Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Sunday Salon - On Accumulation

How many of us tend to accumulate books without even trying? Aside from the Advanced Readers we receive, the gifts, the contest winnings. How many of us still accumulate books maybe when we're not even reading very much?

I do! You know I do because I write about it all the time. The question is, HOW does this keep happening? The bottom line: books are comfort for me. They're a soft, squishy place where I curl up when my life is crazy.

I found myself in Barnes & Noble downloading free Nook content yesterday, and of course I managed to accumulate a few printed books and even one digital one.


I grabbed a remaindered hardcover copy of Sarah Addison Allen's The Sugar Queen. I started reading it ages ago from my library, but I think school got in the way and I laid it aside unfinished. I downloaded a copy of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society for a decent price from B&N for my Nook. I've had my eye on it forever, and there's always an obscene waiting list for it at the library, so I decided to go ahead and take the plunge.

So it continues. These are not the only books to land on my stacks lately. A couple of pretty Hemingways found their way home with me from a neighborhood garage sale, and several e-books found their way to my wishlist yesterday in the store. More on those later.

For now, my son is at his G-Mama's house and I have some reading to do. I'm looking the other way so the laundry won't know it's being passed over. Still reading: The Season of Second Chances.

Posts on the horizon: Essays I've read lately, and a post on the marriage of magical realism and food.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Much Lusty Wanting: Great House


This actually has nothing to do with my previous post on real estate and books, but as soon as I closed the window from composing that post, I popped over to Nonsuch Book and found mention of Nicole Krauss's new novel, Great House. It's set to release October 4th, and I'm bitter that I'll have to wait that long!

Check out the blurb:

A powerful, soaring novel about a stolen desk that contains the secrets, and becomes the obsession, of the lives it passes through. For twenty-five years, a solitary American novelist has been writing at the desk she inherited from a young poet who disappeared at the hands of Pinochet's secret police; one day a girl claiming to be his daughter arrives to take it away, sending her life reeling. Across the ocean in London, a man discovers a terrifying secret about his wife of almost fifty years. In Jerusalem, an antiques dealer is slowly reassembling his father's Budapest study, plundered by the Nazis in 1944.
So. Unfair.

I can't wait.

Real Estate and Reading, Heaven!


If there are two things I'm passionate about, it's real estate and books. I love houses. I love houses with books in 'em. I love decorating.

I won an ARC of Diane Meier's The Season of Second Chances and I was especially interested in this one because it's about an English professor who moves to Massachusetts and buys a Victorian fixer-upper. Heavenly!

This is one of those mid-book "just checking in" kind of posts I typically concoct when I don't feel like I'm reading enough and I desperately want to move along on a book I like. So far, I love this one!

The main character, Joy Harkness, is a lot of fun. She's been living in NYC for years, so moving to Massachusetts to teach at Amherst is something of a culture shock. Her co-workers actually talk and expect her to have lunch with them, and somehow impose themselves on her life until she finally gives in and begins to like them. At home, her contractor is an odd mix of the little boyish and the super-smart. He covers his receding hairline with a ball cap, this t-shirts pull over his tummy, and he listens to The Who nonstop. But he can also talk about poetry and history and he's a natural born house fixer and talented decorator. The passages detailing the house remodel are making me drool almost as much as all the academic-speak related to Joy's job.

In short, this is a book tailor-made for me. It's a very "quiet" novel in that there isn't much really happening at this point, so I'm looking forward to where the author might take the book in the latter half. In the meantime, I'll be daydreaming about paint color swatches and spackle.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

No Longer a Chaise Lounge

Today is my first day back at work after five weeks off with Greyson. It's amazing and scary how fast it went, and it's bittersweet to be back in the office. I'm notorious for my inkling to go-go-go, so there are times that it's tough to be a chaise lounge for a newborn when I'd rather be up moving. However, I would also never trade the time I've had to spend hours staring at his little face, tickling his chin, and listening to him coo and watching him smile. I would much rather be at home with my boys and girls (Chuck included, and the Rockets), but this whole paycheck thing dictates that I work, so here I am.

I brought an adorable frame to hang at my desk so I can see him any time I want. And it helps that I only work five minutes away from our condo. In theory, I can go see him any time I want when I'm not trapped in meetings all day. Chuck is one lucky duck since he works from home right now. He gets to be Mr. Mom, and I have peace of mind NOT leaving Greyson in daycare.

Being a mom is the coolest thing I've ever done in my life, and here are some of the things I've learned or discovered or had reinforced in the last five weeks:

1. I never knew just how much I could adore someone I just met or how protective I could be.

2. I have a wonderful baby who makes this process so much easier. He is a great eater, a good sleeper, and he keeps to a pretty tight, normal schedule. Not too many surprises so far (KNOCK ON WOOD), and he's very agreeable except between the hours of 5 and 9.

3. I have a very nurturing partner. Chuck is great with the Rockets (13 and 12), but it's different seeing him with a baby. He's wonderful/fantastic with Greyson. In fact, he can calm the kiddo like no one else around.

4. The Rockets are great kids. While they do screw up normal teenage things sometimes (one of them is grounded now), they've been great help with the baby, and they enjoy him.

5. My mom is the funniest G-Mama ever. Barely a day goes by that she doesn't buy Greyson something, fawn over him, or generally act like all those other doting grandparents I've known. I just didn't know she had it in her after years of curling her lip at kids.

6. It's OK to get frustrated and/or need a break sometimes. It doesn't mean we don't love our kids. As a friend put it to me, "You have a stranger in your house who doesn't speak English, who wakes you up at all hours of the night, and screams. A lot.  It's OK if you don't always like him." This was true on a couple of constipated, screaming turdball nights. I still adore my child, but sometimes walking away for a few minutes is the best solution to remain sane.

7. I have more support from family and friends than I ever realized. That includes you sweet bloggers. Thanks for everything!

More pics coming soon!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Girl Who Chased the Moon

Not gonna mince words here or waste any time.

LOVED IT!

It started with Garden Spells, and then life stalled me on The Sugar Queen, but I'm totally back onboard with Sarah Addison Allen's third novel, The Girl Who Chased the Moon.

Set in the small town of Mullaby, North Carolina, Emily's mother dies and she goes to live with her grandfather--often called a giant--in the house where her mother grew up. Her mother, Dulcie, was great at keeping her past a secret...until Emily gets to Mullaby. Her mother was no peach in her youth, and the town is determined to take it out on her, until she meets the mysterious cutie-patootie, Win Coffey.

In the book's other storyline, Julia is Emily's mother's age and stuck back in Mullaby after living much of her adult life in Baltimore. After her father's death, she returns to the little town to take over his barbeque restaurant for a very strict two years so she can pay off the mortgage, sell the place, and open her dream bakery back in the big city. Sawyer, a sweet Southern gentleman (and total hottie), with whom Julia shares a past, has other plans.

As with Addison's other novels, I just wanted to lick this book the whole time I was reading it. It was deliriously sweet without being the slightest big annoying. Her literal descriptions of food are scrumptious. My mouth watered every time she wrote about one of Julia's cakes. On another level, the writing itself was decadent. Addison Allen reminds me so much of Alice Hoffman, but with lots more food in her stories. The magical elements I loved in this story: some mysterious "Mullaby lights," wallpaper that changes with the inhabitant's moods, and a seriously desirable "sweet sense" or ability to see a little sparkle coming off of sugar and other baked goods.

I downloaded this book to my Nook, and this was the first time since I've owned my device that I didn't "feel" the device. I didn't think about how I was reading off of a little screen; I was so sucked into the "pages" that I never gave it a second thought. Addison Allen's novels have a wonderful ability to draw me in, and I feel pleased and uplifted when I'm done reading.

If you're curious, go check out more info about this book from Addison Allen's website. There are even recipes for Julia's cakes.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Good Neighbors #1: Kin

It's happened! I finally finished a book.

I made a trip to the library a few days ago in search of Carrie Ryan's second novel, The Dead Tossed Waves. While I was there, I happened upon Holly Black's graphic novel, The Good Neighbors: Kin. This is the first book in the series, and I zipped through it last night and this morning. I've gotta tell you, while it's not the best book I've ever read, it was delightful to finish something!

Kin is the story of a teenager named Rue Silver, daughter to an unnaturally beautiful woman and a professor. Early on, the mother, Nia, goes missing, and a local college student is killed. Rue's father is blamed for the murder, and the officials assume he's offed his wife, too. Rue refuses to believe it, and soon she's seeing very odd things: faeries. As it turns out, her mother is one, which makes her part faery as well.

The story seemed a little thin overall, but it's just the first book in the series, so I'm hoping it gets a little more significant as it rolls along. As it turns out, my library doesn't even have the second book, so it looks like I'll be ILL'ing it or just waiting 'til they decide to add it to the collection.

The highlight of Kin was undoubtedly Ted Naifeh's artwork. This is one of the pages from the book so you can get an idea. I love the richness of the black and white, and I'm especially fond of the closeups. The faery characters are very angular and lovely--dangerous-looking. I thought he captured them perfectly. The illustrations, with the closeups I mentioned, are very cinematic. Moreso than in some other graphic novels I've read.

To see more of his work and read his blog, visit Ted Naifeh's website.

I've heard endless good things about Holly Black. Her book, Tithe, always seems to be a YA favorite. While I can't say this book is going on my favorites list, I will most definitely attempt to continue with the series, and I would like to check out more of her work. Luckily, the library does have Tithe.

This is one of my books for the Graphic Novels Challenge!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

New Books in My Life

Hey! Yep, it's me. I'm here, somewhat well rested and already dreading the return to work (May 24th). And I actually have something bookish to say today which is very out of the ordinary as of late. Where to begin?

Since I've been on maternity leave I've done almost absolutely no reading, which is no surprise to anyone with a little one in the house. I have managed to sneak a few moments, though. First, I stayed up all night a few nights ago helping Chuck with a research paper for his online English class. When I say all night, I mean alllll night. Ironically, that was the first night Greyson slept through the entire night and we figured out a magical baby trick to get him to do so. 

While Chuck was writing his brilliant paper, I read through an entire issue of the New York Times Book Review. It was a whopping 104 pages on my Nook, and it was by far the most I've read at a sitting in about...oh, four weeks (note: Greyson is four weeks old today).

While I haven't been reading much, that's not to say I haven't been adding to my stacks. Right before I delivered, Chuck and I went to a local rummage sale and I found the following yummy goodies:



Then I got some more yummy goodies in the mail:


So even though it's slow going, I have some great finds waiting for me. The only up side of going back to work--aside from that whole "making a living" thing--is the additional time to read. When office hours are slow or I have a lunch break, you can bet I'll be face-down in a book.

I also snatched a few minutes to read in the doctor's office waiting room yesterday. I have about 100 pages of Sarah Addison Allen's The Girl Who Chased the Moon left, and I'm enjoying this one just as much as Addison's previous books. I'll report back on that one soon.

I hope you're all having a wonderful, relaxing Saturday. I'm off to finish up some grading for an online class before I head back downstairs for additional reading and some family movie watching. And Greyson snuggling, too, but that's a given.

What have you read lately? Since I've been totally out of the bloggy loop, I could always use some recs.