Thursday, August 28, 2008

Color Me Overwhelmed

WHOA! I went to class last night (four hours), and now I'm completely overwhelmed. Well, maybe not completely, but I will definitely be investing in a whopping desk calendar with plenty of room for "to-do" and whatnot. The course doesn't sound terribly mentally taxing, but there's a ton of leg work involved. It's one of those courses that gets students accustomed to the types of resources available out there. Fun! In an "Oh My God, all the work!" way.

The drive to class alone is almost an hour and a half, so by the time I got home at 11:00 last night I was both pooped and wired (sounds like a band, Pooped and Wired). I think I finally fell asleep sometime around 1:30, and I was up bright and early with Daisyroo at 6:30. Mom and I lounged around for awhile, went for breakfast, and I spent the rest of the afternoon downloading and printing Power Point presentations for my class and planning next week's work for the classes I'm teaching.

All in all it's been a RIDICULOUSLY productive day for me (I even got dressed), and I have every intention of spending tonight curled up with The Position. I'm only a few chapters in, but it's awesome. Equal parts hilarious, awkward, and nostalgic. I wish I had more to say, but I really just kinda wanna lie down. I'll be back with more significant book chatter tomorrow.

In the meantime, well hell, I don't even have an entertaining link to share. Go eat some Doritos and meet me back here tomorrow.




Note: Spicy Nacho are by far my favorite.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Book Mush, Reviews and General Frivolity

Now that I've got my head on straight, I'm back to blog! Well, almost straight. Here's a timeline from the last few days:

Friday: Much work, much grading of work from the online classes I'm teaching, lots of reading.
Saturday: All day library class. Boring for the most part, but the final portions of the day got me REALLY EXCITED to be a librarian. Sadly, I'm still recovering from a bitchin' case of eye strain. That's what happens when you stare at a poorly lit, story-tall Power Point presentation all day!
Sunday: Lunch with Susan (yummy yummy hoagies, pasta salad, and carrot cake). Unfortunately, we watched the most horrible movie ever made: Hogfather, an adaptation of a Terry Pratchett novel. Someone please tell me the novel is better.

This morning I met with my lit class for the first time, and they seem delightful enough. The college is working out of a brand new facility, and on the whole it is heavenly. Not so heavenly: the fact that they didn't build the parking lot big enough and late-comers have to camp out in the fire lanes. Awesome!

OK, here's where the bookishness begins...

This week is my ranty review of The Solitary Vice, by Mikita Brottman, at Bibliobuffet.

In other bookish news, I had my delicious reading flurry last week (When You Are Engulfed In Flames was the first of the three books I read that day), and I still have two reviews to post. In the spirit of "short on time" I'm ripping off BookFool's method which she might've gotten from Dewey if I remember correctly.

Mail Order Bride, by Mark Kalesniko
Copyright 2003
Fantagraphics Books
Graphic Novel
261 pages
Author's Website
Challenges: Dewey's Graphic Novel Challenge

What led you to pick up this book? I love me a graphic novel and all. I picked this one up for a graduate class originally (back in 2006 or so), and I ended up not taking the class. However, I guest lectured in the same professor's undergrad version of the course, and he invited me to take part in a conference call with Kalesniko. It was great fun, and I really enjoyed chatting with the author.

Summarize the plot but don't give away the ending. From the publisher: Monty Wheeler, a pathetic, emasculated, 39-year-old virgin struggling with his own societal demons, expects Kyung Seo (his Korean mail order bride) to fulfill his female Asian fantasy stereotype: domestic, obedient, hardworking and loyal. But Kyung, tall and accent-less, is much more human than Monty is ready to accept. Kyung soon finds, in addition to predictable dissatisfaction with her husband's inane expectations, outspoken inspiration in Eve Wong, a western-born Asian woman. Could Eve be Kyung's ticket to rebellious self-fulfillment, or do her actions not always ring true? Through explorations of art, passion, identity and rebellion, the reader must ponder strength and cowardice while Kyung herself fights a potent war between independence and safety.

What did you like most about the book? This is one of those cases where I really liked everything about the book. The illustrations are stunning, the story is both provocative and quite funny, and it made me think! What more could a girl ask for?

What did you think of the characters? I found Monty exceedingly annoying. I wanted to shake him (and the majority of his friends) and tell them to snap out of their stereotypical assumptions. If you've read American Born Chinese, by Gene Yang, this book has much the same type of message. It confronts ethnic stereotypes in a very clever way.

Share a favorite scene from the book: Near the end of the book there's a big showdown between Monty and Kyung wherein they basically both come to realize that their assumptions about each other are not as black and white as tehy originally assumed. They realize they're both at fault for the disintegration of their relationship. It's a very powerful scene--both in image and written text.

Recommended for those who like graphic novels and a good story in general. If this were made into a written novel, I think it would be just as powerful and entertaining a story.

In general, I'd call the writing, illustrations, and story beautiful! And a really quick read. I polished it off in an hour or two.

The Fires, by Alan Cheuse
Copyright 2007
Santa Fe Writer's Project
2 novellas
117 pages
Author's Website

What led you to pick up this book? I first heard about it on a literary podcast--NPR I believe. Later, I was lucky enough to win a copy from Elizabeth at As Usual, I Need More Bookshelves. Thank you, Eli!

Summarize the plot but don't give away the ending. From Powell's: In the first novella, 'The Fires,' a museum worker named Gina learns that her husband, Paul, died in a car accident while en route to Uzbekistan. Gina travels to Russia to ensure her husband gets cremated, per his wishes, and the foreign, surreal and familiar collide when Gina takes Paul's body to a Hindu ceremony to be cremated. 'The Exorcism' applies much more overt dark humor to similar feelings in a substantially different character. An unnamed baby boomer discusses his sadness following the sudden death of his first wife, renowned jazz pianist Billie Benjamin, who fatally overdosed on heroin. Billie's death hits her daughter, Ceely, hard (she lashes out postcremation by torching a piano at her college), and the narrator's fond recollections of courting Billie are not received warmly by his new wife.

What did you like most about the book? The first novella, "The Fires," was definitely my favorite. Cheuse is an adept writer, and managed to balance out a great deal of humor and sadness. Gina is dealing with some early menopause issues which makes the business of her husband's death all the more harrowing both mentally and physically. The story opens with her dashing to catch the phone in the midst of trying to catch a urine sample. That's humor, my friends. I found the whole story very affecting, and it was quite hopeful in the end.

What did you think of the characters? I found them believable. Cheuse is able to paint a rounded portrait of Gina in "The Fires" and the unnamed narrator in "The Exorcism."

Share a favorite scene from the book: The point at which Gina has to take part in her husband's cremation was incredibly powerful. There weren't many surprises in these novellas, as the plot is pretty much laid out from the beginning of each tale, but the power in Cheuse's writing in that moment was stupendous.

Recommended for those who like good storytelling in a short space. I'm always really astounded by any author's ability to make me care in less than 100 pages.

In general, I'd call it a winner! I will definitely look for more of Cheuse's work.




Currently reading: The Position, by Meg Wolitzer
Tossed aside: Mary Modern, by Camille Deangelis (slooowwww going)

R.I.P. III Challenge


It's time!!! Carl is dusting off his challenge hat and gearing up to be our fearless (fearful?) leader for the third Readers Imbibing Peril Challenge!
I've decided to embark upon Peril the First:
Read Four books of any length, from any subgenre of scary stories that you choose.
I think I can, I think I can!
Instead of choosing any four specific books, I've pulled the following list off of my shelves, and I can't wait to see what grabs me!
Rebecca, by Daphne DuMaurier (a scandal that I haven't read this yet)
Smoke & Mirrors, by Neil Gaiman
We, by Yevgeny Zamyatin
I, Lucifer, by Glen Duncan
I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson
Vamps, by Nancy A. Collins
Freaks, by Annette Curtis Klause
Heroes and Villains, by Angela Carter
Lonely Werewolf Girl, by Martin Millar
And I have plenty of others that I could choose from. I'll keep you all posted between September 1st and October 31st! It promises to be good fun.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Reading Flurry: When You Are Engulfed in Flames


I've been experiencing something of a reading flurry. After all that slumping post-Breaking Dawn and on through The Solitary Vice (hissss), I picked up David Sedari's When You Are Engulfed in Flames, and suddenly all was right with the world. He's funny. SO VERY FUNNY. I've heard many readers say that this collection is not as humorous as his others, but I would disagree. For me, it was just as funny, but admittedly with darker undertones.

It's hard to say there's a particular premise to any Sedaris book. He talks about his family, he discusses his life abroad, his relationship with Hugh, his past drug use and alcoholism, his neuroses. It's all in this one, too, so there are no surprises there. However, I will concede that this book is something darker than Sedaris usually writes. Darker than Me Talk Pretty One Day, darker even than Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. It seems ole David is focusing more on his mortality these days and the mortality of those he loves. Even the mortality of the spiders that live on his windowsill in Normandy.

Was it less funny? Hell no. I laughed my rump off, and that's saying something. It's quite a rump. Each story does seem to make more of a point, though--some greater observation--and they're not always happy. In one particularly telling essay, "It's Amore," Sedaris introduces Helen, a crazy neighbor he met while living with Hugh in New York City in 1991. Helen was a firecracker, an outspoken, potty-mouthed, rebel of an old lady. His descriptions of her made me cackle until I hurt all over.
On the first morning of the strike, Hugh left the house at 7:00 a.m. A short while later, Helen called. I normally wouldn't pick up at that hour, but her voice on the machine was slurred and frantic, and so I answered. Since I had known her, Helen had, in her words, 'taken' three strokes. They were, she'd admit, little ones, but still it worried me that she might have had another, and so I got dressed and headed across the hall to her apartment. The door jerked open before I could knock, and she stood in the frame, her lower jaw sunken, the lip invisible. It seemed that she had been at her window, surveying the scene below, and when the super in the building across the street threw a lit cigarette into our trash can, she yelled at him with such force that she blew her lower plate right out of her mouth. 'Itch in da schwubs,' she said. 'Go giddit.'
While many of the essays in When You Are Engulfed in Flames, "It's Amore" included, end on a sad or pensive note, I enjoyed the thoughfulness and introspection in these essays. The funny is still there, as is the ridiculous, but there's also the wisdom and humor of a man who's aged a good deal since his first book. Sedaris is great. Incredibly witty. But wouldn't it be a shame if he just cranked out the same book over and over? He's grown, and I'm glad.

Whether it's an essay about an unlikely acquaintance with a pedophile, an argument on a plane, or an 83-page diary-like account of quitting smoking in Japan (my personal favorite), Sedaris is in top form. I'll be buying my own copy as soon as possible.
Coming up: A review of Mark Kalesniko's graphic novel Mail Order Bride.

Skipper!


I planned to attend new graduate student orientation today at UNT, but at the last minutes (10 minutes until time to leave) I decided not to go. Why, you ask? Why would an upstanding, responsible graduate student such as myself decide not to be properly oriented?

Because it's 120 miles round trip, and I'd only be going for:
  • The parking sticker (that I can get before class next Wednesday)
  • The student ID (see above)
  • The refreshments and cute little folder full of pens and miscellaneous handouts

Not worth 120 miles, my friends. None of it.

Sooo, bright and early Saturday morning I'll be headed over for an all-day class that will kick off my online class for the semester. I have no idea what future librarians do all day for a class. We'll find out come Saturday. I'll be sure to keep you posted.

In the meantime, I've lost my damn mind. My former boss called. The one that heads the English department at the junior college I taught for here in TX before I moved to NC. I spoke with them earlier in the summer about teaching a class or two, but the online teaching deal with the NC colleges was so much better I turned them down. This morning when she called, she was in a panic trying to fill an instructor position for a class that starts on Monday.

She reeled me in with the literature.

To this point I've not been scheduled to teach any lit classes for this fall semester, and that kills my soul a little. SO, now I'm teaching a writing/lit survey. I get to choose what I want. I can focus on short stories, poetry, drama, all of the above. Whatever I want. And that makes me positively drooly. I took it, and it might be the final nail in my fur-lined coffin, but this ship is going down happy.

Watch the next post for news on my reading flurry! Hurrah!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

10 Second Review

The Solitary Vice: Against Reading, by Mikita Brottman was:

  • Pompous
  • Lacking in focus
  • Charming in a few choice spots (too few and far between)
  • Rambly
  • Mediocre
  • Alienating to a large cross-section of readers

My rating: 4/10

Read the rest at Bibliobuffet next week. It's a ranty review!




Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Ouch!


It's happened. Last night I acquired a very nasty and intrusive computer virus, so it looks like I'm tethered to my mom's desktop for four or five days. The upside to all this is that I will definitely get some reading done. I hate actually sitting in front of a desktop computer (and mom's is stashed away in the office/utility room that feels like a tomb), so I'll check in on my classes two or three times a day and spend the rest of my waking hours pillaging books and playing with Miss Daisy.
I'll check in on my bloggy buds a bit, but I won't be surfing like I usually do. I will have a review posted of The Solitary Vice later today or tomorrow. Probably a shorty since I'll write a longer review for Bibliobuffet. Keep an eye out!
I'm off to console myself with David Sedaris humor and blueberry sour cream scones.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Library Lovin'!


Saturday I did some errand running with my mom: a trip to Sam's Club for stuff in bulk (chicken sausages with spinach and asiago, four pounds of nectarines, a huge box of mixed greens, wine), lunch at Ruby Tuesday's, a quick dip into World Market, and a last stop at the Ben & Jerry's Scoop Shop for a dip of Triple Caramel Chunk ice cream. It was a great morning, lots of fun, but the REAL fun surfaced when I arrived home to a chirpy message from the library informing me that When You Are Engulfed in Flames was waiting for me! My hold came in, and of course I didn't have the time or energy to go get it just then. *sigh*

I popped up at 6am this morning for my walk--cut short by rain, YAY--and had a little breakfast, and basically futzed around the house until I could go raid the library at 10:00. Library trips, in my world, are called trips to "the crack house" or a "pilgrimage to Mecca." In short, I love the library. I still try to stay away to some extent because I REALLY need to read the bazillion books that I own, but everyone has a weak moment, right? And the library is totally guilt-free since it's....free. Wooo!

I couldn't help but pick up the following:

Iodine, by Haven Kimmel. I ADORED A Girl Named Zippy earlier this year and when you read this novel's blurb you will know, as I do, that this novel is going to be nothing at all like Zippy. Given my very limited experience with Kimmel's work, this novel could resemble culture shock in comparison to Zippy, but I think I'm ready.

Blurb: Brilliant, unconventional college senior Trace Pennington has eked out an impoverished, solitary, but highly functional existence in the years since she ran away from her abusive home. But when Trace finds love with a much older man, her life is upended and she's forced to face herself and her past. After recovering a horrific, long-suppressed memory, she discovers that much of her present-day life is a carefully constructed delusion. With equal parts genius and psychosis, Trace copes with the fallout from a brutal, bizarre childhood in a heart-stopping story that explores both the terror and wonder of mental illness.

The Ten-Year Nap, by Meg Wolitzer. OK, I admit it! I have The Position on my TBR already. Heather was kind enough to send it me a scandalous number of years ago, and because I'm a horrible, slow reader I haven't even cracked it yet. SO, I have no idea why I brought this one home. And I have no delusions that I'll finish these books in two weeks with courses getting started, my own graduate work, and my undeniable Internet addiction, BUT it's fun to pretend, isn't it? It sounds like a yummy-tastic novel. A wee tad more "women's fiction"-like than I usually read, but I'm not opposed.

Blurb: For a group of four New York friends, the past decade has been largely defined by marriage and motherhood. Educated and reared to believe that they would conquer the world, they then left jobs as corporate lawyers, investment bankers, and film scouts to stay home with their babies. What was meant to be a temporary leave of absence has lasted a decade. Now, at age forty, with the halcyon days of young motherhood behind them and without professions to define them, Amy, Jill, Roberta, and Karen face a life that is not what they were brought up to expect but seems to be the one they have chosen.

Unaccustomed Earth, by Jhumpa Lahiri. I love me some Lahiri. Her other book of stories, Interpreter of Maladies, is still a favorite of mine, so I hate to admit that I've already had Unaccustomed Earth from the library once, and I didn't so much as open it that time. Given my teensy attention span, I think this one could be just the ticket. I'm probably most likely to read When You Are Engulfed in Flames and Unaccustomed Earth before the books are due back in two weeks.


Blurb: From the internationally best-selling, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, a superbly crafted new work of fiction: eight stories — longer and more emotionally complex than any she has yet written — that take us from Cambridge and Seattle to India and Thailand as they enter the lives of sisters and brothers, fathers and mothers, daughters and sons, friends and lovers.


Finally, I had to look over the for-sale shelves. Because what red-blooded book lover wouldn't? Really? I almost never find anything I want, but today was the exception:

In a Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson. I'm pretty sure I'm the last soul on earth that hasn't read anything by Bryson. I also have a copy of A Walk in the Woods on my shelves, courtesy of Les, that I haven't read yet. But I think I'll like it, and now I have a Bryson backup for whenever the urge strikes to read more of his stuff.

Blurb: Everything, it seems, is interesting to Bill Bryson. The marvel is that he can make it all interesting to us. Three billion year old fossilized organisms off the western coast; a giant lobster on the side of a highway; empty, forbidding spaces... In a Sunburned Country introduces Australia, a giant, mostly barren continent in the Indian Ocean populated by 18 million people, or, as Bryson points out, less people than are born each year in China.

For now I'm off to field more frantic student e-mails. The third of five classes kicked in today, and I'm just waiting to see what will come up! Never a dull moment...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Sunday Salon - Lazy Bones Contemplates Author Biographies


Wow, I intended to post something earlier today and then I napped. And napped. And napped. I even intended to blow through the last third of The Solitary Vice today, but again, that nap thing. So, I can't report on The Solitary Vice, but I can toss you all a bone and pose a question.

In Chapter 5, "Between the Lines," Brottman contemplates author biographies. She likens a reader's fascination with the minutiae of his or her favorite author with celebrity gossip and the like. Not in a bad way necessarily since Brottman herself loves a good author biography. She also mentions author memoirs and the pros and cons of those. I realize I'm being vague, but I'm too bleary-eyed to go back and look up passages, so stay with me...

Myself, I hardly ever read author bios. I know I've read a few, mostly short, and almost all of them were in middle or high school in preparation for some paper or project or other. While I enjoy learning about my favorite authors (and some I dislike, too) I generally pick up pieces of information here and there: bits on wikipedia, more reputable sites like publishers and papers, articles, etc. I can't think of a single time when I've sought out an author bio on my own.

On the other hand, I have read quite a few author memoirs: Paul Auster's Hand to Mouth and The Red Notebook, Siri Hustvedt's A Plea for Eros (a book of essays, personal ones), Philip Roth's Patrimony. For some weird reason it never so much as crosses my mind to read a biographical info by anyone other than the author (in which case it would be autobiographical info, I know, couldn't think how to word it just now).

The question:

Am I alone in my ignorance of author biographies? Do others of you seek them out? Settle down in a comfy chair to spelunk through your fave author's dirt? I admit, now that I'm thinking about it, it sounds kind of fun. I think I just heard my wishlist groan.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Bits


Occasionally, I see a bit in a review that makes me think, "Gah! I wish I'd written that myself." Perhaps it's quite thoughtful, maybe funny, concise and oddly fitting. This sardonic bit from the New York Times review of The Gargoyle (Andrew Davidson) made me giggle:

The lovers in “The Gargoyle” have the intimacy of roommates who hook up when they get drunk, not a time-defying passion.
I can picture it, can't you?

10 Minutes in the Life...

The first day of classes! Well, sort of. Two of the online classes I'm teaching start today. Another one starts Monday, and then two 10-week accelerated courses start on September 2nd. But that's entirely beside the point: It's the first day of school!

Today begins my sixth year of teaching. SO HARD TO BELIEVE! I still get girgly and excited every semester to have a new group of students, and this semester is particularly unique since all of my courses are online. It's extremely strange knowing that I'll never meet face to face with these folks; it's not just because they don't have to come see me, they can't come see me. Texas and North Carolina are a wee tad far apart for an appointment! Weird. Supremely weird.

Since today is day one, it's a lot of cat herding. The e-mails look a little something like this:

Distance Ed. Director: "Did you get So-and-So Smith's orientation packet?"

Me: Nope! Closest thing to So-and-So A. Smith was So-and-So J. Smith."

Distance Ed. Director: "Okay, here's the correct one."

Me: But which course is So-and-So A. Smith in?

Distance Ed. Director: "43"

Unknown Third Party: "Oh, Ms. Miller, by the way, we messed up so you have lots of e-mails you were supposed to get yesterday coming your way."

...FLOOD OF E-MAIL ENSUES...

And the beat goes on. None of these people really exist. They're all floating around out there in the ether.

Since a tasty IHOP breakfast with Susan this morning, I've been sitting at the kitchen table looking out at the rain (in Texas, in August!), hitting "refresh" on my e-mail, and sporadically reading The Solitary Vice. It looks like it might stick, although I have a few qualms with the book. All-in-all, a good day! It's exciting to be back to work, and it's nice to be working in my pajamas--even if my ass is asleep.

Next week: the grad school madness begins.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Creepy reading...

Or maybe "creeping" reading would be a better way to put it. It's creeping along at a snail's pace (and that might be a tad optimistic). I mentioned a possible slump after Breaking Dawn, and by God it's come to pass just as I expected. While I was enjoying Exposure and What is the What, I just don't want to pick them up. I'd rather do the following:
  • Watch crap TV. Code for Ghost Hunters, What Not to Wear, movies on TNT, and gymnastics. My use of the word crap is in no way intended to offend. I think everything on TV is crap (excluding House MD because I want Hugh Laurie to father my children).
  • Drive around. Because the price of gas in Texas is only about $3.49 and that's much better than $4.03 in North Carolina when I left. Who needs money anyway? Let's give it all to oil execs.
  • Play fetch with Daisy. Like I have a choice.
  • Stare at the walls. They're textured. Hours of fun.


Yesterday I did pick up my needs-to-be-reviewed copy of Mikita Brottman's The Solitary Vice: Against Reading. It's a collection of essays that aren't really as harsh as the title suggests. Brottman is a book lover, but also found herself reading so heavily and indiscriminately as a teen that she lost all hold on reality. I'm still not far into the book, but she's witty, interesting, and the book has some fantastic illustrations to go along with the essays. We'll see if it sticks!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Killing Time Meme

Wednesday morning, coming down! What a week this promises to be. I'm scrambling to finish as much planning as humanly possible for my online classes. Two of them start on Friday, one starts on Monday, and the other two kick in on September 2nd. Not to mention my own graduate courses starting up soon, which means orientations, web-institute inservice days, and all kinds of other stuff.

And to top it all off, it rained here in northeast Texas for the first time since Daisy and I arrived back here on July 3rd. Daisy doesn't like getting her feet wet, so she's appointed our sunroom her own personal toilet. Kinda graphic and TMI for most of you blog readers, I'm sure, but it's not much more pleasant for me, I assure you. Not sure how to break her of this one. Now she apparently doesn't like dew either. Finicky little diva.

I'm not reading much because a) I'm having a hard time finding a book that does anything for me b) I've been watching Michael Phelps's abs--err, swimming. I'm following the women's gymnastics, too, and what a heartbreaker last night for Alicia Sacramone. They did a great job overall, though.

Without further ado, here's a new meme! I snagged this one from Courtney at Everything In Between...


1. My uncle once: insisted that we stole part of his inheritance and made a complete ass of himself. One incident in a long line of stupidity. We haven't talked to him in over 3 years now. Am I sad? No. Sometimes even family members drag one down and should be ignored in order to maintain sanity.

2. Never in my life: have I intentionally destroyed a book. Sick bastards!

3. When I was five: I was scared of everything. The dark and E.T. specifically.

4. High school was: a pain in the ass. I would not revisit adolescence for any amount of money.

5. I will never forget: my first kiss. His name was Tommy and it was behind his parents' car when we were playing hide and seek with his sister.


6. Once I met: Jason Kidd and the rest of the 1994/95 Dallas Mavericks basketball team! One of the most exciting moments of my life.

7. There’s this girl I know: who peed in the street when I made her laugh uncontrollably. In her defense, we were eight years old.

8. Once, at a bar: I sat in a gay man's lap (or so my friends assure me he was gay). He was wearing a very nice jacket. That explains everything.

9. By noon, I’m usually: procrastinating.

10. Last night: I wanted a nap, but it was sort of pointless given the hour. I ended up uninstalling all of my SIMS 2 expansion packs in an effort to make the damn game work right again. No dice!

11. If only I had: a cherry blossom tattoo. Give me another few months and it'll happen!

12. Next time I go to church: will be as big a surprise to me as everyone else!

13. What worries me most: right now? Work. Or lack thereof. I have work, it's just part-time, and that blows.

14. When I turn my head left I see: my TV stand with DirecTV receiver and a stack of Friends seasons.

15. When I turn my head right I see: Daisy's crate and a stack of paper that needs shredding.

16. You know I’m lying when: I'm stuttery and pathetic. I'm a horrible liar.

17. What I miss most about the 80s is: Mary Lou Retton <--stole that answer Mary Lou was the best part of the 80s by far. Oh, and Footloose. That was a good moment for the 80s.


18. If I were a character in Shakespeare I’d be: Iago! Because he's the best villain ever. Except I would need to be much better at lying (see #8).

19. By this time next year: I'd like to have a boatload of Library Science classes under my belt. Or have a fuller-time teaching gig. Either would be fine.

20. A better name for me would be: Lola...she was a showgirl.

21. I have a hard time understanding: stupid, tacky, rude people. I have a hard time being intentionally (or unintentionally) mean. Snarky, yes. Mean, no.

22. If I ever go back to school, I’ll: ....stop right there. After this second Masters degree I think I'm done. DONE!

23. You know I like you if: I go out with you more than twice. Speaking to the men in the room.

24. If I ever won an award, the first person I would thank would be: my mom! She's the greatest ever.


25. Take my advice, never: walk 4 miles when your knee already hurts. It puts a damper on one's walking for several days afterward.

26. My ideal breakfast is: anything involving sausage gravy. Put it on eggs, bacon, biscuits, toast, steak. Whatever. It's a rarity for me, but it's TASTY.

27. A song I love but do not have is: anything from the Foo Fighters' In Your Honor album--one of my favorites, but I have no idea where the damn thing is.


28. If you visit my hometown, I suggest you: don't blink or you'll miss it.


29. Why won’t people: recycle!!! Or change their bulbs to CFL????? It's not hard or terribly time consuming.


30. If you spend a night at my house: you will have to sleep on an air mattress in my bedroom floor because we don't have a guest room.


31. I’d stop my wedding for: a very good reason that escapes me right now. Assuming I get married at all.

32. The world could do without: George Dubya Bush.

33. I’d rather lick the belly of a cockroach than: lick the belly of George Dubya Bush.

34. My favourite blonde(s) is/are: my bestest friend Rachel. She makes me giggle uncontrollably and could blackmail me very easily if she wanted to.

35. Paper clips are more useful than: George Dubya Bush (I'm sorry, I'll stop now).

36. If I do anything well it’s: be loyal.

37. And by the way: I am hungry with no idea what to eat. It's too darn hot for much of anything except chicken salad and ice cream.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Bonk? Boink? Who knows...

This week's installment of "The Finicky Reader" plays double duty. On the one hand I'm trying to figure out my own warped urge to finish books I don't like, and the subject of my did not finish (DNF) woes is Mary Roach's newest offering, Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex. Rest in peace, Bonk.

Read more at Bibliobuffet..."Do Not Resuscitate the DNF".

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Sunday Salon - Retro Rewind


"Retro" is certainly a look overstated, but retro for me personally.
In the wake of finishing up Stephenie Meyer's Twilight saga, I have a wicked craving (pun intended) for more vampire fiction. Admittedly, I don't re-read books often (should do it more often), but L.J. Smith's The Vampire Diaries, is one of my favorite series. As a young'un, maybe 12'ish, I loved these books, and they remind me very much of Stephenie Meyer. They're not as long and involved, although I would argue that they're nearly as tortured and emotional.
The players:
Elena is a young woman who is used to getting everything she wants and is known as the ice queen of the school. Armed with the weapons of charm and wit, she has seduced any man that piqued her interest. That is until Stefan came along.

Stefan, the only one who seems able to resist her charms, but loves her deeply. Young, dramatic, silent, and mysterious, he's like a drug for Elena. He was born sometime in the Italian Renaissance and is the youngest of the two vampire brothers.

Damon is the eldest of the vampire brothers, brash and arrogant. He fought with Stefan over Katherine's affections centuries ago and now he intends on taking Elena. He's dark and sadistic, but also charming and seductive in a dangerous way.
Katherine is the young vampire that tore the two brothers apart in the first place. Childish and naive, she is believed to physically resemble Elena, which was the first spark between Elena and Stefan.
I just cannot tell you how much I loved these books when I was young. I've probably re-read the books five or six times, but it's been several years since I revisited these favorites. What made them so seductive and keeps me coming back for more? Standard vampire/human love triangle stuff: palpable sexual tension, tortured romance, intrigue, and adventure. It just never gets old!
L.J. Smith's books remind me of summer days curled up on my grandparents' couch reading so intensely that I could block out any and every distraction. She wrote a number of series including The Secret Circle (witches), Dark Visions (teen outcasts with supernatural powers), The Forbidden Game (one sexy Erlking). I'm happy to announce that HarperCollins has re-released some of her books, two omnibus editions of The Vampire Diaries, and The Secret Circle is on the way now. She's also writing a fifth book in The Vampire Diaries series, this time totally devoted to bad boy vampire, Damon.
If you're craving vampire fiction, or just really fun escapist reading, give L.J. Smith a try! I don't think you'll be sorry!
Visit Smith's website, http://www.ljanesmith.net, for book news, short stories, and general frivolity.
*Note: She now goes by Ljane Smith. Just for future reference if you get confused.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Girl Days are Always About Books


It's been a great couple of days. Elise* is visiting from Arizona (she's doing her PhD at U of A), and we've had a blast so far. Thursday we had lunch at the India Garden restaurant. They have a daily buffet with curries that make me weep with joy. And since there are no Half-Price Books stores near Elise in AZ, we had to hit up the BIG ONE (Mecca, motherland) in Dallas. I picked up the following yummies from the massive clearance section:

I had never heard of it, but Elise recommended We, by Yevgeny Zamyatin. Apparently it's the first dystopian novel, a forefather to favorites of mine like Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451. Now that I've read the blurb and I have a copy in my greedy little paws, I can't wait to read it!

Blurb from Powell's (search for a book via the Powell's search box at the top of my blog and a portion of your purchase goes to Estella's Revenge - the 'zine):

"First published in the Soviet 1920s, Zamyatin's dystopic novel left an indelible watermark on 20th-century culture, from Orwell's 1984 to Terry Gilliam's movie Brazil. Randall's exciting new translation strips away the Cold War connotations and makes us conscious of Zamyatin's other influences, from Dostoyevski to German expressionism. D-503 is a loyal 'cipher' of the totalitarian One State, literally walled in by glass; he is a mathematician happily building the world's first rocket, but his life is changed by meeting I-330, a woman with 'sharp teeth' who keeps emerging out of a sudden vampirish dusk to smile wickedly on the poor narrator and drive him wild with desire. In becoming a slave to love, D-503 becomes, briefly, a free man.

Yum, right?? I love vampiric women that drive people wild. Good times.

And I feel certain I'm almost the last person on earth to pick up Diane Setterfield's gothic goody, The Thirteenth Tale. I allllmost bought this one up the last time I was in an airport, and I've never once seen it in the Half-Price clearance section. Looks like I lucked out! Hardcover, too. Very pretty even if I prefer the comfort of trade paperbacks.

Blurb from Powell's:

"Former academic Setterfield pays tribute in her debut to Brontë and du Maurier heroines: a plain girl gets wrapped up in a dark, haunted ruin of a house, which guards family secrets that are not hers and that she must discover at her peril. Margaret Lea, a London bookseller's daughter, has written an obscure biography that suggests deep understanding of siblings. She is contacted by renowned aging author Vida Winter, who finally wishes to tell her own, long-hidden, life story. Margaret travels to Yorkshire, where she interviews the dying writer, walks the remains of her estate at Angelfield and tries to verify the old woman's tale of a governess, a ghost and more than one abandoned baby. With the aid of colorful Aurelius Love, Margaret puzzles out generations of Angelfield: destructive Uncle Charlie; his elusive sister, Isabelle; their unhappy parents; Isabelle's twin daughters, Adeline and Emmeline; and the children's caretakers. Contending with ghosts and with a (mostly) scary bunch of living people, Setterfield's sensible heroine is, like Jane Eyre, full of repressed feeling — and is unprepared for both heartache and romance. And like Jane, she's a real reader and makes a terrific narrator. That's where the comparisons end, but Setterfield, who lives in Yorkshire, offers graceful storytelling that has its own pleasures.

And the crowning jewel! I've been after a copy of Camille Deangelis's Mary Modern for months! I first heard about it on NPR, and the premise was too darn good to pass up. And from what I remember having heard a blurb read aloud, the writing was pretty good, too! This will probably be my next read after I wrap up Exposure or What is the What.

Blurb from Powell's:

Lucy Morrigan, a young genetic researcher, lives with her boyfriend, Gray, and an odd collection of tenants in her crumbling family mansion. Surrounded by four generations of clothes, photographs, furniture, and other remnants of past lives, Lucy and Gray’s home life is strangely out of touch with the modern world—except for Lucy’s high-tech lab in the basement.

Frustrated by her unsuccessful attempts to attain motherhood or tenure, Lucy takes drastic measures to achieve both. Using a bloodstained scrap of an apron found in the attic, Lucy successfully clones her grandmother Mary. But rather than conjuring a new baby, Lucy brings to life a twenty-two-year-old Mary, who is confused and disoriented when she finds herself trapped in the strangest sort of déjà vu: alive in a home that is no longer her own, surrounded by reminders of a life she has already lived but doesn’t remember.

We finished our eating and book shopping up on Thursday with gelato (wedding cake and wild berry for me). Yesterday was another girls day, this time lunch at Chili's with Susan and an afternoon of Leinenkugel's Honey Weiss beer, snacks, and much gossipping. And we watched Mr. Brooks. I often have issues with Kevin Costner's acting (and he was a tad stilted at times), but overall it was sexy and creepy and twisty and fun. A great girls night movie for the excitement and ogle factor. Wooo!

Today is a lazy day for the most part. I've finished revising next week's Bibliobuffet piece, and I have a day of free reading time. I think I'll try to knock off a chunk of Exposure before I saddle up for a graduation party tonight. Must get my camera juiced up and ready to go!

Happy Saturday!

*Elise would be the dark hair, mine the bottle job blonde. This was a pic of my 26th b-day party (2006). We had the BEST TIME! The great pic is courtesy of Michael Presley, my friend's hubby and a fabulous photographer who was along to document the madness. I think I cut off his copyright when I cropped the pic. Oops!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Weekly Geeking again!

I've been way far out of the loop, I realize. However, the clouds over my head seem to be dispersing, and I'm back in the bloggy mood! So, how about some geeking?

This week's challenge, a photo meme of sorts:

1. Photos of your favorite author(s).





2. Photo(s) of the author(s) of the book(s) you’re currently reading.



3. Photo(s) of any author(s) you’ve met in person (even very briefly).

We haven't met in person, but this author is one of my favorites that I've interviewed for Estella's Revenge.



4. A youtube of (an) author(s) you’ve heard speak.

Again, a change here. I haven't had the opportunity to hear him speak, but this is the author I'd most like to hear speak!




5. Any photo(s) you may have of yourself with an author.

I've changed this one. This is the first author I e-mailed, and she answered within 15 minutes.



6. A photo of the author of the book you’ve most recently finished.



7. Photos of the hottest author(s)!



And unfortunately I don't have a prize this time around, but if you'd like to venture a guess at my authors above I'll have undying respect for ya. A few gimmes, a few toughies. Good luck!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Inevitable Book Choices

So, I've finished Breaking Dawn, the first and only book I've read in August thus far, and there's danger of a slump. Any time I read a book that I LOVE BEYOND ALL NORMAL AMOUNTS I could slump. Easily. I'm contemplating, and have begun to sample, two books:

Exposure, by Kathryn Harrison. I've never read Harrison, although I have this novel and her memoir, The Kiss, on my stacks. My friend T. recommended Harrison back when we were in grad school, and like the horrible reading friend I am, I'm just now getting to it. T. never let me down, having recommended Cormac McCarthy's The Road and Blood Meridian, so I'm looking forward to digging into this one.

Blurb from the publisher:

Ann Rogers appears to be a happily married, successful young woman. A talented photographer, she creates happy memories for others, videotaping weddings, splicing together scenes of smiling faces, editing out awkward moments. But she cannot edit her own memories so easily–images of a childhood spent as her father’s model and muse, the subject of his celebrated series of controversial photographs. To cope, Ann slips into a secret life of shame and vice. But when the Museum of Modern Art announces a retrospective of her father’s shocking portraits, Ann finds herself teetering on the edge of self-destruction, desperately trying to escape the psychological maelstrom that threatens to consume her.

What is the What, by Dave Eggers, is another T. recommendation. I admit it, I've resisted Eggers' work for YEARS just because he titled his memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius; tongue-in-cheek or not, it makes him sound like an asshole. BUT, I must admit, I'm really enjoying What is the What so far. I'm only a few pages in (20 or so), but it's very very promising.

Blurb:

What Is the What is an epic novel about the lives of two boys during the Sudanese civil war. For those who think they know about the so-called Lost Boys of Sudan, this novel will be an eye-opener. And if you think you know the work of Dave Eggers, this is in many ways a complete departure: it's straightforward and unflinching, and yet full of unexpected humor and adventure amid the madness of war.

Random tidbit o'the day:

Daisy has started swimming in her water bowl. She puts her nose down in the water almost up to her eyeballs and blows bubbles. So cute. So weird.

On ye olde iPod: "Brothers on a Hotel Bed," by Death Cab for Cutie

Blog Blitz!

Holy crap, my lovelies, there's some oddness afoot. If you happen to go to Google and type in "Breaking Dawn review" you'll find my little blog is the 4th hit. As a result, the sheer amount of people flowing into this place is flat ridiculous! The last time I checked last night (around 10pm) I'd had about 280 hits for the day. This morning (it's not yet noon) I've had 101 hits. I'm feeling a wee bit self-conscious. A bit like my skirt fell down in the middle of a recital. Eeek!

*waving to all the strangers and cleaving to the regulars*

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Estella!!!!

The August issue of Estella's Revenge is online (finally). All my fault. I'm a horrible editor. Anywho, don't hold it against the writers. Go check out the new goodies for August.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Breaking Dawn Review (no spoilers)

This is going to be a really vague review since I'm trying not to give away any particularly important plot points (unlike the little bastard reviewers at Amazon). If you want to talk about it in depth, PLEASE SEND ME AN E-MAIL!--andi (dot) miller (at) gmail (dot) com. So, here we go...

WOW! What a freakin' wild ride. I have to say, this latest book is stunning. Meyer continues the story of Bella, Edward and Jacob in the biggest book of the series, weighing in at a daunting 756 pages. As usual, Bella is clumsy, Edward is beautiful (annoyingly so at times), and Jacob is far less manipulative and whiny than he was in Eclipse. He's still my literary crush. I *heart* Jacob Black. There, I said it. Like most fans, I had a particular type of book in mind for this fourth installment. I had my predictions and a certain plot laid out in my head from the moment I turned the last page of Eclipse.

And did Stephenie Meyer give it to me?? Uhhh, yeah. And then some. Quite honestly, she took this book in directions I never would've guessed at and elevated her characters to a level of emotional maturity that most fans would probably not anticipate. Again, see the reviews at Amazon (if you don't mind spoilers)...the teeny boppers are pissed that she didn't stick to their plan.

While many reviewers are saying that this book just doesn't fit with the others and that the characters did things that were out of their norm, I disagree. I think Stephenie Meyer kept them pretty well in character but put them in situations that were quite shocking in some respects. It's hard to explain, but this book seemed to move quicker even though there was less action. There was a lot of waiting around and dialogue, but overall I found it an incredibly quick and absorbing read. Biggest complaint: something of an anticlimactic ending. You'll see. Not horrible, just not as much flash as I expected.

I generally have some issues with Ms. Meyer's writing (some of it makes me cringe at times), but she tells an involving tale that I couldn't quickly pull myself out of. When I finished it yesterday afternoon I had to take a nap. I felt like I'd run a marathon.

Read it! Just do it. You know your curiosity is clawing at you.

And while you're out blog reading, stop over at Tammy's blog, Under a Blood Red Sky, and read her response to the hoo-hah over at Amazon. As Tammy so expertly put it:

I get the feeling that most of these teens had the plot carefully planned in their own heads, and when Meyer decided to deviate from those pipe dreams, their worlds were shattered, making her THE WORST AUTHOR EVER. OMG, how are we all going to live? It won't do a bit of good to remind them that ultimately, they got what they wanted, because Meyer threw in some curves that took them on a ride they didn't meet the height requirement for.

Read the rest because it made me CHEER! Click HERE.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Breaking Dawn Continued (still no spoilers)

I've knocked off 428 pages of the 700+ pages of Breaking Dawn today, and I'm officially seeing double. I'm off to bed, but you can expect my thoughts tomorrow for The Sunday Salon. No spoilers, I promise.

Goodnight all!

Breaking Dawn (not a review, no spoilers)


Appropriate title given the last post, no? I seem to be coming out of my funk...slowly but surely. It actually started a week or better before I posted the last post, so it's not new despite appearances. The walking is keeping me out, friends are keeping me out, and when I'm home I'm generally working or doing something fun. And the something fun is what I'm here to discuss today!

Even though I haven't mentioned it, don't think for a moment I forgot about the release of Stephanie Meyer's new book, Breaking Dawn, today! I am ridiculously excited about this final book (from Bella's perspective) in the Twilight Saga. Alas, I made the TRAGIC mistake of reading some Amazon reviews this morning, and I got a face full of spoilers. In reality I don't really mind so much because I would toootally read it anyway. I have to say, though, this one is REALLY going to piss off some people. Really really! And that's not a spoiler. If you haven't read any spoilers you will be totally shocked. She's a wiley, twisty little author.
I picked up my copy mid-morning, and I'm up to about page 160. So far, so good. I'm sure I'll finish it late tonight or early tomorrow. This particular book has prompted me to think a good deal about what fans expect from their favorite authors and how much those authors should really be influenced or held accountable by expectations. More to come on that.
Until later, if you're reading along, too, I hope you're enjoying the ride as much as I am!