Sunday, September 30, 2007

Howards End - E.M. Forster: A Review

Title: Howards End
Author: E.M. Forster
Date Finished: Sept 30, 2007
Pages: 236
Rating: 1.5/5

I read this book for the Decades challenge (1910) and every single minute of it was pure struggle. OK, not every minute, but mostly every minute. This book is only 236 pages, but it took me two weeks to finish!!

The story is about Margaret Schlegel who befriends her neighbor Mrs. Wilcox. When Mrs. Wilcox passes away, she leaves her home, Howards End, to Margaret--although Margaret is unaware of the bequest. After the death, Margaret then befriends Mr. Wilcox. A strange type of courting pursues and they eventually become engaged. On the sidelines of the story are Wilcox's extravagant and snotty children and Margaret's aloof sister Helen. In the side-sidelines are the Basts, Leonard and Jacky, who are of a lower class but become entwined in the story. Its difficult to give a summary without giving away any of the plot, so that's basically it. Most of the story is wrapped up in class issues, the Mr. Wilcox and Margaret's courtship, and family scandals.

I've recently heard good things about Forster, particularly his A Passage to India but this is quite possibly the worst book I have read all year. Granted, I did just start a new job on Monday, but I was struggling even before my time got cut in half. And I'm not even really sure why I disliked this book so much! The character development wasn't half bad, but I found the writing a little confusing and very anticlimactic. The last couple of chapters were the best in the book, but I thought the writing was boring and without passion. I would not recommend this book and if you are reading it or plan to, I hope you have much better luck than I did. :(

Monday, September 24, 2007

Travels with Charley - John Steinbeck: A Review

Title: Travels With Charley In Search of America
Author: John Steinbeck
Date Finished: September 22, 2007
Pages: 275
Rating: 4/5

In the 1960's, John Steinbeck felt as though he lost his connection with America, so he set out with is French Poodle, Charley, to rediscover it. He basically traveled in a great loop around the country - beginning with New York across to Washington, down the coast, and through the southern states. Since I have had a bad case of wanderlust recently, this book was great for me!

Along the way, Steinbeck tried to make friends with the locals to get a feel for their particular locale. He did not throw around his name, but he did use Charley shamelessly to get his foot in the door. Steinbeck's narrative was very endearing to me. I felt he was really honest in what he wanted to say. There were some places that he loved, but others that really irritated him. Overall, at the end of the trip, I'm not sure that he was able to reconnect with America because the country itself is so unconnected in many ways, and I think Steinbeck really mourned this.

In many ways this book is outdated, but I felt that this was some of the charm in the book. I loved how Steinbeck described trailer parks with utter astonishment, it was humorous to hear him talk about traffic in the metropolitan cities and the vastness of Texas (he apparently did not like the state), and he spoke about civil rights issues with passion and fury. I would recommend this book - it is light and other than his tendency at the beginning to skip around from subject to subject every paragraph it was a solid read.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Sunshine and Roses: BTT

This week's BTT is the reverse of last week’s question:

Imagine that everything is going just swimmingly. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and all’s right with the world. You’re practically bouncing from health and have money in your pocket. The kids are playing and laughing, the puppy is chewing in the cutest possible manner on an officially-sanctioned chew toy, and in between moments of laughter for pure joy, you pick up a book to read . . .

What is it?
Honestly? I usually will pick up whatever book I'm currently reading. Right now I'm reading two books--Travels with Charley and Howards End. I had some great news yesterday about a job offer, so I came home and read Travels with Charley--the more entertaining book of the two. I don't think I really read for my moods, but I definitely don't want to read something that is depressing (or boring like Howards End) if I am in a superhigh mood.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Eat, Pray, Love - Elizabeth Gilbert: A Review

Title: Eat, Pray, Love
Author: Elizabeth Gilbert
Pages: 331
Date Finished: September 16, 2007
Rating: 4.25/5

I really enjoyed this book, but I didn't love it like I keep hearing most people say they do. But I still really enjoyed it. At the beginning of the book, Liz explains her situation - a rather desperate situation. Her life seems to be falling apart all around her so she pleads with God to help her figure things out. What she decides is to travel for a year: first to Italy where she can learn the beautiful language and search for pleasure; second to India where she will live in an Ashram and devote her time to mediation; and finally to Indonesia (Bali, specifically where she will try to balance the pleasure and spiritual lives she lived in Italy and India.

What I really liked about this book was Liz's frank attitude. At times she reminded me of my old hero Bridget Jones - one starts to wonder, seriously? how could things get any worse but she also handles her situations with grace and humor. Her narrative was very personal and I found her humanness very easy to relate to. I found myself becoming Liz's personal cheerleader - wanting her to succeed in her searches and to find the happiness she so deserves. Honestly, I'm not sure what it is about the book that is keeping me from screaming I LOVE IT I LOVE IT, but there is just something...

I would recommend this book to a number of different people. I actually dropped it off at Mom's house last night for her to read when she has finished with the HP series - and usually I base my recommendations on whether or not I would pass the book on to Mom. There is just something about Liz that makes you want to really like her. But she isn't perfect--she has her really ugly moments, which to me makes her all that much more likable.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Reading Lolita in Tehran - Azar Nafisi: A Review

Title: Reading Lolita in Tehran
Author: Azar Nafisi
Date Finished: September 13, 2007
Pages: 343
Rating: 3.75/5

I'm wondering if I should give this one another day or two to soak in because I feel myself wavering between this rating and a higher one, but I think that is partially because I really loved the ending of this memoir. I'm not even sure what I accomplish with my ratings because I usually end up changing my mind later on anyway. It will be interesting to see at the end of the year how all the books stack up to what I initially thought of them.

Enough rambling! Reading Lolita in Tehran is the story of an expelled literature professor who takes in seven students for Thursday-morning discussions of the works of fiction they all love. The book is divided into four sections: Lolita, Gatsby, James, Austen. Nafisi's memoirs go beyond these teaching sessions, though. It seems to me as though her books is two-fold. First, she talks about literature - mainly in the context and with connection to the women's lives in Tehran. Second, Nafisi talks about the events and their effects on her and her teaching. Let me try it this way: in the first and last section, Nafisi focuses on her book group with the seven students. But then she regresses in the middle to sections to earlier events (about two decades) working her way back up to the book group. While in their own rights I appreciated all of these sections, the organization was confusing. We got to know these girls and their discussion of Lolita but then lose them except for vague references throughout the middle sections until they return in the final section. The point is, sometimes it felt as though Nafisi was trying to take on too much with this book OR that she wasn't quite sure what she wanted to do and where she wanted to go with it.

For me the best parts of the book were when she was discussing the characters (of the book, not the fictional characters). Because I haven't read any of the James works discussed or Lolita, sometimes I felt as though I was reading literary criticism with a deaf ear--not really being able to understand the full meaning of Nafisi's words. The heart of the book was the Islamic Republic and how it shaped the lives of these women, but also how the fiction shaped their lives in different ways. I don't usually include quotes, but I found this one particularly striking:

"I said to him I wanted to write a book in which I would thank the Islamic Republic for all the things it had taught me--to love Austen and James and ice cream and freedom. I said, Right now it is not enough to appreciate all this; I want to write about it. He said, You will not be able to write about Austen without writing about us, about this place where you rediscovered Austen. You will not be able to put us out of your head. Try, you'll see. The Austen you know is so irretrievably linked to this place, this land and these trees...." (338).

And I love that quote because literature/fiction/reading is such a personal thing - something that is tied to our experiences, emotions, thoughts. But at the same time, literature/fiction/reading is also a social experience - sharing, collaborating, exploring. And I think that this is what Reading Lolita in Tehran tries to express. I would recommend this book with a little hesitation. I think some of it may be lost one those who don't have any experience with literary criticism or who haven't read the texts. Sometimes the reading was tedious, but the overall experience of the book was a good one. OH YA!! This is my final Non-Fiction Five. Whooopppeee!

Comfort Food - Booking Through Thursday

Okay . . . picture this (really) worst-case scenario: It’s cold and raining, your boyfriend/girlfriend has just dumped you, you’ve just been fired, the pile of unpaid bills is sky-high, your beloved pet has recently died, and you think you’re coming down with a cold. All you want to do (other than hiding under the covers) is to curl up with a good book, something warm and comforting that will make you feel better.

What do you read?

Hmmm, this is kind of a difficult question for me since if I am that down I will usually go for the movies instead of the books. If we are talking movies, my first picks would be Pride and Prejudice, Love Actually, Moulin Rouge, When Harry Met Sally, While You Were Sleeping. If I'm down, I don't have the energy to even pick up a book. I also don't tend to re-read books since I'm paranoid that I'm eventually going to run out of time and not be able to read all the books I want to read. Hmmm. :)

But a book that can always pick me up and make me feel loads better about myself and my situation is Bridget Jones. It is one of the few books that I've read more than once and will probably read again and again. I think good ole Bridge can make any down girl feel a little better.
What do you read/watch? Go here to play!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Tales of Edgar Allan Poe (Part 1)

So, I haven't quite figured out how to go about blogging for these short stories yet. Because I want to remember the individual stories as I do with a book, I guess I'll just make a record each time I read a few (I'm going for 3 a week so I can finish this month) and then give a regular review of the book as a whole? Whatever-- Oh ya, I'm not sure how to talk about a 10 pages story without spoilers, so these contain spoilers. Get over it. :)

Today, I read "The Cask of Amontillado," "The Black Cat," and "The Tell-Tale Heart." The first and third I have read several times, so it was fun to revisit, but I had never read "The Black Cat" before. Perhaps I'm a little numb to the ones that I'm so familiar with, but yikes!! This one really creeped me out.

"The Cask of Amontillado" is the story of revenge in the most primal sense. Fortunado has committed some offense against the narrator (is it telling that we don't know what the offense was??). In order to seek his revenge, the narrator lures Fortunado into the catacombs beneath Venice. Although he gives him several opportunities to leave the dank, dark maze, Fortunado refuses. Once at the end of the pathway, the narrator chains a drunk Fortunado to the catacomb wall and begins bricking the passageway until Fortunado is sealed into his death. I love the irony of Fortunado's name; I love the pure vileness of Montresor but also Fortunado's greed for superiority that continues to lead him to his grave after Montresor gives him numerous outs. But to me, the creepiest part of the story is not really knowing what Fortunado did to offend Montresor (or, maybe I missed it!!). I don't know how to upload it onto here, but I found a great cartoon on YouTube!

"The Black Cat" is the story of, well, a black cat. Once upon a time there was a man, a man who is NOT mad, mind you! Anyway, for reasons that I'm not quite sure of (is being drunk a good enough reason?), he begins tormenting the cat--beginning with the eye and finally ending with hanging it in the yard. The cat comes back to haunt him, although this time it is not exactly the same cat. The narrator (who is NOT mad), attempts to take an ax to the cat's head but instead hits his wife in the head. So, he buries her in the cellar beneath the mucky plastered walls. Finally, he can sleep at night peacefully. When the police come to the house, he takes them to the basement (see, he says, not here!), but then a harrowing screech comes from beneath the walls. The wife is found nearly decomposed with the black cat. Having read this one for the first time, I was really bothered by his cruelty toward the cat (nevermind the wife...I expected that). Other than that, it seemed very reminiscent of "The Tell-Tale Heart."

So, I was going to include a picture of "The Tell-Tale Heart" but just looking at them was going to give me nightmares, so I refrained. Again, this story is of a man who is so convinced that he is meticulous and thoughtful instead of demented and crazy, but in the end crazy wins! He is haunted by his neighbor's eye, a pale blue eye that is filmed over. After watching his neighbor for seven nights, he kills him to rid himself of the eye (yes, very sane). But, as the police come to investigate, the man begins to hear the dead neighbor's heart beating. At first very softly, then louder and louder until he is so consumed by the noise that he confesses to the police. I think that of all the Poe I've read, this one is my favorite. It is short and the narrative is concise and tight. And the justifications this narrator gives for his actions and motives--can't beat it.
Alright, now that I've scared myself silly, I'm off to read something a little more...well, not crazy anyway!

The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield: A Review

Title: The Thirteenth Tale
Author: Diane Setterfield
Date Finished: September 8, 2007
Pages: 406
Rating: 4.5/5

This one is a popular choice for several challenges, and I picked it for the Something About Me Challenge. After hearing great things, I was excited to take this one as my vacation book to Alaska. While I didn't get much reading done on the trip, I was able to finish the rest of it during our 5 hour airport-wait and 5 hour plane ride home from Seattle yesterday.

I really enjoyed this book. The frame story is of Margaret Lea, an avid reader and amateur biographer, who is commissioned by the prolific novelist Vida Winter to write her biography. Margaret doesn't quit understand Winter's choice as she has never picked up one of her books (she prefers the Gothic classics), but she agrees to write Winter's biography under a number of conditions. The frame story was OK--Margaret bothered me in a number of ways and I wanted to scream at her several times "Get over yourself!!" But I didn't. :)

The story within the story, though, is what captured me. I really don't know what to say about this story without giving anything away, but it is a dark story, haunting, gothic, tragic, and gripping. As Winter tells her tale, Margaret also begins to piece bits of the story together through her own means, and she, as I did, becomes enraptured in the ghostly tale. I loved that I couldn't quite figure this one out until the moment of revelation. You know its there, something fishy, I turned every scenario over and over in my head, but... When the moment did come, I had to flip back and re-read entire passages just to see the puzzle pieces fit. Love it! And can I just say that I loved the references to Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Willkie Collins, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, etc etc. I would definitely recommend this one!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Home Again Home Again

Today we landed back in Seattle. While it was an awesome trip, Scott and I were both glad to be making our way back to Dallas. See how tired we look? Well, Scott looks a little doped up, but I think that's cuz he's tired. :) See, that's why writing the blog is so great. I can say what I want!!

When I asked Scott if he had anything to add to the blog, he said, "It was good." Again, that's why I'm writing this.

Alaska was amazing. Why Alaska? Scott and I both discussed a trip we would like to take before we have kids. Not that we won't travel when we do have kids, but things that we wanted to do on our own first. Scott said he wanted to go to Alaska; I said Europe. The Alaska trip just sort of fell into our laps (like any great trip does). I am thrilled that we went, but some things that we learned:

September is the end of the season. It rains a lot more, the wildlife is beginning to hide, and the weather is a lot cooler.

Princess Cruises (at least this one) are meant for older people. While we had fun, the activities were focused on an older crowd (bridge, shuffleboard, bingo). During the day on ship, there really wasn't a whole lot for us to do.

Would I recommend a cruise to Alaska? Certainly! Scott would disagree, but I think it is the best way to see the towns that we did. Unless we decided to fish or do some of the more adventurous excursions, the time that we spent in each town (except Victoria) was enough for us. Next time, though, I think we will go more to the mainland of Alaska, which will be a totally different experience. BUT, that's why I love traveling. Each experience is unique and totally our own.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Victoria, British Columbia


After being on ship most of the day, we docked in Victoria around 6:30 pm. I was so excited for this port because I've never been to the Western part of Canada and it was Scott's first time to Canada (well, except our Skagway/Yukon trip). When we docked, we hurried off ship since the sun was setting and took a bus ($6 roundtrip per person) to the downtown area. Driving through the parks with all of the gorgeous flowers made me really homesick for Toronto. I must have told Scott a million times, "I really really want us to go to Toronto soon."

As soon as we got off the bus, (which let us off right in front of the beautiful Royal Empress Hotel--which Scott is standing in front of above), we took some quick pictures of the hotel and government buildings and began looking for a place for fish and chips. A very kind lady saw me furiously flipping through my guidebook and Scott looking lost and clueless with his silly little chest strapped backpack and gave us a suggestion for the Blackfish Cafe on the harbor. We walked there and had delicious fish and chips.

After leaving the cafe, we weren't really sure what to do and the sun was already rapidly setting. I had reviewed my guidebook and had a general idea of where to go, but to be completely honest there were some people on the streets that made me a little nervous about pulling out my book to get a better idea of where to go next.

So, we continued to walk, went into a outfitter store, and made our way safely back to Government Street. There were several really cute shops and stores, but the best part was seeing this spectacular street band. I found the below clip on Youtube to give you an idea of what it was like (yes, this is the same band we saw at the same place in Victoria). Everyone was dancing and having such a great time. After that I picked up my smarties (my favorite childhood candy)and made our way back to the bus. I wish we had more daylight time in Victoria.

Unfortunately I didn't get many pictures of Victoria--none of Scott and I together and none of me at all. As you can tell from the pictures, I have about a million of Scott and a handful of the two of us and maybe a fraction of a fraction of just me. :) I think this picture below, though, was Scott's favorite part of being in Canada:

I love my great big kid of a husband. Note the chest strap. :)

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Ketchikan, Alaska


Unfortunately we only spent a few hours in Ketchikan, but once again the town is pretty compact so we made our way around on foot. We were warned that it would rain in Ketchikan, so we were prepared with rainsuits. When we got off the ship, though, it wasn't raining!! It was overcast outside...which we were growing pretty accustomed to, but yeah!! No Rain!!

The first place we headed for in Ketchikan was Creek Street. Ketchikan was sort of the entry point for travelers to Alaska - whether they were prospectors headed for the Yukon or just settlers or hunters. Ketchikan is known mostly for its logging industry. Anyway, Creek Street was the part of town where gentlemen of a certain nature could go to whet his whistle among other things. Many of the bordellos and saloons are now converted into cute little shops.

After we saw Creek Street, there really wasn't a whole lot to do, so we went to the Ketchikan museum. After paying our $2.00 entry, we saw some great artifacts from the early days in Ketchikan. That's pretty much all there is to say about Ketchikan! We headed back to the cruise ship and strolled through some shops along the way. If we had more time, I would have really liked to have gone to Saxman Village a few miles out where the Tlingit natives have a tribe house and totem poles. We did see many totems in the town, but they were all reproductions. I also really wanted to see the lumberjack show because it sounded like they were having a lot of fun in the arena, but oh well! I think out of the towns we have visited so far, Ketchikan is the most picturesque--set into the mountains with beautiful trees--and the flowers everywhere! I can't wait for Victoria tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Tracy Arm, Alaska; Scenic Cruising

Tracy Arm!!
Today we were at sea, but in the morning we sailed into Tracy Arm where the Sawyer Glaciers are.

We overslept a little (which is weird because every other morning we've been up at 6:00 am), but I think we got up in time to see the best part. The picture to the left is a peek at one of the glaciers. We were able to cruise fairly close, but because we were on one big honkin' ship, we weren't able to go as close we I would have liked. The scenery was breathtaking, though. The day was a little overcast and the clouds were low in the mountain, but the water was glassy and calm.

Because Tracy Arm is an inlet, we were right in between the mountains. When we first walked out onto the deck in the morning, the rightside picture was our view. We didn't see any wildlife while we were there--as you can see the mountains are pretty barren. All of these mountains were carved by these glaciers at one point. Once the glacier has retreated or made its way down the mountain, vegetation cannot grow on the rocks for quite some time. Finally a moss will grow on the rocks and then smaller shrubs and plants and finally larger Sitka Spruce trees.

Anyway, so during the morning we hung out on the decks taking a million pictures (apparently Scott was fascinated by the ice because I had to sort through about a hundred pictures of blue ice (no, I'm not joking). Because the ice breaks off of the glaciers, though, it is a brillant blue color.

After enjoying the scenery, we grabbed a little breakfast and then spent most of the day playing cards or reading. We did play trivia with a bunch of older people. We faired pretty well, but the group whose card we were checking cheated and won. I was really mad about it, but I guess if that makes them feel better about themselves...whatever. :)

That night we went to our dinner at Satorini's instead of the other dining room. The boat was rocking so badly that while we were getting reading in the room something was banging around in the room next to us/above us. I was feeling pretty shaky at dinner--plus I had developed a sore throat from being out in the cold in Skagway and Tracy Arm. Dinner was fabulous, though. It was about 16 courses of Italian food. I can't believe all of the food they brought out to us.

I can't believe our trip is half over!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Skagway, Alaska; Yukon, Canada

Today was the day of our first and only "real" excursion. We decided to take a bus tour up the Yukon Highway to...Yukon, Canada. The weather was rainy and crappy - a real disappointment after having such a gorgeous day in Juneau, but what can you do?

The tour started with downtown Skagway, which is tiny. The tour guide (who rocked!!) explained that about 700 people actually live in Skagway. During the summer the population inflates a little, but otherwise its just a small small town. The main reason why there is even a town Skagway is because of the gold rush in 1898. Millions of people came to this town hoping to make it up to the Yukon to strike it rich.

So, after driving through the town, we made our way up into the mountains. At times it was so foggy it was difficult to see the scenery, but from what we did see it was starkly different from Juneau. Juneau is lush and green, but the route we took through British Columbia to the Yukon was completely different. It is Taiga biome, which is next to Tundra in terms of...well, whatever it is that I learned back in 6th grade. The trees are a lot scrubbier and it was definitely a lot colder than in Juneau.

Once we got to Yukon, we stopped at a little tourist pit (Caribou Crossing) where we had a hot lunch and roamed the museum. I got my bell and Scott got mad at me when I asked the cashier what the exchange rate was and when she told me it was even and I proclaimed, "That Sucks!" Well, it does! :) There was a little museum on site with a bunch of stuffed animals native to the region and outside the museum if one was so inclined he could ride on a dogsled (sans snow). There was also a petting zoo (which we got enough of in Gouldbusk on the ranch), but there was a horse who would not leave Scott alone. He kept nudging up to Scott trying to finagle some food out of him. Kind of sad, but made a great picture!

On the way home, we stopped in Carcross, Yukon and found Scott's retirement home (yes, that is it in the picture--and if you look closely enough you will see that the straps of his backpack are snapped across his chest--my sexy man!). And then in Fraser, BC, we hopped on the White Pass and Yukon Rail back to Skagway. The train was pretty darn cool, but again the fog kept us from really enjoying the scenery. There was one point, though, where we could see the gold rush trail ("Trail of '98") worn into the side of the mountain. It is amazing what the prospectors dealt with in order to reach the gold, but most times they didn't even make it back with anything.

By the time we got back to Skagway we were exhausted so we headed to the ship without going back to town. So...I don't have any pictures of the town. But, on the side of the mountain by the ship docks were hundreds of paintings from different ships. Apparently it is tradition to register the ship at first entry on the side of the mountain. This picture is not to register a ship but to commemorate the Skagway legend Soapy Smith (bad boy who met his rightful end after being shot).

Our nights on ship since the show night have been pretty slow. The time change is really difficult during the evenings when we are eating at 8 and the shows don't start until 10:30 (11 and 1:30 Dallas time). Next time we won't make plans to eat dinner so late in the evening!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Juneau, Alaska; Mendenhall Glacier


Today we hit our first port in Alaska - Juneau. Some things about this beautiful city: it is the capital of Alaska; it is only accessible by sea/air; the population is 50,000. The city is nestled in between huge mountains and sits right on the water.

The weather was gorgeous (high 50s, low 60s?), so we decided to make our way to Mendenhall Glacier about 10 miles outside of town. We took a bus out there ($12 roundtrip per person) and along the way we saw our first bald eagle. They are such beautiful birds and it seems unfathomable to this Texas girl that you can see them all over the place. Once we got to the glacier, we walked along the park stream hoping to see some bears. We didn't see any, but apparently in the afternoon the park had to shut down the trail because there were too many bears. We did see some beautiful salmon, though, in the stream.

The glacier itself is amazing. My poor camera does not do Alaska justice at all (even though I love my camera). We were not able to go up close to the glacier, but Scott and I decided to take a hike up the mountain to get a better peek. I'm not sure quite how far we hiked, but it took about 2 and a half hours round trip. It was quite the workout, but definitely one of the highlights of the entire trip (for me anyway).

Everything in the forest was incredibly lush and green, just gorgeous. Everything seemed to be covered with a think green moss; I don't think I've ever seen a forest like this. At one point we saw a sign for a waterfall, so we veered off the path to see what we could find. Sure enough, there was a beautiful waterfall, so we climbed up the rocks to relax a little before continuing on the hike. This picture was taken right before the waterfall. I sure do love my timer!!

Upon returning to Juneau from the glacier, we walked around town a little before hopping back on the cruise ship. The downtown area of Juneau is very compact, which is great because our feet were very sore from hiking (or as I like to say, My dogs were barking!).

We walked up the strip of shops, got a drink at the Red Dog Saloon (where we left impatiently before the show ended. Bah!), and made our way to the government buildings on the hill. The capital building was not very spectacular (which is the nicest way I can put it), but we saw some awesome totem poles, an old church (which was originally built in Russia and shipped over), and quaint little houses snuggled up to the mountain slope.

Definitely a great day in Juneau.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Cruising Day 1 - Alaska Here We Come

Today was our first day cruising. I was a little nervous because I was so stinkin' sick on our Caribbean cruise and really didn't want to spend all of our on-ship time in the room. I did very well, though, so I'm thinking I was only sick then because of my horrible sunburn (when, oh when will I learn!!).

After missing dinner in the dining room last night, I was determined not to miss breakfast. With the time change, this wasn't a problem and no buffet food for us! After a lovely, quiet breakfast Scott and I went...where? To the Casino! Of course he lost all of his money, but I walked away with $10 more, so I was pretty proud. Its not every day that you can go gamble at 9:00 in the morning!

After hitting the slots, we made our way to dance lessons where we learned out to Merengue. So, we were a little late and had to dance in between the theatre seats because there was no room on stage, but I like to think that this is now what we look like: (that's right, you've got to be the tiger)

OK, so Scott did make fun of my dancing skills the rest of the day, but it was still fun, and I was thrilled that he actually danced with me in public!

The rest of the day was pretty quiet. We played a few rounds of BINGO and lost every single one to the blue-haired ladies aboard. I think we probably ate pizza again, but we finally made it to dinner.

Coincidentally, the people we dined with were from Plano which I thought was incredibly random (Plano is the town where I grew up). They were nice enough; they were two couples traveling together and one of the wives kept trash talking the other husband (not hers). It was very strange and often awkward. Oh well.

Afterward we went to our first production - a medoly of musical numbers. Like I've mentioned a million times, there was a huge generation gap between us and the majority of the cruisers, so many of the songs were from plays produced many moons ago. They did sing a few from Les Mes (my favorite), but other than that it was a little lame. Scott fell asleep.

Tomorrow is Juneau!!

Big Fish - Daniel Wallace: A Review

Title: Big Fish
Author: Daniel Wallace
Date Finished: September 1, 2007
Pages: 180
Rating: 3.75/5

This doesn't happen very often, but I prefer the movie to this book. This is the story of Edward Bloom who is on his deathbed after living a full and unusual life. His son, William retells the stories of Edward's life (well, mostly. Some are prefaced with "they say" not really knowing who "they" are). For me this was a little reminiscent of my freshman comp days when I would ask my students, WHO ARE THEY?? They got really tired of me asking that over and over, but it is something that really bothers me!

Anyway, the stories are fantastical - from the woman in the water, to the giant that Edward befriends, the witch with the glass eye, and Edward's purchase of the town of Specter. The bigger story, though, is that of Edward and William's relationship as father and son. At the beginning of the book the relationship is sparse, but as William gets deeper and deeper in the humanity of Edward, their relationship forges in real life. The biggest story is of Edward himself and his evolution of a character beyond the realm of humanness.

The movie really is beautiful (as are most Tim Burton flicks). I missed the circus scenes which are only in the movie and the dynamics of Jenny and Edward which are only touched upon. The movie was magical, and I think reading the book after made the tales seem less magical. The ending of the book, however, was more powerful for some reason than the movie--which for me is usually how it goes. Redemption at last...

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Leaving on a Jet Plane - Alaska 2007

Alaska here we come!! The morning came very early today as we woke up around 4:30 to catch our 7:30 flight out of Love for Seattle, Washington. I kept asking Scott on the way to the airport if he was excited and all I got was a tiny whooo. By the time we got to the airport, though, he was feeling much more in the spirit and barely even rolled his eyes when I asked the very nice security guy to take a picture of us.The flight went with relative ease; I was able to finish my book (Big Fish) and beat Scott in a round of Back Alley Bridge as well! The highlight of the trip was being able to see Mount Rainier from the window. Of course I had to push Scott out of the way because his little head blocked the entire window, but finally I was able to see and get some pictures as well.

After landing in Seattle, which was wonderful and fresh after being in hot muggy Dallas, we hopped in the cab and made our merry way to the Cruise Ship (for $30 bucks). This was our first time on Princess, and there were definitely some differences between this cruise line and Royal Caribbean. The first thing I noticed was that most of the crowd was elderly (no, I'm not talkin' mom's age...more like grandma's). While we always managed to find people our age on the ship, we were certainly some of the youngest aboard. What can you do? I'm not sure that Alaska screams party like Caribbean cruises do.

So, we explored on board. Immediately found our favorite watering hole, checked out the buffet (which we would very rarely visit afterward), and made our way to the tiny room. Of course we had muster as well: (Yes, Scotty is making that little light on his chest beam by using his spit. It is such a relief to know that his great talents could possibly save us if overboard).

After muster, we went to eat pizza (as a snack, because apparently when you are on a cruise ship it doesn't matter how much you eat or when you eat). I didn't want pizza because I knew it would upset dinner. Well, I guess I didn't have to worry about that because we slept through dinner and went to the midnight buffet. Ahhh, the life on a cruise ship. Let the fun begin!
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