Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Pennywise will eat me if I don't read more this time. Promise.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Cannonball Read #s 11-18: the rest of the Sookie books Living Dead in Dallas through Dead and Gone, by Charlaine Harris

I read the rest of the Sookie series during my vacation in Florida (oh pelicans, how I MISS you), and read the 9th and most recent published addition the other day. I feel like a complete idiot reading them in public, with their silly covers and terrible terrible titles, but the hipsters on my trolley can shove their Schopenhauer up their asses. This series is fun as hell and I'm already sad that there's no new Sookie on the horizon.

Sookie has continued to grow on me, which is why I just get weepy over how fucking annoying she is in True Blood. She's just such a firecracker (Firecracker? Am I 80 years old? Fuck it, it's staying) in the books-often to her own expense, but it makes for good reading. My favorite character will always and forever be Eric. He's so arrogant and dangerous, it's no surprise me and the roommate have slight book crushes on him. And I love the continued expansion of the supernatural universe, with the shapeshifters and the fairies and the demons and the stupid god-damned werepanthers. The books have consistently grown darker with each new layer of fantastical lore. Sookie may be the heroine of the series but Harris isn't afraid the batter her around and throw tragedy after tragedy her way. Somehow Sookie and her Super-rack haven't been devoured by a weregrasshopper yet. SOON Sookie. It's just a matter of time.

Anyways, this was half assed because it's been so long and there's no way I'm reviewing each individual book 2 months after having read them. I'll finally post a real review of some decent novels in the very near future. My days have been filled with too many hours of warm weather drinking and familial obligations, but I'm much less distracted now. Probably because I'm out of "I wish I could bang a hot undead Viking" books.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Cannonball Read #11: The Thin Man, by Dashiell Hammett

"You damned fool, you didn't have to knock me cold. I knew you'd take him, but I wanted to see it." -Nora Charles

Nick Charles is a former private detective and cynical sot extraordinaire, hellbent on staying out of the gumshoe business. Nick is suddenly thrust back into detectiving and whatnot when Dorothy Wynant, the daughter of former acquaintance Clyde Wynant (the Thin Man himself), appeals to Nick to help find her father and solve the murder of his mistress. The plot then descends into a complete labyrinthine whodunit where suspicions flow more freely than the booze. It's crazy. Really crazy. People aren't who they say they are, new suspects appear every few pages, and that damned Mimi Jorgensen keeps lying her fool head off.

At times I found myself a little lost, from both the twists and the ever emerging cast of characters. But there were two addictive aspects to the book that kept me reading: Nick and Nora Charles. There's a chemistry between Nick and Nora throughout the book that is just so damned effortless that I found myself aching to be friends with both of them. The book is appealing on its own, full of dark corners, speakeasies, scummy felons, sarcastic cops, and hilariously manipulative women. But Nick and Nora Charles are the heart of the novel, bantering so frequently that I nearly had to catch my breath. They're so much fun that I rented the movie immediately after finishing the novel. And with one viewing, my love became eternal. The book has a hazy atmosphere, where the streets and clothes are gray and dingy and everyone's mood is just a little off from slight intoxication. The film manages to recreate the book's ambience and yet through the brilliant portrayals of Nick and Nora by Willian Powell and Myrna Loy, the movie feels joyous. Vibrant. I seriously love these characters. You become drunk from the force of your infatuation.

I'd say more, but I read this book about a month ago and I'm not one with articulation today. But...oh Nora. Please be my girlfriend. We can wear fabulous dresses and drink gin martinis while making ribald comments to the bartender.


It's strange to think that we can become so enamored of someone we've never met in person. I fall so hard for my friends. I want to see them all the time, I want to talk to them as much as I can, I want to make every problem of theirs disappear. And it's the same for those I meet in online communities. I've made connections with people on the internet before, but never as strongly as those on Pajiba. These funny, sweet, warped people who are so decent and make me wish I could live in fifty places at once.

I didn't know Amanda, and yet I feel like I did. I looked forward to seeing her name in the comments, I loved hearing about her son, and I laughed at her ability to debate about movies with a wit that I could only hope to have one day. And Jesus, her STRENGTH. How could someone face cancer that way, especially one so aggressive? I can't imagine...I can't imagine being that strong. I can't imagine knowing that your life has likely been cut short, and still be able to make jokes about zombies and scary bugs and books and so many other things we all discussed on Pajiba. I would sometimes shake my head at her blog posts, marvelling over just how scared she must have been and yet how hard she fought to stay, well, normal Manda. I am the definition of inarticulate...she was really special.

And she makes me love my friends even more today

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

So. Effing. Close.

Baseball!!! Is soon!!! Exclamation points!!! Convey excitement!!!

I'm giddy. No, I'm beyond giddy. I'm jump out of my pants delighted. God, I love baseball. I love the collective roar of CB Park when the Phillies get a home run. I love hearing "Kashmir" play over the loudspeakers, knowing that it's Utley's time to bat. I love watching Victorino steal a base, and Lidge close a game. I love the rivalry between us and the Mets, even though it gets ugly (how I hate the ugly). I love hearing Harry Kallas and Sarge and Wheelsy call the game. I love going to the stadium, walking along Ashburn Alley with my friends and a beer and laughing hysterically whenever the Phanatic dances on the dugout. I love playing hooky during the business persons' specials, taking a half day from work for the 1:00 games and sitting in the sun instead of my cubicle. I love watching the games at home with my roommate...screaming "Sac bunt!!", Jess sarcastically retorting "To. Pitch. BETTER" every time the announcers question a failing pitcher's needs, my constant need to pee every time something good happens.

Baseballs feels like my childhood. It feels like going to games with my dad, bringing my glove to the Vet even though we never once caught a foul ball, playing catch in the backyard until the last trickles of daylight ebbed away, and the sticky sweatiness of my softball uniform. It feels like red and white and furry green, and that tickle of nervous exhilaration in your stomach during a close game.

I can't wait :)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cannonball Read #10: Dead Until Dark, by Charlaine Harris

I swear on all that is pure and good and sparkly, I do not have a weird obsession with vampires. A number of Cannonball members have read the Stackhouse books, and since I'm a fan/kinda fan/non fan/this show makes me want to punch koala bears but I CAN'T STOP viewer of HBO's True Blood, I was curious to read these. Plus there's the added bonus of not having to endure Anna Paquin's unicornicide-inducing portrayal of Sookie. YAY.

It's basically what I expected; the plot mirrors much of that in the first season (girls being killed, Sookie romanced by Bill), the characters ditto. Tara isn't in the first book at all, which I found refeshing even though I generally enjoy her in the show. I missed Jason, he spent most of the book showing up long enough to refute Sookie's claims about her abusive great-uncle and to flirt with the girls at Merlotte's. The biggest and most welcome disparity is the characterization of Bill. He's...kind of a dick. And I like that. Call it the Mr. Darcy Syndrome. He's a fucking vampire, so it's nice to see him acting as such instead of the eternal polite southern gentleman. What I did find lacking was the depth of the main characters...they're interesting and compelling, but they don't quite resonate emotionally as they do in the show. In a way that makes these books perfect for a translation on television. The characters are there in the most elemental of ways, so they're easy to build on in a serialized drama.

So...yeah. Funsies. No sparkles. Not well-written, but didn't leave me huddled in despair at the bottom of my tub bemoaning my increasingly terrible taste in books.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Cannonball Read #9: Eclipse, by Stephenie Meyer

I really don't know why I keep reading the Twilight books. I honestly don't enjoy them. I hate almost every single character. The writing is genuinely bad. REALLY bad. Meyer doesn't seem to grasp the idea that plot development isn't achieved by talking about's about, oh I don't know, writing scenarios and motivations that advance the narrative and the characters' perspectives? It's 400 pages of discussing what could happen, just how fucking beautiful Edward is, just how individual and fascinating Bella is, and then 50 pages of action.

My favorite part of the book was a line that, though this may not be completely verbatim, comes rather close..."You know Bella, for a teenager, you are remarkably unwhiny."

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!! Jesus CHRIST lady, do you have ANY insight into your characters?

I have to finish though. I HAVE to. I already got this far, and to be honest with myself, my morbid curiousity has bested me once again. When I opened this book for the first time, I was giggling to myself. Because they are ridiculous. My roommate can only shake her head and laugh at me. Which is pretty much what I do each time I turn the page.

I had to cleanse my palate with this:

Because cheesy wereteenbitches make me laugh my ass off. Especially when she tries to cut off her tail.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Cannonball Read #8: The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde

Who hasn't imagined what it would be like to interact with a living breathing incarnation of their favorite literary characters? As a child I would have given my Color Kid collection and my Skip-it to have churned butter with Laura Ingalls and Ma, to have attended Queens College with Anne Shirley, and to have created a Kid Kit with Claudia Kishi and Mary Anne Spier. Now I spend my days wishing I could shave yaks and search for the three wise men with Joshua and Biff, explore London Below with Richard Mayhew, attend Herbology class with Ron and Harry, and, well, cut Bella Swan's heart out with a spoon (it's dull, you twit, it'll hurt more). I may never have the chance, but these fantasies could be an actual reality to Thursday Next, Fforde's leading lady in this the first book of the series.

Thursday is a literary detective in a fictional England, where a seemingly unending Crimean War continues and books are debated as hotly as politics. As the battles rage on, a sinister murderer/thief/former professor/doer of naughty deeds named Acheron Hades has stolen the original manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit. This may not seem like the most heinous crime imaginable, but Thursday's uncle Mycroft has created a device named the Prose Portal, one which enables a person to walk into any novel or work of fiction. By stealing the original manuscript and kidnapping Mycroft, Hades now has the potential to permanently alter the course of the action in the book and that in all of its subsequent copies. There is a TON of plot in this book and I don't want to give too much away, but eventually the original copy of Jane Eyre and its inhabitants are in grave danger and its up to Thursday to save Charlotte Brontë's quintessential novel.

Fforde has a wonderful grasp of his heroine and manages to keep the narrative flowly quickly. Too quickly at times, the one word that keeps popping in my head when trying to describe this book is "manic." But it's beyond fun to see how he interweaves the mystery of the missing manuscript with his own version of Jane and Rochester. It must be a daunting task to write two of the most well-known fictional characters into your own story, but Fforde's obvious love of literature and his quirky sense of humor make the retelling feel seamless. And Thursday is pretty fascinating, a well-layered and headstrong woman in a book comprised mainly of headstrong men. It's interesting to see the differing opportunities afforded to both Thursday and Jane Eyre. Thursday emulates Jane in certain ways: her stubborness, her intelligence, her straightforward way of dealing with others. And yet Jane has so many limitations due to her class and the century in which she lives, it's almost as if Thursday is a near reincarnation of her.

I must admit, my favorite parts of the book were those that featured Rochester and Jane, but that's because I'm an English major geek who gets her jollies from literary allusions. This was a breezy read and a great diversion-I'll definitely be checking out the second installment of Thursday's adventures. Maybe the next one will feature Atticus Finch. :crosses fingers:

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cannonball Read #7: New Moon, by Stephenie Meyer

There is nothing I can say about this book that this brilliant stick figure cartoon already hasn't.

Plot summary:

Sparkle, sparkle, 18th birthday, whatever shall I do now that I'm a people year older than my non-sexual boyfriend, sparkle, sparkle, presents whee!, bleeding eee!, Edward bye, mope, numb, overreact, mope, Jacob's cute, Jacob's just my friend, but Jacob's so sweet, Jacob's just my friend, PRETTY SATIN CURTAINS HAIR, cocktease, cocktease, I LIVE FOR DANGER, mope, disembodied voice of Edward, mope, Italy, suicide by excessive sparkling, whine, make me a vampire!!, whine, The End.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

How I Spent My Sunday, aka Hangover Day, aka DAY OF THE SUPERGATOR

8:30: Wake up. Curse god, my lack of self control, and the toolbox who discovered fermentation's effect on grapes.

8:31: Also curse the Comcast music channels' taste in videos. Because this?

Is not of the lord. This causes four drunken girls to dance around screaming "A licky boom boom down" and then me waking up with it playing in a loop in my head.

9:15: Run to corner store to buy some Advil. Get asked by David the owner if I had a late night. Regret wearing my glasses and pajama pants out in public.

9:17: Go back to bed. When oh when will death come?

11:00: Wake back up. Swallow two more Advil and try not to die.

11:02: It's not working.

11:15: Watch 30 Rock. Allow the sweet sounds of Werewolf Bar Mitzvah wash away the pain.

3:00: Emerge from my bat cave.

5:00: Jess comes home bearing a gift from a student which, while a very kind gesture, can only be described as My God What IS That? The label says "fashion jewelry," but Jess' face says "I will only put this on to make my roommate laugh."


After much debating, and despite my tearful pleas that she wear it as a necklace, it is determined that it's a belt. Balls.

7:00: While watching football, stumble upon the WORLD'S BEST MOVIE on SciFi during a commericial break....Supergator! Starring Kelly "Oh Maverick, fill me with your dangerseed" McGillis!

7:01: Jess and I squeal in joy and immediately declare ourselves on team Supergator. The plot? A, uh, super gator occupies the same vicinity of vacationers and scientists in Hawaii. Chaos ensues. Glorious, delicious, blood splattered chaos.

7:13: Two random women appear, wearing the shortest short shorts in the history of Daisy Duke. As one of them smiles, her makeup cracks. Jess: "Gah! Now I know how old she is!"

7:14: Dub the aforementioned ladies "Asscheeks" and "Too Old For Pigtails."

7:18: Jess: "Did Kelly McGillis' face melt?" Me: "She's morphing into Rick Rossovich!"

7:20: Asscheeks and Too Old For Pigtails become a mid morning snack. Mourn by eating Christmas cookies and drinking wine. NO, I NEVER LEARN.

7:42: Kelly McGillis gets swallowed whole. Cue raucuous cheering. Me: "You haven't failed me yet, Supercroc!" Jess: "SuperGATOR." Me: "Apologies."

7:50: I manage to capture the best still from the movie yet:

Oh random fisherman, it's a travesty you had to die with that 'stache.

8:04: I fucking finally get a shot of the Supergator. He's part velocicraptor, part Yoshi.

8:06: Enjoy your hip shaking now, Hawaiians. Soon you shall be the tasty suckling pig of the supergator's luau!!

8:15: Forget what I said before. Supergator has likely spent time in the Hellmouth, since he's obviously related to the Mayor. The only way to bring him down is to chase him away with an empty box with "Ebola" written all over it.

"That's a spunky little girl you've raised. I'm going to eat her."

8:23: Supergator go boom. Jess and I sob uncontrollably into our bowls of eggnog ice cream and Bailey's.

8:30: Consider drowning grief by watching SciFi's next feature, Sharks in Venice. "Even Great Whites know that Italians make the best meal." Pass out from the awesomeness of the tagline.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cannonball Read #6: Don't Get Too Comfortable, by David Rakoff

I read this collection of essays about a month ago, so forgive me if this review is brief-ah procrastination, you've plagued me my entire life (note to self: return library book from the 5th grade, other people would like to read the Garfield Treasury #5 as well). I've delved into Rakoff before, via his collection Fraud, and I actually preferred that to Don't Get Too Comfortable. The wit here was a bit dryer, and a little too subtle for my tastes, but still enjoyable enough for a trolley ride home. Thematically, the essays center on Americans and our culture of self-indulgence. As a native Canadian who has spent much of his life living in the U.S., Rakoff manages to be both derisive and analytical as an outsider, but also self-deprecating regarding his adopted home and his American identity. The first essay was actually my favorite: Rakoff, determined to cast his vote against George W. Bush in the 2004, finally applies for U.S. citizenship. It's a fascinating and funny commentary on the electoral process that's also bittersweet. Rakoff ruminates on the repercussions of his decision...what does he have to give up, if anything, now that he is an American? Is his Canadianoscity lessened? Does he have to trade moose for bald eagle? That last question may be one I asked myself in my head.

Another two that I enjoyed revolved around resorts and vacationing in general. Rakoff visits Belize and is witness to a Playboy shoot. I'm a huge fan of gay perspectives of the female form and its alleged's probably why my best friend cracks me up so often, he loves to mock my lady parts and their lack of appeal. The shoot's description just makes me sad, it's comprised of young silicone enhanced women writhing on chaises as the cameraman listlessly monotones directions to spread their legs. Tis The Sexy. In a later essay Rakoff moonlights at a swanky resort as, I believe, a towel boy? A professional smiler? I forget, he's supposed to make the vacationers feel happy and taken care of. Instead of dissecting the privileged's view of those who work in the service industry as I expected, Rakoff instead details just how damned BORING the job was. Once, just once he longs to be told to fuck off, but alas it never happens. Rakoff is sarcastic and unrelentingly observant like Sedaris and Sarah Vowell, and I always enjoy his work, though the guffaws don't come quite as often as when I read Me Talk Pretty One Day and Assassination Vaction. But via Hooter Airlines and detoxing diets, he offers a fresh look at the decadence and absurdity found in today's society.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Cannonball Read #5: Severance Package, by Duane Swierczynski

I grabbed this off the shelf at the library because I recognized Swierczynski as the former editor of the Philadelphia City Paper. Yes the title blows and the lame ass tag line makes me cringe, but I was dying for a fun thriller damn it, and this didn't let me down. Reading Severance Package (groan) is akin to reading a screenplay written by the coke-addled spawn of Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino.

Unabashedly shallow, the book begins with short introductions to a number of characters, all who work together at a high rise in Center City. And BALLS, I already forget what the company was called and I stupidly returned the novel...well, it's a front for a sort of special ops/assassins training division of the government. In true Alias fashion, only a few of the employees know the truth about the people they work for. David, the head of the company, sets up a meeting on an early Saturday morning, only to reveal to the eight people there that all of them have been terminated. And not in the "Oh hell, now I need to relearn the art of cover letters" sort of way, but in the "Surprise! You work for the government, now drink this poisoned mimosa or I'll shoot your ass" way. What happens next is a frenetic exercise in survival, with the employees desperately trying to evade a super assassin while attempting to escape the building.

And that's about it. My true opinion of this book? Fun as hell. There's almost no character development to speak of, so when people start to die (in awesomely gory fashion) it's hard to care since there was never a chance of becoming emotionally involved with any of them. But the plot moves quickly, and there's a decent amount of humor, and I DON'T CARE it's cold out and I wanted to read about people being filleted alive by a wee Russian lady.

There was a recurring annoyance in Severance Package that at times made me want to set fire to Independence Hall. The author is a Philadelphia native, and though I always get a thrill when I see anything related to my beloved hometown, Swierczynski tosses out so many gratuitous Philly references that even I started to curse the land of Billy Penn. Within the first 50 pages he mentioned Market Street, Chestnut Street, Rittenhouse Square, Manayunk, the Liberty Bell, the Gallery, The Continental and various other restaurants, Liberty One, Liberty Two, the Eagles, and OH MY GOD WE GET IT YOU'RE FROM PHILLY, GAAAAAAH!!! A character brings cannolis to the meeting, but they can't just be anonymous cannolis, they have to be cannolis from The Reading Terminal Market. He even mentions The Khyber, my happy hour haven and unofficial Pajiban meeting place.

Despite the rampant homerism, this was a well-paced book that had me hooked early and didn't let up until the final page. And oddly enough, this is one of those rare novels that had me thinking "Hmm...I'd love to see a movie based on this."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cannonball Read #4: Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer

I hate myself. The only cuddly vampire I want to associate with is this one:

Sarah already did an excellent and scathing review of Twilight, and honestly I don't feel like writing one. I was curious and masochistic. I was embarrassed to read it on the subway. And I stayed up until 3:00am on a WORK NIGHT so I could finish. I found Bella to be a spineless pushover, Edward to be creepy, and the writing to be shallow. And still I needed to know what happened next.


The plot? Mope, shiver, complain, ooh he's pretty, mope, stare, pine, his eyes are like topaz, perfect body, perfect hair, sparkle, almost kiss, sparkle, run really fast, mmm tasty people blood, order Bella around, obey, watch her sleep, inexplicable lack of restraining orders, CHISLED PERFECT PRETTY CHEST, sparkle, smell, run, fight, sparkle, prom.

The end. Now excuse me while I borrow the next one.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Cannonball Read #3: A Rip in Heaven: A Memoir of Murder and Its Aftermath, by Jeanine Cummins

This book was written to honor two beloved young women who were brutally murdered, and yet it took me a while to come to that realization. At first I couldn't stop harping on how the writing style was basic and repetitive; I spent the first hundred pages wondering how this was published in the first place. Then I got the fuck over myself. The book was written because Cummins needed it to be written, for herself and for her family. It's a loving tribute to the cousins she lost and an honest look at the media and its effect on the families of the fallen.

The backstory is as horrifying as one can imagine. Cummins' two female cousins, 19 year-old Robin Kelly, her sister 20 year-old Julie Kelly, and Cummins' her older brother Tom spent the final night of their vacation together on an abandoned bridge in St. Louis. Four young men, between the ages of 15 and 19, also chose to spend that night on the very same spot. After initially befriending the trio, the group decided to turn back and rob the family members, seeing that they were in the mood "to hurt someone." As Tom is pinned to the ground by the youngest of the attackers, the sisters are savagely gang raped by the other three. Following their assault, the girls and Tom are taken by gunpoint and lined up on the edge of the bridge. And in a moment that I can not stop visualizing, both Robin and Julie are pushed off, plumetting 50-60 feet below into the raging Mississippi. Told that his options were to join them or be shot, Tom jumped off behind them. Both girls drown. Tom survives and eventually makes his way to the shore to flag down help.

Nauseating. And yet the ordeal doesn't end with the murders. As anyone who has had a loved one die a public death knows, the media are absolute vultures when it comes to grabbing that perfect moment on camera-the grieving the mother, the heartbreaking statements. I lost a friend in a highly publicized car accident in college (publicized because there were over 20 cars involved)-she and two young men in another car burned to death on the Schuylkill Expressway. The news stations flooded my small college, and only an hour after they identified her body the newscasters were asking anyone in their path how they felt and did they see the video of the fire? They came to the funeral, they tried to get a statement from her mother, they interviewed witnesses who discussed how they could hear her screaming in her car. Thanks you callous fucks, there goes any hope for her mother that she was unconscious before the fire. The press are an intrusion in every stage of your agony. The Kelly and Cummins family had to deal with their grief in the eye of the public, and later they had to witness the vilification of Tom after he was initially charged with the crime. Later, after the culprits are found and sentenced, the press focused on the attackers' stories rather than the two girls who spents their last moments in terror. The trial, the editorials written, the Ricki fucking Lake special, the documentary...all provoked sympathy for the murderers while nearly ignoring the victims, and further inflamed the anger and the anguish of an already broken family.

Cummins may not be the most seasoned writer but she imbues her memoir with honesty and candor that provides an intimate, almost voyeuristic look into her family's devastation. She shows a surprising amount of...well, not compassion, but a levelheadedness when describing the four teenagers who killed her cousins. She refrains from making sweeping generalizations about their character, and acknowledges their upbringing and social backgrounds that may have led to their unjustifiable behavior. I've never been able to get into the mind of someone who can commit an act of such brutality. How does that disconnect occur, when you can use a woman's body as a receptacle, commit the most invasive act on another person...and then kill them? Where are the thoughts of their feelings, their pain, what their families are about to go through? I don't get it. How do you rape a woman...and then laugh about it to her sobbing cousin? It makes my blood run cold. Cummins somehow addresses these questions without resorting to name calling and emotional outbursts, and these were her cousins... her friends. Her book could have been a public letter berating the assailants, and instead it's a well-executed dissection of the media and an opportunity to share the memories of two girls who were never given the time to make their mark on the world.