Friday, February 26, 2010

Home is Where the Wine Is, by Laurie Perry

A while back I participated in Laurie Perry's first blog tour for her first book, Drunk, Divorced and Covered in Cat Hair. It was, by turns,  a hilarious and heart-wrenching look at her divorce: the breakdown and the picking back up.

Her second memoir, Home is Where the Wine Is, is much lighter and an account of her New Year's resolutions. Each chapter is devoted to a specific resolution, a couple of my favorites being "Resolution #5: Grow a Garden...Crazy Adjacent Zucchini" and "Vacation Redux: The Things We Do."

While I can't say that I laughed out loud quite as much reading this installment of Perry's antics, I still really really like her and her writing. While some other female memoirists can be less than likeable sometimes (*coughJuliePowellcough*), Laurie Perry seems like a genuinely down to earth girlfriend I'd like to hang out with. She's silly and dramatic at times, oddly aloof at others, but she's always relatable, and that's something I can appreciate in this world full of narcissists. And she lives in L.A., speaking of narcissists!

In the final chapter, she takes a vacation to Hawaii alone, and she feels it necessary to get a spray tan before she leaves so she won't glow on the beach. It goes something like this:

It's a tall metal box with nozzles on the inner walls and a few lighted buttons. I slide the door shut and try to stand like I saw the tan girl demonstrate. I can smell the chemicals in there, and I start to feel the edge of panic, because I am in a smallish metal box alone with some self-tanner spray. I imagine this is what it feels like to be a glazed ham.
And if you think that's cute, you should read about her bikini wax. I'll leave it to your imagination for now, though.

I almost missed out on a chance to take part in this blog tour, but I'm particularly glad to have snatched this book up for my collection and participation at the last minute. If you're at all interested in memoirs and humor, certainly give Laurie Perry a go. And if you happen to be a knitter--which I almost totally forgot to mention--this book is doubly for you. Perry's blog, Crazy Aunt Purl, is part knitting extravaganza and partially personal. There are a number of knitting patterns in the back of the book for those who are much more talented with string than I will ever be. I applaud you, knitters!

Thanks to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for the book!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Belated Blogiversary!

Good morning one and all! I missed a very exciting day! How could I? February 21st was my 5-year blogiversary, and I can't believe how fast it's all gone.

I started my first blog, The Waste Land in 2004, but due to some life issues at the time, I erased that blog and started over in February of 2005. Estella's Revenge (and all her legs) was born. First it was the blog, then the 'zine, and then the Bibliobuffet column. Now it's back to just a blog since my life has taken over the everyday and pushed more and more projects aside.

It's amazing how much has happened in five years, and you can document a good deal of that in this blog. It wasn't all about books when I started. I ranted about life, love (or lack thereof), family, the news, politics, and graduate school. However, as I went along and began to find myself deeper in the book blogging community, things changed.

Obviously, I still write about my personal life here and occasionally even about issues that fire me up (politics and environmental issues, hello!), but it's mostly about books and reading. Things have evened out a great deal in the last couple of years in my personal life, so I have much more time to spend with my books instead of fretting about the everyday ups and downs and hits and misses.

For those of you who are *still* reading, or for those of you who are new, thanks so much for taking part in this blog with your perusals, your comments, and your friendship. It's so good to have a community of people who understand the book obsession and who take an interest on a personal level as well. The community is the bestest part of blogging--especially book blogging.

Here's to another five years!

Note: Image from http://www.danzfamily.com/archives/blogphotos/09/260-5th-blogiversary.jpg

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Scattershot Reading...

First I intended to post for The Sunday Salon, and then I meant to post yesterday because it was a shortish day at work (7am to 3pm), and then it just never happened. You all know how it goes, I'm sure, but sometimes I wish I could just blog up a storm every single day and get it all out of my system!

As it is, I have to sneak in moments like these when I'm letting my students work on a big project while we sit around eagerly hoping it'll snow...again. If we get a couple more inches in Texas today, it'll be a winter-long record: 17-something inches for the season. Wheee!

My reading has been a little slow because of life stuff, but I still have three books on the go. I haven't been able to give any of them the undivided attention I'd like to give this week, but here they are:

Home is Where the Wine Is, by Laurie Perry - I'm the last stop on the book blog tour on the 26th, so I'm witholding my opinion. I only have about 10 pages left, but I was so utterly zonked last night, I couldn't even polish those off before I rolled my big belly over and lurched right into a good night's sleep. I don't think I got up to pee more than twice, and that might be a pregnancy all-time overnight low for me. TMI? I think not. Laurie Perry would share similar experiences if she were preggers.

Franny and Zooey, by the old hermit guy. YES, I'm still reading this one. I love the book, but I just haven't picked it up in a few days. This was partially because it got abandoned in my car after an errand running trip last week. Oh, and the book makes me sneeze. God knows how old this library copy is. I will finish it, though. I like it!

The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne. This one is for a class I'm teaching in early American literature. The first time I read this book was as a high school student, and the hard truth is that I DIDN'T read it. In an American Lit survey in college I got into it and whisked through and loved it. This time I downloaded it free for my Nook (newly named Dobby) to give myself a refresher, and I hope I get sucked in once again.

And that's more or less the state of things. The first two books are just on the brink of being finished, and hopefully ole Hester will move pretty quickly, too.

In other exciting news, Rocketgirl is grounded until she's 40 (that's not the exciting part), and all she can really do is read. I gave her The Book Thief to try, and it looks like she's loving it and almost done with it. She raced through in about 2.5 days. I told her it was good. She's already bugging me for my next recommendation, which will probably be The Lightning Thief.

I hope you're all having a lovely Tuesday. It is Tuesday, right? Scattered Andi and scattershot reading!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Starting an Etsy Shop!

*Note: New material appears below this post.

Chuck and I have been thinking of starting up an Etsy site for a long time now, and given that the's a graphic designer (specializes in print design) and I'm an English professor and reading nut, it seems only natural to combine the two. We want to sell goods for the bookish bent, so I need your input on what types of products/materials you'd like to see. So far we have in mind:
  • Bookmarks
  • Bookplates
  • Stationery (writing pads, to-do lists, notecards)
  • Journals
  • Mugs
  • T-shirts
  • Calendars
  • Mousepads
Also what "themes" would you like to see?
  • Bookish (obviously!)
  • Authors
  • Famous Quotes
  • Humor
  • Animals
  • Fairy Tales
  • Whimsy
  • Nature
  • Mod
  • Contemporary
  • Traditional/Victorian
  • Favorite Characters
  • Movie Tie-Ins
We would love your input in writing so feel free to leave a comment, but I'll also post a poll on my sidebar so you can vote for the materials and themes you're most interested in seeing. Check back for more info soon!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Review: This Book is Overdue!

It's the review all of you bookish nuts have been waiting for!!! I liked This Book is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All so very much that it's really hard for me to review it without pure gushiness. And again, I'm a slacker and don't have my copy with me at work, so you'll have to wait for a separate post for all the witty, winning passages that I desperately need to share.

In short, this book is all about the stuff that librarians do that most people don't think about, know about, or ponder. In particular, this book demonstrates the intersection between librarians (or information scientists) and technology.

Now you may remember that I did a short stint in an online Library Science program. I completed two courses, started a third, and then my life blew up (fiance, baby) and I dropped out of that third course. However, I was fortunate enough to learn much of what this book had to report in one of those initial classes that I did finish, and author Marilyn Johnson enhanced and enriched what I'd learned with personal stories of librarians and their technology.

Chapters in this book are varied and wonderful. In one chapter Johnson presents an online Masters program for students from struggling corners of the world. In essence, each of the students has to come in for a boot camp to learn how to use technology--how to exist and prosper in the online environment--when they may be fighting for freedom at home, struggling against famine, or helping their community survive the wrath of a hurricane or tsunami. Each of the students intends to take the knowledge they learn in their online Masters program and use it for humanitarian purposes. The struggles the students face are unimaginable. Example: One student learns to charge his laptop from his car battery because it's the only power source available.

Johnson inserts herself in her stories quite often as she observes the community of librarians at work. In the case of the online Masters degree, she attends the graduation ceremony and meets with the students and the librarians, observes classes, and sprinkles her facts with her commentary. Johnson stands in awe of the librarian women and men who undertake projects like these in the name of free flowing information.

Another especially effective chapter was over virtual reference--in particular, librarians in Second Life. I learned of virtual reference in my library classes and I find it totally fascinating. Basically, a growing number of libraries are providing reference service (answering any question under the sun) in the online environment. Some reference services are provided via text message while others use instant messaging services like Yahoo! Messenger or Moodle. I actually did a semester-long intership for a college in the western part of Texas as an online reference provider. Great fun and it could be quite a challenge at times.

In Johnson's book, these online reference librarians have taken the practice to a whole other level. By using Second Life software--an online virtual world filled with wacky places and avatars to represent users--librarians can virtually mingle and chat with patrons while drinking a digital cup or coffee, attending a virtual Alice in Wonderland tea party, or wearing a corsette and thigh-high lace up boots on their avatar. Some libraries and consortiums have built intricate communities around their reference service that attract readers, outsiders, crazies, and information lovers alike. By implementing virtual reference in Second Life they are disseminating information in new and weirdly wonderful ways.

I especially loved Johnson's stories about herself in the Second Life chapter. She had a heck of a time integrating herself into the virtual community, and she stands as a wonderful example of exactly how much good these virtual librarians can do! They helped her become comfortable in a community she really came to enjoy, and it was fun and educational to boot.

A final section that really intrigued me was about the workings of the New York Public Library. The most famous location in the NYPL system is the big lion-bedecked building on 5th Avenue. While it was once a research library it has now integrated a lending library into the mix to serve a larger number of patrons and bring in more traffic. This chapter was both exhilarating and sad since many of the former researchers and departments were dismantled or reintegrated into the system in the name of change. It was an interesting discussion of trends in the library world as well as the future of digitization. It also embodied the question: what good are librarians in the digital age? To answer that question briefly: they are absolutely integral.

Reading this book gives a new view of libraries and librarians. They are not just the keepers of the books anymore, but stand on the cutting edge of technology and fervently devote themselves to bringing those resources to the public in the name of free flowing information. What we all know is an admirable career becomes even more fascinating under Marilyn Johnson's pen.

I cannot recommend This Book is Overdue! heartily enough. Go lay your hands on it any way you can!

Watch for an upcoming post of great passages and cool resources I found (librarian blogs, etc.), thanks to the book.

*****

FTC Disclosure: I got this book from the good people at Harper; I'm so glad I did!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Sunday Salon - A Review and a Happy V-Day!

Happy Sunday Salon and a very happy Valentine's Day to everybody! I'm getting ready to transition from one crazy-ass work week straight into another one, but I took the morning to enjoy some reading, and I can't stay away from the blogginess any longer! I can't do it, I say!

I'm almost finished with Marilyn Johnson's This Book is Overdue, and I cannot wait to review it for you all. The further I get into it the more new stuff I learn and the more charming the book becomes. Marilyn Johnson is one of those people I'd like to have coffee with and discuss just about everything.

My review of The Lightning Thief is long overdue. This is one of the few books I've ripped through like a madwoman lately. I think it took me all of a grand total two days to read it, and I just loved it (if you hadn't already noticed). Harry Potter comes to mind, but only because this is one of the more immersive juvenile adventure stories I've read since the Potter series. It's not as detailed, by any stretch of the imagination, but it carried me away and made me feel all whimsical and floaty again.

Plot: Boy has a troubled childhood, boy gets kicked out of yet another boarding school for iffy behavior and grades, boy finds out he's a demi-god (son of Poseidon) and barely makes it to Camp Half-Blood, his new training ground, before he's attacked by a psychotoic Minotaur. After a brief stay at the camp, he and two buddies (daughter of Athena and a satyr) are sent off on a quest to the Underworld. No biggie, right?

I loved the way Rick Riordan reimagined the gods and goddesses and placed them in the contemporary American landscape. Mount Olympus is situated high above New York City. Where else? Many of my favorite characters made an appearance: Medusa, Cerberus, Ares, Hades, the Furies, and the Fates...to name a few. It was really exciting to wait and see who would turn up next and what kind of havoc they would wreak. Good times all around.

I went out looking for the second book in the series, Sea of Monsters, a day or so after I finished The Lightning Thief, but I didn't have a bit of luck finding it. It seems everyone is snatching this one up in anticipation of the movie, and now I NEEEEED the second book. I think everyone else had the same idea.

Hmmphf.

For now I'm off to finish up This Book is Overdue!, and I'm also engrossed in Franny and Zooey. Wish me luck finishing it up before the craziness kicks in at work tomorrow! Happy Sunday and hugs and virtual smooches for all of ya!

Friday, February 12, 2010

What Better to Do in a Blizzard?

And I'm only half kidding when I say blizzard! Dallas got 11 inches of snow over the last day or so, and it's beautiful! I'm in the throes of my second day off work, and I could not be more excited. I already had a buttload of papers to grade, so I'll actually have a chance to finish those by the time midterm grades are due at midnight.

But what else does one do in a Texas blizzard? Reading! Duh!

I have a few books on the go right now. First off, I've been working my way through This Book is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All, by Marilyn Johnson. You know the one: the cutie with the super-brarian on the front cover from my sidebar. It's an interesting book, and Johnson's voice is conversational and fun, but I'm not tearing through it as quickly as I might usually because I already learned much of the info in library school. Still a good one, though.

I started and haven't moved forward with Jeffrey Eugenides's Pulitzer winner, Middlesex. I think I've only read about 12 pages. It's OK so far, but it hasn't yet grabbed me by the proverbial nosehairs, so we'll see how soon I really get involved. I read and loathed The Virgin Suicides, so I'm just hoping I enjoy Middlesex as much as the rest of the world seems to.

Finally, I picked up Salinger's Franny and Zooey last night. I whipped through the Franny portion in no time, and I'm off and running with the Zooey part. So far I like the first bit more than the second, but I have a lot to go, so I can't pass judgement too quickly.

If you're wondering where the snow pics are: they're coming! I need to bribe Chuck to take some more really good ones with our Nikon.

On an unrelated note: BABY NEWS!

I had an ultrasound on Wednesday, and we're officially gestating a sasquatch baby. I'm 31 weeks along, and our chunky monkey already weighs 4.5 pounds. Apparently he's big for his age: big head, long legs, etc. I'll probably be knocking on 9ish pounds by the time his due date rolls around. If that's the case, I'll trade off a kidney for a c-section. I'm just sayin'.

For now I'm off to finish those blasted papers, and we have Rocketboy's birthday to celebrate today. It's a busy week and weekend. Chuck and I had an anniversary on Wednesday, his mom's birthday was yesterday, Rocketboy is today, and then Valentine's Day is on Sunday. Oh, and his uncle is coming to visit from Saturday to Tuesday. Whew! I make myself tired just thinking about it. I'd better go read while I have a chance!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Personally: I'm nuts!

If you can't already tell from the title of this post, I have no idea what to write about today. Everything is a swirl of activity 'round here, and I'm just trying to keep my head above water. I've been supremely stressed and emotional lately, and it's about to drive Chuck and everyone nuts, so I've spent the last couple of days trying to calm the hell down!

Here's a little story about a bad experience with an OB:

After I had to leave the Medicaid clinic (loved those ladies) where I was receiving my maternity care because I elected benefits through my godsend of a full-time teaching position, I wound up with a nut for a doc. Actually, she was nice, but her practice gave me the supreme creeps. The good part: this practice was literally right around the corner from our house. The bad parts:
  • They insisted on keeping a credit card on file (felt like a bar tab to have a baby)
  • They explained very litte--kinda had to drag it out of 'em
  • Their office was cold and intimidating
  • There was a sign in the lobby instructing women with children over 3 months TO WAIT IN THE HALL until appointment time
  • They refused to file any secondary costs on my Medicaid
  • They charged patients for "rush" calls to answer questions. They practically charges patients if they farted in the office.
I just had an icky feeling about the practice, so I started looking for someone different. As it turns out, after much phone calling and referral chasing I found a practice at the hospital I really like where I had my ultrasounds done. I met the doctor for my first appointment yesterday, and I LOVE HER. I could hug her and squeeze her and pinch her cheeks and give her lots of money. As it turns out, they'll file secondary costs on my Medicaid, though, so I don't have to give her any money. I let my insurance company do that. She made me laugh, and she was normal (but a weird, quirky, bubbly normal), and she even had a PC vs. Mac discussion with Chuck. And she told us we have big heads. Just like her family.

Seriously, though, it is SUCH a relief to find a doc, right here at week 30, who I love and who I trust and who explains things and is normal. And doesn't make ANYONE wait in the hall. HA!

Chuck and I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening registering at Babies R'Us, and we had a blast (until I got tired and heartburny and wanted to go home).

Work is stupid busy, but I won't go into all that. I don't have time since I am at work, this class is almost over, and I'm about to zip away to the next class. I'll be back with more book talk soon (maybe later  today) since I'm actually READING this year (so different from last year).

I hope you're all having a delightful Tuesday thus far!

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Spread the Love!

It's almost Valentine's Day, and not long ago a package I ALWAYS look forward to this time of year arrived on my doorstep. Typically, HarperCollins sends a package of Valentine's picture books from their imprints, and there's always something adorable inside. This year was no exception, and I promptly sat down and read all of them (about seven), and these were my favorites.

In Amelia Bedelia's First Valentine (written by Herman Parish, illustrated by Lynne Avril), the adorable and completely literal young Amelia is getting ready for Valentine's Day. She "corrects" some cards her teacher makes up for the class, receives a Valentine from a secret giver, and generally stumbles through the holiday. Amelia Bedelia, as well as the illustrations in this book, are colorful and pop off the page. The book is a nice romp through the holiday.

The next book is Henry in Love, by Peter McCarty (see below, go look!). The illustrations in this book are equally adorable to Amelia Bedelia, but the style is completely different. Henry is a squirrel (I think), in love with a bunny, Chloe. His mother allows him to take a blueberry muffin to school, and pretty soon he's falling in lurv! The characters look to be drawn in pencil--very soft lines and shading. Their surroundings are accented by pops of color on their clothing in in their accessories. While the story is pretty thin and definitely for the youngest of the younger set, the illustrations are really special.

Finally, my very favorite of the books! My Heart is Like a Zoo, by Michael Hall is clever, it rhymes, and the illustrations are unique and full of color. It may be a perfect picture book! I could explain it, but it'd be much more fun if you'd watch the book trailer below. It sets some of the illustrations to music. You'll notice that all of the characters are drawn from a stack of hearts--herons, hippos, yaks, you name it. It's very clean, innovative illustration, and the poetry is great, too. This one will definitely be going on Greyson's keeper stack. This kid will have a killer library by the time he gets here.


Have you found any new Valentine's picture books for your kiddo(s)? It's one of my favorite holidays for picture books, so be sure to share if you can!

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Book Quote o'the Day


My favorite quote yet from The Lightning Thief:

In a way, it's nice to know there are Greek gods out there, because you have somebody to blame when things go wrong. For instance, when you're walking away from a bus that's just been attacked by monster hags and blown up by lightning, and it's raining on top of everything else, most people might think that's just really bad luck; when you're a half-blood, you understand that some divine force really is tryiing to mess up your day.
I'm racing through this book like crazy!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Waste Not, Want Not

It's official. I've turned into my mother. It's happened gradually; over a lifetime, actually. When I was young, I was the freespirited artsy person. My mom was always very "accounting," both literally and figuratively. She worked in accounts payable for a large corporation for much of her professional life, and now she's the office manager at city hall in the town where I grew up. While she was all about the literal: straight lines, black and white, numbers, true crime and biography, I was the figurative: curves and waves, messy rooms, painting, novels. Some of those things are still the same, but I've begun to morph. I guess it's part of growing up and preparing to be a mother myself.

One of the most distinct things I remember about my mom from when she was about my age was her vigor for cleaning and order. And voila! I have this new thing about order, structure, organization, and cleaning. I know my life is about to be upended by a totally new type of chaos, but the new habits are setting in hardcore. With five people and four pets living in my house, it's become obvious and absolutely necessary to have some rituals. The kids make a sweep through the living room at night to pick up their belongings, and we have a new dishwasher policy to make sure the sink doesn't pile up with sad, wet plates (and this is just the tip of the ritual iceberg). I see this as completely necessary to keep us from being buried in our own junk. As a result, I have this new resolution about waste.

I hate waste.

Not only do I mean waste like trash and disorder, but I mean waste like waste. Waste like leaving the lights on, throwing away leftovers, using excess gas for stupid trips, and other such things. Suddenly it seems vital to not be so darn frivolous. I must streamline!

Part of this inclination kicked in when I took the majority of my books to storage. Now that I only have about 100 or so books in my house, suddenly I feel lighter! It's much easier to choose what I want to read next, it's easier to decide what I *really* want to buy in physical book format or on e-book, or what I just want to snag from the library. Suddenly, I don't even feel guilty about getting a bag of books from the library because I'm much more inclined to read them without 400 TBR books staring me in the face!

It's a revolution!

How do you waste and how could you cut down? Books are just a first for me. I'm ready to clean out the whole house, and so far we're off to a good start doing just that. I'm feeling lighter all the time.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Bookish Potpourri

Once again, it was one of those weekends when I intended to post a Sunday Salon, but the time slipped right on by. I was neck-deep in boxes--carrying what little I could (aka, light stuff)--that needed to go to storage. Our condo is once again ours, and I'm not homicidal due to the wall of crap covering up the sliding glass door in our place. I haven't seen that door since before Christmas, so it feels oddly airy in our living room.

I did accomplish one major feat yesterday and that was finishing Emma!!! I love, love, loved it! What I noticed about the film/book difference was mostly a greater understandg of the characters. Emma comes off as much more self-centered and snooty in the book, though she's still likeable. I have no idea how that happened or why I still liked her. Mrs. Elton is still a deplorable snot, Mr. Knightley is still dreamy, and Emma's father is even more dependent and annoying. I love Austen's rich characters, and now I just have to decide what to read of hers next. I have Northanger Abbey on my shelves now, and I have a copy of Persuasion floating around at my mom's house somewhere. I feel sure I won't wait so long to get 'round to Austen again. No five years between books this time, I say! Oh, and I have a freebie copy of Persuasion on my Nook. Totally forgot about it. That one will probably be the winner.

In other bookish news, I had a wicked case of insomnia last night. Or perhaps it's not really insomnia when the sleeplessness is attributable to baby discomfort and one fiance rolling around in his office chair overhead. It's my lot in life to be in love with a complete night owl, and when he's working on a website at 1am when I have to get up at 5:30, all is not right with the world. I woke up when he came to bed and positively could not fall back to sleep, so I whipped through a chapter of Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan. Innumerable other bloggers have read this one already--I'm behind the pack as usual--but I couldn't resist after I fell in love with the movie trailer. Doesn't it look COOL?!


Note: The first trailer disappeared due to copyright. Let's try this again!

The first chapter was fun, so I'm hoping I'll enjoy the whole book. It's been a while since I read a juvenile adventure story, so we'll see if this one lives up to some of its predecessors.

Finally, in honor of J.D. Salinger, I picked up the remaining library copy of Franny and Zooey. I tried Nine Stories a couple of years ago and couldn't seem to sink into it, but I'm hoping to have better luck with this novel. Stephanie approached me about a buddy read, and if anyone else is interested in a buddy read or read-along, let me know!

Keep an eye out for an upcoming post on Valentine's Day picture books! They were a ton of fun to read, and I can't wait to review them!