Thursday, July 30, 2009

Harry Potter Reading Challenge!

I have decided that it's time to do my first reading challenge.

Galleysmith is hosting a Harry Potter reading challenge. The goal: to read (or re-read) the whole Harry Potter series by the end of next July. This actually works out well for me, because I was going to re-read them all anyway. Well, I was going to start with Goblet of Fire, but I can do the whole series. Maybe my husband and I will make these our next read-to-mes. (He's only read the first one.)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

I put this book on my wishlist when it was first released, years ago, but I didn't seek it out when I went book shopping or to the library (although a couple times I saw it in the reserved stack behind the desk). When I saw that it was being made into a movie, though, I thought, "I really want to read that before I see the movie." And then I found it at a garage sale the weekend after I saw the movie commercial. Clearly, I was meant to read this book!

I liked My Sister's Keeper quite a bit. I've never read Picoult before, and though she's been recommended often enough, I just kept not getting around to her. I'm not running out to read more of her books immediately, but I will, I'm sure.

Picoult tells the story of a family experiencing the slow death of their daughter/sister from leukemia, and she tells it from everyone's angle--except Kate's, the dying girl's. Pleasant surprise: this multi-directional approach works really well. No one person gets more sympathy than another; Picoult (probably with the help of her editorial team) manages to walk a fine line and keep everything balanced. And I really liked all of the characters; they were just unfortunate people thrown into a no-win situation and trying to deal with it the best way they could figure out how to.

However, I was a little skeptical of the gratuitous sub-plot romance thrown in between the lawyer and the court-appointee watching out for Anna's welfare. Anna is the youngest in the family, the one who was conceived to be a genetic match so that they could use her umbilical stem cells to try to force Kate's cancer into remission.

Even though I made a point of reading the book before seeing the movie, once I was finished with the book, I had no intention of actually seeing the movie; the ending of the book didn't work for me at all. But I see on Picoult's site that the movie's ending is different from the book's, so maybe I'll see it after all.

Still here...

Hi, everyone. I'm still here, really! We've been taking the move slowly, because--well, because we can. We have till the end of July to be out of our apartment. So even though we've been sleeping in the house, and are 85% moved in (which is not the same as unpacked), there are still things in the apartment, and we still have cleaning to do. I'm completely confused about where to put things in the kitchen. It's a bigger kitchen than the apartment had, but I'm not used to having drawers instead of shelves and I'm not sure where to stash all my kitchen stuff. The good news is that most of it will be at hand no matter where I decide to put it, so it's not as big a deal as I'm making it.

And we have a kitten who doesn't understand boundaries yet. Or what skin is. Or why I shriek when she climbs my leg. (And she keeps coming back to do it again, even after I've removed and scolded her.) I really have to get a squirt bottle so I can nail her with a splash of water next time she takes a running leap at my bare shoulder.

And Blogger is being weird about letting me upload pictures, so even though I've got a few reviews on the go, I can't upload the cover pictures. I suspect this isn't Blogger so much as a Firefox add-on conflict. I'm working on resolving it. Be patient--reviews for Tattoo Machine and My Sister's Keeper are forthcoming!

Tattoo Machine by Jeff Johnson

When I got my tattoo, it was a last-minute thing. My friend had decided it was the night to get her tattoo, and she'd done a little bit of research but hadn't made an appointment, so we walked into what she was assured was one of the better tattoo parlors in the city. Lots of flash on the wall, and binders full of it. (Flash is the paper typically tacked up all over tattoo parlor walls, a display of what the tattoo artists can do or have done; it also serves as idea fodder.) We ended up waiting five hours because there was only one artist working (which we found odd for a Friday night) and he was coloring in a huge tattoo on a woman's back; we both thought that if we left, we might make excuses not to come back. And boy, were there a lot of interesting people wandering in and out of that place. The girl doing the piercing that night was plenty busy.

Jeff Johnson's book Tattoo Machine, a collection of memories and analysis of the tattoo business (past, present and future), was an interesting book to spend a few hours with. Johnson co-owns a successful tattoo shop in Portland, Oregon. His stories are sad and funny and infuriating--and one story about the guy who wanted a banner with a name and number in it creeped me out. It seems obvious through his style that Johnson spent some time learning the craft of writing stories. He probably worked especially hard on his voice; I wouldn't be at all surprised if the persona he presents in the book is the persona the people who visit his shop see.

He does take off on tangents every now and then, rants that I would've recommended removing. But mostly he tells stories, and he does it well.

Anyone who has even the slightest interest in what goes on behind the scenes in a tattoo shop should read this. As you can imagine, he runs into all sorts of people--and he spares no one.