Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Hunt for the Seventh

Sadly, I am way freakin' behind on the RIP IV challenge. I've only finished one book for heaven's sake! I'm so ashamed of myself. Luckily, I have plenty of time to knock off three more goodies and complete my goal. And I have to say, I've done well sticking with the short story reading this time around, so no more bookish self-berating. On to a review!
The Hunt for the Seventh, by Christine Morton-Shaw was a delight! I've been disappointed in some of my short story reading because I've had a really hard time finding traditionally creepy, scary stories. This adolescent novel (10 and up) was just the ticket to great Halloween reading. As an aside, Morton-Shaw is British, and this had a wonderful creepy-boarding-school-haunted-village feel to it. Do you know what I mean? It was sort of scary and cozy at the same time. And it felt very damp...
After his mother's death, Jim, his sister Sal, and his dad move to the large and menacing Minerva Estate where his dad will be head gardener. Soon after, Jim begins cataloging a bevvy of uncomfortable situations. He sees the shadow of a boy holding a white cat pacing back and forth in a locked room, the face of a blind hag screaming up at him from the dumbwaiter shaft, and it seems that generations of deceased Minerva children are trying to tell him something. Jim soon begins to sneak around in an effort to uncover the secrets of the dead Minerva children, but Lord Minerva is none too pleased. He catches Jim on his security cameras several times, and threatens to fire his father from the gardening job. As you might expect, Jim is far too deep into the mystery of Minerva Estate to abandon his quest.
This novel really has it all: a creepy estate, a haunted schoolroom, murder, and even pagan rituals! And it never seemed like overkill (pardon the pun...Whahahaha!). But really, Morton-Shaw created some really likable characters in Jim, his sister, and especially some of the peripheral characters like Mrs. B., the seemingly crabby, but secretly nurturing cook.
I hate to tell too much about this story for fear of giving something integral away, but just know that I couldn't be more pleased with it. It was fun, genuinely creepy, and launched me into the Halloween spirit in a big way. This was the perfect read to start RIP IV.

Personally: There's Really a Baby in There!

Hey! I'm still here, I've just been busy the last few days. Between the transition from part-time professor to full-time professor and all this baby business, I've been quick to fall asleep at night and slow to blog. I have plenty to say about books, but I am much more excited by the latest baby news.
Having ironed out insurance issues and whatnot, I FINALLY got to go to my first OB appointment on Monday. It was the usual unpleasantries--cup peeing, arm stabbing, poking, prodding, etc. As it turns out, I'm almost 12 weeks along (12 weeks on Friday), so they went ahead and scheduled my first ultrasound appointment.
I woke up at 6:30 this morning, showered, powdered, and primped, and I promptly started drinking water as I was told. I'm finding out very quickly that this pregnancy thing is very much like being a science experiment.
Anyway, I arrived at the hospital with a bladder filled to bursting, and the ultrasound was underway. As it turns out, there's really a baby in there!!! When we got our first peek, the Bun was looking straight at us. As our technician wielded the probe and took various pictures, Bun started moving all around--kicking its legs, waving its arms, and doing flips. Finally, it settled in a comfy position and started sucking its thumb. I guess the cottage cheese and mandarin oranges I had for breakfast were satisfactory and invigorating.
You can expect the ultrasound pics to pop up any time, but I've gotta scan them first. And copies for my mom, and copies for the office, and copies for Chuck's wallet. You get the picture.

Friday, September 25, 2009

When It Rains, It Pours!

Books, that is. I've always seen other bloggers bemoaning the fact that library hold books always seem to arrive in bunches, and that COULD NOT be any truer in my house right now. I've gone a little hold crazy in recent weeks, and they all seem to be filtering in this very moment.

I've already mentioned that Catching Fire fell into my hands a couple of weeks ago, and horror of horrors, I haven't even started it yet! Well, I read a few pages, but I haven't really been able to dive in, which pains me. Gotta get a move on before the library wants it back.

Wednesday I picked up my copy of L.J. Smith's first volume in the continuation of The Vampire Diaries, The Return: Nightfall. I've written it before, and I'll scream it from the rooftops again: I LOVED LJ SMITH GROWING UP, AND LITTLE PEOPLE ON YOUTUBE, SHE CAME BEFORE STEPHENIE MEYER! Sorry, I've needed to get that off my chest for weeks.

If you're watching the new CW Vampire Diaries series on Thursday nights, just set your Tivo to record it until you read all the books and then you can be as disappointed as I am. While the series is "meh," the books are WOW! They've dampened and dumbed the series down and tarted it up with some teenage sex to the point that it's barely interesting, and therefore I'm doubly excited to read more of Smith's writing.

Finally, an RIP read came in! Joe Hill's short story collection, 20th Century Ghosts, is stellar so far! I've only read a few stories at this point, but I'm completely captivated. When I read Heart-Shaped Box I thought to myself: Joe Hill might be better suited to short stories. It seemed as if he had a hard time maintaining his pace in HSB and keeping the excitement and suspense levels up. So far I feel vindicated and rather smugly co-rrect because his short stories are really, really good.

Have you read any of these yet? What's hovering on your hold list right now?

This is also my Library Loot post for the week. Thanks Eva and Marg!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Short Story Sunday on Monday (RIP IV)

We're back from our trip to Shreveport. We had a good time, though Chuck wasn't happy with his play in the tournament. I had a wonderful time swimming in the jacuzzi tub in our room and pigging out at various casino buffets (VERY flattering, I tell you). Unfortunately, I didn't have the time to read I'd hoped for, but that's OK--it was great to just get away for a bit.

Last night, when I was done with some work for my online classes, I plunked myself down in a squishy chair and read another story from Joyce Carol Oates's The Collector of Hearts: New Tales of the Grotesque for the RIP IV Short Story Sunday. I was too pooped to post, so I'm Short Story Mondaying!
This time I read "Death Mother," which I expected to be extremely creepy and possibly gross from the description on the dust jacket. Oates is just never one to play into expectations. The story was definitely creepy and disturbing but not in the way I expected.
Jeanette Harth's mother is in and out of mental hospitals all of her life after trying a couple of times to kill her daughters. These bits are told in italic flashbacks throughout the story. While she comes close to offing Jeanette, she does manage to kill her other daughter, Mary. Something to do with Drano, I think? It's never really explained, which is probably a good thing.
Anyway, the mother is hospitalized on and off throughout Jeanette's life, and she'll occasionally pop up and cause Jeanette worlds of trouble, heartache, and frustration. The mother is just flat-ass crazy. She dresses in soiled, wrecked clothing. Her hair smells. She's just a mess. While her previous appearances are alluded to in this story, the focus of the action is on her last appearance--at Jeanette's college--where Jeanette is unsurprisingly scared to death that her mother will do something nutty and embarrass her in front of her friends. And her mother wants to take her away from the college, which really freaks her out.
Since her mother has nowhere else to go, she stays in Jeanette's room at a college boarding house while Jeanette goes to choir practice. An unexpected turn of events puts Jeanette in the right place at the right time for an intimate moment with a professor, and when dear old mom finds out the next morning, it pushes her over the edge.
Now, of course, I can't tell you what "over the edge" means exactly. But I promise it has nothing to do with Drano. So, like I said, this story is creepy, but again not as overtly icky or weird as I expected. It's more about Jeanette dealing with the demons of her past and trying to become her own woman free of her mother's overbearing influence.I appreciate that Oates can interject a bigger meaning into a story that could've been just a weird tale.
I'm almost finished with The Hunt for the Seventh, so I hope to be reporting on it as early as tomorrow! How are your RIP reads going?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Weekend Getaway!

It's Friday! Yay! I teach today from 11:30-3:30, but after that, Chuck and I are headed off to Shreveport, Louisiana for the weekend. Chuck plays for the American Poolplayers' Association, and this weekend is a qualifying round to the national championships.

The pool part is all fine and good, and I certainly wish Chuck nothing but the best in this and can't wait to watch him play, but the best part is that THIS IS OUR FIRST WEEKEND ALONE SINCE WE GOT TOGETHER. That's right, people, 7 months with no real alone time. No Rockets in the house, no Chuck's mom floating around, no dogs pawing for attention.

We have a free suite for two nights (three if we want), plenty of free food coming our way, and very few obligations. I plan to spend some quality time in the hot tub (Correction: Garden tub in the suite that I made sound better than it actually is. I promise not to poach the Bun in the hot tub.), read some books, and generally relax. I might play some nickel slots, too.

I hate that I haven't been more active in Book Blogger Appreciation Week, but I had actually forgotten about this trip and was really surprised when I remembered I need to pack, square away school obligations, and get myself in the getaway frame of mind.

I plan to take the following books with me:

  • The Hunt for the Seventh (RIP IV Challenge)
  • The Good Earth
  • The Collector of Hearts: New Tales of the Grotesque (RIP IV Short Stories)
  • Catching Fire (library hold)

We'll see what strikes my fancy over the weekend. I hope you all have a very relaxing, fun weekend and I'll see ya Sunday or Monday!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Personally: A Sigh of Relief

I haven't had full-time work--with the exception of one semester in 2007--for six years. There were various reasons: a new location (Texas to North Carolina and back), graduate school, and a horrible job market. I was hired on as a full-time English professor at a huge community college in North Carolina, but as some of you may remember, I moved home to be nearer my family, and I've never regretted it in the least. However, the job hunt since I've been back has been brutal. The applicant pool for community college teaching positions in Dallas-Fort Worth is huge, and it makes it much tougher to get a foot in the door at any college.
As many of you know, I've been teaching twice what normal teachers teach for well over a year. That means that while most teachers handle 3-6 classes a semester, I teach somewhere in the neighborhood of 10. It's insane on my part, but money has to be made somehow. College loans have to be paid, debts whittled down, and feeding two almost-teen stepkiddos is no laughing matter. After Chuck lost his job seven months ago, had to start a home-based business, and the economy went "splat!" things got really difficult, and with fewer classes available, summer pay didn't go very far.
This week I've been presented with some unexpected good news that helps me see a light at the end of this very bleak tunnel. One of the colleges that's only employed me for about four months has now offered me a full-time teaching position. 24 hours in the classroom every week (6 courses), with an additional chunk of office hours/tutoring and committee work that equal forty hours a week. There are benefits--health insurance for the first time since 2007. There's a 401K, paid time off, and a set work space that's only mine. For the first time in years, I finally have a "real" job again with some stability, more money than I've ever made (woo!), and some peace of mind.
I just can't tell you what a blessing this is and how relieved I feel that after October 13th I won't have to run from one school to another anymore. I won't have to be away from my family at such wonky hours, and I actually get to slow down and de-stress a bit. Hell, I might even have time to read more!
Now, being the anal retentive worrier that I am, I expect I'll still hold onto some extra online teaching opportunities. I love teaching online, I love the people I work with, I love the students, and it's manageable. And if something happens--anything--it's extra income.
I just want to share this great moment and thank all you bloggers who have encouraged me through these rocky years. You all have always sent your words of caring, kindness, and wisdom, and you couldn't possibly know how comforting they've been. I've occasionally blogged about the precariousness of my situation when I was truly worried, and it feels great to know that I won't have to be so worried anymore. I'm sure it'll take some time to decompress and settle into this far more stress-free existence, but I'm looking forward to the process.
Thanks again!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Two Great Essays

Last week I held a discussion in my Literature-Based Research class over William Faulkner's classic (creepy) short story, "A Rose for Emily." Part of that discussion was about power and influence, and it caused one of my students to reflect on a past writing course he took. He recalled an essay he wanted me to read, and he brought his old anthology, 75 Readings, the next class day. With the Essay Reading Challenge in mind, I read the essay he recommended titled, "If Hitler Asked You to Electrocute Somebody, Would You? Probably." by Philip Meyer. 75 Readings is a fantastic anthology full of gems by David Sedaris, Plato, Joan Didion, George Orwell, and some less famous names. Nonetheless, while I told him I'd return it this week, I asked for an extension so I can explore more great essays! Here are the two I've enjoyed most so far:'

"If Hitler Asked You to Electrocute Somebody, Would You? Probably." by Philip Meyer. A social psychologist, Stanley Milgram, concluded in the 1960s that Germans might have been a more obedient culture than most, and that could help explain why Hitler was able to exert such control and cause such havoc through the Holocaust. He sets up an experiment wherein a test subect is set up as the "teacher" and a team of his colleagues play the roles of the others in the experiment: the "learner" and helpers, etc. The "teacher" test subject is asked to administer an electric shock from 15 volts on up to 450 on command to the "learner." Obviously, there's not really any shock, but Milgram wanted to see how far most people would take the experiment before they bailed out and refused to shock the "learner" anymore. Basically, this would demonstrate how obedient the "teacher" was and whether positive reinforcement is stronger than negative. Milgram had plans to take this experiment from its origins in the U.S. to Germany to compare the results, but he was so shaken by the results in the U.S. that he never even started the German portion.

What Milgram found was that Americans were very obedient. Even when the shocks were labeled "dangerous" or "painful" and when the "learner" stopped making any noise (assumed to have passed out), the "teacher" test subject would usually do as the instructor said and administer the shock anyway. The teachers might protest or seem queasy about it, but they did it anyway!

My student was surprised by this essay, and I have to say that I am too. I would like to think I'm one of those people who would protest and refuse to carry on with the experiment, but who's to say for sure unless put in that situation? It was definitely a thought-provoking essay on ethics and control.

This morning while I was waiting to take Rocketgirl to school, I happened to open the book to Malcolm X's, "Coming to an Awareness of Language." In this essay, Malcolm X describes how he began to acquire some "homemade education" while he was in prison. He was disturbed by the fact that he could not capture his thoughts on paper due to his inability to read and write effectively. He began to copy pages from the dictionary and read them over and over. What he soon found was that the dictionary functioned like a baby encyclopedia and fueled his interest in reading. Eventually he copied the entire dictionary and began his love affair with books.

No matter how controversial his teachings and his politics, this story was nothing short of inspirational for a book lover and educator. I can only imagine being in that situation and laboriously copying hour after hour.

I highly recommend both of these essays, so take a few minutes to click the links and enjoy them if you can!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Blog Horn Blowin' for BBAW!

To kick off Book Blogger Appreciation Week we've been asked to make a list of some of our favorites. This is a most daunting task for me because my Google Reader is STUFFED FULL to overflowing. My blogroll hasn't been updated in ages, so don't think that if you aren't listed I don't follow you. I probably do in Google.
It's always hard to pick favorites, so just know that if you don't appear, it's not that I don't love ya. I'll probably blow the blog horn on your site later!
Heather F. from A High and Hidden Place: Tales of a Capricious Reader - I've known her forever. I started chatting about books online in 2001 over at Yahoo! Groups, and I knew Heatheroo was my reading soulmate even then. She's become a best friend through the years, and I'm damn tempted to fly her in for my baby shower just so we can chat, eat good food, and talk about books. Maybe fit in a little shopping. I love her like a sister in addition to adoring her blog. If you haven't read her, you are seriously missing out on wonderful reviews, beautiful photography, and great stories.
Kim L. from Bold.Blue.Adventure - I love the variety of books Kim reads, and in addition to her awesome, chatty book blogging, I love hearing about her life, too!
Tara from Books and Cooks - In addition to Tara's awesome farmers market photos, I adore her book choices. From the organic to the green and everything else, I can always find a great recommendation at her site.
Lezlie from Books 'N Border Collies - Lezlie is a must-read/daily/awesome treat! Her book reviews are wickedly concise, but she always manages to leave me feeling like I have a really well-rounded view of whatever book she's reviewing. And she reads a TON. And really substantial stuff, too. I'm totally jealous. And I *heart* her dogs, too!
Amanda from The Blog Jar - Amanda is not only a well-read, cultured reader type, she also loves zombies, and coffee, and baking, and she has awesome tattoos and hilarious stories, and I just can't get enough of her! She's been my reading/book group buddy for years as well, and I just don't know what I'd do without her blog to tickle and thrill me.
Join in on the fun and blow the blog horn on some of your favorite sites.

More Library Loot! - Non-Fiction Rocks

If there are two things that DEFINITELY don't go together, it's Texas and rain. Don't get me wrong, I adore rain. Rainy, overcast, dreary, cloudy days are my favorites to read. Alas, the only problem is that Texas electric lines obviously don't hold up well to the elements because our electricity has been out FOUR TIMES in the last week or so. Boooo! that part makes reading much more difficult.

As such, I am taking refuge at the library as we speak. 10 miles of books and LIGHT to read by. Oh my!

While I'm here, I inevitably found the urge to browse, and I have some new library non-fiction to show for it.

It Sucked and Then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown, and a Much Needed Margarita, by Heather B. Armstrong (aka, Dooce). I am in total girl-crush love with Heather Armstrong and reading, so it's only natural I should want to pick this one up. I've been reading her blog for ages--laughing all the way--and I can't wait to dive into this memoir. Given, the post-partum depression part runs the risk of scaring the hell out of me, but I don't care. I'll do it for Dooce!

A Universal History of the Destruction of Books: From Ancient Sumer to Modern Iraq, by Fernando Baez (translated by Alfred McAdam). From the inside flap (because it says it much better than I could...): "The saga of the destruction of books reveals a truth known by conquerors and conquered alike: without books, there is no memory, and without memory, a culture cannot exist." Right on!

Finally, I picked up the most oddball of my books: The Mystery of 2012: Predictions, Prophecies, and Possibilities, by a whole slew of PhD's I won't name here. This title refers to the ancient Mayan prophecy that the world "will end" or somehow change in 2012. All the disaster flicks are coming about this one. Basically this book is a collection of essays on the "2012 question" and chronicles social, ecological, and spiritual changes in the world that have led us to this point and will lead us into the future. It's tempting to think that this might be full of crackpots, but we'll see. I expect I'll dip in and out of it for the Essay Reading Challenge.

Are you reading any awesome non-fiction lately? Have anything new to recommend?

In the meantime, I'm headed back to my house and hoping for electricity. Wish me luck! Book Blogger Appreciation Week content coming soon (whenever the lights come back).

Sunday, September 13, 2009

RIP IV: Short Story Sunday (Installment 1)

Admittedly, I'm a couple weeks behind the game on this one, but it's never too late to jump in on Short Story Sunday!

The beginning of fall is my absolute favorite time of year to read. Even though my teaching is going strong and we're busy running here and there to school functions for the Rockets, it's not hard to convince me to settle in for some morning, noon, or nighttime reading. The last few days have been rainy and dreary here in Texas--and quite a bit cooler than our typical 90-105 we've had for the duration of the summer. While it might seem oddball, these overcast, damp days are my favorites, especially when it comes to curling up with a book and a mug of something warm and tasty. Hot chocolate, anyone?

I started ravaging my shelves for short story reading last week, and I began with the most-likely-to-be-creepy in a normal collection, my beloved Joyce Carol Oates. I've had her book, I Am No One You Know, on my shelves for ages. It's kind of scandalous that I love her so much and this book has gone unread for this long. As I was perusing the Table of Contents, one story jumped out at me above the others. The title: "The Skull: A Love Story." Jackpot!

"The Skull" is about Kyle Cassity, a brilliant man with advanced degrees in anthropology, sociology, and forensic science. He's a professor, a forensic expert in bones and reconstruction, and something of a celebrity. He's also been married for 40 years, remained a womanizer and philanderer for most of that time, and he's the father of three aloof children. His life changes when a particular skull comes into his laboratory--so beaten and broken that it takes him much longer than his normal turnaround to reconstruct it. He spends long hours in his lab away from his concerned wife, and one night as he's nearing completion of the project he has something of a dreamy vision of the woman he's reconstructing. She's beautiful, innocent, sweet, and kind. The kind of woman it would be a real tragedy to destroy. It takes only a month or so for her reconstructed portrait to be identified by her parents, and the reality of who she was does not match Kyle's vision in the slightest. He finds himself heartbroken, confused, and angered by the shady reality after coming to love his own vision of the woman.

While the story was far less overtly creepy than I might've expected when I started reading, Oates is still the master. She manages to create something of a sympathetic character in Kyle Cassity despite his unsympathetic actions and choices throughout the story. He reminded me a great deal of a character that Phillip Roth might create, but only Oates could've made me care about him and be interested in him the way she managed to. I'm also completely intrigued by anything to do with forensics, so this story appealed on a number of levels. As signature Oates goes, it was dark, atmospheric, and interesting. Best of all, it stuck with me and remained vivid after the initial reading.

The second story I tackled was from one of Oates's overtly creepy collections that I mentioned in a previous post: The Collector of Hearts: New Tales of the Grotesque. I haven't had much of a chance to read this one since I've been more or less occupied since I picked it up from the library, but I did manage to rush through one story in the car on the way to or from and errand one day. Don't worry, Chuck was driving!

"The Sky Blue Ball" is short, weighing in at only four and a half pages. It reminds me of very classically creepy stories I've read in the past. It's not scary at all, but just enough to make you go, "Wooo wooo wooooooo." <--That's my ghostly, creepy voice. And it gave me a bit of a chill.

It's about a lonely, nameless, girl who is bussed to a new school for 9th grade. She lives on a farm in the country, but the school busses nine "country children" into the town of Strykersville, New York. As she's walking down the street one day, she passes a walled courtyard of sorts marked "EMPIRE MACHINE PARTS" and "PRIVATE PROPERTY NO TRESPASSING." Suddenly a beautiful, pristine, sky blue rubber ball sails over the wall right in front of her. Not thinking about the signs, she assumes it's a young girl--picturing a younger version of herself--that wants to play. She sends the ball back over the wall and the game continues. She becomes so obsessed with the game of catch with the unseen child that she actually dashes into the road into the path of an oncoming dump truck at one point. She's fine, but comes away with some seriously scraped knees and a bruised ego. Finally, she sends the ball over the wall one last time, and it doesn't come back. She's so intensely involved at this point that she is compelled to find a way into the courtyard only to make a startling discovery.

Of course I'm not going to TELL YOU what it is! Go to the library for heaven's sake, and get this book! I'll be reviewing a great deal more from Oates's collection, so I'll try to convince you as long as I'm convinced that it's worth reading myself. The next story looks REALLY creepy. It's called "Death Mother" and is described on the jacket flap this way: "A deep familial bond is given a fatal twist as a mother beckons her daughter into a dark and icy realm where they can never be parted." Woohoo! Bring on the creepy!

If you're interested in reading other Short Story Sunday posts, head off to the RIP IV Review Site and check 'em out! Otherwise I'll see you back here next Sunday for more creeptaculous short reading!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Girlfriends' Guide to Pregnancy

The subtitle of The Girlfriends' Guide to Pregnancy, by Vicki Iovine is "Or Everything Your Doctor Won't Tell You." That's exactly why I liked it so much!

When I put out the call for pregnancy book recommendations, you ladies came through in a BIG WAY with this book. Just as the title promises, the book is full of straight talk and advice on every aspect of this pregnancy thing. Iovine rarely sugar coats, though she is very much like a supportive and encouraging friend. She's also not going to blow sunshine up anyone's ass. Does labor hurt? HELL YES! Is it hard to take off the weight? Sorta, but it does come off! Is your male other half freaked out? Yep, probably.

Iovine herself has four children (mostly grown now), and shies away from nothing in this book. Not only is it honest, it's hilarious. One section titled "Multiple Personality Disorder" which relates to pregnancy and sex really appealed to me, and I insisted on reading it aloud to Chuck through my giggles:

The thing that amazed my Girlfriends and me about the emotional life of pregnant women, particularly where sex was concerned, was the intensity of all the emotions you feel and the rapidity with which they change. You may spend the entire day fantasizing about wild animal sex with your partner, to the point where you chew off all your fingernails waiting for him to meet you at home. Then, when he finally arrives and starts going through the mail instead of studying the ultrasound photos that you just got, without him, at your morning appointment and have loving placed on the front door, you start screaming that this is one more undeniable sign that he is indifferent to you and the baby. By the time he has calmed you down and you go whimpering into the bathroom to refresh yourself and consider whether you're still horny, you've fallen asleep in the tub and he's pulling you out before you drown.

Hilarious, not just in regards to sex, but the emotional roller coaster in general. Chuck and I woke up earlyish for a Saturday in order to go look at a potential rental property with more bedrooms than we have now. I was smiley and nice to him this morning, and I assured him that I really was in a good mood. "For how long?" he laughed. "At least 20 minutes," I replied.

That pretty much says it!

While the more medical of the pregnancy books are great--especially those like The Joy of Pregnancy that have a good deal of technical info and are broken down into the baby's developmental stages--it's necessary to have a good mix of soothing and straightforward. This book reminded me a great deal of talking to my mom (complete with her smartass sense of humor) about pregnancy if my mom could remember any of it. Apparently she was never morning sick, never overly tired, and got to skip out on some of the other unpleasantries of pregnancy. Or she's lying. Or she's blocked it all out in the last 28 (almost 29!) years.

Iovine's life is a little unrealistic to most of us. She lives in California, has a good many model and actress friends, and a maid, but on the whole I didn't find her too pretentious. She keeps the richer-than-thou talk to a minimum, but I do wish I had that cleaning lady and no need to work sometimes. Dream a little dream! *plays the world's tiniest violin*

If you're expecting or expect you might be expecting soon, read it! If you just want to giggle with the rest of us, read it for that, too.

Pregnancy Update:
  • Still nauseous (all the time).
  • Still sleepy (all the time).
  • Still cranky, I mean happy, I mean cranky, I mean tearful. You get the picture.
  • Still REALLY excited!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Library Loot: The Horror Edition

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva and Marg that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.

I haven't participated in Library Loot for some time now, but I went to the 'brary this very afternoon, and it was quite an extravaganza of great books. It all started with a call earlier in the week that my copy of CATCHING FIRE arrived! I put myself on hold early, so I haven't had to wait a terribly long time. I've only just started reading, but I can't wait to settle into my bed tonight and no doubt knock off a big chunk right away.

While I was at the library, I figured I might as well quench my thirst for RIP IV short stories! Work has been kinda crazy, and with the pregnancy fatigue going strong, I haven't had the umppphhfff for long stretches of reading. Essays and short stories have really been hitting the spot, though. I happened to pick up Joyce Carol Oates' collection, I Am No One You Know, from my own stacks a couple of nights ago. And Chuck had a copy of The Arbor House Treasury of Horror and the Supernatural that look delicious. I read a bit from both, but book glutton that I am...that just wasn't enough. I found these beauties at the library today:

The Collector of Hearts: New Tales of the Grotesque, by Joyce Carol Oates. Oh, Joyce! I just love her. What I admire most about Oates is her ability to make me really uncomfortable. Even when I'm not reading her horror, she tends to give me chills, so I can only imagine what effect these shorts stories will have on me. I've already read one, "The Sky Blue Ball," which was deliciously creepy in an old-school ghost story fashion without being terribly shocking or gross at all. That was just a tease, though. You'll have to wait until Short Story Sunday to read my review of the story(ies) I've blown through by then.

I hate to admit it, but I've NEVER read anything by Daphne Du Maurier. I think I'm the last soul on earth that can say that, save some teenagers that haven't a clue. With this horrible admission in mind, I picked up Echoes from the Macabre, a collection of Du Maurier's short fiction. The macabre kind, obviously. I have yet to open it, but I absolutely cannot wait to see what all the fuss is about. I also have Rebecca packed up around here somewhere, so maybe I'll finally be motivated to pick it up.

Have you read anything short and sweet-tastic lately? If so, pass the word along. And I hope you'll participate in Library Loot, too!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

A Bookish Motherload!

This morning I stepped outside to take Daisy for her morning romp, and I almost tripped over a huge package of books! Now that's how I like to wake up in the morning!

A while back, I entered Lisa--The Online Publicist's--BIG Giveaway. With all the pregnancy stuff I didn't make it back in a timely manner to follow the drawing, but apparently the first winner never contacted her, so as runner up, I was named the winner. I almost feel like Miss America!

You should've seen me salivate as I opened the winnings this morning:

The Sword of Medina, by Sherry Jones - Blurb: Before dying, Muhammad left his jeweled sword, al-Ma'thur, to A'isha, telling her to use it in the jihad to come. But what if the jihad is against her own people? After 20 years of distrust and anger, can A'isha and Ali come together to preserve the future of their people and their faith--or will their hatred of each other destroy everything Muhammad worked to build? This climactic sequel to the controversial "The Jewel of Medina" returns to 7th century Arabia to discover whether, after fighting a civil war, a people can ever truly heal.

I'd never heard of this particular title, but the first book sounds like something I'd be interested in reading, too. Now I just have to hope my library has a copy!

The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte, by Syrie James - Blurb: I have written about the joys of love. I have, in my secret heart, long dreamt of an intimate connection with a man; every Jane, I believe, deserves her Rochester. -- Though poor, plain, and unconnected, Charlotte Bronte possesses a deeply passionate side which she reveals only in her writings--creating Jane Eyre and other novels that stand among literature's most beloved works. Living a secluded life in the wilds of Yorkshire with her sisters Emily and Anne, their drug-addicted brother, and an eccentric father who is going blind, Charlotte Bronte dreams of a real love story as fiery as the ones she creates. -- From Syrie James, the acclaimed, bestselling author of The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, comes a powerfully compelling, intensely researched literary feat that blends historical fact and fiction to explore the passionate heart and unquiet soul of Charlotte Bronte. It is Charlotte's story, just as she might have written it herself.

I always like a good fictionalized journal thingy, so this sounds right up my alley, too. The book is beautiful, which is nice. It's more likely to compel me to pluck it off my shelves if it can wave a pretty tail feather here and there.

Gone to Green, by Judy Christie - Blurb: Lois Barker, a successful big-city journalist, never imagined ending up in the tiny town of Green, La. She never guessed that within months she would unexpectedly inherit a smalltown newspaper. She never believed she would leave her rising-star career impulsively after a quiet, inner prompting urged, 'Go... I'll help you.' Yet that improbable route to upheaval is precisely where Christie (Goodbye, Murphy's Law) engagingly guides both readers and the charming yet flummoxed Barker. As the editor and owner of the Green News-Item, the ever uncertain Barker transforms from an overwhelmed and overly self-reliant Jane Doe into a considerable power for reform and revitalization in her depressed Louisiana borough. Refreshingly realistic religious fiction, this novel is unafraid to address the injustices of sexism, racism and corruption as well as the spiritual devastation that often accompanies the loss of loved ones. Yet these darker narrative tones beautifully highlight the novel's message of friendship, community and God's reassuring and transformative love.

Admittedly, religious fiction is not usually my bag, but this book sounds like it blends some interesting elements that I'm interested in across the board. I'll definitely give it a go.

Food, Inc., edited by Karl Weber - Blurb: Food, Inc. is guaranteed to shake up our perceptions of what we eat. This powerful documentary deconstructing the corporate food industry in America was hailed by Entertainment Weekly as “more than a terrific movieits an important movie.” Aided by expert commentators such as Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser, the film poses questions such as: Where has my food come from, and who has processed it? What are the giant agribusinesses and what stake do they have in maintaining the status quo of food production and consumption? How can I feed my family healthy foods affordably? Expanding on the film's themes, the book Food, Inc. will answer those questions through a series of challenging essays by leading experts and thinkers. This book will encourage those inspired by the film to learn more about the issues, and act to change the world.

I haven't seen the film, though I'm not sure how I missed it. I've read a lot in this area on factory farming and industrialized food, but I'm VERY much looking forward to the essays in this collection. It's nice to have more than one voice chiming in on an issue all between the same covers. Plus, it'll help me whittle away at the Essay Reading Challenge!

Crush, by Alan Jacobson - Blurb: Fresh off the most challenging case of her career, The 7th Victim heroine and renowned FBI profiler Karen Vail returns in an explosive thriller set against the backdrop of California's wine country. Hoping to find solace from the demons that haunt her, Vail makes her first trip to the Napa Valley. But shortly after arriving, a victim is found in the deepest reaches of an exclusive wine cave, the work of an extraordinarily unpredictable serial killer. From the outset, Vail is frustrated by her inability to profile the offender--until she realizes why: the Behavioral Analysis Unit has not previously encountered a killer like him.

This is another book that doesn't really fit into my usual reading, but I have to sounds pretty darn good! I might give it a go. It sounds like a potentially effective slump buster.

Thanks again to Lisa! Now I'm off to rearrange my shelves enough to fit these babies into the mix!

Monday, September 07, 2009


It's time, it's time! Book Blogger Appreciation Week voting has begun, so go choose your favorites.
I didn't make the shortlist for Best Blog Name or Best General Review Blog, but thank you SOOOO MUCH to whomever took the time to nominate me. I appreciate it endlessly.
Don't forget to check out all the other cool BBAW goodies on the site.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Visions of America: Photographing Democracy

Having recently taken a digital photography class, I was very excited to get my hands on a photography book to end all photography books:
Visions of America: Photographing Democracy, by Joseph Sohm. Since I took the class, I find that I have a much greater respect for photographers and their craft. Great photographs are not always happy accidents as I've always assumed--or even a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Great photographs take knowledge, practice, a great understanding of the art of photography, and learning to use a digital SLR camera well is no simple task.

Joseph Sohm definitely knows how to wield a camera. In fact, don't just read this review, but take the time to click on the pictures I've provided to see bigger versions and the great detail in each one.

But back to the book...

Aside from the draw of beautiful photography, I was also intrigued by Sohm's idea to photograph democracy. Any attempt to make tangible a concept so truly abstract is a cool undertaking. The result is a multifaceted collection of images from all across America. Farms, cities, Native Americans, African Americans, European Americans, parades, football games, baseball, flags, license plates, restaurants, artwork, historical sites, presidents, trees, deserts, hills, valleys, skylines, animals, and any other aspect of America you can think of.

The images are lumped into chapters, a few of which are titled: "Ameri-Icons," "Red White BLACK - From Africa to America," "Town and Country - Roots of Democracy," and "Vox Populi - Presidents 'R' Us." Each chapter is accompanied by one of Sohm's essays on his years-long journey creating the book. He set out to photograph Americans united and divided, at work and play, and in settings all around this country. For ultimately democracy is not one thing, but many things.

While no one may ever be able to exactly pin democracy down, Sohm has taken a great shot at it, and the result is a beautiful chronicle of America in pictures that I'll keep on my shelves for years to come.

Vist the website:

Friday, September 04, 2009

RIP Season!

It's here again! RIP season!!! As usual, I will be participating in Carl's R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril Challenge. Oddly enough, I have very few scary/Halloweeny books at the condo since I moved in with Chuck. I think when I packed, somehow those got left behind in boxes of books that will come live with us when we have room for them. However, after much ruffling through stacks, I've found a few teen/adolescent scary reads and a few more adult choices.

I intend to read four books from the following genres:

  • Mystery.
  • Suspense.
  • Thriller.
  • Dark Fantasy.
  • Gothic.Horror.
  • Supernatural.

So far my peril pool is shaping up this way:

Little Black Book of Short Stories, by A.S. Byatt - Blurb: From secret agonies to improper desires and the unthinkable, this slyly titled collection touches on more than a little bit of darkness. Booker Prize–winning author Byatt (Possession) masterfully fuses fantasy with realism in several of these stories, packing a punch with her sometimes witty, sometimes horrifying examinations of faith, art and memory.

Andi says: This one has been on my shelves forever. This blurb sounds rather bland, but as I understand it there are instances of ghosties and rank vegetation monsters in the book. Right up my alley!

Moonlight, by Rachel Hawthorne - Blurb: Kayla is the nature lover, the all-American beauty who can't understand why she's so drawn to distant, brooding Lucas. Adopted as a young child, she has no way of knowing that she's inherited a terrifying—and thrilling—gene that will change her life forever.

Andi says: Rocketgirl just finished reading this book and plunked the book onto my stack and pleaded for me to read it as soon as humanly possible. Obviously she liked it. I hope I do, too!

The Hunt for the Seventh, by Christine Morton-Shaw - Blurb: A haunted mansion. Six dead children. A garden of statues. With every step he takes around the carefully manicured grounds of Minerva Hall, Jim is haunted by the ghosts of children, long dead, whom no one else can see. Urging him to find the Seventh, the children leave him cryptic clues pointing to a devastating ancient prophecy that only he can stop from being fulfilled.

Andi says: This one came in as a review book and it's been languishing and waiting for me. It looks delicious!

Shimmer, by Dallas Reed - Blurb: When the box is opened, everything starts to change. On a freezing night in Winter, Colorado, there's a party going on—and it will change the town forever. Justin, the party's host, doesn't know that the box in his dad's study contains a shimmering dust that has the power to transform all it touches. Emma, the cute new girl, doesn't know she will spend the next twenty-four hours running for her life through a freezing blizzard. Russ, a local snowboarder, doesn't know that the person he loves most is about to betray him. And Tess, the queen of the school, only knows she wants to see what's in that box.

Andi says: Another review book that's been neglected. The cover on this one is nice, and the story sounds pretty unique in comparison to much of the other young adult fiction coming out these days (no vampires).

The Summoning, by Kelley Armstrong - Blurb: My name is Chloe Saunders and my life will never be the same again. All I wanted was to make friends, meet boys, and keep on being ordinary. I don't even know what that means anymore. It all started on the day that I saw my first ghost—and the ghost saw me. Now there are ghosts everywhere and they won't leave me alone. To top it all off, I somehow got myself locked up in Lyle House, a "special home" for troubled teens. Yet the home isn't what it seems. Don't tell anyone, but I think there might be more to my housemates than meets the eye. The question is, whose side are they on? It's up to me to figure out the dangerous secrets behind Lyle House . . . before its skeletons come back to haunt me.

Andi says: This one has also been neglected, but it looks delicious. Nothing like a ghost-seeing, possibly-crazy teenager. I'll keep y'all posted!

That concludes today's Peril Pool! I'm always ridiculously excited about the RIP Challenge, and this year is no exception. Looking forward to seeing/reading what the rest of you undertake!

Images by Freepik