Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Hurried Niblets (in Butter Sauce)


No time to spare, no time to spare! Except here I am...sparing!

I came into work early today, got a buttload of stuff done, and now I'm in the WC 'til 3:00. Then I get to head home, play with the pup for a short while, and I'm off again to collect research projects in my Wednesday night class. I'm extremely tempted to take the pup with me to work since my students have heard about her allll semester long, and I think she would LOVE playing in the park near the college. We'll see. Tonight is the start of the grading FRENZY that will last until May 7th at the latest (I hope, since grades are due by 10:00 AM on the 8th).

Between now and the end of semester, I'll probably pop in and out quickly, and I'm sure I won't get to read as much bloggy goodness as I'd like. Hang with me! This too shall pass! Or so I tell myself.

A few bookish/random niblets:

  • Thanks to Edward Champion, host of my very favorite literary podcast, "The Bat Segundo Show" for taking the time to drop me an e-mail. He came by last week and saw my mention of the podcast. If you haven't already, GO DOWNLOAD SOME! They're tres fun.

  • A university student from Berlin e-mailed me after finding my Master's thesis title via this blog. She'd like to use my thesis in her research on Fables. How cool is that?? Now I've got to help figure out how to get her a copy. Interlibrary Loan is a bit touchy when it comes to international swaps it seems. Cross your fingers for her!

  • Oh, and speaking of my Master's thesis, I got the Library of Congress classification info earlier this week! That baby is copyrighted and catalogued! Sweeet!

  • I love the Garlic & Parmesan Kettle Cooked potato chips from Wal-Mart. They make me weak in the knees. Or maybe that's just all the carbs.

Now, a few noteworthy passages from The Sorrows of an American. I have less than 100 pages to go, and I WILL lock myself in the bathroom to finish if need be.

"Language is often flimsy, I thought, a thin drool of received knowledge empty of any real meaning, but when we are heavy with emotion, it can be excruciating to speak. We don't want to let the words out, because then they will also belong to other people, and that is a danger we can't risk" (196).

"'Our own father used to talk about city slickers,' I said, smiling at my sister. 'But every perceived difference, no matter how slight, can become an argument for Otherness--money, education, skin color, religion, political party, hairstyle, anything. Enemies are enlivening. Evil-doers, jihadists, barbarians. Hatred is exciting and contagious and conveniently eliminates all ambiguity. You just spew your own garbage onto someone else'" (195).

Which brings to mind an upcoming rant about the faux pa of being smart in America. This particular diatribe-in-the-works was sparked by a discussion with Susan Jacoby on BookTV about her new book, The Age of American Unreason.

See y'all in another day or two'ish!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Life in the Car

No book updates today. Since I was sick yesterday, I expected I might get a little reading done, but as it turns out all I did was sleep. Which was a good thing since I'm so exhausted I can hardly lift my head in the mornings, but it was still a drag since I REALLY want to finish The Sorrows of An American.

Since there's nothing to report outside of work, I figured I might as well report on the roughly 6.5 hours of solitude I do get every week: my time in the car. Also known as, my beloved commute. While I do get sick and tired of driving 40 minutes each way every day, it is useful in some regards. And on a somewhat unrelated note, Pandora the Prius hit 55 mpg this last tank. Wheee!

The last time I went to blow off steam at Books-a-Million I picked up the audio version of Anne Lamott's ruminations on faith--Grace (Eventually). Annnnd, it sucks. Well, OK, maybe that's a little harsh, but I really am not enjoying it.

1. Anne Lamott has the most whiny, flighty, airy voice I've ever heard. Very hippie Earth mother whatever whatever. And not in the great eco-Earth mother way that I enjoy.

2. Boring. Very.

Sooo, in the absence of a good audio book (and new podcasts since I've misplaced my iPod charger chord thingy) I must turn to music. Not that it's a chore or anything, but I can't update my music either since I can't find the iPod charger chord thingy (technical term). I'm forced to listen to the CDs already loaded. Currently spinnin':

Nightcrawler, Pete Yorn's bestest CD, in my opinion. I was first introduced to Pete Yorn by a good friend of mine whose "thing" in life--like books are my "thing"--is music. Of course, I ignored his recommendation completely until I heard Yorn play live. He opened for the Dixie Chicks when I saw them in 2006, and I was immediately impressed by his solo performance as well as his collaboration with the Chicks on a song from their documentary called "The Neighbor." He has a distinctive sound, he's a heck of a lyricist, and I totally love him now. I really should invest in some more of his music. You can stream one of my favorite songs, "Maybe I'm Right" HERE.

In other musical news, I hate Fall Out Boy, but I can't help but LOVE their new cover of Michael Jackson's, "Beat It." And guess who plays the guitar? One of my favorite lust-worthy guitar boys...John Mayer. It features one of the BEST dirty riffs ever. Right at the beginning, the screechy, hard-edged, screaming guitar riff. That's a dirty riff. It gets me all riled up.

Since there's no video of Mayer playing this particular song, and since John Mayer and Pete Yorn both have something in common: they both worked with the Dixie Chicks on the Taking the Long Way album, I'll just post a vid of them singing "The Neighbor" in Atlanta. In the context of the documentary, Shut Up and Sing, it's a total finger to the Bush administration. And that always makes me cheer.


Other musical goodies I highly recommend from the depths of my Prius:

  • Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, by Foo Fighters
  • Who You Are, by Cary Brothers. He was featured on the Garden State soundtrack. His songs "Ride" and "Loneliest Girl in the World" are lovely. Stream his music HERE.

I've rambled far too long already. Hope you enjoy the musical nuggets! You know what I'll be doing in the car on the way home.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Blog Horn, and I'm a Weekly Geek!

I'm home sick from work today, so what better to do than lounge in bed and blog? I have a lot of links to pass on this dreary Monday morning, so hold onto your hat!

Because I need another project (so much free time, you know), I would like to introduce you to the newest book reviewer for The Environmental Blog. Uh, yeah, me! Go check out this one stop shop for all things environmental.

This week's installment of "The Finicky Reader" might step on some toes. I'm putting my head down and ballsily taking on the label, "women's fiction" in "Book Snobbery: Taking Aim at Overused Genres One Snide Remark at a Time." Let me know if you have answers to the questions I've posed regarding genre conventions and marketing. Click HERE.

Dewey has invented a fantastic sort of community building blog challenge called Weekly Geeks. There's a theme every week, and this week's kickoff is Discover New Blogs. With that in mind, I found the following wonderfulfantastic new-to-me blogs from the list of Weekly Geek participants. Keep in mind, there are at least a gazillion more I'd love to gush about, but I realize you probably have a busy day ahead whilst I lie here in my laziness. Without further ado...

Random Field Notes - Right up my alley, Ashleigh is an Egyptologist, working on a PhD, and she reads! Her blog is just so freakin' cool, I can't wait to spend endless hours digging in and simultaneously procrastinating from any paper grading that I need to do.

Adventures in Reading - Another fantastic blog. I love the design, I love the content, and I want to ravage the blogroll and sundry sidebar links.

Naked Without Books - Bybee's is a name I've seen around the book blogs endlessly, and I have no idea how I haven't bookmarked her before now. She's fantastic, reads a wide variety of books, and she's the only other blogger around that I've seen mention The Borden Tragedy graphic novel that I read a while back.

Trish's Reading Nook - A fellow Texan! And even though I'm not one anymore, I still say loud and proud, Trish is a sister o'mine in her Texanhood! Her blog is just addictive and fantastic. Go see for yourself.

The Inside Cover - Rebecca Adler's blog is a fun mixture of thoughtful ruminations, book news, links, etc. I can't wait to explore more. And it looks so professionally swanky! I love it.

Thanks to Dewey for the wonderful idea for Weekly Geeks! There's tons o'fun on the horizon.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Ready to Launch


Despite the fact that I positively suck at keeping up with multiple blogs, I've decided to try it yet again. Today I built Unlikely Activist, a blog dedicated to my passions for environmentalism and social activism. While I will still post some stuff about those particular passions here (the post about the EcoJustice Challenge, for instance), I'll post the bulk of my daily musings about the environment, politics, and various charitable endeavors at Unlikely Activist.
I hope those of you who are interested in these respective topics will come along for the ride!!! I'm really excited about it and can't wait to pass along some of the goodies I've discovered lately.

2008 EcoJustice Challenge

Thanks to AndiLit I heard about the 2008 EcoJustice Challenge. Read the directions below and see my choices.

The first step is for anyone who wants to participate to pass the link onto at least five other people (or even if you don’t plan to participate, if you like the idea, please pass it on). If you have a blog of your own, this can easily be accomplished merely by linking to this site in a post on your own blog. Below is a list of things you can choose to do. Once every quarter between now and April 21, 2009, I will add to this list. Your challenge is to choose something from this list, to experiment with it, and to post about it here. Or, if you’d rather not post, that’s fine. You can just choose what you want and leave comments on this blog. You can choose to implement as many or as few from the list as you would like. You can choose to stick with one (or more) for an entire quarter, or you can mix and match (one — or more — this month, a different one next month, etc.). My hope is that by the end of the year, at least one item from the whole list will have become a way of life for you and your family. And if you’re already doing some or all of these things, come up with others you want to do, share them with us, and post on them instead.

To join the blog as a posting member, please send an email to: ecojustice08 AT gmail DOT com with your user name and the email address you’d like to use for the purposes of this blog. I will add you to the list of users. Also, please post on your own blog, if you have one. That’s it. And now, here are your choices for this quarter:

1. Choose one day a week in which you will not use your car at all (barring a major emergency, like having to drive your spouse/child to the hospital for stitches). Before you immediately dismiss this one, because you have to drive to and from work every day, please think about it. Is there no one with whom you could carpool two days a week? If so, the day you’re not driving would be the perfect day not to use your car at all.

2. Choose one “black out night” per week. All lights and all electrical appliances are off by 7:30 p.m. and don’t go on again until the next morning. What will you do without lights, television, your computer? Well, the weather’s getting nice where many of us live. Sit out on the porch/deck and tell stories. Read by candle light. Write letters by candle light. Play games by candle light. You know, people did this sort of thing for thousands of years. My guess is that if you have kids, this will be an exciting and fun challenge for them.

3. Choose two days a week in which you are only going to eat organic and/or locally-grown food. Do you know that inorganic farming is one of the best examples of evolution that we’ve got going these days? All the pesticides that have been used to grow our food have helped to create “super bugs” who are becoming more and more resistant to our chemicals. We’re definitely losing this battle in more ways than one. Talk to the people at your local farmer’s markets. Many of them are growing their food organically anyway; they just aren’t certified, because it’s a difficult and expensive process to be so. Buying locally, of course, cuts down on the oil used to transport food long distances.

4. If you need to go anywhere that’s within a 2-mile round trip radius of your home, walk or bike. Where might this be? The first place that springs to mind for me is your children’s school bus stop. Perhaps the post office is close to your home. The library? For me, it’s both the post office and the bank. If you’re super lucky, maybe you have a farmer’s market that’s close by. Or maybe you don’t live close enough to anything, but you do work close by to that deli, say, where you always drive to pick up lunch.

5. Read that challenging book about the environment that you’ve been putting off reading, you know the one you don’t want to read, because it might make you a little uncomfortable (e.g. The World without Us, Diet for a Small Planet, Affluenza). Read it. Post about it. Maybe implement an idea or two based on what you’ve read.

6. Buy only those things sold in recyclable packaging and make sure you recycle that packaging.

My choices for this first quarter are 1, 3, and 5.

1. Generally I already avoid driving at least one day a week. Because I work a heinous distance from home five days a week (thank God I bought my Prius) I generally loathe driving on the weekends. I usually don't drive at all on Saturday or Sunday.

3. I try to buy as much local/organic as I can already. Luckily for me we have several fruit and veggie stands nearby, and there's another one on my way home from work. In addition to eating organically/locally two days a week, I also vow to eat at least two vegetarian meals per week. I've been researching vegetarian recipes, and I absolutely cannot wait to try some of them out.

5. There are several environmental books I've had my eye on, but the one that comes immediately to mind is Green, Greener, Greenest, by Lorie Bongiorno. The World Without Us, would probably make me even more uncomfortable, and I might try to interlibrary loan that one, too.

The Sunday Salon - Decision, Decisions



My quandary on this wet, dreary Sunday has nothing to do with my current reading. I'm still chugging along with The Sorrows of an American, and it just keeps getting better. However, I have NO IDEA what to read next. I expect I'll finish Sorrows in the next day or so, and I have a stack of juicy review books just waiting for me to pick them up. Take a gander at some of these:




There are a few others on the stack, but these are the ones that jumped out at me immediately. They all look great, and I'll review them all over the course of the next month or two, but isn't it tough to have them all screeching from the stack, looking so alluring?

So, what do you think? What should I read next?

Friday, April 25, 2008

No Title Today

I'm exhausted. I couldn't even be bothered to come up with a title other than "No Title Today."

The interview on Wednesday went really well. I should know by graduation (May 8th) if I have the job. There's no guarantee I'll know by then, but that's their closest guesstimation. Keep those good vibes coming.

I finished reading Master, by Colette Gale, this morning and while I wasn't sure if I was going to like it when I started, I ended up enjoying it quite a lot. Keep an eye out for the May issue of Estella for a full review.

As for The Sorrows of an American, it's just fabulous. It's been really hard to put it down in favor of anything else lately. I'd rather read it than eat, sleep, or use the bathroom. I still do those things--unavoidable, you know--but I really try to hold out as best I can. I hope I can get it finished this weekend. I'm hoping for a couple of uninterrupted stretches of time, anyway.

I've gotten more or less caught up on paper grading this week. Just in time for a HUGE batch of research papers to come in next week--5 classes' worth, in fact. I will want to kill myself by the time May 8th and final grades roll around. At least I'll be occupied before I find out my fate as it pertains to my work.

For now, I'm off to work with a student and hopefully read for a few minutes before I leave the WC today. Y'all behave!

The Winner Is....

Sorry I'm a little late with this. Daisy had other plans for me at 8:00 this morning. Things besides drawing a winner. In fact, I believe she was asleep on my leg, and since she was still and calm, I opted not to disturb her.

But I digress...

The winner of a copy of The Down-to-Earth Guide to Global Warming, is Stephanie of Confessions of a Book-a-holic!!!!

Thanks so much to everyone who entered the drawing. I was afraid given the nature of this book--a topic that doesn't necessarily appeal to everyone--that there wouldn't be many entries. I'm tickled to see so many interested, and keep an eye out...there might be more bookish goodies--environmental or not--coming soon!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sticky Post: Book Giveaway!

Leave a comment below to win a copy of The Down-to-Earth Guide to Global Warming! Advertise the giveaway on your blog and your name goes in the hopper twice!

Drawing will be held Friday, April 25th at 8am eastern!

Earth Day 2008



You knew it was coming, it was just a matter of when. That's right, how could I resist posting something substantial on EARTH DAY!!!


Yesterday I received a great book in the mail from Scholastic, entitled The Down-to-Earth Guide to Global Warming. This informative children's book by environmentalist and An Inconvenient Truth producer Laurie David, and her partner in crime, Cambria Gordon, is a to-the-point, down to the nitty gritty, fact-stuffed introduction to global warming: the causes, the effects, and how to make a change.


While you can expect a full review in the May issue of Estella's Revenge, I wanted to share some initial thoughts and some facts from this wonderful book. I have to say, as an adult, I felt I got just as much (if not more) out of this book than a kid would. The facts are staggering, and the format--full of pictures, diagrams, and factoid asides--helps bring the immensity and cycle of global warming into focus. But more on that on May 1st...


Facts I found astounding, troubling, and ultimately affecting:


  • The Earth's average temperature is rising. As little as a one-degree rise in temperature could make a huge difference in the way our ecosystems operate. Glaciers will melt (already begun), oceans will get too warm (already begun), animals and plants begin to die because they can't acclimate to the rapidly changing environment (already begun). As the authors point out, a popsicle in your freezer is solidly frozen at 32 degrees fahrenheit, but at 33 it falls off the stick.

  • Carbon dioxide--the culprit in global warming--comes from transportation (33%), industry (29%), residential electricity use (21%), and commercial electricity use (17%).

  • If you're not convinced that you can help reduce carbon dioxide emissions in your everyday life, try this fact on for size: If every kid in America swapped one regular lightbulb for a compact fluorescent we could prevent more than 30 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions and save enough energy to light more than 15 million homes for an entire year. It would be like taking 14 million cars off the road. Andi says: go to the dollar store, buy some compact fluorescent bulbs, and start changing over gradually. If you replace all of the regular bulbs in your home, you may see up to as much as $50 of savings on your electric bill. SERIOUSLY! Been there, done that!

  • "Phantom power" is one of the biggest energy wastes in the United States. 10% of your monthly power bill is a result of phantom power. When you leave a phone charger plugged up, a laptop on standby, a DVD player plugged in, etc. it still draws power (feel the charger, it's warm). By plugging your things into a surge protecting power strip and turning it off when you leave, you cut out phantom power usage.

  • Deforestation is the second-largest contributor to global warming--right behind the burning of fossil fuels. Trees are important. When you buy bathroom tissue, kleenex, and other paper products, look to see that they're made of at least 30% post-consumer waste. Most household paper products like toilet paper, paper towels, and other tissues are made of virgin wood. 80% of the earth's original forests are gone.

Cool and Encouraging:

  • New York City has the largest fleet of hybrid buses in America.

  • 20% of the world's electricity comes from water power

  • The band Coldplay bought 10,000 mango trees to be planted in India to offset the carbon emissions that resulted from the creation of their album A Rush of Blood to the Head, including manufacturing, shipping, and other harmful processes.

  • In Ireland, customers must pay for paper or plastic bags. The use of reusable shopping bags has skyrocketed as a result!

  • And many more!

Great websites:

Join the virtual march against global warming at http://www.stopglobalwarming.org/

Calculate your carbon footprint at http://www.conservation.org/

Learn to offset your carbon footprint at http://www.carbonfund.org/

Plant a tree for every book you read at http://www.ecolibris.net/

Happy Earth Day! Remember, the little things make a difference, so help protect Earth today!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Catching Up


Whew! My head is spinning. I've made up a test and graded a class worth of essays in the last couple of hours, and on top of that I have an interview for the permanent full-time version of my temporary full-time job on Wednesday afternoon at 4:00 eastern. Cross all your parts. I could REALLYYYY use some benefits and a guarantee that I won't be jobless when the next semester rolls around.

A while back, Kim from Bold. Blue. Adventure passed along the Blogging Friends Forever Gold Card, a sweet gesture to tell me she likes my blog and plans to continue reading. I have a boatload of blogs on my sidebar, all of which I will read as long as the bloggers keep cranking out new material. Off the top of my head, here are the bloggers that I'm passing the BFF along to:


  • Heather F. from A High & Hidden Place because if you hadn't noticed by now, we're connected at the bloggy hip. I love her to pieces.
  • Lisa from Bluestalking Reader is a constant inspiration to me in my writing and is constant entertainment.
  • Nancy from Bookfoolery & Babble is a long time blogging buddy from my Yahoo book discussion groups, and I couldn't be happier that she jumped on the blog train.
  • Amanda A. the kickass librarian/poet/mom extraordinaire. It just doesn't get any hipper than her.
  • And a new blog that I haven't yet introduced to the bloggy public: Book-It Blogspot & Zine, the brainchild of one my very favorite people ever. Dr. Susan Stewart was my thesis director and mentor, and she remains a close friend (we burn up the phone lines at least once a week). She's started Book-It, along with another prof of mine, Dr. Karen Roggenkamp, as a place to discuss children's and YA fiction, their respective scholarly specialties. The site will feature columns and reviews from middle and high school students, along with undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and outsiders like myself. I'll be writing a column for them coming soon! I'll keep ya posted.

And I can't forget Iliana, and Danielle, and Chris, and Purl, and Dewey, and Andi, and....

You get the point. Too many great bloggers that will be my BFFs. I love YOU ALL.

Next, in her recent "Living Responsibly" post, AndiLit asked about the five most important issues that I am focusing on - at least for today. I would say:

  1. The environment. Like Andi, I am incredibly focused on the environment today, and for me, it's not a passing fancy. I remember in my younger years, the first time recycling was hip, I jumped on the save planet Earth bandwagon in a big way. I read books about habitat conservation, animal extinction, etc. etc. The more recent wave of environmentalism simply stokes my fervor all the more. Although, all these years later, I'm far more concerned about the small daily changes I can make to positively affect the environment--reusable shopping bags, earth-friendlier bulbs, recycling.

  2. Local economy. I live in a small, rural town, and it's been affecting to see how stunted my local economy is. While corporations are chugging away and steadily hacking down the charm and ingenuity of the American Everyman, I try my best to revolt. I prefer to buy locally whenever possible whether it's produce, books, clothing, or housewares.

  3. Education. Because it's my business baby! In some ways the area I live in now is more affected by lack of education. Certainly the students I teach are wonderful and motivated for the most part, but many of them have been at a dramatic disadvantage for most of their lives because of poor and failing education. While No Child Left Behind doesn't seem to be helping in this particular area (or many more for that matter, I would guess), I can. By really talking to my students, by presenting material that is valid to their lives, I hope I can bring them increased interest in education and hopefully they'll pass it along.

  4. The American political climate. I'm more enraged, appalled and generally disgusted by American politics than ever before. I've never claimed to be a fan of the Bush administration, and as a result I rally for my candidate of choice (see sidebar). It's not only a candidate thing, though. It's a knowledge thing. This goes back to education, but I try to present information that can hopefully taunt my students into reading, investigating, and making up their own minds when it comes to politics. My ultimate hope is that they become more informed individuals and that they will carry their values to the polls.

  5. The humanities. There's a terrible epidemic in this country called "vocationalism." Along with it goes a lagging appreciation for the arts and humanities, and a disproportionate push toward the sciences and other "practical" studies. Not that practical is bad, nor is the motivation to get a degree in preparation for a specific career, but the slow death of a broad-based education that seeks to produce well rounded people is a tragedy. Let's all wear "I *heart* the Classics Department" t-shirts together, shall we?

Thanks to Andi for the push to put some of my passions down in writing. I could've written a veritable book about each one, but as it is, you get a drive by version.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Sunday Salon - Sleepy Sunday

It's been a busy weekend on the whole--reading and extracurricular gardening goodies. Yesterday we spent several hours planting flowers in our beds and around our koi pond, as well as repotting the water plants from our koi pond and adding additional marginal and oxygenating plants to the mix. In total, we have two water lilies, a bloody dock (green with red veins, looks like a turnip plant), water violets, a water palm, an iris, and some sweet flag grass. I can't wait until they fill out a bit.

But you want to know about the reading, I know you do. I'm about 75 pages into The Sorrows of an American (Siri Hustvedt), and I just love it. I would say, so far, it's a little lower key than most of Hustvedt's other stuff, but there's still the old staples. Lots of pyschology (the main character is a psychiatrist), lots of art, lots of writers, and multiple mysteries beginning to unfurl. It's a hard book to describe, really. There are several plotlines that all intersect and revolve around each other.

The main character, Erik Davidsen, is reading his father's journal, written on and off throughout his life and in large chunks before his death. There's also the plight of Erik's tenants in the garden apartment portion of his Brooklyn home: Miranda and her daughter Eglantine are seemingly being stalked by a person that leaves photos of the two (and Erik) outside of the house. Then there's Erik's sister, Inga, a psychologically fragile woman of great intellect, juggling a relationship with her daughter Sonia whose experience seeing 9/11 unfold from her school classroom has left lasting effects. In addition, there's a thread about Inga's dead husband, Max, a celebrity writer and the mysterious reporter that keeps trying to dredge up his past. Also, a mystery involving the siblings' father and a cryptic message about a woman named Lisa and the "bad thing" they encountered together as children.

It sort of makes my head spin on the whole, but it's so wonderfully woven, I can hardly make myself put the book down. Each story informs the others, and I feel a bit like the characters. With so many threads and thoughts and worries swimming around them, one longs for a cohesive, whole experience.

So far I don't know if this one will be able to surpass my out of control love and obsession for What I Loved, but it could very well give it a run for its money.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Ha!

I keep running up on these great quotes.

This one is from Myla Goldberg via the NY Times Review of Books blog, Paper Cuts. Goldberg is the author of the novels Bee Season and Wickett's Remedy (neither of which I've read, but I might now!).

Q: Whose books are generally shelved next to yours in bookstores? How does it feel to be sitting between them?

A: I’m too abashed to seek out my books in bookstores all that often; it feels a little too much like public masturbation. When I do get up the nerve, I just look for the “Memoirs of a Geisha” guy, Arthur Golden, because that book is almost always in stock and facing frontside-out due to the pretty Japanese lady on its cover. She’s my beacon: I look for her, glance to her left, and then slink away, feeling kind of dirty.

Currently Reading...and New Obsessions (Oh Good)

Guess what came to my house yesterday?? Guess, guess!!!

My gOOrgeous brand new hardcover copy of The Sorrows of an American, by my beloved Siri (her official title). Along with it, a hardcover copy of Reading Like a Writer, by Francine Prose. I snagged it from B&N's recent sale (still on, to my knowledge).

When I've been able to carve out reading time for the last couple of days, I haven't had much motivation to pick up Master. While I am enjoying it I just can't get into it into it. Ya know? It hasn't grabbed me by the nosehairs. Could be a mood thing.

As for The Sorrows of an American, I started it last night and it's STUNNING. So. very. good. I won't rant and rave right now (much more than I already have) because I have to save that for when I finish and review it. I would give my left ovary to do an interview with Hustvedt, but I fear I'll have to settle for the Ink Q&A from Powell's for now. Click HERE to read it. There's also a Q&A from a couple of years ago when she wrote Mysteries of the Rectangle, a collection of essays on her favorite paintings. I haven't read it yet, but I will once I finish The Sorrows of an American and find myself famished for more of her work. Read that Q&A HERE. Did I mention she has a PhD from Columbia? Did her dissertation on Dickens, which I admire greatly, since most everyone I know could never think of anything new to say about him.

In other news, I'm newly and completely addicted to The Bat Segundo Show podcast. Edward Champion interviews authors. Meaty interviews, too. Not those 10-15 minute things you find on most podcasts. Usually the chats last around 30 minutes, and he asks some great questions. So far today I've listened to an interview with Elizabeth Crane, author of the short story collection You Must Be This Happy to Enter, which I bashed in a review. It was a great interview, though. I really liked the extra insight into the book. Even though I didn't care for it, it's a thoughtful work.

I also listened to an interview with Jennifer Weiner about her new book--a sequel to her first novel, Good in Bed--called Certain Girls. I haven't gotten my hands on it yet, but come hell or high water I will. And soon! Weiner doesn't get nearly enough credit for being a wonderful writer. She's smart as a freakin' whip. Often lumped into the paddock of "chick lit" I find her much more thoughtful, funny, and willing to offer cultural critique than most authors that adhere strictly to genre conventions. She's versatile and willing to take risks in her writing. I love that about her.

On the way home, I have several more podcasts to listen to:
-Lydia Millet (started listening to this one and she strikes me as incredibly pretentious, but I was eating a baked potato and only sort of paying attention, so I'll have to give her another shot)
-Toby Barlow (really excited about this one since I'm so jazzed to read Sharp Teeth)
- Chip Kidd (loved The Cheese Monkeys, although I hear his newest book is largely flash and lacking in substance...we'll see!)

So, yeah, to make a really long comment longer, go check out the Bat Segundo homepage, or subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.

Note: I had really lovely illustrations of the bookish variety in store for this post, but Blogger is being effin' stupid. STUPID BLOGGER! *sticks out tongue and runs away*

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Eat More Chikin

Admittedly, the title has absolutely nothing to do with the post, but I was tired of trying to come up with something clever and/or insightful.


I can't say that I'm in a reading slump because when I have the time, I read quite a bit. However, time is of the essence as of late, and such will be the case through May 2nd or so. One thing is for certain...nothing is more tempting during slow reading moments than my review pile. You might've noticed the growing list of "Review Pile" books languishing on my sidebar. Similarly, they languish all day and night in a special stack on my bookshelves. They stare at me, mock me, and generally tempt me. They try to drag me away from work, family, and even my other books. Seductresses. Trollops.

In particular, I'm really excited about the following books (click the available title links to read more):

Yes, my first instinct upon receiving The Solitary Vice: Against Reading, by Mikita Brottman was, "Pshaw...riiiight." But those folks at Counterpoint are pretty sharp. I expect there's more to this book than meets the eye.

From the publisher:

Mikita Brottman wonders, just why is reading so great? It’s a solitary practice, one that takes away from time that could be spent developing important social networking skills. Reading’s not required for health, happiness, or a loving family. And, if reading is so important, why are catchy slogans like "Reading Changes Lives" and "Champions Read" needed to hammer the point home? Fearlessly tackling the notion that nonreaders are doomed to lives of despair and mental decay, Brottman makes the case that the value of reading lies not in its ability to ward off Alzheimer’s or that it’s a pleasant hobby. Rather, she argues that like that other well-known, solitary vice, masturbation, reading is ultimately not an act of pleasure but a tool for self-exploration, one that allows people to see the world through the eyes of others and lets them travel deep into the darkness of the human condition.

I've read a few pages already--told you the pile is seductive--and it looks like it'll be a good read. Some of the comparison to...uh, the "m" word...are pretty entertaining. I look forward to delving into this one a bit further.

After Dark, by Haruki Murakami looks to be another excellent read. You may recall that I read my first Murakami, Norwegian Wood, last year, and I loved it. The paperback release is impending, and this one is not the same cover I have on my shelves. I actually think the trade size is even more gorgeous if that's possible.

From the publisher:

At its center are two sisters: Yuri, a fashion model sleeping her way into oblivion; and Mari, a young student soon led from solitary reading at an anonymous Denny's into lives radically alien to her own: those of a jazz trombonist who claims they've met before; a burly female love hotel manager and her maidstaff; and a Chinese prostitute savagely brutalized by a businessman. These night people are haunted by secrets and needs that draw them together more powerfully than the differing circumstances that might keep them apart, and it soon becomes clear that Yuri's slumber — mysteriously tied to the businessman plagued by the mark of his crime — will either restore or annihilate her.

Norwegian Wood was markedly "normal" compared to Murakami's other work (from what I hear), so I'm interested to sink into After Dark and explore his metaphysical side for myself.

Finally, Lonely Werewolf Girl is another offering from Counterpoint/Soft Skull that caught my eye. In particular, the cover is really striking, and the blurb isn't bad either.

Teenage werewolf Kalix MacRinnalch is pursued through the streets of London by murderous hunters, while her sister, the Werewolf Enchantress, is busy designing clothes for the Fire Queen. In the Scottish Highlands there's trouble at Castle MacRinnalch as the Werewolf Clan prepares for war. Lonely Werewolf Girl is an expansive tale of werewolves in the modern world. The MacRinnalch family contains elegant werewolves, troubled teenage werewolves, friendly werewolves, homicidal werewolves, fashion designers, warriors, punks, cross-dressers, musicians - an entire Clan of Werewolves, involved in conflict from the Scottish Highlands to London, and several dimensions beyond.

To read more, visit the author's website.

Somehow, I don't think these are Stephenie Meyer's type of werewolves. I'm interested to see if Millar takes this well-worn type of character in innovative directions.

Certainly I'm looking forward to all of the books on my review pile, but these are the ones jumping out at me the most right at this moment. I expect I'll be receiving more in the mail soon, and that only makes my decisions more difficult. But it sure is fun!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I've never read Vonnegut, but...

I know, it's sick that I've never read Vonnegut. But I did love this bit from his introduction to Anne Sexton's Transformations.

"How do I explain these poems? Not at all. I quit teaching in colleges because it seemed so criminal to explain works of art. The crisis in my teaching career came, in fact, when I faced an audience which expected me to explain Dubliners by James Joyce.

I was game. I'd read the book. But when I opened my big mouth, no sounds came out."

Book Club Terrified


I met with the new-to-me book club last night. I found out when I got there and was chatting up some of the members, that the club has been meeting for four years now. Impressive, eh? Perhaps one of the keys to its longevity is that they meet every six weeks as opposed to every month. I know I felt stifled, back in the day, at having 1/4 of my reading decided for me each month (as I tend to read 4-5 books per month). Somehow six weeks seems so much airier.

We had about fifteen participants, and our hostess for the night took the opportunity to introduce me to everyone straight away. Next, we moved on to deciding the book for the next meeting. "This is where we always run into trouble," someone said. They asked for any books I might recommend.

In a hazy fit of deer in the headlights hysteria--and thinking someone else would suggest a title once they got the niceties of letting me pitch an idea out of the way--I took a blind shot in the dark and pulled a suggestion out of my behind.

"What I Loved, by Siri Hustvedt!!" I exclaimed. Following up with a short blurb that it's "about the New York art scene, a family drama, and it sort of unravels into a thriller." They were intrigued.

Damnit.

Now the pressure is on. Really on. A brand new group of people and I suggested one of my favorite novels that also happens to be a very psychologically twisty, intense, sometimes obscure novel. I have to have faith that these are not "nice only" book club readers. I might've shot myself in the foot right off. I like to think What I Loved is very discussable whether one actually likes it or not. There's a ton of food for thought, and I've never had a problem recommending it before, but this is not my usual crowd of readers. And they're face to face! If they rant and rave in distaste and horror, I'll have to watch it instead of simply reading it from behind the safety of my monitor. I might offend them. I might scare them. They might never take another suggestion from me again!

I'm overreacting, certainly, but there is still some iota of pressure to perform. Plus, I'm leading the discussion.

If nothing else, maybe I can get them all liquored up on too much wine before the discussion. Then I'm home free.

Monday, April 14, 2008

On Chesil Beach

My lengthy review of On Chesil Beach is up at Bibliobuffet! I really, really loved this book.

Lazy Mondaisy


It's hard to believe we've gone from this (4 pounds)...


To this...12 pounds...in three months. But isn't she still cute on her blankie with her tum in the air?


I apologize for my raccoon eyes. Her shoulder sitting knows no bounds.

We both like to wrap up. She's cuter when she does it.


Chillin'.
She has a stuffed squirrel with a stretchy rubber neck. She loves it. Adores it. This weekend she decapitated it. Now we have a loose squirrel head and a random body floating around the house. She plays ball with the poor thing's head. *sigh* There's no telling how many stuffed toy casualties will result from teething.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Sunday Salon - Sexaayyy!!


While I recently recovered from a reading slump and took off into my reading again at a breakneck pace, I seem to have slowed down once again. I don't feel a slump coming on, but I am slammed with research assignments to write up for my students, essays to grade, and general end-of-semester craziness to handle. While I'm currently in the midst of giving up on one of my reads, I'm happily trucking along through the other. Although, I wish I could gulp it down just a wee bit quicker.

I review a lot of books. Or at least I have a lot of books on my review pile. It often takes me a while to get through them given my busy school schedule and my own picks in between. Right now the book I'm trucking through is a particularly interesting title for review in the May issue of Estella's Revenge. Master, by Colette Gale, is an erotic retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo. I don't read much erotica, admittedly, but I will pick one up when they come through for review.

I read Gale's first novel, Unmasqued, a retelling of The Phantom of the Opera and enjoyed it more than any other erotica I've picked up. It was tasteful, very readable, and fun since I really enjoy retellings. It took plenty of liberties with the original, but overall it was just a really fun read.

I'm only about 30 pages into Master, but so far I'm just as pleased as I was with Unmasqued. Here's hoping it holds up!

As for my other recent read, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, I absolutely cannot get into it. I'm sure it's a great book--I've heard plenty of others rave about it--but I just don't give a flip at the moment. That means I'll be going to my first face-to-face book group meeting having not read the book, but at least I've read enough that I can talk about why I didn't finish it.

For now I'm off to rejoin Edmond Dantes and Mercedes Hidalgo in Marseille. I hope everyone has a great Sunday!

Friday, April 11, 2008

I Break for Real Life


Life is stupid-crazy at the moment. Utterly frustratingly cluttered. This is that hellish moment in the semester when EVERYTHING comes due, there's a final push to fit in all the material, and the students are at an all-time low as far as interest and involvement go. Of course, I'm not much more interested or involved than they are, so I can't say much.
However, good luck reared its gorgeous head yesterday in the form of a job offer for summer. The college I work for full-time doesn't offer many English courses during the summer, so I was out of luck. However, the pre-curriculum department (developmental courses) offered me two remedial English classes for the duration of the summer. I'll be teaching two courses a day for 10 weeks adding up to a whopping 3 hours of work per day plus the commute. I HOPE beyond hope that I still have time for hacking away at a novel in the afternoons. I had a fantastique novel idea pop up the other day, and I think this one might finally stick. I won't divulge just yet, but I'm sure I'll let more details slip as time goes by.
While I was looking very forward to being a complete, worthless ass all summer, I suppose this employment thing could be good. After all, I do have a car payment and student loans hanging over my head. Thank God I'm a manic saver--I would've been fine unemployed all summer--but now I can breathe a bit easier and continue to nurture my nest egg. And I can go to my conference in June, AND I can go on a mountain vacation getaway with B. in May, AND I can fly to Texas before the summer is up. Whew! I'm tired just thinking about it.
In other news, I haven't had a chance to read very much the last few days. Between fits of grading I've barely opened How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, so I might have to go half-finished to Monday night's book discussion. That's ok, I'm fine with socializing and wine even when I haven't finished the selection.
Watch for more Daisy pics before the weekend is up! I hope y'all have a good one.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Proof, by David Auburn

What's that? A play about math? Yes, a play about math. Or at least math as a conduit for lots of questions and doubts.
David Auburn's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Proof, is about Catherine, a 25-year-old woman dealing with life in the wake of her father's death. Robert was a celebrity in the mathematics world having revolutionized several fields by the time he was 23. Catherine inherits Robert in a sense, as she spends the five years just prior to the action of the play caring for him. His mental illness (unnamed, but probably schizophrenia) keeps him from working on math and takes him away from his position as math professor at the University of Chicago.
It's clear early in the play that Catherine is no normal 25-year-old. Not only has she dropped out of school after a year or less as a math major at Northwestern, she devotes almost every aspect of her life to her father to keep him near the things that made him happy. It's also obvious from early in the play that Catherine's mathematical abilities are formidable and her education is largely passed down from her father.
Auburn draws some nice parallels between Catherine's life and that of Sophie Germain, a famous female mathematician. While the references in the text are brief, I'll be interested to do some additional research into Germain to see just how many references Auburn packs in. One certainly doesn't have to be good at math, or really know anything about math, to understand and enjoy Proof. Math is simply a vehicle to understand the characters better and to further the literal and figurative links to the idea of proof and proving.
You see, Catherine's sanity and ability come under fire when she claims to have written a proof that will change the course of mathematics. Of course, given her delicate mental state due to grief, her possible inheritance of mental disintegration, and her lack of formal education, no one believes that she could've written such an advanced document.
This play (and the film) appeal to me on a number of levels.
I can relate to the deep sense of passion that accompanies an academic pursuit like Catherine's. When one is entrenched in the academic lifestyle and working on research and writing like crazy, it's almost like a drug. It addicts, it liberates, it's a heady sense of freedom and obligation all rolled into one. In short, this play reminds me of my big dreams of writing something revolutionary. Really, it reminds me of the "zone" one enters when thoroughly involved in any pastime with the ability to hijack one's attention span--writing, painting, studying, etc.
Catherine, her father, her sister Claire, and her acquaintance, Hal, are all impeccably drawn. While the play is incredibly short when it comes to reading time, the stage direction and intense dialogue paint a full picture of the characters' lives and the world in which they operate.
I'm bowled over by this work every time I see the film, and now that I've read the play itself. While I don't read too many plays (should read more), this is one I feel I could read over and over again any time I need inspiration. I would recommend it to anyone.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

On Chesil Beach

Oh. My. God.

How on earth did I not read Ian McEwan until now? I find myself saying that a lot lately, which is why I won't review On Chesil Beach properly until Monday's installment of "The Finicky Reader." I've written--are you sitting?--an 1,100 word review of it. It was breathtaking, wonderful, complicated, heartbreaking. What a hell of a ride for only 203 pages (or just over four hours of listening in the car).

How Did I Miss This??!!

Ever since I read Siri Hustvedt's novel, What I Loved, somewhere in the neighborhood of 2005, I've been completely in love with her work. After I closed What I Loved, I took it upon myself to backtrack through the majority of her works, including 2003's The Blindfold, and one of her essay collections, A Plea for Eros. I have yet to read The Enchantment of Lily Dahl and a couple of other essay collections, one of which is about painting (right up my alley).
I mentioned A Plea for Eros to Terri, of Reading, Writing and Retirement in response to her post about essays for The Sunday Salon, and in turn she mentioned a new novel of Hustvedt's that she is intrigued by.

New novel? What new novel?!

THIS NEW NOVEL! The Sorrows of an American was released on April 1st, and I had NO IDEA. I'm so disappointed. It's very likely that I'll be stripped of my "Siri Hustvedt, NUMBER ONE FAN!" decoder ring. I think I hear the fan police now.

In the spirit of not wasting any more time, I promptly went over to Powell's and ordered the novel this morning. In HARDCOVER, which I never do. NEVER EVER. That's just how excited I am to get my grubby little paws on some new Hustvedt. And all the caps--further evidence of my near otherworldly excitement.

Want to hear more? Here's a blurb from Publisher's Weekly:

"In her fourth novel (following the acclaimed What I Loved), Hustvedt continues, with grace and aplomb, her exploration of family connectedness, loss, grief and art. Narrator and New York psychoanalyst Erik Davidsen returns to his Minnesota hometown to sort through his recently deceased father Lars's papers. Erik's writer sister, Inga, soon discovers a letter from someone named Lisa that hints at a death that their father was involved in. Over the course of the book, the siblings track down people who might be able to provide information on the letter writer's identity. The two also contend with other looming ghosts. Erik immerses himself in the text of his father's diary as he develops an infatuation with Miranda, a Jamaican artist who lives downstairs with her daughter. Meanwhile, Inga, herself recently widowed, is reeling from potentially damaging secrets being revealed about the personal life of her dead husband, a well-known novelist and screenplay writer. Hustvedt gives great breaths of authenticity to Erik's counseling practice, life in Minnesota and Miranda's Jamaican heritage, and the anticlimax she creates is calming and justified; there's a terrific real-world twist revealed in the acknowledgments."

What I've adored about Hustvedt's work as a whole is her keen ability to

1) create tangible atmosphere charged with emotion whether it be grief, discomfort, anxiety, etc. etc.
2) incorporate complicated discussions of art, folklore, and psychology into works that can please a general audience
3) tell a damn good story

I have yet to be disappointed, and I feel sure (hope) that I love this novel as much as I've loved her other books. Now I'm crossing my fingers that it arrives at my door veryyyy quickly.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

An Influx of Reading

In the wake of my slump, I now find myself inudated with reading! That's always the way it goes, isn't it? I have three books on the go at the moment.

Proof, by David Auburn, is one of my favorite films, and I'm finally reading the original Pulitzer Prize-winning play. In fact, I'm reading the play with my lit/research class, and while I'm not sure what they think of it, I totally love it!

It's about the daughter of a math scholar dealing with her father's death and his legacy of brilliance and madness. When one of his PhD students finds a field-changing proof in his office Catherine must prove whether or not she can live up to her father's name and abilities--all the while trying to stave off an anal retentive, overbearing sister and lingering doubts about her sanity.

I'm moving through this one at a breakneck pace. So far the play is just as good as the film version was, and I'm finding that issues of gender are much more prevalent in the play. Tackling the issues that women face in the field of mathematics and the sciences is a hot button issue in the wake of the Harvard comments. I can't wait to weigh in on this one in a proper review. I just can't say enough good things about it thus far.

I bought Chesil Beach without actually knowing what it's about! There! I said it! The last time we were vacationing in Myrtle Beach, I found a GREAT little used book store. So cute, so posh, so independent. I couldn't help but buy something, and since they were on the brink of closing for the night, I grabbed the one audio book I'd heard of and made it mine.

Since I've already run through all the recent podcasts I have loaded on my iPod, I decided I needed a new commute book. Since this is the only one I have available on CD at the moment, I ripped into yon pod, and voila! I love it.

This very short novel is Ian McEwan's take on marriage and sex. And you know I love sex. No, stop, pervs, I love reading about sex. OK, wait, this isn't going like I expected. Whatever. It's about a young couple, newly married, in the 1960s and their wedding night. Florence is positively disgusted by the idea of sex. It makes her recoil. Her new hubby, Edward, is fascinated and worried that he will scare Florence or simply not satisfy her. Between their innermost thoughts and worries, McEwan allows us peaks into their personal lives prior to marriage and how exactly they came to the point of marriage and the marriage bed. VERY interesting book. Although, I have to say, I almost wish McEwan had stirred up the stereotypes and made Florence the hornball and Edward the icked out one. Just to be different. Still, it's a riveting listen.

And, finally, the book that's getting ignored. Well, maybe not ignored, but I have more downtime in the car with Chesil Beach, and I *have* to read Proof for class, so How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents gets pushed to the back of the pile despite my best efforts and longings.

I picked this one up for a new face-t0-face book group that I'll be attending on Monday night. I'm REALLY excited to finally get to go since Daisy's puppy school and other sundry obligations have kept me from the group for damn near a year now. Too long!

I've heard great things about this book, and I'm excited to get into it. Maybe the weather will be nice enough that I can stake Daisy Lou out in the back yard today and read a bit. Come on sunshine!

Which reminds me, on a completely unrelated noted, Daisy graduated from puppy school last night. She's house trained, crate trained, she can sit, lay down, and walk on a loose leash with at least an iota of focus. We're currently working on the "wait" and "leave it" commands. And I have pictures of her perched on my shoulder, which is where she often likes to be if I'm anywhere near my reading chair. Watch for those soon.

Now, I'm off to tutor until 3:00, and then I get to grade a boatload of student papers. Pray for my soul.

Monday, April 07, 2008

*sigh*

My quandary over environmentalism and book buying plays out in this week's "Finicky Reader" column--a piece called "It's Not Easy Being Green."

To Kill a Mockingbird

The second post I had planned for yesterday just didn't pan out. Daisy did her best Devil Dog impression all day yesterday, so I didn't have more than a few minutes to myself for reading. By the time I got to bed last night I could barely hold my eyes open, so I was forced to put off the last thirty pages of To Kill a Mockingbird until this morning.

It seems rather pointless to "review" such a timeless and beloved American classic. It's really astounding just how many people have read this book, and of that majority, how many people truly love it. For example, my first morning class is full of students who generally seem uninterested in everything we do. It could have something to do with meeting at 8am. Imagine my surprise when this otherwise quiet and withdrawn group saw my copy of To Kill a Mockingbird and launched into stories of reading it in school and how much they loved it.

Likewise, my very best friend growing up and to this day is not a reader. She's a self-proclaimed hater of reading, in fact. However, To Kill a Mockingbird is close to her heart. Her favorite book. A fond reading memory out of all the horrible ones she recalls.

So many factors contributed to my avoiding this book until now --the general hype, having seen the movie a zillion times, my avoidance of Southern fiction dealing with issues of race (seems so often poorly or overdone). It all just seemed like I would be disappointed. I hated to waste my time reading a book that I figured would just let me down. I didn't want the hype to make this one just "another book."

I'm so thrilled to say that this book lived up to everyone's recommendations and completely blew my expectations out of the water. Harper Lee's writing is just as enigmatic and compelling as her persona. The highlight of the book is most definitely the memorable characters. Atticus, Jem, and especially Scout are incredibly endearing and well rounded. I loved Scout's mischievous nature and natural sweetness and goodness. She's really a hoot. Beating up boys, stalking the Radley house, and generally getting into trouble.

Aside from the great characters, the book is genuinely wonderfully written. The action builds slowly allowing the reader to really sink into the setting, get to know the characters, and learn about the harshness and unfairness of 1930s Southern life right along with Scout and Jem.

I always say that any great and truly memorable book has the power to move me to tears, and this one is no exception. I'm tickled to join the ranks of people who consider To Kill a Mockingbird one of their all-time favorite books.

What to read next?? It's a tough act to follow.

I have to thank Kristy. When she heard I hadn't read this book several months ago, she kindly sent a copy along to me to give me a boost. Likewise, I have to thank Heather F. and CdnReader for MAKING ME READ IT! They've been after me for YEARS (really, years) to read this book. As usual, they were right!

Note: My 3rd book for the 2008 TBR Challenge.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Sunday Salon - Installment One

I'm doing my Sunday Salon posting a little differently today. I expect my day's reading will consist of two distinct parts: shopping and actual reading. We'll start with shopping...

I spent a leisurely morning at Books-A-Million with a caramel macchiato and a wandering eye. I felt the need for a little readerly retail therapy, and I quickly found myself with an armload of books and a lot of whittling down to do.

Books I sampled and have my eye on:

Sharp Teeth, by Toby Barlow - "An ancient race of lycanthropes has survived to the present day, and its numbers are growing as the initiated convince L.A.'s down and out to join their pack. Paying no heed to moons, full or otherwise, they change from human to canine at will — and they're bent on domination at any cost. Caught in the middle are Anthony, a kind-hearted, besotted dogcatcher, and the girl he loves, a female werewolf who has abandoned her pack. Anthony has no idea that she's more than she seems, and she wants to keep it that way. But her efforts to protect her secret lead to murderous results. Blending dark humor and epic themes with card-playing dogs, crystal meth labs, surfing, and carne asada tacos, Sharp Teeth captures the pace and feel of a graphic novel while remaining "as ambitious as any literary novel, because underneath all that fur, it's about identity, community, love, death, and all the things we want our books to be about."

I'm interested in this one on two levels: it sounds like an odd, quirky, unusually interesting story. But on a wholly structural level, the book looks fascinating. It's written in a free verse poetry form, and I'm pretty interested in Nick Hornby's comparison of the book to a graphic novel (above). There are no pictures, mind you, but to my understanding from an NPR interview, the pace with which the book moves as a result of the verse style is much like a graphic novel. I can't wait to give this one a go.

Green, Greener, Greenest, by Lori Bongiorno - "The perfect guide to help readers decide how to best spend their time and money to protect the environment, Green, Greener, Greenest offers flexible tips for everyday living, all categorized as green, greener, and greenest. Cutting through the labeling and the hype, it helps readers choose the advice that fits their schedule, their budget, and their interests, with the understanding that there's never one right way to make a difference. This indispensable resource will grow with readers-whether a novice in green living or a veteran environmentalist-as their interests and needs change over time."

I like this book because it's broken down by degrees. I'm interested in moving from what I do now to be green into a progressively greener lifestyle. I also appreciate the straightforward facts. The bit I read this morning was about organic foods and how they're categorized as such. The book gives tips on the right types of questions to ask to cut through all the mumbo-jumbo and get to the heart of exactly how green foods, products, etc. really are.

Moral Disorder and Other Stories, by Margaret Atwood - "Margaret Atwood's latest brilliant collection of short stories follows the life of a single character, seen as a girl growing up the 1930s, a young woman in the 50s and 60s, and, in the present day, half of a couple, no longer young, reflecting on the new state of the world. Each story focuses on the ways relationships transform a character's life: a woman's complex love for a married man, the grief upon the death of parents and the joy with the birth of children, the realization of what growing old with someone you love really means."

In the tradition of my short story obsession, I nearly bought this book. I have yet to read Atwood's short stories, but I have no doubt they're fantastic.

I also spent some time lusting after The Freedom Writers Diary, The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton, and I decided to purchase The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan.

Watch for a review of To Kill a Mockingbird this afternoon or this evening. It's SO GOOD!

Friday, April 04, 2008

To Kill a Mockingbird - The Update


I'm about 70 pages into To Kill a Mockingbird, and I really love it so far. I'm really irked that I haven't had more reading time this week, since all I really want to do is sink into this book. In fact, last night I took myself to dinner all alone just so I could read more or less uninterrupted for a decent period of time.

I resisted this book for a number of years, partially because I felt that I already knew the story well enough that it would be completely anti-climactic. I'm finding, however, that Lee's writing adds a whole new level of charm and humor to this story that I didn't get from the film version.

One of my favorite passages so far:

Context: the new teacher's system of teaching involves lots of flash cards and very little actual reading, and as a result...

"Jem, educated on a half-Decimal half Duncecap basis, seemed to function effectively alone or in a group, but Jem was a poor example: no tutorial system devised by man could have stopped him from getting at books. As for me, I knew nothing except what I gathered from Time magazine and reading everything I could lay hands on at home, but as I inched sluggishly along the treadmill of the Maycomb County school system, I could not help receiving the impression that I was being cheated out of something. Out of what I knew not, yet I did not believe that twelve years of unrelieved boredom was exactly what the state had in mind for me" (37).

Luckily, there are no appointments scheduled for the writing center today. Maybe I can read then!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Wednesday at a Glance

Is it awkward for anyone else when someone in the elevator starts singing? It's that same sort of awkward as when someone talks on a cell phone in the bathroom stall.

Daisy is apparently part Pit Bull. She looks like a little, cute, miniature Pit. Everyone says so (upwards of five people now, many of them strangers, one of them a veterinarian). How crazy is that? I think I'll get her a spiked collar. She's tripled her weight since we got her on February 8th. She now weighs 12.1 pounds.

It costs approximately $16.20 less to fill up my Prius than it did to fill up my Accord. And I can go slightly longer on a smaller tank. It saves me around $80-$100 per month. I would hug my car if I could get my arms around it.

I haven't gotten to read for two days. To Kill a Mockinbird has been leering at me, taunting me, smirking and beckoning.

I have a head full of pollen and a headache to go with it. There's yellow dust in the cracks of our porch, on the grill cover, on the cars. I came in from playing with Daisy Lou the other day, and it was under my toenails. Eeww.

I paid all of my bills in one sitting this morning. Kill me now.

I'm off to ad a "Review Pile" section to the sidebar. Then I'm going blog surfing. See you there!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

April at Estella!

I have to tell you, I was the teensiest bit worried just a week or so ago because there were very few submissions for the April issue of Estella's Revenge. However, with one e-mail the writers REALLY came through in a big way and provided enough material for what could very well be one of our best issues yet.

Check out Estella's take on the theme, "Growth." There are articles about our particular "Growing Pains," what "going green" really means for book lovers, and there's even an interview with A.J. Jacobs, the author of The Year of Living Biblically and The Know-It-All. You'll find a slew of tasty book reviews, and even a giveaway! Visit the site for instructions on how to win a $15.00 Powell's Books gift card!

http://www.estellasrevenge.com

Book Lusting

It doesn't pay for me to listen to NPR's book podcast. In fact, I mean that literally since my bank account shrinks after every listen. I haven't listened to the podcast in a while because I've been on more of a music kick on my daily commute, but today the prodigal listener returned. Now my wishlist is several books larger.

Blood Kin, by Ceridwen Dovey: A president has been overthrown by a military coup in a nameless country in an unspecified era. The president's barber, chef, and portraitist are imprisoned, with many others, in a remote palace in the hills high above the city center. Before the coup, these three men worked with unquestioning loyalty, serving the president in seemingly benign jobs. Now, forced to serve the country's new leader, they begin to reconsider their role in the old regime.

I love the idea of following the lives of those closest to a powerful leader. What would the minutia of life be like for a President's portraitist? Especially one that paints a new portrait every two months and is continually changing the details based on the President's mood? Listening to Dovey speak about her novel was incredibly interesting, and I can't help but admire the author herself in addition to her innovative book premise. In addition to writing novels, she's also working toward a PhD in Anthropology.

Cheer!: Three Teams on a Quest for College Cheerleading's Ultimate Prize, by Kate Torgovnik: Meet the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjack cheerleaders from Nacogdoches, Texas, whoseem destined to win their fifth National Championship in a row — until they are shaken by the departure of their longtime coach. Fall in love with the Southern University Jaguars from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, an African-American team hoping to raise the $17,000 needed to travel to Nationals and transform their near win several years ago into a Cinderella victory. Root for the University of Memphis All-Girl cheerleaders from Tennessee — a team that continually struggles for the same respect Coed teams get — when their quest for a national title is threatened by injuries and dropouts.

Incidentally, Stephen F. Austin University isn't terribly far from where I used to live in Texas. Like any red-blooded Texan girl in a football addicted hometown, I was in love with cheerleading. While I never went out in the little skirts, I was the school mascot in 8th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grades. I know, I know. I got to wear a fox costume (full-body...like a carpet), do cheers, tumble, jump, and generally act a'fool in front of large audiences. And we won quite a few cheerleading competitions. I can't resist a book that respects this "activity" for what it really is...a sport.

Feasting on Asphalt: The River Run, by Alton Brown: He's on the road again. This time, Alton Brown and his motorcycle-mounted crew are off on a thousand-mile, south-to-north journey that follows America's first "superhighway"—the Mississippi. Starting at the great river's delta on the Gulf of Mexico and ending up near its headwaters in Minnesota, Alton and buddies travel the heartland's byways to scout out the very best of roadside food—and to get to know the people who spend their lives preparing and serving it.

I fell in love with Feasting on Asphalt in its first season on The Food Network, and I'm itching to get hold of this companion book to season two. Alton Brown is hilarious, and one smart cookie. And I can't resist a guy on a motorcycle.

Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, by Mary Roach: The bestselling author of Stiff and Spook turns her outrageous curiosity and infectious wit on the most alluring scientific subject of all: sex. In Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, Roach shows how and why sexual arousal and orgasm can be so hard to achieve and what science is doing to make the bedroom a more satisfying place.

I loved Stiff when I read it a number of years ago, and it remains one of my all-time favorite non-fiction reads. Well, one of my all-time favorite books in general, actually. I have to admit, I'm more than a little captivated by sex, too (who isn't), so this marriage of Roach's humor and a risque topic is tailor made for my bookshelves.

Now do you see why it doesn't pay for me to listen to NPR? Really, my paycheck is crying, and it just arrived today.