Vacation, Day 6 (Vegas, Day 2)

This was the first day of ALA and I loved it. It’s so much more chill than BEA.

I got to meet Markus Zusak and Katherine Howe, who were very kind.

After the show, we went ziplining, which was crazy fun. And terrifying. I had to take my glasses off and for some reason I went backwards for half the ride. But I felt like a superhero. ;)

Then we went to the Harlequin Teen party , where I got to meet Michelle Madow and Julie Kagawa. (Both wonderful!) And I spent a bunch of time with Michelle’s family, who are also from Baltimore!

Then we went to see Evil Dead: the Musical, which was so fun. :)

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Vacation, Day 5 (Vegas, day 1)

This is the first day of Vegas!

It was a six hour drive and we stopped in Sedona to get jerky at Buck Thornton’s World of Jerky (I got whiskey barbecue buffalo, sweet and spicy elk and teriyaki venison).

We saw the Cirque du Soleil show LOVE (the Beatles one) and it was amazing. I highly recommend it.

Less exciting: the headboard on my bed was loose and fell. Pro tip: you will not get a good night’s sleep if you worry that the headboard will fall on your face while you are sleeping.

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Screw You, Change

I’m one of those people who is not good with change.  (If you know me at all in person, even a little, you realize how much of an understatement that is.)

I really, REALLY hate change.

A lot.

A LOT, a lot.

Which is pretty funny, because the last year and a half has been a big change-fest.

I’ve had to deal with several people close to me dying which has been awful but if anything good has come of it, it’s the fact that my notion of a good day has changed.  I’m always ridiculously easy to please (“I got a card today! It’s a good day!” or “My People magazine came! It’s a good day!” or “BOOK MAIL! GOOD DAY!”) but now it’s this: if I go to bed and the number of people I love that are alive at the end of the day is the same as it was at the beginning,  it was a good day.

By that standard, I’ve only had a few bad days since last January.

But there are other changes too.  I work in TV news, and a bunch of people are leaving on Friday.  (Well, three.  I didn’t really know one that well, although he was always nice to me when we did interact; one I got along with fairly well and one is an actual friend and coworker in my small department.  Which, obviously, is going to make our lives harder as we find a replacement.  And I can feel myself focusing on that fact because it’s easier to think, “REALLY, I have to be here one night and back the next morning? REALLY? There’s NO WAY AROUND THAT?!” than it is to think, REALLY think, “Wow, a friend is leaving and I won’t be seeing her again, probably ever, because people say they’ll keep in touch but they never do.”  I’m happy for my friend, but I’m very sad for me.  And maybe we will keep in touch, at least on Facebook.

That’s the thing with this job—you become close with people (because of course you do, they’re the people you spend nights and weekends and holidays with) and then people get new jobs and go away, typically even out of the city.  And you’re happy for them, but you’re sad, too.  Because things are different, typically worse, without them.  But new people come, and they’re usually nice, too.

But Baltimore is not typically the place you stay. If you stay in TV news, it’s a steppingstone, typically either to New York or LA, or back to the city you came from.  If you don’t, you tend to leave and go into PR or a communications spokesperson gig.

Honestly, though, I’m talking about all of this to avoid talking about the rest of it.

I think I’m thinking so much about the coworkers who leave because it’s easier to think about them (because we COULD keep in touch, whether or not we actually do) than it is to think about the people who’ve died.

My vacation was great, but now I’m home and my distractions are all gone.  I miss my cousin and I miss Kathy, and I know that won’t change.  I still miss my dad and my grandmother and I feel like sometimes all I do is miss people.

So basically, people I love, please stop dying.

Vacation, Day 4

Day four was awesome. We got pedicures, went to Changing Hands and got Mexican for lunch with one of my favorite authors, Amy Fellner Dominy. There was also a bit of last minute prep work for Vegas. AND we went to the Hollywood Costume Exhibit.

I’ve known Amy since her first book came out (OyMG, which I absolutely love) but we’d never met before. I always get nervous meeting authors I love, because what if they’re horrible? But Amy is lovely, so crisis averted.

The costume exhibit is amazing. They have actual costumes from various movies (for example, the green suit Kim Novak wears in Vertigo, Rocky’s trunks from Rocky III, the iconic dress from Seven Year Itch) and I hate that I couldn’t take pictures. Anyway, trust me, it’s amazing.

Books read: Still reading the Michael Koryta.
Books acquired: 3 (see picture)
Movies watched: Nightmare on Elm Street 3
Movies acquired: 0

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And Then There Were None

Finished And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Ten people, each with something to hide and something to fear, are invited to a lonely mansion on Indian Island by a host who fails to appear but leaves a recording accusing all of undetected murder. Cut off by his orders, one by one each die according to a nursery rhyme Ten Little Indians. A confession in a bottle solves how nobody remains alive.”

This was my first Agatha Christie novel, which—as a mystery fan—was a bit embarrassing for me.  I’m very happy that Harper Collins is doing this readathon (a re-readathon for most of the participants) so that I can catch up a bit.

I feel like this is definitely one of her more famous novels (this and Murder on the Orient Express were the two I had always heard mentioned) and I definitely think this is the best one to start with.

From this point on, expect spoilers.

I had read Gretchen McNeil’s Ten, which is a reimagining of this book and I had seen the Facts of Life episode that’s a takeoff on it, but all that really meant is that I knew that one of the characters was the killer and would fake their own death, but I didn’t know which character it was.

I love how everything tied in to the poem (nursery rhyme?) mentioned in the beginning and how the little toy soldiers disappeared as people died.  I thought everything in this book was incredibly clever, although I do understand the annoyance at how it is literally impossible to figure out what’s going on until you get to the epilogue and everything is spelled out.  (But this didn’t affect my enjoyment of the book.)

Now to the book club questions!

1-      When we first meet the “ten soldiers,” while they may not have been the best group of people, you don’t necessarily wish them ill will. As their pasts are revealed and their true personalities unmasked, did you feel any sympathy for them as a victim of the situation? Do you think that we, the reader, were predisposed to dislike certain characters more and feel sympathy for others?

The only one I really didn’t like was Emily Brent.  I liked Vera, even though her crime was arguably the worst.  (Incidentally, her character and situation reminded me of Marion Crane in Psycho—in love with someone she can’t have, due to circumstances beyond her control.  That scenario led both to do something horrible, and both ended up paying for their actions.  So I guess the moral here is don’t fall in love, right?)

But yeah, I hated Emily Brent.  She was so holier-than-thou and definitely enjoyed her perceived status as being better than everyone else.  I have to say of all the deaths in the book, I felt the best about hers.

2-      Each soldier was initially defined by their stature or position in life, did that change for any of them as the story progressed, or did they rely more on their roles off the island for survival?

I think everyone stayed incredibly true to who they were off-island.

3-      One of the themes present throughout And Then There Were None is guilt and the effect it can have on a person. How did each character deal with the guilt of their past crimes? Who handled it the best? And who was the most torn up from it?

I think Vera was the most affected by what she had done (and understandably so).  I think the others were all more or less okay with what they had done (especially Emily Brent, who never seemed to feel at all guilty for what she had done).

4-      What did you think of the use of “Ten Little Soldiers” throughout the book, both the poem posted in the bedrooms and the little disappearing figurines on the dining room table? How do they both figure into the story? Do you think the reminder of the “Ten Little Soldiers” poem was necessary throughout the story?

I don’t think they were necessary, per se, but they were definitely very, very creepy.  It was fun to guess how the next death would occur, and the mental picture of the figurines disappearing one by one was very unsettling.

5-      If you were trapped on Soldier Island, which character’s behavior would you most identify with and why? If not, what would you have done differently?

Ideally I would have been able to figure out a way to escape.  (But I probably would’ve freaked out like Vera.)  I do think I would’ve followed through with her idea to just lock herself in a room and not leave until help came.  The pantry was apparently very well-stocked and I would’ve just grabbed some tin cans, an opener and just holed up until everyone else was dead.  (The hermit’s guide to surviving a murder mystery!)

6-      From the very beginning certain characters are drawn to each other to form alliances in their strange situation—at first Vera and Emily, later Blore, Armstrong, and Lombard, Armstrong and Wargrave, and then Vera and Lombard. What do you think brought them together? How do these alliances affect events?

I think desperation was behind all of the alliances.  Initially, I think they were formed out of a need to feel safe and the whole safety in numbers idea.  Obviously, though, the alliances didn’t change any of the outcome because “Unknown” has clearly planned for everything.  (Obviously he’s not a great person but I do admire anyone who plans like this.)

7-      Did you have your own theories about who Unknown was before getting to the “Manuscript Document” and if so, at what point?

I didn’t think it was one of the women or Rogers.  I knew that the person was going to fake their death, so the fact that someone died didn’t get them off the hook for me.

8-      It’s widely commented that Christie “violated the standard rules of mystery writing” by making it nearly impossible for us to solve the mystery before she explains it to us. How did that make you feel as a reader?

I understand the annoyance as I said earlier, but it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the book.  I don’t read a book to see if I can figure things out before I’m told.

9-      As Agatha wrote in her author’s note, the plot was so simple, yet so baffling, that she herself was most pleased with the outcome for having done it. Are there any mysteries from recent years that you think come close to what she accomplished here?

I agree with Jenny’s assessment that it’s similar to Gone Girl. I feel like they’re both two of those books where you go along with it and the writer reveals thing in their own time.

Dream Boy

Finished Dream Boy by Mary Crockett and Madelyn Rosenberg.  I received a copy from the publisher. You can watch the trailer here.

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Summary (from Goodreads):

Annabelle Manning feels like she’s doing time at her high school in Chilton, Virginia. She has her friends at her lunchtime table of nobodies. What she doesn’t have are possibilities. Or a date for Homecoming. Things get more interesting at night, when she spends time with the boy of her dreams. But the blue-eyed boy with the fairytale smile is just that—a dream. Until the Friday afternoon he walks into her chemistry class.

One of her friends suspects he’s an alien. Another is pretty sure it’s all one big case of deja vu. While Annabelle doesn’t know what to think, she’s willing to believe that the charming Martin Zirkle may just be her dream come true. But as Annabelle discovers the truth behind dreams—where they come from and what they mean—she is forced to face a dark reality she had not expected. More than just Martin has arrived in Chilton. As Annabelle learns, if dreams can come true, so can nightmares.”

I read this book on the way from Phoenix to Baltimore, and if you are going to have a minor travel nightmare (delayed in an airport for two hours, a few bouts of turbulence and a very loud child across the aisle from you), this is the book you’re going to want as a distraction.

For starters, it’s incredibly fun and smart.  I absolutely loved Annabelle and her friends and the book’s premise.  Who doesn’t like to think about their dreams coming true?  Except, as the synopsis says, if the good dreams can come true, so can the nightmares.  And obviously that is a less than great prospect.  Especially when you’re Annabelle and your nightmares are crazy scary.

I definitely think the book left the possibility open for a sequel and I hope that there is one.  I’m very interested in seeing what other secrets this small town is hiding.

Recommended.

Vacation, Day 3

Today, we went to two bookstores, went to our favorite Chinese place, saw 22 Jump Street again, ate free tacos and went to a chocolate dipping party. AND I WENT TO THE ACTUAL CIRCLE K FROM BILL AND TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE!

Books read: still reading Those Who Want Me Dead
Books acquired: several (see picture)
Movies watched: 22 Jump Street, Insidious Chapter 2
Movies bought: 0

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Vacation, Day 2

Today, we ran more errands, I encountered the joy that is Sushi Station (conveyor belt sushi!), we saw Divergent and I went to a baseball game.

Vacation is wonderful. :)

Books read: I read a couple chapters in Those Who Wish Me Dead
Books acquired: 2 (preorders of The Stepsister’s Tale and The 400-lb Gorilla were released and went to my Kindle).
Movies seen: Divergent, most of The Hangover
Movies acquired: 0

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Vacation, Day 1

My day started at FML o’clock. I was up at 5am and out the door by 6:05 to catch a flight to Phoenix.

I did most of my reading on the flight, although I did pay the $8 for internet access (wouldn’t do that on a flight to Chicago or Orlando but it was excellent on my almost five hour flight). I also remembered how great Diet Dr. Pepper is.

When I arrived, I ran into Jen and her dad Philip very quickly. He volunteers at the airport so he couldn’t hang out for long, but we went to Jen’s office, had lunch at In-N-Out, ran some errands, went to the movies and a bookstore and had dinner at home.

Books read: Finished Famous in Love, read all of Lauren Blakely novel, started Those Who Wish Me Dead
Books acquired: 0
Movies watched: 22 Jump Street, Insidious, She’s Out of Control (sort of; watched and talked)
Movies acquired: 0

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Poll

I feel like I always complain about having too many amazing books and not enough time, and yet I keep acquiring more.  (Book blogger problems!)

So here are some of the books I have but haven’t read.  Which ones should I move up?  Which ones can wait a bit?

NONFICTION:

1)  Books, Movies, Rhythm, Blues by Nick Hornby

2)  Young Money by Kevin Roose

3)  Carsick by John Waters

4)  The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

5)  A Year and Six Seconds by Isabel Gillies

ADULT:

1)  All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

2)  Never Tell by Alafair Burke

3)  The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger

4)  Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican

5)  The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

NA:

1)  The First Comes Love trilogy by Katie Kacvinsky

2)  Caught Up in Her by Lauren Blakely

3)  Frenched by Melanie Harlow (a recommendation from a friend)

4)  Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover

5)  The Marked Men series by Jay Crownover

YA:

1)  Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

2)  The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer

3)  The His Fair Assassins trilogy by Robin LaFevers

4)  Every Day by David Levithan

5)  The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson

MG:

1)  Ida B by Katherine Hannigan

2)  Escape from Mr. Limoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

3)  Counting by Sevens by Holly Goldberg Sloan

4)  Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald

5)  May B by Caroline Starr Rose