Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Sunday Salon - Book Lusties

The best laid plans and all that....

So those posts I mentioned that would be coming up later in the week didn't exactly work out. I think I took a nap right after I wrote that, and I haven't surfaced since. So what's shakin' in Andiland? We switched from first to second summer session, which means a new class at the wayyyy-out-there college (two hours round trip everyday). The session at the college five minutes from my house is ending, and we're almost ready to start the August quarter. This quarter system is a killer, but it sure does keep me occupied, on my toes, and all that.

Chuck is planning a two-week trip to New York with Rocketboy, and they'll be picking up Rocketboy's sister. Good sense and very little imagination would make her Rocketgirl. They'll be bringing her here to live with us. All of this trip planning business makes for much stress and running around like a chicken sans head. The bummer of it all is that I don't think I can take that much time off work. SO, I'll be chillin' at home reading while they're gone. The reading part is not a bummer so much, but I really wanted to go.

I comfort myself with book lust. MUCH much book lust. I stepped into a Barnes & Noble today for the very first time in eight months or better, and I swear I was as excited as a pig in new slop. We say "a pig in shit" in Texas, but I was going to spare you that.



The first book I lusted after at B&N was Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by the illustrious Jane Austen and retold and screwed with by Seth Grahame-Smith. I just can't help myself...it sounds so weird; it's just gotta be awesome. I didn't buy it--I abstained--but I will be interlibrary loaning this one.

The only title I did buy today was The Abstinence Teacher, by Tom Perrotta. I have several of his books on my shelves, but I didn't really have any good motivation to read them until I watched Little Children starring Kate Winslet and the most unattractive but really talented man in Hollywood (besides Steve Buscemi), Jackie Earle Haley. He also played Rorschach in Watchmen if that tells you who he is. Anyway, Little Children knocked my socks off. I need to read the book now, and I can't wait to crack the proverbial spine on The Abstinence Teacher.



I received this book lust-worthy nugget in the mail this week. Visions of America: Photographing Democracy, by Joseph Sohm. I think I mentioned that Chuck and I have been taking a digital photography class on Tuesday nights, and it's really revitalized my interest in photography. When I saw this one up for grabs from Lisa, the Online Publicist, I just couldn't wait to put my request in. Full review coming later this week or early next.

I've spent most of my day running around. When I did get back home this afternoon, Chuck had to run off to a meeting so I set about doing laundry and all that other domestic crap. Now I'm free for the night, and I plan to whip up a little chicken stroganoff (sorta...weird casserole recipe, but it's delicious), and I AM going to finish Briar Rose! It's a great book, but I have the attention span of a gnat.

Happy Sunday, lambchops!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Non-Fiction Flurry!

Not only am I reading over here, I have a ridiculous number of books on the go. Admittedly, this all stems from laziness on my part. I have a horrible habit--as I've mentioned before--of leaving books in various places like my car, the upstairs office, under the bed, you get the point. Generally I'm too lazy to actually leave a resting position and go get those books when the urge to read comes a'calling. This weekend was a good example. I woke up before Chuck and I wasn't feeling the best, so instead of going looking around the house for Briar Rose, I just grabbed the closest library book and started reading.

In this case, the library book happened to be a non-fiction I snatched up last week: Obama's Challenge: America's Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency by Robert Kuttner. I managed to knock off 60 pages or so before I had to be productive, and so far I'm darn impressed with the book. I suspected it might be a winner since it's published by one of my very favorite publishers, Chelsea Green Publishing. More Chelsea Green later...

So far Obama's Challenge is less about Obama and more about the "transformative" presidents that Kuttner mentions in the subtitle. He compares the current social and economic situation to those of the past (the Great Depression and more) and uses these contemporary times as a vehicle to examine presidents like Franklin Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, and Lyndon B. Johnson. Obviously FDR had the Depression to contend with, Lincoln had slavery on his plate, and Johnson the Civil Rights Movement. Kuttner not only analyzes these past presidents and their victories and missteps, but he also examines presidents who had the opportunity to be transformative (Kennedy, Carter) but weren't able to make so much of their respective situations for one reason or another like political opposition from Congress, etc.

So far, so good! Kuttner promises to examine the current economic situation and forecast what Obama should do to carry through with his promises to be a transformative president. It's very interesting and well written so far, and I'm looking forward to digging in even more.

I also dove into another library book this past week as a result of weird or insurmountable circumstances. I was on my way from my house to one of my teaching gigs when my Prius encountered an aluminum ladder in the middle of my lane of the highway. I had cars close by on both sides, so I had no choice but to run over it. I figured it shredded my tires, but alas a piece of the ladder wrapped around the front axle. Long story short: had the car towed, everything was fine except some minor body work, but it ate up my afternoon, a good bit of money, and it scared me to death. While I was stranded at the dealership I started my other non-fiction library book: Descartes' Bones: A Skeletal History of the Conflict Between Faith and Reason, by Russell Shorto. Shorto also wrote The Island at the Center of the World, which I've never read, but so far I'm thoroughly impressed enough that I want to give it a try, too.

From the back cover, here's a concise summary of the premise:

A grand and strange history of the 350-year-long debate between religion and science--seen through the oddly momentous journey of the skull and bones of the great French philosopher Rene Descartes.

If you're not sure who Descartes is, here's a hint: "I think, therefore I am." Yep, he said it. How'd you like to have that saying to your credit? I would!

This book is just freakin' awesome. Shorto has a great conversational quality to his writing, and his explanations of Descartes' philosophies and the grand controversies they caused (and how we still use his philosophies and carry on those controversies) is wayyyy fascinating. I just can't say enough good things about it so far, so you'll see a dedicated post coming soon complete with great quotes and thoughtful passages.

For now I'm off to draft some more posts that you'll see popping up this week. I have a longer break between my morning classes and my afternoon class for the remainder of the summer, so I find myself far more motivated (awake) to blog. Woohoo! I've missed it, lovelies. I really have.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Another One Bites the Dust-ah...


Writing this review sucks for two reasons:
1. I didn't finish the book.
2. Everyone else loves Elizabeth Scott!
Sadly, something in Scott's writing just doesn't jive with my tastes. As you'll remember I panned Living Dead Girl because I thought it was sensational and overdone, and now I'm completely underwhelmed (into a near state of comatoseness) by Love You Hate You Miss You.
Given, this could be a side effect of my recent slump, but this teen novel just didn't blow my skirt up. Amy is a troubled teen: alcohol issues, parents who like each other more than her, her best friend is dead (because of her?), and she has no friends. She's a sad one alright, and rightly so. Part of her therapy is to write letters to her best friend Julie (the one that's passed) to deal with her issues.
I thought this would be the one. I really did. I thought it would reconcile me and convince me of Scott's wonderfulness, but I knocked 50 or 60 pages off in one sitting and found that I didn't give a flip about Amy's recovery or what happened to Julie, and I have no idea why. Maybe I'm too stressed out by money issues or work issues or what-the-hell-to-do-with-my-life issues to worry about anyone else's. My general rule is that books that fail to wow me by 50 pages are guiltlessly put into the Half-Price Books bag to be sold off to make room for the new ones. And that's the fate of this very pretty hardcover.
So long, Elizabeth Scott! I'm one of the few that just doesn't adore your writing (though from what I can tell from interviews and whatnot, you're a lovely person).
For a positive review of the book, go over and check out Becky's thoughts.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

The Sunday Salon - Slump, Busted!


Hot damn! I knew it had to happen sometime, and I was right! You got it, my lovelies...I'm reading again! In the spirit of my Reading in Order Challenge, I picked up the next book on the TBR and zipped through 50 pages immediately. Briar Rose, by Jane Yolen, is just as good as you all said it would be. This is my first time sampling Yolen's work, and now I'm really sad that I didn't see her speak at Texas A&M University - Commerce (my alma mater) this past semester. I suspect she would've been fascinating to listen to. But back to Briar Rose...

If you've been under a rock--as I've been--here's an Andi blurb for ya:

Becca is one of three granddaughters to Gemma. Gemma spent her lifetime telling stories to her granddaughters...mainly the tale of Briar Rose. Before her death, Gemma makes Becca promise to investigate her story as she insists that she is Briar Rose. What follows is a lot of investigative work on Becca's part, and I know this all leads to Gemma's experiences during the Holocaust, but I haven't read far enough yet to know exactly how that transition happens or how Becca will stumble upon the truth of Gemma's mysterious past.

I know this one is considered young adult fiction, though I consistently find myself surprised by Yolen's authorial choices in this regard. Becca is a grown woman...no angsty teenage narrators here. This is one of those novels that rides the fine line between teen and adult fiction. The only thing that seems particularly "teeny" about it is the cover. I'm very much enjoying Yolen's take on the "Briar Rose" tale since you all know what a fairy tale whore I am. Yeah, I said fairy tale whore. It's true...why hide or sugar coat it, right? Ha!

I'm also reading a SECOND BOOK! No one is more shocked than I am, I assure you. I'm a lazy one, and I left my copy of Briar Rose in Pandora the Prius last night when we got done running around and doing Fourth of July things. I didn't feel like venturing out into the rain sprinkles in my pj's this morning, so I picked up the nearest book (toootally not in order for Reading In Order Challenge): Saving Fish From Drowning, by Amy Tan.

I freely admit that I'm probably the only person on earth to have not read ANY Amy Tan. My friend Beth assures me that I will fall over and worship at Tan's feet if I read The Joy Luck Club. After just a few pages of Saving Fish From Drowning, I am quite sure that Tan will be a new fave, and I can't wait to get to my copy of The Joy Luck Club on my stacks. An Andi-blurb about Saving Fish:

Bibi Chen narrates the book after her death. She's an art patron and generous benefactor to numerous Asian organizations during her lifetime. She arranges a trip down the famed Burma Road for eleven of her friends, but she mysteriously expires before the trip can take place. On a hazy Christmas morning her friends take off on a boat tour and never return.

I just have to say, Tan's "voice" for Bibi Chen is freakin' fantastic. I can totally picture her as a little fireball of a woman...outspoken and excitable. I'm not very far into the novel yet, but the premise is fantastic, and I'm totally hooked on Bibi as the narrator of her friends' trip and her own life. There's also a really interesting author's note in the beginning of the book wherein Tan describes a chance trip to a psychic research center and archives in an attempt to escape a New York City downpour. She happened upon the premise for the book after reading some supposed "channeled writings" from the real life Bibi Chen.

If you need a pick-me-up book, either of these should do the trick. They sure have for me. In fact, I think I'm going to finish tallying midterm grade reports right now and head back downstairs to my cozy bed and curl up with one of these books.
Have a great night, everyone! I hope all you American readers had a fantastic Fourth of July! I'll be posting fireworks pics soon!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Flake!

I can't read anything. Seriously. Slumps SUCKKKK!

It appears the tropical virus has passed. I feel like a new woman. Too bad the new woman's urge to read is almost nonexistent.

What books have you read lately that could be good slump busters? I beg of you. I neeeed your help!