Saturday, August 31, 2013


"But women, my boy, they're the pivot everything turns upon." Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Kindle: There and Back Again

When e-readers first gained popularity I was skeptical. How could an electronic book possibly create the same experience as traditional reading? 

Over the years, as video games, smart-phones, and other forms of electronic entertainment have expanded, I have grown fearful for my future children. Will the culture they grow up in allow them to enjoy reading as I do? Will they, like me, eat up books like the Hungry-Hungry Caterpillar, always wanting more? Or are they destined to live in a world where reading is seen only as a task, a skill to be mastered and forgotten like high-school algebra?

Hopefully the advent of e-readers will help prevent this horror from coming to fruition. I waited a few years before getting an e-reader of my own (I ended up with a Kindle) to ensure they were not just a passing trend. I am also reassured of their ability to enhance the reading experience because the plain e-reader still exists. I initially feared that the sleek devices would morph into a version of the iPad - and while it's true Amazon and other tablet manufacturers have creating reading apps for the higher-tech device, the plain reader is still thriving. 

My mother and I both use e-readers and traditional books. My reading habits have not changed - if anything I read more books. As I mentioned here, classic books have always been cheaper than contemporary works - with the Kindle most are free. Which is kind of great! I still read some paper books from the library and have used gift cards for book purchases. And I can't forget to mention my love of gorgeously glossy cookbooks (the Pioneer Woman has some of the prettiest cookbooks around). 

The only true drawback to e-readers, and even this could be considered a stretch, is the lack of borrowing. Sure, many local libraries are expanding their e-book collections, but you can't exactly lend your friend a book if you bought the e-version. My Mom and I sync our devices to the same Amazon account, so we share books freely, but I believe there is a limit to the number of devices. 

Shortly after I got my Kindle (as a Christmas gift) J and I were sitting on the couch, scrolling through our Netflix queue. Needless to say, I was not paying much attention - I was far to absorbed in reading - and J grumpily hurumphed, saying he "couldn't get me away from that thing." I guess I was submitting to my aforementioned fear - that electronics would take over . . . sort of. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Love in the Time of Austen-mania

This. Article. O.M.G. I had planned to do a Wondering Wednesday post for today regarding infidelity, sparked by my reading of Anna Karenina, but NYMag has given me a writing springboard I cannot pass up, so that will have to wait ("Thinking Thursday" sounds good, right?)

Generally speaking, I love the modern day spins on Austen's work. The Jane Austen Book Club is one of my favorite chick-flicks, and I believe anyone who can't love Bridget Jones is missing a piece of their soul - perhaps a Dementor took it?

Over the years I've read all of Jane Austen's novels, except for Northanger Abbey (which you can see on my shelf, but I've never successfully finished reading it). With the exception of Mansfield Park's Fancy Price, her lead characters are some of my favorite. Though Lizzie Bennett is her most recognizable, in part for her strong opinions and disinterest in societal parties, Anne Elliot transcends the likes of both Lizzie, Emma, and the lot. I read Persuasion in between college semesters, on a whim mostly, thinking it was short enough read to last through winter break but still "intelligent" so as to prevent me from losing my reading mojo. 

Anne embodies all of the flaw of 19th century society. A kind, loyal daughter and friend, Anne listens to those around her instead of her heart. Where Lizzie allows her own pride and flaws to influence her actions, Anne is driven by the expectations and behaviors of society. Perhaps because Persuasion was one of Austen's later novels it achieves what her other novels set out to do - express how society at the time often prevented women from achieving happiness. Much like Lizzie, Emma also allowed her own flaws to post-pone her relationship from blossoming. 

Which brings me (sort of, forgive my Jane-ite rambling) to my point. This NYMag article sums up so many great adaptations of Austen and related works. The 2009 BBC Miniseries starting Romola Garai is excellent - I would argue it rivals the '95 P&P but that might offend King Colin - it's truly a work of art. What the article fails to mention is that Michael Gambon (yes, that Michael Gambon) plays Mr. Woodhouse to perfection. I would watch the 2005 P&P just for Donald Sutherland's portrayal of Mr. Bennett, but with this version of Emma that seems worthless. 

Perhaps if I show this list to my Mom I can convert her! She's seen the 2005 P&P and certainly liked it, but you can't really enjoy these movies without the book as background. I tend to enjoy movie adaptations of books, so long as major plot points aren't changed (another good post idea!). I've seen so many articles about Jane Austen recently, and her fan club, so hopefully this means more people will be inclined to read her great works. I'm going to try easing my husband in by presenting him with a copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Here's hoping!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

For Love of Coffee (and maybe a cute cat)

My love affair with coffee began in college. Neither of my parents have ever been fans of the stuff - WHAT IS WRONG WITH THEM? - so until my years in Pittsburgh I had never given it a try.  I started drinking coffee because I was cold. Pittsburgh can be bitter cold in the winter time and those steaming cups my fellow students carried around looked pretty comforting. I started drinking Chai Tea Latte's at our campus Starbucks and eventually eased in to the "hard" stuff. By Sophomore year I was a full-blown addict. It probably helped that my roommates at the time were equally infatuated - heck, one of them was a former Dunkin' Donuts employee. During finals week the three of us could drink multiple pots in one day. 

Now that I've reached this thing people call "adulthood," I usually just drink it in the morning, which I take with cream and sugar. While my husband might scoff at the thought of sugar in his coffee, I see nothing wrong with doctoring it up to your liking. That's part of coffee's charms! You can do so many things to it - steam it, freeze it, ice it, flavor it - anything. 

Cats like coffee too!

Over the years I've bought many different brands of coffee for home brewing. Back before our wedding (a mere 3 months ago) J and I were buying store brand coffee - I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS. Right after the wedding my Mom mailed us two pounds of fancy coffee she bought from someone at work (she's always willing to buy something, even if she doesn't use it herself). Well, suffice it to say we can't drink cheap-o coffee anymore. It just tastes burnt. The cat (Heeb) has even noticed a difference - not that his opinion much matters, he doesn't pay the bills around here.

Not only is coffee delicious and comforting, it is the perfect companion to reading. There's a reason the most popular coffee joints are filled with sofas and chairs and fireplaces. Any way you pour it, that rich brown nectar can make a rainy day better. I am anxiously awaiting fall weather so I can enjoy my coffee outside with a book and the sunshine - all without breaking a sweat. I can get lost reading a good book - give me some coffee to go with it and I'll disappear for hours - so long as the Heeb doesn't try to steal my book. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Anna & Me: A Beginning

I recently found a list on Entertainment Weekly with the 10 All-Time Greatest Books. Surprisingly to me,  Anna Karenina was listed in the top slot. I love classics - a love which, to be honest, started because old books are cheap! 

In high school I found myself buying new books at Borders every week. Well, that habit ended very quickly when I realized classic books cost next to nothing. I bought my copy of Pride and Prejudice for only $4! These days many classic books are available for free on the Kindle (just another benefit to owning one, a post about traditional paperback versus e-books is upcoming!). 

Some classic novels are pretty heavy, and I anticipate some stops and starts along the way. The novel follows the marriage of a Russian socialite, Anna, and her extra-marital affairs. I don't know much about the story beyond that, but that's okay! Sometimes when I go in to a book with preconceived ideas it fails to impress me (see my recent post about this problem here). 

There have been several film versions over the years, and while I appreciate a good adaptation as much as the next person (I mean come on, I love movies), I can't help but wonder if a novel of such length could be properly translated to the screen. Once I finish the novel I plan to get my hands on some of the movies. 

So here goes nothing. I'm going to start reading Tolstoy's masterpiece. There are eight parts to the novel, so I'll be checking in about my journey with Anna every time I finish a section. 

Friday, August 23, 2013


"And right there, I think, you have the crucial problem with the family enterprise: You go on being family even after they let you down." This is How You Fall, Keith Dixon

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Love Letter to Hilary Duff

Dear Hilary,

I know you don't know me very well - okay, fine, you don't know me at all. But I know you! You are the pinnacle of cool. You always look super cute and put together, but never like you're trying too hard (because we know how much people hate a celebrity who looks too perfect - see all the hate for Gwyneth Paltrow). 

You have seamlessly transitioned from teeny-bopper-idol to a fully-formed adult actress. I can't tell you how refreshing it is to see someone so genuinely happy and grounded. I was a huge fan of Lizzie McGuire back in the day - she was by far my favorite Disney character - and I want to know your secret! Can you please call Lindsay and Miley and tell them how you did it? HOW on earth did you shed the little kid image without losing yourself or turning off the parents of young girls everywhere? You've embraced motherhood and marriage so well - young girls everywhere should be looking up to you. Maybe your secret isn't a secret . . . and that's why I love you.

Your Twitter feed makes me certain we would be great friends. You have a great sense of humor about yourself and the celebrity lifestyle. And, being friends with you means I get to be friends with Haley! I have an older sister too! (look, we have something in common, we can totally bond!)

Obviously I also find you awesome because you write books! My one true love! And I recently heard you'll be making your way back in to the recording studio sometime soon. I cannot wait to see what you put out - it could be an album of lullabies a la Nick Lachey and I would buy it.

So keep doing what you're doing Hilary! And you know, call me when you get the chance.



Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wondering Wednesday

I once heard a camel say "it's hump daaaaayyy!!"

In honor of said camel and his favorite day, I thought I'd start a weekly question of sorts - something to give me consistency week to week as I blog. Reading is such a huge part of my daily life and often inspires me to think beyond myself. 

This week, as I mentioned here, I fell in love with Jessica Park's Flat Out Love. In part, this was because of the main character. I relate so well to Julie - her desire to start college, to unabashedly love books, her excitement about college - her whole character just drew me in. On the other hand, my mom just finished This is How You Fall by Keith Dixon. Now, my mom is certainly not a 25-year-old-male-college-drop-out. Nor has she ever been. But the way Dixon's main character felt about his crook of a father resonated with my mom. 

So what is it about a particular book that makes you love it? Some of my very favorite books have very little in common. Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is a masterpiece of a novel -it tells the story of two young cousins in the 40's trying to make it in the comic book industry. Chabon's writing is richly detailed and so poignant in it's portrayal of Sam and Joe. Their relationship really drives the novel - I certainly can't relate to their plight, but I felt their relationship. The story was just so, I don't know, visceral.

On the flip side, what I love most about Pride and Prejudice is the running commentary on society and its flaws. Austen made a life of criticizing the society she was such a part of through her romantic stories. Though her novels are very similar to one another in tone, Austen has a heroine for everyone.  I've attempted to convert my Mom to an Austen lover over the years - the humor in her novels can be laugh-out-loud funny - to no avail. Hopefully one day I can convince someone to love 19th century British literature (we read Persuasion in my book club and only M liked it - Trixie hated it and only read one chapter, while C and L didn't care). 

The Saving Graces, my perpetual favorite book, is nothing like the aforementioned pieces of "literature." Patricia Gaffney's book is acutally about a women's group which began as a book club and morphed in to something greater. I love that the story is told through four different perspectives. It makes the characters so well developed, and made me feel like I knew them - every time I'm feeling glum I read this book as a pick me up, like visiting old friends. As you can see, my copy is rather destroyed from constant re-readings. (which also brings me to the topic of re-reading, which I plan to address in another post). 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Daily Pop-Culture Haunts

Every morning, after I start "working" for the day, I check several pop-culture/entertainment news websites. Though some might say tv-watching and celebrity gossip is vapid and pointless, I love it - and that does not make me stupid. Just ask Mindy Kaling.

People: Mostly just full of pictures, short news breaks, and headlines. For real writing from People, I'd have to buy the print magazine - and that's just not a habit I can afford to start (one day! One day, I will subscribe to every magazine known to man. Until then I'll continue my habit of only buying it when The Bachelor/ette is on the cover). My favorite feature on People is "Last Night's Look: Love it or Leave it?" It's like a daily does of the Fashion Police without the nastiness - though Joan is almost always right.

Entertainment Weekly: This is by far my favorite. It's chock-full of entertainment news and focuses more heavily on actual news. By that I mean casting information, spoilers, previews, and interviews with cast and producers, ratings analysis, book and movie reviews, and other tidbits. There are some photos, but only from publicity events - no paparazzi photos, which is kind of nice. The only downfall to this site is the commentary - so many people read the articles and blogs posts and start arguing with complete strangers about the merits of Lindsay Lohan's rehab stint. This can be fun, don't get me wrong, but dang some people get really worked up!

E!Online: This is a good mash-up of People and EW. There are tons of photos, both at events and by the paparazzi. The articles are beefier than People but not as substantial as EW. This site is also full of Kardashian news since their show airs on the E! network - so if you don't like them, don't go on this site. I unabashedly love the K family, especially Khloe, so if you don't like them you probably shouldn't read my blog! (SIDEBAR:  if you don't like something, don't read the article and then bitch about it. I think Kristen Stewart is a terrible actress, but you don't see me reading stuff about her post-Twilight career and then tearing her apart in the comments).

NYMag/Vulture: Definitely the highest quality, but lower quantity. Very little gossip, almost none. The bloggers who re-cap tv shows are hilarious on this site. There are also some really great interviews with actors and producers. I started reading this site back when I watched Gossip Girl and missed a few episodes. The re-cappers dubbed it "the greatest show of our time" and their commentary about Serena, Blair, and the other upper-east siders made watching the show that much better. Part of what makes tv watching for me - much like reading - is the discussion it brings, even if that discussion centers around someone's outfit. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Literary Scone Society

I mentioned in my first post that I am a member of a rather prestigious book club - The Literary Scone Society. I'll pause while you laugh at our name. 

We've been together for just over two years now and only recently decided on a proper name. We thought "literary" needed to be in our name to categorize us (should some Societal Registration Crazy demand to know our mission). "Scone" came about because one of our founding members, heretofore referred to as Trixie, makes the best scones this side of the Mississippi River. We're not necessarily in the market for more members, but if we were membership would most certainly be nullified if you didn't like scones. Last summer we read a slew of books "with food in the title" and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer fit the bill quite nicely and inspired our group name (it was an excellent, excellent book, highly recommend). Trixie also wanted to be a "society" so she could feel as if she were in a super-secret club - which is also funny because in Potato the society is literally a secret during German occupation of a small island off the coast of Normandy. 

Not only did the book inspire our group name, it also made us want to visit Guernsey. 

That's the thing about reading - it inspires you to add to your bucket list, try new things (like potato peel pie, yuck), and make new friends. When I joined book club, then just three people, I did it on a whim because Trixie and M had been reading The Help and I was looking forward to the movie release. Now, two years later I consider Trixie, M, C, and L my closest friends out here in the Mighty MO. 

I guess that's part of what I love about books - the way they can bring people together. Reading is a great conversation topic (at least in my book - man, my dad would be proud of that pun), and when you move 900 miles from home you need a lot of those in your arsenal!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

When You Just Can't Put It Down

Have you ever read a book and been sad that it's over? I finished reading Flat Out Love by Jessica Park on Friday and since then I have re-read my favorite scenes about three times (I told you I liked to read).

Once I got past part two, I seriously could not stop reading. It's like I was absentmindedly eating a bag of chips and then suddenly the bag was empty. I found myself walking and reading in between my office and my car (thank God for small towns). 

Park's book was everything I never knew I needed in a story. Just before reading about Julie and her spellbinding first year of college, I read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Everyone and their mother recommended Green's story of the young, cancer-stricken Hazel, but I found myself somewhat disappointed. Perhaps I read the book too fast, but Hazel and Gus didn't do for me what I imagined. After the rave reviews and the movie buzz, I expected Fault to be not-put-down-able. Not to say it was a bad book - not by any means, but Fault just wasn't as good as I anticipated. Blame it on the hype.

F.O.L. did for me what I thought Fault would. Not only was the story completely relate-able for someone only three years removed from college, but it was just SO. DAMN.GOOD. I am struggling to find the words to lure other readers in without giving away the novels' secrets. I'll just try with the set up: Julie moves from a small town in Ohio to Boston for her freshmen year of college. Julie considers herself a closet nerd and cannot wait to start her academic career. Julie finds herself scammed by her would-be landlord and ends up bunking with her mother's college roommate and her family. The parents and three children of the Watkins family are rife with quirks and secrets. Julie's journey becoming friends will the two sons and the odd daughter named Celeste is both heart-warming and heart-aching.

The author's writing style was fantastic, and perhaps this is  the novel's greatest strength. Having read so many coming-of-age stories, I find myself particularly in love with the well-written books. An author who can write for teenagers without dumbing-down the language gets an A+ in my book. 

Please, please read this book. I'll re-read it with you!

Here Goes Nothing . . .

So this is my first blog post. After graduating from college and moving thirteen hours away from home, I found myself reading blogs regularly to fill the friendship void. Now, three years later (and with several IRL friends under my belt) I want to start my own blog. It’s taken me a while to build up enough gusto and pull the trigger, but now I’m doing it!

After spent four years of college reading and analyzing books, I have grown to miss the thoughtful discussion and borderline obsessive conversation I can only remember finding with my fellow lit majors. Most of this blog will be (I hope) filled with my reviews and thoughts on books and pop culture. Please don’t take my love of pop culture as a sign of inferior intelligence or as an indication that I only read trashy romance novels. My taste in books is comparable to a lovable blue Muppets’ taste in sweets –any genre can satiate my hunger.

I also want somewhere to talk about pop-culture. I have few friends who enjoy gossiping about Kim’s latest outfit or Oscar season with as much enthusiasm as the bloggers of E! News and People. In the past few years I've developed a serious girl-crush on Mindy Kaling. Not only is Mindy multi-talented, she is unapologetic about her own love of pop-culture and properly expresses why such an obsession is not a sign of stupidity. 

Hopefully this blog will fill the void. I read a lot of different blog genres, so everyone once in a while I anticipate that my posts will veer off topic, but for the most part I think I have found  my direction.