Friday, February 27, 2009

Almost Forgot My Blogger Password

Forgive me, bloggy peeps! I've been out of the loop for so long I almost forgot my password! Ha! All is well in Andiland. I've been spending all of my free time away from work with Chuck and his son. In fact, I've begun to leave clothes, books, and other things here and cart miscellaneous items over by the plastic bag-load. I go visit my mom a couple of times a week when I go back to the sticks to teach my in-person classes. How cool is that? Match.com worked for me!


With this newfound love and social life, I have let my reading go to a great degree. We often find ourselves in the kitchen whipping up tasty meals or slow dancing through the living room to this or that song on the radio (yes, we really do--we're so cute it's gross!). I go watch him play pool (awesome) in a couple of leagues on Wednesday and Thursday nights, and we generally spend our weekends with friends or visiting my family. I couldn't be happier, but the reading really does need to pick back up.

This past week I finished one book--Ottoline Goes to School, by Chris Riddell, author of The Edge Chronicles. The book is soooo cute. It could probably be categorized as a graphic novel because it's so illustration-heavy, and the illustrations are just adorable.

Ottoline is the daughter of collectors who are often out and about various places in the world collecting odd and interesting things. When Ottoline meets Cecily--a far-out storyteller and also the daughter of absent parents--she decides to go to boarding school. A potentially haunted boarding school! The results are hilarious and adorable. So adorable, in fact, that if this book had cheeks, I would pinch 'em. Watch for a full review coming up in a future issue of Estella's Revenge.

It's a short post, I realize, but I wanted to give you all the update. I am ridonkulously happy, and I'm beginning to find a new routine amidst all the changes. Expect regular blogging to resume soon!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Bliss...

Things I did for Valentine's Day that made me ridonkulously happy:

  • Met Chuck's family and he met mine
  • Tried his Bacardi chicken and pasta (delicious!)
  • Listened to good music
  • Slow danced in the kitchen
  • Laughed
  • Talked and talked and talked
  • Laughed some more
  • Spent time with friends
  • Ordered sushi
  • Made some memories
  • Made lots of plans

It doesn't get any better than this.

Now I have to write a paper by Sunday. Wish me luck!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I've heard of this...

As defined by Princeton's Wordnet...
Relationship:
-a relation between people

-a state of connectedness between people (especially an emotional connection)

-a state involving mutual dealings between people or parties or countries
***
I suddenly find myself in what's often referred to as a relationship (as defined above). I've heard of them. I've often observed them. Now it seems I'm in one! With someone who wants to be in one with me and no one else! And we go out! And we watch TV! And we meet each other's friends and family! And we talk and laugh! And we laugh some more! And we make plans ahead of time! And we ask how each others' days have been! And I'm not scared to tell you his name or that if he reads this blog he'll run screaming and never call me again. His name is Charles! or Chuck! He's a heck of a pool player! He can cook! He's artsy like me, and we get each other's movie references (even most of the obscure ones), and we sing and dance!
I need to write Match.com a thank you note! I have a happy headache and my exclamation key is going to fly off from overuse!
*smiling a big toothy smile*

Monday, February 09, 2009

Scooby, 1999-2009


It's a sad day in the Miller house. We had to have one of my mom's dogs put to sleep today. Scooby came to us in 1999, shortly after I left for college. He was a miniature schnauzer, the runt of his litter, who belonged to our neighbors. They never had the time or patience for him, so when my mom offered to take him off their hands, they obliged.
He was very active in his younger years--hopping, howling, chasing the other dogs, running just for the heck of it. However, when he was six years old, he was diagnosed with diabetes, and it's been downhill from there. He took two shots of insulin daily, spent insane amounts of time at the vet, and within the last year or two his liver had begun to give him problems and he went completely blind.
No matter how bad he felt or what health problems popped up, he was always a sweet dog, loving, more than happy to cuddle and play and explore.
For the last week he had begun to go downhill. As it turned out, he had a blockage in his intestines, either from something he ate or some scar tissue. We knew, due to all of his health issues, that he would not be strong enough to pull through surgery. After medicines and other measures to cure the problem, we decided this morning to have him put to sleep.
We're all sad...my mom, our vet and all of his employees, me, the other dogs in the house. There's a noticeable void here, and there will be for a long time. Fortunately, though, Scooby is no longer in any pain and doesn't have to endure any more medical treatments. We will donate his leftover food and medications to the vet's office to distribute for free to other families with pets who need them.
He was a sweet dog...one of a kind. He was a blessing for 10 years. I don't think we could've asked for any more than that.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Mini Reviews


I forced myself out of bed this morning. OK, admittedly, it was afternoon. Anyway, I forced myself out of bed because I had to grade some stuff and post some new content for students. And send enrollment verifications. And look over some stuff for library class. Yadda yadda. Anyway, I haven't had time to read today, but I'm about to give up my post at the computer and head for the couch with a big glass of ice water or Diet Coke (or orange juice or whiskey) and settle in with a book.

Yesterday was a stellar reading day. I finished Susan Hill's novella, The Man in the Picture, and I zipped through Gettysburg: The Graphic Novel, by C.M. Butzer. Let's start the mini reviews with The Man in the Picture.

Premise: Oliver goes back to Cambridge to visit an aged professor. The prof ends up telling him a creepy story about a wicked painting that hangs in his quarters and all the havock it's wreaked over the years. It's a nested tale--Oliver's, Dr. Parmitter's, the old woman described below, and finally Oliver's young wife, Anne.

Loved: The atmosphere is creeptaculous, the writing is lush, the story is creepy-wonderful. It was a good book for an afternoon curled on the couch feeling like crap because it pulled me right in. As you'll see in the passage I've included below, the description was lengthy but not overwhelming. Hill allowed me to step into her world with the use of her vivid imagery.

Didn't love: It's not that original. I thought of The Picture of Dorian Grey (even though I haven't read it) and Stephen King's Rose Madder (have read that one) and any other old tale involving a wicked, soul-stealing painting. Given, Hill puts her own twist on it, but if you've read a bunch of books with similar premises you might be bored or underwhelmed. I was pleasantly satisfied in spite of all this.

Favorite passage:

There was nothing decaying, dilapidated or chilling about such a drawing room. But the woman who sat on an upright chair with her face turned away from the fire did not match the room in warmth and welcome. She was extremely old, with the pale-parchment textured skin that goes with great age, a skin like the paper petals of dried Honesty. Her hair was white and thin, but elaborately combed up onto her head and set with a couple of glittering ornaments. She wore a long frock of some green material on which a splendid diamond brooch was set, and there were diamonds about her long, sinewy neck. Her eyes were deep set but not the washed-out eyes of an old woman. They were a piercing, unnerving blue.

And feel free to enjoy the book trailer for this one. It's fun.

You can also visit Susan Hill's website.






Next up: C.M. Butzer's Gettysburg: The Graphic Novel. The premise doesn't need much explaining. It's a brief backstory on the Gettysburg Address with the Address included.

I loved: The illustrations! Butzer draws everything in tones of black, white, and bluish grey. It has a very somber look to it, which is entirely fitting given the subject matter. I was especially fond of how dynamic his drawings were. In the scenes of Civil War fighting the frames were angular and askew, while moments of calm were more straightforward. It has a very dramatic feel given the color (or lack thereof) in the drawings, and he's very "filmic" in his depictions of Lincoln. There are a lot of wordless frames for emphasis and purely emotional purposes. Really nicely drawn.

I didn't love: It's kinda dull for an adult! In all fairness, this is most definitely a children's text, and as such I think it would be wildly effective. It would be an excellent enhancement to a history lesson. Aside from the story, there's also an appendix in the back that expands upon choice illustrations and explains the history behind them. For example, there's a piece on Civil War era medicine and explains how many men were injured, the shortage in doctors, etc.

I would LOVE to be able to scan a few choice images, but my scanner is dead at the moment. If you happen to run upon this one at the library, give it a quick glance. I don't think you'll be sorry!

This is my first or second book for this year's Graphic Novels Challenge. I'll update it correctly on the sidebar. Gotta look back through my records!

Happy Friday everyone! Enjoy your weekend! I'll probably be back with some Short Story Shots and a Sunday Salon. See you then!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

After the Train, by Gloria Whelan


After the Train is the first book I've read by prolific children's author, Gloria Whelan. This is a unique children's novel about the years after the Holocaust. I'm interested in Holocast stories in general, but specifically in stories that deal with the ways people "inherit" the atrocity of such an event. Books like Art Spiegelman's Maus and Thane Rosenbaum's The Golems of Gotham are as much about the children of Holocaust survivors and how they cope as they are about the atrocity itself.
After the Train, is about Peter Liebig. He can't wait for summer. He's tired of classrooms and his teacher's endless lectures about the Nazis. The war has been over for ten years, and besides, his town of Rolfen, West Germany, has moved on nicely. Despite its bombed-out church, it looks just as calm and pretty as ever. There is money to be made at the beach, and there are whole days to spend with Father at his job. And, of course, there's soccer. Plenty for a thirteen-year-old boy to look forward to (adapted from publisher blurb).
Soon, Peter begins to recount a recurring nightmare he's had over the years...a strange woman's face covered in tears and pleading, shouts from all around, and the feeling of being pushed through a door or window--from darkness into light. From this dream, Whelan's story begins to take off. Peter finds a picture of the woman in his dream in his parents' letters and must convince them to share more about the past than they are comfortable telling.
In style and tone, the book is well done. It's a different view of the Holocaust tha I've seen in children's literature before though it's a common view in adult literature. Whelan's writing is tempered and nicely paced. However, among all the interest and artistry, I have to admit...it felt a little....monotone? Even when I felt as if I should experience some great emotion through Peter, I was underwhelmed. It's possible that Whelan had every intention of creating this sense of restraint. Peter has a good head on his shoulders and handles a great deal of revelation and change with grace and the writing reflects that. Having read other Holocaust novels that were much more emotional (The Book Thief, etc.) I expected more of an emotional punch. The result is actually a very cerebral novel for a children's book.
While I felt less than satisfied at times, intellectually, I would consider this a good book. It's a novel I would like to teach to future children's lit courses (maybe in the Fall).
Visit Whelan's website.

Thursday Sick Day


Daisy and I are bedridden today. It seems the sinus infection I got rid of a couple of weeks ago is back with a vengeance. Daisy pup is firmly under the covers, as am I, and I plan to stay here with periodic trips to the kleenex box.
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Since I called into work today, I now have a whole six days off until my next in-person class. That's sort of misleading since I have online classes to attend to and jobs to apply for, and a library science class to work on and find a paper topic for. Now I'm depressing myself.

Today is empty, though. Just lots of fluids, vitamin C, Alka Seltzer Cold, Dimetapp, and reading. I'm eyeing the small books. They look easier to hold. Wish me luck!

Review of Gloria Whelan's After the Train coming right up.

Oh, and while you're out surfing, why not visit Estella's Revenge? The new February issue is up and it's a lot of fun. Great interviews (Lane Smith, John Shors), tasty features, cool columns, lustworthy reviews. Just go see for yourself.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Monday Blues and Library Loot!


Only slightly blue. I was prepared for this blue. I'm back on Match.com if that tells you anything--saw that one coming a while ago but hoped I was way wrong. I'm drowning in work that remains undone, I HAVE TO GET the new Estella online, and I'm thinking of swearing off men in favor of raising miniature schnauzers. My mom can be happy with grandpuppies, I feel sure. But, I feel much better at this very moment because I went to the LIBRARY! Books fix everything in my world. Don't say you're sorry, just say, "Congrats on some great library books!"

To learn more about Library Loot check out Alessandra's blog or Eva's.

The Man in the Picture, by Susan Hill - I had this one out from the 'brary last year, and I never got around to it. Heather put it on her Top 10 list for the year, so I had to snatch it up for another go.

I Am the Messenger, by Markus Zusak - Because Zusak is THE MAN. I loved The Book Thief, and it's about time I tried something else of his.
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, by M.T. Anderson - I loved Feed (and am teaching it this semester), so I was tickled when I actually realized that Anderson wrote this book! All the more reason to give it a try.

I'm still loving Delicate Edible Birds and will probably finish that one this week. If you're interested, I expanded last week's post about one of the short stories in the book over at Bibliobuffet for this week's Finicky Reader column. I polished off After the Train, by Gloria Whelan last night, and you can expect an Estella review for that one

And because I like it (not because I'm airless), here's Rissi Palmer's country version of Jordin Sparks' song, "No Air." Love it! It's on heavy iPod rotation.