April Book Club Review & May Selection!

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April’s book was a strange, strange read, for me. I was caught up in it, I read it at a nice speed… but perhaps we should have kicked off our book club with something a little more… normal?

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Have you ever tried cooking something that sounded like it would come out great? Like, all of the ingredients, when listed together, seem like they could make something really delicious? But… when you plate up the dish, something is just off? Honestly, that is how I feel about Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger. The topics: London, Coming-of-age, Romance, Sisters, Ghosts, these are all things I can get behind, and sound like they’d come together to make something great. But, for some reason the book didn’t grab me the way I thought it would have.

I knew I had to finish the book by the 25th because Libby and I agreed upon today to post our reactions. After the three-quarters mark I was kind of reading the way that you’d watch a scary movie, like with one eye shut and kind of through your fingers. I had my hunches on what was about to happen, and wasn’t sure if I wanted to find out if my hunch was correct or not. Is that the way Audrey wanted us to read it? I suppose when ghosts are involved, there’s always the chance that uneasy feeling was intentional.

Each of the characters were interesting in their own way, but I found myself more pulled to the supporting characters and less involved in the main characters, the twins. I suppose considering the twins were the focus of the book I found them a little underdeveloped. I think my favorite story arc was that of the OCD neighbor Martin and his personal trials. Maybe we connect ourselves to the characters we can relate with the most? I do not have OCD, but I can relate to irrational things preventing me from taking risks or even causing me to procrastinate on everyday things.

One of the major themes I saw emerge, which I liked, was the concept of one becoming two, and/or two becoming one. You saw this in the romance aspect, the life and death aspect, and the twin aspect– the fact that the girls’ mother was one of an estranged pair of twins, and that the daughters were a very close pair of twins threw that into stark contrast. The romantic involvement with Robert– him separating himself from Elspeth and getting involved with Valentina made me think about how hard it is to be single after being in a long-term relationship, and how your body and soul crave a new connection after the first one was cut off.

The ending seemed dragged out but abrupt at the same time. Is that possible? I’m not sure I have an opinion on the way things turned out. I’m glad I finished. If I wasn’t committed to reading this as part of the book club I may have fallen off and not finished. So, I feel satisfied with that. Maybe that’s the best part about leading being part of a book club anyway!

I’m not going to tell anyone that they “must read” this book, but I’m glad I was a part of reading along with Libby and I’m looking forward to hearing what you thought about it, if you read along with us.  Please write a little something in the comment area or paste a link to your thoughts on your blog or to your goodreads review or something. I think since it was such a strange and possibly polarizing book it will make for better discussion!


The great news is that I can announce our May book choice — Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. I’ve been seeing this book pop up time and time again lately, especially since it was announced that a movie is in production with Steven Spielberg directing … so I placed a request on it at the library. I think it’s going to be more fast-paced, it’s described as a “thriller,” and it has to do with virtual reality and video games, so I am totally in.

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I love futuristic dystopias like 1984, Minority Report, The Hunger Games, as well as the movie Tron, so I hope this lives up to my ideals in the genre. Please, join us reading Ready Player One this month and come back at the end of May for another discussion!

Downtown LA in a Day

For my birthday (which was ages ago), instead of a normal present, I asked for a getaway to Los Angeles to visit LACMA, the LA County Museum of Art. I didn’t know what to expect but I was blown away by the breadth of their collection! It truly is a world-class museum.

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Urban Light and one of LACMA’s buildings in the rear

But first, let’s back up. We can play this like you are spending your whole day in LA. Traffic is a giant bummer, so we’ll pretend like you woke up there. Could be that you stayed at The Ace, where we stayed for my birthday, or in an Airbnb in the downtown area. Or crashed with a friend. I’m sure you know someone who knows someone who lives near… right?

For breakfast you can go a couple of ways. You can eat at Bottega Louie, which is basically what it would be like if Marie Antoinette designed a brunch restaurant–an amazing bright white emporium of small but impeccably crafted sweets, and big entrees. Or, you could poke around for a smaller place like Poppy & Rose, which is aptly named since it sits right in the midst of the Downtown LA Flower District. It’s hard to mess up brunch, but a meal that makes a lasting impression is worth writing about—so I include both places which were each very good. Also near the Flower Market is the Fashion District, where  you can find almost every kind of fabric and sewing notion known to man.

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Walt Disney Concert Hall by architect Frank Gehry

After brunch it’s worth driving around Downtown LA to check out some impressive sights like the famous Walt Disney Concert Hall and the new Broad [modern art] Museum across the street. The MOCA is right there, as well, so pay the parking meter and poke around these three famous sites. If you wanted to make your day an Art Triple Feature, you could check out the Broad and MOCA before lunch, and the LACMA after lunch. That is, if you have the Museum Stamina.

The Broad
The Broad

I just mentioned lunch — depending on how early you ate breakfast you may be in the mood to grab a bite. Go to the Grand Central Market— you won’t be disappointed. I heard that the line at Eggslut can get really long, so if it’s short (like it was when I was there), get on it. If it’s too long, just pick any type of cuisine and I’m sure you will find another vendor that fits the bill. I highly recommend Berlin Currywurst. The Market has been open for almost 100 years but is experiencing a kind of renaissance (or, you could call it gentrification or hipsterification). It’s really helping along the revival of rundown (scary) DTLA move from sketchy to nice, and by the way, the food is delicious.

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Eggslut burger and “slut” (coddled egg with mashed potato)

Now head west a few miles to (in my opinion) the main event. Let me pause for a moment and tell you to drive through the super fancy neighborhoods near LACMA. WOW! You may even recognize some of the exteriors from movie locations. (I’m horrible at that kind of thing so I wouldn’t recognize any). You can park underground at LACMA so your car stays cool. The exterior of LACMA has a lot of interesting things to view without paying admission. The buildings themselves, from different eras and different architects don’t “match” but they “go,” kind of like a good outfit. You can see Levitated Mass, a giant boulder installation that caused quite a stir when it made its way to LACMA, and Urban Light (photo at top), the installation that launched a million selfies. You can even see an Alexander Calder mobile and fountain around back.

With admission, though, you can see art from every region in the world and almost every time period. It really is an extensive collection. Back in September we were there just about all day but didn’t even get the chance to see it all. I even went back a month ago and still haven’t seen everything there is to offer. The limited time exhibits are so, so good. The first time I saw a fascinating collection of works by Noah Purifoy, who I’d never heard of and now know so much about, and the second time Angela and I got to experience the famous Rain Room.

LACMA Calder
Alexander Calder – Three Quintains (Hello Girls)

Don’t forget that LACMA is directly adjacent to the fascinating La Brea Tar Pits, which are actual, active tar pits that have been excavated over the years and contain preserved animals. Like, real preserved prehistoric animals. You can see a lot of the tar pits by just walking around the outside, but if you pay for a ticket you can go inside the main building and get a tour and learn a lot more information and context about what you’re looking at. Oh yeah, and since they’re adjacent to the art museum you only have to pay for parking once, which is a huge win.

To be completely honest, I usually skedaddle before traffic gets bad so my tips for LA are more concentrated on the morning and midday—truncated around 4PM. My evening tips are lacking. LACMA is closer to Koreatown though, so do yourself a favor and get some authentic Korean BBQ nearby. Then, if you don’t have to be rolled outside by your friends (many KBBQ places are all you can eat) you can head back downtown to Spring Street to find some trouble to get into. Or instead, you can grab a quick In-N-Out burger and go catch an up-and-coming band or a newly released movie. You are in LA after all.

April Book Club!

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As I wrote about a month or so ago, I’m trying to make reading a bigger part of my life this year. I’ve arranged my unread library and am almost done with two of those books, so I’m feeling accomplished about that! My friend Libby at XOXO, Lib reached out to me about starting a virtual book club and I was totally down. Although the book we’re going to read wasn’t already part of my to-be-read pile, I’m eager to get on it and the ticking clock is going to help me make it a priority!

Her Fearful SymmetryShe’s selected the first book, Her Fearful Symmetry, which I actually had not heard of until it came up in our conversation. When I found out with was written by the same author as The Time Traveler’s Wife I was sold; I really liked that when I read it a few years ago. Reading the synopsis, I got excited. I like the way TTTW wove supernatural factors into a normal universe (as opposed to a fantasy or sci-fi universe) so I think this one’s going to be really good.

Please, join in! At the end of the month Libby will be writing a response to the book, as will I. If you’d like to write about it publicly, I’ll link to your blog post. If you don’t have a blog but want to start one, that would be awesome! If you’d like to write a review on GoodReads I can link to that, or if you’d simply like to have a conversation in the comments, I’ll really look forward to doing that too.