It’s August and I can see my time for leisure reading dwindling…soon it will be back to graduate school with its associated reading and research. In the mean time, I’ve still got a week of reading for pleasure. Here’s what I’ve read so far this month:
The Best American Travel Writing of 2009 (edited by Simon Winchester): Any readers of my book club blogs may have noticed, I love to read travel essays and memoirs. I enjoyed the 2009 edition; some essays more than others. There were a few that were a little verbose, but overall the majority of essays were entertaining and fun reads. I recommend it for those who enjoy contemporary travel essays. I look forward to reading the 2010 edition.
Nailed!!! by: Shirley Lerch Crum: I bought this book three years ago at a book signing at a library near Topsail Island, NC. This year, I decided to actually read it. The book signing was something to do while on a family vacation; I hadn’t read any of the author’s work before…and I bought it because I feel that’s what you do at a book signing. She is a local author from a city that I very much like to visit: Wilmington, NC. The book takes place in Wilmington and describes some of the beauty of that fair Port City. The book, a mystery story with a main character that seems more than a little bit based on the author herself, is not great….it might be one of my least favorite reads, but it is a setting that I care about it…and it is an increadibly fast read. I tried to take it for what it was…and ignore the typos.
The Shadow of the Wind by: Carlos Ruiz Zafon: This book begins in Barcelona in 1945…and immediately took me quickly along for the 486 page read. My grandmother gave me this after she’d read it and said that it was a great book. I agree, Grandmom! I’m not much of a mystery reader, but the mystery that is woven through this story is so beautifully engaging that I had a hard time putting it down. The language and story remind me of a Victorian novel…and I loved every minute of reading it. And it’s the first time five years of Spanish have come in handy–don’t worry, there isn’t too much Spanish, but I felt that it helped a little in reading the novel. The characters are deep and fabulous…and I cheered for Daniel, Julian, Penelope, Nuria, Fermin, Bea throughout the pages. A lovely and captivating read.
The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost: This book was a fun romp into the life of someone who did something I’ve always dreamed of: moving to a faraway tropical island and leaving it all behind. The author moves to to Tarawa which is in the Republic of Kiribati (neither of which I’d ever heard before) in the South Pacific (of “gonna wash that man right out of my hair” fame). It’s a very funny book, engaging and light-hearted…a good book to read while you’re on a beach vacation…or in need of one.
Truth and Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett: Earlier this year, I read Lucy Grealy’s book “Autobiography of a Face” and decided then that I would read “Truth and Beauty” to get an account of the friendship between Grealy and Patchett which began during their graduate school careers. Having had a truly wonderful best friend myself, I felt that this book might provide a good reflection of a deep friendship. This work was well-written, meaningful, and surprising in the revelations of Grealy’s last few years. I’ve read that Grealy’s family has objected to what Patchett has written and I can certainly understand their misgivings…not only does the book detail Grealy’s mental state and drug addiction, but also her lack of family support in her later years. The book details the friendship between Patchett and Grealy as an amazing relationship full of both joys and sorrows, extreme highs and lows…but most of all, a great love between two women who highly value each other.
Currently reading: Olivia (or the Weight of the Past)
I’ve finally put my thesis to bed and hope to spend the next six weeks catching up on some pleasure reading before school starts again for the year….or for the next 4-5 years as the case will be. I’ve pledged to myself to read only fiction in the next six weeks, and have several titles lined up for that time.
This was the third of Larson’s books that I’ve read. The first that I read was The Devil in the White City which was truly gripping and my favoriate of the three. I followed that up with Thunderstruck, which discussed Marconi’s rush to win the transatlantic cable race. Like Devil in the White City, it also weaves a tale of murder with the story of an event the world was watching. I also enjoyed Thunderstruck. Isaac’s Storm is my least favorite of the three books, but was still a worthwhile read. It tells the tale of the great hurricane of 1900 which struck Galveston, TX and the local meteorologist, Isaac Cline and the U.S. Weather Bureau, both of whom completely miscalculated the strength of the storm which ultimately killed 6,000 people. Larson again weaves primary documents and accounts of the events with fiction to tell the tale. Although not as riveting as The Devil in the White City (or Thunderstruck for that matter), Isaac’s Storm is another well-written historical novel which puts into perspective the magnitude of the 1900 storm. Although I had heard about this storm previously, I did not have an understanding of the power of the storm or its effect on the city of Galveston not only in the short term, but ultimately, on the future of the city.
This is the nineth book in The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series and continues along the same tone and cadence as the prior books. One of the things that I’ve loved about the series are the loving descriptions of Botswana and they continue to appear in this book as well. In this work, Precious Ramotswe learns that mircles happen everyday…both great and small miracles. But as per usual, Mma Ramotswe faces challenges along the way as she solves the mysteries involved, and even solves a mystery involving herself following the receipt of threatening notes. Another good read from Smith; although I’ve read all of the prior No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books, I haven’t read any of his other mystery series (and he’s got quite a bit). I started reading this series due to its location. I had wanted to travel to Africa since I was 5 and finally got a chance to go to Kenya in 2003. There are still several countries in Africa that I want to visit, including Botswana. So rather than reading for the mysteries, I read for the location descriptions and for the characters. These books are generally quick reads with a gentle pace which makes for an easy, relaxed read.
This is the author’s first novel and what a novel! I found The Help to be engaging and very difficult to put down. Indeed, there were a couple of evenings where I read until nearly dawn because I was so engrossed in the stories of each unique character. The characters were richly developed and wonderful. The novel is told in the voices of three women living in Mississippi in the turmoil of the 1960s, two African-American maids and one Caucasian woman. With the backdrop of Jackson, Mississippi, the Civil Rights Movement comes to life within the pages…as do the relationships between workers and their employers. It was often difficult to read the happens in our nation during this time, but the heart of the book is so hopeful and the characters are so wonderful that I was sad when I finished the book, although I had been hurridly devouring the novel all along. The characters touched me…and I haven’t enjoyed a book so much in a long time. I highly recommend this work.
Currently reading: The Best American Travel Writing 2009 by Simon Winchester
Tags: alexander mccall smith, best american travel writing 2009, devil in the white city, erik larson, isaac's storm, kathryn stockett, simon winchester, the help, the miracle at speedy motors, thunderstruck, travel writing
Well, April was not a good month for reading. Two things occurred: I went into overdrive with my thesis writing and we got Netflix. Both meant that I didn’t do too much reading…and when I did read, I read two or three pages before falling asleep and letting the book flop into my face. Yep, that’s why it took me almost two months to read a 165 page book…pretty pathetic when I think back to how I used to read that much in a day or two.
Man’s Search for Meaning by: Viktor Frankl
I have heard about how I needed to read this book for a number of years and finally got around to doing so. The book is written by Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist who was imprisoned in 4 different Nazi Concentration Camps during WWII. Frankl discusses his ability to find meaning within the despair of the deplorable conditions he and other prisoners endured. I was struck by how this applied to not only imprisoned individuals, but also those who have chronic illness or are in a seemingly uncontrolable situation. Frankl asserts that one always has choices, no matter the situation; that is, we can choose how we react to any given situation. We can find meaning in our misery. Having sold 12 million copies before I read it, I don’t need to talk about what a wonderful book this is…or how inspiring it is. Those things are true…but I don’t need to say it. Instead, all I’ll say is: you should read it if you haven’t already. Frankl also discusses logotherapy which he developed. Logotherapy is more of an existential analysis in that as humans we seek meaning. Logotherapy is thought of as the Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy. This may only be of interest to those who enjoy studying psychology, but certainly the majority of the book applies to everyone.
Today, Ryan and I went back to the Indianapolis Art Center for another round of the Glass Sampler Class. Today’s subject: glass flowers. Unlike the last class, it was just Ryan and I (well, and 8 strangers including several young girls)…we didn’t have a group of friends with us. The instructor, Angela, demonstrated three different ways to create glass flowers to begin the afternoon. When she asked for volunteers to make the first flower, Ryan, being Ryan, raised my hand for me. In our prior class, I had had a lot of trouble gathering glass properly. Today, I felt more guided and also having had the prior experience, more confident in my ablilities.
I was laughing so hard to see Shannon have to go first in front of everybody. That is until she finished her flower and it was just beautiful…at which point the entire room gave her a round of applause.
Like the prior class, this 2 hour class was $29 per person and provided an enjoyable experience without having to invest a lot of time or amount of money.
I’m thinking that pottery might be our next venture. I’ve always wanted to try that and it is right here at my fingertips.
I’ll remind you that I lost out on summa cum laude (and got magna cum laude instead) because of my A- in pottery class at college.
This afternoon’s class seemed to go much smoother than both my college pottery classes and the last glass class we took! We pick-up the finished product tomorrow and I’m looking forward to seeing our creations.
The instructor for this class was much nicer and much more helpful than the last time. I enjoyed it thoroughly.
The instructor was really nice and reassured us that if we weren’t happy with our flower, we could make a new one at the end of the class. She said that she wanted us to be happy with and proud of our creation…that too gave us comfort to enjoy the class rather than worry about whether or not we were achieving “art.” It was a nice way to spend a grey, rainy spring afternoon.
Yum. One of Ryan’s co-workers (who is from China) turned us on to this place by telling us it is the most authentic Chinese food in the Indianapolis area. Located in a stripmall in Carmel, IN on Westfield Blvd, the restaurant appears fairly unassuming. We had our first visit in December and really loved the food. The menu offers both Chinese and Thai cuisine…both visits we’ve concentrated on the Chinese offerings. Something to note is that the restaurant has both an English menu and a Chinese menu (with English translations). Both times, we’ve ordered off the English menu, but my plan is to order from the Chinese menu on our next visit.
By ‘fairly unassuming’ she means there is nothing from the outside that would lead you to believe that “this is a place I would like to remember.”
The ambience is completely lacking: Pepto Bismol-colored wood-panelled walls and an empty buffet (we were there for dinner both times). Nothing remarkable hangs on the walls, no authentic music plays, nothing special decorates the restaurant…but the food makes up for it….
We were sat at the same table both times which happens to be the one next to the one way mirror so I kind of wonder if my tears from the spicy food are going to be on youtube soon under the title of ‘Foolish American Can’t Eat Spicy China Food!’
It’s not a one-way mirror…I don’t think. This past Saturday evening (while making a trip to pick-up new split boxsprings for our bed–what a thrilling life we lead) we used the excuse of being in the Carmel area to stop back in for dinner. Actually, we were in the area before dinner time, so we shopped as an excuse for ending up near the resturant at a reasonable dinner time.
Haha! We both knew where we were going to end up by dinnertime, however, neither of us were willing to make the suggestion. So we just agreed with each other that … ”Yeah we should head to Carmel from here”… “Oh we should shop for a little bit”… “Oh look! That Chinese place we liked is over here too! What a crazy random happenstance!”
For my starter, I ordered the steamed pork dumplings which were full of delicious pork. However, I felt that the dumplings were far doughier than I would have liked…splitting an order of six with Ryan, I found myself full just after the appetizer…but for the sake of the blog , I soldiered on to the main course. Poor Baby.
I ordered my staple: Moo Goo Gai Pan and Sichuan did not disappoint. The chicken was plump and tender with lots of fresh veggies and mushrooms. The sauce was nice and light and not overly salty. The rice was well-cooked and the perfect bed for the main dish. Ryan had his usual: General Tso’s Chicken (we know, this was made for American’s) and it was delicious. I had several pieces of the fried, spicy goodness and wished I could bring myself to order such a beautiful mountain of fried delight…alas, I instead order what appears to be a healthier option and then just eat off of Ryan’s plate.
Seriously, she shouts LOUDLY!! ”WIFE TAX” and then just steals my food! If anyone else has heard of this wife tax or knows any kind of deductions I can take please speak up.
Service was fine…the staff was pleasant and kept our water glasses full.
DON’T: Go for the ambience.
DO: Go for some delicious food! It’s absolutely worth it!
Until next time, Sichuan…I’m looking forward to trying items from the traditional Chinese menu!
Well, we made it back to Naisa in Fountain Square this week…I’d been thinking about returning ever since our first trip (yeah, I think about and crave Chinese food that much). This meal, at 5:30 PM on a Monday, we shared with two friends and for the first half our meal, we had the entire restaurant to ourselves.
They don’t have a liquor license yet… Inform the masses! We wanted to get some after work drinks when we were informed that that wasn’t possible. I asked if we could go just down the street to the liquor store and bring it back to their restaurant and they said” no.” I then asked, “What if we keep it in the paper bag–”… at which point I received a sharp elbow, in the tender part of the ribs, from my wonderful wife who spoke those three sweet little words, “Drop it Alc-y”.
I started out the meal with egg rolls…readers of our previous blog on Naisa will remember that I had vowed to come back for the pork dumplings. Well, two days prior to this meal, Ryan and I had split an order of 6 really doughy dumplings and I just didn’t think I could do it again. So, feeling guilty as I did so, I ordered two highly fattening and highly caloric egg rolls instead…ah, my crispy golden friends. Let’s see how to describe the egg rolls?….They were egg rolls. Nothing extraordinary, but good…really just tasty, guilt-ladden starts with spiced pork, slivered carrots, and Chinese cabbage with a side of sweet and sour sauce.
I enjoyed watching you eat it. You did so with such pain and guilt in your face the whole time… and then you ate the second one the same way. Perhaps it is the huge amounts of guilt you feel from enjoying something that keeps you so mysteriously cute and skinny.
Ha ha ha ha…skinny. No. Not even slightly. And by the way, I made you eat HALF of the second egg roll! For my main course, I ordered the Chicken with Garden Veggies which had lots of juicy chicken, snow peas, mushrooms, carrots, celery, baby corn, cabbage, and broccoli, and included an oh-my salty soy sauce base. It was a bit too salty for my taste, actually…I continued to feel thirsty and dehydrated several hours later. While there, I was definitely sipping down the Chamomile tea pretty quickly, although this pot of tea seemed a little less flavorful than it had my prior trip. However, I still enjoyed opening my tea pot and seeing the flower blossoms do their thing.
In between bites of my own main course, I was also eating off of Ryan’s main course (General Tso’s Chicken). The poor man can never escape what I like to call the “Wife Tax.” That is, the fact that I’m entitled to at least one third of his main course should it appeal to me…he in return is entitled to 2 (count ‘em two) bites of my main course. It is the price that he pays for being married to me. He has no idea what’s in store when it becomes the “Mother of Your Children” Tax…(cue evil laughter and menacing music).
I didn’t have General Tso again did I? hmm… maybe I did. Screw you guys, I like it!
Yes, you did. You nearly always, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, while in the United States at a Chinese restaurant (because, yes, even when we are abroad, we go out for Chinese food) get General Tso’s Chicken.
All in all, it was another good meal. We generally enjoy the preparation style and presentation of the meals at Naisa…in addition to fresh vegetables, the meat has always appeared to be high quality. We’ll definitely continue to return. And one day, one day I say, I’ll get my pork dumplings.
Wow! We have just come from watching the 2010 NCAA National Championship game at the historic Hinkle Fieldhouse on Butler University’s campus. The energy surging from thousands of Butler students and community members was truly electric! Sitting on the historic pine benches of Butler, we so enjoyed this once in a lifetime moment…okay, our butts hurt and it was hot and humid at the start of the game, but well worth it to share in watching the incredible heart displayed by the Butler players. It was wonderful to join in the cheering and stand up with the other fans during all of the exciting plays (which was most of the game)!
The energy was amazing and the air conditioning was a man with a stick that opened windows, but there was something very charming about it. I hope they don’t use their newfound wealth to change a thing in that beautiful historic stadium… well maybe another concession stand.
The game continued on, Butler keeping up with Duke…both teams playing well. And then, suddenly it seemed there was only 5 minutes left…the scores continued to be within a basket of each other. I looked around the crowd at the faces of the fan, so hopeful, so excited. Their team had come this far. And then that heartbreaking finale…
One thing that I thought was really nice was that even after the loss (after a moment of stunned silence that followed that amazing final second shot) the crowd still erupted into applause and cheered for their team, demonstrating their great pride and support. Clearly, the fans were so proud of their team which had come so far with their 25 straight wins. The small school which had triumphed over so many schools with large athletic program budgets, which had captured the hearts of people across the country, the Seabiscuit of their time.
Yeah the Butler fans (who booed EVERY time the Duke coach was on the screen) were terrific fans to the end. Oh, and what a game to witness with the Bulter community!
I’m not an Indiana native, but have known since the moment I moved to the Hoosier State the importance of basketball…and I was happy to get swept away with the Bulldogs. And if ever there was a game to watch, I think it was this one! I’m not typically a basketball fan, but couldn’t help but feel the excitement of living so close to such an inspiring team. And it really was an incredibly exciting game! We felt lucky to share the game with the students and other supporters. Congratulations to the Butler Bulldogs on a great season!
Last night, we saw Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland in Digital 3D. First of all, I’m extremely glad that we saw the film in the 3D. It was remarkably beautiful…they truly did amazing things with computer animation, colors, and costumes. My husband has long been a huge fan of Tim Burton’s (in fact as I type this, we are watching Corpse Bride)…we generally see most of his films and a couple of years ago when we learned that this film was in production, we were excited. Upon seeing the previews several months ago, our anticipation only grew.
It is true, while Burton’s style has become more commonplace and his vision has seemed to cease in its progression, I watch his films with much excitement hoping he may be able to recapture some of his earlier wonder and magic. Lately, I have started to think that perhaps he is just in it for the paycheck and the studios are into him because using his name in the director credit gives an air of creativity to stories that are just recycled garbage.
All of the usual players were there: Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter and music by Danny Elfman…okay that’s only three players, but hey…it’s only to be expected that these three would be associated with the film.
I thought the incredible Danny Elfman did a wonderful job with all the music, not his best work, but his score definitely affected the movie positively. The effects were so very good in this movie it is hard to know what Helena Carter actually acted out and what was 3D, but from what I could see she did a very good job with what was an amazingly stupid script.
I would go as far as saying that this was Johnny Depp’s worst movie to date. I don’t know that it was all his fault, but for such a well-known and beloved character as the Mad Hatter, I had very little interest in him after the first scene. He played a very large role in this movie and bored me to tears in every scene. I found myself just looking around at the BEAUTIFUL CG(computer generated) work whenever he was the main focus of the scene. I’m not entirely convinced the writers know who the Mad Hatter actually is. Somehow, in this movie, they confused the word ‘Hatter’ with being a hat maker by professional and the word ‘Mad’ with being Scottish?!? Watching this movie, not only will you see this once treasured character waste our time sewing hats, but, you will also watch him slay bad guys with his AWESOME sword fighting skills. SERIOUSLY! I’m not kidding! Apparently, the Mad Hatter (named as such because Carroll’s book states he is, ‘mad as a hatter’), is actually a rogue, haberdasher with rocking sword combat experience from the moors of Scotland WHO IS QUITE SANE!!
Oh and if you haven’t caught on to how asinine this character is by the first half of this movie, don’t worry that is what the last 15 minutes of the movie are for.
The film as expected was dark with a deep color pallette. The costumes were rich and varied. Most of the characters wore heavy makeup…I only had real issue with Anne Hathaway’s too dark lipstick which I found to be distracting. If she’s such a sweet soul, I kept wondering why they chose to haver her wear black lipstick…oh yeah, it’s a Tim Burton film…riiiiight.
By far the most intriguing part of the movie was the beginning in the real world, it made for a very interesting 19th century period piece.
I do have to add that Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum looked amazing! So real… yet so fictitious. Really awe inspiring CG work! It’s a shame they were given just terrible, terrible lines. There are some wonderful poems that Lewis Carroll wrote for them that it wouldn’t have taken any time for the writers of this movie to jot down, but instead they, insultingly(to anybody with half a brain), dumbed it all down to the lowest common denominator and just made them mumble and repeat each other for quick moronic chuckles. <vent>I am actually quite angry at everything in Hollywood that makes the assumption that we viewers are all retarded rubes. One day, I would be so happy to see Hollywood make something for the masses that doesn’t assume that their target audience consists COMPLETELY of brainless toddlers with ADHD.</vent>
The film is beautiful…the animation and computer generation are just gorgeous. But don’t expect the film to follow Lewis Carroll’s story…in fact, aside from the fact that the character names are the same and there is a rabbit hole, not too much was familiar.
This movie should have been called ‘Alice visits a hand-me-down Wonderland’ With a tag line of: ‘Alice never had a budget like this before!’.
We both wondered (hee hee) why Tim Burton decided to stray so far from a story that has worked pretty well since 1865 and mesmerized millions of child and adult readers since that time. Say what you will about the creepiness of Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson)–he seems pretty darn creepy to me–, he wrote an entertaining book based upon his acquaintance Alice Liddell. I pretty sure that it has inspired it’s fair share of other books, tv, stage plays, films, and art since its publication…so what’s the deal, Tim Burton?
This movie stole from me: my time, my money and my childhood.
Recently, we ventured to Puerto Vallarta Mexican Restaurant in Muncie, IN for a celebration with friends. Puerto Vallarta has all of the components that I look for in a mexican restaurant: good food, low prices, and tasty margaritas. Oh, and clean restrooms.
As the DD for the evening I wasn’t able to partake in the margarita fest, but if my wife’s smiles were any clue on how good they were… well then they must have been pretty darn good. The decor of the restaurant was somewhat generic, but still they made a good effort in creating a fun atmosphere.
For dinner, I had the Saturday night special of a chicken burrito which was well-sauced and perfectly-cheesed. The cheesing level is very important to me. The mango frozen margarita was perfectly flavored and blended…and huge. Much too big for a light-weight like me, but I was able to finish it after two hours of eating and chatting with friends who threatened to take it off my hands if I couldn’t finish it.
The menu didn’t have a very wide selection, but everything you would expect to see on a Mexican restaurant menu made its appearance.
We waited 45 minutes for a table for 15 people (granted, we didn’t have reservations and it was Saturday night–so I don’t fault the restaurant at all)…luckily, there were lots of people to talk to and meet. In the end, we still didn’t have a table all together with four of us sitting in a nearby booth while the rest of the party was at a long table. However, I thought that they handled the huge group of us relatively well, considering we didn’t have reservations and we were such a large party.
We had a great evening with wonderful people…and tasty margaritas!