Stephen King’s New Book and a trip to the library

April 10, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I heart Stephen King. I’ve read The Stand four times. Each time a new book in the Dark Tower series released, I would reread the series. I remember when The Green Mile came out as a serial, I worked in a bookstore and I would get first dibs on the latest edition. But my love for him has waned a bit. His last handful of novels have been decent, the ones I’ve gotten around to reading, anyway. Under the Dome and Full Dark, No Stars were my favorites. But never in my years of reading my favorite author have I finished his novel, flipped back to the beginning, and started all over again. Until now.

You can read a synopsis of 11/22/63 here. They write those things better than I can. Just know that this book was so good that I didn’t think twice about reading its 849 pages over again. I read online that Jonathan Demme, of Silence of the Lambs fame, will be directing the film version, set to start shooting this fall. Stephen King will serve as executive producer. I knew right from page one that this would make an excellent movie. Let’s hope they do the book justice. Many Stephen King adaptations fall flat, but just a few (The Green Mile and Shawshank Redemption among them) become instant hits.

My only gripe (SPOILER ALERT!!) was that the romance didn’t resonate with me as much as I wish it had. When I read The Time Traveler’s Wife, I was absolutely balling at the end. Seriously, weeping openly on the subway on my second read, and weeping unapologetically in bed on my third read. (Can you tell I like that book, too?) But Sadie’s death, not a tear. I thought perhaps I’d read it too fast the first time – it was such a page turner, I couldn’t put it down – but even on my slower second read, no tears. It was sad. But not in a way that makes me grab a Kleenex. And I wish it had been. (OK, SPOILERS OVER)

This book was meticulously researched, and I found myself on Wiki constantly looking up the countless references to pop culture of the 50s and 60s. I’m sure if I’d lived during this era these things would have instantly made sense to me. But it was still fun to look them up. It was also fascinating to speculate what Oswald’s life was like, how he was with his wife and child, what sort of person he was.

I finished my second read just in time for another trip to the library. It had been awhile since I’d tried to coordinate my books with Liam’s, and it was tough this go around. In the Afterward to 11/22/63, Stephen King gave props to writer Jack Finney and his book Time and Again, lauding it as the best book about time travel ever. Judging from the synopsis, this time traveler also falls in love with a woman from the past. I’ll be interested to see if this love story is better.

And because I think my brain needs a break from all this time travel stuff, I picked up Stewart O’Nan’s humorous novel Last Night at the Lobster, which I’d heard about on NPR. It’s about a manager of a Red Lobster set to go out of business right before Christmas, and about his rather depressing (but in a funny way!) last day.

For Liam, the best I could do in a very crowded and disheveled kid’s section was The Wizard by Jack Prelutsky. The illustrations, by Brandon Dorman, are stunning, and it says on the cover that the author is a “children’s poet laureate.” Whatever that means. But it’s about magic. And what’s more magical than time travel?

More Books for Me and Liam

January 24, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Liam and I had ourselves a little library outing today. We were both sad to have to return the John Lithgow picture books, especially Micawber. While riding the sea-themed carousel at Sea World, I heard a snippet of what sounded like John Lithgow singing about Manatees. Sure enough, we found I’m a Manatee complete with CD inside the back cover. We can’t wait to listen to it!

Thinking of our week with Stanley, I scoured the children’s shelves for the Flat Stanley book. A helpful librarian pointed me in the right direction – to the juvenile fiction section. Yikes, this book has a lot of words for a three-year-old! But I should have known, since it was assigned for Devin’s first grade class. I’m not sure if Liam will have the patience to sit through me reading it, but we’ll give it a try. At the very least I’ll be sure to read it so I’ll know what all this Flat Stanley hubbub is about!

I did my best to once again tie in some of my reading material to Liam’s. I checked out Orlando: Then and Now and Erik Larson’s latest offering, In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin. So, yeah, that last one was pretty much impossible. Not too many picture books about the Third Reich. The best I could do was Going on a Journey to the Sea, about a boy and his sister traveling to the beach. Technically there aren’t any beaches in Orlando…but they’re only an hour away. It’ll have to do.

Learning at the Library

January 4, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Pretty recently Liam has understood the concept of checking out books at the library. Last year all he wanted to do was play with the toys and puzzles in the kids section. But now he delights in putting the old books in the return slot and picking out new books with me. What makes this especially fun the last couple times we’ve been is I’ve somehow been able to check out books for both Liam and I on similar subject matters. After watching Cars and Cars 2 about a billion times, I got on a real map and high way history kick. I checked out The Big Roads (about the history of the highway system in the US) and Mapheads by Ken Jennings, of Jeopardy fame. Then for Liam I happened to find Jackson and Bud’s Bumpy Ride, about the first cross-country trip in the early 20th Century by the infamous Horatio Jackson, which was instigated by a $50 bet he never even collected. Liam and I read his book every night, and I was delighted to read a small passage all about it in The Big Roads one night.

For our most recent library outing, I checked out John Lithgow’s memoir Drama: An Actor’s Education, so I picked up two children’s books by Lithgow himself: I Got Two Dogs and Macawber. Both come with a CD with the actor singing or narrating the story. And both are super cute. We may have to check out the rest of his children’s books next time. I also found Swamplandia! by Karen Russell, which satisfies my urge to read everything having to do with my new home state. For Liam I found There’s an Alligator Under My Bed by one of my favorite children’s authors, Mercer Meyer.

I’m not sure if I’ll be able to keep this up. Not every subject matter I read about lends itself well to preschool-age reading material. I also just finished The Help (borrowed from my mom), but I doubt I’d find much about 60s civil rights that Liam would have any interest in. But I do have an eclectic list of books I’m always on the lookout for, all of which have come from either interviews with the author or recommendations from the book critics on NPR. I also plan to buy Stephen King’s new book 11/22/63, and the complete Game of Thrones series for my Nook, which might prove challenging to tie in with Liam’s reading material. But maybe it’s worth a shot – so far it’s been fun trying to hunt through the kid’s section for a relevant book. Liam usually has his own requests, too – last time he requested a book with a red truck and then something with a pig. Quite a scavenger hunt, but fun nonetheless.

The Start of a Busy Month

November 4, 2011 at 7:46 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I heart November in Florida. See, normally I’m not too fond of November because the weather turns blah, the sun goes down earlier, and everything dies. But not so here! I’m realizing there’s quite a bit to be thankful for in November. Not least of which was my early birthday present, the iPhone 4S! I took the above photo with it at the park, and the ease and quality far outmatch the 3G model I had before. It even has a flash! I also tested out the video component, which you can watch below.

The vertical format is a little wonky, but I can easily turn the camera the other way. It just seemed to make more sense because of the long, vertical slide. It’s so nice having a handy video and still camera that fits easily in my pocket. Plus, all my apps run lightening fast, and there’s a voice-activated “helper” component that supposedly obeys your commands – though I’ve had rather limited success using it. Still, this is a rockin’ birthday gift.

In other news, Liam’s potty training is progressing fairly well. The sticker chart is doing its job, more so now that I introduced a prize basket that I filled with dollar store toys. He’s been sitting still for diaper changes, sitting on the potty once or twice a day, feeding himself with a fork and spoon (for the most part), and brushing his teeth without fits, all in exchange for stickers on his chart. Today he actually peed in the potty on purpose (hooray!), which earned him an instant prize from the basket. So far so good.

I just finished an interesting book my mother recommended called The Introvert’s Advantage. My mom is a bit of an introvert, but after reading it, she saw several chapters that would help me as an extrovert deal with my introvert husband and son. There were chapters on relationships (though, I think James and I have worked through most of those issues on our own. It helps that I’m sort of middle-of-the-road between extrovert and introvert, and he’s not so severely introverted, according to the test in the book.) There was also insightful advice on how to deal with an introverted child, especially if you’re an extroverted parent. For instance, introverted children need a break from crowded spaces and situations. Liam will actually say to me, “I need a break.” And we’ll walk away into the corner to calm down. Some of this behavior he may outgrow, but if he’s anything like his daddy, a lot of it will stick around.

Tomorrow I’m off to Downtown Disney at the ungodly hour of 4:30 AM to buy up discounted Disney merchandise from the Disney Store. James’ boss offered to take me, and I’m hoping she’s a veteran at this and can give me some pointers. I’ve got lots of nephews (and niece!) to buy for, plus Liam. James even put in some requests.

James’ passport arrived surprisingly fast, so Monday we’re headed to the DMV to get his FL license, then on to the AAA office to pick up discounted Disney World Annual Passes. If we can manage, we may even swing by Disney for dinner and to take a look around. It will be my and the boy’s first trip, with Disney veteran James as our guide. And if we don’t make it this time, we can go with my friend Tori in town at the end of November, and we’ll probably be going again with my in-laws at Christmas. Plus James has grand plans to take a day off each month so we can go. Going to get some mileage out of these things!

Next weekend we’re headed to St. Augustine to do some sightseeing for a day. They say this is the best time of year to go. And tomorrow night is also date night: James wants to see Anonymous, and if all goes accordingly, we’ll be eating Turkish food at The Bosphorous Restaurant.

Whew. Busy November, indeed!

Twilight Eclipse

July 4, 2010 at 1:51 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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After much anticipation, I finally saw the newest edition to the Twilight series: Eclipse. Being a Saturday night, we bought our tickets earlier in the day, and arrived at the theater an hour ahead of time. Turns out all that precaution was for naught – we had plenty of time to snag a good seat, and even enough time for a little pre-movie shoe shopping. I hoped this wasn’t a bad sign, that so few people were seeing this movie on a Saturday night.

But that fear was also for naught — this movie is not bad. Not bad at all. Still not as good as the book, but when is the movie ever as good as the book? In fact, this is hands down my favorite of the trilogy thus far. The chemistry between Edward and Bella finally clicked for me, and my Team Jacob stance started to waver. At least until Jacob took his shirt off, lol. There were some hilarious lines in this film, notably when Edward says to Bella about Jacob, “Does this guy even own a shirt?” My favorite scene in the book, when Jacob and Edward have their heart-to-heart in the tent while Bella is sleeping, was also my favorite scene in the movie. Hats off, boys, you played it well. I also loved Edward’s proposal to Bella, another strike for Team Edward. It’s almost too bad that I know how this all ends from reading the books. I remember when I got to this stage in the novels, I was so torn over who Bella would choose. In the books I loved Edward, but I also loved Jacob’s humor and playfulness. I think both of these aspects came through in this installment of the movie, much better than in the first two.

I particularly liked the flashbacks in the vampire storylines, another of my favorite parts from the book. I’m sure there were lots of points from the book that didn’t make it into the movie, but I didn’t even notice. Perhaps I’m getting senile in my old age – I just re-read Eclipse last fall after I saw New Moon. Or perhaps this adaptation didn’t feel like it was missing anything. There were some additions, like the valedictorian speech, which I don’t remember in the book. But I think they only helped enhance the story.

I can’t wait for the next installment, Breaking Dawn, which I hear is being broken into two films. I’m curious where they’ll end the first and start the second – perhaps with the birth of Renesmee? I want to re-read Breaking Dawn, but I’ve been waiting for them to finally release it in paperback so it’ll match the format of my collection. According to my research, it’s looking like early August of this year, unless I want to order it from overseas and pay as much as the hardcover. Since I’ve already read it, I think it’s worth the wait.

My non-mom life

January 20, 2010 at 1:39 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Lest you think my whole life has been sucked into stay-at-home-momdom, I have had a surprising amount of free time to watch TV and read. Thanks to the DVR (blessed contraption!), I can catch up on all my shows after Liam goes to bed. And I can usually get in at least a good chapter or two in whatever book I’m reading at the moment. I’m certainly not as speedy as I used to be (especially in NYC when I was reading on the train and at lunch, about 3 hours a day!), but it’s better than I expected.

Right now I’m reading Richard Dawkin’s atheist manifesto The God Delusion. For as long as I can remember I’ve teetered along the edge of agnostic and athiest, but I’ve never been able to adaquately argue why I feel that way. I’ve just always felt in my gut that I don’t believe — which sounds a lot like the reason some people give for being religious! Dawkins is a bit harsher than I would ever be, but he does make the point that most of us feel like we need to tip toe around religion so as not to offend, and I definitely agree with that. I do it out of politeness — I like my religious friends, I respect their points of view, and I don’t want to get into an impassioned debate that might turn ugly. But I did have some wonderful religious conversations with my friend Lisa last week, which prompted me to dust off this book and finally dive in.

As for TV, I’m loving the new show Modern Family on ABC. Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, and Chuck are also on my comedy favs list. James and I have been watching more TV together — along with those three, we watch House, Bones, and Castle. The DVR goes into overdrive on Thursdays, much to James’s chagrin, since it’s almost entirely shows he doesn’t like — Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, The Office, 30 Rock, and Project Runway. I’m excited for Lost to come back in February — last season, wow!! — and Burn Notice is returning this week, yay! Finally, I’m finishing up Joss Whedon’s disappointing Dollhouse, a cool idea that I’m convinced flopped because of Eliza Dushku. Better luck next time, Joss! Firefly rules!

Besides books and TV, I’m also doing my pilates routine ever morning (my abs have become embarrassingly flabby), and I’m doing yoga once a week at Blue Heron. The weather’s been nice lately, so Liam and I have been going on lots of walks. I think he missed the swings. And I’ve spent most of this week on fruitless hold with the KS unemployment office. I haven’t received a payment for two weeks, and I’m beginning to think a lot of people didn’t get theirs, either. The line is either busy, or after going through 20 minutes on hold, it hangs up on me. As far as I can tell I should be getting this week’s installment…but we may come up short this month if it doesn’t go through soon. I’m paranoid they’re going to cut me off completely. Hence the constant redialing. Sigh.

New Year Randomness

January 4, 2010 at 11:24 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I don’t have anything very coherent to write, so I’m just going to bulletpoint some random musings as they occur to me. Here we go:

  • I’m so, so glad it’s finally 2010. Not because I’m anxious for new beginnings, but because I’m tired of saying “two thousand nine” or “two thousand eight.” Finally, I can say “twenty ten” and be done with it.
  • Long John Silvers is celebrating 40 years…yes, 40 years of gut-wrenching gluttony that for some reason I crave on a semi-regular basis. I’ve been hankering for a chicken plank all week, but the closest LJS is 20 miles from here. I thought I had it made coming back from the Baltimore airport today right at the lunch hour — according to the website there was a restaurant not too far out of the way back home. But ever since I spent $70 to upgrade the maps on our GPS, I’ve found it’s actually worse at locating the things I want. It stubbornly refused to map out the particular restaurant I wanted, and it wasn’t worth driving 30 miles out of the way. Never fear, I say to my very sorry gut, which will hate me come tomorrow. Liam is such a good boy at restaurants, I’m planning a little field trip to Fall Church, VA for lunch tomorrow. I have a feeling I’ll be dreaming of hush puppies tonight.
  • Speaking of the boy, he really took to Grandpa Bob this week, despite hanging on my pants and fussing for me at almost every turn. We’ll be headed back East in February, and I’m hoping Liam’s stranger anxiety eases up a bit. I love my son, but seriously, it’s like I’ve got a growth coming out of my hip lately. One that weighs 22 pounds.
  • Liam’s been giving me kisses. Wet, slobbery, open-mouthed infant kisses. But my favorite part is the little smile and shoulder snuggle he gives me afterward. Makes it feel less dirty.
  • Tomorrow marks the first day I’m officially the Stay-At-Home Mom. I don’t count today because James had the day off. Although, I really should, since James spent the entire afternoon playing his new video game. The house is in desperate need of a scrub, and I’ve had to devise a plan of attack. Today during his afternoon nap, I tackled the bathrooms and the kitchen surfaces. Tomorrow morning I’m relatively certain I can dust between first and second breakfasts. We’ll see how vaccuuming goes — he’ll either sleep through it, or scream in his crib while I do the deed. I asked my mom how she ever got the house cleaned with a toddler running around the house. Of course, she can’t remember.
  • My New Year’s dinner turned out decently well — the CostCo ham was awesome, the green bean casserole delectable, mom’s sweet and sour carrots totally yummy, and the canned cranberry sauce was the same as ever. But I got a little creative with the stuffing, and it turned out more like croutons. James loved it, so I guess it was a hit. Next time, I’ll try adding chicken stock. Dessert was fantastic — we used our abundance of karo syrup from Liam’s bottles and the recipe we found on the back of the package to make a pecan pie. Actually, I should give James credit — he made it while I entertained the baby. And it was so good. So much better than store bought.
  • I’m reading Audrey Neffeneggar’s new book Her Fearful Symmetry. She wrote my all-time favorite novel The Time Travelers Wife. I’m enjoying her follow-up, although I’m befuddled by the British spelling and grammar rules and her use of ten-dollar words that I have to guess the meaning of by the context. That’s one of my pet peeves with some writers — feeling like I need to grab a dictionary every other paragraph gets annoying after awhile. I don’t remember having to do that with her first novel. The writing and story of this second novel are good enough, though, I’m willing to let it slide.
  • I hate New Year’s resolutions. I really do. And I’ve decided this year to pointedly ignore any attempt to eat better, lose weight, save money, or anything else that falls into the “resolution” category. If my actions just so happen to shed me a few pounds or save us a few bucks, so be it.

First postpardem book review

July 18, 2009 at 6:44 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Ah, to finally be reading books again! Liam’s bedtime has slowly but surely crept to a more reasonable 8 PM, which leaves me lots of time for pre-bedtime reading. And I picked a great book to start with. I heard a book review of The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet on NPR, and it sounded right up my alley. It combines three of my favorite literary devices: 1) Maps (ala Tolkein’s LOTR), 2) Footnotes and Asides (ala House of Leaves), and pre-adolescent cross-country journey (ala The Talisman)

Twelve-year-old T.S. Spivet maps everything he comes across — from the way his sister shucks corn on the front porch of their ranch in Montana to a statistical anaylsis of the pollution in a nearby mine-turned-poison-lake. One day he gets a call from the Smithsonian that kicks off his adventure across the country. Not realizing he’s a child, they award him with a prestigious position at the museum, and after some deliberation, TS decides to “hobo” it by train to Washington DC. Along the way he documents everything he sees in the best way he knows how, with drawings and maps.

The hard cover book is about the size of a textbook, with two-inch margins along the outside to accomodate TS’s artwork. I delighted in stopping at each reference arrow and carefully examining each notation. Along the way we also learn about TS’s past, both about a recent family tragedy, and about his ancestory. Author Reif Larson creatively interwove a very honest portrayal of a socially-outcast youth exploring the world in an innocent and endearing way. I couldn’t wait to pick this book up every night to continue the story.

Definitely pick this book up when you get a chance. And once you’re finished, click on the link above to see drawings that were omitted from the final published version.

Religulous

October 7, 2008 at 7:02 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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James and I went to see Bill Maher’s new comedic documentary Religulous on Saturday, much anticipated for both of us. And while it did lack the cohesive narrative inherent in most successful documentaries, we both found it insightful and hilarious. I wholeheartedly support Maher’s stance on religion — how can anyone presume to know what happens when we die? And what an utter tragedy that so many people die and kill over these beliefs. It reminded me a lot of a book I read a couple years ago called The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason by Sam Harris. I would highly recommend this book, and Maher’s movie, for that matter, to all of my friends, no matter their degree of faith. The movie prompted this amazing 2-hour discussion, and for once James and I were on the same side! I can’t wait until this one comes out on DVD — there were so many laugh-out-loud moments, I missed some of the dialog. And I’m hoping some of the interviews — particularly the ones with the old priests at the Vatican, who admitted most of the bible was hogwash — are expanded in the special features.

Saturday was also an excellent food day. My dietary restrictions are on hiatus (it seems pregnancy quells my IC pains, so I’m able to eat a lot of foods I couldn’t before), so I enjoyed an incredibly delicious pumpkin cheesecake at the Olive Garden. Then, while standing in line at the concession stand at the AMC, James leans to me and says, “I’m tempted to order an Icee — they’re so good.” To which I honestly replied, “Y’know, I don’t believe I’ve ever had one.” Yes, I know, what rock have I been living under, right? I guess I didn’t spend much of my youth at the 7-eleven, and I’ve never been a fan of fruit flavored drinks (I blame children’s Tylenol — cherry and raspberry will forever taste medicinal to me.) I saw they had Coke flavor, so it was settled: Large Coke Icee, please. And upon my first sip, I fervently decided from now on I should drink all of my Coke in slushy form. Yum-mmy!

Vampire Love is a Hot Ticket

September 20, 2008 at 2:13 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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I’ve already professed my love for the Twilight series, but for anyone out there, like me, disappointed that the series had to come to an end after four installments, check out Midnight Sun, a downloadable PDF of a partial manuscript Stephanie Meyer was writing, which retells all of the first book from Edward’s point of view. It’s an awesome read, but unfortunately, someone leaked this copy onto the internet, and the author has suspended work on it indefinitely. It only goes up to just before the meadow scene, but it’s very enlightening and fun to read. I’m hoping Stephanie will decide to pick this up again later, once the heat has died down on it.

HBO also has a new series called TrueBlood, based on another series of vampire love novels. This one doesn’t quite stand up to Twilight in my opinion, but the series is growing on me. It’s on Sunday nights, and surprisingly, James is watching it with me. Never would have thought I’d get into it, heh. Goes to show he’s got a few surprises left in him 😉

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