers Association Eyes of History Gala.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Book Review: "Orange is the New Black" by Piper Kerman; thinking about Philip Seymour Hoffman

I bet you didn't know that it was from a book, right? I, like everyone else heard all the buzz that the "Orange is the New Black" show was making, and so I did some internet sleuthing. When I found out it was a book I put myself on my libraries waiting list and despite having at least 50 copies, I waited for at least 4 months for my turn to finally pop up. It was a long time to wait for a book that I was only minimally interested in, but hey you never know when you're gong to need cocktail party information.

Piper Kerman is our narrator. She graduated from a great college but didn't have much in the way of ambition or direction. One of her friends has suddenly come into a lot of money and  she discovers it's because she's involved with drug trafficking (at this point it would have been a good idea to back away from said friend slowly and then turn and run.) She and Nora start dating and Piper slowly gets pulled into this world. She never moves any drugs but once she does carry a suitcase choked full of undeclared drug money on a few international flights. She panics, decides this is not what she wants o do , breaks up with Nora and leaves her brush with the criminal underbelly behind her, or so she thinks....

Fast forward almost 10 years later. Piper is living in New York City with her (male) fiancee Larry. Suddenly there's a knock on the door and 2 detectives serve her with papers that she's being charged with money laundering. She streaks down to Larry's office and has to tell him the whole ugly ordeal, and surprise that she might be going to prison. Larry takes it surprisingly well, and supports her when she has to tell her whole family and some of her friends that she will be doing time in a federal penitentiary. She is sentenced to 15 months.

She is lucky enough to go to Danbury, in Connecticut which is the closest federal pen to her family.(At the end of her time she does a short stint in a scary place in Chicago, actually with Nora). The book mostly focuses on how she does her time in prison and who she does it with. The woman are almost universally tolerant and even nice to her. Though they think it's weird that she gets so many books in the mail. She seems surprised that some of the woman are middle/upper class white women like herself who despite being well educated and from good families have done dumb things.Her greatest struggles come from the insane amount of useless rules and never ending prison red tape, and how to fill her long days. She eventually gets into a routine, which saves her sanity. I think she's greatly helped by the fact that she has visitors every single visiting day (weekends) including her best friend who lives in Washington who flies to Connecticut once a month to see her. The most interesting parts of this book are the other people that she serves with (Yoga Janet, Pop) and prison etiquette (don't you ever put your pint of ice cream from the commissary in the ice machine, that shits not sanitary for anyone). 

This book wasn't bad. It was kind of depressing, because the prison system is just so broken. It seems pretty obvious that recidivism is going to be a problem unless major changes are made. I appreciate that Piper owns up to what she does and never tries to get out of it or blame someone else for what she did. I thought the most interesting parts were the prison social norms and etiquette. And the terrible food. If you want to shed those last pesky pounds, go to prison. Maybe it was because I had to wait for so long for the book but I was just kind of underwhelmed by it. It makes for an interesting story but it also seems kind of weird for someone to be making money of a prison stay. Like if a rapper did that would we be okay with it? Would we be okay as long as he wasn't serving time for a violent crime? (I'm officially over thinking this book, wrap it up Wesley!). It's a 3 out of 5 from me!


So I'm very bummed about Mr Hoffman's passing. I enjoyed his movies and really appreciated the variety of roles that he played. I loved him, most recently, in Catching Fire and loved how he played Plutarch. 

Some movies that he acted in were based on book like: "Doubt" (technically a play), "Charlie Wilson's War" (his character learns Finnish for no reason and then is so angry, hilarious), Capote (based on Truman Capote as he wrote his book "In Cold Blood") and of course the Hunger Games series.

I didn't realize that he had struggled with addiction, which makes his passing even more sad because it was so preventable and unnecessary. A quote that popped into my mind when I heard about the circumstances of his passing was said by Stephen King (a man who struggled with his own addictions): "Monsters are real; ghosts are real too.They live inside us and sometimes they win."