Month: August 2011

29 Aug 2011

this is what happened during Irene

1. We cleaned our apartment pretty much top to bottom. And rearranged the bedroom.

2. We did grocery shopping early and bought non-perishable, stove-free dinners (read: farmer’s market tomatoes + basil on a french baguette with mayo) and bottled water.

3. I stayed up too late drinking a Hurricane or two.

4. The next morning, I couldn’t sleep off my hurricane after-effects because the wind was being too windy.

5. Lance and I made an executive decision to get the heck out of bed because the windy wind was bending a large tree toward our bedroom window with increasing vigor. (Note: the tree is still standing, although we monitored it closely throughout the day)

6. I cried about forgetting to put in our cold-brewed iced coffee together before bed (see: Hurricanes), and Lance brewed me some espresso.

7. We ventured out of the house in the afternoon to find that life was still going on. People were, in fact, dining at restaurants. What was surprising: people were strangely interested in eating the food at 7-11. Like, every person in there was really excited about 7-11 pizza and wings and such. (Note: we were buying energy drinks and dishwasher soap)

8. After it became evident that the power was *probably* not going out, we did all the laundry, folded it all and put it ALL AWAY. I need a hurricane every Sunday, people.

9. I started to contemplate how stupid weather reporting is. I am all for being sensible and safe, but was getting a little ridiculous. It seemed our forecast was getting more and more favorable as Irene approached, but wasn’t like “Great news!” it was like “(things aren’t looking as bad) BUT YOU STILL BETTER BEWARE OF CATASTROPHIC DEVASTATION!! AAAAGH!!! DOOM!

Even today – it’s gorgeous and sunny, but wants me to REMEMBER THE FURY!!! IT’S NOT GONE YET!!

10. Ummmm yeah. Things got real boring from there. I pretty much couldn’t put down this one book I was reading.

You know the feeling. The book becomes your life. Either you’re reading it, or you are laying around bored and thinking, “I should probably just go back to reading,” and you finish a chapter and don’t stop to think “maybe I should take a break,” you just keep flipping the pages and then it’s time for bed but maybe you could read one more chapter?

Surely I don’t need to tell you that this is best achieved on a rainy, lazy, hurricainey day.

25 Aug 2011

it’s a disaster

So, on Tuesday, I felt my first earthquake.

I’m sure you heard all about it, and even my family in Michigan felt it, so yeah, not the biggest deal. I was by myself in my 3rd floor office, so I thought I was having some kind of anxiety-related dizziness/hallucination or something, but the Internet quickly put me in my place.

Tonight, we might get some severe thunderstorms with hail. Great, just what I need on the night I have Restaurant Week reservations for dinner.

Oh, but later? Later this weekend, we might be visited by HURRICANE IRENE. As in, this Hurricane Irene may pass over Boston or Western Mass and leave us in its wake.

Oh, and sometimes, the eastern side of a hurricane (us), can create tornadoes.


So I’m thinking about non-perishable dinners, buying bottled water and candles, and buying booze.

I already have 10 or 12 books from the library to read, plus THE LAST BOOK OF HARRY POTTER…

But I’m thinking that I might die anyway, because this book I read once? Gave me a mortal phobia of natural disasters. Some of you might have heard of it.

If you haven’t read Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer, I would not recommend it as a “The Power is Out” read.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to stock up on batteries, penicillin, and Xanax.

10 Aug 2011

june 2011 – reading round-up


Came in like a lion, went out like… Harry Potter.

This is woefully overdue. I hope I remember any single thing about any of these books. Please don’t fault me for fudging weird details.

1. The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert

This was one of my “trapped on a plane” books! But what a great book to be trapped on a plane with! I really enjoyed this book for three reasons. Reason #1: Eustace Conway – “The Last American Man” – is damn interesting. He kept hundreds of turtles in his backyard as a child. He left home at 17 and lived in a teepee while he put himself through college. He rode horseback across the United States with his brother. Much like my affection toward Unlikely Memoirs, I also like Unlikely Biographies… even though these two imaginary genres have kind of an inverse relationship. Unlikely Memoirs are normal people writing their life stories in interesting ways : Unlikely Biographies are profiles of people who are relatively normal (read: not famous), but have fascinating lives nonetheless.

I am getting confused.

Anyway. Reason #2: Gilbert’s biography walks the line between capturing Eustaces’s cool, fascinating-ness and showing the dirty-underbelly that make humans HUMAN. The book spends a lot of time commenting on the effect Eustace has on others – he’s incredibly charismatic – but Gilbert also talks about his character flaws that keep him from getting everything he wants. For this reason (and other more obvious ones), this book reminds me of John Krakauer’s Into the Wild – which is a high compliment!

Reason #3: Say what you will about Gilbert’s writing tone – I know it rubs people the wrong way – but I absolutely eat it up. Reading this book is like your best friend telling you about this amazing person they met. There’s an intimacy and definite passion in her writing. She could probably write about dirty socks and I’d want to read it. But to each his own!

National Book Award Finalist 2002

2. That Summer by Sarah Dessen

The first on my endeavor to Re-read Every Sarah Dessen Book in order. I’ve actually read this one at least twice, so I’m more familiar with it than others.

Everyone (myself included) talks about how reading one Sarah Dessen book is like reading Every Other Sarah Dessen book. Her books do have a similar aesthetic, often follow a particular narrative structure (messed up girl meets boy, boy helps girl not be so messed up), and share locations and characters. True true true. But re-reading these older titles, I am suprised by how non-romancey they are, or at least how the “heart-throb” love interests take a backseat to other stuff going on in the foreground of the novel.

This book, Dessen’s first, doesn’t even HAVE a love interest, really. The narrator, Haven, is a bit preoccupied with her older sister’s ex-boyfriend, but never in an actual romantic capacity. This story is all about Haven’s relationship with her older sister, and both sister’s reactions to a parental divorce. There’s a kind of spooky side plot about a local girl who became famous as a model but who had a mental breakdown and had to move home, too. A lot more than just boy-meets-girl.

3. Carrots ‘N’ Cake by Tina Haupert

I generally like books by bloggers. I don’t know what this means about my literary tastes, but I really do enjoy the “blogging” writing style, whatever that is. I like seeing how the writer’s personal style changes when confronted with a longer form of prose.

I whipped through Dooce’s It Sucked and then I Cried over one Christmas break, loved Girl’s Gone Child‘s Rockabye as a First Book After the Semester’s Over, savored Orangette‘s A Homemade Life while vacationing in DC, and am slowly giggling my way through Pioneer Woman‘s awfully silly Black Heels to Tractor Wheels.

However, I am not sure that Haupert’s blogging “personality” really translates well to book form. It could be that she keeps a food/fitness blog and not a personal blog, but I was disappointed in the lack of narrative in her book. It’s a fine book – well written and a lot of interesting content – but what it boils down to in the end is really basic fitness information aimed at those who are just embarking upon fitness journeys. No eye opening info, for me anyway, and not enough narrative content to keep me interested.

I will still continue to enjoy Haupert’s blog, but I just don’t think I’m the right reader for this particular book.

4. All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin

I told you about how when I visit my parents, I can always count on an unexpected book to grab my attention, usually from its abandoned position on a coffee table? Never a book that another family member is reading, of course. That would be mean!


Anyway, there is a second book phenomenon that I almost forgot about when I was at home in May: my mother’s occasional influx of Advanced Reading Copies! Yay librarians!

This was an ARC written by an author who wrote two other books I’ve enjoyed – Elsewhere, a book about the afterlife, and Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, a book about what would happen if your memory from age 11-17 and what you would think about yourself.

All These Things I’ve Done, however, is a dystopia.

Big suprise, right?

I am about dystopia-d out, but I brought this all the way from Michigan to Boston so I thought I might at least try to read it. The dsytopian premise was interesting – class/power structures had gotten out of hand in America, and the government has stepped in to regulate, but of course have regulated some other stuff too, like declaring a prohibition on coffee and chocolate. The narrator, Anya, is a part of a mafia family that owns an overseas chocolate factory, but her parents have both died and left her and her two siblings in the care of their dying grandmother. Anya is kind of on the fence about her family – she loves them with fierce loyalty, but at the same time, their illegal doings eventually got her father killed – but she is managing to care for her siblings without involving herself with them too much. Things become more complicated when she is accused of poisoning her ex-boyfriend with a bar of tainted chocolate. And of course, things become even MORE complicated when she falls in love with the new kid in town – the District Attorney’s son.

There was some horrible cliffhanger in anticipation of a trilogy. I have completely repressed it from my mind, apparently. Which also could speak to my overall opinion of the book: it was a fine book, but had some annoying patterns. I didn’t really buy Anya’s switch from hating Win to conducting a torrid affair. I thought that her attitude throughout the book was kind of haughty and not particularly endearing. And can we write some more standalone books, people? Not everything needs to be a trilogy. And not every author needs to write a dystopia.

I am awfully testy.

5. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

I think that I could read this book every year for the rest of my life and be happy. This year, I read it at just the best time: June, when the farmer’s market is about to open, when you can finally spend some time outdoors, when you can actually start eating fresh, local produce instead of dreaming about it.

The first time I read this book, it was February in Michigan. Don’t do that.

For those who are behind the times, this is a book about feeding your family with locally (and often personally) grown food as a way of life. It is one of my favorite books because it is exactly the kind of life I wish I had. I would like nothing better than to become Barbara Kingsolver, ASAP.

Also, can I plug the audio recording of this book for a moment? Read by the author. It makes for a personal, lovely, listening experience.

6. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

So, I got this notion about re-reading all the Harry Potter books in anticipation of the movie.

Spoiler alert: I haven’t seen the movie yet. (whuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuups)

Anyway, I have read this first volume the most – probably four times now – and I am always shocked to remember exactly how much it reads like standard juvenile fiction. New kid comes to a new school, finds adventure, happy ending!

Never a bad read, but always feels like grunt-work to get through to the longer novels.

Side story: in an attempt to acquire the most random, unmatched collection of this series, I bought a copy of this book for 50 cents at a thrift shop.

What I didn’t notice – my copy ended on page 179.

7. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling

The action picks up! Harry’s second year of school, and things get a bit more interesting, thematically and plotwise. I like how Rowling introduces the idea that Harry being a celebrity at school doesn’t necessarily mean he is well-liked. I also liked how Tom Riddle’s back story become relevant to the story.

Again, Adventure —>Dumbledore spends way too many pages telling Harry what everything meant about what just happened to him —> Gryffindor Wins The House Cup!

I don’t even remember if they actually did win the cup that year, but they might as well have. Happy Endings all around.

I also liked the orchestra of musical saws at the ghost party.

8. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling

I am not really up on my HP research, but I would be willing to wager that this is the book where Rowling was like, “Hey, I think I’m really onto something here. Let’s turn this into something epic.”

The time turning plot really annoys me because I think the book/movie is going to be over BUT THEN IT’S NOT. wtf.

I did, however, cry when Harry sees himself and thinks its his father.

That is just so sad.

06 Aug 2011

generation gap

I like Harry Potter. Don’t get me wrong.

But unlike many folks I’ve met, I did not grow up waiting for the day that I would wake up and have an owl to deliver my Hogwarts letter.

I was born a few years too early, I guess


I am still waiting for the day

that I wake up

and my life is a musical.

03 Aug 2011

the other side

48 hours of class, 6 papers, 123455334 Library of Congress classifications, nine novels and four straight days of conferences later…

it appears that July did not quite kill me.

However, I am feeling adrift.

This is not unfamiliar. This happened in May. A break from school leaves me with both mental and actual free time. It’s hard to adjust to that luxury. July, for me, was probably the busiest I’ve been in years. I was really impressed by how efficient I became. I cut my hours in half at my Non-Library Job… which meant that the days I did come in, I had to cram all that work that usually takes 20 hours into 10. And the schoolwork. Five hour shifts at Job #2 that used to stretch interminably flew by in July: I had so much to read, to think about, to write. I squeezed in cataloging in one or two question spurts with my evening glass of wine, staying at it until my eyelids started to droop.

So now I basically can’t figure out what to do with my time, with my brain.


Set goals or enjoy some free time?

Start a new project or clean up for a fresh start in September?

Travel or rest?

Watch some new movies or marathon Mad Men for the 7th time?

Catch up with all the posts I wanted to write or forget and move on?

Squeeze in all the planning and deep thinking I know I won’t have time to ruminate over come September or save the stress and exist in peace?

Focus deeply on something or jump around?


I will figure something out. It will take me a few days to get my bearings, but eventually the echoing on the empty, cavernous inside of my skull will stop feeling so weird.