Thursday, February 27, 2014

kittens and links

I am missing this little dudette f'real.  I've looked at pictures of when she used to shimmy her way under the dish-drying rack and nap/stare at me and then I wept weepy tears about how tiny she used to be and how giant she is now.  Man, that kitten!

Onward and upward!

Here are some links that I've enjoyed this week - check 'em out:

An oldie but a goodie: Jimmy Fallon in a lip-synching battle with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Stephen Merchant.  You're welcome.

One day I will make this recipe from Club Narwhal and...then collapse from sugar overdose.  But it will be fantastic.

5 referral programs for bloggers, from Wild & Precious.

Melyssa shares what her day looks like as a graphic designer, and reflects on non-traditional working hours and productivity.

The video is…a little weird (disclosure: I haven't watched the whole thing), but the music is rad.  Electric cello? Don't mind if I do.

Lots going on in non-blogging land - if you've got a minute, send some good wishes my way.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

the keeper of lost causes

A couple of Saturday nights ago I went to the grand opening of an independent book store with some family.  We're all big readers, but I haven't bought new books in a long time, since, for the last few years at least, I've been moving around and living overseas.  In a show of support, I thought I'd look around and pick out a book to take home with me.  You can't tell from the pictures (mostly because I feel sort of like a weirdo photographing strangers) but it was packed! People milling around, chatting, eating lots of food (they were coming around with trays of different pastries and other goodies), and celebrating good old-fashioned hold-a-book-in-your-hand reading.  I'm really glad they had such a good turn out.

I decided to go for a novel called The Keeper of Lost Causes, written by Jussi Adler-Olsen, and tore straight through it.  There's a quote from the Oregonian on the back which says, "Plan on putting everything else in your life on hold if you pick up this book," (which, let's face it, a lot of reviewers say but which is pretty much never true), buuuut I did not want to put it down the whole time I was visiting.  At any rate, let's get straight to business, shall we?

Basic plot:
Detective Carl Mørck has just come back to work after handling a case where one of his friends and partners was killed and another severely injured.  He is not thrilled about being back at work, doesn't really want to do anything, and no one is filled with joy at the thought of working with him.  His boss decides to create a new department, called Department Q, and shunts Carl into the basement as head of the department to handle dozens of very old cold cases.  Carl and his assistant, Assad, come across a file about a promising politician's disappearance several years earlier, and, much to Carl's chagrin, there seems to be more to it than he first expected, and she may not be dead after all.

On a scale from 1 to Cripplingly Depressing:
3.  It is dark, like a lot of Scandinavian crime novels, and it is realistic in the end, but I never felt as if it was too gruesome.  If you liked The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, you will enjoy this one - though it is not at all as graphic as Steig Larsson's books were.

The end was a bit brutal.  But! I thought it was very well done.

Favorite line(s):
"She was able to lead him through the labyrinthine halls and up to the office belonging to the vice-chair of the Democrats with such familiarity that a snail in its shell would have envied her." Adler-Olsen, 150.

Weapon of Choice:
Paperback! A good size to hold in your hands.

Other titles by this author:
The Alphabet House
The Company Basher
The Washington Decree

Department Q series:
The Absent One
A Conspiracy of Faith
The Marco Effect

Have any of you read Adler-Olsen's books before? Know of any other mystery writers you'd recommend?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

cupcakes and "state of wonder" by ann patchett

Last week I picked myself up and carried myself off to a cupcake and coffee shop called Baked and Wired, which was recommended to me by many DC-types, who said the cupcakes there were far superior to any others - in short, they told me, I had to check it out.  And who can say no to frosting and chai?  No one.

I went on a Sunday, which was a rookie mistake.  Rookie mistake! It was so packed I had to wait several awkward-balancing-my-bag-and-coat-and-glass-and-cupcake minutes to find a spot near the window to put down my drink.  It was so packed I'm pretty sure I joined the date that was going on next to me.  Don't go on a Sunday, unless you're getting things to go making friends with strangers on dates.

That being said, it was definitely someplace I'd recommend checking out if you're in the area.  It's small enough to feel cozy, but with enough space in the back to hold plenty of neighborhood-dwellers and hipster undergrads from around the city.  The cupcakes have cool names (none that I took pictures of, alas), and I got one called "Pretty Bitchin'," which is how I was feeling that day.  They also have quiches and other baked goods and really nice staff.

In other news, I finished up one of my books, State of Wonder by Ann Patchett, and here are some of my thoughts:

Basic plot:
Marina Singh, a pharmacologist in Minneapolis, MN, goes searching for her co-worker, Anders Eckman, after she receives a letter with the news of his death.  The book follows her as she goes first to a main city in Brazil, then ventures further and further into the jungle to find any information she can about the circumstances of his death.  Things are complicated by the fact that he was looking into research on a new drug for a pharmaceutical company, and no one can say how well or how poorly things are going.

On a scale from 1 to Cripplingly Depressing:
3-5.  If you had a tremendous experience reading Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad in high school, then you will fall all over yourself for the first two-thirds of this book.  There are a lot of malarial hallucinations and dark, damp, suffocating descriptions of the Amazonian jungle and the various crispy critters that live inside it. 

Memories from reading:
This was a Target grab, purchased right before I took a flight home for Thanksgiving.  I don't know if it was my state of mind or the fact that the beginning of this book was difficult, but I have a lot of memories of reading this book in the semi-lit darkness of an airline cabin on cross-country night flights, filled with my own angst and anguish.

The whole thing.  I had a love-hate thing going on with this book, and I didn't know if I was going to finish it.  The characters were difficult, with issues and history and complexity, which is good, but also frustrating.  Overall, the trajectory of the novel and its characters was gratifying.

Favorite relationship:
Easter, oh man.  A deaf boy who serves as an intermediary between the doctors/researchers and the Lakashi tribe.  He was the best.

Weapon of Choice:
Paperback.  Small enough to fit in a carry-on, but with just the right amount of heft.

Other titles by this author:
What now?
Truth & Beauty
Bel Canto
The Magician's Assistant
The Patron Saint of Liars

How about you? Have you read State of Wonder? What were your thoughts?