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Showing posts from February, 2015

Accosting Strangers and I'm Reading Some Sarah Vowell

I saw one act of Wagner's opera Tannhäuser yesterday, which was really enough of it for me to be able to make fun of the plot in the future, so I'm all set. Wagner is not so much for me as a composer, and Tannhäuser is four and a half hours long, so it was a situation where you had to commit or get out. And I got out to my apartment, where I ate pretzel chips with hummus and watched Broad City.

The actually important thing to be gotten from the evening is I ran into Thérèse and Laurent from Thérèse Raquin, an opera I'm currently obsessed with and am seeing again Saturday. I'm also reading the book this week. Thérèse and Laurent are the leads, and they were also seeing Tannhäuser, as it has been talked about as a thing to be seen. I told them they had mad chemistry, because daaaaaamn.



 Ugh You don't even know. I'm about halfway through the book, but I'll tell you, I'd be nowhere near as into it based on how Zola's writing the two of them if I hadn'…

Villette in March! A Timely Reminder

I'm pretty sure everyone forgot but ONE WEEK FROM TODAY we are starting Villette by Charlotte Bronte. Signup post is here. Next Tuesday, 3/3 is our first post, and it's chapters 1-5. We're gonna knock this one out. Slowly. And lazily. But still. Knock it right out.


"What do you know about Villette, Alice?"

Well, nothing, but after having skimmed some things, I can tell you that it is CB's third novel, and if Wikipedia isn't full of shit, its main themes are "isolation, how such a condition can be borne, and the internal conflict brought about by social repression of individual desire."

SO LET'S ALL BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR THOSE.

Based on some minor plot spoilers I've read, there's also possibly a parallel between the novel and that time Charlotte Bronte went to Brussels or something and fell in love with her teacher M. Heger and wrote him a series of embarrassing letters until his wife said "Cut that out right now."

This isolation…

The Martian by Andy Weir: Like the show I Survived, but in a stranded-on-an-alien-planet way

This book took me wayy longer to read than it took everyone else. 

This is because everyone else's review was "HAHA so funny this book is so great!" and I opened it prepared for uproarious Martian hijinks and read:


In the Hab, I have the oxygenator, a large piece of equipment that breaks apart CO₂ to give the oxygen back. But the space suits have to be portable, so they use a simple chemical absorption process with expendable filters.



Ok, let's be clear about something on this blog as it relates to me and the world: I. Hate. Science. I do not care about chemical processes; I don't want to do experiments unless they involve something fizzing, and even then, I want someone else to do them so I can watch. I didn't take the ACT because it has a science portion and I knew it would pull my score way down. In high school, lab reports were my single most disliked thing. My eyes glaze over, I'm super-bored, it's the worst.

So this book wasn't really written fo…

When is a book group a gay book group, and other stirring questions

I feel like The Worst Reader, because I haven't finished a book since Barnaby Rudge last week. Which sounds maybe like one of those obnoxious things the more academically-minded kids said in high school, like "UGH I got a 93 on my Physics test," but...this is a book blog. And my only post this week has been about Meghan Trainor. And AS FANTASTIC AS SHE IS, she has verbatim said when asked about her favorite book, "I. do not. read. books." Which is of course fine, as some people prefer to live life or whatever, but as this is, again, a book blog, until someone writes a Tiger Beat Meghan Trainor biography published by Scholastic, she feels a bit off topic.



I've been struggling through The Martian all this time. I'm also in two church book groups. The first is because my pastor wanted the young ladies to get together and read Facing Love Addiction (awww yeah). This is basically where we all get together and talk about past relationships and bond. So it'…

Meghan Trainor Is Great and Let's All Talk About That

Some of you might be aware I've been consumed by a slightly more than passing interest in Meghan Trainor as of late. I have never, repeat, never, followed a pop singer's career to this degree. There was a failed 8th grade attempt involving NSYNC where I purchased a magazine, cut out the pictures and stuck them all over my wardrobe while telling myself I had a crush on "I don't know, Lance, I guess." But this was all due to the mistaken notion that they sang "When the Lights Go Out," which is in fact sung by the British group Five. Once this was cleared up, down the pictures went.


In the grand tradition of obsessive brains, I now have way too much info on Meghan Trainor and, in casual conversation, make myself offer up a highly filtered version of this information (haha jk "highly" filtered never happens for me and there is inevitably a moment of uncomfortableness where the other person says "wow, you...really know a lot about that topic&q…

Barnaby Rudge: The Phantom Menace of Dickens novels

First of all, fuck Barnaby Rudge. This book took me three years to read.

There is just paragraph. After paragraph. After paragraph of description. Especially when the 1780 riots finally start happening. If I were Dickens's editor I would've crossed out at least 100 pages with "Are you fucking kidding me?" written in giant red letters.


Dickens is good at plots that tightly revolve around a central cast of characters, but when he expands that to a broader message, it becomes pretty Not Good. In Barnaby Rudge, he spends page after page after page summarizing the Gordon Riots, and it's terrible. Here is one example of said terribleness (DO NOT READ THIS WHOLE QUOTE it is not worth it):

The City authorities, stimulated by these vigorous measures, held a Common Council; passed a vote thanking the military associations who had tendered their aid to the civil authorities; accepted it; and placed them under the direction of the two sheriffs. At the Queen's palace, a do…

Women's Retreat 2015: The Experience

"Alice," you ask me, "how does an annual Presbyterian women's retreat work?"

Excellent.

You all drive to the retreat center, which doubles as a home for retired nuns, and sign up for your room (everyone gets their own room/bathroom). The retreat center has three floors, and if you don't want to be disturbed by the noise from people staying up late, you should get a room on the third floor. In my case, I sign up for one of the precious third room floors despite the fact I am well aware I will be one of the noisy staying-up-late people I am apparently trying to avoid.



My church partners with another church from a close suburb of Chicago, and has for 31 years. We see these women every February, and our two groups make up somewhere between 50 to 60 people. The average age is about 45, but there are people there from ages 29 to 88.

After checking in, dumping your stuff and putting sheets on your bed, you wander downstairs, saying hello to people and then wanderi…

Women's Retreat and I Don't Think You've Listened to Meghan Trainor's Album Enough

Once a year, the women of my church go to Wisconsin for a retreat. It is calming. It is contemplative. It is delightful. I somehow made a thing out of bringing Cheez-Its every year.


It's the only time of year I put my phone in airplane mode for anything longer than the duration of a flight. I usually have some kind of objective or something I'm trying to puzzle through. Retreats are the greatest, and if I'm ever in a position where I can't go on this one anymore, I am going to ensure I can go on another somewhere. ONCE A YEAR. Important for mental health.

In other news, which is softened by the fact that I am writing this while half asleep, I BOUGHT MEGHAN TRAINOR TICKETS AND AM GOING TO SEE HER LIVE AND AHHHHHHHH.



Do I know lots of weird random facts about her? Do I have her first two, not-that-good albums that are no longer available on Spotify? Have I been receiving messages like this from my friends?:



Yes, yes, and ahahaha oh my, yes. I never go to concerts except like…

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black: More malevolent fairy folk in publishing! More!

I've been a fan of Holly Black since The Spiderwick Chronicles, which if you aren't aware are five books (but basically one decently long book) about some siblings who find a field guide that shows how to identify/deal with various fairy (sorry, "faerie") creatures, and then the faerie creatures are pissed off and want the guide, so there is a CONFLICT. The important part of the series is that the creatures are awesome to read about.

Black worked on Spiderwick Chronicles with Tony DiTerlizzi, who is the ONLY author or illustrator I wanted to meet at BEA because his Spiderwick Field Guide is ridiculously beautiful and I'm never parting with it.


But they parted ways and Holly Black is now writing pretty awesome dark books for middle grade to maybe high school? Maybe? I don't know what the kids can handle these days, to be quite honest, but I don't think I'd let a 12-year-old read Darkest Part of the Forest since it has 17-year-olds talking about having…

Books That Are Sitting On My Floor

I shoveled snow and drank coffee, and when endorphins + caffeine + sugar all mix together, I feel like I am riding a cotton candy cloud of happiness through life. I thought I'd take this time to gather up some of the books sitting in my tiny tiny bedroom that I have not read yet, and talk about them. (note: I just counted and there are at least 38 that are not sitting on shelves)

Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France. Remember how I SUPER-LOVE Reign? But mostly Catherine de' Medici? Well. Someone has written a biography of her that doesn't vilify her.


And that person is "the daughter of Swedish aristocrats" and in her book's introduction thanks "[t]he Earl of Oxford and Asquith" and "Count Dr Niccolo Capponi." There also exists THE BEST INTERVIEW with her and you should read it if you want your Monday to be so much better: Leonie Frieda: I should have died from the overdose that put me in a coma but it wasn't my time to go.

On…