Sunday, March 1, 2015

Sunday Night Survey: What March Means to Me Edition

March means...

War: Mars, the Roman god of war and farming, gives March its name. I plan on warring with the weather this month.
Books: Dr. Seuss's birthday (3/2) also marks Read Across America Day. Right now I'm reading Horns by Joe Hill.
Puns: March fourth/march forth is coming up on Wednesday!
Daylight: As in, "saving it" for the evening.
Women: It's Women's History Month, and March 8th is International Women's Day. It makes sense that we get the day with only 23 hours.
Pi(e): "Pi Day is celebrated on March 14th (3/14) around the world." (emphasis mine)...luckily you can also celebrate around a pie.
Madness: Selection Sunday is the 15th and the craziness doesn't stop until Easter weekend. My money is on
Luck: I'm not Irish and I own exactly 2 green shirts, but St. Patrick's Day is an important holiday in Chicago.
Happiness: Take the pledge to "seek happiness in [your] life and to take actions to help others and those less fortunate to lead happier lives." It can't hurt.
Spring: At least according to the calendar. Who knows what plans Mother Nature will have.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour BookstoreMr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sum it up in a sentence (or two): Clay has a new job as the night clerk at a 24-hour bookstore, but Mr. Penumbra doesn't just sell books.

First thoughts: What a weird, weird story. I was over halfway through before I (sort of) figured out the main conflict, but it was such a wonderful, strange tale to read that I didn't really care. As I learned more and more I was less and less on board with the reality of the story, but as the narrator says, "people believe weirder things than this."

Bibliophile thoughts: You can't go wrong with a book about books, but luckily this one is a lot more than that. Technology, the power of machines, progress, and religions/cults (both of the spiritual and corporate type) all play a part in this story.

Favorite quotes:
"You know, I'm really starting to think the whole world is just a patchwork quilt of crazy little cults, all with their own secret spaces, their own records, their own rules." -Clay, p 253

"You will hold this book in your hands, and learn all the things I learned, right along with me: ...All the secrets in the world worth knowing are hiding in plain sight." - p 288

Favorite characters: I didn't hate anyone, but Clay, Neel, Penumbra, Mat, and Ashley stood out the most as likeable people. I wasn't sold on Kat.

Final thoughts: Google was essentially one of the main characters in this new world meets old world tale, which felt normal, but also jarring. I know the internet has everything, but I'd like the characters in my books to not take advantage of that. The ending was solid, though - I liked getting glimpses into characters' futures while still being able to imagine most of it myself.

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Friday, February 27, 2015

Friday Night Poem

If I've learned one thing in February, it's that I'm glad it's not Poetry Month. Sure, it starts out with promise - you've got Valentine's Day excitement and inspiration for love poems, but it goes downhill after that until you're left with gray grossness. Or a blank page, and the worry that this is just a waste of time for both you as a writer and any would-be readers.

Then you fill that blank page with words, put it out into the universe, and trust that any honest practice is never a waste.

In February:

Will you be my Valentine?
These four weeks don't have anything on me.
This is probably the last big snow of the winter.
Let's go ice skating!
It hurts to go outside.
These blues might last forever.
How can four weeks take so long?

The sky, after it snows:
A blue that lasts forever.
A sun, oblivious to the vacation it's on.
There can't possibly be more snow up there.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Kingsman: The Secret Service

If you go into Kingsman thinking it's going to be a peppy, James Bond for the younger crowd type of movie, you'll either be pleasantly surprised that it's a bit more or appalled that it's a lot more. Yes, Kingsman does poke fun at James Bond and other spy movie tropes (think James Bond + Spy Kids + Austin Powers), but it also does its own thing.

The Kingsmen have recently lost one of their own, and need a replacement. Enter young Eggsy and about nine other hopefuls, who go through "the most dangerous job interview" of their lives. The movie takes us through the various challenges the candidates face, while also showing us another developing plot: missing celebrities, a wealthy philanthropist's gift to humanity, and a nefarious plot to cleanse the world's population. When the two stories meet head on, it's almost too late, but Eggsy, Merlin, and Galahad have a plan.

A brilliant soundtrack and a delightful cast filled with both veterans and rookies round out this fun adventure of a movie. The theater where Jesus and I saw it wasn't very full, but everyone laughed out loud through the whole viewing. An advisory for the weak-stomached and tender-eared: Kingsman features colorful language and even more colorful violence. Not for the faint of heart or those with conservative senses of humor. I personally found the language true to the events and the violence more shocking/silly/obnoxious than gory, but I know not everyone will agree with me!

Monday, February 23, 2015

What I Know About...Getting (and Staying) in a Good Mood

Welcome to Farch, loyal readers. Farch is that ugly and gray time of the year between February and March when you're sick of winter, but it's not spring yet. (Maybe that happened way back in December for some of you?) In Farch, the novelty of snow has long worn off and now everything just looks dirty. If you can't hop on a plane and recharge somewhere tropical, you've gotta have a Good Mood Plan.

I really needed this plan today. (I won't go describe why, as I think everyone has mood issues on Mondays in late February.) Even if I don't always follow my own rules, I know:
  1. Keep On The Sunny Side. No, really - literally walk on the brightest side of the street. You need all the sunshine you can get, even if it's extremely filtered through thick clouds.
  2. Fake It 'Til You Make It. Pretend to be in a good mood until it feels like you are in a good mood. Smile at people. Make conversation with cashiers. Whistle. Our bodies/brains are easily tricked. (Other people might not believe you, but you're doing this for you, not them.)
  3. Heighten Your Senses. When the outside world is gray/dead/frozen, bring color into your home and wardrobe, cook fabulous meals, light candles, turn up the music, and make sure you have your softest Snuggie on hand.
  4. Treat Yo'Self. Similarly, when vacations aren't an option, make sure there's something fun in your life during this time of year. It might be something that plays to one of your senses, a little window shopping, a day trip, or even planning a far flung vacation for when it does become an option.
I wanted to add more tips to this list, but anything else I'd suggest is just a different way of saying what I already said. There's no magic phrase to take away the winter gray, so we just gotta do what we can until Spring (which on the calendar is in 20ish days, but in real life is in more like 2 months). Sigh.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sunday Night Survey: Dinners and Birthdays and Oscars, Oh My!

What a busy late February weekend! That's the only way to survive these frigid and dark days, my friends - stay busy. My fingers are still a little frozen as I type this; Jesus and I just got home from getting 25-cent wings with friends, where we caught up on our lives, tried new brews, and watched the first part of the Oscars. Now we're home, warming up and enjoying the second half of Neil Patrick Harris's wit.

Drinking: a cherry cider. Yum!
Eating: wings, birthday goodies, take out, chocolate, and cheese.
Planning: our next Community Night.
Solving: a murder mystery...on a boat!
Entertaining: ourselves with a tangent on thimble collections.
Reading: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.
Checking: out a friend's apartment - which looks like Snow White's cottage, so adorable (so jealous).
Wondering: how my boyfriend is so goofy and so serious at the same time.
Making: the most of February blues.
Dreaming: of warmer days. And warmer nights. (Real feel of -6...not where it's at.)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Signature of All Things

The Signature of All ThingsThe Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sum it up in a sentence (or two): This is the story of a life - Alma Whittaker's life. And oh, what a life it is.

First thoughts: I wasn't chomping at the bit to read this book at first, but once I started, I was absorbed in Alma's world. I kept marveling at the attention to detail and all the fun little bits I learned about botany, sea travel, and history. Then I got completely lost in the story, wondering how I could doubt Elizabeth Gilbert. I am amazed at her talent. Even when the story seemed to "settle" a bit, something always happened to shake it up. I had to remind myself that even though The Signature of All Things is set in the 1800s, it was written in 2014 - no stale, rambling tale here.

Favorite characters: Alma, Rhetta, Hanneke, Prudence...there were a lot of strong women in this book.

Favorites quotes:
"This was simply not enough hours. This left far too many remaining hours free, and free hours were dangerous. Free hours created too much opportunity for examining the disappointments she was meant to be grinding under her boot heel." p 159

"There is only so long that a person can keep her enthusiasm locked away with in her heart before she longs to share it with a fellow soul." p 201-202

"I do have a dreadful love for understanding." Alma, p 239

"Well, we all fall prey to nonsense at times, child, and sometimes we are fool enough even to love it." Hanneke, p 290

"People could be many things, apparently, and all at once." p 305

"She would awaken, catch her breath, and immediately begin writing again." p 446

Final thoughts: Oh my goodness! What a perfect book. I couldn't have asked for more - the characters, the details, the story, the pace...this was a fantastic read. It was rich, compelling, amazing. I would actually read this book again. If I was in college I would hope I could write a paper on it. Thank you, Elizabeth Gilbert!

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