Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Disappointing Sedaris? YES!


I LOVE David Sedaris, but alas, this post is not lovely. When we were shopping for the kids' Christmas presents recently, I happened upon a copy of Holidays on Ice on a buy one, get one free table and decided I would splurge. I've been on a pretty strict no-book-buying jag this year, and I've done very well. What better excuse to buy a book, right?
When I got this little puppy home, I started reading "SantaLand Diaries" and I was in love with it. Pure, aching, laugh til I want to puke, David Sedaris love. I loaned it to a student for a couple of weeks because she was doing a research paper on Sedaris, and when I got it back I finished the still-wonderful "SantaLand Diaries," and then I read....the rest.
Well, some of the rest.
This is not all Sedaris's funny haha essays we're all used to; there's also fiction intermingled with the essays. I just have to say, not such a fan of the fiction. It's funny, but it's not the essence o'Sedaris that I adore so much. In short, I skimmed the majority of the book and tossed it lackadaisically when I was done. Tossed, I say. Lackadaisically.
So it seems a lackluster book will finish off my reading for the year. I doubt I'll stuff another book under my ever-growing belt before the first day of 2010, and I can't say I'm terribly hurt to wave g'bye and farewell to 2009's reading.

The 2010 Challenge Post

I should preface this post by saying that it's more for personal convenience than anything. I've posted about most of these challenges already, but this is the longer-than-I-expected list of challenges I plan to undertake in the new year. Instead of keeping track of them in detail on my sidebar (a mess!), I'm going to link this post on my sidebar and update my stats here. Muuuuch easier!

Feel free to gawk, comment, or harangue!



Level of Participation: 20 Essays

1. "The Knife," by Richard Selzer
2. "The Giant Water Bug," by Annie Dillard
3. "A Note About Allen Tate," by Kelly Cherry

Totally Failed!



Level of Participation: Expert = 10+

1. French Milk, by Lucy Knisley
2. Bram Stoker's Dracula, adapted by Michael Mucci
3. The Good Neighbors #1: Kin, by Holly Black
4. The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery and Joann Sfar
5. The Good Neighbors #2: Kith, by Holly Black

Only got halfway there!



Level 1: 4 books, at least 2 written during 1837 - 1901. The other books may be Neo-Victorian or non-fiction.

1.
2.
3.
4

Tooootally failed!



1. Young Adult: The Forest of Hands and Teeth, by Carrie Ryan
2. T.B.R.:
3. Shiny and New
4. Bad Bloggers: French Milk, by Lucy Knisley
5. Charity
6. New in 2010: Keeping the Feast, by Paula Butturini; The Girl Who Chased the Moon, by Sarah Addison Allen
7. Older Than You: Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf; Emma, by Jane Austen
8. Win! Win!
9. Who Are You Again? The Season of Second Chances, by Diane Meier; This Book is Overdue! by Marilyn Johson
10. Up to You!




1. A book with a food in the title: French Milk, by Lucy Knisley
2. A book with a body of water in the title:
3. A book with a title (queen, president) in the title: Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf
4. A book with a plant in the title:
5. A book with a place name (city, country) in the title: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
6. A book with a music term in the title:

Failed!



**I'm shooting for one (Mrs. Dalloway), but I may attempt two.

Jan. 15th: Mrs. Dalloway - Check! My post was on January 22nd.
Jan. 29th: To the Lighthouse
Feb. 12th: Orlando
Feb. 26th: The Waves

Reached my goal of 1/4!


http://alainereading.blogspot.com/2009/12/e-book-reading-challenge.html

"Addicted" Level: 12 e-books

So far in 2010:

1. Emma, by Jane Austen
2. Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf
3. The Girl Who Chased the Moon, by Sarah Addison Allen
4. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows
5. The Passage, by Justin Cronin
6. The Birth of Love by Joanna Kavenna

Only got halfway there! Reading slowed down significantly after The Passage.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Best Books Read in 2009



In the past I've always done a Top 10 list for my end-of-year recap. I've written several times this year how things have seemed lackluster or my reading hasn't been as impressive as previous years, so I decided to break my favorites down into categories as opposed to a grand Top 10 list. What I found is that my reading was very, very different this year than in years past. Perhaps that's why I feel dissatisfied. I'm experiencing a shift in tastes! While I've always posted a list populated by novels in past years, this year the favorites weigh heavily on the side of non-fiction, graphic/illustrated books, and adolescent fiction. There is only one literary fiction novel in the bunch. Holy crapoli! Without further ado:



Best Children's/Adolescent/Teen Fiction Read in 2009:


  • Lyddie, by Katherine Paterson
  • The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
  • The Hunt for the Seventh, by Christine Morton-Shaw
  • Pretty Dead, by Francesca Lia Block
  • Elsewhere, by Gabrielle Zevin

Best Graphic Novels/Illustrated Books Read in 2009

  • The Arrival, by Shaun Tan
  • Tales from Outer Suburbia, by Shaun Tan
  • Embroideries, by Marjane Satrapi
  • Life Sucks, by Jessica Abel

Best Non-Fiction Read in 2009:

  • The Joy of Pregnancy, by Tori Kropp
  • The Girlfriends Guide to Pregnancy, by Vicki Iovine
  • It Sucked and Then I Cried, by Heather B. Armstrong
  • Julie and Julia, by Julie Powell
  • Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, by Anne Fadiman

Best (and One of Only Two) Contemporary Fiction Novel Read in 2009:

  • The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield
Only one NOVEL! I only really read TWO the whole year! No wonder I felt so out of place. I don't know if this indicates a shift in my tastes, a complete lack of patience or what, but it's really weird. However, I can't complain too darn much since I had so many winners in other areas. As you can see, I had a great year in teen/adolescent reading. My love for Gabrielle Zevin continues to grow, and I'm bound and determined to get back around to Suzanne Collins sooner than later.

On the graphic novel/illustrated book front, Shaun Tan is a clear winner. I totally love his style and quirkiness, and I can't wait to get more of his work in my hands.

Finally, pregnancy books are in the lead in non-fiction, and that's not surprising at all. Foodie books continue to be a growing favorite, and I have many more cool offerings on my shelves for 2010.

So there it is! My 2009 reading in a nutshell. I've reviewed almost all of these books and linked them in my sidebar, so please check 'em out if you're so inclined. Here's wishing all of you a great reading year in 2010, and I'm going to make a concerted effort to dive back into novels at some point. I miss 'em!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!!!


A very merry Christmas to all of my bloggy peeps out there! We've had a busy week at the Chuck-n-Andi household. Early in the week we spent time making goodies for the holidays, packing up gift bags for friends, and last night we hosted a Christmas Eve meal at our house. We had pulled Cuban pork, mashed potatoes, glazed carrots, rolls, salad, and a huuuuge Italian creme cake (not to mention all the chocolate we made). We had a chance to reconnect with some dear friends we haven't seen in a while, and everyone had a great time.

We stayed up until almost 4am getting everything situated for the kids' Christmas morning extravaganza. We wrapped, we tied, we tagged. Everyone had a wonderful time opening gifts, and my mom came out this afternoon for more gift giving. She's hosting a late-afternoon snack/dinner tomorrow for my side of the family that includes lots of munchies, appetizers, finger foods, and other yummies. I'm always excited about that.

The kids had a great time hanging out with us and my mom, and they adored their gifts. The stars of Rocketgirl's Christmas are a new digital camera and a BOAT LOAD of scrapbooking stuff to get her started, a sterling silver James Avery necklace, and a boom box to play her iPod through. Rocketboy is enjoying a new skateboard, a cool remote-control race car, and his first iPod. They had lots of other cool gifts: books, bookmarks, art supplies, and some gift cards thrown into the mix. Chuck is also anticipating some gift card shopping, playing with his new olive oil sprayer, and he has some new clothes to wear. He and I will be exchanging most of our gifts for New Years since we blew most of our respective wad on the kiddos for Christmas.

In a suprising turn of events, I somehow ended up with a beautiful (bountiful) pile of gifts: two gorgeous sweaters, some silk jammies, some body moisturizing products to curb the pregnancy itches, and the most surprising of surprises:


A Barnes & Noble Nook eReader!!! I've been lusting after the Kindle for years, and when I got wind of the Nook I started investigating. It seems like a really cool product, measures up to the Kindle nicely (better in some areas), and when I laid my paws on it at my local B&N I really decided I liked it. It's backordered, so mine won't be shipped until January 4th, but I cannot WAIT to start my Nook reading. I suspect the first book I'll download (the first one on my wishlist) is The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. I've heard nothing but good things about it, but the library is all backed up and it's affordable in e-book format, so what better way to go right??

I'm so excited I can hardly wait. I screeched when I read the card where Chuck broke the news of my gift. He, my mom, and his mom all chipped in to buy it for me.

Perhaps the best Christmas blessing of them all is the one we received earlier in the week, and it's nothing I can lay my hands on. Chuck has been out of work for almost a year (10 months) after being laid off in February. The market for graphic designers has been horrible in our area thanks to the lagging economy, so we've been getting by on my salary and the work he can bring in through our home-based printing business. Luckily, he interviewed for a job recently and we found out Wednesday that he's hired!!!! He'll be doing production design which may be a little boring for him right now, but the pay is good, he'll have full benefits, he'll work 2 blocks from our house, and the atmosphere is relaxed and welcoming. Even better, it's a great job for him while he's working through his Bachelor's in graphic design, which should open more challenging and exciting doors for him down the road. He starts January 18th, so he's got some time to enjoy his freedom a bit longer.

We could not be happier. It's been a WONDERFUL first Christmas together for our growing family, and I hope you all have had as delightful a week, and a holiday, as we have.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Blog Tour: Does This Pregnancy Make Me Look Fat?


In the beginning it was hard for me to imagine how I would review Does This Pregnancy Make Me Look Fat? The Essential Guide to Loving Your Body Before and After Baby. I'm not usually much of a self-help kind of reader, and that's probably the category this book would fall into--along with non-fiction books on health issues.
When I first started reading the book, I had a realization. A positive one, in fact: I'm not really that worried about how my body will change after pregnancy. I've always been chunky, and while I'm healthy, I also don't put much stock in whether I look like the American ideal of beauty. Kissing my "old figure" goodbye is not really a concern since I've never had a particularly media-ideal figure to begin with. I don't want to give the idea that I'm immune to insecurity; that's certainly not the case. I think the authors did make me realize that maybe at my current age and maturity level, I'm worried about issues I consider more important than my weight and shape. That feels like a healthy realization especially since I was monstrously insecure as a younger woman.
As I got further into this book, I realized that there's plenty here for me in my current situation and mindset. Writers Claire Mysko and Magali Amadei approach not only insecurity, but common physical concerns that run through pregnant women everywhere: how will sex change? how will we bounce back after delivery? what are the physical pros and cons of breastfeeding?
There are also a lot of really fun topics covered in this book...advice about how to shop for pregnancy and maintain a personal sense of self and style. There are also darker, but very informative and necessary, chapters on eating disorders, celebrity mothers, and the role of the media in making women feel insecure about their bodies in everyday life, not to mention after giving birth. Most of us just can't afford those darn trainers to get us back in shape in six weeks, and we don't have the luxury of an airbrusher to rid us of our imperfections.
While I was initially a little bit doubtful of what this book had to offer me personally, I found it a very informative, fun read. It's also an important book since women do so often feel horribly insecure about their bodies. Needlessly horrible! Mysko and Amadei write a lot about honoring what your body has done. We carry babies, for heaven's sake! We make life! We should give ourselves a break when it comes to dieting, working out after the birth of a child, and putting too much pressure on ourselves to be physically perfect.
Mysko and Amadei are doing good work here, and it's my pleasure to be the first stop on their blog tour. Thanks to TLC for approaching me about this book and to the publisher for providing a review copy.

Monday, December 21, 2009

On the Go...



"On the go" is just a saying. You can bet I'm spending my first full day of freedom with my butt planted on the couch or in bed READING! Because I CAN! I have three books on the go right now, and holy cannoli, they have absolutely nothing in common.
Does this Pregnancy Make Me Look Fat: The Essential Guide to Loving Your Body Before and After Baby, by Claire Mysko and Magali Amadei. This one is for a blog tour that will be rolling through tomorrow. I laid off pregnancy books for a while after I read a shortish stack of them in the beginning months. It's easy to get overwhelmed that way, I find. However, it was time for another one, and when Lisa from TLC Book Tours offered, I jumped on the book wagon. I'm almost done with this one (will polish it off when I get this post done), and you'll find out the verdict tomorrow!
Holidays on Ice, by David Sedaris. Chuck has discovered the wonderfulness of Sedaris. When we went on a day trip to Arkansas a while back, I subjected him to the audio version of Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, and he's been a fan ever since. I'll probably read aloud some of this slim volume to him in coming evenings, though my voice certainly pales in comparison to Sedaris's own whiny cuteness. I'm only about halfway through the first story, "SantaLand Diaries," because I started reading it, and then I ended up loaning it out to a VERY trustworthy student who did her course research paper on Sedaris. It came back to me in good shape, so now I can finish it up, and that's exactly what I plan to do before Christmas.
Emma, by Jane Austen. Somehow the Gwyneth Paltrow/Jeremy "Yum Yum" Northam film adaptation became one of my favorite movies when I was a teenager. I can't even tell you how many times I watched it over and over and over again through the years. My mom gave me a copy of the book for Christmas back then--when I was about 17--and it's been sitting on my shelves ever since. I know, I know! I'm a horrible daughter and reader. I got to Austen's Pride ande Prejudice first, and it's taken me this long to clear out space enough in my heart to read another one of her works, though how anyone could ever compete with Darcy, I don't know. We'll have to see if Mr. Knightly is as cute in the book as Northam's big nose was in the movie.
Most of you have probably already realized that I'm something of a contemporary lit lover. I have to be in just the right mood to read anything remotely flowery or "old." At least in the last year or so that's been the case. Upon revisiting Austen, though, I'm not sure why I put her off for so long after P&P. Her stuff is really so very funny and readable, and I just love her. I am making it one of my goals to get back to more classics reading this year since I've only felt so-so about 2009's books under my belt. The gaping hole of classic lit is really bothering me since it often leaves me feeling intellectually nourished and challenged in a way that other books don't.
So what are you reading today? Tomorrow? Trying to stamp out before the holiday rush?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Red Velvet Cookies


I mentioned in a previous post that we've been cooking like maniacs around here for the holidays. One of popular to-go/catering establishments near our house advertises Red Velvet Cookies during the holidays, and being the cheap-skate that I am, I didn't want to pay $15 for two dozen. I did a quick Google search and found the EASIEST COOKIE RECIPE ON EARTH.

Red Velvet Cookies

  • One box of Red Velvet cake mix
  • 1/3 cup of vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs

Mix all the ingredients together with a very strong spoon because DENSE is an understatement. I used our Kitchenaid stand mixer after the first batch. Roll small balls of dough, squish slightly, and lay them out on your baking sheet. Bake for 8 minutes at 375 degrees.

I dipped my cookies in granulated sugar before baking because they have a really pretty crackle about them and it makes for a crunchy outside and soft, chewy middle. The picture are NOT my cookies, but mine looked very similar, so there!

I've been giving these away at work in little holiday packages, and they seem to be a big hit with everyone (including the Rockets). The color is beautiful, and they bake perfectly if you're using a nice, thick baking sheet. We also decided to expand our cake mix cookie experience. We tried the same recipe with a lemon cake mix, and they were delicious, too. I glazed them with a powdered sugar/lemon glaze and, need I say more, they're already gone!

Enjoy this easy recipe from our lazy household to yours!

Freeeedom!


Today is the first official day of my holiday break!!! I'm especially excited and thankful for it this year since I started my sort of off-kilter teaching job. The college I teach for on a full-time basis is an accelerated program, so we run on a 10-week term schedule, and there are five of those terms per year. Most of the time we only get a day or two off between terms, and the most vacation days within any given term is usually one or two. I know, I know, it's far less like academia and far more like a real job than I've ever done. Anyway, December is our long break, so I have from today until January 4th to soak up my fill of reading, family time, mindless TV, and SOLITUDE!

Don't think I'm not going to take advantage!

So I bet you're wondering what my reading plans look like. We bookworms are all alike that way.

I had originally planned to re-read all of the books I teach. The bulk of my schedule is filled with freshman composition courses and fundamental (college catch-up) courses, but I do teach a Children's Lit class online on the side, and we read a ton of juvenile novels--some of which I haven't cracked the spine on in a couple of years.

Some of those books, like Lois Lowry's The Giver or Gene Yang's American Born Chinese, I've read so many times I don't need to revisit yet. Others, like Deborah Ellis's Parvanah's Journey or Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden, are getting a wee tad fuzzy. The latter two choices are high on my Christmas must-read list so I can make up some new tests and quizzes and discussion questions and stuff. Oh, and while I'm thinking about it, I really need to re-read The Watson's Go to Birmingham--1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis, too. Can't forget that one!

I'm also teaching the Early American Lit course online that I mentioned earlier, and I'm going to dive back into The Scarlet Letter and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. I'll have a lot more short reading to do for that class as we work through the specific authors and literary periods by week, so I'll certainly get a refresher in those as well.

What else do I have planned for the holidays? Truffles, cookies, ham, and lots of deviled eggs. And blogging. Lots of blogging and blog reading. It's good to be back, lovelies!

Threaten me with a good time!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Early American Lit! Oh My!



Emily Dickinson doesn't look like she's having nearly as much fun as my family at the moment. While I'm taking a minute to blog, the kids are rolling up red velvet cookies, glazing lemon cookies, and coating truffles in milk and white chocolate. The baby and I are so hyped up on sugar, he's bouncing off the proverbial walls.

I announced on Twitter a while ago that I'm teaching an Early American Literature class online for the Spring semester. I rarely get to add a new class to my repertoire. Community and career-college profs are generally slaves to freshman composition, but I have a crop of new stuff to wallow in in the coming months.

Admittedly, early American lit is sooooo not my thing. I'm much more of a contemporary girl, but I've done my fair bit of studying the old stuff, too. And I should mentioned that I've liked quite a few select authors from before 1865. When I found out I'd be teaching this class, I went mining the internets for inspiration and to jog my memory in regards to what I should teach. Alas, here is the reading list (authors) for the course:

  • Anne Bradstreet
  • Mary Rowlandson
  • Jonathan Edwards
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Washington Irving
  • Edgar Allen Poe
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Henry David Thoreau
  • Emily Dickinson
  • Frederick Douglass
  • Harriet Jacobs/Linda Brent

We'll be reading short selections and excerpts from these authors' most famous works. I also wanted to them to read two longer selections, so I've chosen The Scarlet Letter by Hawthorne, and one of my favorite books of all time, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs (also named Linda Brent). I would've preferred something a little more unexpected than Scarlet Letter, but for the life of me, I couldn't figure out what else to choose at the moment. I need to brush up on my House of the Seven Gables if I want to use it in the future.

I'm working up my plans and written lectures and all that good stuff, and I'm actually really excited to hear what my students have to say about this good stuff. I suspect Poe will be a fave, as will Slave Girl.

I can't believe it's been a week since I blogged. End-of-semester grading is killin' me. 'Nuff said.

I'll be back to the blogosphere soon. See ya!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Outdoor Plumbing


I got off of work at 1:00 this afternoon, and Chuck and I headed out to the hospital for our second ultrasound. THE ultrasound. I was boiling over with excitement and actually led us to and sat in the wrong office suite for a few minutes before I realized the mistake. Ooops!
When we finally found the right office, Chuck and I sat laughing at really bad Tiger Woods jokes; again, we were so excited we were giddy.
When we got to the ultrasound room and all settled we got to see the heartbeat and the brain (huzzah!), spine, fingers, toes, the whole nine yards.
Then......
As the doctor put it, the outdoor plumbing. Clear as day. 100% sure it's a boy.
I thought that might be the case since we've only really had girl names picked out. Looks like we'll be starting from scratch now. Names in the running Aidan, Thane, and Chuck is still pulling for Titus (Mama says no).
When we left the office, we went to Target and bought a baby comforter, some receiving blankets (all covered in owls), and other items in lovely shades of neutral. We put all of these items in a neutral baby bag and put a blue plaid blanket and a Run DMC onesie (that would be Chuck's pick) on the bottom of the stack in the bag. When we finally finished torturing Rocketgirl and Rocketboy we let them each pull out one item a piece until they uncovered the telling items. Then we all screeched together and watched the DVD of the ultrasound.
So fun! Pictures to come...

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Hello, Secret Santa!!!


Today was my early day at school, so I taught from 7am to 11 and was finally able to break away from the office, stop off for an H1N1 shot on the way home, and I arrived around 12:30 with half a carload of groceries. Chuck came out to help me with the bags and happened to say, "You have a Secret Santa box by the door!"

Sooooo excited! I ripped into that puppy as quickly as I could, and the lovely picture to the left is the Christmas feast. Click to make it bigger...with that much adorableness in one place, it's totally worth it.

Secret Santa was very generous and kind and here's what he?/she? sent:
  • A beautiful goldish/copper owl Christmas ornament
  • A package of delightful owl notecards and a packet of homemade stickers from Etsy (http://luckyroni.etsy.com)
  • A beautiful package of multi-colored "A" notecards
  • An "A" photo bookmark to match
  • A lovely copy of Joyce Carol Oates's short stories, Wild Nights! subtitled "Stories About the Last Days of Poe, Dickinson, Twain, James, and Hemingway." I heard about this one on an NPR radio podcast ages ago, and I'm so thrilled to have a copy of it in my hot little hands.

Now, the question remains: who are you, Secret Santa??!!! Show yourself in all your bookish glory. Thank you sooooo very much for your gifts. You truly made my day (it was a stinker until I got home).

Now I've got to get off my tookus and send out my gift to my Secret Santa recipient. I've been searching for just the right items.

Update: The Secret Santa is.....*drum roll*....the lovely and talented Meg from WriteMeg! Thank you soooo very much, Meg! I can't thank you enough. Your gifts were very thoughtful and I can't wait to get home from work and pet 'em.

2010 Reading Challenges


I'm always the first to admit that I'm a HORRIBLE challenge participant--even in the challenges I host personally. Does that ever stop me from joining?? Oh heck no! Especially when a brand new flock of goodies show up for the new year.

I've found that the best challenges, or the ones that suit me best, are ongoing or really random. I don't do very well if a theme constricts me. With that in mind, I've chosen a few of the new crop to undertake in 2010 along with my usual standby challenges (RIP, Once Upon a Time, so on).

The first challenge added to my list is TwentyTen Challenge hosted by Bart's Bookshelf. This one is charmingly odd as there are 10 categories requiring the participant to read two books from each for a total of 20 for the year. The categories:

  • YA
  • TBR
  • Shiny and New
  • Bad Bloggers
  • Charity
  • New in 2010
  • Older Than You
  • Win! Win!
  • Who Are You Again?
  • Up to You

I figure I can shoehorn oodles of my books into one category or another, so this sounds perfect.

Next on the list is Beth Fish Reads and the What's in a Name 3 Challenge. This is another one with wide open choices. Participants read a book from each of the following categories in 2010.

-A book with a food in the title: Clockwork Orange, Grapes of Wrath, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
-A book with a body of water in the title: A River Runs through It, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, The Lake House
-A book with a title (queen, president) in the title: The Murder of King Tut, The Count of Monte Cristo, Lady Susan
-A book with a plant in the title: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Wind in the Willows, The Name of the Rose
-A book with a place name (city, country) in the title: Out of Africa; London; Between, Georgia
-A book with a music term in the title: Song of Solomon, Ragtime, The Piano Teacher

I love these categories and am already brainstorming books I can read in each group.

Finally, maybe the challenge I'm most excited about--and certainly one of the shortest--is Woolf in Winter. Frances from Nonsuch Book has the invitation post, and there's a schedule posted on her site. Basically four lovely blogging ladies will be leading discussion of four of Woolf's novels over the course of January and February. The novels: Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, Orlando, and The Waves.

I know I'm in for Mrs. Dalloway, but I'm not sure I'll get around to all four. I'll shoot for two if not more.

So that's it! I'm not making up projected lists of books yet (aside from Woolf in Winter) because I'm so fickle that there's really no telling what I'll read. I'm looking forward to giving these a try, though, and who knows...maybe I'll join even more challenges in 2010! Wish me luck!

What challenges have you joined? Which are you most excited about?

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Back with The Thirteenth Tale!

What a crazy holiday weekend. I actually had to go back to work to get some rest. Thursday Chuck and I hosted a big holiday to-do for our family and some of our friends. The food was plentiful, the house was clean (just in the nick of time), and we had a nice time. I fell into a turkey coma immediately afterward and woke up in time for our brood to head off to my mom's house on Friday for another feast. Mom's feast was heavily attended, delicious, and a lot of fun too.

I thought that would be the end of it. I expected a relaxing Saturday and Sunday, but much to my surprise we were back on the run. Chuck needed to do a large journal assignment for his art history class (early art history), and there happened to be an Egyptian exhibit in LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS. Yes, you read that correctly. We hopped out of bed at 6am on Saturday and hit the road to Little Rock. We tooled around the museum, took copious notes for his project, and then we drove all the way home. I'm panting just thinking about it.

Finally, on Sunday, we loaded up the kids, checked out Thanksgiving Square in downtown Dallas (a potential wedding site), went to the Dallas Museum of Art to finish up his project, and got home in time for me to grade papers and go to bed.

In short, no rest was had for this pregnant goose. I did, however, have the afternoon off after a doc appointment yesterday. Woohoo! I got to finish up Diane Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale, but I'll get to that in just a minute. The family is currently biting our collective nails waiting for next Monday's ultrasound appointment. We'll finally be finding out if the Lil Bug is a boy or a girl.

But enough about holiday craziness. On to the books!

I think I could very well be the VERY LAST PERSON in the book blogosphere to read this book, and now I can't figure out why I waited so darn long. I've had it on my shelves for well over a year now after I found a clearance copy at Half-Price books for a whopping $3.00. I plunked it down on my RIP IV challenge pile, but I never got around to it.

I complained here recently that I've had a very ho-hum reading year so far. While there have been good books in the bunch, generally I haven't felt as fulfilled or wowed by my reading as I usually do. It was a desperate attempt to love a book that brought me to The Thirteenth Tale, and WHOA, did it deliver!

I won't waste your time with a blurb because I genuinely feel like almost everybody already knows what this book is about. If you don't, just read it blindly--you won't be sorry. I adored it for so many reasons, I hardly know where to start. I feel a bulleted listed coming on:
  • The characters were vivid and evolved nicely! Margaret Lee was mousy and unassuming at the beginning of the novel, but she grew to be a really interesting, multi-faceted character.
  • I loved to dislike Vida Winter. She was a perfectly written lovable/hateable character. I found her amusing, infuriating, and enigmatic throughout the book.
  • It was atmospheric! And I'm a real sucker for atmosphere. Any book that can make me feel as if I've been deposited on the moors is a winner.
  • Twisted! Need I say more?? I almost got whiplash from this story.
  • It's a novel for book lovers. All of Margaret's thoughts on reading in the early part of the book were delicious. I don't think I've written down that many quotable passages in years. And all of the references to Jane Eyre, The Woman in White, Wuthering Heights were excellent, too.

Gush much? Yep, and I don't even care. I LOVED IT! Heather, thank you for prodding me to read this one constantly. ;)

In the spirit of yummy gothic books perfectly suited for winter, I checked out The Woman in White from my library. Now I can't wait to figure out what all the hooplah is about! Bring it on, Wilkie!