Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Settling Down with a Don

There are several definitions of "don" including (but not limited to):

-a Spanish gentleman or nobleman
-preceptor: teacher at a university or college (especially at Cambridge or Oxford)
-the head of an organized crime family
-Celtic goddess; mother of Gwydion and Arianrhod; corresponds to Irish Danu

In the case of Mary Beard, it's definitely the second definition. She's a professor of Classics at Cambridge, and her blog, aptly titled "A Don's Life," has been running on the Times website since 2006.

There's been a lot of talk about blogs-turned-books lately, and so it's timely that I happened to pick this book up off my shelves. Since I've been having trouble settling on a book, it's nice to have one that's humorous, and the sections are super-short. Each blog entry runs around 2-3 pages, and Beard is quite the spirited commentator. I love her very refined British wit.

My favorite entry thus far is titled, "Ask a Silly Question," from July 13, 2006. The university holds "media training" occasionally wherein the staff learn all sorts of tips and tricks for handling themselves on radio and television. Tips like wearing soft, pastel colors to look one's best, and the age-old ability to avoid the question at hand in favor of promoting a specific agenda. Beard is highly amused by the training, which essentially asks academics--pros at answering questions--how NOT to answer the question. She writes:

I don't imagine I shall be following all the rules we were given. Honestly, I can't see me in the recommended pastel colours and trim jackets, even if they are flattering in front of the camera. But, at the very least, it's nice to know what the rules are that you're breaking.
Ahh, yes. I feel the same way about rule breaking.

When it comes to blogs-turned-books this one seems like the best kind. While it makes me feel a little icky to think of a blog created simply in hopes of getting a book deal (and it happens a lot), Beard's is certainly a well established and maintained blog of quality that's been made into a book. I love it so far, so let's hope it holds out! This could be just the pinch I needed to keep on my reading wave this year.

Read Mary Beard's blog.

FTC blah blah: Received this one FREEEEE and IN THE MAIL from a publicist. Do you need to know which one? I can't recall. Let me know via royal decree or carrier pigeon. *smooches*

Friday, March 26, 2010

Baby Pending: Reading Out Window

I had my 36-week doc appointment on Monday (I am now 37 weeks today). We had an ultrasound while the doc was off work for Spring Break last week, so I was SUPER nervous to hear what she had to say about the forecast. Our little chunky monkey has risen to the 95th percentile in size for his gestational age, which basically means we're on track for a 9-10 pounder if everything stays the same. Of course, since my doc was off work last week, she was SWAMPED on Monday, and I ended up waiting for almost two hours to see her. By the time she got to the room I was practically bouncing up and down thinking, "Just tell me something already!"

The plan: We have an ultrasound scheduled for April 5th with a specialist (second opinion), and if Greyson is still super-gigantic, doc will go ahead and schedule a c-section for a few days after April 5th. If Greyson is done and ready to appear before then, we'll see what happens. Just in case you were wondering (TMI coming), my doctor actually said, "Well, your cervix is thinner and softer than it could be, but it's mostly boring." So she wasn't thinking we'd see the boy any time soon pre-ultrasound.

And I haven't read anything since. Well, I've read some cereal boxes, road signs, and student papers. That's about it, though. Last night I wanted to read but the contractions were a bit annoying for that. They never got very regular or more than 30-40 mins apart, so I went home and went to sleep and I've only had two today. Can we say Braxton-freakin'-Hicks? Ugg. Teasing me.

So, yeah, we're all on baby watch. I'll keep you posted.

*Note: I do not own the owl pic to the left, but I would like to. How cute is that?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Aloof in the Blogosphere or Why I Blog

I've seen a lot of chatter lately, far and wide, about how many bloggers are tiring of blogging! That is, they get trampled down by controversy in the blogosphere or perceived popularity contests, etc. As a five-year veteran of the blogging community, I've been thinking about this issue a lot.

There have certainly been times when my blog has waned or it's suddenly become "unfun" to blog. I think every blogger goes through it whether it's sparked by issues at home or bigger issues at play in the community at large.

Over the past five years my feelings have changed a lot, and my approach to blogging has changed a great deal. The #1 difference? I'm somewhat aloof! And I kind of like it that way.

First, I should disclaim right about here and point out that I have no problems with ANYONE in the book blogging community or the way they run their respective blogs. I approach blogging in much the same manner I approach my job: I come to work/blog, I do my work/blog, and I go home. While there's often a shitstorm of drama swirling around at work, I usually float right on by, none the wiser. Such has been known to happen in the blogosphere, too. I usually hear about the drama way later or never at all. Why? Because I'm aloof. Somewhat reserved, to myself, just focusing on whatever I want to focus on at the moment.

Now, there was a time when I was smack in the middle of everything. I founded Estella's Revenge (the 'zine) and rode that train til I was sick and tired of editing though it saddened me to let it go.  I wrote for Bibliobuffet until life smacked me in the face and said, "Take some time off already!" And I've probably participated in every imaginable meme, award, and event known to book blogging kind at least once.

You know what I discovered? A whole lot about my own personal habits and joys. I don't particularly like meme's anymore after years of seeing the same ones. I am HORRIBLE at hosting personal giveaways because I cannot physically make myself go to the post office to mail anything. I join challenges but rarely pressure myself to finish because I understand my own finicky (frustrating) reading moods. That's just a sample.

Another disclaimer: I love the book blogging community. I love reading blogs, commenting on blogs, finding new-to-me blogs, but I guess I tend to resist some trends simply because I know I'm too set in my own ways, lazy, or otherwise pulled in differing directions to participate in some of those popular aspects of blogging. And I'm OK with that. I don't let it damage my love of the writing, of the reading, or of the bloggy experience as a whole.

So, in short, that's how I keep things fresh for myself around here. I read, I review, I rant when I want to, and I throw in non-book material because this is, first and foremost, a chronicle of my life. I've never been good at journaling or writing in a diary in "real life" so this blog has become an artifact of who I've been and who I will become in life. And that, my friends, is wayyy more important to me than anything else.

It's why I blog.

Why do you blog?

My Friend Flannery

If you've never read Flannery O'Connor's short stories, you're seriously missing out. I first apprehended a copy of A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories as a high school student. I was participating in an academic competition called literary criticism (whew, what a joke!), and her book was one of the required readings.

If you've read ole Flan, you know straight off that she's TAH-WISTED! In fact, whenever I teach an Intro to Lit class I ALWAYS teach O'Connor because I love seeing the tops of their little heads pop off.

And she looks so mild-mannered and unassuming over there, doesn't she?

This morming I happened to run across Impertinent Questions with Brad Gooch which is an excellent Q&A with none other than....Brad Gooch! Who is he? An O'Connor biographer, and a pretty funny/snarky one, too. It's only right that any Flan biographer would be a good time.

One particular question and answer really tickled my giggle button:

Q: O’Connor has been called a master of the short story. What makes hers work?

A: For O’Connor, writing short stories was an extreme sport. She used shock and surprise to masterful effect. You start out reading about a lazy day on a farm and before you can think twice a Bible salesman has stolen the wooden leg of a young lady in a hayloft.

So if you haven't read the story he's alluding to here, it's "Good Country People," and it is a HOOT. Go HERE to read a PDF of it.

Flannery O'Connor's delicious Southern Gothic weirdness was one of those early'ish reading experiences that has followed me throughout my adult life and that I strive to pass along to my own students. It was a fantastic realization when it dawned on me that "good" literature didn't have to be all stuffy. In fact, it could be downright crazy and impertinent.

Note: I think I got the Q&A link from Twitter, but I can't rememer who passed it along for the life of me, and now I can't find it again. Thanks to whoever inspired me this morning!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Confections of a Closet Master Baker

First, before I review anything, I have to thank Rob from Books are Like Candy Corn for sending this book as a baby gift for Chuck and myself. As much as Chuck and I like sweets, little Greyson doesn't stand a chance!

When I first discovered this book around the blogosphere and realized the author, Gesine (pronounced Geh-see-neh) Bullock-Prado, is Sandra Bullock's sister, I had a certain expectation of the author. Sandra Bullock (so often referred to as "Sandy") is often labeled the nicest celeb in Hollywood. She does seem very genuine and likable in interviews. Bullock-Prado, on the other hand, admits to being a misanthrope. Hilariously so at times, though I never disliked her for it.

To give a little background: She was a big wheel at sister Sandy's production company, but she loathed Hollywood and most of the fake, obnoxious people therein. Bullock-Prado and hubby, Ray, eventually left Hollywood behind to open Gesine's Confectionary in Montpelier, Vermont.

Each chapter in the book begins as an hour in the baker's day. She gets up REALLY early and begins her baking long before sunrise to be ready for the steady flow of regulars who visit the shop for a quick pastry or a panini at lunch. Mixed in with the day's rituals and tasks are stories of Gesine and Sandra's childhood, reminiscences about their mother, and recipes. Yes, kids, recipes! Each chapter ends with a recipe that somehow applies to the writing in that particular section.

Like most of my favorite memoirs, Gesine Bullock-Prado made me giggle often. I mentioned that she's a misanthrope, but not a Dr. Gregory House misanthrope. More of an introverted but well-mannered and well-intentioned misanthrope. In all honesty, I could see a good bit of myself in Bullock-Prado's story and in her decision to live a simpler life. She was much happier on a daily basis with her hands in a big tub of dough than wining and dining at pretentious restaurants and fighting LA traffic.

I was also pleased that a good bit of the memoir is a reminiscence on her mother. It's obvious that they had a very close relationship, though rocky at times, and with her mother now deceased, baking becomes a tribute to the German heritage her mother held dear.

I expected to read a lot about butter, flour, and sugar in this little book, and Bullock-Prado doesn't disappoint in that department. However, I got much more out of it than that. It was touching and funny and seemed very honest. It's a book which deserves a spot on my keeper shelf, and I can't wait to try more of the recipes.

I have tried one recipe: Golden Eggs! They're little vanilla cakes rolled in sugar and cinammon and taste very much like a donut when all is said and done. What's more, they brought back my own family memories because the light, almost custardy, texture reminded me a great deal of my grandmother's buttermilk pie growing up. I would share a pic, but the kids ate them so fast, I didn't get to take one. I'll definitely make them again, though, along with some other recipes from the book. In the meantime, go read Rob's review of the Espresso Cheesecake recipe! It's another one I can't wait to try.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Mama Morphs

You may have noticed by now that I have a new subtitle on my header: "Books, Baby, and Batshit Crazy." It seems with an impending delivery just on the horizon (we'll see how close that horizon is tomorrow at the doc's office) I have....morphed? And I will continue to. I realize this.

I am still the happy ball of sunshine I always was, but to quote a friend of mine from Chuck's pool league, "You have an air of 'Fuck you, I'm pregnant' about you." He told me this as I was shoveling queso into my mouth and checking e-mail on my new iPod Touch paying little attention to anything else in the world.

My students have also taken to saying things like, "That's what I love about you Ms. M. You tell it like it is." They're usually laughing when they say it, in response to conversations like this one:

Star Student: Have you graded my final paper yet?

Me: Yep.

Star Student: Did I do OK?

Me: Yeah, I think you made an A, but I've graded like 80 of these things, so I can't promise that I remember at all.

In general, I think I have a new expectation of adults around me to act more like adults. I have no interest in taking care of everyone's crap around me. By nature, I tend to be a "director." I get up at ungodly hours, I go to work, I do my work, I go home. I chit-chat and laugh and smile and am generally outgoing, but I feel for the poor schmuck who screws around and doesn't get his/her stuff done. Another example:

Student: I'm not done with my final paper. I just need to finish typing it.

Me: It's due now.

Student: But I had other things to do.

Me: I have a family and three jobs and I was still here early today and ready to teach you. Now what's your excuse?

So, while I am technically not batshit crazy as my bloggy subtitle suggests, I am a little more focused on myself, nesting, making progress on things I need to get squared away, and generally raising a new baby who I hope will grow up and not be a douchebag. It's easy to get steamrolled by people and I think there comes a point when women have to say, "Enough of that. I'm taking care of my priorities now."

I was partially inspired to write this little diatribe by an article I read in the Dallas Observer today. It's called "Moms Gone Wired: One Woman's Journey Through the Mommy Blogosphere to Gain Parental Prowess and Free Stuff," by Alice Laussade. I am totally enamored of mom blogs lately, especially those that "tell it like it is." Certainly there will be a great many wonderful and sweet things about mommyhood, but there will also be days I refer to Greyson as a screaming turdball a la Heather Armstrong of Dooce.com.

It's good to know that there are moms out there being honest and snarky about their motherhood experiences in all its highs and lows. You can expect my motherly rants and moments of motherly gratitude to take a place next to whatever I'm reading at the moment. What else is this forum for if not for sharing my life in all its facets? I've been doing it for years, so I doubt I'll stop now. When books take a backseat, baby will step forward, and I can't promise there won't be a hefty shovel of batshit crazy.

Coming soon: Pics of Greyson's "nursery."

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Forest of Hands and Teeth

Much of the blogosphere is familiar with this book already, but I'm just getting to it. After reviews by the likes of Heather F. and Stephanie I couldn't help myself.

I can't say I was terribly enticed by the idea of zombies--they're sooo five minutes ago--but between the interesting concept and the cool title, I took the plunge.

Quick blurb: Mary lives in a secluded society surrounded by fences. The fences serve a very important purpose: to keep the Unconsecrated (zombies) at bay. Early in the book Mary loses her mother when she wanders too close to the fence looking for Mary's thought-to-be-dead father. Her mother soon dies and Returns as an Unconsecrated and is pushed into the Forest to exist with the others. Mary finds herself alone amidst the Sisters--nuns who guard the secrets and history of the society in which Mary lives. She also finds herself in a bit of a marital pickle. She's marrying age, but she loves Travis and is socially bound to his brother, Harry. Hello, love triangle!

The book started out with a bang. I was immediately sucked in by the creepy atmosphere and the sense of oppression that comes through the writing. I can't imagine being locked in by fences and surrounded by "the enemy" all the time. Even though the Unconsecrated are slow, the sheer numbers of them are a constant threat to the village as they consistently pressure the fences and threaten to overtake the residents. It's a pretty darn bothersome concept, actually.

Toward the middle of the book, as the love triangle became an increasing problem for Mary, I got a little bored. Mary seems a pretty solid character. She knows her mind (most of the time), and has some very definite dreams about escaping her community to see what lies beyond the Forest. She's heard stories of the ocean all her life and wants nothing more than to reach it. That said, she still gets bogged down in a mental battle between Travis and Harry. Who should she trust? Who loves her? Who does she want to be with, etc.

I felt a similar sense of apathy about the "love triangle" in The Hunger Games. When I see people going on about Team Peeta or Team Gale, I tend to fall on a third team: Team Katniss! I can see Katniss being independent of both these guys. Same thing with Mary. I was more interested in her and the societal secrets around her than her thin love life.

There were some specific scenes in the book that I found pretty heavy. An Unconsecrated baby rocking in her cradle for eternity, for instance. Somehow the book seemed more adult than a YA novel at times, and maybe one of the reasons I didn't love the love triangle is because it reminded me that the book had more to offer than a love story. There were some pretty serious critiques of a society based on sameness and an overarching sense of safety (a la The Giver). If I taught a college class with older books, I would probably throw this novel in for good measure and explore some of those deeper issues.

I see The Dead-Tossed Waves in my future, but I haven't decided if I'll pick it up now or get a little space from this book first. In the meantime, visit Carrie Ryan's website.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Limping Toward Maternity Leave

Sooo, as usual, I hadn't planned to be absent for a week. I was supposed to start "administrative duties" at work this week. That's my beautiful workplace's way of saying, "We don't want you to have to ditch six classes mid-term to have a baby" so they're letting me do paperwork and miscellany for the first 3-4 weeks of the session and maternity leave for the rest. All this administrative stuff is turning out to be hell since I've been working longer hours than expected and helping put out fires and clean up various and sundry academic disasters. And I'm planning a swanky meeting. There will be hors d'Ĺ“uvres.

Anywho, long story short: I'm sick and tired of being tired.

Bulleted list of goings on:
  • I finished The Forest of Hands and Teeth AND Confections of a Closet Master Baker. I can't wait to review both of 'em for ya. I had every intention of making one or both of these reviews my vlog premiere, but it just hasnt' happened yet. Plus, you really don't want to see my frizzy hair and raccoon eyes after a really long work day.
  • The family chipped in and bought me an iPod touch to replace the iPod that was stolen by a stinky valet recently. I'm lovin' it!
  • Chuck and I are slowly but surely gathering all the baby goods we need. We had another shower this past weekend; we cleaned up on clothing and other cool items like a Bebe Pod seat and our stroller. Chuck is out scouting a VERY nice and pristine used version of our dream travel system (car seat and stroller). I hope it's as good as ye olde Craigslist posting promised.
I'm out of bullets. Totally completely out.

I'll be back when my brain doesn't hurt.

Addendum to the first version of this post (and apologies to whomever got it in their reader twice):

We had another ultrasound on Monday, and our munchkin is still a freakin' rock star football player. He's up to 7 pounds and change (and I'm at 35 weeks). If we go full term he'll probably be 9-9.5 pounds. Can you hear my girly parts screaming already? I start weekly appointments on Monday, and I can't wait to chat about it with my doc.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Book Death: An Inner Monologue

How is it that I like a book one moment and completely stop reading it the next?

Such has been the fate of Franny and Zooey, though I can't say I won't finish or that I consider it a DNF.

To begin from the beginning: Salinger died, I got all nostalgic and decided to read something other than Catcher, so I picked up my library's copy of Franny and Zooey. I raced through the "Franny" section and then I slowed down on "Zooey," and pretty soon the book is sitting on top of my bedroom bookshelves collecting dust, and I've renewed it twice without having read any of it in weeks.

Do I like the book? Yes!
Do I want to finish it? Yes!
Do I feel any real motivation to do so? Meh, not so much.

I've read three novels since I started this one. I'm a player. A hooch. A book tart. Dare I say, a book slut? Could be.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Raven Stole the Moon Winner!

Winner of the Raven Stole the Moon giveaway is.......

Rachel from Home Girl's Book Blog!

Thanks to those who took the time to enter the drawing! I wish I had a book for all of ya!

Sunday, March 07, 2010

The Sunday Salon - A Hedgehog Bites the Dust

I love a hedgehog as much as anyone--possibly more than most--but sadly that isn't the case with Muriel Barbery's The Elegance of the Hedgehog.

First, I have to say, I really like intellectual books. I like books with clever intertextual references that blend art and philosophy and lots of cool, smart stuff. Whenever I think of "smart" books I think of Siri Hustvedt and Paul Auster. Try Hustvedt's What I Loved on for some wicked psychological, artistic, brain churning goodness. There are also smart gimmicky books like Marisha Pessl's Special Topics in Calamity Physics which flex an intellectual muscle and manage to be fun or especially touching and affecting at the same time. I expected The Elegance of the Hedgehog to be something similar, but I didn't get far in enough to know before I wanted to shoot myself up with a lethal air bubble. Page 25 people. I couldn't go past page 25.

The problem I had with Barbery's book was simply some dislikable damn characters. They liked themselves A LOT. And I realize, after giving up at page 25, there was plenty of room for improvement, but given that I've been on something of a quick reading streak lately, I desperately did not want to beslump myself. I refuse to berate myself mentally for giving up on books anymore, so I tossed this one back into the library return and picked up my new holds.

Is The Elegance of the Hedgehog a bad book? I have no freakin' clue. I know I didn't read enough of it to pass judgment, but I do know that it's not the book for me right now.

Which book is for me right now?? Some YA, please! The Forest of Hands and Teeth, by Carrie Ryan, arrived at the 'brary for me, and I'm about to get offline and sink into the world of the Unconsecrated. In addition to laying books aside when they aren't tickling my reading toesies, another tactic for staying in a buoyant reading mood is switching genres often. I think this one might just keep me afloat.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

A Reliable Wife, by Robert Goolrick

I caved! The red dress on the cover of Robert Goolrick's A Reliable Wife was too much ! Aside from the fact that the poor woman is headless (I'll save that rant), that is one kickass red dress. And it's my favorite red (my cell phone is that color, iPod, bedroom decor, etc.).

But enough about my shallow book picking methods.

I read the blurb ahead of time, and I even downloaded a preview for my Nook, but it seems that I still went into this book not really grasping what it was about. I knew it was about a "mail order" bride situation in snowy Wisconsin. That's about it, and that's probably a good thing. I think I have better luck with books if they simply get to unfold as I read rather than hearing or reading too much about them on the front end.

Let's start with what I liked about A Reliable Wife: the writing. Goolrick definitely has a way with his turn of phrase. In one portion of the book, Ralph and Catherine move house from a small farmhouse on his property to an Italian mansion he'd built for his deceased wife. The descriptions of the house: furnishings and decor, architecture, and Catherine's vision for the garden, were stunning and rich and opulent. I marked some passages I'll post later. I didn't bring the book to school with me on this early snow makeup day, but the passages really are worth sharing.

Unlike the last book I reviewed, which was largely about plot, A Reliable Wife is character driven and slow at times, though that never really turned me off. To give a brief synopsis of the characters...the rich widower, Ralph Truitt, advertises for a "reliable wife" and in steps Catherine Land. Catherine and Ralph both have troubled pasts and all hell breaks loose--emotionally, sexually, etc.--when they get together. In short, and without ruining anything for you, Catherine is armed with a bottle of arsenic and plans to poison Ralph slowly and enjoy his fortune. Goolrick did a great job setting this book during a Wisconsin winter because the story takes on an atmosphere of claustrophobia. The characters don't have a whole lot to do except sit around and think, and we're privvy to those thoughts in all their gory detail. I also enjoyed the complexity of the characters. Not Catherine so much, but Ralph is an interesting guy with some surprising thoughts about his new "reliable wife." He's savvier than she gives him credit for, and he's a lot more forgiving of some of her shortcomings than I would've been.

So now for what I didn't like. Goolrick writes longggg rambling passages about sexual escapades and desires which, at times, I wished had just stayed in the characters' heads. Given, Ralph has been without any lovin' for about 20 years, so I'm not surprised that he's a bit frustrated, but COME ON. There were so many ruminations on sex from all the characters that it got really old. The sex was about as exciting as an OB visit, let me just put it that way.

Overall, despite having some quibbles, I was happy with this one. I read it in two days, which just goes to show that it sucked me in and didn't let go. Now I've picked up The Elegance of the Hedgehog. I'm not far in, so I have no idea how it'll go, but I'm hoping for more good luck!

FTC: It was from the library. Didn't even have the cover I like so much.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Raven Stole the Moon, by Garth Stein

I think it's par for the course that many bloggers fall into a rut at some point or another. It's not to be confused with a slump, but in the case of the rut we get used to reading certain "types" of books or perhaps we find a genre we decide is not for us.

I'm as guilty as any other reader, but I made a decision, when contacted about the review opportunity to step outside my comfort zone. In all honesty, I wasn't sure it would be a positive review after I read the blurb, but it all worked out just fine.

Raven Stole the Moon is a re-issue of Garth Stein's first novel. Many of you are probably already familiar with first big success, The Art of Racing in the Rain. I distinctly remember passing that book over when it made the reviewy rounds because I generally don't do books that have anything major to do with dogs (it's a quirk!), and given all the good reviews, I was a little sad that I did pass it over. I didn't want to make the same mistake with Raven Stole the Moon, so I took the plunge.

This novel is about a well-to-do couple from Seatte--Robert and Jenna--who lose their son to drowning two years prior to the novel's action on a vacation to the Thunder Bay resort in Alaska. Jenna happens to have family and Native American ties to that area of Alaska, as her grandmother was a member of the Tlingit people. After a particularly upsetting situation with Robert, Jenna takes off to Alaska on her own and strange things begin to happen to her. She investigates her grandmother's ramshackle house, adopts an odd dog she meets in the woods, and ends up boarding with a local fisherman. All is not well as whisperings of Tlingit legend enter the picture. Specifically, Jenna begins to learn about the kushtaka--Native American spirits who steal souls. By joining forces with a Tlingit shaman, Jenna begins to unravel the mystery of her son's drowning, and hers is a harrowing journey into the unknown.

There is a definite supernatural element to this novel that I wasn't fully expecting when I accepted it for review. I supposed I expected a sprinkling of Native American legend, but the mythology and the kushtaka story are integral to the plot. It is a testament to Stein's writing that I was able to easily sink into the story and accept the role of these mythological soul stealers with few problems. Native American legend hasn't captivated me the way some other mythologies have through the years, so I was surprised at how interested I became and how much I enjoyed that aspect of the novel. The supernatural elements were thrilling and kept me flipping pages.

More importantly, the characters were well drawn. Given, there were times that I found some of Stein's dialogue slightly less than believable, but that was mostly on the part of the husband, Robert, who I didn't really like too much in the first place. Jenna's sections, as well as those relating to David Livingstone, the Tlingit Shaman, were excellent, and I enjoyed those characters more than most any characters I've read in a novel in the last year or so. Jenna is damaged not only by the loss of her son, but also by the deterioration of her marriage ever since. As a new mom-to-be, I already can't imagine losing a child, and I can only imagine the toll it could take on one's marriage if both partners aren't willing to share and work together to get through it.

As I've mentioned here before, I've had a really hard time reading contemporary novels as of late. I only read ONE last year (hard to believe), and I've been doing better this year. Raven Stole the Moon is by far the most involving novel I've read in a very long time--since the one I read last year, The Thirteenth Tale. The novels are nothing alike in premise, but they both had excellent pacing which kept me involved throughout, and that seems to be the key ingredient to a great novel reading experience for me nowadays.

I noticed on Garth Stein's homepage, a blurb from The Washington Post about Raven Stole the Moon. It describes the novel as, "deeply moving, superbly crafted and highly unconventional..." I couldn't agree more. "Unconventional" is probably the first descriptor that comes to mind when I think of Raven Stole the Moon, and it's wonderfully unconventional, at that.

If you're up for an involving read and this one sounds like a book squarely outside your usual preferences, give it a try anyway! Maybe you'll be as entertained as I was. If you'd like to find out, enter my Raven Stole the Moon giveaway!

Book Giveaway:

Enter to win a pristine new copy of Raven Stole the Moon. Simply comment below expressing your interest, and I'll draw the winner on March 9th!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Classics Come Back to Haunt

Classics seem to be hit and miss for everyone...especially when "everyone" is young. There are those exceptions I read about in the blogosphere who loved Jane Austen at 13 or fell madly for Dickens at 11, but I was not one of those students. Until the age of 15 I was all about L.J. Smith, Stephen King, and anything else horrory. Classics were an acquired taste, to put it nicely. Once I fell, I fell hard, but it took a while.

Right now I find myself in a position to re-read a classic that I first read as a teen and then later in my early 20s. I picked up The Scarlet Letter for Dr. Partin's English class as a junior or senior in high school, and I SO didn't read it. I looked at it sitting on my nighstand occasionally. I took good notes in class and made a 100 on the test (Sorry, Dr. P.). However, I decidedly did not read it.

As I college student, I found myself in Dr. Moseley's American Lit survey. When I wasn't counting her "ums" during her lectures (75 in 30 minutes one time), to my surprise and delight, I freakin' loved Hester Prynne and read the book in a day. I was also on a feminism kick, and I adored Hester as a hard-nosed heroine.

Now I'm 29, I'm teaching my own class in early American Literature, and I'm having the HARDEST TIME getting back into this novel! I have no idea what my problem is other than burnout from a busy work schedule and the discomforts of pregnancy roundness, but it's like pulling my fingernails out to devote any significant time to this book. I know if I could sink into it again, I would probably love it all over, but the only sinking I'm doing is into my bed.

Have you read any classics at various points in life? What was your reaction to the re-reading?

Monday, March 01, 2010

Baby Shower #1

Owl cake matches Greyson's bedding.

Chuck doing what he does best...

It's chocolate! I swear!

Friends, Iris and Robin

Pregonator relaxes.

After the party...

HoldsFest 2010

It's a well-known fact in the blogiverse that holds always arrive at the library in clumps. I haven't had this problem too much in the past because it seems my library is always missing some of the "it" books that I decide I want to check out. Within the last week, though, I've placed oodles of good stuff on hold, and now two of them have arrived at the same time with more looming large on the horizon.

Yummies I've put on hold recently:

Aren't they pretty? I just wanna pet them all.

The first ones to come in, that I need to pick up on my way home today, as a matter of fact...are A Reliable Wife, by Robert Goolrick and The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery. I've heard endless good things about A Reliable Wife, but I'm going to admit my utter shallowness and tell you that if it didn't have that crimson dress on the cover, I might never have paid attention. I tend to be swayed by pretty things lately, and that color red is freakin' divine. I also downloaded a free sample to my Nook, and then I was doubly sold.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog seems to be a love/hate book floating around the 'sphere right now, and I just want to know where I fall in the continuum. I can't resist a little controversy.

As for the others, there are all sorts of reasons I chose to put them on hold. I love Sarah Addison Allen's escapist goodness; The Forest of Hands and Teeth looks really creepy, and Heather recommended it; The Girl with the Glass Feet appeals to the fairy tale lover in me, and I want to lick the cover; going Bovine looks wonderfully weird and Melissa reviewed it.

I won't go through all of them, but you get the gist.

With two of these beauties awaiting me at once, and seeing as I'm still stuck in Franny and Zooey and totally enamored of an unnamed novel coming up for review soon, I can only hope I'll have the time to read them right now. I would hate to have to re-hold them. Re-holding is one of life's great timesucks. Wish me luck!

What's come in for you lately? What morsels are still on hold?
Images by Freepik