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Archive for the ‘Romance’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: January 26, 2022] Fixer

I saw this book at work and was attracted by the cover (obviously San Francisco) and that it was about a tech startup company (sort of).

The book is set up with each chapter being about one of the five main characters.

Meghan is a single woman whose life has been one of upheaval.  As we meet her, she has just gotten laid off (with about one third of the firm) of a tech company that has had to resize itself.  She’s not even sure why she works in marketing–she has no real sense of self and would love to be an artist.  But she doesn’t dare risk things for that.  She has also just had a very good date with Diego Garcia.

Diego (Digs) is techie guy with great ideas.  He has been working in the tech field for many years and has brought some of his good college friends to work with his at Del Oro, a startup tech firm with one of the hottest apps out right now.

Kari (he is Norwegian) is Diego’s college friend.  They have been close as anything for many years.  Kari (and his father especially) have very high expectations for Kari. Kari is the more business minded side of Diego–he knows about money and how to get it.  He is passionate about very few things.  One is success.  The other is Kari.

Kira (the similar names are cute, rather than cloying, I think) is his girlfriend of many years.  She is possibly more driven than he is.  She is very successful and expects the best from everyone.  She has known Kari and Diego since college.  She likes Diego but gets a little tired of him.  When Diego starts dating Meghan, she finds her unbearably boring.

The last of their college friends is Ravi.  Ravi is gay, but he has not (and could never) come out to his strict Indian parents (who are back in India).  They would love for him to come home, but he has made a life for himself here. He is actually just about to get married to a woman.  She is his best friend (they’ve known each other forever) and she is a lesbian.  She also needs help with her visa to stay in the country. It solves everything.  Even their serious significant others are on board.  Ravi is very close to Kari as well.  His boyfriend is serious and they imagine settling down someday is gay marriage is ever legalized. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK:  hiatus

[READ: December 20, 2021] “Ch’ien-niang”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my seventh time reading the Calendar.  The 2021 Short Story Advent Calendar is a deluxe box set of individually bound short stories.

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check this link where editor Alberto Manguel is providing daily commentary on each of the stories he selected for this year’s calendar.

As with Homer and Hans Christian Andersen, I am fairly surprised that Manguel went back to the Tang Dynasty (even if it the Golden Age of Chinese literature) to find a story.  Especially since “’Ch’ien-niang’ is a Chinese version of Sleeping Beauty with a twist.”

Ch’ien-niang is a legend that the narrator had often heard of.

Ch’ien-niang was designed to marry Wang Chou.  But Chou was to be sent away instead. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK:  hiatus

[READ: December 19, 2021] “The Fire Balloons”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my seventh time reading the Calendar.  The 2021 Short Story Advent Calendar is a deluxe box set of individually bound short stories.

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check this link where editor Alberto Manguel is providing daily commentary on each of the stories he selected for this year’s calendar.

This is the story of Trudy, a young woman who pretends to be much younger in order to win a suitor.

Trudy met the man, Richard, on vacation.  She and her friend Gwen had gone to Austria and after a couple of days they ran into Richard, who had known Gwen for years.  (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: October 2021] Three Hearts and Three Lions

Every since I signed up for Chirp audio books, I’ve been able to really indulge my love of Bronson Pinchot as a reader.

I bought this book without knowing much about it.  I basically make sure that the books aren’t war books, because I don’t care about that subject, and if it’s not, then I’m on board.

This book was a cool sci-fi fantasy story by an author whom I had heard of but didn’t know anything about.  Imagine my surprise to find out that book was initially written in 1953 as a novella and expanded into a novel for 1961!  I was especially surprised because there is some serious science a the book opens which seemed far more contemporary.

Holger Carlsen is an engineer.  The prologue of the story shows him working in an engineering department and talking about science-y stuff.  The story is about Carlsen, but told from a different point of view.  Pinchot gets to use a Danish accent for all of his speaking parts.

The narrator talks about what happens as if it is not believable but that he is going to relate the story anyway: “Holger’s tale does not seem altogether impossible to me. Not that I claim it’s true.”  He says that Carlsen was generally well-liked and respected.  And this is his story.

Carlsen decided to join the Danish resistance in fighting Nazis in WWII.  The fighting is going well, and the American forces are known to be coming.  But Holger is shot.  He wakes up naked in an unfamiliar place.

He looks around.  Things seem normal, although he can’t explain his nakedness.  He wanders around and finds a horse who is not afraid of him.  He also finds a cottage that has clothes which fit him,  Things seem off somehow, though, and he genuinely can’t get his bearings.

Soon enough he meets an old woman who claims to be a witch. She speaks a language he doesn’t know and yet he understands her.  Through a drawn out discussion and some revelations, he realizes that he is kind of a medieval knight and he sees a shield emblazoned with three hearts and three lions. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: Spotify playlist: The Music Shop–Songs from and Inspired by the Rachel Joyce Novel (2017).

Penguin books has created a Spotify playlist based on the music mentioned in the story.

 There’s music by:

  • Aretha Franklin
  • David Bowie
  • Shalamar
  • Duke Ellington
  • Sex Pistols
  • Miles Davis
  • Led Zeppelin
  • Van Morrison
  • James Brown
  • Isaac Hayes
  • The Troggs
  • The Beach Boys
  • Billie Holiday
  • Nick Drake

and classical composers like

  • Bach
  • Chopin
  • Perotin
  • Beethoven
  • Verdi
  • Barber
  • Handel

[READ: August 2021] The Music Shop

I don’t remember how I heard about this book, but it was a fun fast read.

Set in 1988 It’s about a curmudgeon who owns a music shop (vinyl only) and how he falls in love.

Frank has a special gift: he can talk with you for a few minutes and figure out exactly what music you need to hear right now (on vinyl of course).  It’s not a lucrative gift, but the people who take advantage of it are beyond thrilled.

The first chapter is about a man who only listed to Chopin and how Frank turned him on to Aretha Franklin exactly when he needed her music.

Frank’s shop is in a cul de sac with a few other businesses.  None of them are thriving; most of them are doing almost okay.  Maud owns the tattoo shop and sort of has a thing for Frank (he is way too oblivious to realize it).   She is tough (a tattoo parlor owner after all) and has some of the best lines in the book (I love her).  There’s also Father Anthony, a priest who owns a religious icons shop.  He is cool and chill and likes to hang out in the record shop.  And there’s a mortician (actually twins) who share space in the cul de sac.

Frank has one employee, Kit, an excitable teenaged boy who is clumsy in many ways and provides for most of the honesty in the book. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: July 2021] Holding

Graham Norton is a fairly peripheral entertainer in our lives  I’ve always enjoyed him when I’ve watched him, but I don’t watch him very often.  He’s a good (and funny) talk show host, but who knew that he also wrote novels?  And not comic ones.

This story is a mystery set in the remote Irish village of Duneen.  They have one policeman (guard), Sergeant P.J. Collins who is overweight and alone.  Collins is central to the story, as are Brid Riordan and Evelyn Ross.

Brid Riordan is a wife and mother and she is unhappy.  She’s been drinking a lot and her husband has been getting on her case about it–even taking the kids away to his mother’s a few times.

Evelyn Ross is the youngest of the three Ross sisters–a wealthy trio of (orphaned and single) women living in a large estate called Ard Carraig. Abigail and Florence are her older sisters and they dote on Evelyn because a) she found their father when he hung himself and b) she was more of less left at the altar.

Nothing much happens in Duneen.  The biggest news is the development that’s going up.  And what they find when they start to dig the foundation–human bones. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: July 2021] Crazy for You

Clooney Coyle is an Irish actor on the Irish language soap opera Brú na hAbhainn.

He is vain but amusing.  He is invited to his best friend Isla’s house for a party.  Isla is a school teacher and she is inviting the staff over for a Halloween party. Unfortunately an insufferable volunteer named Vonnie insisted that she be invited.  Isla has complained to Clooney about Vonnie many times and he is tickled to meet someone so obnoxiously self-assured and assertive,

Vonnie arrives and she is a horror show.  It’s a shame, though, that O’Donoghue had to make her fat and ugly in addition to loud and obnoxious.  But she walks into the party, insults the host, insults the guests, takes wine that isn’t hers (she didn’t bring anything to the party) and is a general nightmare.  But Clooney is intrigued by her and decides to treat her nicely.

When he was younger, he was picked on for being gay in rural Ireland so he understands the need to shine when others put out your spark.  And soon enough he pledges that they are friends for life.

Vonnie has the best line ever: “As an adult, I am an artist.”  She says this all the time and everyone looks at her the same way…. wtf does that mean.  She means that all children are artists, but she is an adult who is an artist.  She also has a gallery which Clooney promises to go to.  Her art is terrible and she charges him admission.  When she insists that he sit for a portrait, and them charges him a sitting fee he still manages to say that they are friends for life.

And that’s what sets her off.

Vonnie becomes insanely jealous.  And that’s when the book goes from the outrageous to the ridiculous and all believability is lost. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: Summer 2021] Laura Dean Keeps Breaking up with Me

Someone in the house brought this home from the libary and I knew I’d be reading it too.  I really like Mariko Tamaki and would read anything she wrote.

This story is about teen romance.  It’s set in Berkeley and has one of the biggest LGBTQ+ casts I’ve seen in a long time.  Since it’s set in Berkeley it’s not an issue, it’s common and cool.  It was great to read that.  I also like that she included a few segments about the earlier LGBTQ+ pioneers who made it safe for the younger generation to feel so safe.

The book opens with Freddy (Frederica) Riley writing to an advice columnist Anna Vice.  We see Freddy at a dance with her friends, including her best friend Doodle I love when characters have names like that).  Freddy is waiting for the titular Laura Dean to come to the dance.

Laura Dean is a tall, blonde, popular girl.  Their meeting story is adorable and Laura Dean is immediately charming. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SILJA SOL-Verftet Online Music Festival 2020 (April 5, 2020).

In April 2020, Norway’s Verftet Music Festival streamed an online concert:

Get ready for Verftet Online Music Festival, Bergen’s largest virtual concert festival, where we can enjoy great music together. We want to turn despair and frustration into innovation and positivity, and invite everyone to a digital festival experience out of the ordinary – right home in your own living room.

Sadly, most of the performances are unavailable, but this one from Siljia Sol (who is also Aurora’s backing vocalist) is streaming.

She plays ten songs in about 40 minutes, singing entirely in Norwegian.

“Kometen” is a two minute opener.  It has trippy synths and feels like an introductory lullaby.  Silja has an amazing voice, with quite a range.  Here it is soft and childlike.  But “Superkresen” turns into a fully 80s dance song.  It fits perfectly with the totally80s visuals of her set.

“Hatten” continues the bounciness.  This song feels poppier with a quietly soaring chorus.  “Hultertilbult” is more guitar-based and feels more organic.  As does “Ni Liv” which has a more prominent bass line.  This song has nice soaring backing vocals from her guitarist.

I don’t know the originals of these songs at all, but this feels like a restrained rendition.  Not quite unplugged, but perhaps more suitable for watching on your couch.

For “Stemning” she moves to the piano and plays a quiet ballad–her voice is lovely here.

The dancing returns for “Løgneren.”  Throughout these songs, Silja’s voice reminds me of Aurora’s, probably because her voice is essential to all live Aurora songs (and because they are both Norwegian).  With Aurora Silja hits incredibly high soaring notes and she really doesn’t do that in her own songs.  Although she does hit some high notes here.

“Semmenemme” has a more rhythmic approach–with almost a rapping vibe.  “Eventyr” cranks up the guitar more with a nice groove behind it.

“Dyrene” ends the set with the most catchy song of the bunch.  It is more subtle but features some nice soaring high vocals in the chorus.

It’s fascinating listening to ten songs and having no idea (at all) what they are about.  I’m very curious to hear if her recorded output has a more or less 80s vibe going on.

You can stream the set here.

[READ: July 10, 2021] “Curving Time in Krems”

This story was really cerebral and metaphysical. as such it took a really long time to get to the point.  It was also an incredibly long story for what amounts to: boy calls girls he had a crush on and wished he had done so sooner.

The main character is an academic invited to a dinner party in Krems, a city that “resembles Vineta, the city submerged by waters.”  Snow had fallen making the oblivious old town even more deserted.

A woman at the dinner insists that her cousin attended classes with him and spoke about him recently.  He tells her this is impossible as he did not have female classmates.

He figures out that the woman is talking about Nori S.  But Nori was a grade ahead of him and there’s no way she would remember him.

For a seventeen-year-old boy, a beguiling eighteen-year-old girl is more inaccessible than a Hollywood diva is to a professor [that’s a weird simile, there].

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PINO PALLADINO + BLAKE MILLS-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #225 (June 17, 2021).

This is a mellow, jazzy set with four musicians all playing at equal strength.  I’ve only heard of Blake Mills (although I might be getting him mixed up with Buck Meek or James Blake or Mike Mills).  But apparently I should know more of them.

 Pino Palladino is a prolific bassist whose sound you’re already intimately acquainted with (even if you don’t know it). Blake Mills, a guitarist and two-time Grammy nominee for producer of the year, has an impressive catalog of his own. Together, in the studio, the topshelf sidemen are in their element, distilling the sonic creativity that is the first release under Palladino’s name, Notes With Attachments.

“Just Wrong” opens the set

Eight pulsing calls from saxophonist Sam Gendel usher us into Just Wrong a melodic meditation that unfolds like a blossom in timelapse. Guitar, bass, sax and Abe Rounds’ colorful dustings of percussion in this song are magical; we soar with the musicians through varied repetitions of the melody before they gently set us back on our feet.

All three musicians slowly play one note to start.  Then Pino Palladino meanders up the neck of his fretless bass while Blake Mills plays higher and higher chords on the guitar.  Then he switches to an interesting picked note melody while Abe Rounds adds gentle percussive bells.  Sam Gendel on the sax plays the main lead while Paladino adds gentle harmonics. Eventually the drums get louder and Mills and Gendel seems to be responding to each other with leads.   Gendel’s sax sounds like it’s processed in interesting ways, making unusual sounds.

“Ekuté,” is a tune that explores traditional West African music, jazz and rock influences with a few modern touches of technology.

A soft shaker opens the song as Palladino plays a fretted bass melody as a lead.  Gendel starts adding in some swirling sax melodies before Mills throws in some cool wah wah guitar forms.  As the song takes off it’s like a conversation between guitar and bass, both more or less playing lead.  Gendel lays some random skronking sax notes over the bed the guitars lay down.  Eventually the song settles into a nice groove while Mills plays a fascinatingly complex solo.

“Djurkel” the final offering in this set, is also experimental in nature. Palladino’s trademark bass sound lies in the cut, the fertile ground on which Mills, Gendel and Rounds dance dreamily around each other.

This one opens with sax and guitar washes before Palladino takes over with a cool lead bass line.  Mills is playing a fretless guitar on this songs, allowing him to create a really interesting mix of sounds.

I really enjoyed the diverse amount of sounds and the mellow exploration that this set provided.

[READ: June 27, 2021] Heartstopper 3

I’ve really enjoyed this series so far and I’m quite pleased to see that there’s going to be another book after this.

This book centers around a school trip to Paris.  Both Charlie and Nick had signed up already.

After Charlies’ mom signs the permission, he bashfully says he has something to tell them.  His dad jokingly says “Are you trying to come out again, because we already know.”  Charlie laughs and then tells them about Nick and his parents are very happy because they saw how much he liked him.  But Nick is definitely banned from sleepovers forever now.  (Dad, stop saying “hanky panky.”)

When Nick sees Charlie at school the next day, Nick tells him that he came out to his mum last night and she was really supportive, too. They share a kiss and Nick jokes tat kissing at school is still a terrible idea.

In a later scene Nick’s friends Christian, Sai and Otis apologize to Nick for what happened that night when Nick got into the fight with Harry–they admit that they should have told Harry to fuck off. They all agree that they like Charlie and the four are friends again.  When Nick walks away one of them says what was I supposed to say we know you and Charlie are a thing and that’s fine??

Later, after the rugby coach sees the two of them kissing, she calls Nick into her office  After offering him the position of captain, she says that she met her wife at university.

People gave us a lot of shit.  Things are a little better now but you never know.

It’s a nice moment.

Followed by an unpleasant one, when Nick’s brother has come home from university. He says to Nick that he is talking to Charlie to meet the guy who turned his brother gay.  It turns ugly with Charlie lamenting why does being out have to be so complicated.

But there’s the Paris trip, which is definitely going to be cool. The chaperones say…no rooming between boys and girls which gets groans from everyone except for Tara and Darcy and Charlie and Nick. (more…)

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