As many of you may know, I am no longer a New Yorker, so please check out my new blog A Library of My Own. If you are just reading Life and Times, you are missing out. Thanks!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Random - NYC Street Scene

Taking a photo in the middle of a New York City street can be pretty fun. Just make sure you have the little "walk" sign or things could get messy.

The Golden Compass

I picked up a paper back copy of The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman a while back for a dollar at the Housing Works Book Fair. I mean it was a dollar. And I had watched the movie a while back so I thought, what the heck. I read a portion of it during my meager attempt at the 24 Hour Read-a-thon so I had to finish it up.

It's a great story. I think I ruined it though by watching the movie first. But from what I remember of the movie, I think they did a good job. Although I really can't remember how the movie ended. And the book's ending really sucks you into wanting to read the second book in the trilogy. I guess that was the point, right?

I do have one problem. I'm not sure what age group this is intended for but sometimes I thought the wording and vocabulary was way beyond what I think kids normally use and understand. If your kids have read the book, is this the case?

Anyway...I'm not going to sum up the book. Check out the movie if you don't want to read the book.

Still Alive

I'm just popping in to say that I'm still alive even though I've been slacking on posts. I caught one of those fun fall colds and am apparently WAY allergic to something. So it could be a food (eggs, wheat, soy, gluten, etc) or the mold in our walls from our upstairs neighbor. The fun thing about apartment living in NYC...having your upstairs neighbor's toilet run for THREE YEARS before something busts and water starts leaking down our walls. Fun stuff. Another fun thing...trying to tell your Super (who does NOT speak English) that painting/plastering isn't good enough and that the dry wall needs to be replaced. Sigh. Does anyone want to trade places with me for a while?

Good news: I got tons of cool photos from our Auburn trip, our trip to Schenectady/Albany, and a few book reviews.

Also good news: My family is so cool.

My sister got us an early Christmas gift (light down comforter) which I am LOVING since it's officially freezing here in NYC. It definitely makes getting up in the morning more difficult but that's ok.

AND my brother sent me a hardback copy of What Happened to Anna K. which I've been really wanting to read. Yippee!

AND my husband bought me an assortment of flowers since I've been feeling less than well. He is so thoughtful. AND brought home a Blue Ray version of The Nightmare Before Christmas (which I'd never seen before) which we watched last night.

Ok maybe things aren't THAT bad :)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Brooklyn Bridge Walk

It's definitely Friday and I'm definitely not wanting to be at work right now. So I'll do a little more reminiscing about my first trip to New York City. Click here for another post from that trip. I was reminded by Click. The Good News about the fun experience of walking over the Brooklyn Bridge. We were staying at a hotel in Brooklyn and decided to walk to Manhattan Island instead of taking the subway.

Here's the start of the walk/bike lanes:I like the flag on the bridge...very patriotic:

And there are a lot of New York City sites you can see from the bridge, like the Empire State Building:The Manhattan Bridge:
The Statue of Liberty:For some reason I thought the Statue of Liberty would be bigger...and more isolated. It's kind of surrounded by industry.

I also liked the way the suspension wires look in the photo (yes, that's my husband in white taking a picture of me taking a picture...we're dorky like that):And finally the walk ends on Manhattan Island near the Woolworth Building:
Hope you enjoyed the short walk!

Weekend Update

Ok, I know it's Friday but I'm looking forward to the weekend. The husband and I (and the pups) are heading out of town for a bit of fun/work. My husband has to take his FE exam (eight hours long!) while I get to loll about in Albany/Schenectady and do my thing. Then we're off to celebrate after he's done. Yippee!

Odd notes:

--I'm excited to see Albany, a town I've never been to because I'm an unabashed fan of this song (you can't make fun, I grew up with that song)

--Schenectady...seriously...I thought I had it rough living in (and trying to spell) Winnemucca when I was little

--Fellow New Yorkers: What happened to Autumn?? It is FREEZING here now. Sigh. I'm stubbornly refusing to wear my winter coat...but have resorted to wearing a hoodie under my jacket...sigh

--Fellow New Yorkers: What is there to do or see in Albany/Schenectady?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

A big thanks to Books. Lists. Life. for sending Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See to me.

How to start this review. This book was completely touching and a bit heart rendering. Bittersweet. I liked it.

The story is narrated by Lily, an old lady looking back on her life in 19th Century rural China. And while Lily had other relationships, this book is about her relationship with Snow Flower, her laotong or "old sames". It's basically an arranged friendship...more than a best friend. A laotong is supposed to know you more than your husband or family knows you. And the relationship will last a lifetime. And while they are often together in the story, when they are apart they communicate through a secret form of women's writing called nu shu. They record in nu shu their lives most important moments on a fan which they treasure.

So the book follows the girls through footbinding (an intense section of the book which often made me queasy), arranged marriages, births, deaths, and just life. So while the book is a great picture into 19th Century's really about relationships. And those inevitable regrets that some women often find having looked back on a lifetime.

Lisa See's writing really is beautiful and her research amazing. I loved reading the back portion of the book about her travels to rural China, meeting one of the last women who went through footbinding and wrote in nu shu. Lisa See's newer book, Peony in Love is about Lily's grandaughter Peony. I'm going to have to check that out soon.

And because I love book covers and these are so beautiful:

Also Reviewed by:
S. Krishna's Books
Bloody Hell, It's a Book Barrage!
Devourer of Books
Reading Derby
Book Haven
Trish's Reading Nook
Books. Lists. Life.
The Biblio Brat
A Striped Armchair
Book Nut
Historical Tapestry
Fyrefly's Book Blog
Today's Adventure
A Bookshelf Monstrosity


Because I NEED to own and read this book, go to Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'? and read about The Likeness and enter the contest. You can also read my review of the first book In the Woods.

And because I will be reading and owning these two books anyway...check out At Home With Books and enter her contest for Michelle Moran's books on Egypt. I can't wait for our upcoming trip to Egypt!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

1001 Book Update - The Picture of Dorian Gray

I just finished up reading The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. This is the only work by Oscar Wilde I have read and I have to say that it was a pretty good story. Talk about a great gothic novel for October!

In all honesty, I had tried reading this book years ago and got pretty bored the first few chapters and didn't finish it. I had thought my mom had recommended it to me until I realized she had recommended The Portrait of an Artist as A Young Man by James Joyce....yeah, a completely different type of novel. :)

Anyway, the story opens up with Basil Hallward, an artist, painting Dorian Gray's portrait. Dorian Gray is in his early twenties, beyond handsome, and innocent. Also present is their mutual friend Lord Henry Wotton. Basil's finished portrait of Dorian is exquisite. Dorian see's this masterpiece and hates knowing that while he will grow and age, the portrait will always remain young and perfect. So he makes a silly off-hand wish...that the portrait will age and he won't.

But the wish comes true. And along with Lord Henry being a corrupting role model...Dorian Gray through the years becomes a truly vulgur human being while looking like perfection personified. And hidden in his house is the portrait that tells the truth.

I thought this was a great novel...and it's pretty short if you want to read it. Make sure you make it past the part where Lord Henry gives Dorian a particularly corrupting book as a present. That second half of the book is where the truly gothic aspects of the book come out. And I loved reading Oscar Wilde's writing about the dark aspects of Victorian society. And I kept imagining Ruppert Everett's voice for Lord Henry.

Oh, and for you movie buffs...a new movie called Dorian Gray is scheduled to come out next year staring Colin Firth which I heard about on this great blog.

This has been yet another book for Carl's R.I.P. III Challenge
Also Reviewed By:
Trish's Reading Nook

So far this year...

I was reading this post over at a fun blog which made me think how many books I've read this year. I counted it up and it's 53 books. Wow! Not bad. I've also realized that I never posted reviews on a few of them. So maybe when I need to procrastinate (a favorite hobby) I'll write something up on them. Here's the list of books:

Here's the ones I won't review:

Eclipse and New Moon - Stephenie Meyer (because really, why?)
One for the Money - Janet Evanovich (hmm, just not my type of book)
Remember Me? - Sophia Kensella (romancy...enough said)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Best Place to Be - Winner!

A big THANKS to everyone who entered the contest for Lesley Dormen's The Best Place to Be. You can read my review here.

The winner is: rb !!!

I will email you for your address.

Read-a-thon Update

Hahaha...ok well I think I pretty much failed at this one. That's ok though, I had fun :)

I got up, got ready and took the subway and read down to West 79th Street and sat outside in the sun and drank coffee at a place called French Roast. But then as I sat down my husband texted me and said he's done with work (yeah, poor guy has to go in on Saturday's too!) and joined me. So I didn't get as much reading done as I thought. But I did try.

I read while waiting for hubby to try on jeans at Filene's Basement. Read while waiting for the subway (which was really late and really packed). Was going to read on the subway home but it was so packed I couldn't even open the book I was crammed in like a sardine.

I read at home some and then while cooking up bread battered chicken fingers and mushroom rice. And then I failed...was reading while sitting on the couch while hubby was watching football and got engrossed in the Texas/Missouri game. Did anyone see that?

So progress?

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan - Halfway through
The Golden Compass - page 111

Sigh...ok. But I really enjoyed reading all your posts and comments. I'm still catching up. How did you all do? Maybe next year I'll just be a cheerleader (unless hubby's out of town) :)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Book Pile - Read-a-thon

So these are the books I've come up with to try and read today. I'm already into Snow Flower and the Secret Fan so it's looking good! I'm off to a coffee shop or somewhere to read. I'll check back in later today and see how you are all faring. Good Luck!
Thank you to:

The Novel Word for The Secret Life of Bees
Books. Lists. Life for Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Friday, October 17, 2008

2008 Read-a-thon

So I signed up for this year's 24 Hour Read-a-thon which takes place tomorrow, Saturday October 18th. It's a 24 hour read-a-thon but obviously it's just a fun try and read as much as you can in a day type of thing.

Obviously I also have a husband, puppies, apartment to clean, college football game to watch, tons of grad homework to do...

So my thoughts are do some of that but also escape for a while. I am going to try and hit a coffee shop or two, maybe a library and/or book store...just go to some fun places, chill, get coffee, and read read read.

So check it out, join in, or cheer people on. And there are prizes which are fun too.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

In the Woods - Tana French

First of all, I love the cover of this book. It's so creepy. I received a copy of In the Woods by Tana French from Reading Group Choices. I must have entered a contest or something...not sure. But it's a great resource for reading groups.

And I'm glad they sent it because I LOVED this book and it's not something that I would have normally picked up and read.

Here's the synopsis:

1984. Three children are playing in the woods near their small Irish town and fail to return before nightfall. Police and rescue workers only find one of the children, Adam Ryan. Adam is catatonic, clutching a tree, with three long scrapes on the back of his T-shirt, and blood filled shoes (presumably not his own). Adam has no memory of what happened.

Present day. Rob Ryan, with his name changed for anonymity's sake, is now a murder squad detective in Dublin. He and his partner Cassie get called on a case of a murdered 12 year-old girl in the same woods where Ryan was found. Are the cases connected? Will Ryan recover his memory?

The book is written through Rob Ryan's eyes and Tana French does an amazing job with it. I loved that the book was set in Ireland...small town Ireland at that. And the relationship and chemistry between Ryan and Cassie is so great. It is a wonderful psychological thriller and I LOVE her writing. Her second book which is now out, The Likeness, takes place shortly after In the Woods and is through Cassie's perspective. I'm definitely going to be reading that one as well.

This has been my Fifth book for Carl's R.I.P. III Challenge (I know I know, we only had to read four, but...I love reading creepy/scary books in October).

Also Reviewed by:
The Book Lady's Blog
Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Caribou's Mom
Reading Matters
Linus's Blanket

S. Krishna's Books
Under the Dresser
Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'?
Books I Done Read
The Written Word
Book Bath

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Manikin - Joanna Scott

I picked The Manikin by Joanna Scott up a while back at a used book store in Williamsburg, Virginia. I had never heard of the author or of the book before but plot sounded interesting. And it was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction which is a good sign. And I didn't notice until later that all three or four books I had picked up that day had red covers. Hmmm.

I was reading this for Carl's R.I.P. III challenge but after reading the book I'm not sure it really fits into the challenge. It's definitely gothic though...but more American Gothic as opposed to creepy/scary gothic. Make sense? A reviewer on the back of the book had compared the book to a Hawthorne book and I can see why.

The story takes place in 1920's and The Manikin in the title of the book refers to a mansion in New York. The mansion and estate were founded by a Mr. Craxton who made his fortune in taxidermy which means the whole mansion is full of creepy stuffed animals, birds, etc. The term "manikin" also refers to the skeletal frame a taxidermist uses for his creations. The mansion really is a key player in the story.

The story revolves around the people residing at The Manikin. Mr. Craxton has been dead for a while and Mrs. Craxton, elderly and an invalid, is left alone to live in her mansion. Her only son rarely comes to visit so she is left with the estate's servants. The story is really about the servants and is definitely a coming-of-age story. The main maid, Ellen Griswood, has a daughter Peg who is sixteen and just starting to figure out what she wants in life. The groundskeeper also has a son who's grown up with Peg and is developing feelings for her. But Peg is more infatuated with Lily, a "modern girl" and guest of Mrs. Craxton.

I was thinking that this book would be more "gothic" and creepy with a spooky mansion filled with dead animals. But really it is about the Griswoods. Not only is it a coming-of-age story about Peg but it's also about how this affects her mother and how Ellen comes into her own as well. While I think the writing was wonderful and The Manikin is depicted really well, the story just didn't go anywhere for me. Perhaps if I wasn't expecting something ghastly to happen every chapter I would have enjoyed it more.

Here's a newer copy's cover:

All in all, since it is a "gothic" novel I will add it as my four book of the R.I.P. III Challenge.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Auburn Weekend

We are off this weekend to Auburn, Alabama for to meet up with old friends and watch an Auburn football game. While this hasn't been Auburn's best year, we are still going to cheer the team on. I'll be back hopefully with fun photos. The pups can't go but they will be cheering the team on too.

TLC - The Best Place to Be

I was asked a while back to review The Best Place to Be by Lesley Dormen for the TLC Book Review blog. If you haven't checked out that blog, head on over there for a great list of reviewed books, author interviews, and you can even ask to host and review a book yourself. For authors, it's great exposure.

The Best Place to Be is about the life of Grace Hanford, a woman living in New York City, and is told through a series of short stories. I thought this was a spectacular way of presenting her life's moments because together they make a great story but they could also be read separately and still make sense.

The book is also non-linear with the first story taking place when Grace is fifty years old. To be honest, I really didn't think I was going to like this book. Grace is fifty, married but never had children, and I just couldn't really relate to her. But as the stories go back in time I really started to feel for her character. The stories follow her through her relationships with her various step-fathers and semi-estranged father, her glamorous mother, her best friend, her boyfriends and affairs, and finally her husband.

So really the book is about relationships and how they define and mold a person's life. It's about Grace's search to find that place in her life where it's just "the best place to be". And I relate to that. The book ends by finally wrapping around to Grace's present life and having known her background I liked and understood this Grace.

And as a side note, I loved her writing. She really can really place you in a moment, a time-period, or on a street in New York City in just a sentence or two. I'd quote a few passages but I think you should just check the book out for yourself since it's fairly short at 176 pages.

For fun, check out Lesley's website (I love the photo of her and her dog).

You can read part of the first story in the book here on her site.

And due to a mailing mix-up I was sent TWO copies of this book. Lesley even autographed the books to me...I LOVE that! So if you would like a chance to win my extra copy, please leave a comment by Friday, October 17th for a chance to win. For an extra entry, tell me your favorite book in which relationships play a key role.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


The past month or so has been pretty busy around our house. My husband has been studying for a test he's taking while going to night class twice a week to prepare.

Obviously I've been a bit busy with school and assignments.

And the pups are all riled up to catch and destroy one of their vile enemies.

I will be posting a review on Friday though for TLC Book Tours (so exciting and cool!) so check back for that.

AND the husband and I are going away for the weekend and tomorrow I'll let you know where. I know you just can't stand the suspense. ;)

But for now I thought I'd post a list of some of those classic children's books that kept me up at night reading...I know I'll remember more as I go on:

So I loved this book and its sequel. I really wanted to take off to a mountain and figure out what food to eat and how to sustain myself. I always thought it was weird though that he wasn't angry or "running away"...this is just how he wanted to live and his parents let him. Maybe I'm not remembering it right.
I also loved this book...well the first few times I read it. It was required reading growing up in school but I moved so much that it was required reading for me THREE times. Yeah...after the third time it started getting a bit old. she survived and took care of herself just amazed me.
And who didn't read and love this one...and its sequel. I really really wanted that cupboard.

And I read this one over and over even though after the first read you know what's going on. I still loved the main character...

I stole this one from my sister, I think. So I tried to find the cover that we had so the picture is a bit small. It's about a girl who has to move away from her the MOON! Since I moved around a lot I totally related to that (the moving part) and, well, I still would move to the moon if someone asked.

Since I LOVE history, I am definitely the type who would love to live in a museum.
And this was one of my all-time favorites. It's takes place in the future where high school graduates don't have a bright future because most of the jobs are automated so they are issued a "block" in a city to live in and figure out how to survive. But then they are invited to play a virtual reality game which changes their lives. Just LOVED this book.
What were some of the books your read and re-read growing up?