Sunday, January 13, 2013

Books, Snot and Teen Role Models

I have finally managed to get some reading done and I plowed through Gone Girl, Robopocalypse, The Weird Sisters and The Book of Mormon Girl. I am also halfway through a biography of Catherine the Great.

I thought Gone Girl was well-written and suspenseful and, having waited MONTHS for my library copy, I eagerly read on to find out how the story ended. It was all so diabolical, very "Fatal Attraction", and then I was SO disappointed in the last few pages! Ugh.Ugly story about ugly people and an innocent victim. I liked it almost up to the last page so overall I can see how people love it so much. I have Gillian Flynn's second book to read (I read and liked her first book) so she is definitely an author worth reading.

The Weird Sisters is one of those books about a quirky family (and aren't so many of these books always about sisters?!) and how their childhood formed their (faulty) adult personalities and how they finally grow up when they all come home to their quirky parents and they have fanciful names (in this case Rosamond, Bianca and Cordelia) and their parents have lives too and...well, you get the picture. It was fine; it was forgettable.

Robopocalypse was great. I just got it via Paperback Swap and it happened to be in the news this week because Stephen Spielberg is supposed to direct a film version in a couple of years. 

The Book of Mormon Girl by Joanna Brooks was interesting and a quick read. My favorite passage:

        "The year we all turned twelve, the boys in my Sunday School class received the priesthood: the spiritual authority to lead, bless and baptize, passed from Mormon father to Mormon son by the laying on of hands.....
        ....I got Marie Osmond's Guide to Beauty, Health and Style.
        Which is not to say I would have ever traded."

This cracked me up! I think there were more than a few of us, Mormon and non-Mormon alike, who looked to Marie as an icon. So what is it about Marie? She was surrounded by brothers and had no sisters. *I* was surrounded by (albeit only two) brothers and had no sisters! She was a brunette. *I* was a brunette! She lived with Donny! Many of us were hoping to live with Donny someday! (Or Alan, Wayne, Merrill, Jay or even Jimmy --- and yes, many of us  COULD tell them apart!) And the "Donny & Marie" TV show on Friday nights? It ran from 1976 to 1979, my prime high school years.

I never had Marie's book but I had something JUST AS GOOD: Seventeen Magazine! Recently, when I was going through my aunt's old boxes of sewing and knitting booklets I came across this picture and I recognized the woman in the picture:

(I think I may have just one blog reader --- Lady Chardonnay --- who will recognize the model.) Her name is Jayne Modean and along with Phoebe Cates, another Seventeen Magazine regular, she was one of our style icons.
I remember reading Seventeen religiously from 1976 to 1980, the years coinciding with my high school years. I actually had a bunch of the short stories from the magazine saved in a file folder but I finally got rid of it many years ago. It was also the very first place I read about a new film called "Star Wars". This was the picture they used:

Which meant NOTHING to me. I couldn't imagine anything much about the movie. I do recall thinking What is she looking at in the giant bowl? I don't even recall wondering about the bun hairstyle because the photo was pretty tiny in the magazine and I'm not sure it was obvious. I have no memory of C3PO either so maybe he was cropped from the picture or robots did NOT impress me. The movie hadn't come out yet and no one knew the impact it would have across the decades. But in retrospect, I find it interesting that the publicity shot they used was of Leia rather than Luke or Han.

Anyway, back to Ms. Modean. She had a tiny acting career (I remember seeing her in a "Cheers" episode) and she married (and divorced) Bob Coulier, the least famous guy from "Full House". I don't know what she does now.

(Phoebe Cates became an icon from her role in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High", uttered the line "Which one of you bitches is my mother?" in the craptastic miniseries "Lace" and married Kevin Kline so I guess she was the TRUE style icon of our youth.)

Interestingly, Seventeen really does become obsolete once you turn 18. At that point we (Lady C and I) switched to Cosmopolitan, with its fun quizzes, annual horoscope booklet and references to a possible sex life that was as vague as it was titillating. God, we loved Cosmo!And yet I outgrew that one too, probably by my late 20s.

So where is the SNOT we were promised according to your title? I hear you ask not even a little bit.

The snot paradox: how can so much moisture exist in one's nose while simultaneously leaving it chafed and DRY?

I have started winding down from the absolute worst of the mid-week nadir so I am blowing my nose less but coughing more. I also began using the expired (by one month) bottle of saline nasal spray every night before bed and that's been a big help. I originally got it for my trip to Colorado but what with my recently acquired hay fever, I never needed it there. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Sick, sick sick...

I have been so very sick this last week with a really horrendous cold. Yesterday was the worst day and I spent all day in bed. (The worst days are the ones where I feel so awful I can't even read or watch TV to fill the time.)

I'm at the point where I have a deep, wracking cough which makes it difficult to fall asleep. I either feel like I'm drowning in mucus or I get that little dry spot that makes it seem like all oxygen has been sucked from the room. Fun.

This is how bad I am feeling: I still haven't watched the first part of "Downton Abbey" from Sunday night! And I was completely unaware that it was Oscar nomination time!

I plan to be back to form in a day or two. I hope.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

December 2012 Books

Here's the final list of books I read in 2012. A mere 10 to report but I think that's pretty good for a month like December where other things take priority over reading time.


  • Elizabeth the Queen by Sally Bedell Smith
    • An interesting biography of Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain. This was a straightforward account, not sensationalized at all. I think many authors might have succumbed to placing more importance on Diana's life but, really, this was such a small part of the queen's life overall that the author placed it in its proper place: part of the story but not the focus.
    • One always tends to forget that Elizabeth probably wouldn't have been queen if her uncle hadn't abdicated the throne for Wallis Simpson. If he had married "properly" then his children would have inherited the throne, not his niece.
    • This is a new book so it cover everything right up until the marriage of William and Catherine but stops before the London Olympics. We don't get any scoop on the queen's decision to (pretend to) skydive into the stadium with James Bond.
    • A lot of the coverage concerned the queen's relationship with each of her prime ministers and the presidents of the United States (and their wives). For example, Queen Elizabeth met the Kennedys in the early 1960s and while Jacqueline Kennedy was only about 33, the queen was only 3 years older. 
      • This is interesting because my memories of each of these women really began when they were both in their 40s, so they always seemed old to me (now that I'm 50, I have revised my definition of "old"). But they were so young when they met!
    • B+
  • Buffy: The Making of a Vampire Slayer by Nancy Holder
    • One of my Christmas presents, I finished this book on December 26!
    • Background on the making of the TV series "Buffy The Vampire Slayer". It's apparently the first authorized retrospective (there are TONS of Buffy books out there --- I own several already).
    • It was certainly interesting but too short! So I started watching the show on Amazon Prime. Just started Season 3 last night!
    • B
  • America Again: Re-Becoming the greatness We Never Weren't by Stephen Colbert
    • The thesis of the book is basically predicated on the fact that many people believe  that "America is great but we need to fix it". If you watch "The Colbert Report" then you will have heard almost all of the book's points on the show. This was a pretty quick read and I look forward to when Mr. Colbert (and Mr. Jon Stewart!) get back to work next week!
    • B
  • And the Rest is History: The Famous (and Infamous) First Meetings of the World's Most Passionate Couples by Marlene Wagman-Geller
    • This is a perfectly acceptable book for reading in the bathroom or between tasks in the kitchen. The chapters are short. You will have heard of almost every couple.
    • Many of the footnotes --- and doesn't that usually indicate to you that the book is somehow more scholarly? --- are sourced from Wikipedia! Now, I love and adore Wikipedia myself but as one of a book's main sources? No. And I am shocked that the publisher allowed it.
    • The writing is adequate. My very favorite sentence of the whole book, during the chapter on Linda Eastman and Paul McCartney, referencing Linda's first husband: "They divorced in 1965; he committed suicide in 2000." These two things are PROBABLY unrelated but the semi-colon makes it seem as if he killed himself due to the divorce 35 years earlier.
    • C-
  • American Nations: A History of the Eleven Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard
    • This book was fascinating. I've been annoying people all week telling them about it in (no doubt boring) detail.
    • The author posits that due to the patterns of settlement in North America the various areas developed distinct regional cultures that exist to this day. He starts from the earliest settlements to the 2008 election.
    • A+
  • The Fire Chronicle by John Stevens
    • Part 2 of the Books of Beginning trilogy, a children's series. Three siblings live in an orphanage but it turns out they are prophesied to find the Books of Beginning, repositories of magical knowledge. In the first book eldest sister Kate finds and learns how to use the Emerald Atlas, a time traveling book. In this one, middle sibling Michael finds and masters the Fire Chronicle. (Presumably younger sister Emma will find the 3rd book in the next installment.)
    • This series is pretty good. Except for the overall story, which of course has some loose ends to wrap up, the books are complete adventures in themselves. And the gist of the first book is mentioned so you don't get lost trying to remember something you read a year or two ago. 
    • I am looking forward to the final book which I think will come out this summer.
    • B+
  • Reached by Ally Condie
    • Unlike the book above, this book assumes you remember everything from prior books and does not refresh your memory. It's almost as if it was one big book and then it was broken into 3 pieces for sale purposes.
    • Anyway, this is a young adult dystopian novel and the conclusion of a trilogy. 
    • Nothing much happens in the first couple hundred pages. The three main characters, who were assigned positions as part of the Rebellion at the end of the last book, remain in their places and you keep waiting for the rebellion against the Society to begin but it never really does. And then it turns out (spoiler alert!) that the Society and the Rebellion are basically working together so the whole thing fizzles out (they want to make small changes to keep the populace docile and unrebellious). They mention a different land (the Otherlands?) where people escape to but never return from so you kind of assume this will play a part in the conclusion. Nope, mentioned but never explained.
    • And big whoop, the girl Cassia picks the same boy, Ky, by the end of the series whom she has loved from the start. No big mystery there. Plus, I am not a big fan of the "Romeo and Juliet" school of romance. Isn't it possible that Cassia and Ky grow up and mature further and decide they love someone else? Does Katniss HAVE to choose between Peta and Gale? Isn't it possible she meets someone else eventually? And are even Bella and Edward going to want to stay together for (literal) eternity? 
      • I'm obviously a cynic regarding this area. Yes, some young romances last forever but most do not. I really dislike the whole "girl needs to save the world and choose between one of two boys" scenario.
      • Man, I really write more about the books I dislike than the books I like!
    • The book art is really great.
    • D
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
    • I saw the movie first (also written and directed by the author) and really loved it. He did a great job putting his book on screen. I liked the characters and I liked the interpretation of the actors who played them onscreen.
    • FYI, above are the book cover (minimalist) and the movie poster.
    • B
  • Divergent by Veronica Roth
  • Insurgent by Veronica Roth
    • Yep, another dystopian young adult series! In this case books 1 and 2.
    • This has the same basic pattern of all these books: strong teen girl put into a situation; she's somehow different than the others; there's a boy or two to pick from; rinse and repeat.
    • This one doesn't have the second boy to choose from so that's something. This one ended on an intriguing note so I am looking forward to the next (jokingly called "Detergent" on the author's blog). I hope this series doesn't end with a fizzle!
    • B for both 
That's it for 2012! I read 120 books altogether. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Welcome 2013!

We had a nice New Year's Eve. We had our friends CPA Michelle and her husband JQ over for dinner and The Boy joined us because The Girl had to work (she's a barista at Starbucks). We had our usual snacks from Trader Joe's (minus the blue cheese dip because it was all gone by the time I sent The Boy to get a few last-minute items) and some yummy chocolate fondue.

Our chit chat ranged from the Fiscal Cliff (mainly because it affects the work of the two CPAs) to our cars (3 out of 4 of us drive a Prius --- SUCH Californians we are!) and our kids. The Fiscal Cliff discussion was popular because, for the CPA-types at the table, it is difficult to advise clients what to do if Congress has not yet acted and you don't know what the tax levels will be for the coming year. We talked of many other things, non-CPA-related, so we had a nice time.

They left early though (CPA Michelle is already working on 2012 things for her clients) so CPA Boy and I repaired to the family room and watched more episodes of "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" on Amazon Prime. We've been watching all week and we are almost through Season 2. 

Just before midnight The Boy came back downstairs and we switched over to watch the ball drop in New York City. Then we went to bed. We are SUCH party animals.

Today our dinner will be cheese fondue. I am going to broil some chicken, boil some shrimp and fry up some cocktail weenies. With the French bread we should have a yummy dinner. (And a bit of leftover chocolate fondue too.)

One of the ingredients for cheese fondue is something called kirsch. I was not sure what it was except that it was some sort of cherry brandy. I was afraid it was going to be extremely expensive (I only need about a tablespoon or two) and only available in a huge bottle but it was reasonably cheap in a small bottle labeled kirschwasser (which means "cherry water" in German).

I went for a walk this morning. The weather is pretty good this week: blue skies with temperatures in the 50s. And some wind which made my eyes water.

I also ran for a small part of the way. So walk to warm up, run for about 30 seconds, walk to recover, run some more and so on. My goal is to run more and more as time goes by. I realize this isn't great for my knees but I just really want to run! Plus I think it gets my heart working a bit harder.

Pops is right though: except for Neighbor Shirley who wished me a happy new year as she drove by, NO ONE said "hi" back to me as I walked by. So rude.

On the plus side? No one was walking dogs! I have a slight dog phobia (the bigger the dog the stronger the phobia) so this was a nice break.

And --- let's ignore the fact that dinner tonight is CHEESE fondue --- it is so much easier to eat right after you do some exercise! So back in the saddle again.