Thursday, July 31, 2008

Personally: Depression

Depression sucks. Not surprising since that's sort of what it stands for. Depression = sucks. What really sucks is that people such as myself...that are perky, smiling, "glass half full," optimists are indeed touched by depression.

I've talked to quite a few people over the years who just didn't get it. I might mention that I was feeling depressed (to a family member, boyfriend, someone close) and then be asked, "What's wrong? What are you depressed about." And that's the hell of it...there is no "why" there's only "when." Depression happens; it may happen because of a specific stressor that triggers it or it might roll around of its own accord and land on my head without asking first. Either way it's frustrating. Quite honestly I don't have anything to be depressed about, but I am.

Luckily for me, I've lived with it long enough (it started rearing its ugly head when I was 9) that I know how to fight it. I know how to deal with. I know to notify the people close to me that it's here and to steer clear. How do I deal?
  • Keep busy. Whether it's work, writing, driving aimlessly, or spending time with friends, I have to stay busy. I get depressed far less often and with far less drama if I'm busy. Therefore, I stay busy. Almost always.
  • Write. The double edged sword is that depression makes me not want to write.
  • Keep moving. Another reason this new exercise obsession is a very good thing. It helps clear my head of any self-doubt and self-destructive thoughts. Even if it's not exercise, if I can get outside my house and go somewhere, I feel much better.

What does it feel like? It feels like the worst boredom. I can't even describe it to you. I lose interest in the things I like: books, movies, socializing, being vibrant. I'm antsy. It's hard to get through my responsibilities because I would literally much rather sleep for days than do anything. Anything that can help me feel free and light is an antidote. And knowing that this cloud will pass over, I just have to get through the days (or weeks or months...usually just days at this point in my was much worse when I was younger) until it lifts. I try not to think about "big picture" things. Just small things. Go for this walk. Swim for a while. Talk to a friend. Do a little work. Watch some mindless TV. Cry if it helps. Save the sleeping for the proper time of night. This feeling might be gone tomorrow.

I don't take drugs for it. I did for a while...Zoloft. But, quite honestly, it's expensive, and I don't have insurance at the moment. Learning to deal has helped a lot, and it comes around far less often than it used to. This is going to be one of the big challenges in working from home. Honestly I have far too much free time on my hands right now. Once school starts I hope it's a far less looming possibility.

Until then, I just go. "Just go" is my motto these days. I could keep this quiet and never talk about it, but I choose to keep it out in the open to some extent. Mostly because I hope someone who doesn't understand will read and get a better picture of the struggle going on in a depressed person's head. I constantly ask myself (even though I know the truth is that it just happens) "Why am I feeling this way? Why? I should just snap out of it!" Maybe my hypothetical reader's teenager or even grown child says, "Mom, I feel kind of....depressed...I think." Realize that it happens to what some people consider the most unlikely candidates. There may be a reason, or not. It's not fun, it's not glamorous, it's just confusing and hard. But, it can be dealt with in a variety of ways. It's different for everybody, but this is the way I am.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I'm Alive! And Surprisingly Preoccupied!

First off, my apologies for being gone so darn long. So much longer than I expected. Luckily, my ears cleared up on Saturday afternoon, and since I'd been cooped up in the house all of Thursday and Friday and most of Saturday, I was ready to get the heck out of here! I called Susan up and we spent Saturday night sipping pina coladas, eating a tasty steak salad, and we watched Stranger Than Fiction, all the while marveling at Will Ferrell's uncanny ability to be completely unlike himself. It was good to have a little girls night getaway.

Sunday was more of the same. I worked out first thing, spent part of the day reading and watching mindless TV, and finally headed out to Hastings in the evening to read all the magazines I won't subscribe to: The American Scholar, Bookmarks, and Writer's Digest in particular. Not that they're not worth subscribing to, but what would I do with my time if I couldn't sit in Hastings with free coffee and read them? That's a good time, my friends. Especially when I'm feeling stir crazy.

This week so far: planning for fall courses, gave UNT all of my money for my two library classes, and general week-day stuff.

Part of my preoccupation as of late--it's even keeping me from books to some extent--is a new fascination with exercise. This is weird stuff for me, people. I've always HATED working out. Particularly because Texas is synonymous with "hell" in the summer. This week, for instance, it's been about 102 to 105 every day. Therefore, since Daisy wakes me up at 6:00 every day anyway, I've started walking/jogging in the mornings from about 6:45-8:00 or 8:15. And it's become something of an obsession. Not obsession like bulimia obsession, but it's really become a part of my routine that I look forward to and don't want to end.

I throw on my running shoes, the coolest workout gear available without being indecent (tee-shirt and shorts...get your mind out of the sports bras), and take off with my iPod. In the past I've timed my walks or runs (almost exclusively walks now, bad ankles and a horrible knee from old injuries), followed a set route, always tried to beat my times, and generally made it far too difficult and pain-in-the-assy.

My motto this time is "just go." I cover my neighborhood 3 or four times, sprout off to a new route if I feel like it, I walk briskly and at a steady, strenuous pace, but not so quickly as to make myself hurt and want to die, and I walk for as long as I can or as long as I want to. What I've found is...I never want to stop! As I'm gliding along, sweating like a pig, heart pumping, ears filled with whatever happens to move me at the moment, my mind is completely uncluttered and I can think in ways that remind me of the throes of really good writing or the days when I could spend 7 hours in an art studio painting. It's like walking off my problems (and my ass). I'm just sort of amazed. I've never enjoyed exercise, outside, in the hot. Sometimes I even want to go in the evening too (although it's way too hot for as long a workout as I do in the morning). So, I would say I'm generally walking about 3 miles every morning, and if I go twice 5 or 5.5 (including warm up/cool down and extra stretching time for the bitchy joints).

When I get home from my walk I've been dashing over to the neighbors' house for 30 minutes to an hour of swimming time. Some of that is heavy swimming, constant, or sometimes I just float around and loaf. Either way, I have a great tan, I can take my pants off without unzipping or unbuttoning them, and I want to be outside ALL THE TIME. Kinda cuts into my computer time, but I'm enjoying the new hobby, the new motivation, and the change of lifestyle.

I don't know what's come over me, but I like it!

Now, if you need me, I'll be walking the neighborhood and waving at the neighbors.

Reading: Very little. I'm about halfway through Bonk, and I'm tiring of it.
Watching: Dan in Real Life arrives from Netflix today.
Listening: A LOT! Pete Yorn's Nightcrawler at the moment.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Sharing the Love!

Happy Saturday!!! I'm laid up in bed in my pj's at 10:30, a Diet Caffeine-Free Coke in hand, and a puppy asleep next to me. It doesn't get any better than this!

Some very lovely bloggin' ladies have nominated me for some very lovely bloggy awards! Terri from Reading, Writing, and Retirement nominated me for both, and Lezlie from Books 'N Border Collies nominated me for the Brilliante Weblog award. I'm flattered, ladies, and always amazed that anyone reads my ramblings. Blessings on your heads!

Now, for my awards. I'm nominating 7 blogs for the two awards above:

1. Heather from A High & Hidden Place: She's my reading twin, one of my best friends in the whole wiiiide world, and I totally love her creativity. She's a talented photographer and designer o'graphics (see my header). I can't get enough of her blog, and we e-mail like madwomen.

2. Christine from Between Concrete and Sky: I've been following Christine's adventures for some time; ever since I found her blog through Iliana. I can't get enough of her photography, musical tastes, and book talk. Now she's moved to New York City, and it's great fun following her life there.

3. Lisa G. from Bluestalking Reader: She's hilarious, well read, ambitious, and I really wanna be just like her!

4. Bellezza from Dolce Bellezza: Her blog and her writing are just gorgeous. She's witty, intelligent, thoughtful, and has a great heart. Reading her blog always makes my day a little sunnier.

5. Julie from Moments of Perfect Clarity: Another blog that makes my days sunny. Great photography, warm stories, and a general concern for the world and all the good things in it.

6. CdnReader from The Between-Place: A long-time book group friend and superwoman. She's kicking up to work on her PhD, and I can't wait to hear more as she goes! And did I mention she's got GREAT taste in books?

7. The Funky Bee from....The Funky Bee! She recently covered bacon in chocolate. What's not to LOVE ABOUT THAT? She lives in DC, she lives a far more interesting life than I, she's a sweetheart, and she makes me cackle every time I read her posts. And she sent me meerkat stickies for my office. It's bloggy love!

This is a sampling of GREAT blogs. I read oodles, and I always try to nominate different folks because I just can't tell you enough--all of you--how much I enjoy keeping track of your lives.

Last but certainly not least, Kim from Bold.Blue.Adventure. called on me for Six Quirky Things About Me meme. I think I've done this one, but I'm sure I can come up with some more quirk. There's a whole lotta quirk going on.

1. I hate stuff in my ears. HATE. With a bloody passion. Water, q-tips, a scope. Do you see where this is going? I wanted to kick my doctor in the face yesterday for looking in my ear with a scope, and I really wanted to kick her when she said to keep using drops. HATE STUFF IN MY EARS.

2. I floss obsessively. I had braces for three years in middle school and right at the beginning of my freshman year in high school. I couldn't floss as effectively as I wanted to during that time, so I've been making up for it ever since. I'm sort of anal about my teeth all the way around, but that's the biggie.

3. I love plucking my eyebrows. There's some sick pleasure I derive from getting one of those babies out by the root!

4. I don't mind if my bedroom is a pig pen, but I can't stand a cluttered kitchen. Stuff on the countertops makes me crazy. I would clean out the kitchen Spring Cleaning style every week if I had the energy and my mother didn't look at me funny. It's almost one of those situations where I get SO overwhelmed by a cluttered kitchen that I just throw my hands up and retreat if it's too bad.

5. I've read part of every great book. My friends could always count on my saying, "Oh I read part of that," in grad school. Some I finished, but others I sampled and put away. It's all about that finicky reading mood o'mine.

6. I can take my pants off without unbuttoning or unzipping them. Not really quirky, but a newfound occurrence that gives me a great deal of pride. Wheee!

Friday, July 25, 2008

And the winner is....

With all my ear drama (went to the doc, got drops, life is good), I almost forgot about the drawing!!!

Without further ado, my hardcover copy of Francesca Lia Block's short story collection, Blood Roses, goes to....

Iliana of BookGirl's Nightstand! Iliana, please e-mail me your new address!

Thanks to all of you who entered the drawing. I have lots of extra books piling up, so watch for another giveaway soon!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Gone Fishin'

I feel craptaculous. Some sort of swimmer's ear thing that HURTS! So, you'll have to settle for Daisy pics for another day or two. Love to all!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Twit. Twitt. Twitter!

OK, I joined. This could be a new addiction. Who else is on Twitter? Leave your username in the comments or friend me with the usual username: estellasrevenge.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Gleeeful, Except for that Monday Thing

Well, damn. Cameras are allowed at the Dallas World Aquarium, and I didn't take one for fear of being tossed out on my duff. I obviously had the aquarium confused with a Dixie Chicks concert. Hmmf. No original pics therefore, but I did have a great time. I can tell you without a doubt that the Pygmy Marmoset is the cutest animal alive (a sloth in a basket coming in a very close second).

The aquarium was way freakin' cool, and it was really more of an indoor zoo than strictly an aquarium. It's eight stories of rainforest with paths that lead from the top to the bottom through various exhibits--birds, sloths, bunnies, coral reefs, SHARKS, manatees, and other creatures so wonderfully unidentifiable as to make me squeal with glee. Glee I tell you. You'd think I'd never seen animals in captivity. The HUMONGOUS Orinoco Crocs almost made me lose my bladder.

After combing the aquarium, Mom and I stopped at the Black-Eyed Pea for a good ole comfort food lunch (meat loaf for her, turkey and dressing for me) and then we came home, cleaned out a closet, and were generally lazy for the rest of the day.

Today, however, was not so laid back. Mom was off work, so I decided to skip my morning workout and spend the day reading and sleeping and visiting with her. I woke up at 6:00 (thanks, Daisy) and napped from 8:00-10:00 if that tells you anything (And is a lazy slob. Yes, oh yes, she is). Alas, it was not to be. Daisy bit through my laptop's power cord, and sent me on a very frustrating scavenger hunt to find a replacement. Don't worry, she wasn't hurt. I have no idea how she didn't shock the hell out of herself, but she didn't. Thank God. I now have a nice little cover for the cord. After finally securing a new power adapter at Staples (20 miles away) I came home only to discover that it did not actually charge my laptop's battery--just provided a power source. SO I was off to Toshiba's website where I found much to my shock and amazement that they are CHEAPER than Staples. Who knew? So I've now ordered a replacement just like my old adapter for a lesser price, and I can take the current one back to Staples within 14 days. OH, and when I unplugged it earlier I found that it has indeed been charging the battery even though it's not supposed to. How? Hell if I know.

It has been SO VERY Monday. I'm off to finish Quiet, Please and start the Bibliobuffet review. And if you're interested, my piece for this week's "Finicky Reader" column is a review of Laurie Perry's Drunk, Divorced, and Covered in Cat Hair. I know I've already raved about it here, but for more quotes and my effusive praise, click HERE. The name of my review is "Single, Snarky & Covered in Canines." I couldn't help myself.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Sunday Salon and a Day of Fish

Usually Sundays are lazy days for me. Mom and I spend the morning in our pjs eating breakfast (bacon and cheese frittata today), drinking coffee, reading the paper, and watching the dogs act crazy. It's a restful, downright lazy day. We usually while away the mid and latter part of the day reading, napping, and maybe futzing around in the yard.

Not today. OHHH no.

Today we're off to downtown Dallas to the Dallas World Aquarium. We've always talked about going, but today we're finally getting off our butts to do it. Although, sadly, this trip will probably give me an overwhelming urge to swim, and I only sneak into the neighbors' pool when they're out of town. It's OK, I'm not a felon. We have a standing invitation to use the pool, but I still feel weird paddling around when they're home. Plus, I like to keep my bathing suitedness to myself.

But enough of that! In book news, I knocked off over 100 pages of Quiet, Please last night, and I'm loving it. Admittedly, when I first started reading, I thought Scott Douglas was a bit of an ass (or a "dick" as he writes on multiple occasions), and he might still be, but he's also a good writer. His stories are very funny, and VERY VERY accurate when it comes to dealing with the public in a public library setting. I went through many of the same situations he did when I worked in a library a few years ago. I won't give any stories away today, but watch for my upcoming review for some specific tidbits.

How's that for a teaser? Yeah, well, I'm almost ready to go to the aquarium, so I'm being a little vague in the interest of time.

I seem to be having a craving for non-fiction in the wake of my YA/fantasy jag, so after I finish up Quiet, Please I may try Mary Roach's new book, Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex. I dropped by the library yesterday to pick up my hold copy, and I can't wait to dive in!

While you're wishing that I'd done a full, humorous, worth-your-time post for the Salon today, go over and check out Scott Douglas's blog. He's way more entertaining than moi.

I'm off to see the fish! Might even try to catch a few illegal pics. Maybe I won't get arrested on a Sunday.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Coraline (Graphic Novel) & Extra Bits

Another one bites the dust! While I was enjoying Sharp Teeth for a good while it is the second book to fall prey to my finicky moods. I'm afraid all urge to pick it up has left me, and last night I found myself picking over the review shelf in an effort to find something quick for a jump start.

I had the graphic novel adaptation if Neil Gaiman's Coraline in mind (adapted and illustrated by P. Craig Russell), and it turned out to be just the thing I needed for a reading jolt. I read the original novel a couple of years ago and really loved it, so I was excited to see how it would work in graphic novel form.

Coraline is a lonely girl who lives wither parents in a flat in a multiple-family home. Coraline gets far more attention from the odd women next door--Miss Spink and Miss Forcible--along with the upstairs neighbor, Mr. Bobo, than she does from her own parents. She loves to explore but finds herself thoroughly bored over summer vacation. She discovers a walled up door in the corner of the family drawing room, and one night when she hears noises, she discovers a gateway to another world. She meets her "Other" mother and father, and they are distinctly creepy with their black button eyes and wonky dispositions. Soon Coraline finds that her real parents have disappeared, and the other mother is out to keep her.

The story is as charming as it was the first time I read it, but I was slightly disappointed in P. Craig Russell's illustrations. They lack the quirkiness of Dave McKean's illustrations in the original novel. I found them flat, lacking originality--generally boring. However, I must say, I got just as wrapped up in this version as I did the original novel, simply for Gaiman's wonderfully spooky plot. Russell's illustrations are a bit gruesome when it comes to some of the scarier moments in the book, so this one might be best suited to juvenile readers as opposed to the young young'uns. Unless they're sort of morbid and like horror as much as I did when I was growing up.

Now that I've finished Coraline I'm eyeing Quiet Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian, by Scott Douglas. It's a memoir from DaCapo Press, and they're one of my favorite non-fiction publishers; I loooved Louis Theroux's The Call of the Weird. And what a fitting read given my upcoming graduate studies! I hope the book doesn't talk me out of it.

The first line:

"You catch a guy on a computer jacking off, just get a librarian--don't try and handle it yourself."

Good times!

Our air conditioner is on the blind, so I'm off to have a social life where it's cool. I'm getting together with two of my best girlfriends from undergrad and T. from grad school for lunch (Mexican food!) and tonight is a family gathering for a great aunt's birthday. Tomorrow: girl's night with Susan! Watch out!
Y'all behave, and I'll be back soon.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Blood Roses, by Francesca Lia Block AND a Book Giveaway!

I've been sort of hazy and flustered and overwhelmed for the last few days. Yesterday was especially swingin' since I received the e-mail about my School of Library Science (hereafter known as SLIS) acceptance, and shortly after I received notice that the school reconsidered my residency status and I'll actually be considered a Texas resident for tuition purposes (half the price, and since I'm paying out of pocket this go-round that's a LIFE SAVER). On the heels of my acceptance, and especially because I'm late coming to the program, I called my advisor. We had a great conversation, she got my classes planned for me for Fall, and we have a phone orientation today. What a day!

Anywho, by last night I was exhausted, headachey, and supremely tired from two--count 'em, TWO--workout walk/run sessions. I'm hopping back on the fitness train, but more about that later. In short, I felt like aquarium residue, the most unpleasant thing that comes to mind right now. While I'm loving Sharp Teeth, I just wasn't in the mood for it and didn't want to concentrate too hard, but I did have a very short story collection, Blood Roses by Francesca Lia Block, on my TBR. It's an ARC I received from HarperCollins, and it looked like just the right fix for my mood.

I've read one of Block's works, The Rose and the Beast, a wonky collection of fairy tale retellings. The blurb on Blood Roses describes it this way (because I'm too lazy to do my own blurb):

A giant with too much passion. An alien boyfriend. An angel with torn wings. Changelings flourish in Francesca Lia Block's collection of magic realist stories, nine tales of transformation, wry, riveting, revealing.

Any fan of children's and adolescent fiction has probably heard of the Weetzie Bat books; I haven't read them but am more enthused to do so now. It's been so long since I read The Rose and the Beast, I wasn't sure what to expect from Block's short stories, but the book is wayyy short, 129 pages, and I knew I could finish it in just an hour or so. Soooo, I tried it. I LOVED IT!

Block's storytelling, her characters in particular, are worthy of sympathy, highly emotional, and really lovely examples of the best in young adult stories. In one of my favorite stories, "Skin Art" Elodie Sweet, a typical "valley girl" is shopping with her friend Rachel when she runs into a tattoo parlor owner named Atila. Covered in tattoos and polar opposite from Elodie's assumed stuck-upedness Atila strikes up a conversation, asks to take some pics of the girls' outlandish outfits for his MySpace page, shows them his tats, and Elodie is immediately attracted to him. Atila assures her that she's too young for him (he's 24, she's probably 16 or 17), and goes on his way. Elodie develops a significant obsession with the man so much her opposite, and beautiful tattoos begin to appear on her body. Block writes:

...the tattoos kept coming. A Tibetan goddess was sitting cross-legged on the lotus flower. Butterflies swarmed around her. Stars hung over her head. Wild animals slept at her feet.

Elodie was not that big. The tattoos soon covered all of her slender back, shoulders and hips. One morning her arms wore lace sleeves. Morning glories and oleander blossoms were clambering over her shoulders toward her breasts. A pretty but lascivious-looking fairy with battish wings flew across her abdomen. Elodie put on a long-sleeved black turtleneck and drove out of the Valley, through Laurel Canyon, down Melrose to Atila's tattoo parlor.

Her detail is just great, and I felt like every story had something hidden to discover. In the case of "Skin Art" Atila gives up and sleeps with Elodie (kinda creepy, but no detail to wig me out further), and Elodie finds herself underwhelmed by the experience. The tats disappear almost overnight, and she forgets Atila quickly. It strikes me as a particularly nice metaphor as teens so often think their adolescent loves and obsessions are permanent (like a tattoo), when in actuality, once the initial rush is over they tend to fade quickly.

Blood Roses is full of striking metaphors and details. It's all woven together so nicely, and every story had something distinctly beautiful and affecting about it. I will definitely seek out more of Block's work, and if you're in the mood for a quick read, this is a great one.


If you're interested, how about joining my GIVEAWAY! In addition to the nice ARC of Blood Roses I received, I also have a pristine hardcover copy that can be yours. Leave me a comment expressing your interest in the book, and I'll draw a winner on July 25th!

Write On Wednesday, vol. 2

Today's question:

How does writing fit into your daily life? What’s your ideal time to write, and why? Do you “write on schedule” or “when the spirit moves you”?

Even when I don't have a set schedule, writing is a near-daily part of my life. Whether it involves blogging, writing a column for Bibliobuffet, crafting a piece for Estella's Revenge, or just jotting a few lines down in my journal, writing keeps me enthused with life.

Lately, since I have a boatload of free time, I've started trying to keep something of a schedule. I used to be a night owl through and through, but lately I find that I'm much more a morning person. This could have something to do with the fact that I've been teaching early classes for a few semesters now. In addition, Daisy is on an early-rise schedule. Her crate is in my bedroom, and I usually put her to bed at 10 or 11 o'clock, and she generally starts scrabbling around in her crate and wakes me up sometime between 5:30 and 7:00. With this somewhat forced early rising, my schedule usually looks something like this:

  • 6:00 - Wake up
  • 6:10-6:45 - Breakfast and general waking up stuff
  • 6:45-7:30 - Morning workout
  • 7:30-8:00 - Shower and get ready for the day
  • 8:00-9:00 - E-mail, blogs, general computer laziness
  • 9:00-11:00 - Writing and work time.
  • 11:00-whenever - A free-for-all! I chat with friends, have lunch dates, futz around, read, and generally do more work.

I try to work in an hour of solid writing time on the book every morning, and if I can get that done it's far more likely that I'll come back to it later in the day. Lately I'm also busy planning courses and creating material for the Fall online classes so I have to really play to my most productive times of day before I start feeling lazy. And now I'm prepping for the beginning of Library school. Wheee!

Thanks to Becca for another great Write on Wednesday!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I'm in!

You're looking at the newest Master's student in the University of North Texas's School of Library and Information Sciences! Wheee! Maybe it's a good thing that I didn't get a full time job for the Fall. Looks like I'm going to be BUSY!

Monday, July 14, 2008

We Have a Winner!

Sharp Teeth, by Toby Barlow is the book that "floated to the top" of my TBR mountain after I set aside The Host. I seem to be on a fantasy kick as opposed to sci-fi, thus Stephanie Meyer lost out. Oh well, I know I'll pick it up again soon. I haven't even banished it back to the TBR yet, it's just sitting on the bench at the end of my bed waiting patiently for me to come to my senses.

In the meantime, Sharp Teeth is going VERY QUICKLY. I've told y'all it's all written in verse, so the short staccato rhythm is really easy and quick and fun to read. Here's a bit for you:

While the engine idles
he eats the rest of his burger
and thinks.
Trapped in the car, he would have been done in seconds.
Strategically perfect.
Where is Baron?
And whose pack was that?
What else do they know?
Probabilities begin to dawn on him.

He hits the gas,
hopes that no cop stops him for his headlight,
and prays for speed.

It's interesting the conciseness that Barlow is working with. It's almost like reading stream-of-consciousness writing (though far less taxing on the brain). No long, drawn out passages of descriptive detail, no rambling thoughts. Just this, that, and the other. It manages to be lyrical and poetic and TO THE POINT all at the same time. Those of you with a short attention span, like me, try this one!

The story revolves around a pack of werewolves in Los Angeles. There's lots of murderous noir types of crime going on in this book so far, and it's quite gritty. The whole pack thing is suitable for comparison to gang activity, after all. The form lends to the grittiness as it hops from one scene to another revealing snatches of the plot as the reader goes along. It's very suspenseful and tense. So far I'm pleased with it!

Werewolves--or lycanthropes if I'm being PC--are very stylish at the moment. Thinking of my own stacks, I've read Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series, I recently read Annette Curtis Klause's Blood and Chocolate for Dewey's Read-A-Thon, I have Martin Millar's Lonely Werewolf Girl on my stacks, and obviously I'm neck deep in Sharp Teeth. I can't say I've ever been a particular fan of the werewolf mythology, but all of a sudden I'm surrounded by it. I've always been much more of a vampire reader--they can be so very sexified after all. Maybe Jacob Black--my most recent literary crush--was a turning point. Rawwr!

Speaking of werewolves, here's my ferocious beast. Those ears neverrrr quite go all the way down unless she's in trouble or has just woken up. I think one day she might discover if she flaps them just so she can fly.

Random bits:

It's Monday which means another new issue of Bibliobuffet! This week's "Finicky Reader" is called "A Soft Place to Fall in Love with Books," a piece on my favorite reading spots (from childhood and now) and the importance of the relationship between reading and place. I hope y'all enjoy! Last week's column was a re-run because I was still recovering from the move back to Texas.

I'm in the throes of planning for my fall courses. I have a boatload of work to do, so wish me luck!

I'm off to procrastinate and read Sharp Teeth. Some things never change!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Sunday Salon - Lacking in Reading Mojo

Meh. The Host is not going so well. I like the story so far, but I'm finding that I don't have much desire to pick it up. I'm not sure if it's the size or the fact that I've read more fantasy lately than usual (though this title is definitely sci-fi), but I just don't have the oomphf! No reading mojo when it comes to this book. SO, as much as it pains me, I think I'm going to put it aside for now in favor of something else. I have Sharp Teeth and The Sugar Queen from the library, and of course I have a bazillion other books crammed into my TBR shelves, so we'll see which one floats to the top.

Yesterday was a bookish day in its own right. I took five boxes of books to Half-Price Books and got $72.50 for them. That's a much better showing than my usual trips to Half-Price to sell, so I was pretty happy. I turned around and bought Pete Yorn's musicforthemorningafter CD and copies of The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss and The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro off the clearance shelves. In celebration of my great haul, I took mom to The Cheesecake Factory where we had yummy appetizers for lunch (firecracker salmon rolls for me, crab rangoon for her) and we split a piece of Dulce de Leche cheesecake. Heaven! We also picked up my newly framed Master's diploma from Hobby Lobby; it looks gorgeous.

In other bookish news, I started WRITING MY BOOK this morning. I've had an idea for a non-fiction book for ages. Sort of the academic equivalent of Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential. Having been in education so long...from my own experiences as a student, to teaching in the public school and college/university classrooms...I have enough weird/wild/freaky stories to fill up volumes. So we'll see how it goes. I've been mulling over it for ages, and finally decided I need to JUST WRITE. Wish me luck!

I hope everyone has a wonderful reading day. I may check in later with my progress if I start a different book.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Photo Blitz

Per popular request, some pics of Daisy!

Back in North Carolina. She loooves looking out the door. Now she has a puppy door and goes in and out when she wants.

She was in love with the water meter in North Carolina. I don't ask questions, I just smile and nod.

In Texas. She still loves a chew stick.

A bookish pup! Just what I always wanted!

And her new favorite spot to sleep. Right smack in the middle of my bed.

In other news, I had dinner and drinks at a friend's house last night. It was a great time seeing the people I went to graduate school with. We (Beth and Brendan) whipped up a tasty Mexican meal, and we drank beer late into the night. Blue Moon for moi!

Today I'm having lunch with Susan, so I guess I'd better get my arse out of bed. Yesterday I lounged in my pjs until 5pm. Scary, I know. But I haven't done it in over a year! I think I'm due.

Also need to fit in some reading today. I've blown through four chapters of The Host in no time. So far, so good!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

On a Roll - The Book of Lost Things

I think I'm hitting my reading stride. I've finished two books in two days! Yayyy for free time!!! The latest body on the pile:

I LOVED THIS BOOK! Just like every other blogger I've read! I'm usually not one for "it" books--the pressure of hype is usually too much for me--but this one was superb.

Since I knock it down your throats all the time, you also probably know that I love me some fairy tale retellings, and that's sorta kinda what this book is. But not really. It's the story of David, a boy whose mother has died, and he's left to cope with a new stepmother, a new baby brother, and a father who's largely occupied by his job as a code breaker for the British during WWII. David seeks refuge in his books, and before long he begins to hear them speaking, muttering, and generally chattering. His bedroom in his stepmother's big old house belonged to her uncle who disappeared when he was about David's age. The lost boy was also a lover of books, and Rose (the stepmother) thinks he'll like the room and uses it as something of a peace offering. David begins to see a "crooked man" lurking here and there...through the window to his room namely...and he hears his mother's voice calling to him from a crack in the yard's sunken garden. One night he decides to investigate and finds himself in an alternative universe peppered with fairy tale elements.

In David's new world he discovers a kind woodsman, a pack of bloodthirsty man-wolves, trolls, harpies, a knight named Roland, briar-covered castles, and sundry elements from folk tales, fairy stories, legends, and mythology. David must navigate his way to the king of the land to access the Book of Lost Things, and ultimately find his way back home. With the Crooked Man butting in all the way.

What makes this book really interesting is that it's not a retelling of any particular tale, but an amalgamation of the stories David would've read in his room. I liked the way Connolly played with standard fairy tales, changed them to meet his needs, and subverted some of my expectations.

One thing I think it's important to point out, is that this book is definitely not for children. That is, I think many children and young adults would enjoy the story, but there are quite a few elements that seem tailored specifically for adults. For one, the story is quite gory. Lots of bodies hanging, entrails, decomposition. In an odd way I really like that, for it harkens back to those original, very grim, tales that were not meant for children. Folk tales, not for the kiddos so much!

There are elements of sexuality, horror, the supernatural, and fantasy. It's a nice mix, and through it all the focus is really on David's coming of age, his dealings with grief, and his ability to adjust and cope with a new family structure. In the end it's a very human story as opposed to a fairy story. The fairy tale part is just a vehicle to a better understanding of David's mental and emotional state.

Finally, one of my very favorite parts of the whole book came after the story was done. I originally thought Connolly had included a set of the fairy tales he drew from. Given that I've read most of them, I thought that would be a worthless section for me, but as it turns out, Connolly includes a bit of commentary before each tale to illustrate and explain how he used that story, what role it played in David's larger experience, and some background on the tale. It was VERY interesting to read the author's thought process as it related to bringing all these threads together.

If you're interested in a sample passage, here's a particularly funny bit. To contextualize, the dwarfs are hilarious and disgruntled. Snow White is a horrible bitch that filches from the dwarfs, eats their food, and is generally very unlikeable. The dwarfs are the ones who've tried to kill her, if only it weren't for that damn prince! This brief passage is one of the dwarfs (Brother Number One) telling David about their attempt to bump off Snow White:

Anyway, we feed her an apple: chomp-chomp, snooze-snooze, weep-weep, 'poor Snow White, we-will-miss-her-so-but-life-goes-on.' We lay her out on a slab, surround her with flowers and little weeping bunny rabbits, you know, all the trimmings, then along comes a bloody prince and kisses her. We don't even have a prince around here. He just appeared out of nowhere on a bleeding white horse. Next thing you know he's climbed off and he's onto Snow White like a whippet down a rabbit hole. Don't know what he thought he was doing, gadding about randomly kissing strange women who happened to be sleeping at the time.
I would recommend this book to any and everybody. When I think of it, I'm tempted to draw some correlation to The Book Thief, not necessarily for the subject matter, but it has some of that same emotional atmosphere, and it's quite a complicated, rollicking tale. It rides the fence between a story for adults and a story for children, and it was a stellar read.

What to read next! Oh, I know, THE HOST!!! Watch out, Stephenie Meyer, here I come!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Drunk, Divorced, and Covered In Cat Hair

Not me, Laurie Perry, author of this fantastic book from HCI Books.

Admittedly, based on the cover, I thought I was dealing with fluff. And if you consider fluffy writing that which is fast-paced and hilarious, you would be correct (but I think it's an unfortunate definition). Maybe it's just the mental and emotional place I'm in right now, but this was THE PERFECT BOOK for me. It was hilarious, as I mentioned already, but it was also sweet, and touching, and enlightening without being saccharine or maudlin. Laurie is hilarious (did I mention that?), and I would recommend this book to any woman who's ever felt just a little bit nuts. Admit it. Come on.

This is a review book for Bibliobuffet, so watch for a full review there week after next, but in the meantime, here's a favorite passage:

...I know there is at least one woman out there right now who is just as scared as I was, who knows what it's like to come home at night and lie in bed next to her husband or lover and feel completely alone. There's only so many ways you can write lonely, and I have tried them all. Nothing feels worse. You can't sleep, it's 3:00 AM, you look over at him snoring on the pillow and wonder why he is so far away, an unreachable distance.

To get a bigger, juicier taste of Laurie's writing before you frolic off and buy the book (subliminal pushiness comin' at ya), visit her website: Crazy Aunt Purl.

Write On Wednesday - Right On!

This week is my first go at participation in Write On Wednesday. Becca was kind enough to invite me into the mix, and I've been so wrapped up in moving crap that I haven't been able to oblige. I think it's a wonderful idea--a great way to kick start my writing juices, so here we go.

This week's question:
Do you ever feel the need to jump start your writing? What drains the energy from your “writing mind”? What do you do when your creative battery dies?

What an apropos question! Given all do I say this nicely?...turbulence in my life as of late, the writing urge has been almost completely dormant. Stress, whether it be related to finances, relationships, or work, tends to drain me creatively. I have yet to figure out exactly which types of stress fuel me creatively and which drain me. One day I might be driven to write based on some sadness or pain while the next day I might hunker down under the covers with a bag of Doritos and never want to come out again. Weird.

As for recharging, feeling productive again usually stokes the creative fire. Once I got home from this move and started clearing out boxes, I really started feeling like myself again. I cleaned out multiple boxes of books that will go to the used book store, I threw out clutter I haven't missed in a year so what would be the point in keeping it? I cleaned, I organized, I got my life back in order again, and with that comes rational thought and a clearer purpose.

I have my next Bibliobuffet column squared away, I have an idea for the one after that, and I'm seriously staring down the possibility of starting my book. I have this free time, so I MUST USE IT.

Many times writing is just a matter of pressing on in the face of doubt and disillusion. Putting words on a page, even when we think they're crap, can be a perfect fix in itself.

To read more about my Muse (or lack thereof), read this tongue-firmly-in-cheek post from 2005.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Back in the Books!

Guess what I did today??

Renewed my library card! Since the closest library is a city library, and I don't actually live in the city with the library, it costs me $20 a year, but it's sooo worth it. Today alone I checked out three books I've been lusting after forever:

I've had my eye on The Sugar Queen, Sarah Addison Allen's second novel, since I read Garden Spells in one day when I went to my conference in Illinois. There's something warm and cozy about Allen's magical fiction. She reminds me so much of Alice Hoffman, and I might even like her stuff more!

Reading Like a Writer has been on my shelves for a bit. I picked it up and started reading it for the 24 Hour Read-a-Thon, but it was just a tad too dense for that project. I was having a hard time getting into the reading of it, so I picked it up on audio.

Finally, Sharp Teeth, by Toby Barlow, is attractive for the weirdness of the premise and the form. Written entirely in verse, it looks to be really interesting.

In other news, I've ALMOST got my bedroom cleaned up after the move. My bookshelves are double-stacked and stuffed to the proverbial gills, so I definitely won't be buying for a while. I desperately need to read some (MANY) of the books I already own. I've been hunkered down with Drunk, Divorced, and Covered in Cat Hair for a couple of days now, and I really like it. Laurie Perry's writing is warm and funny and the perfect fix for a move-addled brain. In fact, I think I'll get back to it now!

Watch for Daisy pics. Coming atcha!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

How on Earth?

How on Earth did I fit that much crap into my Prius? Seriously. I would've posted sooner, but I've been up to my armpits in things to unpack and organize. I have far more books than when I left (oh what a difference a year makes).

The trip was uneventful. We drove for almost 14 hours on the first day, and that is counting all the stops for the pup and myself to stretch. She did a great job riding in her crate. She napped for most of the trip even without drugs! When we finally got to a stopping place in Pearl, Mississippi I started calling around to all of the motels I could see from a gas station to see who took pups. As it turns out, almost NO motels/hotels take dogs...not really surprising but still frustrating. Finally, right as I was reaching the end of my rope and thought we might just kick it on into Louisiana, the desk attendant at the Quality Inn told me that the Jameson takes dogs. Turns out it was one exit down, and they did indeed welcome Miss Daisy. It was quite a swanky room on the first floor, and we were right near a door to the parking lot, so she had easy access to some walks and quality potty time. She was really wound up after a day in the car, but overall she did very well.

The trouble came at bedtime.

She's crate trained. Thoroughly. She always sleeps in her crate. However, the way the car was packed, I was really afraid the entire cargo area would avalanche if I took her crate out, so I decided I would drug her and hope for a good night's rest. I gave her a dose of the vet's tranquilizers and waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, around 11:00, she dozed off on the bed. She had three pillows, I had one. She wrapped herself around my head, but if it meant I got some sleep I was fine with it. We had three hours of blissful rest until....

She heard a door slam down the hall. It was all downhill from there. She got up growling and she paced and generally acted anxious until I finally gave it up, got dressed, and prepped our stuff to leave at 4:00. We were back on the road by 4:45 and we arrived in Texas around 11:30.

I couldn't be more pleased with the way she traveled. It could've been a real chore, but she did a great job. Ever since we've been in my mom's house she's been doing well. She's taken to the dog door with no problem, she loves going in and out at will, and she likes being able to nap on my bed when I'm working on the computer (like right now...snore snore). I would show you pics but my card reader is dead. Hold that thought, I should have a steady flow of Daisy pics for you by later in the week.

As for me, I'm adjusting well, too. We're having family over today for cake and ice cream to celebrate my coming home, and I've been enjoying awesome Tex-Mex food, my favorite Chinese place, and some good old home cookin'.

And did I mention I bought a book? Of course! Because I have so much room for new books. Hastings is a favorite books/music/movies store. They sell used books now, so I picked up a hardcover copy of Fay Weldon's essays, Godless in Eden, yesterday for 99 cents. What a deal! Who cares if I don't have room for even one more book! Eeek!

For now I'm off to help get the burgers ready to grill for lunch, and I have a red velvet cake to ice. I'll check back later!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Made it!

I got to Texas this morning around 11:30, and so far Daisy loves the other pups, my mom, and her fenced yard. I'm exhausted so I think I'll call it a night early, but I wanted to let everyone know we're safe and sound.

Full report coming your way tomorrow including the scoop on Daisy's first night in a hotel.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


It's a bittersweet day indeed. My last day teaching at the college I've come to love, the last day in the house I've learned to call home, the last day with my "adopted" family (B's). I'm feeling a weird blend of excitement and angst, as it's always hard to say goodbye to a place I've come to enjoy. At the same time I'm excited about seeing my mom again, excited for Daisy to have a big fenced yard to play in and puppy playmates to romp with, excited about the prospect of going back to school and seeing my friends regularly.

On the agenda today:

  • Load my classes up on sugar. Donuts for the morning class, cupcakes for the afternoon.
  • Finish packing the remaining items: a few books, some pieces of pottery, trinkets and the like.
  • Put all my crap in the car and hope the Prius is somehow akin to that bottomless Mary Poppins carpet bag.
  • Say goodbye.

I plan to hit the road around 6am in the morning, drive 12ish of the 18 hours of my journey, and spend the night somewhere near Jackson, Mississippi. Daisy and I will finish up the last leg home on Thursday morning, arriving in Texas sometime around lunch. You can bet I'll be eating a steaming plate of Tex Mex by sundown on Thursday. Mark my words.

In the meantime you can read my musings on fairy tale retellings in this week's Finicky Reader installment.

See y'all on the flip side!

Images by Freepik