Category: Book Blog (page 4 of 27)

2014 TBR Pile Challenge FAIL – and Let’s Try This Again

We’ve hit the middle of December, and I’m ready to concede defeat. Around this time last year, I made the leap and joined a reading challenge beyond my usual 50 (which was once again a success!): I joined Roof Beam Reader’s 2014 TBR Pile Challenge. The goal was to read 10 books that had been on my TBR pile for at least a year (with two just-in-case alternates).

I totally failed.

Here’s the partially completed list:

And the alternates:

That’s 7 out of 10. Not too bad, really. I started off well: I read most of them at the beginning of the year when they were still kind of interesting to me, but then I hit a point where I didn’t want to read any of them, and that didn’t change. So here we are. At some point, I still want to read WarlockWickedRagtimeDemons, and The Children of Men, but those will happen when they happen. I’m just going to read books when I want to read them.

So why am I attempting another challenge? Because it might be interesting. I’ve chosen POPSUGAR’s 2015 Ultimate Reading Challenge. This one is more open-ended, and it might expand my reading horizons, which is always a good thing.


It’s fifty-two books if I read one for every checkbox, but I’m going to try to complete a loose version of it and check off whatever boxes fit the book I happen to be reading. That’ll have me reading a play and a romance, neither of which is usually on my radar. We’ll see what happens. After last year’s performance, I’m not sure what to expect.

2014 Book #60: The Bell Jar

belljarI finished The Bell Jar a few days ago, but I’ve been putting off writing about it because I’m still not sure of my opinion. I started with 4 stars on Goodreads, then went back and changed it to five because it’s an amazing book. My only real issue with it is that it’s so autobiographical that it seems like it fits better into the memoir category. But I’ll get to that.

I’ve spent way too long thinking about this book. Let’s get on with the review.

You’ve probably know what happens in The Bell Jar: Sylvia (ahem, Esther) goes off to New York for a super-duper internship, discovers that she’s directionless, finds herself depressed and suicidal, and ends up getting shock treatments in a mental hospital. But that’s just the surface. My favorite part of this novel is the beginning, before she stops functioning. She’s an intern for a major fashion magazine, and she deals reasonably well with the social and work-related pressures involved. That part of the novel was really fun, but it only made up a third of it, or so. When Esther gets home, she becomes lethargic and visits a psychiatrist after she hasn’t washed her hair or changed her clothes for three weeks. Things go downhill from there.

I vaguely remember reading The Bell Jar when I was in high school, along with Prozac Nation and Girl, Interrupted and the like, in my Stupid Angsty Teenage Phase (it’s almost funny that I can condense it to that now). I’m surprised that I didn’t really remember anything about it because I can see how it might have been my favorite novel at that point. On the other hand, I can also see that I might have been too young and inexperienced to appreciate it, like I hit it at the wrong time. It’s always interesting to reread books from my childhood and experience them from an entirely different perspective. A good example of that is Something Wicked This Way Comes, which I first read when I was fourteen or so. I think I appreciate The Bell Jar more now that it’s been so long since I was a teenager.

Which all means that my perspective on this novel might be a bit skewed by my past experiences.

I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. I think that Sylvia Plath made her past experiences into a fantastic novel, but I’m not sure that there’s enough straight fiction not to make it a memoir. After The Bell Jar she planned to write another “novel” about her later life, but, as far as I know, she never published it. I’ve read lots of her poetry, which is intensely personal, and I wonder if she was capable of separating herself from her work enough not to write about herself. I also wonder what that means about Sylvia Plath. We can gather that she never got out from under the “bell jar” of depression, and such an intense psychological state can easily get one stuck on introspection…but my purpose here isn’t to further psychoanalyze Plath. It’s to explain that The Bell Jar is an amazing, very approachable classic novel, and, despite what you might think about both Plath and this work, you should give it a chance. It’s really good, and it’s beautifully written. It’s definitely worth your time.

Photo credit: Shin Yoo

Christmas tree FAIL. Plus super-tasty gingerbread muffins!

So, as you saw in the last post, we got a beautiful Christmas tree, and everything was going swimmingly. Even Zelda was (mostly) leaving it alone. I took the plunge and strung up the lights and garland, and Palmer put the angel on top.




Pretty nice, right? (I’ll give you one guess why I didn’t take the garland down to the bottom.) Well, that lasted for a couple days, then THIS happened:




And that was not the worst of it. I was minding my own business, watching TV, when I heard a creaking sound. Zelda wasn’t involved because she was lying on the sofa right next to me. I look at the tree, and it’s leaning so far forward I thought it would topple over any minute. I went over there and leaned it against the wall, but not before the angel fell forward, losing her head as she hit the floor. I thought the adjustable leveler had come undone, which I could fix myself, but one of the screws around the base had come loose.




Awesome. Even more awesome is the fact that Palmer won’t be home to fix it for almost two weeks. MEH.

In more pleasant news, I made some fantastic gingerbread muffins, and I’m totally going to share the recipe. You really should try these. There are lots of weirdo recipes floating around Pinterest right now (one of which I was stupid enough to try), but this one is taste-tested and approved, guaranteed bs-free.



And they’re SO easy to make – as are most muffins. They’re also pretty sweet. For me, anyway.




Mix brown sugar, molasses, milk, canola oil, unsweetened applesauce, and an egg with a mixer, which brings us to the Ugly part of this recipe:




In another bowl, whisk together all-purpose flour, wheat flour, baking powder, ginger, salt, baking soda (are both really necessary?), cinnamon, and allspice.




You might want to add a tiny sprinkle of black pepper because said pepper is always good in gingerbread. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and you end up with a batter that looks suspiciously like peanut butter…or that uber-tasty Biscoff butter. Yum.




Aww, yeah. I could have eaten ALL of that with a spoon.

And that’s about it! Dump it into a lined muffin tin, and pop it in the oven for about twenty minutes. You’ll be impressed with your Christmas baking skillz.




I’ll take twelve, please.

Gingerbread Muffins!
Recipe Type: Breakfast
Author: Lindsay Attaway
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 12
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • ⅓ cup milk
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  1. Prepare a 12-cup muffin tin by lining the cups with paper cup liners or by spraying with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix brown sugar, molasses, milk, oil, applesauce, and egg until well blended.
  4. In another bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients.
  5. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, stirring just until combined. Batter will still be slightly lumpy, which is fine – do not overmix.
  6. Scoop batter into prepared muffin cups (use an ice cream scoop!).
  7. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack.
Carbohydrates: 29

Recipe heavily adapted from The Seasoned Mom.

Yay Christmas! (And we survived Thanksgiving.)

The various end-of-the-year holidays are always exciting, but for me, it’s all just a build-up to Christmas. It’s been so long since I’ve lived in New Orleans now that it’s eclipsed Mardi Gras in my Hierarchy of Awesome Holidays, and I start looking forward to it once the first Fall cold snap hits.

Speaking of Fall, Shreveport is beautiful right now.




We don’t get the amazing colors of the Northeast, but it’s good enough for me.

Did I mention that we somehow agreed to host Thanksgiving for the first time this year? I’m still not quite sure how it happened. We had six guests: Nunpoo, my uncle David, my mom, her husband, and Palmer’s parents – and somehow everything went well! Palmer was well-prepared with a 21-lb. turkey, which he put in a brining bag in our ginormous refrigerator for a full 24 hours.


It turned out beautifully.


There was SO MUCH food. I made brussels sprouts with apples and bacon, zucchini boats, and autumn squash soup; my mom made the famous Sweet Potato Business and a green bean casserole; and Palmer’s mom brought a(n amazing) pumpkin pie, a pecan pie, macaroni and cheese, cornbread dressing, deviled eggs, yeast rolls, and…I’m probably missing something. One table wasn’t big enough to hold it…


So Palmer had to carve the turkey on the coffee table.

The food was excellent, and we all had a good time.

I even volunteered to do it again next year.

But wait, you say, where’s Zelda in all of this? She’s young and energetic and super-jumpy, and I’m always terrified that she’s going to knock Nunpoo down, so she was locked in my library until we’d finished eating and everyone had settled down and stopped moving. She napped during most of that time and behaved admirably once she was released. I made her Puppy Pumpkin Pies, which might have made her feel a little better about things. She was exhausted after everyone left.


After a huge dinner and a nice, long puppy nap, it was Christmas!

On Friday, Palmer and I headed to Santa’s Woods in Frierson, where we always buy our Christmas tree. It proved a little difficult because the latest Arctic Vortex killed most of the pines, which looked bad this year, anyway. So we ended up with a cypress.



We were both worried about how Zelda would react once we got it home, but things didn’t go badly at all.


Palmer got a video of her first reaction, which we both thought would be different.

You can’t tell from the thumbnail (which I should probably change since it looks a bit violent), but all was well…until we noticed she was picking little pieces one by one. I think she’s stopped.


Later today, we’ll be putting on the lights and garland. After that, we might add a few ornaments if the puppy allows. We’ll see.

We’re gearing up for a fantastic (or at least very interesting) Christmas!


2014 Book #59: Revival

revivalI’m not quite sure what possessed me to read a Stephen King book the day it came out. I was just coming off of The Wind through the Keyhole, which was fantastic, and I guess I was more hopeful than I should have been. Revival, unlike The Dark Tower series, is King’s usual fare, and it’s not very good.

It’s about Jamie, who begins the book as a six-year-old kid and grows into an adult, always somehow shadowed by Charles Jacobs, a local pastor who was fired from his parish after three years. Jacobs studies electricity, performing experiments and wowing the local children with a table with electric lights and a model of Jesus that walks across water. Shortly after Jacobs arrives in town, Jamie’s brother Con has a skiing accident that leaves him unable to speak. Jacobs cures him with electricity applied to his neck. Jamie really likes Jacobs, and everything goes smoothly until a couple years later, when Jacobs’s wife and child are killed in a horrific car accident. Jacobs loses what little faith he had in God and delivers what Jamie calls the Terrible Sermon. He is fired and disappears. Jamie grows into a young adult, plays guitar in various bands, and ends up addicted to heroin. He wanders into a carnival, only to see Jacobs, now going by a different name, using electricity to take creepy photographs. Jacobs recognizes Jamie and uses electricity to cure him of his addiction, but Jamie quickly learns that such power has its consequences, and not just for him. Things Continue to Happen in a Mr. Stephenking sort of way.

All of that said, Revival moves surprisingly slowly. I should probably note here that most of my experience with King involves The Dark Tower, which appears to be a huge exception to everything else he’s written, but I was expecting more horror and more action. Which might mean that Revival is a better book than a lot of his others – not that I’ve read most of them. My last non-Dark Tower-related King novel was Salem’s Lot, which I hated mainly because (*spoiler alert*) I hate vampire novels. But I’ve talked about that before.

(And here’s where I put in the real spoiler alert.) I was excited about Revival because of the religious theme, and I was pretty well on board until about the halfway point, when I realized that this is a Frankenstein novel. Too many variations of this novel have been written since Mary Shelley had a good idea so many years ago. It’s overdone. A small credit to King is that it doesn’t turn out exactly as you’d expect, and it’s better for that. And there’s an interesting glimpse of a horrific afterlife at the end that, if it wasn’t, well, stupid, would make the entire book worth reading. Okay, end of spoiler.

So I’ve done a good bit of complaining, but I kind of enjoyed Revival. It’s really not very good, but I enjoyed myself through most of it. It’s certainly not one of King’s better novels, but it’s nowhere near his worst, either. (That honor just might be left to The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. Ugh.). Which all means that if you like the kind of novels Stephen King writes, you might enjoy this one. He’s kept the horror to a minimum and veers toward (an attempt at) gothic near the end. It’s probably about what you’d expect because that’s good enough to fill Mr. Stephenking’s wallet, and with books like this, he seems only to be after the paycheck.

And here’s my own (very minor) spoiler alert: my annual template change is coming up, and if Elegant Themes doesn’t release their new blog theme in the next couple of days, Oh wait…I forgot will soon look like this. I think it’s perfect. Next year, my goal needs to be to learn coding well enough to make my own WordPress templates. These things are expensive!

Zelda went to Houston!…a few weeks ago.

My main blog-goal for next year is to expand a bit. Sure, the main focus will always be books, but I don’t want every non-book post to be appended to an actual book post. And, really, this blog doesn’t get enough traffic for me to worry about Google getting mixed up. So Zelda gets her own post. I have some things to say about Traveling with Puppies and Dog-Friendly Restaurants in Houston, too.

As I’m sure you know from various social media, Palmer and I took Zelda to Houston a few weeks ago. Okay, I drove Zelda to Houston to see Palmer.


She’d chosen the day before to puke in my car while we ran some errands, so she took some $60 anti-nausea pills from the vet. We were off to quite a start. She was a little nervous, but she did well. We stopped twice at gas stations with nice grass patches, and she did her business without a problem. By the time we got to Houston, I was exhausted.

Before I left, I did my research. Every meal was planned according to a list of dog-friendly restaurants. It didn’t always work out.

Gratifi did, which was good because all I wanted was a meal and a sleep.


They had a nice patio and even served dog food with a treat on top. She ate the treat and didn’t touch the kibble, which quickly turned into a trend. When I selected Gratifi, I didn’t realize that it had been on Restaurant Impossible, or I might have chosen elsewhere. They were really nice to Zelda, but the food wasn’t great. I was just happy to eat at that point.

We started Saturday with a trip to Starbucks, where Zelda had her first Puppuccino.


Of course she enjoyed it. Next, we dropped her off at a PetSmart Doggie Day Camp so we could have some non-puppy time (meaning a trip to IKEA and Trader Joe’s). According to her Pawgress Report, she had a good time.


They put her (at 30 lbs) with the little dogs because she was afraid. That’s one reason why I wish Shreveport would make the dog park happen sooner. There aren’t enough opportunities for socialization around here. (While Zelda was at Day Camp, Palmer and I went to Goode Company Seafood, which was AMAZING.)

After we picked her up, we headed to Brick House Tavern & Tap, which turned out to be a chain bar that was way too loud. We had to move our chairs to the far end of the patio, away from the rowdy customers. We were all exhausted and miserable.


The next day, Sunday, we went to one of my Houston favorites, Barnaby’s Cafe. The patio was full of dogs, but it wasn’t too loud or overwhelming for Zelda, and we had an excellent time. Zelda behaved well, and Palmer rewarded her with a whole plate of bacon.


After a tasty breakfast, we headed to Millie Bush Dog Park, which is supposed to be one of the biggest, nicest dog parks in Houston. My only real complaint is that I wish there were more trees. Once Zelda settled down, she had an excellent time.



She’d never been off a leash outside, so I was interested to see if she did. I thought she might bolt (which wouldn’t have been a problem because the park is double-fenced), but she stuck really close. Palmer made an excellent Youtube video chronicling our trip.

Exhausted again, we made an emergency plan change because my lunch choice was another loud bar. I called another of my favorites, the Hobbit Cafe, and they did, indeed, allow dogs (though only hanging off the back corner of their porch). We had another excellent meal.

After that, we rested until dinner. We’d planned on dinner at Winston’s on Washington, which is supposed to be dog-friendly, but that didn’t exactly work out. It was bad enough to merit a nasty Yelp review.


So we ended up heading over to the nearby reliably mediocre La Madeleine, where I had overcooked rotisserie chicken (and Palmer had an amazing dessert). At least it was food.


The next morning, Zelda and I got up early, had a quick hotel breakfast (we share a banana every morning), and headed back to Shreveport. She slept most of the way home.


That was the first of many trips, and it was quite an experience. We definitely learned some things, like that Zelda refuses to sleep in her kennel in hotel rooms but is an excellent bed-sleeper and that she thinks she owns the hotel after a single night. We’ll defintely be adventuring again, but I think we all need a rest after that one.

2014 Books #54-58: Ridiculous. I know.


So it’s been a while. Almost a month since I’ve updated. But I’ve been busy! I’ll get to that later. First, a super-quick rundown on what I’ve been reading.

Acceptance, by Jeff VanderMeer, is the third book in the Southern Reach Trilogy. I was hooked near the beginning of the first book, Annihilation, and I had to read them to the end. They coast slowly downhill, but they’re still pretty good. Like AuthorityAcceptance deals mostly with the agency investigating Area X and continues to explore some of the mysteries introduced in the first novel. This trilogy is best read as one medium-size book – as reflected in the combined paperback recently released. They’re all worth a read (definitely in order).

Next up was Little Wolves, by Thomas Maltman. There’s a huge spoiler  (which is amusingly related to a similar one in the next novel I’ll talk about) that I won’t reveal here, so I can’t say much about it. A teenager in rural Michigan commits a terrible crime, and his super-religious community deals with it. This novel is so much better and more interesting than that sounds, but I’m not revealing that spoiler. If I’d have known what this novel was really about, I wouldn’t have read it. That said, I really enjoyed it.

Then, there’s The Wind through the Keyhole, an addition to Stephen King‘s Dark Tower series, which I adore. This one is set between the fourth and fifth books and isn’t necessary to the rest of the series, but it quickly became one of my favorites. It’s a story-within-a-story-within-a-story. Roland and his ka tet are headed toward the Calla when Oy starts acting up. They’re warned by a ferryman that a starkblast (a really bad ice storm) is headed their way, and they have to take shelter. They do, and during the storm, Roland tells them a story from his younger days, involving a skin-changer. During that story, he recounts a legend he told a boy while they were trying to figure out what was going on with the skin-changer. This middle story is the best one, but this whole book is excellent and well put-together. Mr. Stephenking claims that you don’t have to have read the series to enjoy The Wind through the Keyhole, and I think he might be right. But you should just read the whole series because it’s brilliant (and even though some parts are plain ol’ stupid).

Station Eleven started well, but the ending fell flat. It’s a postapocalyptic story about a traveling group of musicians and Shakespearean actors after a terrible illness swept through the world and killed most of humanity. Emily St. John Mandel does a really good job flashing back throughout the novel, explaining what happened and making her characters sympathetic both before and after society’s breakdown. Which would make for a fantastic novel, except it just kind of grinds to a halt at the end, and not in an interesting cliffhangery way. At the end, I thought, Really? That’s it? Lame. And that’s a pity. The best part of the novel is a fictitious comic book called Doctor Eleven that I’d love to read.

And, finally, there’s the much-hyped Maze Runner. I listened to the audiobook because it was available on OverDrive when I needed a book and because I’d heard it’s good. And it isn’t. It’s about a bunch of teenagers stuck in the middle of a maze that appears unsolvable. The first thing that annoyed me is the language. Realistically, a bunch of teenage boys, living on their own, are going to curse a lot. The problem here is that it’s a YA novel, so they can’t really curse. James Dashner solves his problem by replacing said words with “shuck” and “clunk” and the like. As in “You shucking idiot.” MEH. And that was only the beginning. I only finished the novel because I was mildly interested in the explanation and what would happen at the end, but that was stupid, too. So much stupid in this book. A total waste of time.

That’s it for books for now. After I finish the books I’m currently reading, it’s time for the Annual Dickens Novel. I think it’ll be Our Mutual Friend this time. And I should probably address my failure at the 2014 TBR Pile Challenge. I have some things to say about that, too.

I’ve also considered the format of this blog. I want to update the design to the more image-heavy magazine style that’s so popular. I’m browsing themes, and I’ve found a few I like. We’ll see what happens.

And I just realized that I haven’t mentioned Zelda’s trip to Houston. It’s been quite a while, but I still want to give it its own post. So in other Puppy News, we went to the Highland Jazz Fest and had a good time. It’s my favorite local event that isn’t Mardi Gras, and I was glad that Zelda could come this year.


She was a little scared because she’s not used to tons of people and loud noise, so we just walked the circuit around the park a few times and then went home. At least I got to hear some of the music.

My excuse for not posting, you ask? Besides the usual procrastination, I FINISHED MY THESIS! And my defense is over!


I still have to write the abstract and finish the final formatting, which I plan to do today. Then, all I have to do is print out the fancy copies and show up at graduation! I can’t believe it’s almost over.

2014 Book #53: White Noise

whitenoisecomicI didn’t read White Noise because I wanted to. Not this time, anyway. I read it again because I wanted to give Don DeLillo a chance to redeem himself before I stashed him firmly in the Junk Pile. Okay, there’s nothing about DeLillo’s books that deserves to be there except that they’re all kind of the same book, written over and over.

The thesis ruined me.

I wrote a post a few years ago (which I haven’t reread…yet) about how White Noise changed my life when I was 14. I really liked it the first time around – as I did the second, when I read it for a class in grad school. I took a Modernism/Postmodernism class just because that book was on the syllabus.

And White Noise is a spectacular book. A Great Book, in fact. Almost everyone agrees that it’s DeLillo’s best novel (though there are some dissenters who claim that Underworld is. I can’t get through it.). White Noise is one of the few that doesn’t follow his usual plot-line involving running away from the media.

Except here, not just one character, but everyone is running away from death. This novel is about the fear of death and what people do either to overcome it or to distract themselves from it.

Jack Gladney is a professor of Hitler Studies in a small college in a small town. He lives with his fifth(?) wife and a mixture of children, both his and hers. Everyone talks about death. It fits snugly into every single conversation. But I’ll get to that in a minute. When I first read this novel, I thought it was about the Airborne Toxic Event that happens around the 1/3 mark. I thought the bulk of the novel was about that. I even forgot that anything happened after they stayed in the Red Cross shelter. That’s not even halfway into the book. There’s more talk about death and some death-fear-avoidance activities, carried about by various characters in different and increasingly extreme ways. Because DeLillo likes the extreme, and any worthwhile action must be an extreme action. I won’t spoil the fun except to say that it’s probably not what you’d expect, even from DeLillo. (I shouldn’t say that. There’s the Superdrug business in Great Jones Street, to name only one random plot point.)

really didn’t want to take notes while I was reading this novel. It’s just that it reeks of DeLillo (“Once you’ve seen the signs about the barn, it’s impossible to see the barn.”), and there’s the thesis in its final stages, and I somehow can’t disconnect the fiction I don’t have to write about from that which I do. Which is why I’m not refreshing my Goodreads rating: I can’t be objective, so I’ll let the five-star review stand because White Noise is a great novel. I’m just kind of done with DeLillo.

One thing that I don’t like about it is that it’s so minutely planned. There’s a conversation about death around the three-quarters mark that is just too long. It’s like DeLillo had a lot to say and couldn’t stop without saying every single little bit of it even though the novel would be better if half of it had been cut. Every bit of his plan had to be implemented.

That said, doesn’t it have something to do with Great Novels? The best novel I read last year was Stoner. This year, I read Butcher’s Crossing, which is quite possibly the best (though not my favorite). Both are by John Williams, though I somehow didn’t make that connection at the time. Both are intricately planned and structured. Every little bit of the novel fits in perfectly. That’s why they’re so good. Part of Greatness has to be planning and execution of said plans, and that’s a huge point in White Noise‘s favor – if this review was objective. But it’s not because I can’t separate myself from my earlier reactions to this novel and my more recent reactions to other DeLillo novels based on that stupid thesis. There’s too much of a history.

So here is one huge stylistic issue I noticed for the first time: All of the characters sound the same – even the children. Here are two examples from close to the end of the novel (as I didn’t break down and let myself take notes any earlier).

A conversation between Jack and his current wife:

“I don’t mind running clothes as such,” I said. “A sweatsuit is a practical thing to wear at times. But I wish you wouldn’t wear it when you read bedtime stories to Wilder or braid Steffie’s hair. There’s something touching about such moments that is jeopardized by running clothes.”

“Maybe I’m wearing running clothes for a reason.” “Like what?”

“I’m going running,” she said. “Is that a good idea? At night?”
“What is night? It happens seven times a week. Where is the uniqueness in this?” “It’s dark, it’s wet.”

“Do we live in a blinding desert glare? What is wet? We live with wet.”

“Babette doesn’t speak like this.”

“Does life have to stop because our half of the earth is dark? Is there something about the night that physically resists a runner? I need to pant and gasp. What is dark? It’s just another name for light.”

“No one will convince me that the person I know as Babette actually wants to run up the stadium steps at ten o’clock at night.”

“It’s not what I want, it’s what I need. My life is no longer in the realm of want. I do what I have to do. I pant, I gasp. Every runner understands the need for this.

And a conversation between Jack and Willie Mink:

“By coming in here, you agree to a certain behavior,” Mink said.

“What behavior?”

“Room behavior. The point of rooms is that they’re inside. No one should go into a room unless he understands this. People behave one way in rooms, another way in streets, parks and airports. To enter a room is to agree to a certain kind of behavior. It follows that this would be the kind of behavior that takes place in rooms. This is the standard, as opposed to parking lots and beaches. It is the point of rooms. No one should enter a room not knowing the point. There is an unwritten agreement between the person who enters a room and the person whose room had been entered, as opposed to open-air theaters, outdoor pools. The purpose of a room derives from the special nature of a room. A room is inside. This is what people in rooms have to agree on, as differentiated from lawns, meadows, fields, orchards.”

Maybe these aren’t the absolute best examples, but do you see what I mean? It’s the terse sentences, the cadences. They all sound the same. It’s especially noticeable in that too-long conversation I complained about earlier.

All of that said, no matter what unnecessary text made it into the middle, the beginning and ending of White Noise are excellent, and those parts, alone, make this novel worth reading. You reach the climax and the conversation with the nun, and you’ll see what I mean. White Noise is always worth reading, over and over again. This time, as reluctant as I was to stop my pleasure-reading cruise, I’m glad I picked it up again, and I’m sure that, five or ten years down the line, I’ll say the same thing. White Noise really is a Great Novel, and it makes me feel just a little bit better about slogging my way through DeLillo’s lesser works.

2014 Book #52: The Bone Clocks

boneclocksI’ve been putting off writing this review since I finishedThe Bone Clocks because I’ve had a hard time wrapping my head around it. Now, of course, I’m behind again, so here it goes anyway. I’ll do my best to make sense of it.

The Bone Clocks is structured somewhat similarly to Cloud Atlas, in that the book is structured in parts with multiple narrators. Here, though, the whole story revolves around Holly Sykes, who begins as a runaway teenager who unwittingly gets involved in a supernatural war. We meet Holly at the beginning and return to her in the end, but most of the rest of the novel is told by other characters – including a college student with few morals; her husband (were they married?), who needed to be in dangerous parts of the world, reporting on various wars; and a writer who won a huge award but for whom things have gone downhill since. It’s a complicated story in which all the characters have a part to play in the Script of the supernatural war going on around them. Yeah. That’s why I’ve been putting off writing this review.

Not far into this book, I decided that it’s Exactly My Kind of Book. It’s like Murakami-goes-scifi. I can definitely see Murakami’s influence on Mitchell. That said, it could have been better, though I’m not sure how. A lesser writer would have made it into a series, but it works best as one Very Big Novel, though maybe its epic-ness can be a bit overwhelming.

I know. This review isn’t very helpful at all. So I’ll just make a recommendation: Read it. It’s worth your time. It’s funny that after all of that long novel, I don’t have much to say about it. I will say, though, that it’s not as good as Cloud Atlas, but it’s not too far behind.

In Puppy News (I know it’s what you’re really here for), Zelda has lost some of her lady parts and recovered from her surgery. Her stitches were removed last Saturday, and she has returned to her usual level of ridiculousness.



She was no fan of the Cone of Shame.

Poor Zelda in her Cone of Shame

Palmer doesn’t like the Cone of Shame, either.

Palmer wears the Cone of Shame in solidarity with Zelda!

But that’s all in the past, now. Back to our regular programming.

Until next weekend, anyway, when I attempt to take Zelda to Houston. That should be interesting.

Featured image credit: Andrew Mcpherson

Food: Not pretty enough for Pinterest, but tasty as all hellz (a recipe for Shepherd’s Pie)

I’ve been planning on (re)introducing food posts to this blog for a while, now, so here goes. (It’s a particularly good time because I need to review The Bone Clocks but am having a hard time settling it in my mind.)

I have a ginormous stack of cookbooks at home, but I tend to get most of my recipes from Pinterest, which is a pity because so many excellent recipes are just plain ugly. Like this one! (I’ll put a lovely photo of a sunset down at the bottom so your eyes aren’t assaulted by Facebook’s choices of images.)

This is my dad’s recipe for what seems to be a non-traditional Shepherd’s Pie, which is funny because I don’t think I’ve ever had traditional Shepherd’s Pie – you know, the kind onto which you pipe out mashed potatoes and stick in the oven for however long. Traditional Shepherd’s Pie, though, is much more photogenic. This recipe involves no baking and only takes a few minutes to make, so it’s good for weeknights. It involves one specialized ingredient, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

Here’s how to make it, in brief: Brown your ground beef, kind-of drain it, add vegetables, add spices, pour it over mashed potatoes. The End.

Easy, right?

Well, here’s the (very minor) catch: it involves Kitchen Bouquet. I’ve never used it for anything other than this specific dish, and every time I have to buy it, finding it is a nightmare. Sometimes it’s near the spices, and sometimes it’s near the barbecue sauce. Most grocery stores have it. Here’s a photo of it next to the organic, non-chemically cream of mushroom soup I insist on using even though I’m adding All the Chemicals with Kitchen Bouquet:

I promise it’s worth it. Here’s a lovely before-and-after shot:

Kitchen Bouquet makes a huge difference in color and taste and is one of the very few situations when I will willingly deposit chemicals into my food. Just do it.

And don’t neglect the mashed potatoes! I make these ugly, too!

I leave the skin on because Fiber Is Good for You. 2 or 3 good-size potatoes should suffice. I just boil them until they’re soft, then dump them in a bowl with a dash of salt and however much butter and milk I feel like adding. I like them plain and lumpy.

And there you have it! An excellent, but very ugly, recipe for Shepherd’s Pie that won’t set you back any oven-time. Of course I choose what is quite possibly the ugliest recipe I have for a first recipe post. Anyway, let me know if you try it.

Shepherd’s Pie
Author: Lindsay’s dad (or grandmother?)
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4 servings
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 large green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne
  • 1 Tbsp Kitchen Bouquet
  • Mashed potatoes (3-ish)
  1. Brown the beef, half-ass drain. Add veggies, cook until soft. Add salt and pepper. Add cream of mushroom soup. Add Kitchen Bouquet, add more if not brown enough. Put on top of mashed potatoes.
.05 carb factor for the meatz. In case you’re counting.

Aaaand here is our beautiful sunset that will end up on Facebook. Dog-walking is an excellent activity.


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