Quick Catch Up

So I've been busy, turning 24 and buying a house. I've finished two books since I last posted and will put out reviews soon, sometime this week. As you can see I'm on a graphic novel/comic book kick right now, this is due to my upcoming attendance of the Heroes Convention in June. My first ever! I'm excited about it and will be sure to blog about it.

Right now... I need a nap.


Faneca In (For Now), 80s Out.

For those of you Steelers fans checking my blog who are despairing that I have not posted any Steelers news in a while, I apologize. It's been slow and I've been busy. I found this newsworthy though.

Our Pro Bowler guard Alan Faneca has decided to attend minicamp. So it looks like no hold out this year. Not to say next year we won't all be sweating it again... though to be honest, I'd much rather get Polamalu secured than Faneca, so if he's going to be difficult then let's get one more good year out of him, in which hopefully he'll perform at the top of his game to up his value in free agency, then get Polamalu signed. Next focus, Ben's contract.

And for your entertainment value, they're here to play football, they're the Diamonds and they come from Glascow. What else is there to be said? Oh yeah, football's a game. Thanks to fellow Raleigh-ian Dave's Football Blog for this video... I think a trip to Sammy's to meet this guy will be due come football season!

The Namesake (The Movie): A Review

I just read over my review for The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri and feel like I should just copy and paste it here for my review of the movie, which I dragged my dear hubby to last night. Let's pray hubs will never tire of going to books turned into movies with me!! I don't know what I'd do. I did have a friend in college who once looked at me during the TV movie of We Were The Mulvaneys based on the novel by Joyce Carol Oates and said "Why does it seem that every movie you take me to see with you is a book turned into the movie and you won't shut up about the book the whole movie?" Haha, well, that was the last book turned to movie I dragged her to! Lucky for me hubby hasn't said any such thing yet. I think that's why I married him.

I had high hopes for the movie to bring in that psychic distance, tighten the plot, give the story focus and maybe dramatize it more, give "the Namesake" more meaning. It really didn't do any of these things. It's as if the screenplay followed the book to a 'T' with no adjustments whatsoever. I still enjoyed the cultural aspect of the story, felt that it was done with the detail and richness that the book portrayed it in. But the movie also lacked in a substantial plot, seemingly going nowhere throughout the movie, feeling very slow and sluggish at times, feeling as if the characters and the story were only partially developed. It was an enjoyable movie for the cultural aspect, but flat otherwise, much like the book.

The acting was decent. See it if you want to learn about the intricate and beautiful Indian culture.


Before I Forget.

It has become my custom to take pictures of exotic clouds for my BFF Elizabeth. I'd better post them before I forget! As you can tell, my cloud pictures came from the two most beautiful places I went, and consequently, my two favorite places I went.

Clouds rolling over cliffs in Interlaken, Switzerland. Could there be a more beautiful backdrop for clouds than the Swiss Alps?

Clouds framing the over 134 meter tall water fountain in Geneva Sitzerland.

Clouds misty in the distance over the city of Edinburgh, Scotland.

Clouds hovering over Edinburgh Castle.

The dark menace of clouds over the buildings of Edinburgh, Scotland.

Tid Bits.

"No-one with any intelligence would buy a sheep instead of a poodle."

First, a crazy story that ends up being a crazy hoax.

"Buying a sheep instead of a poodle? It's ridiculous!" Ms Sugata said.

"If you want to keep the sheep and cut it up and eat it, then that would be a good idea, but that story's just stupid."


Everybody, Get A Life!

I had a girlfriend a few years back who constantly gave me crap for liking the Steelers and more specifically Ben. She was working in Findley, but hadn't grown up there, and was always telling me everyone said he was a jerk and she heard he was a womanizer, etc. I never really paid attention to her because people gossip and to me gossip is as empty as air. But what did bug me was that when he came home the summer after his rookie year she was calling me in the middle of the night gushing, "Oh my gosh, I just saw Ben at a bar. Now I'm going to this other bar I heard he went!" Then later called him a jerk because apparently she was yelling at him to get him to talk to her while he was talking to somebody else and his body guards had to ask her to leave him alone. Later she found out he was talking to an old high school friend. So anyways, people are fickle and in many ways seem to be desperate to be associated with someone "famous" because that will make you suddenly important. The stories that flew from my friend's mouth of her friends who hooked up with Ben and whatnot were ridiculous and sad. I really didn't care about which bar Ben drank at or who he may or may not have hooked up with, but it was disappointing to see a friend grasp at fame in that way.

Well, looks like she's not the only one, and at least her grasping was with the real Ben. It disturbs me how desperately I feel our society clings to celebrities, it's like a high school popularity contest or something. I sympathize with the girls who were duped by Jackson, but you truly had to be desperate to think that man even looked like a football player. I'd heard about this guy before, but ESPN was nice enough to put all of his offenses in one nice article.

As for Jackson, WTF dude, get a life. YOUR OWN!

Beautiful, Old Europe - Luxembourg

Here are some pictures from the beautiful Luxembourg, our first location in Europe. This city, partly built into an old fort wall, is exactly what you'd imagine old Europe to look like. With that old European charm and a good friend to spend time with, we loved our visit to Lux, one of the smallest (though not THE smallest, our friend was quick to tell us) countries in Europe. I believe he said it took about three hours to go from the North point of the country to the South. Extremely rich country as well, apparently their next the Switzerland with their bank population.

You may ask why do I not know more about some of the sites shown below... well, perhaps because when I asked my dear friend/tour guide about their history he said, "Hell if I know!" And yes, he is a born and raised Luxembourgian. Haha, guess I can't complain, I'd have to say much the same about many of America's great sites. I mean, can anybody just name the presidents on Mount Rushmore off the top of their heads? I sure as hell couldn't.


Where we slept.

A Huge ass castle on a hill.

My Lux friend and I walking up to an old church.

A Palace in the countryside.

Houses built into the fort wall.

The view from the fort wall.


Perfume - The Story of a Murderer: A Review

I had picked up Perfume by Patrick Suskind a while ago, I can't remember why now. Maybe because it was an International Bestseller or perhaps had read a recommendation of it somewhere. But I never got around to reading it, which happens often to me when I buy books, hence my wobbling tower of TBR books. But since the movie was coming out soon and I thought I'd be going to France (which I ended up not doing) I brought it with me to Europe. I didn't finish it until I got home and it felt like it took me forever to get through it.

Perfume is, as the title indicates, a story of a murderer. A different kind of murderer, a monster who has no smell of his own but can smell with amazing clarity. And so we go through the life of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille who more then once almost perished, but somehow survived. The book moved extremely slow for me, I wasn't all that interested in Jean-Baptiste or his incredible nose. I felt like I kept waiting for the intriguing climax, the thrilling tension that you feel when you read murder novels. It never came. It almost came, when Grenouille went after his final victim, but then it putzed out rather quickly and got boring again. I wanted some intelligent detective or man to try to figure out Grenouille, to sort of "battle" with him intellectually like in most murder stories and we almost had him, but then he putzed out as well and was a huge disappointment. And the huge orgy... don't even get me started on that. Yeah, now you're going to read the book just to find out what that's all about. I know your dirty mind!

Overall, the book wasn't suspenseful, I didn't care about any of the characters, the plot was slow going and there was no gripping ending or really much in the book that interested me. Perhaps some of the writing got lost in the translation from German to English, I'm not sure, but the writing was average, nothing special, nothing awful. I can honestly see the movie being more dark and gripping then the book and I might go see it just to see what they did with it. Plus, if they do the orgy scene in the movie then it'd totally be worth seeing it. Oh yeah, I got the same dirty mind.

So, overall, read it if you want to read a crazy orgy scene, otherwise, just watch the movie and cross your fingers the orgy scene is in it. I'll let you all know if I watch the movie and what I think. And if the orgy scene is in it. Do I seem fixated on the orgy scene or something? Probably because that was the only slightly intriguing part of the book, and really, it was pretty stupid, but kind of funny.


Hotel World: A Review

Hotel World by Ali Smith is a highly inventive, fun and moving novel. Another Booker Prize Finalist, it ultimately is a testament of love and life. My husband tried to read this before I did and he put it done after one try. I'm not surprised. For the average reader the experimentation and long wayward descriptions can be a bit much, but for the reader who enjoys something different, boy was it fun to read!

Hotel World is about five people, one who is dead. It is about the lives of these people, about loss, love and pain. It is a funny book that reads almost like a farce as the characters are exaggerated and humorous at times. Somehow they don't seem real, but this doesn't bother you, it makes you more interested in them. And when they feel the least real to you, suddenly they do something so painfully human that they become sharply real. The play with words and with the characters is done masterfully by Smith, without making a mockery of them or going too far. In the most unexpected moments, when the characters become sharply real and human, you feel their emotion, usually pain, and it is so real and valid that you feel it stronger possibly because of the unexpectedness of it.

But it is also an odd book, with an odd plot. It has humorous scenes and characters who are quirky. A ghost who wants to know how long it took for her to fall to her death, a sister who finds out for her, a hotel clerk who gets an odd illness and it goes on with the characters.

A highly imaginative book that doesn't fail to touch your heart, a book that is fun and moving to read, I enjoyed Ali Smith's Hotel World and can't wait to read more of her, in particular The Accidental which has its own crazy plot as well.


The Night Watch: A Review

I got this book because there was a lot of buzz around it being a Man Booker Prize Finalist (and a book that many bloggers stated should have won the prize) and again, it was about WWII, one of my favorite subjects to read about. The Night Watch by Sarah Waters is an edgy, well written, sharply intriguing book about London during and after WWII. Waters takes us backwards through time, starting after the war and going backwards towards the beginning of the war.

Waters' methods seem to aim at trying to surprise us with certain "twists" in the plot, but ultimately by the end I had already guessed the beginning of the characters. There were no big surprises and while many reviewers seem to like her backwards progression I found it unnecessary and didn't feel like it made any significant statement. Rather I found it a bit annoying because I had to go back and read parts of the beginning again to try to connect this and that. It didn't ruin the novel for me but it didn't enhance it either.

We follow four Londoners backwards through the war. The characters are unique and yet realistic. They are intense and reachable. You can grasp their feelings, their intentions, their thoughts. By the end of the book they feel like people you know, they feel real. This to me was Waters' greatest gift, she painted the characters with such lucid detail that it was real and intriguing at the same time. The characters unique and yet familiar. The plot completely unfathomable to my generation and yet somehow I felt as if I were there. Her gift of writing beautiful descriptions and building her characters in my opinion far outweighed her gift of developing plot. While the plot was interesting and evoking, sometimes it ran thin and by the end where it is apparent she was trying to pull some unexpected twists and turns, I guessed each one and found some less than satisfying and uninteresting. The ending, which was the beginning of the war for the characters, was the least satisfying while the beginning of the novel, which was after the war for the characters, was the most interesting, though oftentimes very confusing and cryptic. The sacrifice of the end of the book for the beginning wasn't worth it to me as I was often too confused at the beginning of the book to fully let myself get into the story. I believe Waters chose structure over story for The Night Watch, and while the book was still compelling and moving, I don't believe she made the right choice.

But don't let that keep you from the book, her writing alone is worth the read. This scene literally made me feel ill, such was the intensity of the writing. It describes a woman cutting herself for the first time:
She put a hand upon the leg, to stretch the flesh tight between her fingers and her thumb; she listened once, to be sure that there was no one out in the hall able to hear her, then she brought the edge of the blade to the skin and made a cut. The cut was shallow but impossibly painful: she felt it, like stepping in icy water, as a hideous shock to the heart. She recoiled for a moment, then tried a second time.
The paragraph goes on. The description of this desperate woman cutting herself, wanting to see her own blood made me nauseous. Okay, so I get dizzy when I see blood, so maybe that had something to do with it, but the fact that Waters' writing brought the image so vividly to me is a testament to her skill, not my aversion to blood.

The characters and images stayed with me after I closed the book, like ghosts of people and places I once knew. And for that alone the book is a success.


Schindler's List: A Review

Another rare instance in which I watched the movie prior to reading the book and I had the opposite effect as to what I had with Girl With a Pearl Earring when reading Schindler's List by Thomas Keneally. While with Girl With a Pearl Earring I found the book much more artistic and enriching, for Schindler's List I found the movie more artfully done and more emotionally fulfilling for me. However, I don't feel that this is at any fault of the author. He was not trying to write a deeply symbolic literary novel, rather the true accounts of the the Schindlerjuden (Schindler's Jews) as told by them and researched by Keneally. Schindler's List was a novel filled with facts, although it is classified as fiction since Keneally recreated many conversations according to his best knowledge. While it felt a bit dry to me at first, I'm not one who typically finds biography type books interesting, the facts grew increasingly interesting, detailed and disturbing and my interest was hooked.

If you want a in depth look into the politics of the Nazi officers, as in the bribing and the profit made by many of the Nazi officers, as well as an inspirational story of a man who did all he could do within his means to combat the evil of his time, then Schindler's List will satisfy those needs. The novel aims to document all the ways that Schindler worked to save as many people as he could during the Holocaust. It does not paint Schindler as a perfect man, but rather a flawed, imperfect man who cheated continuously on his pious wife, but who also refused to turn his back on one of the most atrocious crimes against humanity of all time. He is a hero frankly because he was just a man doing everything in his capacity and he was willing to sacrifice his wealth and his life if necessary to do so.

By the end of the book I was attached to the characters and Schindler and was finally feeling the emotional pull that the movie had invoked throughout. While the book isn't written in the descriptive manner that usually pulls the emotions from me, the facts are strong enough to stand on their own and to pull the feelings from your soul. Overall, Schindler's List is a strong and educational read. Something I think everybody should read because although I've read many fiction novels about The Holocaust, I learned more about it than with any other book while reading Schindler's List.



Eaten Alive.

So it’s 2:30am and I’m awake. Why? Because I couldn't sleep due to my Mosquito bites. Mosquito bites you ask? Yes. Approximately 50 of them. I’ve counted. All acquired since Monday. Damn North Carolinian Mosquitoes. Due to a friend’s suggestion I’ve purchased Afterbite and have repeatedly covered my legs with it. It helps for a little bit, but not when I’m trying to sleep. Anytime a bite touches anything (such as the sheets) it fires back to life and itches the hell out of me. Just to give you an idea to the ridiculousness of how much North Carolina Mosquitoes love me, I was outside for no more then one minute and acquired three new bug bites. Hubby says I must have sweet blood, I tell him to... well, I won’t tell you what I tell him. He has yet to get One Mosquito bite.

Sidenote: I'm just now catching up with my blogs and much love to my friend in Uganda recovering from malaria. I swear, if I didn't use like 60% deet bug spray I would have had 200 Mosquito bites when I was in Uganda. I wonder if you could die from too much deet... hmm. Decisions decisions. Death by deet or malaria? Either way, I'm glad Jackfruity is up and at 'em again. I'm sure blogosphere missed her witty and intelligent presence.



I am absolutely obsessed with this band right now. They are unique and extremely talented. Please, for your own good, check them out right now and join my obsession!

This is the music video for "Wolf Like Me" one of their popular singles from Return To Cookie Mountain.

P.S. My favorite song of theirs is "A Method" but I couldn't find a music video of it but you should definitely check it out. Here's a Youtube of the song but with no video for your listening pleasures.

Girl With a Pearl Earring: A Review

This is one of the rare cases in which I saw the movie before I read the book, quite by accident actually. The movie came on one of the movie channels when we had a three month free trial of the Premium Channels or something and I watched it, completely unaware that it was in fact a book first. Of course nowadays almost every other movie was a book first. I liked the movie, but did feel that it left me a bit empty, as if it were unfinished. When I saw the book, Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier, in a book store on sale I thought, why not? Maybe it'd fill that emptiness that the movie left with me.

So I picked up the book during my Europe trip. I figured I was visiting Holland, maybe it'd give me some insight in the history of the country while also being an enjoyable read! And it did just that and more. Chevalier takes an artist shrouded in mystery and intrigue, a private man who led an interesting and quiet life. And she took a painting completely uncharacteristic of him and wrote the story of it. The artist is Johannes Vermeer and the tale is one of class, lust, jealously and perhaps even love, but above all, art. Chevalier has the ability to write descriptions that mix the senses. She'll describe a smell with an image for example and somehow it works perfectly. Her language is absolutely beautiful and I have to admit I was in love with her writing.

The conflicting character of Griet was developed more strongly in the book than in the movie. In the movie I felt as if Griet was almost a shadow, I wasn't really sure who she was or what she was about. But the book is told from Griet's point of view and so I know Griet intimately in the book, which I really enjoyed. I felt the inner struggle within herself to stay true to her morals and her upbringing as well as her struggles to maintain herself in a household full of jealously and resentment. Griet is an admirable character, one who can be proud, is flawed, but is also strong and passionate. Vermeer is a character that is shrouded in mystery, such as he was in real life, but also one of kindness and beauty. Having had a chance to view some of his paintings in person while in Amsterdam, I can say that the book makes you feel like he's the most magnificent painter in the world, when in fact he is good, most of his paintings are not as special as Girl With a Pearl Earring, which is why the story of the painting is layered with the myth and romance that it is.

The book inspired me to take a day trip to Delft, the setting of the story, while in Holland. It was fun and exciting to wander the town in which Vermeer lived and to see places mentioned in the book. I had chosen books that took place in the places we'd be going specifically and had wondered how it'd work out. In this case, a movie and a book that I had stumbled upon accidentally turned out to be the perfect fit with my Europe trip and has become one of my favorite reads. Yes, I'm a hopeless romantic and this book is filled with that tight tension of admiration and desire, but it is also a beautiful book that is within itself a painted masterpiece.


The Sportswriter: A Review

The Sportswriter by Richard Ford is a book written from just an Ordinary Joe's point of view. Usually when I read books from a man's point of view it's the enlightened man, the sensitive man, the artsy man or the crazy man that I read from, rarely is it an ordinary man with ordinary problems and ordinary points of view on life. Frank Bascombe, a one time successful short story writer, now a sportswriter is recovering from a couple of significant losses in his life. Frankly, I picked up the book because I was interested in reading Independence Day which won the Pulitzer, but I found out that Independence Day was the sequel to The Sportswriter, and so of course I had to read The Sportswriter first.

It was difficult for me to get into this book. Frank's voice was hard for me to connect with, though I suspected, and I was very right, that my hubby whom I lent the book to immediately after I was done with it connected with the voice quite well. In other words, it's very strongly a male voice. Frank's way of looking at things to me often seemed distant and numbed. There were times he'd lightly mention in an almost off-handed manner hugely significant tragedies in his life. Frank's a no drama, no fuss kind of guy and dealt with his emotions by walling them off. He reached outwards of himself to deal with his pain and to numb himself even more to those he really loved. It was frustrating sometimes reading from his voice, you get the strong urge to knock him on the side of his head and yell "Wake up from your stupid 'dreaminess'!! You're going to lose it all!" But it is already done and now Frank is trying to sift through his ruined life and to make meaning from it.

The book is well written, I sensed who Frank is and felt the book tinged with this inner sadness that while Frank never discussed the sadness directly, you felt it, and that is powerful writing. I also felt that Ford brought out the 80's strongly in this book, sometimes distractingly, but he writes with strong details to the extent that he described in detail what every female character wore! Sometimes I really wondered if a guy like Frank would really notice the fabric in which the shirt of his girlfriend was made of! Nonetheless, the details overall enrich the book, even if at times they were a bit much and even though the big shocking ending was easily predictable, Ford still made it interesting enough to make it worth the read.

I can't say it wasn't well written or an interesting story, but with my difficulty in connecting with the story it made the book more or less something I felt I wanted to get through in order to just finish it. I have already bought Independence Day since I really read The Sportswriter to read it and am hoping that the story flows better and that I am able to connect with Frank more than I did with The Sportswriter. Not a bad read, and I do get the sense that men would connect with it better than I did. I'll let you know what I think of its sequel.



Suite Francaise: A Review

I know, this is ridiculously overdue, but I have a couple of good excuses for not getting it done earlier so I don't feel too badly about it. I was really excited to read Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky. Not only am I a total nut for books about WWII, but of course the personal story about Irene was compelling. Not only was she writing Suite Francaise while WWII was going on, but she never finished the masterpiece due to her deportation to a concentration camp. The personal correspondences of Nemirovsky included with the book are as intriguing and emotionally compelling as the novel itself. In what was supposed to be a five piece series, Nemirovsky was only able to complete two parts before she was deported and shorty thereafter killed in Auschwitz.

What surprised me most about the book was that it didn't discuss the Holocaust or the Jewish experience of WWII whatsoever. This was especially surprising since I knew that Nemirovsky was herself Jewish. Of course this has raised the question as too whether Nemirovsk was anti-semantic or not. I personally find that ridiculous, but other people have their opinions and points of view...

Suite Francaise focuses only on the evacuation of Paris and the effect the war had on France. In a provocative, brutally honest look into people's characters when tragedy strikes, Nemirovsky follows Parisians as they flee their homes to avoid German bombings. Nemirovsky has a talent for developing her characters, even the despicable ones, to the extent that they are endlessly normal and un-amazing, and yet amazingly intriguing. Following the lives of characters from all walks of life, the young and old, the rich and poor, the snobby and humbled, you come away feeling as if you have an understanding on how this war affected all of France. Her descriptions are beautiful and real and she does not shy away from the ugliness of human nature. In fact, it seems to be one of her main efforts to show the ugly side of human nature when people feel that they are fighting for their lives as shown particularly through the eyes of her character Hubert:
He was filled with an extraordinary sense of turmoil, a confusion of ideas and emotions, but what he felt most was utter scorn for humanity as a whole. The feeling was almost physical. A few months earlier, his friends had given him some drink for the first time in his life. He thought of the taste now: the horrible taste of bitter ashes that bad wine leaves in your mouth. He had been such a good little boy. He had seen the world as simple and beautiful, men as worthy of respect. Men... a herd of cowardly wild animals.
By the end of the novel I was selfishly extremely upset that Nemirovsky was unable to finish the final three parts because I yearned for more, even though each part stood on its own quite well as I believe she intended them too, I still wanted to drink in more of her beautiful descriptions and her strong characters. The novel had me hooked from page one, something I'm finding is harder and harder for novels to do for me, and I couldn't stop seeing the streets crammed with people pulling their suitcases behind them, refugees sleeping in fields, bombs throwing the civilians, among the other poignant scenes that Nemirovsky painted for us. I couldn't suggest this book enough, if not just for the historical significance of it, but also to enter a world long gone that couldn't be brought back to life any better than Nemirovsky has done in Suite Francaise.


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