Monday, December 31, 2007

Books Read 2007

1. The Good, the Bad, and the Undead by Kim Harrison
2. The Toyminator by Robert Rankin
3. Twelve Sharp by Janet Evanovich
4. We Are On Our Own by Miriam Katin - A Graphic novel
5. Ask the Parrot by Richard Stark
6. Blood Sucking Fiends: a Love Story by Christopher Moore

7. Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
8. Motor Mouth by Janet Evanovich
9. I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason by Susan Kandel
10. Kitty and the Midnight hour by Carrie Vaughn

11. Marienbad by Sholom Aleichem
12. The Preservationist by David Maine
13. You Suck: A Love Story by Christopher Moore
14. Pet Peeve by Piers Anthony
15. Frankland by James Whorton Jr.
16. The Last Train to Paradise: Henry Flagler... by Lee Standiford
17. Club Dead by Charlaine Harris
18. Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome
19. Life of Pi by Yann Martel

20. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
21. Greywalker by Kat Richardson
22. Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris
23. All Together Dead by Charlaine Harris
24. Bury the Lead by David Rosenfelt
25. Love Overboard (Audiobook) by Janet Evanovich
26. Sudden Death by David Rosenfelt

27. Plum Loving by Janet Evanovich
28 Storm Front By Jim Butcher
29. Undead and Uneasy by Mary Janice Davidson

30. Fool Moon by Jim Butcher
31. In the Company of Ogres by A. Lee Martinez
32. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
33. Grave Peril by Jim Butcher
34. Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman

35. Mysteria (anthology)
36. Rain Fall by Barry Eisler

37. My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding (Anthology)
38. Lemons Never Lie by Donald Westlake

39. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
40. Every Which Way But Dead by Kim Harrison

41. Wildside by Steven C. Gould
42. The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey by Steve Sheinkin

Movies Watched in 2007

1. Pan's Labyrinth
2. The Good Shepherd
3. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
4. Xanadu
5. Live Free or Die Hard
6. The Bourne Ultimatum
7. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
8. Bee Movie
9. National Treasure: Book of Secrets
10. Waitress

Shows Seen in 2007

Jan 07 - I Am My Own Wife, George Street Playhouse, NJ
Feb 07 - Mary Rose, Vineyard Theatre, NYC
Feb 07 - Enemies: A Love Story, Wilma Theatre, Philadelphia
Mar 07 - Souvenir, George Street Playhouse, NJ
Apr 07 - Falsettos, George Street Playhouse, NJ
Jun 07 - SPAMALOT, Shubert Theatre, NYC
Jul 07 - Xanadu, Helen Hayes Theatre, NYC
Jul 07 - Anita Baker at Radio City Music Hall, NYC
Oct 07 - Brian Stokes Mitchell at Carnegie Hall, NYC
Oct 07 - Sunshine Boys, George Street Playhouse, NJ
Nov 07 - Doubt, George Street Playhouse, NJ
Dec 07 - Itzhak Pearlman, NJPAC, NJ
Dec 07 - Boston Pops, NJPAC, NJ

Sunday, November 04, 2007

My Mother in Law Passed Away

She was only 64. She had been sick with Cancer for many months.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

My Father in Law Passed Away

He was only 64. He had a heart condition and it finally claimed him.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Xanadu, the Movie

Sunday I am going to see Xanadu on Broadway. In preparation for this, last night, my Honey and I sat down to watch the movie. This movie was made in 1980 and starred Olivia Newton John and Gene Kelly. It definitely lived up to expectations as one of the worst movies ever made. However, the music is fantastic, many of the songs became hits for Olivia Newton John and ELO. The music is the reason we are going to see the show.

The story line sounds fine on paper. Olivia Newton John plays a muse who comes alive and convinces a young artist to help a retired musician realize his dream of opening a night club. The same muse appeared to this musician as a young man. So who is the muse really there for? The elder or the younger? Doesn't really matter, she helps them both.

Gene Kelly plays the older musician, and he looks great. In the theatre production his role will be played by Tony Roberts, another favorite of mine.

The sets, the costumes, the dance numbers are all ridiculous even for 1980. Even though I was a teenager when this movie was made, I identify more with the Glenn Miller style music, costumes and dancing as envisioned by Gene Kelly in the movie, than with the jarring 1980 rock, silly costumes, and unimpressive dancing envisioned by the young artist.

My Honey heard that some critics blame this movie for the decline of the movie musical. Wouldn't surprise me. Actually, I am more excited to see the show on Broadway, now that I have the music fresh in my head. I think the story is supposedly refreshed, and as a theatre production, Xanadu will outshine the movie.

I will let you know! Tune in next week!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

“There are little pockets of old time in London, where things and places are the same, like bubbles in amber,” she explained

“There’s a lot of time in London, and it has to go somewhere – it doesn’t get used up at once.”

from Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

I loved this book. I read it at the urging of Carl V. on his blog, Stainless Steel Droppings. He is a big fan of Neil Gaiman, and now I understand why. I figured we must have an overlap in taste, since I was a huge fan of Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat books when I was a teen.

Neverwhere is the story of a young man living in London in modern times, who gets caught up in the mysterious world beneath London. He helps a young woman named Door, who has the magic ability to open portals (doors) where there are none. His act of kindness has unexpected ramifications. This story is very absorbing. It is a dark fantasy novel laced with subtle humor, with enough similarities to others in this genre to make it comfortable reading, but enough differences to make it interesting and new. I didn’t want it to end, and I wonder if there is a sequel?

The descriptions of the places and characters in London Below were great. The descriptions of the depraved acts of Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar were truly horrifying, and not for the squeamish. I would have liked to learn more about the character, Door, who is the impellent force behind the story. I thought there was a lot of unexplored potential (I am sure it was deliberate) with this character. Of course the fact that many people call me Door (nickname), and I the fact that I would love to have a magical power, may bias me towards this woman.

I had read one of Neil Gaiman’s books Anasai Boys, a couple of years ago. I liked that book, but for some reason it didn’t make me want to run out and read every book Gaiman ever wrote. Neverwhere struck a more of a chord with me, reminding me of the fun reading I did when I was a teen, and nothing would distract me from the story at hand. I will definitely be reading more Gaiman in the near future.

I took this book out of the library, but I will definitely be buying a couple of copies, one to keep, and one to send to my family to read. Thanks, Carl!

Friday, April 20, 2007

"The chicken thought process, it struck me, was not essentially different from the human one."

"I could imagine a life in which at any moment, I might drop everything and scurry towards some tall fuzzy object that I had reason to believe might toss me a cheese puff. And when the cheese puff did not appear, I could imagine forgetting it almost immediately, distracted by the ground with its tasty red worms and soft leaves of clover. That way of life was not inconceivable to me."

from Frankland by James Whorton Jr.

I just finished this book. I had it on my list to read from 2004 and finally got around to requesting it from the library. They have really improved my local library functionality by allowing you to request an inter-library loan online, and calling you when they get the book in your branch. I don’t remember where I heard about the book, but from now on I will try and note the referral source in my TBR list when I add something.

Anyway. I liked this book. It was light, amusing, absorbing, and a quick read. I liked it because the storyline was not the same old same old. I really liked the characters. The main character is a young man named John Tolley. John doesn’t totally have his act together, like a lot of us. He does know what he wants, unlike a lot of us. What he wants is to become a famous historian, by writing a book on President Andrew Johnson. Nobody is interested in Andrew Johnson. John travels to Tennessee to find some missing papers which will allow him to upset the academic world’s knowledge of Andrew Johnson. The story is about John’s journey and the interesting people he meets along the way. John is a bumbling sort of guy, but had a strong moral compass, and a stubbornness that carries him along. I would recommend reading it when you are in the mood for something amusing, pleasant but not earth shattering or difficult. I am glad I met John Tolley, and you probably will be as well.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Mary Rose: a Ghost Story

A week ago Saturday My Honey and I went to see a preview performance of Mary Rose at the Vineyard Theatre in New York. The play was written by J.M. Barrie (well known for Peter Pan) in 1920. It is a haunting tale of a woman who disappears, and the impact it has on her family. The play is wonderfully staged with a Narrator embedded in the action, adding to the surreal quality of what happens. I read somewhere (maybe the playbill?) that J.M. Barrie’s plays have so much written into them you really need a Narrator to capture some of that color in the staging. I interpret that to mean it would be a fascinating read.


I am going to expand on the story a bit, which may spoil it for those who plan to read it or see it. If you want to avoid that - skip this section. The play shows the reaction of some ordinary people who have to deal with an extraordinary situation. Mary Rose’s parent dealt with her disappearance of 20 days by sharing it with her prospective husband years later when he asks for her hand. They then have to deal with her second disappearance. She leaves behind a young child and distraught husband. Her parents deal with it by living in the here and now, the everyday. Her husband throws himself into his work. The boy runs off when he is about 12. You never really know what happened, what undercurrents of unspoken angst cause the boy to run off. You learn he has joined the army.

When Mary Rose reappears again 25 years later, she hasn’t aged at all. Mary Rose doesn’t understand what happened or why everyone else has aged. She is looking for her child. Eventually they all pass on, and Mary Rose becomes a ghost still looking for he child, however she has long forgotten what she is looking for.

I think the ending is rather nice. The soldier, Mary Rose’s grown up son, has come to the house where his mother lives/haunts, and tries to find out what happened to her. He shows obvious compassion for the ghost/mother who has no idea who he is. There is a message here. There are many messages here. What I like about the writing is that, even someone like me, who can never read between the lines, is able to get some of it. It isn’t farcical or blatant, but still obvious enough at some level. It isn’t just a mystery, but a study in human nature.

End of Spoiler

My Honey and I went into NYC early to hit a few tea shops in preparation for our tea party (see previous post). We didn’t have as much luck finding cool stuff as we usually do, but the play certainly made up for that. The theatre is “off Broadway” and located downtown in the bottom of a building. The stairs are somewhat steep, and the theatre was drafty. One poor woman almost fell down the stairs when her foot got stuck in her coat hem. As I was on the stairs right in front of her, I got a shot of adrenaline with the fear. Can I catch her? Will she go over the railing? Luckily she was able to catch herself on the railing, and I just gave her a hand getting untangled. Whew!

Back to the show. We loved it. We were sitting in the front row, and felt very close to the action. A real theatre experience. The story has definitely been echoed in later works – I am thinking of Picnic at Hanging Rock (in my opinion one of the scariest movies ever made), and my Honey was thinking he saw echoes of several Hitchcock films. A bonus for my Honey – the Narrator was played by Keir Dullea, who played the main character “David Bowman” in 2001: A Space Odyssey. We hung around after the show, and Mr. Dullea was nice enough to autograph the copy of the DVD we brought along.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Afternoon Tea Party

Sunday my Honey and I had a little tea party at our house. In preparation, we dug our tea ball collection out from the drawer, bought a little wooden display case, and hung our collection on the kitchen wall. This was quite a project in itself, but we both have been admiring the result everyday since we hung it.

I made maple scones and lemon blueberry scones. I made little tea sandwiches with the crusts cut off. My Honey made a lovely chocolate macadamia nut cake. We set out our fanciest afternoon tea accessories, including a deep blue table cloth with a lemon design. We found this French tablecloth in New Orleans about 5 or 6 years ago. We love to find stuff when we travel and then use it for entertaining. We had my parents, and some friends from work. We invited the neighbors, but they were sick with colds and couldn’t make it. Ah well, maybe next time. More chocolate dipped strawberries for the rest of us!

It was really great fun. We made pots of tea, and good conversation. One of the couples is from England and Scotland, so we grilled them on tea customs, and such. They brough a lovely homemade dessert called Pavlova. Delicious. I think it must be very popular in England, although the sources on the web I found indicated it orignated in Australia.

I thoroughly enjoyed the party. I think our guests did as well (at least they said they did)! It was a nice way to add a little color to displace the grey mid winter feeling we get each year. We have already started planning for a mid winter party next year. I thought an “Open Mike Night” at the house would be a fun idea, so if you are hoping for an invitation – you had better start polishing your act!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Making My Blog a Diary

Well, I originally wanted to have a book blog, but I don't read fast enough, nor do I tend to read anything particularly intellectual. Not that the books have to be intellectual for one to talk about them. It just ain't enough for me to make a blog out of. So I have decided to try making this blog more of a diary - you know, talking about the day to day stuff. I think it might suit me a bit better. Just mentioning the trivial stuff that makes life life, each day some good, some bad, some shallow thoughts, some deep thoughts. My Honey and I do a lot of very cool and interesting things so I have plenty to talk about. As you will find out. If this blog thing works for me. It might become more of a record for me, but what the heck - I don't have any readers yet anyway...

Yesterday was Valentines Day. I think the holiday is a big scam foisted off on the public by the media and by retail establishments. Actually, you may find out in the days and weeks and months ahead I think a lot of things are scams! Anyway, back to Valentine's Day. Guilt if you ignore it. Stress if you forget about it. Fun if you remember it in advance enough and plan accordingly. Nothing serious about it.

We had a wintery mix of sleet, freezing rain and snow in my area. Bad for the restaurants who were counting on some Valentine's Day diners. I heard today that in NYC only about 50% of the people showed up for their reservations. Haven't verified that figure. Anyway my Honey and I exchanged lovely romantic cards. I gave him a cool USB hub thingy that looks like the nuclear launch code button in the beginning of the movie War Games, and a set of "Key Shaped" knife spreaders for entertaining. He gave me a set of Valentine's Day salt and pepper shakers that are red and white man and woman hugging. We collect salt and pepper shakers. I guess I should post a picture of them. (I'll add that later). Also he gave me a Rubbermaid deviled egg storage container. This is the greatest invention since Devilled eggs themselves! I don't know why I didn't think they invented something like this. Makes it a heck of a lot easier to store the finished eggs in the fridge, and to transport them to a party. I am a big fan of deviled eggs.

I am trying to finish reading Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer. I have been very absorbed in it on the train (commuting to and from work), but haven't really been getting into it at home. The book is very strange. It annoyed me at first, but now I see how cool it really is. The structure is so complex, but it really works. The novel is built on a series of connected short story-fantasy versions of some imagined family history related to a Jewish town destroyed in WWII. The stories seem to me to be a spiritual interpretation of reality similar to something you might read in some Yiddish stories or perhaps something by the Bal Shem Tov. Or maybe not quite that lofty. I have only read that kind of thing in English translation so I could be way off on this. I am not a scholar of this kind of writing or story telling. The counterpoint is provided as a series of letters from a Ukrainian teenager who acted as a tour guide to the American writer who went to the Ukraine to try and find some of his family history. Comic relief is provided by the English words used in error by the teenager, as he practices his English. The story he writes is a story of the "tour" and the story of his family.

I know the book was made into a movie, so after I finish it I will watch the movie and see how it compares. I can't imagine how this book could have been captured in a movie.

More later...

Monday, January 08, 2007

2006 Reading in Review

I like books that stick with me. If the concept or the characters or the story line, or the gimmick pop up unbidden into my head days after I have finished the book it definitely makes it to the "Good Book" list. In 2006 one of the books that I found to be enthralling was "A Brief History of the Dead" by Kevin Brockmeier. This concept is something new. Something I have not run across before. The descriptions are beautiful. The book is written from the perspective of the Dead who live in a city much like the Living. The consensus among the characters is that they stay in existence as long as someone who is living remembers them. There is a parallel and interwoven story from the perspective of a living woman. Her life takes place in a future not all that distant from our own.
I don't want to give away too much. This is a short book. I highly recommend it.
Here is an excerpt:

Update on From the Stacks Winter Reading Challenge

I have utterly failed at my first challenge among the Book Blogging community. I do have plenty of excuses. I also learned something from this. My eyes are bigger than my stomach. Or maybe its visa versa...

I can't force myself to read what I am not in the mood for. If I don't enjoy a book I tend to get stuck about half way through. Perhaps it isn't so terrible to give up on a book altogether. Depends on why I wanted to read the book in the first place. Reading is supposed to be a pleasure, and with so much stress in the rest of life, I want to be careful not to ruin that pleasure by making unnecessary rules for myself! I am officially resigning from the challenge...

I got stuck on the first book on my list Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton. I really wanted to read this book. I even got a personalized signed copy, that my Mom had signed for me when she met with Hillary last year. I love books signed by the author.

Parts of this book are interesting, but I should have realized how much of the book would be propaganda. I like Hillary. I like Bill. I even have a signed copy of his autobiography, although it isn't personalized, I did get to shake his hand when he signed it. I don't care much about their personal relationships, and I definitely don't want to start any political arguments.

Despite being a political science major in college, I don't really like politics all that much. I am more interested in the theory and social implications behind what happens than the actual gory details.

I am disappointed in this book. I am not learning what I hoped to learn from this book. I feel that Hillary is just saying what she thinks she should say. I was hoping that she would show a side of herself that was more "like the rest of us". I was hoping for some reaction to the act of living and creating history. There are maybe one or two sections where this happens. I guess I just can't relate to her background, and I feel like her motivations are artificially described or that she is holding something back. I believe she believes in her motivations, but it sounds like the book was dictated to a public relations person, who cleaned out all the sincere emotion. As Dennis Miller says " Of course that's just my opinion, I could be wrong".

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Why Keep a List of Books You Have Read

I first started keeping a list of books I was reading because my memory was getting worse. If I read a book in a series that I liked but didn't love, I could never remember where I was in the series, especially when the titles were similar. Having a list meant I could check back and see the latest I read. I also starting tracking the dates the books were completed to see if there were any trends. What do you know - there were trends. It seems that I never read much in March and April, or October and November. Or at least I don't finish anything. I can conjecture about why this is...October and November I am very busy with entertaining for holidays, and have less time available. March and April I am also busy entertaining, but I think the more likely answer is that I am starting a lot of new books, and just have not completed them.

Aside: Here is question - how long can you be "reading" a book, before it doesn't count. If you put it down and don't pick it up again for 3 months - are you still reading it? I guess if you don't have to start over, that counts for something. At what point do you give up and say I am just not going to be reading this book?

I started tracking the genre or subject matter of the books in my list so that I would see where I was focused, and be able to tell myself when I needed to broaden my exposure. That hasn't really worked as well as I had hoped. I made some progress in 2005, but totally relapsed in 2006. I added a lot of books to my "to be read" list or stack in 2006, but didn't manage to read much of the non fiction, or books with international settings. I did manage to read a few "classics" (loosely defined), but didn't finish all of them. I like to read books that totally distract me from reality, especially if I am feeling stressed out. So I read books about magic, witches and vampires and science fiction/fantasy. I tried reading one book at a time to force myself to finish some of the unfinished stuff, and to make progress on the stuff I want myself to read, but that just caused me to find excuses to not read at all. You really have to be in the mood for a certain book to get into it.

My goals for 2007 include reducing the old lists and stacks of books I want to read, mixing up the genres and subjects as much as possible. This is basically the same goal I had in 2006 that I failed at! I'll just keep trying different approaches...

Do you have a method for dealing with your "TBR" pile? I would love to hear what works for other readers.