The Magicians – Lev Grossman

I really enjoyed The Magicians: A Novel! I read it while Mike was watching some movie, and I kept laughing out loud. He thought I was laughing at the movie. Oops.

I read Grossman’s Codex a couple of years ago. Meh. It was sort of like a slightly better Da Vinci Code. So I wasn’t in a huge hurry to read his next offering. I’m really glad I finally did, though.

The Magicians is sort of like, a bitter, American, bad-mouthed Harry Potter goes to magic college. Definitely not a kids’ book. Anyway, Quentin is miserable. He’s on an Ivy League college path, but the girl he loves is attached to his best friend. Brooklyn is boring and gray and miserable. His parents ignore him. He finds himself taking an entrance exam at a college he’s never even heard of. Most of the 200 people in the room disappear before he even finishes the test. Then stuff gets weird.

I was reading this when I went to a Dr. appointment. My doctor asked if it was about real magicians or is it a metaphor? It’s about real magicians. Pretty cool, huh?

Blog Catch Up.

This is me not posting anything for a month. I know you’re sitting with baited breath waiting for my next post. Sorry about that. Allow me to now post what I read this month.

This is me getting totally fed up with my blogging program and saving the thing as a draft and not coming back for 2 weeks. Sorry about that. Let me now try to review my meager November reading.

When I first picked up Under the Covers and between the Sheets: Facts and Trivia about the World’s Greatest Books I thought it was a sex-ed book. I picked it up because I was processing it at the library. Then, I read the subtitle and decided it could come home with me. It was really fun. Lots of trivia and interesting tidbits about books and authors. Things you never knew you needed to know.

Chronic City is a weird book. I’ve read a lot of weird books lately, so it’s not the weirdest. But it’s pretty strange. So many strange people in New York City getting stoned and talking about the tiger that’s terrorizing Manhattan.

It’s beautifully written. But then, I’ve loved everything by Jonathan Lethem that I’ve read, so far.

Who knew!? They actually turned P&P into a serial comic. Then had them bound into a book. My biggest complaint: #4 spelled Pemberley wrong all the way through.

We read Born On A Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant for my face2face book club. I love these autobiographies of people on the spectrum. This guy is one of a handful of savants in the world, but he’s coherent enough to verbalize what is happening in his head. After we read it, everyone in book club decided we are autistic.

Remember earlier when I said I’d read a lot of weird books? Well, here’s another one. Ren grows up in an orphanage knowing he’ll never be adopted because he is missing his left hand. Then, inexplicably, his brother shows up and adopts him. Only, he’s really just a con-artist who was hoping to get more money by using the kid missing a hand. The characters just get weirder and the plot gets more twisted from there on out. I totally loved it.

That just about wraps it up for November. I’ll try to do better this month, but I’ll tell you right now, we’re a week in and I haven’t finished a single book. True story.

Also, I’ve spend the last 3 and a half months crocheting an afghan. Finished it today. If I ever figure out how to post pictures on here, I’ll put one up.

Later.

VAnity Fair’s Proust Questionnaire

This was a fun, fast, easy read. For something like 15 years, Vanity Fair magazine has been asking celebrities this “Proust Questionnaire”. In the early days of the 20th century Marcel Proust published this list of questions and his answers. Some of the answers were really funny. Some were repeated over and over. Here are my answers to the Proust Questionnaire. Feel free to play along.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? An empty house, a warm dog/cat, and a pile of good books.

What is your greatest fear? Losing a child. Or tornadoes.

Which historical figure to you most identify with? I would like to say Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire, but really there’s not too much similarity between our lives. I just like her. history hasn’t recorded a lot of suburban wives and mothers who just live day to day.

Which living person do you most admire? I don’t know. I don’t admire a lot of people. I will say the person I most appreciate is Mike, because he tolerates me.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? Cattiness. I can be really unpleasant when I am annoyed.

What is the trait you most deplore in others Stupidity. I know this is bad, because stupid people can’t help it, but I get really annoyed when something that is clearly spelled out has to be repeated ad nauseam before it is understood.

What is your greatest extravagance? I’ve been thinking about this. I don’t spend a lot of money on anything. I don’t think I have to have “the best” of anything. Probably the one thing I buy the most of, that is not a necessity, is books. But I usually buy paperback. I know books are a necessity, but I work in a public library for crying out loud!

What is you favorite journey Anywhere with Mike. Well, maybe not to the dentist, but even that would be better with Mike.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Selflessness. Only because I don’t have it.

On what occasion to you lie? Hedy Lamarr said, “When I am tired of standing.” In all seriousness, I am a terrible liar. Everything I think ends up right on my face, so I only try to lie when it would be cruel to tell the truth. But usually, I can’t do it.

What do you dislike most about your appearance? My apple-shaped figure. Gr.

Which living person do you most despise? The guy at the ballet last night on the front row who answered his cell phone during act 2. Everyone in the theater could hear him. Including the dancers.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse? “Are you on crack?” and “Brutal” and “Awesomesauce.”

What is you greatest regret? Selling out first house.

What or who is the greatest love of your life? Mike Hee!

When and where were you happiest I’m usually pretty happy, but I’ll go with June 28, 1997.

Which talent would you most like to have? I’ve got some pretty good ones. I’d like to read faster, though.

What is your current state of mind? Active passivity.

If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be? More energetic

If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be? Lived closer together.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? After I see how my kids turn out, they will probably be it, but until then, I’m going to say: helping quantities of teenagers navigate adolescence.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be? A bookshelf.

If you could choose what to come back as, what would it be? A pampered house cat.

What is your most treasured possession? My wedding album?

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? First, losing someone you love. Second, having nothing to read

Where would you like to live? Somewhere cloudy.

What is your favorite occupation? Reading or dancing.

What is your most marked characteristic? My voice.

What is the quality you most like in a man? The ability to fix stuff.

What is the quality you most like in a woman? Laughs at my jokes.

What do you most value in your friends? A quick wit.

Who are your favorite writers? Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Malcolm Gladwell, and probably many more I’ve forgotten.

Who is your favorite hero of fiction? Elizabeth Bennet

Who are your heroes in real life? People who have overcome great adversity with a good attitude.

What are your favorite names? This is a stupid question.

What is it that you most dislike? Throwing up.

How would you like to die? No thanks. Is this a threat?

What is your motto? Somebody’s on crack.

In Tongues of the Dead by Brad Kelln

In Tongues of the Dead is a suspense/mystery in the vein of The Da Vinci Code. There is a religious mystery that the Catholic church wants to cover up. Granted, in this book, the mystery is a little more obscure. Most people have never heard of the Voynich manuscript. I hadn’t, anyway. Apparently, such a thing does exist. It is written in a language no one has been able to decipher.

In the book, the manuscript is on display at the Beinecke Library at Yale University, where there is a Catholic priest posing as a museum curator whose job is to watch over it, to let them know if someone ever seems to be able to read it. When an autistic child who never speaks reads the manuscript, a corrupt cardinal (well, maybe corrupt is too harsh, just misled. Or crazy.) sends Benicio Valero to ascertain if the boy is The One. Then he sends his hit men to get the boy. Nobody counts on the angels who also want to do him in, in order to get back in the good graces of God.

In several places, the plot is helped along by vivid, bizarre dreams. In other places people do really unnatural things. Like when Jake goes to the library to look up stuff about the Voynich manuscript while his son is in the hospital prepping for brain surgery.

SPOILER ALERT!
Here’s my big question: at the end, the boy with the brain surgery can read the manuscript, so I assume the autistic boy inhabited his body like the other angels inhabited bodies. But, the rules seem different now. When the angels inhabited bodies, they kicked out the original personalities that owned those bodies. In this case, the boy is still himself, he hasn’t become the autistic Matthew. Why did the rules change? I don’t understand!!!

Anyway, if you like a page turning suspense-mystery, especially ones involving supernatural beings and events, you ought to give this one a shot.

Reading stall-out

I am trying to read The Devil in the White City. I’ve heard wonderful things about this book. I’ve read 5 or 6 chapters and so far it’s both creepy and boring. The parts about H.H. Holmes are really, really, creepy, but everything else is excrutiatingly boring. Anyone else read this and have thoughts?

Poor…

but I’ll be able to make a meatloaf soon!

Last week, my oven gave up the ghost. This poor range has held out as long as it could. We’ve replaced all the burners, and all the plastic knobbies. 5 years ago, the oven timer freaked out and wouldn’t shut off. We had to shut off the breaker to the kitchen and disconnect the wires to make it shut up. We’ve replaced the element in the oven, too, but it finally threw in the towel.

Today was range shopping day. Considering that my current range is 30 years old, I am quite easy to please. I consulted Consumer Reports. Or rather, I consulted my father who consulted Consumer Reports and I think I made a good choice.

My new GE electric range (because I’m sure to blow us all up with a gas one) has a smooth cooktop and push button oven controls that lock. It has a clock and a kitchen timer! Glee! But wait. Listen to this. One of the burners, has a choice of two sizes! You turn the dial one way to use the small size, and another way to use the large! This is brilliant.

Reading update.

I have a huge pile of library books waiting for me. My favorite part of my job at the library is going through all the new books and deciding which ones to put on the “New Books” shelves and which ones will find their way directly to the regular shelves. Today, I found a few that made their way to my shelves.

The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte by Syrie James. She wrote The Secret Diaries of Jane Austen which I enjoyed a while back, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

Murder at Longbourn by Tracy Kiely. Okay. I’m only partially sure of what the connection is to Pride and Prejudice. From what I can gather from the jacket copy, a girl named Elizabeth is invited to her Aunt’s bed and breakfast in Cape Cod to one of those host-a-murder things. Hilarity ensues. I hope.

The Skating Rink by Roberto Bolano. I’ve been wanting to read some of his work since 2666 came out, but I was too chicken to read anything that vast. This is a much slimmer novel. I think I can handle it.

I wish I didn’t have to shop for a new range this weekend so I would have more time to read. Such is life.

Tweak by Nic Sheff

Nic Sheff was one messed up dude. The majority of this book takes place when he was 22 years old. The first part of the book is the story of the 30 days when he went off the rails and relapsed on crystal meth and heroin. It is really, really difficult reading.

After about a month, he pulls his head out and starts over again. The second part of the book is about him building up his sober life and then relapsing again. He finally agrees to go to a rehab center in Arizona which turns out to be a blessing for him. His description of the rehab center sounds like an amazing place. Really new and powerful therapies happening there.

This book was pretty heartbreaking so I’m glad it didn’t end badly. I wouldn’t wish an IV drug addiction on anyone.

New food obsession.

Last spring, my aunt came to visit from Los Alamos, NM. She brought with her Snapea Crisps. At that time, you could not buy them here, which posed a problem for me because I quickly became addicted to them.

Last week I found them at my local grocery store. Oh Happy Day!

I think they’re basically dried snap peas, salted and flavored. They have the consistency of Cheetos, but a little lighter. I can eat the whole bag all by myself.

Mr. Darcy, Vampire by Amanda Grange

Normally, I don’t give bad reviews. If an author has enough talent to manage to get a book published, then they’ve done more than I have. I’ll say I didn’t necessarily love a book, but I have to really hate it to tell the whole interweb.

Here is such a book.

I’ll start by saying, I loved this author’s “Diary” series.
Mr. Darcy’s Diary, Colonel Brandon’s Diary, Captain Wentworth’s Diary, and so on. This one, not so much.

The premise is it’s what happens after Pride and Prejudice. And in the interest of full disclosure, I will say that I didn’t finish it. In the first 50 pages, not much happens. Darcy and Elizabeth are married and Darcy takes her to France for a honeymoon. Darcy has many brooding looks and strange behavior that puzzles Elizabeth. She meets some of his Parisian friends. We know from the title that Darcy is a vampire. In some incredibly bad foreshadowing, we find out that his Parisian friends are also vampires. It was pretty boring. Not enough dialog, too much exposition.

Here’s what really convinced me to close it for good: Elizabeth mentions that she gave Darcy a crucifix as a gift. Seriously?! A Crucifix? Why?! Why would she give him a crucifix. THEY AREN’T CATHOLIC! The only possible reason she would give him a crucifix is to give the author another way to show the reader that Darcy is a vampire, while the witless Elizabeth remains clueless. Blah!

Seriously, read the Diaries.

Public Service Announcement

To all library users:

Before you go into the library, please make sure you have your library card. Or some ID. Something.

Please do not walk into the library with nothing to prove your identity and expect to be able to check out books. Please don’t expect that the person at the desk will automatically know who you are.

Thank you. That is all.

Things that happen to me #2.

You know how some people, when they take a medicine for a while, tend to get sort of immune to it? It doesn’t work so well after a while? Yeah, well, as my father puts it I am “non-standard”.

My sister (hi Edis! *wave*) can take a Benadryl for her allergies and go on about her day. I’ve heard tell she can take 2 and suffer no ill effects. Me? If I took two Benadryl, I’d have to be somewhere where I don’t have to drive for a day or two and there is a nice comfy bed and pillow. I’m down for the count.

All this is to say, I took half an Ambien tonight. Used to be, I could take a whole Ambien and be down for 12 hours and little groggy afterward. I had to cut back to half when it started cutting into my life. I took half an Ambien and it would take a few hours to really kick in.

Lately, that kick-in time has been getting shorter. I took that half an Ambien tonight and figured I would have time to rinse the dishes and load the dishwasher and take a quick shower. Not so, little grasshopper. By the time I had finished the dishes, I was feeling the tell-tale dizzy head.

So what did I do? Did I go get in my pajamas and crawl in with my book? Did I lie down with one of my favorite sleepy time movies?

NO! I came here to tell you all about it. And you have no idea how hard it is to type without slurring when the Ambien kicks in.

Things that happen to me.

I wore my Def Leppard concert shirt to the grocery store today. (The concert was awesome, by the way).

As I was in line to check out, I noticed a teenager wandering around in an Iron Maiden shirt. Pretty soon he strolled past me and said, “I like your shirt.” I said, “Hey, thanks. I like yours.”

That’s all. Just a little concert shirt love in the grocery store.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

I finished Olive Kitteridge today. Thank God. It was really depressing. It was mostly about this 70-something woman in a tiny town in Maine. She was really not a nice person throughout her life, and now she doesn’t understand why it’s coming back to bite her on the butt.

I read Amy and Isabelle a few months ago and really liked it. This one was written in the same dry style, but it was just really depressing. I guess a story where most of the characters think about dying of old age all the time just has less hope and happiness than a book about a mother and daughter.

The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Finally! A book worth staying up late to read!

Mike bought me The Shadow of the Wind for Christmas a few years ago. I liked it, but I was often confused. But, I liked it enough to get on the waiting list for this one.

Wowie Wow Wow! I loved it. It’s beautiful and creepy and scary and awesome!

David Martin (say that like he’s Spanish, cause he is) is a young wanna be journalist who gets a plum job writing serials for the newspaper. This doesn’t make his coworkers like him much, but he still has one friend on staff, Pedro Vidal.

David gets a bizarre invitation from a French publisher to work for him, but he ignores it and goes on to publish many penny dreadfuls under a pen name and gets wildly wealthy. He buys a creepy old house and holes up to write. Every once in a while he gets another invitation from the French publisher.

After this, I can’t tell you anything without giving it all away. Just know that at this point it gets really paranormal. It was awesome. Wait, did I say that already?

I’m so Depressed!!!

If you’re paying attention to that sort of thing, you will notice that tags for this post are “Books” and “Motley Crue”. Once again, two of my favorite things combine.

Or it was supposed to.

In April or May, I found out that Vince Neil (the lead singer of Motley Crue) was going to publish a book this summer called Crued and Tattoed. I was, of course, first in line at the library for it.

Then, last week, I got an email that plunged me into the depths of despair. The library was canceling my request because the book’s publication date had been postponed.

Postponed!!! What?! When?!

Yeah, til October 2012.

3 more years!!!! Whatever shall I do? I guess I’ll just have to read The Dirt again. le sigh

A Giveaway!!!

I have in my possession some really cool Girl with the Dragon Tattoo temporary tattoos. I’ll have a drawing for those. Comment that you want in the drawing for the tattoos.

Also I have a pristine hardbound copy of The Girl Who Played With Fire to giveaway in a drawing (assuming you haven’t already read it!) Comment that you want to be entered in the drawing for the book.

Now, Go!

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo came out last year and made a big splash. It’s a gritty, noirish mystery that takes place in Sweden, of all places.


The Girl Who Played with Fire came out last month. It is the seemingly-long-awaited-but-was-really-only-a-few-months sequel to the first. This is the book I’m giving away.

The author wrote these 2 books and a third in the series and then died of a heart attack. So there are only the 3 ever.