The June Roundup

June, June, June.  It is unarguably the busiest month of my year, every year.  Amidst a plethora of special events I somehow managed to  finish 25 books last month, bringing me two short of my year-long goal of reading 120 books.  I think I got so much reading done because of all the traveling we did!

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Beatriz Williams with Jess and I

We started the month off with a trip to my favorite bookstore (all together now….R.J. Julia!) to see the incandescent Beatriz Williams, author of Overseas and A Hundred Summers.   What a pleasant presentation we were treated to! Williams’ newest book, A Hundred Summers, takes place in Rhode Island during the Great New England Hurricane of 1938.  Seeing the before and after photos of the destruction caused by the storm was truly astounding.  Knowing how powerful Hurricane Sandy was this past fall, I was amazed that I could still be shocked at the extent of the damage attributed to water and wind.  Williams has some of the photos of the storm she shared with us posted on her website here.  I highly recommend checking them out.

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My delicious grilled artichoke and crème fraîche dipping sauce

Next up on the docket was a trip into NYC with my good friend Jen to see fellow staff blogger Adam!  Our adventure into the city took us to Eataly, where I promptly died from food pleasure.  Seriously, if you haven’t heard of Eataly please click the link above.  It’s an Italian foodie’s heaven.  After eating a ton of food we went for a walk through the city and wound up down on the High Line, a mile long park that was the site of the old New York Central Railroad that delivered goods to factories on the west side of NYC.  There were great views of the Hudson, as well as food vendors and plenty of benches to sit and take in the scenery.  We also threw in a trip to the Strand (my 2nd most favorite bookstore ever) where I picked up the entire Matched trilogy by Ally Condie.  (Staffer Sam’s review of the first book in the trilogy, Matched, sold me and I’ve been anxious to begin it ever since.)  Todd was also excited that we finally bought the second book in Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park series.

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Todd and I on the bus for the wedding!

The next few weeks of the month flew by with a wedding for our good friends Greg and Ashley (CONGRATS GUYS!), our five-year college graduation, and our long-awaited Relay for Life event.  The wedding in Massachusetts was a ton of fun.  The bride’s aunt has a huge piece of property that they tented for the wedding.  Instead of a bar there was a boat filled with ice and drinks (SO awesome). They had all sorts of lawn games which created some great competition between the guests.  Not only was it a beautiful wedding, but it was so much fun seeing friends that we don’t see so often.  The wedding was a mini-reunion in itself and only increased my excitement for our college reunion the weekend following.

Unfortunately the time we were able to spend at reunion got cut short when our bathroom ceiling became a waterfall.  Apparently the tub in the apartment above us had a clogged pipe, as well as a rusted connection somewhere that led to our bathroom becoming a tropical rain forest.  5+ hours after the plumber arrived and figured out where the leak was coming from, we were left with a massive hole in our ceiling.  Needing to leave the hole open to make sure the leak was completely taken care, we were left with a cardboard covering across our ceiling.  Over the next two weeks the hole was patched, sanded, and repainted.  In the five years we’ve been in our building this is the first major problem we’ve ever had, so I can’t say I’m really upset about it.  Our maintenance staff was great and left me with nothing to do!

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Todd making liquid nitrogen ice cream!

The last weekend of the month held the event that I look forward to all year-long, Relay for Life.  I wrote a fairly extensive post about Relay last year and why the event means so much to me.  This year, the event meant more than ever.  My aunt, who was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2005, began receiving chemotherapy treatments this May.  I hope for a cure for cancer every year, but this year that hope for a cure is larger than ever.  The event as a total raised over $104,000 so far.  With our fiscal year closing August 31st we still have almost two more months to raise money.  I personally was able to raise just under $2,200 this year!  My team raised just under $3,300.  I couldn’t be happier with the efforts put forth by my team and the teams that make up the rest of the relay.  Todd got in on the day-of event fun this year and made liquid nitrogen ice cream for the kids.  To put it simply liquid nitrogen instantly freezes anything it touches.  So basically you mix cream, half & half, sugar, and chocolate syrup together, add in the liquid nitrogen, and viola! you have ice cream!  The event went over really well and it helped cool the kids down on a super hot day.

On the bookish front I mentioned before that I finished 25 books.  That consisted of books from the following genres: crime, romance, new adult, historical fiction, young adult, erotica, and paranormal.  I really ran the gauntlet last month.  My top read of the month was definitely Making it Last by Ruthie Knox.  I’ve been looking forward to this book since it was announced.  When it popped up on Netgalley (as available to request) I did a massive SQUEEEEEEE and promptly requested it.  The wait for approval consisted of some of the darkest days of my life (this is of course an extreme over-exaggeration, but you get what I’m saying.)  I also discovered two series this month that while not new, are new to me.  Of course, I became obsessed and read all the books in both.  The first is Lydia Dare’s Regency Vampyre Trilogy and the second series is Marie Force’s Fatal series. Damn friends, I was HOOKED.  I’m going to start a “series spotlight” that will discuss all the new series I’ve been finding lately, and eventually I hope to get you guys as into them as I am.

Until next month…..happy reading!

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The Staff’s Favorite Reads of 2012

heart-bookHi everyone!  I thought that since you all have heard so much about my own personal goals and favorite reads of 2012, it was about time that you heard from the rest of the staff.  I’ve asked them to send me their top reads of 2012, and I’ve posted them below.  I think it’s interesting to see what different readers choose as their favorites, and it’s always a great springboard for opening a discussion too!  So, without further adieu, here’s the Reflections of a Book Addict staff favorites of 2012!

Todd:

  1. Timeline by Michael Crichton
  2. Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
  3. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
  4. A Million Suns (Across the Universe #2) by Beth Revis
  5. H10N1 by M.R. Cornelius
  6. Flesh and Fire (Vineart War #1) by Laura Anne Gilman
  7. The Sounding by Carrie Salo

Adam:

  1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  2. Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi
  3. Pantheons by E.J. Dabel
  4. Albino by E.J. Dabel
  5. Deal With the Devil by J. Gunnar Grey

Christine:

  1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  2. Issues 1-6 of Mind MGMT by Matt Kindt
  3. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  4. The Across the Universe series by Beth Revis
  5. A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
  6. Essex County by Jeff Lemire

Jess:

  1. The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg
  2. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
  3. Paris: A Love Story by Kati Marton

What do you think?  Leave us a comment below!

Todd’s Review of Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

Ever since that fateful day at my 10th birthday party (it was a sleepover, of course) I’ve had a love of all things Jurassic Park.  I watched the VHS until it almost broke, and I collected and played with Jurassic Park action figures.  This spun off into a separate (but just as awesome) love of dinosaurs, where I collected everything I could relating to them, including, yes, dinosaur sheets for my bed.  Now, many years later, I still love the movie, and am somewhat embarrassed to say that it took me this long to read Michael Crichton’s book!  So, I immediately picked up a copy (at the Strand, no less) and got to it.

Jurassic Park begins with various isolated incidents of mysterious attacks on people by an animal or animals of some sort in or around Costa Rica and Isla Nubar, a small island approximately 100 miles off shore from the mainland.  The focus then moves to Dr. Alan Grant, a paleontologist working on a site in Montana, and his graduate assistant, Dr. Ellie Sattler.  Both have been asked by a man named John Hammond to come and consult on a project that he has been working on near Costa Rica.  The founder and CEO of a technology company known as InGen, Hammond has created an island filled with genetically recreated dinosaurs that he intends to open as a theme park.  Using DNA found in dinosaur blood found in fossilized mosquitoes, Hammond’s team pieced together DNA fragments and filled in extra segments with reptile DNA, eventually hatching and raising multiple species of dinosaurs.  Grant and Sattler are joined by Dr. Ian Malcolm, a mathematician, Donald Gennaro, a lawyer representing the investors in the park, and Tim and Lex Murphy, Hammond’s grandchildren.  All are put to the test when a power failure causes the massively complex computer system that controls the park to go down, releasing all the dinosaurs from their holding areas.  To make matters worse, they are stuck in the park during the power outage, as they had just completed a general tour of the park.  Will they be able to survive?

As some of you know, I am a science geek.  Alas, it was not always this way.  I must give a ton of credit to Mr. Crichton for his work and its impact on my life.  Jurassic Park opened my eyes to the world of science fiction, and I was hooked from the opening scenes of the movie.  I know this review isn’t really about the movie, but this book reads every bit like I thought it would after knowing the movie so well.  All of the characters read like old friends that I haven’t seen in a while.  Grant is still as much of a badass as I remember him, and Lex and Tim are still basically just as annoying.  I found Hammond’s character to be a bit more interesting in the book, as Crichton goes into more detail when describing Hammond’s thought process on the park itself.  It was amazing to read how he truly believed (and was deluded) in the park so much that he would do almost anything to see its final creation and grand opening.  In one of the final scenes (where the focus switches to Hammond’s point of view), we can see that even in the midst of everything that has gone wrong, the colossal failure of the park itself, Hammond still feels that there is a chance.  It was smaller details like this that made me appreciate the book even more.  The more I read his books the greater appreciation I have for Crichton and his amazing work.  It’s definitely sad the world lost such a great man at a young age.  Even if you’ve already seen the movie, give Jurassic Park a try.  It will be a whole new experience that will make you enjoy this story all over again!

5 out of 5 Stars

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
Random House (1991)
Paperback: 416 pages
ISBN: 9780345370778

Read-A-Thon Hour 4, Mini-Challenge #3

It’s hour four!  Our fourth staff blogger, Jess, is now joining us!  Since she missed out on the getting to know you questions from hour one, we asked her to do them for hour four!

Jess’s Responses:

  1. Good ol’ Hamden, Connecticut.  It’s my 2nd home.
  2. Most looking forward to The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides.  I might even take a stab at Fifty Shades of Grey too!
  3. I am looking forward to the Crumbs Cupcakes that fellow staff blogger Adam brought from NYC for the read-a-thon
  4. I’m Jessica Bade; I’m graduating from my masters program on May 13th and I’m so excited to read for fun more and write for Reflections again!
  5. This is my first read-a-thon – I’m looking forward to spending the day with the other staff members and getting to know them even better than I already do!

THANKS Jess!! We’re really excited she is able to join us for a good chunk of the day!

For hour four Reflections of a Bookaholic is hosting the mini-challenge!  We were asked to turn to page 32 of our books and find something that would fit in the following sentence:

“I would rather read than ___________ any day.”

We came up with some humorous ones! Our responses are below:

Kim: I would rather read than confirm the supposition of unrequited love any day. (Currently reading: The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides)

Todd: I would rather read than work around the jack hammer moving away the pieces of rock after checking them for fossils any day. (Currently reading: Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton)

Adam:  I would rather read than give my regards to Broadway any day. (Currently reading: B’Way: The American Musical by Michael Kantor and Laurence Maslon)

Jess: I would rather read than have mismatched libidos any day. (Currently reading: The Big Fun Sexy Sex Book by Lisa Rinna and Ian Kerner)

The four of us are off to go enjoy lunch for a bit, before heading back into reading.  See you in hour five!

My Top Ten – Film Soundtracks by Adam Part II

Yesterday I outlined the bottom five of my top ten film soundtracks.  Here are the remaining five in the list, culminating with what I feel is the best film soundtrack of all time:

5.) Amelie

If there was an award for the best use of an accordion in a film, Amelie would clearly be the winner.  The story is unlike anything I’ve seen in a film; it’s very unique and quirky.  The character of Amelie is very curious about the world and sees things through rose-colored glasses.  She often sees things differently than other people, and takes it upon herself to better the lives of those around her.  The accordion is a perfect accompaniment to the idea of this film because the instrument itself is very upbeat.  While listening to this soundtrack you can’t help but find a smile forming on your face.  The music just takes you away to a small village in France and makes you think you’re eating at the café where Amelie works. This is what a good soundtrack should do; it should be able to transport you back to the film whether you’re watching it or not.

4.) Jurassic Park

This film is just awesome!  I remember when it came out in 1993 it terrified me, but at the same time enthralled me.  I had never seen special effects like the ones in this film paired with such beautifully eloquent music.  The main theme, composed so simplistically by John Williams is the type of music that dreams are made of.  The first time the scientists see the dinosaurs roaming free the music starts playing in the background and the viewer is taken to a special place.  This place is a place of wonder, amazement, and one with slight undertones of darkness.  Williams’ music encapsulated all of this.  The music, which is classically performed, is so stunning and epic; it goes perfectly with the film.

3.) The Lion King 

The Lion King is the perfect Disney film, score and all.  To take Elton John and Tim Rice’s lyrics and music, and combine that with a Hans Zimmer score was genius!  Zimmer took into account traditional African music, weaving it into the rest of the score.  In this soundtrack you can hear all different types of instruments, from the xylophone to all sorts of percussion instruments.  The songs are not just memorable, but part of my childhood.  I still remember the cassette in my mom’s car blasting “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” while we were going to the doctor.  Watching it as an adult I find that I can appreciate the musicality of the film.  I really appreciate the African music which was incorporated to songs such as “Circle of Life”.  The best song by far is “Be prepared”, which has such a dark tone and look to it that it, that can give the listener some bone-chilling feelings.

2.) Star Wars

Whenever you hear the first 3 notes of this score, you automatically know what film it is. You’re instantly taken back to the first time you saw the film.  John Williams was able to create a larger than life universe which contained epic wars and an evil force, a feat that seemed inconceivable until George Lucas created a canvas for him to work with.  Not only did Williams compose the epic opening music, which has been used in the rest of the Star Wars films, but he composed even the smaller musical numbers.  This really made them connect to each other and make the film more cohesive as a whole.  Many people consider this to be the greatest score of any film, but I feel there is still one more soundtrack that outshines it.

1.) Moulin Rouge

I wrestled with switching Star Wars and this film for the number one spot, but at the end of the day I felt that this was the perfect soundtrack.  Similar to Across the Universe, Moulin Rouge takes songs we all know and love and rearranges them musically to become brand new.  Hits from the late 1900’s are transformed and adapted to the fit the film period of the late 1800’s.   The highlights of this film include a tango version of “Roxanne” (made famous by the Police) and a French can-can version of  Nirvana’s “Smells like Teen Spirit”.  Many other popular songs make an appearance in a way we’ve never heard them before.  Like any good musical, the music is so much a part of the film.  When a song begins in the film, it isn’t that the characters are randomly bursting into song, but that the music itself is helping aid the telling  of the story.  The music pushes the film along and truly entertains you.  Baz Luhrmann became, in my eyes, a visual and auditory genius with this soundtrack.

Hope you enjoyed my top ten list of the best movie soundtracks.  What do you think?  Let me know in the comment section below.  Happy viewing!