Tag Archives: New York

The Orphanmaster by Jean Zimmerman (& 2 Giveaways!)

19th July 2012

*This book was sent to me by the publisher Viking in exchange for an honest review.

In 1663 New Amsterdam, life is fragile. Attacks by Native Americans are a constant threat, as is attack from the British government or the competing companies. Orphans are a commodity, bought and sold by the orphanmaster for the best price. Blandine van Couvering escaped that fate. Orphaned at 15, she took over her father’s trade business with the help of a large African who, saved from the hangman’s noose, guards Blandine. Edward Drummond is a British spy, there to seek out the colony’s weaknesses. When orphans start to go missing, Blandine and Edward seem to be the only two who care, or at least, the only rational two. Witika fever has terrified the colony – the witika is the demon of the natives who can make a man desire human flesh, and when orphans turn up dead with witika masks and symbols near the bodies, New Amsterdam panics.

The Orphanmaster is an ambitious historical novel that, though incredibly spooky and suspenseful, suffers at times from information overload. Many chapters begin with information dumps about the history and geography of the area, which is interesting but definitely slows an otherwise tense novel. The Orphanmaster isn’t a traditional mystery in that it’s fairly evident who the devilish murderer is, but the aspect of adventure is enticing, as is the 17th-century colony and its inhabitants. The narration flips between telling the stories of Blandine and Edward to the story of the killer and a Native American under the influence of the witika.

Though slow in the beginning, The Orphanmaster thoroughly unsettled me and made me want to read more about New York and its origins. (Thankfully, I’ve got just the book for that…)

Curious? Leave a comment below, and you could win the hardcover book or the audiobook thanks to the generous people at Viking Books.

Psst! Click on the title to see if you won the giveaway for Shadow of Night or The Truth of All Things.

Fridays at Home: Packing

1st June 2012

Well by this time, I’m in New York. My brother took today off, so we’re taking full advantage of our time. BUT I promised you a packing post last week, and I wanted to make good. I’ll be up front: I love packing. For someone who didn’t really take real vacations as a child (teacher conventions were high fun growing up), travel is still something that makes me so excited. I love being in airports. I love planning my outfits. I also really take pride in packing light. A. It’s fun to shock people. B. It helps me relax. C. It isn’t so painful to lug my stuff around. The only time I’ve packed in a regular sized suitcase was when I took a three-week business trip to L.A. And, of course, my luggage was lost and returned to me damaged. Therefore, I try to always pack so that I don’t have to check a bag. Here’s how I do it:

First: Plan. Know what you want to bring and take items that pack well. Here I have three dresses, one pair of jeans, four pairs of slacks, and five tops. All are easy to roll, and rolling also helps prevent wrinkles (especially if you’re packing linen, which is one of my favorites for summer travel).

I swear by space bags – NOT the kind you have to vacuum. I spent 2.5 weeks in Italy with just a rolling duffel thanks to these babies. You seal the zipper after putting your clothes in.

Then you begin rolling the bag up. The bottom of the bag has a special chamber where air is released as you roll. Sometimes it helps to kneel on the bag to get extra air out. I know it sounds odd, but it works really well for me.

So this is what you’re left with. 10 days of clothes and half the size of what it originally was.

It fits perfectly in the bottom of my bag!

Next up, my cosmetic bag. Three compartments with room to spare. One small compartment has all my liquids in it, one has makeup, the other has random cosmetic items.

Since I want to put this in my duffel, I take out the liquid compartment and exchange it for my jewelry bag and sleep mask. You’ll see where the liquids get stashed in a minute.

Then it gets zipped and placed on top of the space bag with clothing.

My bag has this great bottom compartment. It stays separate from the top part, and it’s perfect for shoes. Here I have three pairs of shoes (usually I never bring this many), a curling iron, brush, and a cosmetic bag with all my chargers.

I always bring an extra bag. This one is specifically for the Javitz floor. They hand out totes, but I prefer to carry my own. Plus, it’s nice enough that I can stash a pair of heels and a sweater if I need it during the day.

There’s the liquid pouch again! I am really specific about my shoulder bag when I fly. I want those liquids easy to reach, so there’s less hassle. This stash includes my liquids, my Nook Color (under the notebooks), notebooks, business cards (in the white box), pen, camera, umbrella in a zippered pouch. The purple pouch has meds in it, including bandaids. The colorful pouch has hair ties, bobby pins, Colgate disposable toothbrushes, mints, and clips. The pink Coach purse is what I use for my money (and lip gloss). 🙂 All of this goes into the gold handbag.

And there you have it. These are the only two bags that will accompany me! I have to say, packing like this makes my life much easier.

So those are my packing tips! Though I’m pretty proud of them, I’m always open to suggestions. What are your packing rules? Do you have any in your box of magic tricks? Feel free to share with the class. 😉

The Great Gatsby Trailer…De-glitzed

30th May 2012

If you were around last week, you may have seen the Internet explode with news of The Great Gatsby trailer. Set to this music by Jay Z and Kanye West featuring Frank Ocean and this song by Jack White, most people were a bit skeptical, ok, a lot. Including this gal. However. The more I sat with this trailer and analyzed it for this post, the more it grew on me, including the songs to which it was set. Granted, seeing roaring 20s splashing on the screen along with the beats and funk of these songs was disconcerting, but here’s why I think the first at least was an interesting choice (besides gaining the attention of youth):

Here are some of the lyrics:

Human beings in a mob
What’s a mob to a king?
What’s a king to a god?
What’s a god to a non-believer?
Who don’t believe in anything?

Compare that to this quote from The Great Gatsby: “The truth was that Jay Gatsby, of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself. He was a son of God – a phrase which, if it means anything, means just that – and he must be about His Father’s business, the service of a vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty.”

Someone is paying attention. You don’t get that song and that quote without knowing a little sumpin’ sumpin’ about the book. That, in and of itself, makes me a little more inclined to give this a nod.

Plus, if you take the song away and just look at these photos, it’s not half bad, especially when you check out some of the quotes I culled. DiCaprio and his accents annoy the hell out of me, but the glitz and glamor that first annoyed me so are actually part of the pull. The novel is most certainly a quiet novel (in my book), but the time period definitely is not. I think Baz Luhrmann (who damn! is kind of hot in his IMDB profile pic) uses the juxtaposition well.

“The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and beauty in the world.”

“It occurred to me that there was no difference between men, in intelligence or race, so profound as the difference between the sick and the well.”

“A new world, material without being real, where poor ghosts, breathing dreams like air, drifted fortuitously about.”

Complete with typo, here’s Times Square and “Zeigfield” Follies.

“Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent.”

“And I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.”

“the air is alive with chatter and laughter, and casual innuendo and introductions forgotten on the spot, and enthusiastic meetings between women who never knew each other’s names.”

“I noticed that she wore her evening dress, all her dresses, like sports clothes – there was a jauntiness about her movements as if she had first learned to walk upon a golf course on clean, crisp mornings.”

“Everyone suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known.

“Her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it…”

“The lights grow brighter as the earth lurches away from the sun.”

“It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced — or seemed to face — the whole eternal world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor.”

“She’s got an indiscreet voice,”I remarked. “It’s full of -” I hesitated.

“Her voice is full of money,” he said suddenly.

“He must have felt that he had lost the old warm world, paid a high price for living too long with a single dream.”

“If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promise of life…”

“This fella’s a regular Belasco. It’s a triumph. What thoroughness! What realism!”

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms further…”

“What was it up there in the song that seemed to be calling her back inside? What would happen now in the dim, incalculable hours?”

“It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such — such beautiful shirts before.”

“He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it.”

“Through all he said, even through his appalling sentimentality, I was reminded of something – an elusive rhythm, a fragment of lost words, that I heard somewhere a long time ago.”

He was “one of those men who reach such an acute limited excellence at twenty-one that everything afterward savors of anti-climax.”

“I tried to think about Gatsby then for a moment, but he was already too far away.”

“It is invariably saddening to look through new eyes at things upon which you have expended your own powers of adjustment.”

“They had never been closer in their month of love, nor communicated more profoundly with one another, than when…he touched the end of her fingers, gently, as though she were asleep.”

“At his lips’ touch she blossomed like a flower and the incarnation was complete.”

“Then came the war, old sport. It was a great relief, and I tried very hard to die, but I seemed to bear an enchanted life.”

“I felt that I wanted the world to be in uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever; I wanted no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart.”

“So I walked away and left him standing there in the moonlight – watching over nothing.”

What say you? Does it help at all to have the distraction of music gone? Or, like me, does knowing the lyrics help you understand a bit why Luhrmann chose this tune? And, most importantly, does this make you at all eager for November? (I know, I know, another great film to look forward to, other than Skyfall.)

Fridays at Home: 6 Days

25th May 2012

In 6 days…count them: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, I will be leaving for New York. I cannot quite express the depth of my excitement. This will be my 6th trip to the city, and each has increased my love for it. The first time I went, I wasn’t all that impressed. I was with my sister and a couple of friends, and we were so divided as to what we wanted to do that I ended up not enjoying it completely. Plus, I’m not a touristy gal. No Empire State or Lady Liberty for me. In fact, as of this trip, I’ve still never made it to either of those places, though I’ve admired each from afar. That’s good enough for me.

I officially pulled out the suitcase Wednesday afternoon, though I’ve been planning outfits for weeks. I’ve been using Pinterest to keep some of my “must-haves” in mind, and I saw Swapna was doing the same thing. I thought I’d share my board today. In the next week, I’ll try mightily not to wear any of my planned outfits, so I can do laundry once and forget about it. I’ll also pack and re-pack my bag a couple of dozen times. 🙂 My family jokes that I could be a professional packer, and I’d take the job in a heartbeat.

When I took that fateful Italian trip by myself when I graduated from college, I was the “crazy girl wearing heels, walking on cobblestones” (a waitress told me they’d been watching me all afternoon) – I’ve since graduated to the girl hobbling in heels, bemoaning her blisters. This year I got smart. I have a cyst in the bottom of my right foot that was miserable last year. This year I’ve taken it easy and bought a pair of Sperrys deck shoes. I’ve been breaking them in, and though they aren’t dressy, they should go with most of my outfits.

So what am I bringing? You can click on the board below to check out all the pics, but here are the basics:

1 pair Sperrys

1 pair cowgirl rain boots (if it rains in NYC, your feet are unhappy)

1 pair Chinese Laundry camel leather wedges (for any get togethers; a quick swap)

1 pair BCBG red peep toe pumps (for a cocktail party I’m attending one evening; again, a quick swap)

1 denim jacket (perfect to go over dresses or tees)

1 jute bag for the Javitz floor

Luna Vanilla Almond protein bars (these are my breakfast, but they also work great if you need a snack)

Nook Color (Easier on the plane, simple on the subway)

2 Camelbak Stainless Steel Water Bottles (this is daily for me; both are filled each night and chilled)

Colgate Wisp disposable toothbrushes (for after meals or before meeting publishers/authors)

Target Notebooks/Gel pens – I love these for jotting down notes. Plus, they’re pretty!

Softlips Raspberry – This stuff is true to its name. Love it.

Moo cards (little business cards with blog info)

Medicine bottle with easily identifiable headache, stomach, heartburn, migraine meds (easier to keep in one bottle)

Ponytail holders! I always have such good intentions, but at some point, the hair will go up.

Assorted outfits/toiletries/chargers/accessories

Yea! Next week, I’ll give you a little live action and show you the nitty gritty of how I get my packing done in minimal space. One of my favorite tips? Make a list, and pack early. Then take something out each day. Don’t add to the bag. I promise, you won’t regret it. (Unless you add a pair of stilettos and take out your comfy shoes. Take it from me.)

Sister by Rosamund Lupton

20th February 2012

* I borrowed this book from my local library. You can buy a copy from Indiebound here or for your Nook here.

In the midst of a dull lunch party in New York, Beatrice’s dull but carefully-crafted life is interrupted by a phone call: Her mother is calling from London to tell her that Beatrice’s sister Tess – who is also pregnant – is missing. Petrified of the possibilities, Beatrice relies on her older sister role to get her to the airport, the London, to Tess’s apartment. Tess is just being her flighty self, surely. The alternatives are too horrifying, and when that horror is realized, Beatrice is changed. Tess had gone into labor three weeks early, the baby, stillborn. The police mark Tess’s death a suicide in the face of this news, but Beatrice knows this can’t be and begins stacking up questions, trying to find proof that Tess was frightened of someone and that the someone murdered her.

From the start of Lupton’s debut novel Sister, it is apparent that Tess has been killed and that Beatrice is responsible for finding her killer. Sister is told in the form of a lengthy letter from Beatrice to Tess, as the sisters often wrote back and forth to one another. In trying to cope with her sister’s disappearance and death, Beatrice turns again to writing Tess, telling her, through her testimony to Mr. Wright, a Crown Protection Services attorney, what has happened since the moment she arrived in London. I thought this was an incredibly smart choice, as the consistency of Beatrice’s voice and writing makes the impacts of some of the twists and turns that much more effective.

Because Beatrice is writing the letters, the reader is aware that he or she is following a desperate sister down any possible path to gain answers to her many questions: Tess was having an affair with one of her married art instructors. She was part of an experimental drug trial, and she was scared of someone or something. Told from another perspective, I may have doubted Beatrice’s many hunches, but as a sister, I was with her 100%, begging alongside her for the police to follow up just one more oddity in Tess’s disappearance. However, Beatrice is an unreliable narrator, as there are moments in her letter when it’s quite obvious something is wrong with Beatrice. She references being unwell and suspecting that her sister’s killer is watching her, though she knows he’s behind bars.

By the end of the book, my legs were incredibly tense from tapping my toes and feet, desperately wanting to beat Beatrice to the finish, yet scared to do so. The ending is so incredibly shocking, but it wasn’t artlessly so. Lupton manages to make you feel you knew what was going on all along, even as you page back through the last chapter to feel the impact again. Even if you’re not a fan of crime fiction, this is one not to miss.

Have you read Sister? I immediately passed it to my mom, who also loved it, and now it’s sitting on my dad’s nightstand. I love that kind of book. 🙂