Recent Arrivals: Let’s Read!

I’ve had several book orders stuck in limbo for the past several days, fighting to get through the inevitable travel insanity brought on by the crazy weather in the south and east. Fortunately they’ve made it through unscathed, and I’ve got new books to keep me company on this long weekend!

To Join the Lost, Seth SteinzorFirst to arrive was Seth Steinzor’s To Join the Lost, an adaptation of Dante’s Inferno. I read the original in high school and thought it was really good if a bit unapproachable for the contemporary reader, so I’m interested to read Steinzor’s modernization. (Received from PaperBackSwap.)

 

 

 

Lady Molly of Scotland Yard, Emmuska OrczyNext came Lady Molly of Scotland Yard, a series of 12 short stories about a female detective who out-Sherlocks Mr. Holmes. Written by Baroness Emmuska Orczy, author of The Scarlet Pimpernel, one of my favorite books. I’m a little wary of reading short stories — they’re not my forte — but I love Orczy and the premise so much I’m willing to risk it. (Received from PaperBackSwap.)

 

 

Mort-Terry-PratchettMy favorite new arrival is Mort, yet another book in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. I’m reading this one as part of the Reading Outside the Box challenge, and I’m excited to revisit Death, one of my favorite characters from this series. (Purchased new from Barnes & Noble.)

 

 

 

The Anxiety and Phobia WorkbookLastly there’s The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook, which I’ll be using as part of my CBT. Not really a thrilling acquisition, but certainly an important and valuable one.

Which book would you read first?

You Draw Like Cords Around My Heart

I enjoy my job. Although I wouldn’t call it a thrill ride, my tasks are so varied that it’s hard to ever say I had a boring day. Take yesterday for instance, when I:

  • Wrote a blog post about things to consider when choosing a medical alert/home monitoring system
  • Proofread an article entitled, “5 Elements of Your Dream Master Bathroom”
  • Updated an editorial calendar for a wastewater systems company

As someone who spent the bulk of her younger years writing short stories, hideously awful fanfiction, a couple of half-decent plays, and majored in theatre, I never imagined I’d spend my working days writing non-fiction.

But then life takes all of us in unexpected directions, hopefully depositing us neatly just in front of what we need at the time.

For most of my life my “need” has been for books and solitude. This is still true a good part of the time, but over the past several years I’ve learned to appreciate those who pull me out of my shell and insist I live in the real world, if only for a few hours.

These people — my friends — have shown me that my secrets aren’t shameful, that I am strong, that I am not broken. This is unexpected, and I am grateful.

It’s been a difficult six months, and I know the next six will be challenging too — and for the first time in a long time, I’m glad I’m not alone.

[Image: Krissy Venosdale]

5 Shows I Can’t Stop Watching

Best Friend and I have been on a serious TV-watching jag — going out often isn’t in our budget — and we’ve been marathoning several awesome series. I haven’t felt much like reading recently (how lame, right?) so I’m also revisiting some of my personal favorites.

FX cartoon ArcherArcher - An FX adult cartoon all about super spy Sterling Archer and ISIS, the company for which he works. Absolutely rude and violent and hilarious. First four seasons are on Netflix.

 

 

 

Better Off TedBetter Off Ted - A show about a nice guy who heads the R&D department of a soulless corporation called Veridian Dynamics. The company is always inventing ridiculous, dangerous things and finding new ways to exploit their employees, and Ted is the only person standing in its way. An off-beat, absurd workplace comedy. I hate that it was cancelled after only two seasons, but they’re both on Netflix and lots of fun to revisit.

 

 

Parks and RecreationParks and Recreation - Best Friend and I tried starting this series sometime last year, but the humor felt too much like The Office, awkward and uncomfortable. Then we watched some episodes from season three that were really great, and realized we’d just have to muscle through the first few episodes. Now we’re both completely hooked, powering through almost five seasons over the course of a few weekends.

 

 

SherlockSherlock - Doyle’s short stories weren’t my favorites, but I do love the Holmes character. BBC’s modern adaptation is all the rage; I love the casting choices and the show’s intelligence and wit. This is the only show I tune in to watch at original air time.

 

 

 

Swamp-PeopleSwamp People - This one caught me off guard too — each episode is essentially the same (put out lines, catch alligators, shoot alligators, profit), yet I can’t stop watching. The producers do an amazing job of storytelling, bringing out details of the hunters’ lives and making the show about more than just shooting. I’m watching a marathon on the History channel as I type this.

What shows, old or new, are you obsessed with?

Review: Vintage Attraction

Vintage Attraction, Charles BlackstoneDisclosure: I received a free copy of Vintage Attraction from publisher Pegasus Books, LLC, but was not compensated for discussing/reviewing it. My thoughts on the book are my own.

Peter Hapworth is not someone you’d consider to be “happy.” Frustrated by his stalled academic career and meaningless love life, he spends most of his time spinning up off-the-wall restaurant concepts (my favorite: Quiet Café, where speaking isn’t allowed so diners aren’t distracted from their reading) and watching whatever’s on television.

But things change when he watches an episode of Vintage Attraction, a show about wine hosted by celebrity sommelier Isabelle (Izzy) Conway. An audition fails to land him a spot on her show, but he leaves with something better: a date with Izzy. Five weeks later they’re married, share an apartment, and are having serious problems.

Between ex-flames, stressful jobs, and a simple lack of communication, it looks like the couple’s relationship may be corked.

Excellent and infuriating

(Stick with me, this is a good thing.)

Character-based novels are my favorites, and Charles Blackstone’s Vintage Attraction is a doozy. Peter and Izzy are funny and irritating by turns, flawed and real and lovely. It also flies right in the face of my old nemesis, the Myth of Happily Ever After.

At first I was kind of put off by the constant wine talk (I’m just not interested in it) — but for me it soon became a metaphor for the complexity and challenges of coupledom. Mess with grapes too much and it spoils the wine; same with relationships.

Neither of the main characters are particularly well-adjusted. Peter hates his job, but doesn’t seem to be able to work up the ambition to do anything else; and Izzy is so loaded down by gratefulness to her boss (who “discovered” her and helped make her famous) that she allows him to cheat her and run her life. Not to mention the fact that she just can’t seem to let go of her douchebag ex-boyfriend, Pacer.

This is what I mean by “infuriating.” The two are on collision courses to professional and personal failure — they see it coming — but neither of them appears willing to make the changes that will prevent disaster. People can be so stupid.

Watching Peter and Izzy’s relationship unravel, and their attempts to keep it together, are painful but true to life. They yo-yo back and forth between happy and not, often within a single conversation. This feels more real to me than all the rom-coms and sappy YA stories out there.

Bonus points to Blackstone for including a Pug (modeled after his own). The personable little fuzzball adds a needed dash of levity to a serious story, and makes me want a version (or two or three or four…) of my own.

Spoilers!

I’m still a bit on the fence about the ending. Of course I’m happy that the couple makes it, but what would have happened had Peter not texted Izzy’s ex (pretending to be her) and telling him to leave her alone?

Throughout the story Izzy repeatedly falls back into the habit of hiding the fact that she’s talking with Pacer; was she strong enough and interested enough in saving her relationship with Peter that could she have stopped without Peter’s intervention?

Add this to your TBR

I wasn’t sure I would like Vintage Attraction — I’m a pessimist, so I naturally assumed I’d despise my first galley read — but it ended up being right up my alley. Believable characters, food and travel talk, destroying that pesky Myth of Happily Ever After, and a Pug. What could be better?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Santa and turkey face offIt’s Thanksgiving here in the US, which means I’m much too busy stuffing my face full of mashed potatoes, baked beans, and apple pie to think about writing this week. Bookzilla will returns to its regularly scheduled programming next week — when it will finally be okay to put up our Christmas tree!