Then We Came to an End – Joshua Ferris


OK – It’s not for lack of reading that the reviews have been scarce, it is lack of blogging time. So, Sorry! I’m back.


I first heard of this author from the New Yorker fiction podcast. I enjoyed a short story her wrote and decided to take a shot at his first novel.


According to the author blurb Ferris is a former adman who quit to complete an MFA and write this book. If I hadn’t read the blurb, I probably could have guessed that. Why? Because this book has a ‘clever device’ and was all about slaving away in an ad office.


The clever device was the use of ‘We’ for the narrator. The idea of ‘we’ as the company, the department, the group – it made for some interesting thought – for about five minutes. I will say that I felt this was well-executed in that it wasn’t TOO annoying. I also give Ferris some extra points for not including any characters named Joshua Ferris in the book.


So what was this book about? A struggling ad agency dealing with layoffs. A group of miserable employees trying to figure out which end is up. A how-to guide to the urban storage of totem poles. Lots of chickens running around with their heads cut off. Too many people trying to kill too much time looking busy. And so, sadly, it was as much fun to read as it sounds.


I will say this book was a bit of a disappointment. Mostly because I’m tired of catchy devices and prefer just good storytelling. Because I had pretty high expectations, this just didn’t really add up.


Maybe though, some of the problem was that the book was a bit too well written. By that I mean, the whole thing is about a cubicle hell. People sitting around for hours each day, with little work to do, just grating on each other. And hell they grated on me too.


My career in advertising lasted all of 3 days before I remembered how much I hate advertising. This book only reminded me of that.


As this book was a first novel, I will give Ferris a pass and check out some of his later work.


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Why does Delta hate babies?

So I just got back from a great big excursion – across the Atlantic to the US of A – just me and my 8 month old.

Crazy, you say? Kind of. But my little guy is pretty laid back – and we’ve flown solo before – so I figured what the hey. It’s October, it’s cheap, and I’ve got a bunch more months of maternity leave to get through.

I guess if I was going to give travel tips for infants, I would say – CHOOSE  YOUR AIRLINE WISELY. I thought I might save a little change, stray from SAS who took such great care of us last time we flew solo from Copenhagen to NYC.


I would not mind if Delta told me they hated babies before I bought my ticket – then I would not have bought it. But by the time I began to catch on to their feelings, it was too late. We were ‘non-refundably’ attached.

So here is how Delta showed me their true feelings – I don’t know how it is with other airlines, but SAS didn’t do any of the following:

1) No e-ticket available for infant. No, I needed to go to the ticket counter to pick up his ticket. The ticket counter closes 3 hours before the flight. My travel agent recommended going and getting the ticket a few days early – Delta didn’t want to give me my ticket early because they thought I might lose it – thankfully they cave.

2) Hand-written boarding card security fail – after the paper ticket I am handed a blank boarding card filled in with a ball point pen. I get to security and they won’t let me in. Why? Because there is no time of departure written on the boarding pass. I try to convince her to write the time herself on the pass – since it is on my pass and his is only good with mine. She won’t cave – I have to head back downstairs to check-in AGAIN

3) No booking or confirmation of baby bassinet. Despite the fact that my e-ticket says that I have a confirmed baby bassinet I am informed that this is impossible – there is no such thing. It is a first come first serve basis. After my security delay I am forced to sprint to the gate to be the first one to confirm said bassinet. I managed this one way, but no on the return flight.

4) No seat belt or flotation device for baby – I realize these are largely ornamental, but when I flew SAS they were very insistent that infant was belted in my lap, facing forward. There was no way to seatbelt my child to me on Delta. He sat on my lap

5) NO CHANGING TABLES ON A 9 HOUR FLIGHT: OK, this is my biggest beef with Delta. On the newly revamped (and by revamped I mean brought up to Virgin Air circa 1998 standards) jet we flew back from NYC on, there were videos in the headrests but NO CHANGING TABLES ON THE AIRCRAFT. Now I get the whole ‘don’t change baby in the seat’ bit, I think it is gross and unsanitary and wouldn’t want to do it. But you really want me to change my baby’s diaper on top of a toilet seat in a tiny bathroom? SAS changing tables seem huge in comparison.

So there were tons of other dramas involved, but they were mostly due to poor customer service of grown-ups. The only thing that made this trip enjoyable were the great flight attendants that saved the day.

So do some investigating before you fly solo with an infant or toddler! I know I will be next time

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The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff

The Danish Girl – David Ebershoff

Audiobook from

I chose this book after reading Ebershoff’s 19th Wife and being totally impressed. They had a half price deal on Audible and I jumped at it. I’m still pretty new to audiobooks in general, having only started listening since the little guy came along. In general, the books I’ve listened to I’ve enjoyed, but this is the first time I wished I had read the book rather than listened.

Ebeshoff incorporates the three languages of the three countries the book is set in into his narrative – Danish, French and German. This obviously made for a challenge for the audiobook narrator, I understand that. But I spend a lot of time in Denmark – and the French pronunciation of the Danish names made for a really confusing listen. For example, the character Henrik’s name really changed the way I experienced him as a character. The name Henrik is pronounced the exact same way in Danish as it is in English. However, in the audiobook they kept referring to him as ‘Enrique’ and thus I kept picturing him as an exotic foreigner. But later he changed the pronunciation slightly so I heard that it must be Henrik – and I ended up having to do a quick search to confirm. Anyways it just really started to grate on me and I really didn’t want to keep listening to this book.

That said – the story itself – was truly fascinating. Einar Wegnar, a Danish artist, is married to a rather special Californian named Greta. Wegnar is based on a real-life Danish painter, but it seems a rather loose association. Wegnar discovers, with the help of his wife, that inside of him is a woman – longing to get out. A young woman named Lily, much younger than Einer, and quite attractive emerges slowly but surely into Einar and Greta’s lives.

The development of Lily is the finest part of this book. The way she slowly emerges and develops. The way she evolves and grows, like an almost child like character into a woman, is beautiful to follow. Ebershoff jumps back and forth between time periods, delving into Einar and Greta’s pasts and giving you just enough backstory to accept the current state of their relationship. These two characters are incredibly well developed and thought out. This makes some of the more underdeveloped characters stand out just a little more. I was often surprised by some of the other characters’ reactions to Lily/Einar and wished I could have a little more motivation for some of it (but I won’t say too much as I don’t want to give away any major plot points)

I have a hard time recommending this audiobook, as I struggled to finish it, but the book seems it would be a worthwhile read.

And I will mention that this book sparked a bit of an off topic discussion – if anyone knows anything about this random subject – one thing that really jumped out at me and threw me out of the this book was the way Lily made her fake breasts at least one time.

According to the story Lily used avocado pits to form the base of her fake breasts while vacationing somewhere in Denmark (if I was following correctly). The book is set almost 100 years ago. Today, living not so far from Denmark, it is an effort to get a good avocado (they are often really not ripe – like rocks, or very over ripe. I have yet to find a way of optimizing eating them although I am stubborn and try all the time). Did they really have great access to avocados in Denmark in the early 1900’s? I guess it is possible, but man I spent way to much time wondering about that.

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Wanås sculpture garden – Modern Art in the middle of no-where

This weekend we went to one of my all time favorite places in Skane for our annual visit – Wanås. It’s a huge outdoor sculpture garden which integrates modern art and landscape in a truly fantastical way. Every year they invite a number of artists to live on site and build sculpture that are inspired by the landscape. Some of the sculptures remain, and others change yearly. It’s like a walk in the woods with strange sculptures lining the way.

We lucked out, as on the day we planned to go they forecasted really bad weather. We decided to give it a try anyway – and the skies cleared when we got there. However, most people stayed home that day, so we were on our own in the woods.

This year we felt some of the sculpture felt a little X-files inspired. Here I tried to get my DH to look like he was being abducted by aliens. He was little skeptical.

And I’m pretty sure the was an episode about pod people, or people hanging from trees covered in webs. Thankfully we weren’t attacked, but in this same area was a sound exhibition, with recordings of ‘Mama’ ‘Mama?’ ‘Papa?’, which were creepy. At first we thought there were other people around, but we were completely alone. There were small speakers attached to some of the trees.

We had fun playing with this installation – Here it looks like I’m standing on Cassie.

This was my favorite new piece – It is entitled ‘Billboard.’

While it is tough to get to without a car, it really is worth a trip. Many of the permanent pieces have beautifully evolved with the forest. And even bigger kids will get a kick out of seeing some really strange things in the trees!

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Illyria by Elizabeth Hand

Illyria by Elizabeth Hand

Elizabeth Hand remains one of my favorite authors, mostly because she wrote one of my all time favorite books Waking the Moon. I still read that book probably every other year because I miss the characters. So every time she has a book published I run out and grab it. And despite the fact that I am the only member of my family who is not an avid fantasy reader, I have enjoyed all of them (except the Star Wars or other movie tie-ins, which I haven’t read).

So when Illyria came out, I did buy it, having somehow missed its early publication as a novella. It being a short, beautifully written book, it fit in perfectly with good books to read while caring for a 7 month old. I read the whole thing in two sittings, as it is only 135 pages long and the flow of the text is hard to put down.

Apparently this is billed as YA, but I only discovered that after I finished. I didn’t get a YA feeling from it, other than that the characters are teens. The narrator is looking back through adult eyes, so it didn’t feel like your average YA.

Illyria is the love story of two cousins – Maddy and Rogan – who try to keep their bond despite growing apart as they grow up. The story is told from Maddy’s perspective and she is the younger cousin. Despite being billed as having won an award in the Fantasy genre, there is surprisingly little magical element in this book. There is a mysterious miniature theatre, buried behind an attic wall. But mostly the magic here is the writing and Maddy’s view of the world and her childhood. The story is dark and haunting, something is not quite right, but no one is quite sure what.

If I have any complaint about this book is that it was too short! I wanted a little more flesh, a little more meat to it. The writing was so rich, and the main characters so flushed out, I wanted to see them do a little more. I wish there were a few more detours to fill in some of the cracks they were only skated past.

I don’t know if I would recommend this book as YA, but I do recommend it as a great quick read for both older teens and adults. Oh, and check out Waking the Moon as well.

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Warhol After Munch at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art

For the last two weeks J has been traveling around the world, leaving me and the little guy on our own. While I have missed him immensely (and not least because LO sleeps so much better when Pappa helps put him to sleep), we did manage to keep busy thanks to J’s family and a great group of mammas.

So this week’s excursion – which is actually last week’s because, well it ‘s hard to find time to blog when taking care of a 7 month old single handedly and that 7 month old hates napping – was to Denmark.

The Louisiana Museum had an exhibit entitled Munch after Warhol, and while I’ve always been a bit skeptical of Warhol, Munch was one of my favorites as a teen. So off we went, another ex-pat mom and me. The exhibit consisted of Warhol’s interpretations of Munch beside some of the original Munch prints. And while the exhibit was interesting – giving me a new appreciation of Warhol through seeing his work in relation to Munch’s – the main attraction of the day was the fabulous weather and the sculpture garden. Let’s just say a few hundred photos were taken that day.

We also took the opportunity to take the ‘Around the Sound’ trip – catching the train through Copenhagen and then the boat via Elsinore. When we stumbled in the door at 9pm I was the only one exhausted, as LO stayed up until 11 despite my best efforts.

This exhibit closed last week, but I look forward to seeing more exhibits at the Louisiana – although I don’t know how many days we will have like this one as autumn creeps in upon us.


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One for the Money by Janet Evanovich

Ok, so this is not my typical read, but I am pretty glad I stumbled across this book. Why did I choose this one? A few months ago at my local B&M Janet Evanovich was signing books. So, I figured, why not? And grabbed a copy of her latest book, #16 in the Stephanie Plum series, and got it signed. Then I didn’t have enough room in my luggage to bring it back with me to Europe, so while I await my next trip stateside, I borrowed book 1 from the library.

I must be living under a rock because I knew nothing about Stephanie Plum or the series before cracking the cover of this. While it is a little bit dated (mid 90’s, as was the last book I reviewed) I have to say that I enjoyed this book.

For those who are living under the same rock I am, it is the tale of Stephanie Plum, a woman fallen on hard times. She must resort to bounty hunting to pay the bills. The world of bounty hunting in Trenton, New Jersey is about as glamorous as it sounds. Stephanie reminds me of New Jersey when I left it. She wears large shirts and spandex shorts. She is tough, but not impossibly so. And she makes incredibly stupid decisions that turn out for the best.

Evanovich’s writing style is what makes this book so readable. It is funny. I laughed out loud a few times, which is rare for me. It also has a very natural flow to it. Many times when I read books with a more comical style of writing I get tired of it after a couple hundred pages. With this book, because the writing wasn’t over the top I could hang in there until the end.

This book was a great pace for being on maternity leave, it didn’t involve too much concentration on my part and was easy to pick up and put down without needing to backtrack. I will keep my eye out for more of Evonovich’s work. Don’t know if I will make it through all 16 books, but at least one or two more.

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