The current (cluttered) state of most of my shelves

The current (cluttered) state of most of my shelves

If you could see all the half-written posts I have saved here, you would know I haven’t been ignoring you dear readers (or my books!). Life, like always gets in the way–I’m working full time, volunteering with two amazing groups, and getting ready to move at the end of this month. But my books haven’t suffered, there’s a pile waiting to be reviewed and put back on the shelf.

Because I love being awkwardly geeky, the thing I’m most looking forward to with this move is finally completing my card catalog (although it’s on Google Docs and not actual cards for now). This list breaks out our books by category, then alphabetically, and will make it so much easier to unpack all the book boxes–they just go up in the order the catalog says!

The new apartment has a large second bedroom, which we will use as an office/gaming room/library. It’s significantly larger than our current office/library, which means more room for bookshelves. I’ve already got plans to have a wall of all shelves to display books and sentimental items like framed photos, presents from friend’s and family’s world travels, and a few Lego builds. And probably a few cat things, since we’re getting cats when we move! I’m already looking forward to curling up with a cat, a cup of coffee, and a good book in front of the fireplace or out on the deck.

I’m also planning on using the new larger, better organized office to dedicate more time to this site. I still love reading and talking about books, and there’s a lot of updates I’ve got planned. So please, stick around for more reviews and a few cat photos.

I’ve had a subscription to National Geographic magazine since 2012, and after two years I continue to love it. I’m also completely in love with “COSMOS: A Spacetime Oddesy” the new Fox/National Geographic show about the world and how it got here. What I enjoy most about both the magazine and the TV show is how accessible and exciting they make science, which can often be a dry topic.

Take this introduction from the March 2014 feature article in my Nat Geo magazine:

But this is nothing compared with the death throes of a star some 20 times the mass of the sun. Detonate a Hiroshima-like bomb every millisecond for the entire life of the universe, and you would still fall short of the energy released in the final moments of a giant-star collapse. The star’s core plunges inward. Temperatures reach 100 billion degrees. The crushing force of gravity is unstopable. Hunks of iron bigger than Mount Everest are compacted almost instantly into grains of sand. Atoms are shattered into electrons, protons, neutrons. Those minute pieces are pulped into quarks and leptons and gluons. And so on, tinier and tinier, denser and denser, until…

Until no one knows….The star has become a black hole.”

(Finkel, Michael. “Star Eater.” National Geographic March 2014: 99. Print).

This bit of writing about basic star science makes me excited. It makes me want to share this amazing end-of-star-life description with everyone (truth: I made my husband read this article as soon as I finished it). It makes me feel small and frail. It makes me want to learn, and study, and understand everything about a star’s death.

To me, this is exactly what scientific articles aimed at the general public are supposed to do–inspire people to learn more, to get involved. It’s also how I feel after “COSMOS” each Sunday night, which is why I think the show has been so popular. It takes huge complicated scientific theories and makes them real.

Are you a fan of National Geographic or any other popular science publications? Are you as excited as I am for the third episode of “COSMOS” tonight?

Ender's Game

Ender’s Game

I first read Ender’s Game when I was 14 years old, and I’ve written before about the strong impact of the book on me and many other young readers. Even Orson Scott Card has acknowledge the incredible way young people connect with the underdog story of Ender Wiggen: “They didn’t love Ender, or pity Ender (a frequent  adult response); they were Ender, all of them. Ender’s experience was not foreign or strange to them; in their minds, Ender’s life was echoed in their own lives. The truth of the story was not truth in general, but their truth.”

The strong connection I have to this story makes it even harder to understand how the man who wrote the character of Ender is also the same man who hates and actively campaigns against gay marriage and LGBTQ rights. The Ender I fell in love with at 14 would never have supported such action, and it’s that Ender I want to support when the movie comes out this weekend.

But how can I willingly buy a ticket, knowing some of my money will go directly to Orson Scott Card? He absolutely has every right to his political and religious beliefs, just like I have a right to my own beliefs. But part of my belief system includes not supporting people or organizations I think are actively harming society, so giving Card money makes me squirm.

Of course nothing says he will use the money made from this film to support his political causes…but nothing says he won’t do it just to spite all his angry fans either.

But I want to support the movie to show the entertainment industry that a story like this–one that features smart characters, serious moral topics, and no unnecessary uber-sexy women who add nothing to the plot–can be well received. Not every person involved with this movie agrees with Card’s views, and my aim is not to punish them because I’m upset with one man. I love science fiction, and I want there to be more sci-fi movies.

Sites like Skip Ender’s Game make a compelling argument for why it’s important to boycott the movie, and I agree with what they say. But my inner 14-year-old fan girl wants to relive the joy of first discovering Ender Wiggin and realizing that I wasn’t a freak. Maybe the movie will suck, and I won’t even want to go see if after the initial reviews come out this weekend.

Or maybe it will be as good as I hope, and I’ve got to choose between one of my favorite books and a cause I cannot let my money support.

**Update**

So we went to see the movie, and I did not like it. At all. They kept to Ender’s basic story line fairly well, but changed so many other characters. Bean was there from the beginning, and Valentine and Peter’s entire story of world domination was cut! And because the movie didn’t have a narrator, the only insight we got into Ender’s mind was from super sappy emails he wrote Valentine. The special effects were amazing, and I like most of the casting decisions they made….but there was none of the emotion and moral debate that made the book so wonderful. The movie also felt extremely rushed–I would have gladly sat through a three hour movie, if it meant the movie would be better and they didn’t have to cut as much material. Oh well, at least my husband and I got a nice date night out of it?

I first wrote about Out of Print two years ago, after my brother bought me a shirt as a belated Christmas present. I loved my To Kill a Mockingbird shirt so much I’ve now bought several other items from Out of Print and thought I should write an update.

Little Women bag

Little Women bag

Out of Print has continued to be one of my favorite places to get cute shirts for the weekend. In addition to my To Kill a Mockingbird shirt I now also have this Catch 22 shirt, this Wizard of Oz shirt, this Pride and Prejudice shirt, and this adorable Little Women bag. Their shirts are super soft and have held up fine with my constant wearing and washing. I’ve been using the small bag to hold all the items I transfer from my larger work bag to my purse on the weekends, and it works great for when I want to run errands on my lunch break without bringing my large bag.

All the things I mentioned in my original review still stand–their mission is great, their products are solid, and shipping times are fast. I only buy when there is a sale (yay for budges), but if you sign up for their newsletter they have semi-regular sales and promotions. They also rotate designs fairly often, which I like; I just wish they would offer more shirts with the wide scoop or deep v neckline because I prefer those styles.

Out of Print shirts and accessories make great gifts (we got my sister-in-law a gift card for graduation), and have been a great conversation starter when I’m out and about. I’ve continued to have great experiences with this company, and highly recommend them.

 

**The opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own. I was not contacted by Out Of Print Clothing or solicited in any way. This post was written because I had a good experience with a company and I wanted to share it with my readers.**

In my few other cookbook reviews I’ve mentioned that I read cookbooks like I would a normal book–before I even think about making something from a new book I’ll read every recipe and all the stories that go along with them. Cooking and baking has always been a very personal thing for me, since spending time in the kitchen is my other stress relief when I’m not reading. In the past few weeks I’ve baked an orange gingerbread cake with cream cheese frosting, a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, zucchini bread, and tried four new weeknight dinner recipes using new-to-me vegetables (I don’t hate turnips and rutabagas, who knew?). And one book I keep coming back to for inspiration is The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman, whom I was thrilled to see speak in Portland last year.

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

I started reading the Smitten Kitchen blog three or so years ago, and was instantly hooked. She cooked the kind of food I wanted but didn’t know how to make, featuring lots of vegetables and a focus on seasonal items. She’s not vegetarian by any means (and neither am I) but so many of her recipes have introduced me to new vegetables I never ate growing up, including my current obsession with leeks. Many of her recipes had a story about the family member of friend who shared it, the restaurant meal she was trying to recreate, or a frantic need to get dinner on the table that night with a random collection of things in the pantry; when her book came out, I hoped that the same tone Deb created on her blog would carry over into print. And I’m happy to say it has.

My absolute favorite recipe that I’ve made so far is the Mustard Milanese with Arugula Fennel Salad, page 169, although I served mine with lemon garlic roasted Brussels sprouts instead because I don’t like arugula. I will admit I doubled the amount of Dijon mustard used to coat the chicken, because my husband is crazy like that. There are also many recipes I still haven’t tried including Chocolate Chip Brioche Pretzels (page 17), Slow-Cooker Black Bean Ragout (page 137), Panchetta, White Bean, and Swiss Chard Pot Pies (page 163), and Gooey Cinnamon Squares (page 207). If anyone has tried one of these, or any of the recipes from this book, I’d love to hear what you thought!

And while the food is great, it really is her sense of story and family behind each recipe that keeps me coming back to this book. Despite being nervous, Deb was a great speaker when I saw her in Portland. She answered tons of questions, was patient with the large line of people waiting for autographs, and even gave me a hug in congrats when she heard I was getting married in a few weeks! When I cook from her recipes, I remember a woman who was so passionate about food that she turned a crazy little blog into a career and best-selling cookbook and hope that I can get some of that same passion in my own food. I cook to relax, and with the recipes from Deb in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook I know I’ll have food worth washing the dishes.

While I didn’t review the rest of the books in The Wheel of Time series, I’d like to review the last book, A Memory of Light. It seemed like reviewing all 14 books would overwhelm whatever else I posted during my reading challenge in 2011, but one review can’t hurt, right?

A Memory of Light

A Memory of Light

As we’ve discussed before, I’m not a big fan of happy endings–many stories seem too forced and joyful at the end, when real life is never so neatly wrapped up. I don’t demand that all my books be 100% realistic, but I wouldn’t mind more ambiguous/uncertain endings! Even though I had some issues with Rand throughout the series, I largely enjoyed these books (plus I got to meet Brandon Sanderson two times!). And the ending….oh, this series had a good ending. There were some happy parts, some upsetting parts, and so many “OMG what?!” parts. I started reading this book while on vacation in Hawaii, and it was totally worth doubling the weight of my carry on bag.

Brandon Sanderson, the author picked to finish Robert Jordan’s wonderful series, has always been pretty open about how the last three books were originally designed to be a single book (and at the most recent book signing at Powell’s Harriet shared that Jordan even planned for the book to be a trilogy way back before it turned into an epic fantasy series!). I’m sure every reader was as happy as me when it was turned into multiple books so every story line, even for more minor characters, could be resolved. Did they all end the way I wanted? Not at all! But was it realistic to what probably would happen in a war-torn world with so many competing factions? Yes, so I’ll only cry a little when good characters die.

I don’t want to give away any major plot points for people new to the series so I won’t give a plot overview, but I do want to say this: The Wheel of Time is an amazing epic fantasy series, and I completely enjoyed my time with these books. I’m already planning to reread the series every few years, and I’d like to go back to reread A Memory of Light once on its own to make sure I caught everything (Sanderson loves to hide small but important details). The length of the books may be off-putting for some, but I can’t think of a better way to spend your time!

Despite what my blogging schedule would imply, I’ve got a stack of books to review. But work got crazy (A promotion! More work than hours in the day!) and life got busy. I’d still like to share what I’m reading though, and see what you all are reading too!

The rules for Teaser Tuesday, hosted by Miz B of Should Be Reading, are simple:

  1. Grab your current read
  2. Open to a random page
  3. Share two “teaser” sentences from that page (without spoiling the book!)
  4. Include the title and author so others can find the book if they enjoyed your teaser

This weeks teaser:

“Miles supposed eight developed planets and an equal fringe of allied and puppet dependencies qualified as sprawl in any sane person’s lexicon. Not that the Cetagandan ghem-lords wouldn’t like to sprawl a little further, at their neighbors’ expense, if they could.”

~Miles, Mystery & Mayhem, by Lois McMaster Bujold

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