Too bad I didn't see this cake before I got married!
Neat, huh? In reality, we wouldn't have been able to afford it, and our cheesecakes were better anyway since MB doesn't even like cake. But! It's still pretty spiffy.
I also liked this one, even though it has nothing to do with books:
I know a girl who lives in Minnesota, and she says that the cityscape is a pretty good representation of the skyline of Minneapolis.
In other news, I realize it's been way too long since I blogged any books. I've been reading, just not taking the time to write about what I've read.
When I went to San Francisco last month, I took a whole stack of books with me, just in case. One of the best choices I made, bookwise, was to grab Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix at the last minute. It got me through my short flight to O'Hare, my three-hour layover, and almost all of my four-hour flight from Chicago to San Francisco. I've read it before, but only once, and that was back in the summer of 2003. Since the movie is coming out next month, I figured it would be a good idea to re-read. I liked it very much, although, as last time, I felt like smacking Harry a few times for his overwrought and misplaced adolescent rages. And I still think Sirius's death was a cheap tearjerker move. She's got one more book in which to convince me otherwise.
On the way home, I was extra glad to have books when my flight got cancelled and I got rebooked for a 1:19 PM flight instead of the 6:35 AM flight I started with. I read Charlaine Harris's Dead Until Dark during my extremely long wait, and I liked it quite a lot. The heroine of this "Southern Vampire Mysteries" series, Sookie Stackhouse, is no Sunshine, but she's a good character. In some ways, she's similar to Sunshine, in that both are pretty ordinary girls--not geniuses, not knockout babes, not karate champions. Where Sunshine had a magical heritage, Sookie has a magical talent--she can read people's minds. Because of this, she has few friends and zero romantic experience. When she meets an "out of the coffin" vampire, things change, and before long, Sookie's trying to solve a mystery and stay alive long enough to figure out whether or not a vampire boyfriend is what she really wants.
My only objections to this story: unnecessary (in my opinion) murder of a family member, even more unnecessary murder of a pet, and a vampire named Bill. My friend Tam, who gave me the book, pointed out that Harris was likely trying to create an alternate take on the stereotypical vampire tale. Instead of femmy glam vampires named Lestat or whatnot, she created a vampire who represented a typical 1870s American Southerner. I'm okay with that, but wish she'd called him Will or Liam or even William. I just don't dig the name Bill, having once had a horrible coworker by that name. Besides, it's hard to take a vampire named Bill seriously when I kept thinking of Terry Pratchett's Death calling himself Bill Door in Reaper Man.
Pressing through my misgivings about the name turned out to be worth it, and the story was really enjoyable. I was surprised but not incredulous when the murderer was revealed, which is always really nice in a mystery. There was also one really unexpected and funny moment where it is revealed that a certain extremely famous, dead but occasionally still spotted singer still kicks around as a creepy pet-fancying vampire. I'm definitely going to look for the second book in the series the next time I'm in the mood for a sexy mystery.
After I finished Dead Until Dark, I moved on to Haven Kimmel's The Solace of Leaving Early, which the bibliophile recommended to me a few years back and even gave me for my birthday in the hope that I would remember to read it. I finally remembered, and I'm glad I did. Though parts of it felt heavy and a little over-academic, Solace is overall a very sweet, very unexpected story. It's pretty clear from the very beginning which two characters are going to find themselves falling in love, but what happens in between was refreshingly different. With a protagonist (the somewhat oddly named Langston Braverman) who is at times almost unlikeable, it was surprising just how drawn in to the story I felt, and I think it speaks well for Kimmel's writing that she let Langston's fragility show through her outer eccentricities and overbearing academic-ness. On its surface, the story is a bit unbelievable, but in reality it works, and works well. It's not a book you'd turn to for a quick, light read, but next time you feel up for something that takes you a little deeper, I recommend giving this one a try.