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Maritime birdwatching: Stornoway

Wow, it's been a long time since I've done a music recommendation post -- partly because I've been busy with other things (reading! writing! syllabus compiling!) and partly because I've been listening to a lot of perennial favorites (LM) and more of recent finds (Alessi).

Well, today's band, Stornoway, hails from Oxford, UK, and crafts melodic Celtic-influenced pop, with hooks and horns to rival Belle and Sebastian's "I'm a Cuckoo." Lead singer Brian Briggs has a PhD in ornithology and sings about man's relationship with nature and technology, love, and of course, birds. Their debut LP, Beachcomber's Windowsill (out last May on 4AD), landed the band on the BBC's Sound of 2010 longlist.

Here's the lovely "We Are the Battery Human" live on WFUV's The Alternate Side.



Another catchy tune, "Zorbing." Don't know what zorbing is? I didn't either. Now I do.



And the rocking "Watching Birds":



Stornoway are currently on a European tour, but will be coming back Stateside in late fall. Tour dates here.

There's a lovely article about the band at The Times, in which the newspaper calls Stornoway "Britain's most exciting nu-folk band," and The Guardian cites them as "the brainiest band in Britain." Whatever you think about the term "nu-folk," these observations seem pretty spot-on.
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Never Let Me Go

The film version of Kazuo Ishiguro's breathtaking novel, Never Let Me Go, comes out this month, and stars Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, and Andrew Garfield. Also, Sally Hawkins (whose Anne Elliot I love) and Charlotte Rampling.

I'm tentatively feeling enthusiastic about the movie, but seriously all, do yourselves a favor and read the book first. Gorgeous writing, a terrifying and affecting dystopia. If you don't plan on reading the book before, don't read any plot summaries -- they will spoil you, and you definitely don't want to be spoiled! The trailer has mild spoilers:

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Possible wisdom on graduate school...

...from 30 Rock.

A few weeks ago, I realized that what was really missing in my life was 30 Rock. I'd seen seasons one and two a while back, loved them, and decided (possibly with bad judgment) that Liz Lemon is My Personal Hero.

So, I hurried over to Netflix and began watching the third season. In the very first episode, Liz wants to adopt a baby and a woman from the adoption agency (Megan Mullally) comes to check out Liz's work environment. Obviously, it's a big disaster...  until Megan Mullally gets hit in the head with numb-chucks and forgets all of the terrible things that have happened so far.

So, Liz is like, "DO OVER!" and Jack is like, "OH GOD I HAVE TO SLEEP WITH THE CEO TO GET MY JOB BACK! SHE LIKES UNICORNS AND TROLL DOLLS! I AM DEBASING MYSELF!" and then this happens:

JACK: We might not be the best people...
LIZ: ...but we're not the worst.
BOTH: Graduate students are the worst.

Or, in video format:



I am still contemplating what this means. Discuss.
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Recently Read: Clockwork Angel

CLOCKWORK ANGEL
Cassandra Clare
Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2010


Clockwork Angel is the first book in Cassandra Clare's new Infernal Devices trilogy, a Victorian era prequel to the Mortal Instruments series.

When her aunt dies, sixteen year-old orphan Tessa Gray moves from New York to London, where she hopes to start a new life with her brother, Nate. But moments off the boat, Tessa is kidnapped, by a pair of cruel women who call themselves The Dark Sisters, and who won't stop until Tessa perfects her extraordinary and rare ability, one which Tessa has believed impossible up until now: shifting her shape at will. Rescued by Shadowhunter Will Herondale, who has been investigating a series of gruesome murders of young women, Tessa finds herself drawn into the Shadowhunter world, helping Will and his demon hunting colleagues, including his parabatai, Jem, as well as Institute heads Charlotte and Henry Branwell and reluctant Shadowhunter Jessamine, try to stop the threat of the mysterious Magister, who wants Tessa -- and her power -- for himself.

Clockwork Angel is a quick, enjoyable read, packed with action, romance, and emotional punch. I have said before that Cassandra Clare's novels "hit all the right cliches"--a strange statement, meant entirely as a compliment--and this one does just that. Really. Ms. Clare has a knack for divining just how to glue her reader to the page, and she does it with aplomb. Her books are immensely entertaining, full of snappy dialogue and lovely description, hilarity and heartbreak, spunky heroines and swoonworthy heroes. She builds a mean love triangle. She crafts a page turner masterfully; I've raced through each one at a breakneck pace, and each book has me mourning the long wait I have to endure until the release of the next one.

Though readers may miss their favorite MI characters, Ms. Clare has a whole cast of new Shadowhunters and supernatural folk to keep even the staunchest Jace (or Simon!) fans entertained while they wait for The City of Fallen Angels (March 2011). Fans of that series will even recognize a few of Isabelle and Alec's ancestors -- I look forward to seeing more of Gabe and Benedict Lightwood in the next installments --, as well as the always fabulous Magnus Bane.

The key word when it comes to Cassandra Clare's novels, in my opinion, is relationships-- the ties that bind... and tear apart (usually with much heartbreak). Families with complicated pasts and even more complicated presents, surrogate families of brothers and sisters who defend each others' lives with their own, and of course, romance. Oh, the romance! It almost feels unnecessary to mention that CA features another tremendous (and sexy) love triangle, Tessa's choice falling between beautiful, hard-edged Will and kind, intuitive Jem. Can I say swoon? Double swoon? Impassioned fan debates: Go!

And I love the steampunk elements of CA (there is not enough YA steampunk around!), even if many of the situations don't feel particularly period appropriate (most specifically regarding proper behavior for young ladies) and the language feels pretty modern. But since I don't read Cassandra Clare novels for a history lesson, this wasn't much of an issue for me, though it might bother other readers.

And for me, everything else about the book-- which I enjoyed so thoroughly I've decided to reread only one month after speeding through it the first time-- more than delighted me. Romance, mystery, perfect pacing, and one hell of a cliffhanger... take all that, and you have Clockwork Angel, a completely enthralling read that has me despairing that the next installment is still a year away.

Um, and also, Jennifer Ehle apparently reads the audio book. Hell, yeah.

In the interest of complete disclosure, I read a free ARC of Clockwork Angel belonging to the lovely Suzie Townsend. So, thank you to Suzie for being a BEA superstar and to Simon & Schuster for giving out copies of the novel. I have since bought my very own copy, which I am excited to reread.
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More on the zombie apocalypse

The internet takes us in strange places and alerts us to strange and awesome things.

Like for example, just a short while ago I was reading this interesting and clever post on Sarah Rees Brennan's blog (which, if you don't subscribe to it, you should, because she usually says interesting and clever things) about writers reading and writing book reviews, and she mentioned a review website called Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, whose (awesome) tagline is, "All of the romance, none of the bullshit."

Naturally, my interest was piqued.

So, click I did, and when the page loaded (does anyone realize, every now and then, how long we used to have to wait for websites to load, and think, thank god for high speed?), was rewarded with the following image, after only a brief scroll down:



You can imagine what part of this attracted my attention.

The zombie ad, obvs.

Thus ensued another bout of clicking, after which I discovered that there is a novel coming out on September 1 called Married with Zombies (fabulous title!), the first book in the Living with Zombies trilogy, the second and third books being, respectively, Flip this Zombie and The Zombie Whisperer (also awesome!). Married with Zombies is the first book from author Jesse Petersen. Here's the jacket copy:

Meet Sarah and David.

Once upon a time they met and fell in love. But now they're on the verge of divorce and going to couples' counseling. On a routine trip to their counselor, they notice a few odd things - the lack of cars on the highway, the missing security guard, and the fact that their counselor, Dr. Kelly, is ripping out her previous client's throat.

Meet the Zombies.

Now, Sarah and David are fighting for survival in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. But, just because there are zombies, doesn't mean your other problems go away. If the zombies don't eat their brains, they might just kill each other.
 
And the first chapter is pretty hilarious. You should take the quiz too, and let me know what you score. Since I am relationship-less at present, I took the quiz with my BFFs in mind and determined that we are ZOMBIE PROOF. Take that, post-apocalyptic zombie world!

So, I think I'll put this one on my To-Read list, which is reaching somewhat epic proportions. And in the meantime, I'll return to the books I'm reading at the moment... that penultimate (*sob*) manuscript for work, an ARC of Beautiful Darkness, a totally addictive biography of Edie Sedgwick (look at me, reading nonfiction!), The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, and La asesina de Lady Di. Yes, I am totally screwed. But enjoying every minute of it.
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In reference to yesterday's post...

Forever Young Adult posted a Hunger Games drinking game today, which pretty much spells death to anyone who actually plays by the rules. I do hope they're not expecting anyone to actually play by the rules.

And in other YA news, I finally finished Life As We Knew It, and am seriously freaked out. Please do not let an asteroid hit the moon and knock it closer to earth, thereby causing catastrophic climate change. Because, eek, I totally do not have enough food in my house to keep me alive for months. Okay world, thanks.
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Mockingjay, and Zombie Lessons

MOCKINGJAY minus one week!

My big plans next weekend are to reread The Hunger Games and Catching Fire at the beach and possibly convince sninkle to partake in a Hunger Games themed drinking game. Drink every time Katniss is badass? Drink every time Peeta has you craving baked goods? Drink every time you want Rue on your team? Drink every time you have nightmares about people trying to kill you? Drink every time you think, "Screw Gale vs. Peeta, why not Gale AND Peeta?"

On second thought, this is probably a dangerous idea.

--

I've been on a bit of a zombie kick lately -- Zombieland, 28 Weeks Later, The Forest of Hands and Teeth-- , which seems to have started affecting my health. Lessons learned:

Do not watch zombie movies while eating dinner. Otherwise, you will find your mac 'n cheese getting cold as you attempt to sneak in bites between beheadings and gut-spewing. This is more difficult than one might think.

Do go running immediately after watching a zombie movie. You will think things like, "If zombies were running after me right now, would I be able to outrun them?" You will run faster; I guarantee it.

Do keep a box of tissues on hand, for when innocents are sacrificed to keep the zombie risk at bay. This is important even if you think you are cold-hearted and emotionally stunted. Because just as there will be blood, there will also be tears.
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(no subject)

My life has shifted this week from reading about teenagers to working with them. Other than calling me old several times, they are generally delightful and amusing. For example:

EXT. Some bleachers, at the edge of a field. CAMPERS and COUNSELORS are watching Robots & Rockets campers launch rockets with the help of their counselors.

COUNSELOR ONE: Sarah. Your assistance is required.
SARAH: Is it?
COUNSELOR ONE: It's about your hot CIT.
SARAH: ...
COUNSELOR TWO: Mike wants to get her number.
SARAH: How does this involve me?
COUNSELOR ONE: You have to convince her to give Mike her number.
SARAH: Mike?
COUNSELOR TWO: Our CIT.
SARAH: ...
COUNSELOR TWO: The CITs have been scheming how to ask her out all week.
COUNSELOR ONE: We are depending on you. The reputation of Robots & Rockets is in your hands.
SARAH: But. Why doesn't he just ask her?
COUNSELOR ONE: He has no balls.
SARAH: Oh, of course.
COUNSELOR TWO: So, will you do it?
SARAH: This definitely did not come in my job description...

TEN MINUTES LATER...

COUNSELOR ONE (having reappeared with a deck of cards): Who wants to see a magic trick?
SARAH: ...
CAMPER: Me!
COUNSELOR ONE (doing a card trick, for the benefit of HOT GIRL CIT): ... Well, since it didn't work the first time around, let me try again. Was this your card.
HOT GIRL CIT: OMG! How did you do that! Show me how you did that!
COUNSELOR ONE: Okay... (Skulks off with HOT GIRL CIT and returns moments later, shaking his head.)
SARAH: So...?
COUNSELOR ONE: I told her I'd show her the card trick if she gave Mike her number.
SARAH (shakes head)
COUNSELOR ONE: It didn't work.

FIVE MINUTES LATER...

HOT GIRL CIT: Who is Mike?
SARAH (points): That guy.
HOT GIRL CIT: Oh, him? Yeah, not gonna happen.