Friday, January 29, 2010

Article: "The Man in the Glass House"

This is an excerpt from a really poignant article about J.D. Salinger published in Esquire.

Just being here, at the bottom of the driveway, just beyond the verge of the property line, feels like a trespass of some kind. This is not just private property. It is the property of the most private man in America, perhaps the last private person in America. The silence surrounding this place is not just any silence. It is the work of a lifetime. It is the work of renunciation and determination and expensive litigation. It is a silence of self-exile, cunning, and contemplation. In its own powerful, invisible way, the silence is in itself an eloquent work of art. It is the Great Wall of Silence J.D. Salinger has built around himself.

I'm about to teach a class, so I haven't had time to read it all, but this passage struck me as especially well written and thoughtful and sums up my fascination--and so many others'--with J.D. Salinger himself.

Read the article for yourself.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

J.D. Salinger

Like many other readers, I'm sure, I was saddened to see the news of J.D. Salinger's death. I came to Catcher in the Rye late in life in comparison to most. I think I was maybe 22 or 23 at the time, so I was past the severe angst most experience if they read it closer to their teenage years.

Somehow, I still loved it. While Holden was certainly whiney and stuck up, and a pain in the butt at times, he was also very relatable, and I still found him a sympathetic character. Maybe what really pushed my sympathy over the edge was the title of the book itself and how it played out in the novel.

If you haven't read the novel and want to be surprised by what the title means, STOP READING HERE!

Basically, this is the way it goes...

In Chapter 22, when Phoebe asks Holden what he wants to do with his life, he replies with his image of a “catcher in the rye.” Holden imagines a field of rye perched high on a cliff, full of children romping and playing. He says he would like to protect the children from falling off the edge of the cliff by “catching” them if they were on the verge of tumbling over.

The way this whole scene meshes with the novel is just breathtaking. I remember being so touched by this image that it really "made" the whole book for me.

I haven't read any of Salinger's other work. I started Nine Stories, and I'm certain I'll come back to it, but I might try Franny and Zooey first.

Anyone else have fond memories of Salinger's work?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I'm Excited About This Book

In recent months I've cut the number of books I accept for review dramatically. When Greyson gets here, I'll be lucky to read ANYTHING, and I certainly won't want to be obligated, so I'm only accepting review books that I can read quickly and have reviews posted in a timely manner (ha!). When Harper offered their latest list of goodies, I snapped up This Book is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All, by Marilyn Johnson. How could I resist 1) the cover 2) the premise?

Blurb from Publisher's Weekly: In an information age full of Google-powered searches, free-by-Bittorrent media downloads and Wiki-powered knowledge databases, the librarian may seem like an antiquated concept. Author and editor Johnson (The Dead Beat) is here to reverse that notion with a topical, witty study of the vital ways modern librarians uphold their traditional roles as educators, archivists, and curators of a community legacy. Illuminating the state of the modern librarian with humor and authority, Johnson showcases librarians working on the cutting edge of virtual reality simulations, guarding the Constitution and redefining information services-as well as working hard to serve and satisfy readers, making this volume a bit guilty of long-form reader flattery. Johnson also makes the important case for libraries-the brick-and-mortar kind-as an irreplaceable bridge crossing economic community divides. Johnson's wry report is a must-read for anyone who's used a library in the past quarter century.

I don't usually "sneak peek" books before I actually review them (unless I bought them myself), but I just can't wait to dive into this selection! Marilyn Johnson's previous work, The Dead Beat, sounds fascinating, too. The subtitle is "Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries." What's not to like about that?? Right off the bat, with odd subjects and catchy titles like these, I'm having flashbacks to my enjoyment of Mary Roach's work (Stiff, Bonk). While she was somewhat hit and miss in books like Spook, I still perk up whenever I see that she has something new up for publication.

In short, I don't know if this book will delight me just yet, but it's one of the titles I'm craving and anticipating the most right now. As a library school dropout (yeah, I never went back), this one certainly appeals to that side of my character and career. To this very day, when I'm teaching my English courses, I tell my students, "Librarians are ninjas. Respect their skills because they will inevitably help you find information you never dreamed could be found."

Stay tuned! I'll be gobbling this one up post haste! Anyone read one or both already?

Blast From the Past...

My Composition II class is rocking out to this right now....

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Dragging Out Emma...

In typical anal-retentive reader style, I usually get antsy when a book takes me "too long" to read. As if there is such a thing as "too long" when one is enjoying a book. It's one of those needless guilt things.

After last year's lackluster reading, I decided I wanted to make my reading count in 2010 in hopes of more stimulating, rewarding experiences and perhaps fewer numbers. I guess without really meaning to, I'm "reading deliberately" this year like so many other bloggers.

One of the first books I started this year is a great example of my slowing down to enjoy reading. I started Jane Austen's Emma very early on in the year. In fact, I think it might've been the first book I picked up in January, and I'm still reading it. I started out with a paperback copy that my mom bought for me about 10 years ago (if not more), when I was obsessed with the Gwyneth Paltrow film adaptation. Let's face it, Jeremy Northam did for Mr. Knightly what Colin Firth did for Mr. Darcy. But hormones aside, when my Nook arrived and I Emma was available for free download in e-book format, I snagged that sucker in no time.

Instead of putting my head down and barreling through, I've really been enjoying Austen's prose. My last Austen outing was about four or five years ago when I finally read Pride and Prejudice. Or maybe it was 7 years ago. Lord, time flies! I loved that book and slowly digested it in much the same way I'm digesting Emma. While I find Austen highly readable, I also refuse to give her less than her due. For some reason I need to read Austen's work slowly and absorb the characters, the society, the time period, the language. I dip in and out of other books finishing them here and there, but when I read Austen, my time is all for her.

Lately, Emma is my evening book. I do pick it up during the day sometimes as well when office hours are slow or I can steal a few minutes between meetings, but I love languishing in the living room while the family is doing other things, or just kicking back in bed until I get too sleepy to see straight anymore. These times seem the best ones to read Emma, and while it's taken me a month--and I still have 100 pages left--I don't even care. I adore visiting Mr. Knightly in print and the wacky Miss Bates. I remember the film adaptation clearly, but I'm never bored by the book. I simply get to know Frank Churchill and Harriet and the whole lot much better. We're better friends than we were on film, and I'm in no rush to lose these characters.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Dracula Goes Graphic...

Helloooo everybody! I had all intentions of posting a Sunday Salon yesterday, but the best laid plans often get steamrolled. Such is life.

So, it's been ages since I've been to the library, but I decided to make a trip late last week to snag the next in the Woolf in Winter read-along, and of course I found some other goodies that jumped into my library bag.

When I was browsing the teen graphic novels, I happened upon All-Action Classics No. 1: Dracula. One look at the illustrations convinced me to give this one a go. It's the Bram Stoker novel adapted to graphic novel format by Michael Mucci, et al. This is the first graphic novel adaptation of a classic I've ever read, and I just managed to sneak under the wire for the Janauary mini-challenge over at the Graphic Novels Challenge site.

I'm admitting here and now that I HAVE NOT read Bram Stoker's version it its entirity. I started it a couple of years ago, and while I was enjoying it, it got laid aside for one reason or another. I did make it past the creepy shimmy down the tower that Dracula performs, and I have to say, it creeped the socks off me. Really, it made tinglies and prickles run down my spine. Dracula just happens to be one of the pre-loaded e-books on my Nook, so I expect I'll return to it sooner than later. I have a hankering to pick it up for Our Mutual Read.

But back to the graphic novel. As I mentioned earlier, the illustrations are GREAT. The characters are extremely stylized. Mina Harker and Lucy Westenra sort of look like Bratz dolls with their big eyes and fluffy cheek bones, and Dracula himself is a hilarious, anorexic, ugly piece of a count. It's also very moody and cutesy at the same time. It's hard to explain, but if you visit the linked title above, it'll take you to the Google books version, which lets you preview a good portion of the book.

The only thing that bugged me visually was the actual written text. I was soooo not a fan of the text. It was fitting to the illustrations, sort of a rounded, weird font, but it was also hard to read. I found myself re-reading little portions because I couldn't make out a word.

The adaptation part was spot on as far as I could remember. The storyline is basically the same as the novel but with a few funny things thrown in. As I was reading I would occasionally catch a snarky comment by one of the characters that didn't fit with the time period, and there was a reference to the SPCA that made me blink a couple of times. I found these instances to enhance the quirky weirdness of the book rather than disappointing me.

For a first effort reading an adapted classic, it was a great success! I love quirk, so this type of adaptation is right up my alley, and I'm not sure a more serious, straightlaced one would've worked for me. If you're going to adapt a classic to graphic novel format, it seems a sense of humor only helps the situation.

This is my second book read for the 2010 Graphic Novels Challenge. Oh, and FTC, if you weren't paying attention, I got this one from the LIBRARY.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Woolf in Winter: The Belated Celebration

I told you all I'd be late to the Woolf in Winter party, but I hadn't expected to be quite this late! The original discussion took place on January 15th, and it's now January 22nd. Nevertheless, I'm tickled to be posting anything about Mrs. Dalloway because it's my first of Woolf's novels, and it's only now that I'm finishing it after three or four failed attempts in my younger daze days.

My first run-in with Woolf was in a literary criticism class as an undergraduate. My very favorite professor required us to read an excerpt from "A Room of One's Own." I was startled and tickled when I read anything in that class that I actually "got," and Woolf's extended essay was no exception. I fell in love with her ideas and her words, and my professor had a knack for making all writers and philosophers seem the most fascinating creatures. I fell in love with Woolf's reputation as much as her essay.

Sadly, it's taken me almost exactly ten years to return to Woolf. It's not for lack of trying, I assure you. I bought my own copy of Mrs. Dalloway many years ago, and for whatever reason I would start and stop. I suspect it was the density of her stream-of-consciousness style. However, I have continued to indulge in the Woolf mystique by reading The Hours. I consider it one of my favorite novels, and I'll certainly be revisiting it after this roll in the hay with Mrs. Dalloway.

So I suppose you're wondering what I thought of the book? Beautiful. Very dense but very beautifully written. Having taken a stab at Joyce several years ago, I can safely say that Woolf's stream-of-consciousness is far more enjoyable and far more believable than that of Joyce. While I had to have my concentration cap on to read through her work, it was definitely worth it. It was even worth the dead-end e-book and finishing up the reading willy-nilly from an internet e-text. It will be nice to revisit Clarissa, et al, in paperbound version one day, though.

I think my very favorite parts of the novel were actually the peripheral characters. Sections I particularly enjoyed were those devoted to Septimus and Rezia and their heartbreaking plight, Clarissa's daughter Elizabeth and the sad Miss Kilman, and the enigmatic Sally Seton. Of course I enjoyed Peter Walsh very much, and even the moments inside Richard Dalloway's head. I really thought Clarissa would be the star for me, but what I found was that these other characters whirling around London helped put Clarissa into greater focus. Through their experiences, losses, tragedies, the reader gets a better feel for what Clarissa is about: her shortcomings, her triumphs, her insecurities, and her overall sense of self. 

There's much going on in this slim volume from a critique of the social structure to issues of feminism and homosexuality. I found it all stunning, though I know it'll take a re-reading or two to "catch" even more of Woolf's complicated narrative. I'm also looking forward to exploring more of her work and seeing which themes and motifs repeat in the next discussion, To the Lighthouse.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

No, It's Not My Woolf in Winter Post...

And do you want to know why? Because the e-book copy I downloaded from an indie site was INCOMPLETE. I got to page 146 and it quit in the middle of a sentence.

Now that I'm looking at an online e-text version I see that I probably have a good 15 Nook pages left to read. Given, this is not the Nook's fault by any stretch, but it's one of the peskier sides of not-so-trusty e-book sites. It was free, though, so I'm not out anything.

I'll be stopping by the library to pick up a complete copy on my way home. Still hoping to finish tonight.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

New Look, New Books!

You've probably already noticed that ye olde blog has undergone a transformation in recent days. This is what happens when I have a day off. I sit around, play XBox 360 (Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?), and update my blogger template. Oh, and I might as well tell you, I won the million dollars on the aforementioned XBox game. Terribly proud of myself. Now I can never play it again because I've triumphed. That leaves The Spiderwick Chronicles game in my future...and Lego Batman. But that's another post!


So anyway, I've been feeling a wee tad cluttered round this blog lately, and I really wanted to streamline with some top-button navigation and whatnot. Now I'm in the process of adding content back to the sidebars, but it'll be significantly less than what it was before. I was largely influenced by Frances from Nonsuch Book. She has a beautiful layout, and because it has a little info on the sidebars, the books really take center stage. I hope I've achieved something sorta similar.

In other news, I'm thisclose to finishing Mrs. Dalloway. In fact, I spent a good deal of time reading last night, and I was down to just a few pages to finishing time. I nodded off, woke up, nodded off again, woke up, finished the final pages, and crashed for the night. Since I have no idea what I read in my sleepy state, I'll be re-reading those pages today and posting my thoughts for my late arrival to Woolf in Winter.

Finally, I added a few books to my stacks this weekend and yesterday. First, I bought my very own copy of The Graveyard Book. I read it shortly after it came out, but I loved it SO MUCH I decided I had to have a personal copy for the keeper shelves. I happened to run across it at Half-Price Books and made it mine.

In the past I've always wanted to re-read, but I rarely do. Somehow I let the mounting stacks of new books grab my attention instead, and I ignore all those old faves calling to me. Not this year! This year I vow to re-read whenever and whatever I want, and I'm starting with The Graveyard Book. I delved into it while we were waiting to sell some books back at Half-Price, and I'm loving it just as much as I did the first time through.

Also new on the stacks: Joe Sacco's new graphic novel, Footnotes in Gaza, up for review soon.

I'm off to take care of some things: have a doc appointment with the new doctor today and some other errands. And teaching, of course. See ya for Woolf in Winter!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Blog Tour: Keeping the Feast, by Paula Butturini

The good news is, I absolutely loved Keeping the Feast: One Couple's Story of Love, Food, and Healing in Italy, by Paula Butturini. The bad news is, I find myself wayyy under the weather tonight, so I don't know how thoroughly long and meandering and gushing this review will be simply because I'm headed off to bed as soon as humanly possible.
I will say, if you've been reading my blog recently or following my Twitter feed, I've gushed about this book as mutedly as possible. I wasn't supposed to post a review until today for Butturini's blog tour, and it's been nearly impossible to keep quiet about how much I loved the book. I let little squeaks of praise out on several occasions.
To give a brief synopsis:
Paula Butturini and her husband, John Tagliabue, meet as foreign correspondents when they're living in Rome. Butturini briefly chronicles their burgeoning relationship and courtship. Shortly after their marriage they are relocated, Butturini is beaten in the midst of a riot, and her new husband is shot by a sniper in Romania on a separate assignment. The story that follows is about Tagliabue's spiral into a deep depression and how the couple eventually return to their beloved Rome to recover. Butturini seeks comfort in the daily ritual of shopping for and preparing meals while Tagliabue slowly works his way back to his old self.
This synopsis would be a disservice to the book if I didn't add that it could be a real downer if the above were all there was! No, no. Each chapter begins with Butturini recalling a memory from her childhood and growing years associated with food and comfort (mostly her Italian family recipes). She then segues into her trials throughout the whole ordeal with injury and depression and discusses how food and preparing it helped fill some of the void and frustration associated with her husband's depression and some personal losses along the way. What could be a dark book is consistently uplifting and comforting because of Butturini's own optimism and her willingness to seek small comforts in her everyday life.
This book is probably up your alley if enjoy general non-fiction and memoir, travel writing, or foodie books. It certainly has a broad appeal, and I hope it finds great success. It actually pains me a great deal that I wasn't able to contact Paula Butturini to ask for a guest post, and I rarely request guest posts here. It's been so busy in my home life lately that I never found the time, but there's much I'd like to ask her based on her wonderful book from recipes to life lessons. I actually found myself Googling several of the recipes she mentioned, and I can't wait to try them myself.
While I'm feeling the need to head to bed right about now, stay tuned for a post containing some of my favorite passages. If they don't make your mouth water or tug at your heart strings, well, then you must be from another planet and I can't help you.
Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review this book. Thanks to the publisher for providing a copy.

Friday, January 15, 2010

"The Giant Water Bug" and "The Knife"

Once again this year I'm participating in the Essay Reading Challenge. So far I'm off to a good start! I'm teaching a Creative Writing class on Thursday and Friday evenings this term, and it affords me the opportunity to explore those shorter genres I love so much: creative non-fiction, short fiction, poetry, and drama/screenplays.
Right now we're heading into our second evening discussing creative nonfiction. Aside from the token David Sedaris essay ("Us and Them"), I've had my students read two other essays: "The Giant Water Bug," by Annie Dillard and "The Knife," by Richard Selzer
While "The Knife" was a choice to showcase creative non-fiction in general, I'd like to start with Dillard's essay, which is a prime example of "image." It's a very short essay wherein Dillard recounts a walk along the edge of an island in the summertime. She likes to scare the frogs and watch them jump here and there as they realize she's approaching. As she's walking along, she notices one perfect little frog who is not afraid. She kneels down to investigate and the frog seems to disintegrate leaving only a bag of skin behind. It's shortly afterward that she notices the shadow of a water bug, the "giant water bug," swimming away. The giant water bug injects the frog with venom, liquefying its innards, and sucks them out for a hearty meal.
Yuck, I know. However, the writing is great and does its job showcasing "image." A selection:
The spirit vanished from his eyes as if snuffed. His skin emptied and drooped; his very skull seemed to collapse and settle like a kicked tent. He was shrinking before my eyes like a deflating football. I watched the taught, glistening skin on his shoulders ruck and rumple and fall. Soon, part of his skin, formless as a pricked balloon, lay in floating folds like bright scum on top of the water: it was a monstrous and terrifying thing. I gaped bewildered, appalled.
While I enjoyed the writing as a good example of imagery, the essay isn't joining the ranks of my favorites or anything. It was short and lacked any emotional impact that would stick with me for any significant period of time, so I'm not sorry I read it, but it was just "meh."
On the other hand, "The Knife," by Richard Selzer is quite memorable. It starts off this way:
One holds the knife as one holds the bow of a cello or a tulip--by the stem. Not palmed nor gripped nor grasped, but lightly, with the tips of the fingers. The knife is not for pressing. It is for drawing across the field of skin. Like a slender fish, it waits, at the ready, then, go! It darts, followed by a fine wake of red. The flesh parts, falling away to yellow globules of fat. Even now, after so many times, I still marvel at its power--cold, gleaming, silent.
One of my students said, "I thought I was in an episode of 'Dexter.'" That is, he figured this essay would be about a serial killer. Not so--Selzer chronicles his work as a surgeon in this ode to a knife, or scalpel. He includes some really stunning details and wonderful comparisons which are surprising and enlightening. There are many, but I especially liked the idea of holding the scalpel like a bow or a tulip in the opening lines. His writing is sensuous and poetic, and I think my students really appreciated this essay. It's one I'll definitely use in various writing classes from here on out, and I'll sure be re-reading it.
Two down, many more to go! I have tons of new-to-me writers on my plate with this class going on this term, and I'm excitecd to share more with y'all!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

French Milk, by Lucy Knisley

If the first couple of books of 2010 are any indication, this year will be a much better reading year, quality-wise, than 2009. I started with Keeping the Feast, by Paula Butturini (review coming January 18th), and my second book is French Milk, by Lucy Knisley.
I feel sort of silly reviewing French Milk since it feels like every other blogger has beaten me to the punch. Better late to the party than never to attend, though, so I might as well throw my opinion out there with the throng of others. In a word: CHARMING!
That's the best word I can think of to describe this little illustrated journal. Knisley travels to Paris with her mother, and they stay for over a month. They eat their way through the city, see wonderful museums, cute little corners. Knisley is quirky to say the least, and many of the things she said and drew reminded me of some of my more eclectic friends. She visits flea markets for some great finds, they patronize any number of cafes, and since they stay so long, they actually have an apartment and can cook their own meals on occasion.
This really is a book for a wide variety of readers. If you enjoy travel, food books, graphic novels, or memoirs in general, this one will probably strike your fancy. The illustrations are light and whimsical, which allows Knisley to slip even further into that "charming" nook. Reading this graphic novel was much like a leisurely walk through Paris with a friend, and it was a perfect way to start off 2010.
This one satisfies criteria for a number of challenges:
It's my first graphic novel for the 2010 Graphic Novels Challenge, it's my book with "food in the title" for What's in a Name 3, and it meets the Bad Bloggers criteria for the TwentyTen Challenge. I can't even remember the first blogger who made me take notice of French Milk, but Chris from Book-a-Rama is one of the folks who prompted me to pick it up now.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Sunday Salon - Weeding Books

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a reader with too many books must inevitably weed the collection. Yep, it's true. We all know it, though we may try to deny or shy away from it, but for us, it was time! When I moved into Chuck's place almost a year ago, I brought about half of my books from my mother's house. We packed up the "essentials" from her shelves to bring home with us and boxed the rest of the books to be put away in storage (another 5 boxes or so).

We also brought the room divider/bookcase you see in the first picture below. For the last year it's accumulated books steadily. I've been pretty good at not buying books, but they still have a tendency to flow in from publishers, so it was getting sort of ridiculous. We have a large'ish two-story townhouse--as townhouses go, that is. There's room for us and the kids and an office, but we're actively looking for a house to rent or buy by August when our lease expires, and with baby Greyson on the way, something has to be done about space.

Chuck is a clothes horse, and I'm a book elephant, so it only made sense to start weeding and packing some things to put away in storage until we get a bigger place. A bigger place = a house with enough room for more bookshelves.

Here's the original room divider/bookcase that I brought from my mom's house. Until two days ago it was filled with books. Heaping, I say. It was double-stacked, cross-stacked, and generally squished with goodies. Goodies which have now been effectively weeded and packed. These three little squares are what remains of the books that originally lived in this spot. They're mostly favorites, books I would re-read, and books Chuck is interested in getting his hands on. There are a few reviewables in the pile, but not many. If we decide to keep this piece of furniture in the room, it'll also be a baby center. You can see Greyson's stuff already taking its place.

This is the bookcase in our living room, and to the right is Chuck's fat cat, Samson. Most of the books on this case were packed, and some of the TBR from the bedroom made its way here. This is essentially my new "go to" shelf when I'm in need of reading. It was a pretty dramatic change to box up or get rid of this many books in the course of a day or two, but the Nook is making me feel better as I can have 1,500 books on my nightstand and zero clutter! To the blooming neatnik in me, that is an absolute wet dream.
And this is an owl that looks like he was carved out of an apple. I just threw him in here for fun because he makes me giggle. Chuck found him on a random shopping trip one day--along with a whole collection of trinket animals that looked like they were carved from veggies and fruit--and brought him home to live with my books and add cuteness to my life. I think he's doing a fine job of it, don't you?
Now that I've shared my transformation with you all, the rest of my Sunday will be filled with work and reading. I need to square away a few tasks this morning since my teaching gets back in full, full swing tomorrow (freshman composition and freshman comp. II), and then I plan to finish up Keeping the Feast, by Paula Butturini. I hadn't intended for it to take me this long to read it, but I keep procrastinating so I can stretch it out more. I think Chuck might've finished French Milk, by Lucy Knisley last night, so if that's true, I may try to read it today as well.
Happy Sunday, everyone! Enjoy what's left of the weekend.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Nook - A Proper Review

School has been back in full swing this week, but Texas is experiencing what the newspeople affectionately call an Arctic Blast (temps in the teens and 20s). I just think it's funny because it's TEXAS getting an "arctic blast." Anyway, we had some icy road conditions this morning. School is cancelled as a result and just in time! We had two, two-hour long orientations sessions scheduled for today, but those have been rescheduled, and I get to stay home, warm and cozy, read, and finish my syllabi. Woohoo! Ironically, Rocketboy and Rocketgirl still had school at their respective elementary and middles in our neighborhood.

On to books! I figured since I've been so excited to share my Nook'ness, I'd better give it a proper review. If you're thinking about buying an e-reader, this is the post for you!

Start with the good stuff...

It's very easy to navigate. The color touchscreen at the bottom has sections for "The Daily," "My Library," "Shop," "Reading Now," and "Settings." The navigation is very intuitive with draggable screens of options that you just slide your finger across or down in order to access . I was slightly worried that the backlit touchscreen would be a distraction since the actual reading screen is paper-like and NOT backlit. I was right! It is annoying while trying to read, but it also has various "sleep" settings so the touchscreen will dim and go off completely. I have mine set to less than 2 minutes, so now it's not annoying at all!

Downloads are REALLY fast! The first time I downloaded a book, I was slightly taken aback by how quickly it was delivered to my device. As I mentioned in my earlier post, I've downloaded a couple of free classics and one book I got with a gift card (The Help, Stockett). I thought it would take a few minutes to pull the file in, but I pressed "Buy" and boom, it was ready to roll!

Daily readables from B&N! I want to subscribe to a magazine or newspaper. I'm thinking of The New Yorker. Since I haven't taken the plunge yet, I didn't think I'd have anything delivered daily to my "The Daily" section, but you get a couple of freebies with the Nook. One is "Daybook" which is a "this day in literature" type of feature. I've enjoyed it very much so far. The other freebie is "Grin & Tonic," a daily humor column which I haven't been following daily. Usually I'm so impressed with Daybook that I don't even bother with Grin & Tonic. Oh, and one of the first things to pop up in the Daily was a welcome to Nook written by Dave Barry! Hilarious.

Easy to add files from independent sites. Honestly, who wants to buy every e-book from one company? For that matter, how wants to buy every e-book! Yesterday I was tired and cranky and didn't want to leave my all-day meeting and go pick up a copy of Mrs. Dalloway for the Woolf in Winter read-a-long. I checked B&N and Project Gutenberg and didn't find any copies of the book, but a quick Google search took me to another site--the name escapes me--and there it was! I downloaded the ePUB file at work, e-mailed it to myself at home, hooked the Nook up to my computer with a USB cord, and simply moved the file over. Voila! It works beautifully, and I have a freebie copy of Mrs. Dalloway for my read-a-long.

Compactness! Chuck plays pool two nights a week, and I'm in love with his (our) pool friends. Adorable gay men, builders, lawyers. It's a mixed bag. Their home base is a sports bar that we really like, so I went along last night since it was their last round of play for several weeks. Barstools are increasingly uncomfortable on my big, fluffy butt, so when I got tired, I dipped into my purse, pulled out my Nook, and spent some time on a well-lit leather couch with Emma. I know, I'm a party animal. It's very thin and holdable, and it doesn't bother me at all!

It's easily personalized! Like any other electronic anything these days, the Nook has a screensaver mode and has wallpaper. Users can add their own photos to serve as screensavers/wallpaper and there are some that come preloaded. I adore the authors screensaver that's preloaded, so I haven't changed it. Whenever the Nook goes into sleep mode a cute drawing of Kurt Vonnegut or the Bronte sisters will pop up and remain until you wake it up again. So fun!

Cool notes, highlight, and bookmark functions! I got really upset at the bar last night when the Nook seemed to have forgotten my Emma bookmark. As it turns out, Chuck had been playing with it and accidentally erased my bookmark. Luckily, one of the Nook's many cool functions is the ability to search for a word or words in the text. I searched "half-a-guinea" and I was right back where I'd left off. I've also tried out the highlight and notes feature which obviously allows for annotating favorite passages. You can also leave multiple bookmarks in any book.

The few things I don't like or that could use some tweaking:

I wish I could surf the net! As I recall from playing with my friend Susan's Kindle, it could actually surf the Internet. Nook has wifi capability which can be used in B&N stores for special features, coupons, etc. but as far as simply surfing blogs or whatever, Nook doesn't. It's a small price to pay, but it would be nice.

The battery life is not as good as advertised! B&N advertises that you can get 10 days of battery life if you turn off the wireless in the background. It certainly does save battery, but I doubt I'll get more than 5-7 days out of it. I leave the wireless on much of the time to catch the daily content, and so far it looks like I'll be charging every 4 days or so, but I'm also anal about letting the battery get too low. Same with my cell phone. Oh, and I also play with my Nook constantly. More than should be legal.

No cover included! Even if the cover wasn't that spectacular, it would be GREAT if the Nook came with one. As it is now, you have to buy covers separately. There are some designer ones, some lesser ones made of silicone, etc. On average the book-like covers run around $30. Designer covers can run as much as $89. Since I insist on carrying my Nook with me a lot, Chuck and I headed over to a large B&N in our area, and I picked up a pretty, black leather-like cover with the quote, "When I step into this library, I cannot understand why I ever step out of it," by Marie de Sevigne. It has some interior pockets included, holds the Nook securely inside, and opens like a book, so it's comfortable to leave the cover on while reading. However, it would be nice if there were something complimentary.

The Nook does a LOT, but this review is just the high points of what I like and what could still use improvement. I am totally happy with my Christmas gift, and so far I'm really OK reading it instead of a printed book all the time. It's a different experience, but it's not THAT different. Does that make sense? I'll be digitizing some of my book collection as B-Day (baby day) approaches to clear up some space, and I'm excited about it!

Monday, January 04, 2010

A Nook is Born

It's here! It landed around 11:10 this morning, and I high-tailed it home at lunchtime to get my Nookie-baby charging so I could read by the time I got home from work. The following is a chronicle of the newborn Nook.

Nondescript packaging hides the wonder inside.

Very promising. Cute Christmas gift wrap of a charming, bookish bent.

Oooh, ahhhh! Chuck is a sucker for good packaging, as am I. He deemed this one "almost as good as Mac packaging."

The oohs and ahhhs really started flowing at this point. It was a bit of a difficult delivery as we had a hell of a time getting the Nook out of its extremely secure plastic shell.

Finally, a very unflattering picture of me, though I am very very happy at this point. Daisy is not quite sure about the whole business. For those of you who haven't seen her in a while (I've been horrible at posting pics), her radar ears are still in full effect.
So I've had an evening to play with the Nook, and I LOVE IT. It's very easy to use, very clean and crisp, and I am quite sure it will suck up many many hours of my reading time. I've downloaded several free classics (Dracula, The House of the Seven Gables, etc.) and one actual pay-for-it e-book, Kathryn Stockett's much-blogged-about, The Help. I'm also contemplating downloading Confessions of a Closet Master Baker, by Gesine Bullock-Prado.
Realistically, if I'm being realistic of course, I should finish up a couple more printed books before I get too far gone into Nookland. It shouldn't take me much longer to finish up Keeping the Feast and Emma.
P.S. My work comrades were making bets on whether or not I would come back to work after lunch. They knew I was a wee bit excited.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

The Sunday Salon - The Truth is in the Numbers!

I rarely do this, but I'm actually reading three books at the moment. For a girl that goes through such terrible slumps, I'd say that's something to celebrate! And I did celebrate tonight with caramel apple pie, but that's a whole other story.

Anywho, as you can see from my sidebar, I'm still chugging away at Emma, and I really do love it. It's a shame it's taken me this long to read it, but if I'm too sleepy at night, the lilting British English puts me to sleep. No, I'm not listening to it, but I'm playing the movie over in my head, and it still takes a toll. I love the story. Maybe not as much as Pride and Prejudice, but darn close. Emma is a great character, and I actually can't wait to read the book's introduction when I'm done. I like to save the literary insight until the end, you see.

I'm also neck-deep in Keeping the Feast: One Couple's Story of Love, Food, and Healing in Italy. It's written by Paula Butturini, and I've mentioned it here before. I've also been raving about it on Twitter. The most frustrating part is that it's for a book blog tour on January 22nd, so I can't say much until then. Except....I LOVE THIS BOOK! It's a beautiful foodie memoir and great story of life abroad (sometimes under the worst conditions), and there will be many noteworthy passages I'll have to share with you all when the review goes up.

Finally, I've been in a baby flurry. With all this talk of baby showers, and the baby gifts we got for Christmas, and all of the manic cleaning and house organizing I've been doing, it seemed an appropriate time to pick up What to Expect the First Year by several authors I'm too lazy to look up at the moment. It's a fun read, and I'm excited for our little Greyson (nickname: Lil Bug) to get here.

I start back to work tomorrow after a delightful holiday vacation, and I can't say I'm terribly ready to go. Especially since my Nook is set to land tomorrow. Monday through Wednesday of this week is full-timer training every day from 10:00 until 6:00, Thursday is a hell day (12 hours) of multiple meetings and orientation sessions, and Friday the actual classes start. Don't ask me why they start class on a Friday--the reason escapes me.

Anyhow, this post makes for a very late Sunday Salon, but I doubt I'll get to post tomorrow with all the activity kicking back up. I slept in until a scandalously late hour today, we hosted a Dallas Cowboys watch party for a small group of friends, and I'm so full I could pop. I think I'll do a little more reading and turn in, but I hope you all had a great Sunday!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Nook Watch 2010

It's shipped! Or apparently it has since it's showing on my mom's credit card. I'm talking about my Nook, obviously. The English professor in me can't handle spelling it "nook" the way B&N does. Sorry, it's cute, but I just can't do it. Capitalization is key!

I can't wait to put my paws on my precioussssssss.

In other news, 2010 is off to a roaring start. I'm giving you the bulleted list version:
  • I've seen friends I haven't seen in forever
  • Two baby shower schemes are underway
  • I've actually been reading several books
  • Baby Greyson (Grayson?....spelling still undecided) is kicking the heck out of me
  • My mom is at Babies R Us as I type
  • Daisy is looking at me expectantly with a Kong in her mouth
  • Kiddos are doing chores
  • I'm feeling a wee tad under the weather
  • I feel sure I won't get anything done today until it's clear that the Nook will show or won't show

OK, so maybe roaring is a bit of an overstatement. The rest of the day's plans include getting dressed at some point, reading, finishing syllabi for the next term, and reading. Did I mention that part? Will be back with a Sunday Salon post tomorrow. Hang tight for book love!

Friday, January 01, 2010

Review Policy

Thanks for stopping by Estella's Revenge and for your potential interesting in having me review your book. Please read the following review policy carefully and visit the About section for more insight into my life and work.

Genres I enjoy include literary/contemporary fiction, young adult/juvenile fiction, personal essays, memoirs, non-fiction (food, green living, gardening, homesteading, bookish topics, and science), travel writing, comics and graphic novels. You can access my Review Archive to see the books I enjoy (under construction).

Genres I shy away from include mysteries, thrillers, action, romance/chick lit, and westerns.

My reviews typically include a short summary of the plot alongside my personal thoughts/analysis on the book: good or bad. I insist on writing honest reviews, which means they won't always be positive. However, I do remain civil and level-headed when writing negative reviews. I typically take the "it just wasn't for me" stance. There's also a good chance I won't finish a book I don't like.

I am discerning when accepting review books. If it's not a book I think I'll like, I generally don't accept it for review. I live by the "don't torture yourself with books you don't enjoy" rule, and that bleeds over into my reviewing as well.

While I do make every effort to finish and review books I accept, there's always the occasional exception. If life jumps up and gets in the way or I just find myself uninterested in a review book, I may not finish. However, I do try to mention those books on my blog and gift them to people in my personal life or other bloggers who may enjoy them and pass the word along.

I do participate in the occasional book tour, but my policies remain the same. I will review the book, positive or negative and in a timely manner, but I insist on transparency and honesty.

I have a few requirements. Generally I read ARCS, galleys, e-books (epub format), hardback, paperback or whatever. I'm really not picky when it comes to format. However, I am pickier when it comes to time. I prefer to have at least a month to read a book in preparation for writing a review since my time is often full of teaching and new baby.

Contact: andi.miller(at)gmail(dot)com
Twitter: @estellasrevenge

Memberships: National Book Critics Circle (Associate)

My writing:

All About Estella...

Welcome to my blog!

I am an English professor by day and an avid reader by morning, afternoon and night. I teach both online and traditional classes in writing and literature, and I can't imagine doing anything else career-wise. After working retail, trying my hand at graphic design, and a short stint teaching high school, I finally found a job that doesn't feel like work. Basically, I get paid to be a book nerd. How cool is that?!

I read *almost* anything. I favor fiction (literary, contemporary, classic), non-fiction (foodie, travel, memoir, and offbeat), graphic novels, and children's/young adult.  I received a Barnes and Noble Nook for Christmas in 2009, and I love it. I'm a total nerd for e-books now.

On the personal side, I have a wonderful fiance named Chuck, two awesome stepkiddos-to-be whom I refer to as Rocketgirl (13) and Rocketboy (12), and a condo full of animals: three dogs and a cat. Chuck and I had our first child on April 17, 2010, and his name is Greyson. He's currently trying to take over the world one "coo" at a time.

I've been blogging here since 2005, and I can only hope for another five years of bloggy fun. Thanks for stopping by!

Contact me:

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