Book Club Baby Shower!

March 15, 2016 at 2:49 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

Just in time to be a month late, I remembered I’d forgotten to post about our last book club meeting. Make sense? Thought so.

Our book club has been getting together for like seven years now and we’ve all grown pretty close. So when one of our members announced a pregnancy, we got all giddy and super excited. This particular member offered to host our last meeting at her house in the (almost) burbs and we managed to surprise her with a baby shower in her very own home! A home, by the way, that made me green with envy. After having spent the last five years in a one-bedroom apartment and sharing a single closet with Scott, walking through her four-bedroom domicile was like walking through a dream full of everything I’ve always wanted and nothing I could ever afford. Suffice to say – she’s got a nice place.

And we decorated it super fast! Well, a couple of us decorated it while the others got her to give us a tour. We totally stretched that out too, asking all sorts of questions about original woodwork and television screen placement. But our ruse worked and when we made our way downstairs, she was definitely surprised! And even a little teary-eyed, which we’ll just attribute to hormones and being surrounded by wonderful women.

dsc01548

We didn’t do anything like this nor did we bring baby books because we clearly suck at this shower thing. But we tried!

So we sat around and watched her open gifts while eating a ton of food and drinking wine that the pregnant lady can’t have right now. She was happy regardless though and I’m pretty sure she liked all of her gifts. As for the actual book club part of this party, we all read a book. But we all read different books because when we chose in January we were all exhausted from the holidays and couldn’t be bothered to be specific. We all read “romantic” books since we were meeting in February and I chose to re-read Great Expectations, which I read forever ago but forgot all about. And I really liked it! Miss Havisham is a great character and Pip is someone I love to hate. It also made me want to watch the movie starring Ethan Hawke but I haven’t gotten around to that yet.

The other girls read other books but since it’s been a month I’ve forgotten all about those. I do remember having fun though and unfortunately I won’t be able to attend the next get-together since I’ll be out of town. But soon enough we’ll all be together again celebrating our newest book club member and reading her nursery books so we can look forward to that!

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July Book Club Review

July 21, 2015 at 8:50 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

For this month’s book club, we were supposed to meet at a French restaurant and read Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg. Well, the best laid plans of both mice and men oft go astray and this month was no different. We were told not to worry about making reservations at the restaurant because there would be plenty of tables but there was some huge company party going on when we arrived so there was no seating to be had. Did I mention this was during a major downpour? So that made finding an alternative place on foot even more awesome. Luckily, one of the ladies was smart enough to pull up Yelp on her phone and we were at Cafe Iberico with sangria in hand in mere minutes. Spanish tapas and lots more sangria – can’t go wrong with that!

They’re gonna get burned

As for the book, I didn’t actually read it (I know, a book club rarity for me!). I had a hard time finding it and the library has a huge waitlist, plus I didn’t want to pay for a new copy because I’m cheap. I needn’t have worried since only one other girl managed to get her hands on it (not such a book club rarity…). The book told the story of one of the first  transgender activists in the nation and it seems engrossing enough that I will read it, at some point. However for the month I decided to stick to another LGBTQ book and I read Spring Fire, which was published in 1952 and is considered to be the first lesbian pulp fiction novel ever to be published. It told the story of two sorority sisters who fall in love with each other only to have that love ripped apart by social convention. Many years after the book was published, the author (who wrote under a pen name at the time) said she regretted the ending she gave her characters. Basically, one of the women is committed to a mental hospital and the other decides she’s straight and never really loved the other girl to begin with. However, at the time the book was released no place would publish a story where two women lived happily ever after so the unhappy ending was required. It certainly did feel abrupt in the book but I can understand the reasoning behind the author making the choices she did. That said, the novel was very innocent by today’s standards and gave me a glimpse of what living a gay lifestyle in secrecy could have been like.

As always with book club, we had a great time and ate a lot of great food. Now if we could just always have great weather, things would be perfect!

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Kindle Keeper

January 13, 2015 at 9:32 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

As I mentioned in my last post, I am the owner of a brand-new Kindle Paperwhite. I’ve had a Nook for a few years as it was a hand-me-down from an aunt so I’m not completely foreign to the whole e-book thing, but I still feel like a grandma. The first Nook I was given was super old-school as I think it was the first generation and since it was still attached to my aunt’s account, I really only had access to her books. Which were aplenty, but not exactly to my taste (I’ve never read a Nora Roberts book and could probably survive without doing so). A couple of years later my aunt upgraded her own Nook and gave me a newer version, which was backlit so it was definitely a bit fancier. She told me she would download books for me if I wanted and there were a couple I asked for (yes, The Count of Monte Cristo was one of them) but I didn’t want to be greedy and so I only used it for select reading.

First world problems.

Then I decided to splurge and get my own device. I chose the Kindle because I do most things Amazon and it was all pretty straightforward, plus it got great reviews. I briefly toyed with the idea of getting a Fire but then I decided I don’t need my Facebook and Instagram apps on half a dozen different devices. The Paperwhite is just for reading and if I had the ability to check email or surf the web I don’t think I’d get near as much actual reading accomplished. So here I am, learning the ways of yet another electronic machine. I will admit it’s pretty cool and I love being able to read about a character or learn the definition of a word with a light touch of my finger. The pages turn much quicker than my Nook did and it even has a handy feature that estimates how much longer it will take me to finish the chapter I’m currently reading. I’m sure it does other things like cook my breakfast and balance my bank account but I haven’t quite learned all of the ropes. Yet. But I did use it to finish that tome Cristo so I’ve got that going for me!

To be honest though, I’m still torn on the whole thing. I like books. BOOKS. I like the way they smell and turning their pages and flipping through them and holding them and hugging them and well – you get the idea. But I also like not having to carry a 600 page beast around in my backpack or purse every day (I brought three different books along with me on my last trip out of town – they definitely take up space). So I know I won’t use the Kindle exclusively but it will obviously come in handy on certain occasions. I’m clearly emerging into the 21st century, just a little bit at a time.

That said, I downloaded our next book club book from the library (another handy feature!) and it’s on my Kindle now. And the Kindle is in my backpack…right next to the hard copy of the exact same book. Am I doing this right? Probably not but I can read the book on the el and then use the Kindle while I’m at the gym so it works for me!

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August Book Club Review

August 22, 2014 at 1:04 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

It’s been a little while since I’ve done one of these!

On Sunday, the girls came over to my place for some potluck/BYOB Book Club action. The original plan was to eat and drink before walking to a nearby comedy show but in the end we just ate and drank. And it was a blast! I always have such fun with these gals, although it was rough waking up on Monday morning after all the wine we downed Sunday night.  I guess there’s a reason we usually stick to Thursday or Friday for our meetings!

Not Into the Woods, as I misspelled on the invite to Book Club. Because that’s a musical.

The book we read was In the Woods by Tana French, which was a murder/crime/whodunit novel set in Ireland. The story revolves around two detectives, one of whom was the victim of some mysterious potential crime when he was a child. He had been playing in some nearby woods with two friends when they disappeared – the detective was found alone, clutching a tree, shoes full of blood and no recollection of anything that happened. So he grows up, moves away, changes his name and becomes a detective. Then he and his partner get called back to his hometown to investigate the murder of a young girl, not too far from where his old friends disappeared.

Intriguing enough premise and I did like the story but *SPOILER ALERT* they never find out what happened to those damn kids! The murder of the little girl is solved but I wanted to know what happened to the detective’s friends. His character was written really well and it was easy to kind of detest him while also understanding where he was coming from but he ended up treating his partner (and former best friend) like crap and that pissed me off. Though I guess if a fictional character has the ability to make me mad that means the author was doing something right. Anyway, it was a thicker book but I flew through it and enjoyed it for the most part. Just wish there had been some happier resolution at the end but life doesn’t always have a nice tidy ending so I suppose I can forgive it. Still would’ve liked to know what happened to those kids though!

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November Book Club Review

November 20, 2013 at 12:21 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

Before I get started here, I have two disclaimers.  First – I didn’t read the book, which was Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan.  I didn’t even really try.  Well, I put it on reserve at the library but it didn’t come in on time and so I just kind of left it at that.  I haven’t seen much of Gaffigan’s stand up or anything so I can’t say I’m a huge fan to begin with.  The ladies in book club seemed to enjoy it but I think they were surprised at how much the book pertained to parenting.  Maybe we should’ve seen that coming, but oh well.  As none of us have kids of our own I think the girls found it somewhat difficult to relate but funny nonetheless.

Gotta love BYOB

Okay, second disclaimer – I was heavy into the wine on this book club night.  I met with a friend after work for some happy hour drinks and she’s going through some difficulties right now so we commiserated over a few glasses of wine before I met up with the club.  The restaurant we went to, 90 Miles Cuban Cafe, is BYOB and that was additional danger.  We all showed up with bottles of wine and it was the birthday of one of our members so we…really celebrated.  One of the members also brought her visiting little sister along (don’t worry, she was over 21 so not that little) and I think she had as much fun as we did.  At least I hope so.  Anyway I celebrated so much so that apparently I volunteered to host January’s meeting at my apartment.  Whoops!  We’re not meeting next month due to the holidays so I’ll have plenty of time to prepare and clean before having everyone over.  I think it’ll be a lot of fun because we’re playing some raunchy adults-only card game too.  Plus, I kind of like playing Betty Crocker.

Anyway, let’s just say my restaurant review might be more detailed had I not been enjoying the wine so much.  90 Miles is a Cuban place that has some really cool decor and a great vibe.  There wasn’t a plethora of meat-free options so I ordered two appetizers – the empanadas and the yuca fries.  Both were really good and I could’ve eaten a few more orders but managed to rein myself in.  This place isn’t super close to my apartment so I don’t know when I’ll get back but I would definitely like to.

Since I didn’t read the book this month I’ll probably take tomorrow to review a different book that I did read, so you can look forward to that!  See, even being an occasional wine lush doesn’t stop me from being literate.  It’s called being a modern-day woman.

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October Book Club Review

October 22, 2013 at 2:25 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

We had a smaller group than normal because one of our regulars was unable to make it but the three of us who showed up managed to have a really good time.  We went to Jaiyen-Sushi n Noodle in Boystown because we all had a hankering for some sushi – and we were not disappointed!  I made a reservation just in case and we were seated next to two really large aquariums, which was a nice touch and gave good ambiance.

Oh, you guys!

The restaurant is BYOB so we all pulled out our beer and wine and enjoyed not having to pay a corking fee.  I know that as a vegetarian my views on sushi experiences are somewhat limited but I enjoy the heck out of a good roll and this place provided lots of those.  I had a sweet potato roll along with one full of avocado while another gal had one stuffed with asparagus (those were the only ones on the table I tried).  They were all really good but the sweet potato took home the cake.  It had cream cheese and other vegetables and I seriously almost ordered a third roll but I didn’t want to keep us there all evening.  Which translates as: I will be going back with my own bottle of wine to keep myself there all evening sometime soon.

To get us in the Halloween spirit, we read Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice.  The only other Anne Rice novel I’ve read before was the series The Witching Hour.  I really enjoyed that first book but by the time I was three books into that trilogy, I was over it.  Interview was based in the same world and a lot of it took place in New Orleans, which I always appreciate.  I’ve seen the memorable movie with Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and Kirsten Dunst but it’s been many years so I didn’t really remember specific plot points.  The story is based on a vampire telling his life story over the course of an evening to a journalist who records their talk on tape.  It’s a good premise and certainly was fascinating to read about the early life of this vampire but to be honest, I felt the vampire himself was a little…boring.  He retained a lot of his humanity and it made it hard to remember he was supposed to be this monster who preys on human flesh.  The story he told really dragged on towards the end and some of his moral issues were honestly a little dull to me.  I did like some of his interactions with other vampires and his “daughter” especially and I also liked how the setting took place in a few locations.  I enjoyed the ending too and can see how it set up for the next books in the series.

All in all, another good book club night.  I think the next place we’re going is BYOB too so that’s just something else to look forward to!

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September Book Club Review

September 23, 2013 at 11:40 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

Summer caught up with us and we had to reschedule August’s book club to this month, so our meeting was held last Thursday.  We chose to read Elements of Style by Wendy Wasserstein, which was a book that we all pretty much hated.  It was chosen as a light, summer-y chick lit read but it was so banal and annoying that we enjoyed complaining about it more than anything else.  The book centers around a bunch of NYC socialites and their “problems”, which include things like having to stay in the country for their summer vacation and which surgeon does the best lipo.

Ugh

It was set right after 9/11 so there were some elements of fear in there but mostly these people lived an existence so far-fetched that it was hard to imagine anything real actually affecting them.  The characters were vapid and one-dimensional, though there was one character that was a little more grounded than the others.  I guess she was who we were all supposed to relate to but even her life was beyond my comprehension.  There was all sorts of name brand name dropping, not to mention fancy places that I guess you have to be more rich than me to appreciate.  For a while I assumed all of the restaurants and brands were made up but about halfway through the book I realized they were real and I was too far removed from that lifestyle to understand the references.  The ending was also especially awful, since it took a really morbid turn and people started dying left and right.  Was it a social commentary on the wastefulness of extravagant lifestyles or did the writer simply get lazy and so put off by her own characters that she couldn’t help but kill them ?  I think the latter.

So the book sucked but luckily we had good conversation, good company and good food and drink to keep us entertained.

We met at Revolution Brewery which was a little further south than we usually meet.  I had planned my timing perfectly and would have walked in right as the meeting started but the train I was waiting on decided to run almost a half hour late.  By the time I showed up I was hungry and thirsty, and this was the right restaurant to take care of me.  The beers at this brewery were really good and I stuck with the Coup D’Etat all night long.  I ordered the vegetarian Tempeh Ruben sandwich which had a side of mashed garlic potatoes and came topped with some sort of amazing mayo and veggie sauerkraut.  I won’t pretend to know everything that the sandwich was made of but I can tell you it was delicious.  As in, I could’ve eaten two without so much as a blink.  Thankfully for my wallet and my waistline, I didn’t manage to do that.  However, there’s always next time!

 

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July Book Club Review

July 31, 2013 at 12:20 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

The night before my last day of work before our vacation, the girls and I met up for our monthly book club happenings.  We went to a place we’ve been before but it’s one of my favorites so I didn’t mind and it was close enough to home that I didn’t feel guilty knowing how much packing and preparing I still had left to do.  We met at Bad Apple which I know I’ve reviewed before, and it was just as good this time around.  I had a few summer cocktails in honor of the nice weather and the fact that I was already in vacation mode, and all my drinks were all delicious.  And strong.  Bad Apple also had a substantial beer menu which a few other girls enjoyed.  I ordered a veggie burger with goat cheese, spinach and a sage marmalade sauce and it was amazing.  Their fries are also really tasty and they make their own awesome ketchup in house.  I was able to save half my meal for lunch the next day and it made for a great second meal.

Stories are like spiderwebs.

As for books, we read Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman.  His books are usually have a touch of sci-fi and there are often ghosts, goblins, ghouls and spirits that appear as everyday creatures in the worlds he creates.  This book told the story of an unremarkable man who, after his father passes away, realizes he’s got quite the remarkable family.  It took me a little bit to really get into it as the beginning started off slowly but once I got about a third in, I was all in.  It was definitely entertaining and unlike anything I’ve read before though the ending tied together almost a little too predictably.  The story itself had so many original elements that it was easy to lose myself in and most of the other girls in our group had to agree.  This is the third book of his I’ve read in a relatively small amount of time (The Graveyard Book and American Gods were the others) and I can’t say I’m complaining.  So if you’re up for something a little different and out there, pick this novel up.  And if you’re hungry, head to Bad Apple!

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June Book Club Review

July 1, 2013 at 8:11 am (Uncategorized) (, , , )

For our June book club, we read Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn and went to Pizzeria da Nella for dinner.  I had never been to this Italian eatery before but it’s in a good location in Lincoln Park and it’s hard to go wrong with pizza so I was happy.

Not for the feint of heart.

The book is written by the woman who wrote the popular Gone Girl (which I have not read).  I wasn’t really sure what to expect with this novel and I didn’t know anything about it before diving in, so I was taken for quite a ride.  The story follows a journalist who gets sent from Chicago to her hometown to investigate what seems to be a serial killer targeting young girls.  The main character, Camille, also has some demons of her own and this is her first job assignment after being released from treatment for self-inflicted cutting.  So Camille stays in her childhood room and has to face the memories of the younger sister who died when they were kids and the new half-sister who’s roaming the halls.  I don’t want to say any more because I don’t want to spoil anything for those who may want to read it but I will say that it was a quick and engaging read.  I wasn’t too surprised by the twist at end although there were some things throughout the book that I definitely did not see coming.  Some scenes made me very uncomfortable as well, though I couldn’t be sure if that was the intent of the author or just my reaction to what I found too unbelievable to be true.  All in all though, it was entertaining.  This was the author’s first book and those who have read her others said they could tell it was a debut and her writing became better later on.  So perhaps I’ll pick up something else she’s written and give it a try!

As for food, I split a pear and Gorgonzola salad and a pizza with a fellow book clubber.  The pizza had zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, mushrooms, basil, oil and mozzarella and it was a huge portion.  It was all very good and I left stuffed full of delicious dinner and good conversation.  Our next meeting is two days before we leave for Costa Rica so we’ll see if I feel up to a night out before a week out of the country.  Got a lot to look forward to this month!

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April Book Club Review

April 26, 2013 at 11:57 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

And then there were three.

We initially had six book club members RSVP as a ‘Yes’ for this month’s meeting but when the day arrived, half of them

Her arms are much hairier in real life.

had to bow out at the last minute.  Which kind of sucked, of course, but sometimes the smaller meetings are a little less chaotic.  We met at Quartino, which is an Italian restaurant that’s downtown.  The place was really big and they had an even more spacious upstairs, which was kind of surprising.  Also surprising was the fact that the whole place was packed.  I guess Thursday nights are the new Fridays but they entire restaurant was buzzing and bustling.  It made it a little hard to hear each other but it was a fun environment so it ended up working out.  The three of us also met at basically the same time, which was nice because we could be seated right away.  I was starving so I appreciated that!

The bread they served was really good and I had to pace myself so as to not gobble it all up right away.  While most items looked great, all three of us opted for different pizzas.  They all wound up being vegetarian so we swapped some pieces and each one was good-looking and tasty.  I had some leftovers and the girls laughed at me when I busted out the tupperware I had carried my lunch to work in to box up my remaining slices.  Secretly, I think they were jealous and I couldn’t help but find amusement with just how much I’m becoming like my mother.

The book we read for the month was Bossypants by Tina Fey.  It was an entertaining, lighthearted, quick and easy read that literally everyone enjoyed (for real – all those who wound up canceling made sure to mention that!).  It sounds like of cheesy but I came away from the book feeling like Tina Fey was my new BFF.  It helped that a lot of it took place in Chicago so I felt familiar to begin with.  Also, her stories are self-deprecating and autobiographical, just the way I like them.  I feel like I could write something similar but no one would buy a book about my life because…well, I’m not Tina Fey.  Or famous in general.  Yet!

 

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