Today I spent some time browsing through that wonder of the modern age: the audiobook section of the Calgary Public Library ebook collection. I love ebooks. I love audiobooks. The library is making books more accessible to me? I can download audiobooks directly to my phone?!?!?! YES PLEASE. Maybe you are thinking to yourself "this again? Ugh, stop harping on it." All I have to say in response to that is: if you've got book problems I feel bad for you, son. I've got 99 problems but free access to a plethora of quality audiobooks ain't one.

   What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast / Laura Vanderkam isn't an audiobook so much as it is a hour-long mine of information and inspiration. Who here wants to be effective and productive? Who wants to spend their time well? I'd wager most of us do. I know I do. Basically, the gist of the...thing? audio program? book? instruction manual? who cares? is that mornings are valuable and you/I/we can use them better! Pretty straightforward. Pretty great. Vanderkam makes a productive morning schedule seem simple and accessible, and those are two things I like.

   Here's how to have a productive morning: wake up early, and get stuff done. THAT'S IT. If you listen to it, which I recommend you do (I have already "returned" it to the CPL, so that you can go borrow it. I reckon you have an hour of time at some point, probably today, to listen to it. Audiobooks are good for: driving, filing, tidying, putting away laundry, grocery shopping, etc) you will find that Vanderkam just wants you to have the time to do the things you love, the things that are important but not urgent, and the things you won't have the willpower to do later. She gives ideas and pointers and leeway.

   Such was the inspiration that I've made a plan to make my mornings fuller and more productive (as well as more enjoyable! Yessssss) AND a part of that plan is to keep a record of my mornings in a new blog, which I am calling (oh-so creatively) The Morning Project. If you want to read it, YOU CAN. Fair warning: it's pretty much a list of what I did before getting to work and that's it. I have a strange and insatiable interest in people's routines, especially morning routines and getting-ready routines, so I would probably be alllll over this baby if someone else was writing it, and so I am putting it on the world wide web, for your reading pleasure.

   Take-aways from this post: get What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast into your ear-hearts. You'll want to make your mornings into fabulous "are you a CEO" mornings.




   Something needs to be cleared up. I read quite a few blogs, and a couple of them have recently mentioned fairy tales, and I am somewhat confused as to what exactly people think fairy tales are. Fairy tales are not stories in which an incompetent damsel in distress gets rescued by a prince and suddenly has an amazing life. Sure, there are a couple that go along those lines, but more often than not fairy tales are stories about people coming through extreme peril using mainly straight-up ruthlessness and/or cleverness and/or kindness.

   To illustrate my point, here is a short list of some of the very clearly not "cute/clean little stories for children and impressionable teenage girls" features in some of the better-known fairy tales:
  • When trying on the glass slipper, Cinderella's step-sisters cut off parts of their feet in order to fit into the shoe.
  • The Little Mermaid commits suicide.
  • At her wedding, Snow White forces her step mother to dance in red-hot iron shoes until she dies.
  • Rapunzel gives birth to illegitimate twins in the desert by herself.
  • Rapunzel's prince is pushed out of the tower by the witch, blinded and maimed on a thorn bush, and wanders homeless and lost for two years.
  • In some versions of the story, Sleeping Beauty is impregnated and gives birth, all while still asleep.
  • After being twice abandoned by their father, Hansel and Gretel are taken captive by a witch who plans to eat Hansel and teaches Gretel sorcery until Gretel pushes her into an oven and burns her alive.
   Let's sum this up: self-mutilation, suicide, cruel and unusual punishment, promiscuity, maiming, rape, abandonment, cannibalism, witchcraft, murder, and I could go on. I haven't even mentioned Bluebeard (who kills wife after wife and hangs their bodies in a locked room) or Baba Yaga (who lives in a house built on chicken legs and eats children) or Donkeyskin (who runs away from her father to avoid being forced into an incestuous relationship) or the Goose Girl (in which the villain is put in a barrel full of nails and dragged behind horses) or The Little Match Girl (who freezes to death alone in an alley).

   Let me disabuse you of the notion that fairy tales are cute stories in which a helpless, pretty princess is rescued by a handsome, morally upright prince and they go on to live happily ever after. Fairy tales are a lot of things, but they are not cute. Do they often involve love stories? Yes. Do they also involve a whooooole lot of murder and mayhem? Also yes. Interestingly enough, instances of the woman, the man, or people working together doing the rescuing are pretty even across the board. Don't try to feed me some idiocy that fairy tales are some sort of evidence that women just want to be rescued by men and then they'll be happy and fulfilled. If you say that, you clearly have not read very many fairy tales. Women rescue men, men rescue women, groups of people work together to achieve a goal, people rescue themselves, and sometimes no one is rescued and everyone comes to a grisly end.

   These stories are valuable not because they are supposedly full of happy, shiny people, but because they illustrate the human condition and tell tales of triumph over evil in the face of our own flaws and seemingly insurmountable odds. Cinderella relies on steadfastness and honesty. The Little Mermaid chooses self-sacrifice over self-seeking. Rapunzel finds and heals her prince, introduces him to his children, and they go on to rule a kingdom together. Characters in fairy tales, the good guys as well as the bad guys, do terrible things to each other and make mistakes and misjudge situations, but they stick to their guns and they learn fast and they pull through. I don't know about you, but I would way rather hear a story about someone who has flaws and learns and grows and comes out victorious than about a vapid shell of a human being relying solely on another to rescue them and provide "happily ever after".



   As you may know I have little resistance power when it comes to lists and "how many of these have you read/seen/etc" and "compare with your friends" and "if you've read more than them you are the winner" type things, so when I came across a "1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die" list I immediately grabbed a pencil and a piece of scrap paper and started tallying up. Also involved is the 1% Well Read challenge, in which people have to read 1% of this list of 1001 books. I was all "gurl, I have got this in the bag" only to find out that I have read a mere 45 of the 1001 books (which I realize is over 1% but I was thinking I'd be around 10% and so: disappointment).

   Actually, the number could vary anywhere between 45-48ish books because I don't know how many Jane Austen books I have read because they all blend together in my mind and here is one of the kickers of this post: WTH is up with Jane Austen mania? P&P is great, sure, and Northanger Abbey had me in stitches, buuuut why are there a gazillion of her books on the list of 1001 books I supposedly must read but The Iliad isn't? Also no Shakespeare? Or Grimm's Fairy Tales? And I get it, you are thinking, "you only want those things on the list because, heyo: favorite things. Also Shakespeare wrote plays so maybe they don't count." But so much of our cultural canon is based on Shakespeare and Homer and fairy/folk tales that if you haven't at least sampled them you've stuffed up badly, IMHO. Also: come on, three Toni Morrison books and no Beowulf?

   Not to mention that the Bible isn't on the list. I could go on and on about the value of reading widely when it comes to sacred texts (if you don't know what you don't believe then how do you know what you do believe?) but even if you look at it in a non-religious way then it is still super valuable. Even if you just read it as a What Is Up With Israel primer, you really ought to read it. While I believe that the Bible is God-breathed and useful for teaching and correcting, I get that you might not BUT no one can deny its cultural significance.

   Almost 70 books from the 2000s and only 13 from pre-1700???? WTH????  Krup that list. Make your own dang list. Read what you want to, just read. Read widely. Read from different eras. Read to learn, read to be entertained. Read words on a page, or on an ebook reader, or listen to an audiobook, just find the stories you want to hear and knowledge you want to have and ingest it somehow. Don't give me some clap-trap about not having time because if I can have a job and do school and binge-watch Once Upon a Time and hang out with palz and still make time to read then you can too. I believe in you or w/e.
I recently saw a production of West Side Story and I have to admit, one of my favorite moments in the whole thing is when the Jets say, "Hey, Officer Krupke! Krup you!" I mean, consider the genius of taking someone's name, chopping it up, and turning it into an insult. Amazing.


quick reviews

   While working on writing assignments for school I have dutifully kept my writing energies focused, but of course you can't do school all the time so I've gotten some reading done as well. And so! A few wee lil reviews for a few books I've finished recently. Also: writing for school is somewhat difficult to re-adjust to. What do you mean I have to write what you want me to?! In a certain format??!!! Heaven preserve us. I'm sure I'll be on the essay train in no time but the first couple are going to be a bit of a slog.

   Anyways, who cares about essay writing woes? Certainly not I. Get over it, am I right? Just write the dang essays. And that's what I'll do. And so! Books books books!

1. The Rook / Daniel O'Malley

   This book comes charging out of the gate with this doozie of an opening line: "Dear You, The body you are wearing used to be mine". I read that and said "HEYO" because clearly this was going to be my kind of book. Myfanwy Thomas opens her eyes and, oh no, where are her memories?!? They have been myteriously erased! She is surrounded by bodies wearing latex gloves! What could it all mean? We are in for a delightful ride, let me tell you. This was a book I stayed up too late for. Friends, I set a timer for how long I could read it but then my timer went off and I was all "who set this dumb timer" and just kept reading.

   It turns out that Myfanwy has mysterious powers and works for a mysterious government organization and her pre-memory-loss self left mysterious letters WELL let me just say that it's a great read. And funny! And clever! And it features my all time favourite thing: BFFs. If there are characters who I can easily imagine high-fiving whenever one of them does/says something awesome, I am all over it. Myfanwy and Ingrid should be non-stop high-fiving, is what I'm saying.

2. Attachments / Rainbow Rowell

   Speaking of BFFs! Here they are again, in this charming little number. Premise: it is 1999 and two friends are emailing each other at work. Little do they know that there has been someone hired to read flagged emails and ensure that employees aren't using company email to chat it up etc. Hijinks ensue.

   After I read this I was interested to see what others thought of it and found a couple reviews. One of them called it "chick lit" and I was inwardly downcast. Aren't I better than that? I don't want books just to play with my emotions and then give me warm fuzzies! No! But then another review said "this isn't chick lit, like some have said" and I breathed a sigh of relief BUT ALSO began to wonder "what is chick lit anyways?" And I realized that when I hear the words "chick lit" I think "Shopaholic or some such nonsense" but not only have I not read the Shopaholic books and can therefore not pass judgement on them, but who cares if people think my reading choices are a bit shallow sometimes. Also you shouldn't be ashamed of your reading choices just because someone gives them a label like "chick lit" and says that they are less worthy than other sorts of books. What's with the whole "chick lit/flick" idea anyways? Why do we have to look down on people for wanting to read/watch books/movies about love? We don't have a "bloke lit" so why have a "chick lit"? Why can't it just be "books", and some are better written than others?

   Suffice it to say that Attachments is enjoyable.

 3. Book of a Thousand Days / Shannon Hale

   If you were to ask me what genres I have held a deep and abiding love for since I was but wee I would say "fairy tales" and probably carry on to tell you about some gruesome ends that characters came to in the un-disney-ized stories. For example, did you know that the Little Mermaid a) didn't marry the prince, b) had her tongue cut out, c) had an opportunity to become a mermaid again and return to the sea BUT ONLY if she murdered the prince with a magic knife and let his blood soak her legs, and d) opted out of killing him and drowned herself instead. What? Yes. Hans Christian Anderson, you really know how to wound your readers.

   Taking into account my love of fairy tales, and really, everyone should love them: they are so weird/great, I take a certain delight in retold fairy tales when they are done well. Oh boy, can they ever be done badly but we won't talk about those. Shannon Hale has written a few reworked fairy tales and I've very much enjoyed every one I've read. Book of a Thousand Days is based on an obscure tale called Maid Maleen and it is great. There are people locked in a tower. There are scary wolves. There are magic songs. There are yaks and cats. It's written in diary form. I recommend it to anyone who likes fairy tales.


   I also read the last volume of Locke and Key but I don't know how to write about/am still processing it so THERE YOU GO. Some books. Oh and also! The movies from the last post arrrrrre:
  1. An Affair to Remember (1957)
  2. Barbara (2012)
  3. Frozen (2013)
  4. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (2011)
  5. West Side Story (1961)
   They are all in the good-to-very good range. Barbara is in German so if you don't like reading subtitles then I guess don't bother, but why don't you like reading subtitles? Does that mean you've never seen Life is Beautiful in Italian? If so: that's a crying shame. That movie is so good and dubbed just does not stand up to the original voices, I'm sorry.



   If there is one thing I despise in books it is description done badly. Here I am, expecting to be reading about a spooky asylum, and you're telling me what colour of scarf one of the characters is wearing?!??! NO THANK YOU. What are these authors thinking? "Ah yes, fresh-faced youths exploring some sort of creepy building. But wait! They have changed clothes since yesterday so I must tell the reader." Please note, authors, I have an imagination and I can use it to dress the characters in your book (will wonders never cease). And if you've already (meticulously) described something (a building, someone's hair, whatever) then it's okay, you don't need to do it again.

   What I'm saying is, I started reading Asylum / Madeliene Roux and despite the chillingly creepy cover and equally creepy premise, I barely got into it before I tossed it aside with an emotion somewhere between frustration and disgust. It takes the premise in Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children, namely: inserting old found photos that will give you the WILLIES as a part of the story, and makes it boring and too describe-y. And THAT is all I will say about THAT.



   Whenever I end up not packing enough books for any sort of trip, I will read whatever I can get my hands on. Once while on family vacation I blazed through the books I had brought so my mom said, "Why don't you read this?" to quell my ever-increasing complaints of "WHAT AM I GOING TO DO, WHY AM I EVEN ALIVE" and it was a book for children about anthropomorphic pigs and I said "give it to me" then read it in an afternoon and spent the rest of the week reading too many Good Housekeeping articles and, I don't know, staring into the eternal blue void. There was another time when I was sitting in an airport and I realized that I had stupidly packed all of my books in my checked luggage (who makes that kind of rookie mistake?!?) so I made a visit to the over-priced airport bookshop for people like me and that's how I came to read The Hunger Games.

   All this to say: I was not mentally prepared for We Need to Talk About Kevin / Lionel Shriver. My reading material sources were limited, I was about to leave a hostel, had just finished my last book, and was scanning the book-exchange shelf (a glorious invention), and it seemed the best non-romance, non-terrible-sci-fi/fantasy option available. Anyways the book is about Kevin, and the school-shooting he carried out, and how his mother deals with it, and will haunt you for the rest of your days. You will probably feel the need to write your own book, called I Need to Talk About We Need to Talk About Kevin.

   I read it while far from home, and kept emailing my sister about it (sorry, Meghan) saying things like "what the heck?" and "pretty sure such and such is going to happen" and "IT HAPPENED OH MAN I'M DYING", and when I finished it I couldn't stop thinking about it. When I was back in Calgary I found a friend who was experiencing the exact same thing, so we talked and talked and talked about it. There was a lot of "I know!" and "and then the part where.." and "what would you do?" and so on.

   This isn't really a review and I'm not really recommending that you actually read this book. I'm writing this largely because I was sitting at my desk in the library when all of a sudden my brain was all, "hey, hey, remember that Kevin book?" and I needed to talk about it (see what I did there?). I also felt compelled to listen to Applause by Lady Gaga earlier so maybe it is just one of those days.



   Let`s talk about Maurine Watkins. "What? Who?" Don't feel bad. I too didn't know who she was until recently and now she is my hero. Here is a woman who decided that being a Christian doesn't mean being sheltered/ignorant and went on to do police reporting for the Chicago Tribune, wrote Chicago (you know, the play that was turned into the musical which features such catchy tunes as "The Cell Block Tango" and "They Both Reached For The Gun"), and when that unfortunately turned out to be her only really successful work, toured the States establishing scholarships at various seminaries for Greek studies. She attended various colleges and universities, she worked in Hollywood, she suspected that Leopold and Loeb were sociopathic liars while most other reporters were extolling their virtues. She was a lady in the 1920s who decided that marriage wasn't for her and was independently wealthy. In short: she's admirable.

   Have you seen Chicago? It's based on true events. Some of it is taken pretty much directly from cases Maurine reported on. Roxie Hart declaring she's pregnant in order to get the press to pay attention to her again? Beulah Annan pulled that one off flawlessly. Maurine was reporting in a city where women regularly charmed their way out of murder charges, and it didn't sit well with her. So what did she do? She wrote articles that were scathing and witty and went on to write a satirical play about Chicago's love of celebrity and criminals.

   The Girls of Murder City / Douglas Perry tells the whole story excellently. It's engaging. It's informative. It's funny. My love of non-fiction has been growing and growing since I started purposefully reading more of it last year and this book is just adding fuel to my fire. Want a portrait of Prohibition-era Chicago? Want a peek into newspaper politics? This book is forrrrrrr youuuuuu. At one point Douglas Perry takes a break from the bizarre trials of the women in "murderess row" to tell you about the previously mentioned Leopold and Loeb case and it is chilling and a reminder that oh yeah, murder is not actually funny.

   This is one of those books that I kept taking a break from to do some extensive wikipedia-ing. Apparently the real-life stories that get me interested are either about murder/crime or about polar exploration. I'm okay with that.


plays/concerts 2013

   How could I have forgotten that besides tracking books and movies I also kept track of concerts/plays/etc in 2013??? Who knows. I made a note on my phone to write some quick thoughts about a concert I attended last week when I realized: I have a list of these from last year. I honestly think keeping these lists is a valuable habit. You cement that event in your memory when you jot down a few things about it, and you can go back and see what you did, and monitor your media intake! Positives all around. 

   Anyways, in the order I saw them:
  • Spamalot, Front and Center Players at Pumphouse Theater, January 16 - This was just as funny and crass as you would expect it to be. 
  • Gaslight, Vertigo Mystery Theater, January 29 - Delightfully stressful. Vertigo keeps pumping out winners.
  • CPO at the Library, February 4 - This has proved to be one of the best programs the library has hosted. It's an ongoing collaboration; the CPO sends a couple musicians to put on several small, free concerts in various libraries throughout the year. I highly recommend that you attend as many as you can.
  • AmaLuna, Cirque du Soliel, April 25 - Absolutely decadent and thrilling. I'd seen one Cirque performance before, but this surpassed it in every way.
  • The Drowsy Chaperone, Cappuccino Musical Theater, May 16 - If you ever have the chance to see this play: do it. It is genuinely hilarious. Even if you don't like musicals. 
  • Noah Gundersen (opened by Daniel Blue), The Triple Door, Seattle, June 21 - I drove twelve hours through an oncoming flood to see this show and it was 100% worth it. 
  • Les Miserables, Broadway Across Canada, July 2 - The set alone made this one of the best musicals I've seen, never mind the fantastic music and acting and costuming. 
  • Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare in the Park, July 11 - Okay, here is where I admit that I'm noooooot super fond of this play. It's good, but Shakespeare wrote so many plays that were so much better. Nevertheless, SITP is always enjoyable.
  • David Bazan, house show, Edmonton, September 12 - Beautiful and honest and lovely. There were about 30 people there and we were in a magical gem of a log-cabin-ish house on the edge of a ravine. House shows are great. 
  • Improv Theater Sports, Rapid Fire Theater, Edmonton, September 13 - Well, I went to improv for the first time ever and they made a play about my life and it was HILARIOUS. 
  • Vintage Hitchcock: A Radio Play, Vertigo Theater, November 26 - I have am undying love of Hitchcock, so when I heard that Vertigo was doing a play of a old-timey radio show complete with Foley work I was allllll over it.
   And there you have it. I keep thinking of things I want to record. Movies! Books! Plays! Concerts! What else??? TV shows? That would get embarrassing fast. How many different crime procedurals can one person watch? The answer: many.


   As a departure from constant books books books, I am here today to talk to you about that inescapable woe: money money money. Or rather: some money-saving plans I am concocting/putting into action this month.

   It feels a little ridiculous to say I am "concocting" money saving plans because money saving is not very complicated. Here's how to do it: spend less. Voila, I am a genius. My  solution is straightforward and simple, and only requires a small degree of tenacity to carry out.

   This year, I have some big plans which will require big cash. Namely:
  • Tuition
  • California road-trip
  • Sweet tats
   Since these will all suck up a great deal of money, I need to be spending far less than I make in the meantime. The things I spend the most money on are books and clothes and so: a partial spending fast. For all of February/March, here's what I can't spend money on:
  • Clothing (including shoes and accessories)
  • Books (so sad)
   And that's it. Now, this is an odd month for me to do this, but a good one. It's my birthday on the ninth (omgosh, happy birthday to me) and on top of that, it's my 25th birthday (a MILESTONE) and usually I am somewhat liberal in birthday-gifts-to-self.With my favorite things taken away (as if I don't have enough books/clothes already) I'll just have to be satisfied.Gift cards aren't included in "spending".

   As an added bonus, this will give me time to finally finish adding the rest of my books to my cataloging app and give me some incentive to get some closet-purging done.