My Book Reviews: Rules of Civility

When it’s my month to choose the book for book club, the pressure is on.  I want everyone to love it, to transfer that love to me (Hayley, you have the best taste in books, you are just the best person, etc. etc.)  I’ve had several flops (Hayley, this book was too weird but we still mostly like you), and now I research before suggesting anything.  One of my favorite websites in my search is The Modern Mrs. Darcy, a blog about books that was recommended to me years ago by the famous Lauren Honeycutt.

I picked three recommendations from her blog, and my book club voted for Rules of Civility.

Do you ever read books and sink deep into the given mood?  I’ve read books that were cozy like pumpkin spice and sweaters, some that were beachy and easy, but this book was like re-living a long night in D.C.  I remember being on night shift, unable to sleep at two in the morning, and watching snow fall onto an empty street.

This book was that mood exactly.

Katya (aka Katie, Kate, Katherine) is a smart, capable 20something who meets “Tinker” Grey on a night out with her best friend, Eve.  The two girls engage in some competition over the rich and fabulous gentleman, but Eve eventually wins after she is seriously injured in a car accident–the ultimate pity move.  In her attempts to move on, Kate meets glamorous young friends (think The Great Gatsby) and drinks a lot of champagne.

“Anyone who has ridden the subway twice a day to earn their bread knows how it goes: When you board, you exhibit the same persona you use with your colleagues and acquaintances. You’ve carried it through the turnstile and past the sliding doors, so that your fellow passengers can tell who you are – cocky or cautious, amorous or indifferent, loaded or on the dole. But you find yourself a seat and the train gets under way; it comes to one station and then another; people get off and others get on. And under the influence of the cradlelike rocking of the train, your carefully crafted persona begins to slip away. The super-ego dissolves as your mind begins to wander aimlessly over your cares and your dreams; or better yet, it drifts into ambient hypnosis, where even cares and dreams recede and the peaceful silence of the cosmos pervades.”

Woven throughout are themes from George Washington’s Rules of Civility, hence the title.  My good friend Maureen read this book and raved about the symbolism and imagery in the book.   Listen, I don’t know about all that, but this book was good.  Like cold pizza for breakfast good.

You can thank me later for my magic words.

On a side note, it is about 45 kazillion degrees here.  Thank god the library has the best air conditioning!



Book Clubs

As someone who has lived in three cities in the last four years, I value a good book club.

It’s like this: you show up in a new town, ready and willing to make new friends–but where to find them?  I’ve had a few manufactured friendships; someone I know happens to know someone in the place I’m moving to.  The key to conjuring a friendship out of thin air is to have an activity act as a buffer, bonus points if it’s a group activity.  Church groups and bar trivia teams have provided me with plenty of acquaintances.

The best results have come from book clubs.  It makes sense; friends generally have common interests.  At book club, we are generally all into reading, food, and wine.  In every book club I’ve been a part of, that’s been about all that we had in common.

I love it! The variety of tastes and differences in personality are so exciting.  One person is into Austen, one into mystery/thrillers, and I’m the nerd reading Jurassic Park again.  I never thought I’d like the ultra-feminine classics, but my book club has convinced me.

Today, I’m headed into Tokyo with my dad and my baby to explore some more.  We’ll write more soon!

happy reading

Continue reading

Delicious words

My favorite words from Stephen King’s The Shining
  1. Nimbus: a luminous vapor, cloud, or atmosphere about a god or goddess when on earth

2. Lassitude:  a weariness of body or mind from strain,oppressive climate, etc.; lack of energy;listlessness; languor

3. Verdigris: a bright bluish-green encrustation or patina formed on copper or brass by atmospheric oxidation, consisting of basic copper carbonate.

4. Denuded: to make naked or bare; strip


Two Earthlings in Love

Dr. Carl Sagan dedicates his epic Cosmos to his wife Anne with these words:

In the vastness of space and the immensity of time, it has been my joy to share a planet and an epoch with you, Annie.

Soon after reading it, my sweet husband sent me this picture mapping our location. Sigh. Just two Earthlings in love.

Cosmos has already gripped me so tightly that I am barely able to finish a few pages without finding someone to share them with. As Carl Sagan says, when you’re in love, you want to tell the world. His passionate love for science is infectious.

The Greatest Supervillain of All Time

Have you heard of Deadliest Warrior on Spike?  It’s old, and I’m slightly addicted.  The premise is to match up two warriors in a vacuum and calculate who is the deadliest.  Examples: pirate vs. knight, Nazi vs. Viet Cong, vampires vs. zombies.  Weapons are weighed, gore ensues, a winner is determined.



Being the nerd that I am, I found myself deeply in thought this week about a completely non-important fictional topic: was Iago of Othello truly the most evil character ever created?  Iago becomes Othello’s most trusted advisor and abuses this trust to create the downfall of Cassio, Othello, and Desdemona with seemingly no remorse. When his wife illuminates his treachery, he kills her.  By far, the most evil thing he does is refuse to provide any explanation to Othello–he vows to remain silent forever.

What the hell, Iago??????


Iago is working with some serious mental weaponry here.  But is he more evil than Cathy Ames of East of Eden?  I wanted to match these two up, Deadliest Warrior style.



Cathy murders her parents by burning them alive in their home, then walks away without a second thought.  She frames two boys for raping her, she manipulates countless men into ruining their lives for her.  When Adam Trask earnestly tries to love her, she waits long enough to deliver his brother‘s child, then shoots him in cold blood and leaves him to die.  She rises the ranks in a new whorehouse, murders the madam who loved her and uses her home to torture and twist souls.

The Most Evil

Based on the body count alone, I wouldn’t get close to either of these two.  Both are capable of manipulating others into murdering for them, both have killed those closest to them.  Cathy is a mother, which somehow makes her “malformed soul” that much more horrific.  As she ages, her weakness shows and she becomes arthritic.  We see her internal pain and a slightly human side to her.   Iago makes several grand speeches about how envy drives his actions, which have led some to call him simply jealous.  For me, Iago’s greatest weapon is his refusal to explain.  In the last act, he purposely leaves Othello bewildered.  He will remain bewildered forever, and this is the most evil secret weapon.  Iago wins Deadliest Warrior.  No swollen-handed Cathy Ames is going to out manipulate Iago.

But are either of them as single-mindedly terrifying as Annie Wilkes of Misery?  A game for another day.




Seoul Shopping!

Last week, my friend asked me why I was going to Korea.  Training? Hiking?

Nope.  I was going to eat.  Oh, and shop.  We’re not out to save the world here.

Fat Girl’s Food Guide, one of my favorite blogs, basically singlehandedly convinced me that Seoul should be my first foreign leave.  Her pictures of three-tiered brunches and meringue topped lattes had me obsessively mapping routes between restaurants.  Only two meals survived long enough to have their picture taken before being eaten.

Street Churros

THIS WAS THE BEST CHURRO I’VE EVER EATEN.  I GREW UP IN SAN DIEGO AND HAVE BEEN TO MEXICO MULTIPLE TIMES.  I’VE BEEN TO THE DEL MAR FAIR.  THIS CHURRO WAS THE BEST THING AND I ALMOST CRIED.  I didn’t mean to order it over raspberry ice cream–that was a language issue, but I wasn’t mad about it.


Pizza Muzzo, ItaewonIMG_3859-0

This meal was a little bit confusing: caprese panini with polento fries?  Definitely adorable, but this is not what I picture as a panini, and the fries had the texture of cornbread with the taste of a cheez-it.  Again, not mad about it.

Korea Shopping

Friends of mine who had been to Seoul told me about Korea’s wide selection of beauty products, especially face masks.  For about $10, I bought 12 sheet masks, some with cotton, some tea tree oil, some honey.  As my free gift, I was awarded four masks with essence of snail slime…um. I guess snails do have pretty moist slime.

In a store called Lush, I had my hands and arms washed by a very attentive sales girl.  She brought out a new coconut shampoo and offered to let me try it in their back room shower; I declined.  When I saw a few other shoppers step out looking refreshed, I definitely had some regrets, but there is a part of me that just can’t shower in the middle of a shopping day in a strange country.  Not mad about it.


Korean makeup was a big thing too, but because white skin is the ideal, I was unable to buy any foundation or powder.  Even as a generally fair white person, the Okinawan sun has made me too dark for anything Korean and I was banished to the eyeshadow aisle.

Again, not mad about it.  I shopped/ate my little heart out.

Churros+ panini+snail mask+art museum+war memorial=sweet vacation

Currently reading: Go, Set a Watchman by Harper Lee


Yummy Words

I think words are delicious.  This is my list of recent favorites.

Apoplectic: overcome with anger; furious

Bifurcated: divide into two branches or forks

Meringue: an item of sweet food made from a mixture of egg whites and sugar baked until crisp

Protoplanetary: of or having to do with a protoplanet.  A protoplanet is defined as a large body of matter in orbit around the sun or a star and thought to be developing into a planet

Salient: most noticeable or important

Ultra Super Manly Men’s Mustache Book Club for Men

The first rule of book club: you do NOT talk about book club.


I’ve talked before about my love for Slate’s podcast Slate Culture Gabfest, and one of it’s most recent topics was the manliness of reading, specifically men’s book clubs.  Traditionally, book clubs have been for groups of women, and there is a very typical “book club book”.  My beloved club of nurses in Bethesda was pretty typical; we were all women and really really enjoyed our snacks.  Our choices ran the entire range: we read fiction, history, science fiction, fantasy, romance, mystery, comedy, military biography–each of us were so different that our taste was inevitably reflective of this.

Slate Culture Gabfest argues that fiction is becoming stereotypically feminine, particularly in America.  Taking this one step further, reading is for girls.  And let’s just face it, girls have cooties.

The recent rise of men’s book clubs points to adorable facets of gender stereotypes.  While women’s book clubs are generally happy to read and move on (half of our book club generally did not ever read the book, but came for the wine), some men’s book clubs on Good Reads have other fun activities.  One club rates the book and keeps a running tally of each book they’ve read, while others just create “ultra manly lists” ranked by level of manliness.

I love the importance attributed to listing, ranking, and of course, manliness.  Real men make lists.

It’s very Lord of the Flies, yes?

Hey, if it gets you to read, more power to you, manly men of American book clubs!


What do you think? Is reading for girly men? Are book clubs outdated?


Happy Sunday, readers.

Cleaning out old photos, I found this gem of a tweet from Pope Francis:




tumblr_nu5izpD0lf1rr67keo1_1280 (1).jpg

I think there’s something beautiful and spiritual in just the right amount of sleep and relaxation–getting plenty of time to recharge and read and blog and remember who you are.  Let’s remember to take our daily dose of chill pills, slowly sip, and relax this Sunday.

Enjoy, readers!


Currently reading: What is Not Yours is Not Yours, Helen Oyeyemi


Dear Marie Kondo, a love letter

Today, readers, a guest post from my dear friend Lauren Vogt.  I’ve known her for years, and even lived with her for a while before life dragged us to opposite sides of the world.  She sent me this love letter to super-organizer Marie Kondo, and it is absolutely perfect.  Enjoy!


Dear Marie Kondo,

I have to admit it.  I thought you were nuts.  I read your book for book club; well, actually I didn’t feel like reading it so I read a few articles about it so I would know enough to participate in the discussion.  But when I came across “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” on the bargain table at Barnes and Noble, I was drawn to it.

I read it mostly out of curiosity.  And for the pretty cover.  You did have some good ideas, but the way you described having a relationship with your possessions, respecting your clothes and thanking them after “a hard day’s work” of protecting your body, I wrote you off as a little “woo-woo”.

But nonetheless, I was feeling overwhelmed by the amount of stuff in my small apartment.  I felt as if I could be swallowed into the closet and be lost there for days.  Why not try your method?  It seemed as good as any other.

Oh, how I was wrong about you, you tidying genius with a thousand insights into my soul!  I began as you said by taking every article of my clothing from around the house and piling it all on the bed. Whoa. I actually had to put some on the floor.  Then I followed your methodical order of sorting my tops, then bottoms, dresses, coats, accessories, purses and shoes. I never imagined I had 6 garbage bags-worth of items to donate (plus another 1 1/2 for the trash).  And that was just from clothes!

Even better than the lightness I feel from only being surrounded by the garments and accessories that I really like and make me feel happy is the JOY I feel when I started folding my clothes according to the KonMari method.  I never thought that folding my clothes a certain way could matter at all.  But folding each item until I find it’s “sweet spot” and storing them vertically so I can actually see what I have…wow!  My heart actually speeds up a little bit when I peek inside my now-spacious closet or very tidy drawers…just like you said it would! And just like you said, when I fold an item just right and get it to stand on end, I smile and think “So that’s how you wanted to be folded!”

Talking to my clothes seemed like a weird idea, but actually I find that it makes me appreciate them more, which helps me to be more mindful and appreciative in general.  Even the clothes that I was packing up for donation – instead of shoving them into garbage bags, I sorted them into types and folded each stack nicely, thanking each piece for the joy it brought me and wishing it luck on it’s next journey. Wow, reading that sounds awfully strange, but it really did work!

Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for sharing your life-changing magic with me.  I can’t wait to sort the books and movies tomorrow!