Monday, November 5, 2012

The Blog Has Moved

Hi, all. Thanks for checking out my blog. I've moved it to wordpress. You can check it out here.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Book Review: Frankenstein

By Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Just in time for Halloween I read Mary Shelley's landmark Frankenstein for an online book club.

I really enjoyed this book, but at shy of 200 pages, it still took me a long time to read. I believe my main problem was getting in the right frame of mind to absorb the language of the early 1800s.

I was very curious about the plot of this book. After all, I have seen Young Frankenstein! The story of how Victor Frankenstein created his monster and his eventual undoing was interesting.

This was a great Halloween read. It's not scary, but very intriguing. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good, thrilling classic.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Book Review: Tales from the Secret Annex

by Anne Frank

Tales from the Secret Annex is a collection of short stories and essays that Anne Frank wrote to pass her time while hiding from the Nazis. The essays are actually diary snippets her father had chosen not to publish with the rest of her diary entries.

The writing in the short stories is very much that of a thirteen-year-old girl, but below the simplistic sentence structure lies complex thoughts and an understanding of the world beyond her years. The stories are also quite imaginative.

The essays are where Anne really stands out. After all, her fame is based on the diary entries her father did publish. With topics like cheating in French class and arguments with and her thoughts on the Van Daams, her rebelliousness isn't quite up to today's standards, but I do find her honesty and writing style quite endearing.

I found The Sing of Inequity to be the most profound. In this page and a half essay, Anne challenges the prudishness of her compatriots in Amsterdam by writing:

"I don't think we're so very different from nature. And since we people are apart of nature, why should we be ashamed of the way nature has dressed us?"

Why not just be naked? What is wrong with the human form?

 In Happiness Anne states that:

"I had learned that most sadness comes from joy."
I don't think most adults have learned this concept, so to see it in the private writings of a 13 year old is astounding to me. It's almost as if the wisdom of a full like was granted to her before her untimely death.

This was an interesting read from a historical standpoint. I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in Anne Frank.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Rain Taxi's Twin Cities Book Festival

On Saturday morning Claire and I found ourselves in St. Paul at the Twin Cities Book Festival. Being the first book festival I've ever attended, I wasn't sure what to expect. Suffice it to say, I was not disappointed.

The Progress building was packed with book lovers
the moment we walked in the door.
From our first step into the packed historic Progress building to our last steps into the rain mid afternoon, we were entertained and informed. The building was full of book lovers of all ages. The amount of people was my first surprise, but it was definitely nice seeing so many book lovers in one place.

After a quick walk through the Exhibit Hall, Claire and I attended the Author Publicity: Basics and Beyond panel moderated by Steph Opitz, Membership Director for the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP) and book reviewer for Marie Claire magazine, featuring author Lorna Landvik, publisher Jerrold R. Jenkins, The Loft Literary Center Executive Director Jocelyn Hale and Minnesota Public Radio's Stephanie Curtis. I wasn't sure how well a toddler would go over in the session, but the acoustics worked in our favor. The large, open building was sectioned off by velvet curtains, but sound from the rest of the building floated in and covered Claire's babbling. We were still able to hear the panelists perfectly, though.

The major discussion point in the panel was building a platform. In the age of social media, having a large following is the way to get a book published. Jenkins pointed out that a writer should build their platform three to four years before publishing a book to have a solid following of between 100 and 150 thousand people.  Agents and publishers have to take a risk on new authors even if their work is good. Having a large online following is appealing to them and mitigates the risk to a degree. This wasn't a new concept to me, but it was a good point to keep in mind.

The panelists did make good suggestions for blogging and writing. Posts and articles that reflect the topic and feel of the novel will break up the self-promotional posts and draw in more followers. The writer should also have some "credits," awards and published short stories and articles to list on queries.

During the Q&A, Jennifer Miller, author of The Year of the Gadfly, asked a good question (and was commended for excellent self promotion for mentioning her book, which I later bought) about whether an author with a big publishing house should handle pitches and self-promotion. The answer was that if the publicist or agent has a contact, he or she should pitch the author, but if not, the author should go ahead and do it him or herself. In response to this, Stephanie Curtis did recommend that when pitching a radio or tv program, the author should have a video or sound clip to prove that he or she can speak well. YouTube here I come!

After the session, Claire and I walked around the Exhibit Hall again as we made our way to the Children's Pavilion, where Claire had a good time dancing to the Splatter Sisters, coloring a mask with the Minnetonka Center for the Arts, creating a book with the Minnesota Center for Book Arts and painting her own face with the help of the Minnesota Children's Museum. The volunteers, writers and performers in the Children's Pavilion were excellent, warm and very helpful.

All of my literature waiting to be read.

After all of that fun, we finally had a chance to really take in the Exhibit Hall. It was a great opportunity to learn about the many book organizations in the Twin Cities, publishers and literary magazines. I still have a stack of information to dig through. I hope to be able to participate in some of the groups to meet some more book lovers.

Now, back to Jennifer Miller. After asking a question during the Q&A session, I saw her book at the Magers and Quinn Booksellers table where she was scheduled to do a signing after 4:00, which was too late for me to stay with a toddler. The book looked intriguing and had a beautiful cover, so I bought it and decided to track her down to beg for a signature.

But that proved harder than I thought. Once, as I was chasing Claire passed the Literary Magazine sale table, I glanced up as I ran passed a woman and gave her the 'sorry my child's so wild smile' and she gave me an 'it's OK' smile back or I decided to interpret it that way. After passing her I realized who it was. But Claire was onto the music table, so I let her play with the instruments because she's going to be a musical prodigy and I like to encourage her.

My second attempt came after the Susan Isaacs book reading, but unfortunately Jennifer walked out behind me as I was bent over talking to Claire. Are you seeing a pattern here? Claire foiled my attempts, but I still have what looks to be a great book to read.

We had a great, long day at the Twin Cities Book Festival. I have plans to go next year, possibly sans toddler, to really take in all of the information.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Interesting Reads, Vol. 2

in which I share links to things that caught my attention

In literary news, the National Book Foundation announced their "5 Under 35" Fiction for 2012 and the National Book Awards for 2012. US e-book trends and stats were analyzed.

The Atlantic reveals The Painful Truth About Affirmative Action.

Surprisingly, David Fincher is using Kickstarter to raise money for a movie project. This must be the Hollywood version of a best-selling author self pubbing their next book.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Book Review: Bossypants

By Tina Fey

To fulfill the humor portion of my 2012 reading challenge, I picked up Tina Fey's Bossypants. A collection of stories about growing up and growing into her role as boss and the many awkward stages along the way.

I love Tina Fey, and I expected to laugh out loud, cry and possibly pee my pants while reading this. But I didn't. It was still a really good book, though. Tina has a knack for writing and making herself relatable.

Tina comes off as very human in this book. She bounces from awkward and nervous to empowered in a natural, realistic way. I really hope this is the first of many books from her.

I really enjoyed reading this book, and I highly recommend it to others to read.

Monday, October 8, 2012

September Premier Reviews: Part II

see part I of my reviews here
From laugh-out-loud comedies to edge-of-the-seat dramas, the second part of the fall premiers didn't disappoint.
Modern Family

As always, funny and refreshing. I don't love all of the story lines, but the characters are still sympathetic and lovable.
The Big Bang Theory

The premier was funny, but I'm a little bored with the Penny/Leonard back and forth relationship. I really want the writers to decide what storyline to use and go with it.

The Good Wife

I'm not sure this show will ever disappoint. I love the strong female characters (Julianna Margulies as Alicia, Christine Beranski as Diane and Archie Panjabi as Kalinda) they are all flawed and unsure about their romantic lives, but the camera doesn't focus too heavily on those aspects like other shows would. Rather, we see their strengths, their convictions, and their ability to deal with their flaws in a real way.


Such a good soap opera. I'm proud to say I'm a fan of this show. They laid a lot of their cards on the table for the premier, but I feel like there's more in store for us. This show is very well organized. The writers are so far doing a good job of keeping the storyline flowing smoothly.

666 Park Avenue
I watched the premier of this show, but I'm not sure if I'll continue to watch. I really don't think it's good for my blood pressure. The show hasn't been very scary, but the suspense has been a bit too much for me. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

September Premier Reviews: Part I

With the turning of the month I wanted to share my thoughts on the fall premiers I've seen so far. I'll share Part II next week.


As I mentioned here, I wasn't impressed with the premier of Glee. The subsequent episodes have been better. I'm interested to see which direction they go.

Saturday Night Live

As much as I like host Seth MacFarlane this wasn't a strong premier. With the loss of some key cast members, this will be an interesting season.


The story and setting are interesting. The writing and acting are not interesting or good. I'm still watching, though.

The Office

This was a good premier. Seeing Roy again was interesting, but the continuing story of Pam and Jim knowing everything about each other was cheesy. I don't like the new customer service guys. In the last season, I just want resolution for the existing characters.

Parks and Recreation

Loved this political-star studded premier.

New Girl

The premier was delightful and cute, just like it should be.

The Mindy Project

The premier didn't quite hit the right notes. It was funny and interesting, though, so I continued to watch it. By the second episode it seemed to have hit its stride.

See Part II of this post here.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Book Review: The Giver

By Lois Lowry
The Giver opens in a bland, generic society where people are ssigned careers (because Big Brother knows best) and given medication to suppress sexual feelings and closes on the promise of color, warmth, and, most of all, love.
In between Lowry tells the story full of social and political undertones. It's intent is clear--to scare people away from the slippery slope that woud lead to a society like this. For example, when Jonas expressed his concerns about his upcoming assignment, Lowry reveals that the job of Birthmother "was an important job, if lacking in prestige." That's really not much different from now. Birthmothers in this society lived a cushioned lifestyle for three years while they birth three children then they assigned to back-breaking manual labor until their retirement. Birthmothers are only valued for their one attribute and weren't allowed a family of their own.
While Birthmothers weren't valued, women in general were. The current Chief Elder was a woman and Jonas's mother had a higher position that his father. I found this an interesting aspect of the story, but women don't always need to be cast completely aside for the society's policies and practices to not be in women's best inerest.
When Jonas receives his assignment as the Receiver, we learn the qualities that will make him ideal for the job: intelligence, integrity, courage, wisdom and the ability to See Beyond. In giving up safety and all he has known, Jonas exudes these characteristics, so we can look at the announcement of these characteristics as foreshadowing. They were to eventually play a crucial role in the story.
Like most dystopian novels, the society in The Giver isn't completely evil (in some dystopian stories the society may be evil but was often founded for good). No one starves. Everyone has a home. For the most part, everyone is equal, except they were allowed to be individuals when it came to volunteering. The volunteer positions the citizens chose impacted their eventual assignments.
This book was enjoyable, but its ending was too blunt. Although this is a series, a little more resolution would have been ideal. I do recommend it. It's a quick, thought-provoking read.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Interesting Reads

in which I share links to things that caught my attention

Despite horrific graphics and poorly edited paragrapts that tend to ramble, Vanity Fair's What Katie Didn't Know article written by Maureen Orth is a fascinating and scary peak into Scientology.

Have QR codes reached critical mass when we're now able to place them on Great Aunt Bea's headstone? NPR has an article about an interesting new business.

Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine's falsetto is an act of cultural defiance, says The Atlantic.

Evolutionary psychology explains the history of social inequality.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Book Review: Remarkable Creatures

By Tracy Chevalier
I first stumbled onto Tracy Chevalier when I read The Girl with the Pearl Earring. I loved the way Chevalier created an entire story around a Vermeer painting of a young girl with a pearl earring. I quickly fell in love with several of Chevalier's other books. She became one of my favorite authors and landed a spot on my 30 Things Before 30 list.

Remarkable Creatures is her latest work, published in 2009. Like her other books, this one is well researched and well written. Her characters' dialects and actions feel authentic.

Remarkable Creatures gently drops its readers into the early 1800s, when women's rights were severely limited and having a mind of one's own was a cause for intense disapproval. As usual, her characters are strong women who challenge authority and buck convention. They work to make a name for themselves in a time and an industry in which women were persona non grata.

The remarkable creatures are more than just the two female narrators who chose to live life on their own terms. The early 1800s brought about many discoveries of the natural world. Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species, introducing the concepts of natural selection and survival of the fittest, would be published in 1859. While passing time, waiting to die, and reading about the natural world would have been more fitting for an upper class spinster and a poor girl should have been a dishwasher, the narrators found their passion, their lives' calling in fossil hunting on the beaches of England.

The tales of fossil hunting and the challenges of a friendship that challenges class and age fill the pages of this book and really flesh out the story. This book is a must read for historical fiction lovers. Tracy Chevalier may be one of my favorite authors, but I would recommend this book regardless.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Fall Shows on Fox

Somehow I missed adding Fox shows to my fall lineup. Oops!

I'm only looking forward to three shows: Glee (Thursdays at 8:00), New Girl (Tuesdays at 7:00) and The Mindy Project (Tuesdays at 8:30).

I've watched the first two episodes of Glee, and I'm not terribly impressed by the story line and dialogue. I know it's odd to criticize a show for teenagers, but it's definitely been better in the past. Now it seems tired and trite. If it doesn't get better, I'll remove it from the DVR.

New Girl is so cute and funny. I love Zoe, and I also love Mindy Kaling, so I have high hopes for her.

To see my reviews of fall shows, click here and here.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Winning Looks at the 64th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards Ceremony

I find the Emmys more fascinating than the Oscars. Whereas, the Oscars are dry and feature movies I have yet to see (Seriously, my Black Swan the The King's Speech DVDs are still wrapped in cellophane),  the Emmys are slightly humorous and feature shows I actually watch (or have watched prior to the airing of the awards show). Still, my favorite part is the Red Carpet.

Some notable trends appeared on the Red Carpet. It seemed like Angelina Jolie's leg made multiple appearances on the Red Carpet this year. Everyone from Heidi Klum to Giuliana Rancic to Maria Menounos were channeling Jolie's much-talked about Oscar pose. Both nude and colored sheer dresses were popular. Elisabeth Moss and Ariel Winter rocked some gorgeous floral frocks.

Another trend I noticed that I didn't really like were odd criss-cross bodices. January Jones and Emily Vancamp wore it in different variations. After a few looks, I found January's dress quite stunning and very sculptural. As an art piece, it's amazing, but I can't imagine it's very comfortable to sit in.

Without further ado, here are my favorite looks:


Zachary Quinto

Archie Punjabi

Kate Mara

Elisabeth Moss
Giuliana Rancic
Aaron Paul
January Jones
Jeannie Mai 

Friday, September 21, 2012

What I've Watched: Summer Movie Edition

It's officially fall tomorrow, so it's a great time to tell you what I watched this summer.

Project X

I can't believe I allowed Nick to talk me into watching this...with my mom...the unrated version.

The Lorax

I loved this movie, but I'm a sucker for D. Seuss. We bought the 3D movie but watched it in 2D because 3D isn't good for developing toddler eyes. I can't wait to watch it in 3D.


Yeah, I just wrote Troy, the Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom, Eric Bana one. Plenty of eye candy, and I love mythology but it was just OK.

The Hatfields & McCoys

I LOVED this. Of course, I really like Kevin Costner. While technically a miniseries, I'm putting it here due to length. Plus, it's nominated for an Emmy.

We bought The Hurt Locker recently. We really like this movie. It's amazing and is well directed. It's gritty and so real it felt like I was there. I'm very pleased that such a typically masculine movie was directed by a woman, the lovely Kathryn Bigelow.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Book Review: The Last Lecture

By Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow
With more than 15 million views and more than 64,000 likes on YouTube, Randy Pausch's last lecture continues to inspire people to achieve their dreams five years later.

When Randy stood on the Carnegie Mellon auditorium stage to give his lecture on achieving childhood dreams, he was trying to leave a legacy for his young children. No one, not even Randy or the audience, could have imagined just how lasting his legacy would be.
The Last Lecture was a series presented by Carnegie Mellon in which the speaker ponders his/her death. Although that wouldn't have been difficult for Randy, a computer science professor and virtual reality geek who was dying of pancreatic cancer, the university had decided to rename the series "Journeys" before offering Randy the slot.
In this small book, Randy strengthens that legacy by recounting his life, how he came to be on the stage that night, and the advice on living he gave to that lecture's overflowing audience. He wrote a little about death, dying with grace and living while dying.
Great advice and humor are sprinkled throughout the book and the lecture. Randy used the humor to grant levity and avoid pity. As he said during his lecture after proving that he was in great shape by doing push ups, if anyone wanted to pity him they could come on stage, do a push up, and then pity him. He was happy. It's all he knew how to be. He was a Tigger, not an Eeyore.
Randy with his family dressed as The Incredibles.
The book while short, is chock full of inspiration and provides many thought provoking points throughout. I highly recommend this book to anyone who hasn't read it yet.
Randy Pausch passed away July 25, 2008 at his home. He lived five months longer than the three to six months his doctor had given him. He was survived by his wife, Jai, and three children, Dylan, Logan and Chloe. Representative of his legacy, his obituary was published in the New York Times.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Movie Review: The Hunger Games

Directed by: Gary Ross
Since having Claire, Nick and I have found it more difficult to watch movies in which children are possessed or harmed. So, before watching The Hunger Games I asked Nick if he knew what it was about.
"Yeah," he said. "It's Death Race for hungry kids."
OK. He was ready to watch it.
Or, maybe not. It's one thing to know what happens, but knowledge didn't prevent us from being upset by what we saw. I suppose that's true of many things. During pivotal moments, I found myself holding back tears. On film the events I read about in the book seemed all too real.
Gritty, Appalachian District 12

At the beginning the shaky camera, while giving a realistic, gritty feel, caused a mild amount of nausea. By the time I had adjusted, the camera had steadied, and I was pulled into the characters' storylines.
Elizabeth Banks' Effie Trinkett dressed in garb typical of the
Capitol with Jennifer Lawrence's Katniss dressed as a district 12 native.

The costumes, done by Judianna Makovsky, were a highlight of the movie. The citizens of the Capitol looked amazing in their over-the-top colorful garb. The grittiness of District 12 was emphasized by a wardrobe reminscent of the dirty '30s and '40s. The contrast between the two groups really highlighted not only the differences between them, but also emphasized the Capitol's lack of concern and interest for the well being of the people of District 12, Panem's poorest district.
Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman

In my review of the book, I wrote that Collins often told rather than showed some of the thoughts and actions. I found the movie better in that respect. The addition of Stanley Tucci's character as an announcer during the games fixed that. Instead of Katniss's narration, we're treated to Tucci's colorful commentary.
Casting was well done with known actors such as Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks and Stanley Tucci with new and less well known actors such as Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth.
Both Nick and I are looking forward to the second movie. According to IMDB, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire will be released in November of 2013. That gives me over a year to read and review the book before catching the movie in about December or later, because, let's face it, I'm not waiting in a long line with teeny boppers for this movie no matter how good it is.
Have you watched The Hunger Games? What did you think?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

NYC Spring 2013 Fashion Picks

As fall is just starting to hit here in Minnesota, NYC was looking to Spring 2013 with top designers presenting their upcoming lines. I honestly wasn't fully in love with any look. Maybe my mind is too firmly entrenched in fall to think about spring right now. Regardless, here are my top picks:

Rachel Zoe, via InStyle
Vera Wang, via InStyle
Rachel Roy, via InStyle
Rachel Roy, via InStyle
J. Crew, via InStyle
Tory Burch, via InStyle
Zac Posen, via InStyle
Carolina Herrera, via Instyle
DKNY, via InStyle
Global-inspired prints were huge on the runways. I'm really loving them. It seems like Spring might be an easy season for me to transition to. Did you like any other looks?