Saturday, February 23, 2013

Hiding, Fibbing, and Fobbing Off

The past few weekends I've been running around nonstop. There were endless things that needed to get done, people coming to town, and that hovering feeling of how-do-I-have-zero-time-to-myself. So with a drizzly Saturday in Baltimore and no check lists to speak of, I finally treated myself to a day spent in bed catching up on my reading.
Currently on a chapter detailing how French POWs used wine to blackmail their guards.
I'm juggling a few books at the moment, but the standout is definitely Wine & War by Don and Petie Kladstrup. A self-professed fiction junkie, I tend to steer clear of nonfiction. But this one's been taunting me on my bookshelf for years and it reads as smoothly as the wines it describes. Besides the obvious of bringing two of my favorite topics together, wine and WWII, it's absolutely riveting. There are countless stories of how the French hid their wine from the Nazis or passed off inferior wines as the greats and how the industry itself became essential to the Resistance. Each chapter leaves me feeling a little more tipsy than the last and itching to plan my next adventures in France, perhaps bumping along Burgundy's wine road or swishing reds in the caves beneath Bordeaux. 

Despite being in the middle of a great read, I couldn't help popping over to my local library. While you'll find stacks of books teetering in every nook and cranny of my bedroom (one day I'll house them where they belong... in a library with a rolling ladder in the chateau on my vineyard in la belle France), there's just something about having a few piled up on your nightstand... something about books that don't belong to you. 
What are you reading these days?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Downton Abbey 3x7

I will not bother with an introduction, because... RAGE BLACKOUT.
  • One year later? NOPE. (brass knuckles +1)
  • NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Who is this she-devil looking at Branson? Hands off! Eyes off! (brass knuckles +2)
  • Branson and Sybbie <3 (smelling salts +1)
  • So things are still awkward turtle has babies between Thomas and newbie Jimmy. Swell. (brass knuckles +3)
  • I'm feeling a little lotta jipped that we didn't get to see her tell Cousin Matthew, but it's eclipsed by my elation! MARY, MY QUEEN, IS GOING TO HAVE A BABY!!!!!!!!!!!!! (smelling salts +2)
  • Eughhhhhhhhhhhhh *head in hands* Edith. Leave your obsession with fixer-upper men in your dreams, sweetheart. (brass knuckles +4)
  • Dawwww!!!!! I love seeing Carson get all protective over future-mother Mary! (smelling salts +3)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Chocolate Covered Nostalgia

Happy Valentine's Day! Or Thursday, as I like to call it. Still, I've passed the day watching an embarrassing number of fanvids in lieu of plunging into a molten sea of dark chocolate. Consequentially, I've managed to reach such a heightened level of sap monster that I now feel the need to do something a little fun, slightly silly, and a pinch scary. 

Two years ago I wrote a page-long rom-com. I have a particular weakness for romantic comedies and am constantly taking notes on funny things that happen that I can one day incorporate into one of my own. Children's writing is my passion, but this tiny love story is one of the first things I really shared with friends and family. You could say that this really helped crack my shell of shyness and opened the floodgates. And while I know this isn't my writing at its finest, the genre's not my forte, and my style then is completely different to what it is now, it will forever have a soft spot in my heart. And besides, "I like corny, I'm looking for corny in my life."

I was listening to Van Morrison in the car when I wrote it, so I always recommend listening to this or this in the background. What can I say? I just visualize everything in movie format and need a little soundtrack! For the leading man, break out your smelling salts, because I envision...
The tall, light, and handsome Armie Hammer! Who else? And for the leading lady? Yourself of course! Armie Hammer's a living, breathing Disney prince! Why let someone else have all the fun? Alright... haha... *deep breath*...
Sophie stood outside her (technically speaking) boss's office, coffee in hand. The door was open, but her ballet flat-clad feet had stopped short when she overheard, "Jesus! Is there no one who'll be honest with me for five seconds?" followed by the slamming of a phone.

Timing had never been Sophie's strong suit. She’d gone into her freshman year of college wearing braces, started giggling the first time a boy leaned in for a kiss, habitually ran after the 8 o’clock bus, blew out tires wherever there wasn’t cell service, and spilled tomato soup down her crisp white blouse on the first day of work. This last instance gave birth to the nickname Campbell, which spread like wildfire through the firm. Most of her snobby colleagues were unaware that that was, in fact, her last name.

But worst of all was the way she always, as in without fail, got tongue-tied around her boss, Gabriel Frederick. From their first meeting when she avoided eye contact with his piercing blues to the time he asked her a question in a board meeting, but she’d been so busy gazing at him adoringly that she didn’t hear a word he’d said. To the roaring delight of everyone at the conference table, Sophie had panicked and blurted out something along the lines of, “Yes, I can do that for you! I’d do anything for you!” Upon further reflection, he’d probably just asked her about something like the arrival of new software. The incident had made her a laughing stock, the living embodiment of the stereotypically silly secretary. Gabriel was the exception. 

Is there no one who’ll be honest with me for five seconds? The words were still ringing in her ears as she walked into his office. Immediately noticing his head in his hands, she cleared her throat. Confusion briefly flickered over his eyes as he straightened up in his chair and she set the coffee cup on the edge of his desk.

“Um… Can I do anything for you?” She blushed as the familiar words tumbled out.

“No, thank you.”

The color in her cheeks heightened as she whirled around to walk out. But reaching the door, she reflexively pulled it shut, and turned back around as the confession started spilling out.

“I couldn’t help overhearing what you said just now. And-” she looked up- “well, you never said anything after my embarrassment in the conference room. It was a while ago, but you didn’t joke about it, you didn’t- you didn’t even crack a smile. And-” she looked back down- “maybe it’s because you don’t know my name or just don’t care, but I want you to know how much I’ve appreciated it. You’re nice. You hold doors and elevators.”
His mouth was ever so slightly open now and his eyebrows were stitched together in concentration. 
“You say please and thank you, you’re not stingy with compliments, I’ve never caught you playing Solitaire like everyone else on this floor, myself included. In fact, the only thing I’ve ever caught you doing is listening to Van Morrison while you answer e-mails, which is kind of wonderful, actually. You let me have your cab one night when it was raining and you don’t just give the homeless guy outside a wad of cash, you sit there and talk to him. You’ve never been to Paris and neither have I. And- and what I’m trying to say is that I really would do anything for you and I think I’m in love with you and if you need any more sugar for your coffee, please let me know!” She spun on her heel to leave when-


She stopped. Her heart stopped. He’d said her name and said it warmly, as if he was smiling. And when she turned around to look at him, he was.
Aha! Well, I hope you enjoyed that! Once again, it was fun to share. And besides, it's fun to look back on what got you where you are today, isn't it?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

As though bitten by R himself...

Well folks, that book hangover hasn't budged... one... bit. I can hardly bring myself to read anything else and it's been over a week. Basically, I feel like I've lost a limb. Like I am a zombie! If something doesn't change soon, I'll be in serious danger of a fiction coma. As you'll see, things have gotten pretty dire...

Here's a haiku:

Why will no one see
the film Warm Bodies with me?
Dear friends, that's so lame.

Here's a doodle:
R & Julie
Why does a cure for zombie-ism seem so much more likely than a cure for this book hangover? Somebody help! Can't you hear me 'SOS'?! Before you know it, I'm going to be posting zombie fan fiction and playlists and how-to tutorials for zombie bride makeup! I need epic life-saving book suggestions! Some kind of distraction! Links of Louis from One Direction smirking in slow motion, recordings of Richard Armitage's dirty summer rain voice, DIY projects to aid homeless kitties, something- anything!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Downton Abbey 3x6

Last night I steeled myself up for not one, but two hours of Downton Abbey. The crazed excitement this would have induced "back in the day" died right alongside my fictional BFF golden-hearted Sybil a few weeks ago. So I was looking forward to it with the same amount of enthusiasm I reserve for 120 minutes straight on the Tower of Terror. There's a certain thrill in it, perhaps, but mostly you can't feel your heart in your chest as you plunge to certain death/really unfortunate photo ops/peeing of the pants. Such was the grimace on my face as I turned to go downstairs to watch it that my insightful and oh-so-darling-that-she-makes-me-tea-and-heats-up-a-scone-for-me-as-there-are-no-commercial-breaks roommate remarked that the writer, Julian Fellowes, is lucky that I have nine lives. Ugh! It's so true. I've fallen prey to his pen's outbursts of emotional slaughter so many times this season, it's practically a miracle of science that I'm still breathing. Sure, no one died in last night's episode, but somehow I still managed to lose another life! This might not have been the case had it only been one hour, but Julian Fellowes, clearly a dog-only lover as the yellow Lab on this show never seems to age, obviously has something against cat-like human beings like myself!
  • Not agaaaaaaaaaaaain!!!!!!!!!! Is this episode going to be B-as-in-bathroom-break Bates-centric? (brass knuckles +1)
"Now that you're back, I can develop as a character!"
  • At last, he's reunited with Anna. Phew! IT'S OVERRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!! (smelling salts +1)
  • Hooray! Edith's going to London to make something of herself! (smelling salts +2)
  • Party pooper Lord G doesn't want Cousin Matthew encouraging her. (brass knuckles +2)
  • Dare I dream?! They're potentially firing Thomas upon Bates' return?!?!?! (smelling salts +3)
  • Ivy agrees to go to the movies with the sweet ginger from War Horse and BLAH. (brass knuckles +4)
  • Cousin Matthew's fighting the hard fight to make Downton self sustainable. Ugh. Cousin Matthew. You sustain my self. (smelling salts +4)

Friday, February 8, 2013

Warm Bodies & That Ever Elusive Book Hangover

It's an unfortunate truth that books that leave you face to face with an oh-gosh-what-will-I-do-now black hole upon turning their final page are few and far between. Last year I read 34 books, which is pretty good for me considering I'm such... a slow... rea... der... Sadly, only three of these books left me with a book hangover. You know the feeling; it's what you always hope will happen at the end of any book you pick up. Even if the story concludes beautifully, you stare down at the pages a bit shell shocked. How could you possibly read anything after this? How will you survive without the constant company of these characters you grew to love so much? How will you ever pick up a pen again? This, quite unexpectedly, is what happened when I finished Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion last week.

Honestly. Who knew? As someone who has repeatedly professed their aversion to zombies (you know, because it's very important to have strong opinions regarding fictitious beings), it's a miracle that I sought out this book. But I was curious and thank goodness for that!
Purchase here.
Two lines. The two opening lines. "I am dead, but it's not so bad. I've learned to live with it." That was all it took. I was hooked. What's more, I had a sneaking suspicion that I was going to fall madly in love with it. Despite the main character R being rather slow to talk as a zombie, his thoughts are beautifully stitched together. "I long for exclamation marks, but I'm drowning in ellipses." R has such a clear strong voice from the very start and you can't help pressing your hand to your heart as he stumbles through sentences and his very existence.

Enter Julie, a scrappy teenager sent out from the safe confines of a nearby stadium on a mission to find medical supplies. The search is interrupted by a band of hungry zombies, R included. R promptly kills her boyfriend, but when he eats his brains, he relives a few brief moments of Perry's life. More specifically, moments spent with Julie. So when R comes to and finds himself face to face with this girl, he spares her and brings her to live with the zombies at the abandoned airport. There, not only does he begin to feel, but he begins to change. He wants to change. 
My reflex is to shrug. The shrug has been my default response for so long. But as I lie there on the floor with her worried eyes looking down at me, I remember the feeling that jolted through me the moment I woke up yesterday, that feeling of No! and Yes! That feeling of anti-shrug.
And so, because he wants to change, he does. He finds a way to communicate, piecing together lyrics of Sinatra songs on a salvaged record player, and something to fight for i.e. protecting Julie. And, just give me a moment, because I just loved all the Sinatra references:
Yes, she knows what I am and what I do, but do I have to remind her? Can we just have a nice drive and forget certain things for a while? In the sunny fields of my imagination we are not a teenager and a walking corpse driving in a rainstorm. We are Frank and Ava cruising treelined country lanes while a scratchy vinyl orchestra swoons our soundtrack.
Not only was this story a refreshing take on Romeo and Juliet, it was refreshing period. I can't remember the last time I was so fascinated by a character. I found myself ogling at R and whispering, "What are you?" just like Julie. He made for such a surprising hero. He wants the world to change, so he starts the change within himself. It's heartfelt, broken, laugh-out-loud funny, risky, unique, and it had me wrapped around its pretty little finger from start to finish. And when I finished... it's embarrassing to type out loud, but I must have hugged it to my chest for a solid half hour. I then immediately went to Amazon and ordered a copy to keep forever, because I can't call my collection complete without it. Read it! Read it! Read it!

But now that it's over... No other book seems to stick! I haven't had a book hangover this bad in ages. Any recommendations?
P.S. I can't wait to see the film and truly believe Nicholas Hoult is the absolute perfect choice for R!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Downton Abbey 3x5

Sad but true. After the horrors they pulled last week, I just want to rip the bandaid off and get this over with.
  • Oh by all means... let's start with people leaving golden-hearted Sybil's funeral to really redeem yourself! (brass knuckles +1)
Euuuughhhhhahhhhhh!!!!!!! I AM DEAD INSIDE!
  • Branson's blank face... Branson's blank face... Branson's blank face... (brass knuckles +2)
  • And then saying he's past help when Cousin Matthew offers to do whatever he can! (brass knuckles +3)
  • Lady G's still giving Lord G the cold shoulder. I don't blame her, but it still makes me depressed. (brass knuckles +4)
  • The only faint glimmer of a silver lining is that, at least, Violet and Mrs. Crawley are being friendly. (smelling salts +1)
  • BRANSON'S DEAD FACE AGAIN. I CAN'T. I CAN'T. (brass knuckles +5)