Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Bourdain Good Time

I first fell in love with Anthony (Tony) Bourdain when I watched his travel/food show, No Reservations, on the Travel Channel several years ago. I can't remember which country he was in during that particular episode, but I was immediately sucked into the show. Tony has an acerbic wit (putting it mildly), and he's not afraid to tell it exactly as he sees it. At the time I began watching, he smoked like a chimney, drank like a fish, and generally relished his bad boy persona. He was grumpy in the Dr. House (TV show) sense of things. Something of a misanthrope with a heart of gold. Though I'm tempted to believe that he doesn't hate everyone...just the stupid people.

As a veteran of kitchens and executive chef at Brasserie Las Halles in NYC for a number of years, Tony knows food. Oddly enough, Tony is also fond of a beautiful turn of phrase, and his writing is nothing short of poetic. The guy is educated and well spoken, even if he enjoys skull tattoos and torn jeans.

The first of his books I picked up was the first one he published: Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly (2000). The book is an exposé of the food industry and what life is actually like in a kitchen. It's snarky and shows off his piss-and-vinegar humor, even if it struck me as a bit immature. It was Tony turned up to 11.

The second book I read of Bourdain's was A Cook's Tour (2001). It was written in conjunction with his first TV show, A Cook's Tour (Food Network), and he visits a number of different countries in search of the "perfect meal." While I loved the attitude in Kitchen Confidential, I relished the details in A Cook's Tour. An example:
While I had visited the awe-inspiring, life-changing mother of all fish markets before, this time I would be going with an expert. The plan was to meet Togawa-san at his restaurant, run over to Tsukiji to do his day's shopping, then return to his restaurant and eat myself silly. I've written about Tsukiji in the past, and used up most of the superlatives I can think of. Just take my word for it: It's the Taj Mahal, the Colosseum, the Great Pyramid of seafood. All that unbelievable bounty, spread across acres and acres of concrete, wriggling and spitting from tanks, laid out in brightly colored rows, carefully arranged like dominoes in boxes, skittering and clawing from under piles of crushed ice, jockeyed around on fast-moving carts, the smell of limitless possibilities, countless sensual pleasures--I am inadequate to the task of saying more. There is nowhere else. Believe me.
Ahh, the details made my mouth water at times, and other times I wanted to vomit. The bottom line: Tony can really write!

One of the most anticipated books on my holds list right now is Tony's new book, Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook. In fact, I just got word that it's waiting for me to pick it up at the library, and I can't get there fast enough.

Just looking over the cover of this one, it seems to have a very different vibe from some of his earlier books. Bourdain is all decked out in a posh suit, fingering a knife, and looking the part of a much swankier badass than he has before. He has changed over the years: remarried, quit smoking, and he's seemingly quite a bit more introspective. I'm curious to know how this book will relate to his earlier books. I expect the writing will be luscious, but it's the attitude I'm really wondering about.

I have a few things to clear out of the way first, but you can bet it won't take me too darn long to dive into this newest foodie book on my stacks. Who knows, maybe it'll be a BookClubSandwich pick in the future!

Addendum: I should also add, because I was mistaken: the book waiting for me at the library is in fact NOT Medium Raw. It's his other book, The Nasty Bits: Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps, and Bones. It was published in 2006 and according to Wikipedia it is, "...37 exotic, provocative, and humorous anecdotes and essays, many of them centered around food, followed by a 30-page fiction piece ('A Chef's Christmas')." Still looking terribly forward to this one, and I'm #6 on the holds for Medium Raw. Will report back later!

Monday, June 28, 2010

BookClubSandwich: An Online Book Group!

All brilliant ideas are born on Twitter. That's my new opinion. It seems as if everywhere I look in the blogosphere someone is starting a project as a direct result of a Twitter conversation. Yours truly is now one of those people and project partners.

Kim, (Sophisticated Dorkiness) and I have decided to start an online book club for readers interested in books involving food. Food memoirs, food growth, sustainable foodiness, high-brow and low-brow food. I'm sure you're all familiar with the deluge of food in books (not to be confused with food IN books) lately, so we decided to celebrate it.

BookClubSandwich's first pick will be: Coop, by Michael Perry!

Discussion begins here on August 16, 2010!

This seems to be the it food book going around. Everywhere I turn someone wants to read it, so what better choice to take this club out for a spin! Kim and I are not immune to Coop fever, either.

Discussion will open with a review of sorts--thoughts and questions--to be posted here on Monday, August 16th. A week later, Kim will post a recap and wrap-up of the discussion on her blog! During the course of the week, post your own thoughts/reviews and link them to the opening post, and you're all set. I'm almost positive there will be some sort of discussion stirring in the comments as well.

We discussed having a dedicated blog for BookClubSandwich, but given some busy schedules we decided to go Woolf in Winter style and use our blogs as home base instead.

Coming soon: sidebar-sized icons you can snag and wear proudly.

I hope you'll join us for our inaugural discussion! If you'd like, leave a comment expressing your interest.

*Note: the logo/button was designed by my very talented Chuck. If you ever need design work done, let us know! The website for his company, D'Aprix Graphics is under construction, but you can visit anyway.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Impending Bookgasm

So I was sitting around picking my nose at work today because I've already graded half of the assignments turned in yesterday, and I won't be in the office much longer today, AND I'm here with nothing to do but grade for a whopping nine hours on Monday. What better time to blog? But I found myself in quite the quandary: nothing to write about! Then I laughed and slapped my knees and thought, "But there are all those tasty new books to read!"

These are the books you'll see appearing here soon. Many projects and deadlines are involved, so you can bet I'll be whipping through them pretty darn fast.



First on the menu, Scarlet Thomas's really weird-sounding novel, Our Tragic Universe. Jackie from Farm Lane Books wrote a great review of it, and I knew I had to try it. The publisher explains the tangle of ideas in this book far better than I could at this point:
Can a story save your life? Meg Carpenter is broke. Her novel is years overdue. Her cell phone is out of minutes. And her moody boyfriend's only contribution to the household is his sour attitude. So she jumps at the chance to review a pseudoscientific book that promises life everlasting. But who wants to live forever? Consulting cosmology and physics, tarot cards, koans (and riddles and jokes), new-age theories of everything, narrative theory, Nietzsche, Baudrillard, and knitting patterns, Meg wends her way through Our Tragic Universe, asking this and many other questions.
Sounds tempting, eh? Sort of reminds me of Paul Auster's surreal weirdness in some of his novels. I really can't resist a book like this.

Next is an e-galley of The Little Prince THE GRAPHIC NOVEL illustrated by Joann Sfar!!! I am hesitant to admit that when I read the picture book--as an adult, you should note--I didn't really see what all the hooplah was about. Sure, it's a sweet story, yadda yadda. However, I am really excited to see it as a graphic novel, and I think it'll push things to a new level for me as a graphic novel-loving adult.

Next, another e-galley, this time a copy of The Best American Comics 2010, edited by NEIL GAIMAN!!! Are you bouncing in your seat a little bit, too??? I seriously can't wait to see which works Neil has pulled to showcase this year.

The next round of books all have to do with food or sustainable living. I'm on a real kick with these right now as I'm working my way through The Backyard Homestead and drooling over several other books.


It's no secret that I've been jonesing to read Coop, by Michael Perry. When Heather offered to be saintly and send her copy on to me, I almost wet myself. Thanks, Heather!

In a sweet, but somewhat selfish gesture, I picked up on Chuck's comment that he wanted to own copies of The Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan and The Urban Homestead by Kelly Coyne. I mean, it's not toooo selfish because he really did want these in the house, and I just happen to want to read them, too. No harm there, right? It's really a smart, economical gifting choice! It didn't take much to convince me.

Finally, I happened upon Ten Acres is Enough by Edmund Morris when I was looking for small press or e-books for Estella's Revenge E-Zine. It falls into the sustainable living category, but it was first published in 1867!!! I was really surprised and sort of intrigued when I saw the year and realized that it falls into line with my 2010 sensibilities. Why not give it a try, too?! Read more about this and other awesome e- and print books at Dminoz.

Other titles coming up or whispering to me from my library stack and Nook:
  • Horns, by Joe Hill
  • The Art of Disappearing, by Ivy Pochoda
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society which everyone already knows about.
  • Vanity Fair, by William Thackeray which is long and scary.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Estella is Ready to Blog Your Face Off!

You might remember that over a year ago, Heather, Melissa, and I shut down our e-zine project, aptly named Estella's Revenge. The good news is that Estella's Revenge E-Zine is BACK and ready to blog your face right off.

We have a new mission to "push bookish boundaries." In short, we hope to act as a blog collective where bloggers and other writers can come together in the name of the underappreciated and unsung. We want to be a bastion for books that are not yet ALL OVER the blogosphere. If you love a book, author, or publisher and no one else loves them as much as you think they should, then let us know or write something we can publish!

We publish reviews, essays, quarterly columns, and other pieces we think are fit to the mission. Also, if you're particularly keen to a new trend in books and publishing, write about that as well!

It's time to get in bed with Estella's Revenge, so come on over and tangle your toes with us.

Right now we're publishing quarterly, with the first issue set to meet the public on August 2, 2010. If you're interested in writing for us, please visit the Call for Submissions over at the Estella's Revenge E-Zine website. Deadline to submit work for the first issue is July 18, 2010.

You can also follow us on Twitter.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


If taken out of context people could think I've really gone off my rocker. My latest (and weirdest) Twitter writings:
  • My bra is cutting into my back flesh. That means I'm ready to go home.
  • I could really go for some steak fingers and gravy right now. And Texas toast! But I would never do that this late. *ahem*
  • If I ever had the opportunity I would don my sequins and book cart drill fo' sho!
  • Woohoo! Nook party!
  • Singing "I am sick of stupid questions" in my head to the same tune we use for "Greyson is a super dooper pooper!"

Good Book: The Good Earth

I added Pearl S. Buck's award-winning novel, The Good Earth, to my stacks several years ago. It was a complete whim and one of few occasions that I decided to spring for a pristine, brand-new copy of anything. Most of the time I tend to haunt used bookstores or swap sites. Something about the recommendation of a good friend and this stunning, spare yellow cover rendered me unable to resist.

It's been a while since I've read a classic--Emma earlier in the year. I always hope that at their best I'll feel filled up by a classic. That it will impart some universal message and leave me satisfied and yearning for more of the good stuff. I am pleased to say that The Good Earth lived up to all of my hopes.

Wang Lung is a poor Chinese farmer, and his main motivation in life is to acquire more land. He marries a slave girl from the rich and powerful House of Hwang, O-Lan, and they begin to work their land side by side. Over the years they have children, and when drought strikes, they head off to a southern city to beg for money until they can return to their home. A strange twist of fate allows them to return home, and there begins their journey toward wealth and, one would think, happiness.

It's a reconizable story. Poor man achieves great riches and life is not as simple and fulfilling as he hoped it would be. Terrible hurdles pop up in Wang Lung's 70-something years, and it would be impossible for me to touch on even half of them in this review. The power in Buck's writing is really her willingness to write well-rounded, realistic characters. Wang Lung is NOT always a nice guy. I didn't like him for portions of the book. Though, truthfully, he was always a somewhat sympathetic character, even if his goodness was only in his head and not directed toward his fellow characters. The star of the show for me was O-Lan. Buck's own feminist views shine through to some extent as O-Lan is a strong, hardworking woman who puts up with a lot of crap from her husband.

There is also controversy in The Good Earth. A white American woman writing the perspective of a Chinese man is something to be discussed. Truthfully, I had my doubts, and I kept watching for signs of white privilege and whatnot, but overall I felt Buck was writing in a fairly detached, nonjudgemental way about Chinese culture and daily living. The book is stuffed full of the minutiae of everyday life in early 20th-century China, and for all its distasteful facets--for this 21st century white American woman--it was a fair and even-handed read.

I purposely did not read a word about Buck's life until after I finished the book, and I'm glad of that. I wanted to judge the book without knowing exactly how much or how little Buck knew of Chinese culture. As it turns out, and as I would've guessed, she was thoroughly entrenched in China having lived there for the majority of her life and having suffered a great deal at the hands of China's political unrest.

I guess I could've just written, "It's a winner!" and been done with this review, but I hope others will pick up The Good Earth as a result of my long-winded approach. It's a book I would dearly love to discuss with others, so if you've read it, please comment!!!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Audiobook Week: Spreading the Aural Love

Devourer of Books is hosting Audiobook Week, and I had no idea it was going on until I woke up at 4am and starting flipping through the Google Reader app on my iPod Touch. Inane details aside, I decided to jump on this event bandwagon because there's a good deal of controversy when it comes to audiobooks and you know I can't keep my nose out of a good controversy.

In the olden days (2001), I started participating in online book discussion groups over at Yahoo! That's how I met my reading soulmate, Heather. At the time, audiobooks were not as accepted as I suspect they are now. In fact, I was a member of one group which tirelessly counted each and every book read during the year, and audiobooks WERE NOT ALLOWED to be counted. Given, it was a decision made by the group when they formed, but somehow it bastardized the audiobooks. It made them second class citizens.

The first audiobook I ever tried for myself was in 2003. I was on a cross-country trip to North Carolina, and I figured it was the perfect occasion to abandon bad radio and delve into a book--hands-free. I picked up that Ya-Ya book, read by the author, and I only made it about 10 miles before I was tempted to toss it out the window onto the highway. Her voice (and overly-thickened accent, I suspect) was grating and horrible. Fail!

This initial failure was enough to make me abandon audiobooks for another four years. Until...

David Sedaris. I always heard how funny his voice was and how much it enriched the experience of his essays, so after reading Me Talk Pretty One Day and laughing until I was downright snotty, I figured the listening experience must be pretty damn good. I was sooo right. I had a 40 minute commute each way to work, and Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim had me veering off the road in laughy-tears.

My second audiobook excursion was a completely different experience, fueled by a completely different motivation. I randomly picked On the Road, by Jack Kerouac, off of my shelves and quickly decided that there was NO WAY I would ever finish reading the print version of that rambly mess. And I really wanted another patch on my imaginary reading sash, so I just HAD to finish it. In walked reader, Matt Dillon, and I finished that booger in no time. I hated the story, but Dillon was a surprisingly good reader and well-suited to the book, so it was OK. And I got my imaginary reading patch. Gold star for me.

Finally, I've experienced some really amazing, jaw-dropping audiobooks over the years. The two that come immediately to mind are: The Stolen Child, by Keith Donoghue and On Chesil Beach, by Ian McEwan. In the case of The Stolen Child, there were two readers who alternated and gave life to two very similar characters whose lives become all mixed up and intertwined. McEwan himself read On Chesil Beach, and I found that his voice brought a whole new level of emotion and atmosphere to the book whether it happened to be awkwardness, love, or heartbreak. Just gorgeous.

While I don't listen to as many audiobooks nowadays because I don't have a commute, I still like to delve into one now and then. My library system that I'm in now has a much better selection than my old one, and I have far less time for physical reading, so I suspect I'll be neck-deep in audiobooks again soon. In the meantime, if you haven't tried them, or if you haven't tried them a couple of times, take a lesson from my flounderings and give them another go. You might find a reason or six why you love them.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Covers to Make Me Vomit

I have a discussion about credibility and professionalism with my students every term, and it goes a little something like this:

"What would happen if you'd built a really strong relationship with your doctor. You'd gone to her for 10 years and never had any quibbles. One day you find yourself in horrible pain and simply MUST go to the doctor's office, but when you arrive you discover that the doctor has had a family emergency, is out of town for three weeks, and she's chosen a replacement to cover for her. Just when you're ready to crumple under the pain of your condition, in walks the replacement...

Cut-off jean shorts, a holey Hawaiian shirt, hair that looks like a muskrat is nesting in the back of it, and there's a distinctive smell of body odor surrounding him. When he opens his mouth, out comes a voice akin to Keanu Reeves. 'Duuuude, you've got problemmms.'"

Inevitably, the students say they'd bolt from the room (and one stoner in the back says his doctor is EXACTLY like this and brilliant). I always point out that the replacement physician might have great  things to say and be a brilliant graduate of Johns Hopkins Med School, but as humans we DO judge based on appearances (right or wrong), and that our credibility can be damaged by the way we present ourselves.

I hear the crack of a bat in my head as the point is hammered home to my students. Go me!

How does this all relate to books? The job of a book's cover is to build its credibility and SELL IT. What I'm finding is a trend of really empty, conceptless covers that make me want to vomit. Here's a sample:

I freely admit that I am often swayed by covers. I am often tempted by covers. A beautifully crafted cover may be the nugget of goodness which prompts me to inquire into the substance of a book. I'm not so shallow as to assume that a cover will ruin an author or their story, but if we're talking about first impressions, the books above will not tempt me in the slightest. I personally get so sick of seeing the same repetitive "type" of cover, I could absolutely cry.

Beginning with the books above, there is a plague of "beachy" books. I assume publishers are playing into that whole "beach read" phenomenon, but a few things turn my stomach lately: feet, sand, water, feet and sand and water together, and washed out blue covers featuring a Pantene haircare model.

*swing hair to the left, swing hair to the right*

While they are pretty, they don't really *say* anything--to me, at least. They all look so similar, I have a tendency to pass them over unchecked.

Another seemingly endless and annoying trend in publishing is the headless woman. I won't go into much detail about this one because Sassymonkey covered it, but there are an astonishing number of female heads being lost these days. I've seen a lot of hips, I've seen tons of torsos, but heads are endangered.

Books can be art, and there are many books which embody art. For a prime example, visit Jim Tierney's website and blog. Jim is a recent graduate with a degree in illustration, and his books are simply stunning. I'm especially fond of his Jules Verne series he designed for his thesis project.

If you visit his site, you can see the details in all of their stunning glory as well as a video of how the covers came about. Every time I look at these books I find new and wonderful details that make them all the richer for the references they provide to the books' contents. They really are representative of Verne's work.

I realize that it would be far too expensive to have covers like these on every book, but they are such a beautiful example of how a well-designed cover can enhance the contents of a book and show them off in their best light instead of simply buying into a trend.

A while back I discovered Frances's blog, Nonsuch Book, and became an instant fan. Frances is a collector and a lover of beautifully designed covers, and her sidebar is almost a work of art. Occasionally she spotlights an especially beautiful or well-designed book or series of books. One of my favorite of her posts lately is called "penguin-centric." Designer, Amy Fleisher, decided to have a little fun with the Penguin mascot and Frankenstein, Dracula, Pinocchio, and The Invisible Man. I would totally buy them. Go take a look.

Finally, my very favorite cover designer is the weird and wacky Chip Kidd. Author of The Cheese Monkeys, he is probably one of the most famous cover designers in the business. My favorite part about Kidd is the fact that his style is so flexible. Looking at his gallery of covers, they're varied, finely crafted, and they just look thoughtful.

In short, I guess I would say I'm a cover snob. I'm far less likely to judge a book by its contents, but I'm quick to gag when the cover sucks.
I would love to hear which covers you've loved and hated lately.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Reflection: Beasts, by Joyce Carol Oates

In 2003 I read Joyce Carol Oates for the first time. Staring at her body of available work in any bookstore is completely overwhelming since she's one of the most prolific authors in the world. As I recall, I picked Beasts because it was slim--just 130 pages--and it seemed a safe choice since I'd never read any of her stuff before. I knew her name because she was featured on Oprah for We Were the Mulvaneys, but that was the extent of my knowledge about her or her work.

I was supremely unhappy at the time. Caught in a rocky, unfulfilling relationship and living some 1,300 miles from my family; mine was a dark mindset. Perfectly fitting for Oates's dark novella.

Otto Penzler, a well-known editor of mystery fiction and owner of The Mysterious Bookshop in New York City created "Penzler's Picks" for Amazon.com, and Beasts was one of his picks. It's also the first of his own picks he's reviewed for the site. He writes:

Beasts is a little jewel of a book, only 138 pages. Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea is a perfect gem, and so are Steinbeck's The Red Pony, and James Ellroy's Dick Contino's Blues, and Henry James's The Turn of the Screw; the short novel is capable of being one of an author's masterpieces. Short novels, or novellas, allow for the author to develop characters more fully than is possible in a short story, yet constrict them enough to maintain a single mood, or tone, throughout the entire book, which might easily become oppressive in a longer work.

Set in an apparently idyllic New England college town, Beasts is the story of Gillian Brauer, a student who falls in love with her professor, his Bohemian lifestyle, and anti-establishment attitudes, and what happens when she falls under his spell.

Knowing that other girls preceded her does not deter Gillian from becoming part of the household of Professor Harrow and his larger-than-life wife, Dorcas, the outrageous sculptress of shocking wooden totems. Drawn into their life, Gillian soon becomes a helpless pawn, a victim of her own passions and those of her mentors. Or does she? Sometimes even the most seemingly powerless prey can surprise a predator.

I remember reading the book in a day. I had other things to do, but I couldn't seem to drag myself away from the little novella for more than a little while. I'd spent the afternoon and part of the evening doing something outside: planting flowers or mulching a flower bed or something equally sweaty and exhausting. I came into the house, flopped down on the couch, unwashed and drained of energy, and I opened Beasts in hopes of finishing it.

The story was not happy. I felt myself so thoroughly drawn into Gillian's mind and angst that I literally felt anxious throughout most of the book, and by the end the anxiety had turned to sickness. My stomach hurt as I read through her predicament. Her professor and his wife were users and abusers. Content to take female students as their little toys and then enjoy them, confuse their minds, keep them guessing, and break their hearts. It was a crushing feeling to read the book. The weight of Oates's world was immense.

When I flipped to the last page and closed the book, while I still felt a lingering ache in my stomach, I was also immeasurably impressed. I can't remember an author, before or after, who could hold me with such intensity. Who could convince me, without a doubt, that I was a part of her narrative. Beasts is dark and unpleasant and confusing and entrances the reader, and it's masterful writing. More than any of the darkness, I took away from the novella a sense of Joyce Carol Oates's power and ability as a writer.

Sadly, I've only dabbled in Oates's fiction since 2003. I've read several short stories, and I even started The Tattooed Girl, but as with some other authors who've bowled me over and quickly taken a place among my favorites, I'm almost scared to sample more of their wares. How could anything live up to Beasts and that gut-check feeling of tumbling head first into an author's world? Silly or not, I suppose I'm scared of not finding it again. Or maybe I'm concerned that I began with the best and it's all downhill from here.

Whether I find myself equally impressed with Oates in the future, I can't say. But I will always remember the feeling of reading Beasts for the first time. I'm reminded every time I re-read it--a rare honor in my reading life. And I have a token to show for my affection. A very good friend of mine from graduate school gifted me a signed copy of Beasts after he heard Oates speak at Purdue University. It's one of those bookish tokens I'll hold onto the whole of my life. It's a great memory topped off by Oates's pen.
Thanks to Olduvai Reads for inspiring me to write this post today. I waxed nostalgic when I saw the "Reading Joyce Carol Oates" post and her immense body of work.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Walk Through the Morgue with Rebecca Skloot

Rebecca Skloot's name is a well-known one in the book blogging community and the world at large after the publication of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Admittedly, I haven't read it yet. My time with the library's copy came and went before I could finish, but I will most definitely get it back!

While our time together was far too limited, I found something I liked in Rebecca Skloot's writing style from only a few pages. Her writing about science is really readable. Whether you're a student in a science class or a reader with a science book in hand, the last thing we really want is a monotone lecture. Rebecca Skloot is far from that writer or lecturer.

When I wandered into Barnes and Noble to download my free Nook content a while ago (April-something), I was tickled to find that one of the offerings was a short essay by Skloot. Titled, "Veterinary Morgues to Immortal Cells: My Path to Writing About Science," I wasn't sure it was for me. I'm the girl who shies away from ANY movie with a dog in it because, let's face it, 96.4% of the time, the dog dies. Bastard movie-makers! Same thing with books. I rarely invest my time loving a book dog because he or she is just gonna get whacked. However, this essay's title was just too much for me to pass up, so I downloaded it.

It's short--almost microscopic--at only four pages, but it's a quick drive-by of how Skloot came to write about science. She went to school to attend the pre-veterinary program at Colorado State and decided to take Creative Writing simply to fulfill her school's foreign language requirement. How creative writing can stand in for Spanish, French, or German, I'm not sure. She doesn't go into detail there. Personally, I realize we creative writer types speak another language sometimes, but COME ON.


She works in the school's animal morgue which is stuffed to the proverbial gills (no pun intended, but I realize it and I'm going with it) with corpses of the animals used to train the vet students. She writes an essay for her class about the wrongs of this practice, how the school should invest in computer programs to simulate dissection, and her entire creative writing class--a bunch of non-science majors--get their panties in a twist and write the dean to stop the evil, animal-killing practices on campus.

Voila! Skloot finds herself a love of writing and getting people fired up about science. In short, that's how The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks came to be. It was great to read such a wonky story of how one notable writer came to love and excel at her craft. So many writers just knew from the beginning that they were supposed to write. They'd shrivel up and die without it. Rebecca Skloot, on the other hand, found her love of writing in the morgue. Go figure.

Visit Rebecca Skloot's blog.

Bloggiesta Finish Line!

Bloggiesta was officially over as of 8:00 this morning, but I was finished long before that. *heavy sigh* Even though I didn't get to spend nearly as much computer time as I would've liked, I did accomplish quite a bit (see previous posts). I also expect the momentum of Bloggiesta will carry me through some upcoming projects...

Which I'm SOOOO excited about! Squeeee!

Sorry, couldn't contain myself. *smoothes hair calmly*

I loved Bloggiesta: the mini-challenges, the fun, the community, the ideas and tips. I completed all of the mini-challenges list at Maw Books, and I even plan to refer to some of the challenge ideas from the previous Bloggiesta in my continued effort to whip this joint into shape.

Truth be told, I'm a gawd-awful timekeeper, but I would guesstimate that I spent about 5 hours working on ye ole blog. That's about an hour short of what I realistically thought I could do and about 10 hours short of what I would've liked to do.

If you didn't participate this time around, I hope you'll join us next time. It was oodles of fun! Thanks, Natasha!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Bloggiesta Update #3

I realize it hasn't been long since update #2, but I had some time to delve and I've accomplished so much in a short amount of time:
  • Participated in several mini-challenges
  • Tweaked my Feedburner RSS feed
  • Joined Google Analytics for some better stats tracking
  • Tweaked my review policy (again)
Now off to comment! Ole!

Bloggiesta Update #2


Sooo, it hasn't been nearly as bloggiesta-tastic a weekend as I expected. Yesterday I was moody and cranky and slept really late and was generally unpleasant for the first part of the day. I suspect it was the end-of-week crash I experience after a really craptaculous week at work. To make a long story short, we headed out in the afternoon to my mom's house (about an hour away) to drop off the grounded pre-teens and Greyson, and Chuck and I went to the county fair for some fried Oreos and other fatty goodness. We got home late and I was far too tired to do anything online.

Today, Chuck left early to wander a gun show with a friend of his, and this friend is apparently even more avid a shopper than Chuck. Needless to say, they've been gone seven hours and counting. I finally asked the pre-teens to hold onto Greyson for a bit while I blog. I paid them with some TV time even though they're grounded.

What I would still like to accomplish:
  • Check out some of the mini-challenges
  • Comment more!
  • Play with Blogger's new design tool
  • Draft some posts for next week
  • Begin putting together a review archive
  • Answer some blog and book-related e-mail
Wish me luck as the event winds down. I hope you all have had better luck than I.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Bloggiesta Update #1

It's been a long day, and I've only Bloggiesta'ed for about 3 hours. Given, I got a lot done in that 3 hours, but I'd still hoped to do more at this point. Of my original to-do list I've accomplished the following:

  • Fixed the top navigation
  • Updated the Challenge page and wrote my Review Policy
  • I updated pics in my Flickr feed, but I need to get it back here on the blog, and that's been problematic so far
  • Cleaned out my feed reader
So far so good! I'm pretty happy with what I've done so far. I managed to hop around to about 25 Bloggiesta blogs this afternoon, and I hope to do more of the bloggy visiting tomorrow. And Twitter, of course.

For now, I'm exhausted and the boy is asleep. Time to call it a night! Watch for another Subherban Gardener post tomorrow for Weekend Cooking!

Let the Bloggiesta Begin!

I'm a tad late to the Bloggiesta starting line because there was a baby reclining on me having a bottle at 8:00 this morning, and I just got to work at 9:00, so I had to hunt down the appropriate breakfast of caffeine and chocolate to keep me awake until lunch.

If you're not already familiar, Bloggiesta is hosted by Natasha at Maw Books and it's a three day event to spend some quality time on blog improvement. There are mini-challenges, improvement ideas, community, and general bloggy fun, so if you're at all interested, go sign up at the starting line I linked up at the top of this post.

Here's my to-do list for Bloggiesta at this point:
  • Fix my top navigation so it actually links to something
  • Make sure 2010 Reads are linked to their reviews
  • Update Challenge page, review policy, etc.
  • Update and include my Flickr feed for ease of baby picture viewing
  • Snazz up the template here and there
  • Clean up my feed reader
  • Nail down a couple of big bloggy projects to be unveiled soon!
I'm sure it'll change as I work on the place over the next three days, but that's how it stands now. I'll be updating every so often. See you then!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Season of Second Chances

It seems as if I've been reading The Season of Second Chances for an age! I posted about it earlier in my reading, and I was finally able to finish it up yesterday during my lunch time. I would say I was probably more enthusiastic about this book earlier in my reading than I was by the time I finished.

A short recap:

Joy Harkness moves from NYC to Massachusetts to teach at Amherst. She buys a house, makes some friends (against her better judgement), has a heartbreaking relationship and an unlikely one, and eventually comes to terms with some of her issues.

Early in the book I enjoyed it purely for the discussion of Joy's home. The descriptions of remodeling her old Victorian were endlessly entertaining since I'm more or less addicted to the HGTV (Home & Garden) network. It was charming, warm, and delightful all the way around. When I wrote my first post I wasn't quite sure where Meier could take the plot, and I was pretty surprised--and not always pleased--with her choices in the latter half of the novel.

The Season of Second Chances is largely about feminism. Sometimes it was overtly stated and other times the discussion manifested itself in the internal struggles Joy grapples with and the choices she ultimately makes for herself. She's a very secluded character. She seems to think she'll diminish her intellectualism if she cares about her appearance too much or invests too much of herself in a relationship. She never invites students into her home even when it's obvious she wants to know them better, she resists her friends' attempts to be involved in her life or to involve her in theirs.

At one point Joy is having a discussion with her boss, a former power in the feminist movement and a highpowered academic and she thinks:
I looked at this internationally renowned feminist, with her published collections of writings and all her many honors, and I expanded my ideas about the reasons I admired her. This isn't what I thought feminism was about, years ago, but it seemed I was changing my opinions about a lot of things.
In short, Joy didn't realize that women helping women, women being friends with women, women having families, and women "organizing" the world at large had anything to do with feminism. Her very narrow view was of feminists as academics, professionals, and hardasses.

While there were many parts of this book I enjoyed, the latter half was the weaker half for me. It was often heavy-handed in its messages, and a couple of the main characters were so maddenly self-UNaware, I wanted to strangle them. Joy was one of them, though she sort of wised up and lightened up in the end. Others, I wanted to kick in the crotch.

If I'd read this book faster, I'm pretty sure I would've liked it more. I probably wouldn't have been so bothered by the shift from all the cool remodeling in the beginning to all the "duh" self-realization in the end. On the whole, it was uneven, though I wouldn't call it a bad book. It was just OK.

I went into this book knowing absolutely nothing about the author, Diane Meier, but I have taken some time to research her. She's described as a style guru, a writer, a marketer, and a NYC powerhouse. I can see how a good deal of her experience could flavor the characters' lives and experiences throughout the novel. To learn more about Meier, visit her website. She's a very impressive woman.

Thanks to the good people at Interpersonal Frequency, LLC for sending the ARC.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

BBAW: Throwing My Hat In the Ring!

Once again, it's time for Book Blogger Appreciation Week. The first year I missed it completely, last year I was on the cusp of the action as I was a bit sidetracked by life, but this year I would like to be more involved. In the spirit of involvement, I'm throwing my hat into the ring for a niche category: Best Eclectic Book Blog.

My registering for this category simply means I am a bloggish renaissance lady. I specialize in nothing but the books I devour (totally dictated by mood), various and sundry posts on the reading life, and a good portion of personal life thrown in.

As the new process dictates, in order to be considered for an award, one must register for it. You must also register in order to vote and do other cool things, so go register NOW! Truthfully, I'm more interested in the community than the awards. I love BBAW for all the new bloggers I meet, and that's the true reward.

But on to the requirements. Five posts I would want my blog judged upon: 3 reviews and 2 wild cards of my choosing.
There you have it. I'm looking forward to visiting the participants this year and getting to know a slew of new-to-me book bloggers as well as celebrating my long-time favorites.

Happy hunting!

Catch All: Books, Recipes, Challenges!

So much to say and so little time! That's a big fat lie. I'm not really pressed for time since my boss just left for the day, and I don't teach until 7:30 tonight. I'm a captive at work for a whopping 7.5 hours and all the grading is caught up for a change.

What's a girl to do but blog?

First, with all the talk of food and home-growin' it, we enjoyed our first harvest of sweet banana peppers last night. Try this out:

Stuffed Banana Peppers

6 sweet banana peppers
6 strips of bacon
4 oz of cream cheese
2 cloves of garlic
parsley (a sprinkling)
dill (lots)

Cut the tops off of the peppers and a slit down one side. Remove the seeds and ribs. Mix the cream cheese, garlic, parsley, and dill. Stuff the banana peppers with the cream cheese mixture. Wrap each pepper in one slice of bacon. I curled the bacon over the open end of my pepper and secured it with a toothpick. Broil the yummy little midgets on a low rack for approximately 20 minutes or until the bacon is crispy and the pepper is tender.

Normally, I would bake these little bad boys for about 45 minutes in a 350 degree oven, but our oven is out! How crazy does that drive the home cook, I ask you? Crazy as a bedbug, that's how crazy! These were delcious and sweet and salty and grand. A perfect appetizer or side dish. And from our own "garden." Yay! You could also grill these and they would be spectacular. Not healthy at all, but muy tasty.

In other news, I'll be participating in my first Bloggiesta this weekend. It's hosted by the lovely Natasha of Maw Books. I've already warned my family that I have some bloggy goodness to attend to this weekend, so they'd better expect that I'll be MIA for a bit. On the agenda:

  • Make sure my top-links are working (need to re-link since I changed my template)
  • Post my new review policy. I had one of these back in the day, but I took it down for some reason. Pregnancy craziness, maybe? I dunno.
  • Unveil a new bloggy project! I have a new feature which will be debuting, and hopefully my readerly twins out there will love it as much as I do.
  • Get in touch with some favored publicists since I'm ready to start receiving some ARCs on a limited and very picky basis. With a baby in the house, I still don't zip through books as fast as I'd like.
 I'm sure I'll come up with some other blog housekeeping that I've been putting off, but that's to-be-announced as I figure it out myself.

Finally, I'm alllllmost done with The Season of Second Chances. Watch for that review later today or tomorrow.

Happy Hump Day! That's Wednesday, you dirty-minded birds.

Monday, June 07, 2010

To Kill a Mockingbird Celebration

The wonderfully lovely Heather from Capricious Reader is hosting a To Kill a Mockingbird read along during the month of July to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Harper Lee's novel! Amanda from The Blog Jar and I will be joining her, and we all want you to join, too!

If you're in the mood to celebrate, head on over to Heather's place and sign up. If not for Heather and several other influential bloggers, I might never have read one of my favorite books, but more on that later.

For now, just go sign up!

Eating My Way Through Reading

I've always been a fan of foodie books, most especially any memoir involving food. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kinsolver comes to mind, as well as the recently read, Confections of a Closet Master Baker, by Gesine Bullock-Prado.

There's something endlessly comforting about books and there's something endlessly comforting about food. That's probably why I'm pretty smart and pretty "fluffy"; I find the most intimate, gentle moments involve one or both of these favorite things. We talk about food a lot in my house. Chuck was a chef for ten years, and we're both self-proclaimed foodies. There's nothing we won't try. Likewise, I like to think of myself as a pretty fearless reader. There's certainly not much I won't (or haven't) try in that arena.

I suppose with all of the change afoot in my life lately, I'm deeply wanting comfort. Our lives seemingly revolve around food as we move our habits toward cooking at home almost exclusively (eating out is the devil!), moving our eating habits further toward the healthy, and we're making a concerted effort to grow some food and buy locally. I also find I'm having to deliberately carve out moments to read. In the early morning while Greyson is napping, at work when the office and tutoring hours are slow. As a result of this daily campaign for comfort, I've turned overwhelmingly to foodie books. Here's what's "peppering" my shelves. (I know, I'm shameless. Couldn't help myself.)

I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle a few years ago, and it quickly jumped to my list of all-time favorites. While most "normal" people can't take a year to grow all of their own food and raise their own meat, I found it an inspiring idea which I can incorporate into my own life on a small scale. See my "Sub'Herb'an Gardener post! I also learned oodles about seasonal eating, heirloom seeds, the vast amount of petroleum products eaten up by the food industry. I felt it made me a more knowledgeable, well-rounded consumer in general, and it certainly made me a much more ambitious and thoughtful eater.

You'll probably remember, I just finished Sarah Addison Allen's The Girl Who Chased the Moon a few weeks ago. I charged through it and loved every second. Like Addison's other books, food certainly plays a big role. One of the main characters, Julia, owns a NC barbecue restaurant, and if you know anything about North Carolina, they are passionate (almost as much as Texans) about barbecue. Likewise, the main character is a baker, and her cakes made my mouth water the whole time I was reading. The writing in this one also nourished my underwatered reading soul. It was pure bliss.

Finally, I'm reading The School of Essential Ingredients now. Well, I've dipped into it, but I have another book or two to finish first. So far I know it's about a woman who's teaching a cooking class, and I'm very much looking forward to meeting her students and reading more about their food.

Like any good obsessive reader, I also have a laundry list of books I want want want!

I stumbled upon these yummies from my weekly browsing in Barnes and Noble, as well as my blog reading. I'm particularly excited about The Backyard Homestead: Producing All the Food You Need on 1/4 Acre! by Carleen Madigan. I don't even have 1/4 of an acre in this city, but I'm excited by the idea of this book. As so many city dwellers know, if you're passionate about eating locally and growing your own, you have to maximize the space you have, even if it's minute. That's what we're doing, and I hope to be inspired by this book. It just came in on hold for me, so I'm off to pick it up at the library at 2:00.

Coop: A Family, a Farm, and the Pursuit of One Good Egg, by Michal Perry, seems to be buzzing quite a bit lately. I've read a number of reviews, and while many assume it'll be another Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, it definitely seems to have its own unique flavor.

Finally, The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentleman Farmers: An Unconventional Memoir, by Josh Kilmer-Purcell. Someone used to be a drag queen? I love drag queens and farming, so it sounds like a winner. I read a review or two of this one as well, and I can't get my hands on it fast enough.

There you have it...the books I've been reading, and the ones I see on my immediate horizon. If you have any additional recommendations involving food--fiction or non--please send them my way!

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Bebe Pod

Holding his head up like a champ and playing in his BebePod (much like a Bumbo). More to come if I can wrangle them off of Chuck's iPhone.

He was 7 weeks old Saturday. He drinks 6-7 ounces of formula every 4-5 hours. He can scoot around in his crib at night and turn his head over. He can lift his head and hold it up, no problem! Although, we can't get too excited about that. He started lifting his head off of our shoulders when he was 3 days old (still in the hospital). Super strong little booger. He loves to coo and "talk" and smile.

Weekend Cooking: Sub"Herb"an Gardener

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.


Chuck and the family and I live in a pretty good-sized townhouse in a suburb of Dallas. We're literally a hop down I-75 from downtown Dallas, and one of our favorite destinations lately is the Dallas Farmers Market. In the interest of eating locally and saving money, we have transformed our fenced patio into a small-scale grower's paradise and we've even expanding outside the fence. We're a little more expansive than container gardening and far short of actual yard or raised bed gardening.

Would you like a tour?

This is a brand new flower bed we put in beside our front gate. The other side is a sea of ugly bushes we wish the apartment peeps would cut down completely, so we beautified where we could. This is a bed of yellow, orange, and white zenias along with "Victoria Blue" somethings and "Tiger Eye" something else's. Very technical, eh? This stuff does well in the Texas heat. That's all that really matters. And ignore the rogue cable. We have no idea what it is, but it needs to be hidden.

Here is the rest of the bed around the corner from the first group of flowers. We're planting lantana, lavendar, and there's even an itty bitty acorn squash plant. I plan to fill the rest of this space with other squash plants: straight or crook-neck yellow squash, and zucchini.

This is our herb bed. It's a tract of dirt that was filled with ivy and monkey grass before, but we cleaned it up and we have (starting from the top) a serrano pepper plant with its first bloom, chives, cilantro, parsley, basil, rosemary, and English mint.

On our first visit to the Farmers Market we ran across these mature pepper plants for $6 a piece. The one on the left is a green bell pepper with several babies onboard. The one on the right is a sweet banana pepper plant. I've already pulled six or seven banana peppers from this one, and it's got three more almost ready to go. There are tons of little pepperlings (a word?) all over, so I think it'll be pretty prolific. It was looking sad in this pic thanks to the 100-degree heat we've been having here in Texas. It's barely visible, but there's also a hanging tomato plan in the upper right-hand corner. No tomatoes just yet.

Finally, we have one of yesterday's Farmers Market buys. This is the biggest sweet potato I've ever seen in my life. They are literally the size of Greyson or bigger. We got three of these bad boys for $3.

We love our Farmers Market visits. We bought almost all of our herbs there, and this week's steals included cherries, blackberries, plums, a pineapple, and grapes, and one lone Vidalia onion. We still had leftover corn, 8-ball squash, and some other veggies from last week's visit. I love visiting with the local growers, and we're starting to recognize and get friendly with some of the sellers there.

I didn't take a picture of everything in our Subherban gardening paradise. We actually have a flat of herbs we're putting into containers so we can test out the best way to grow these plants in this gawd-awful hot weather. Stuff like more mint and basil and cilantro, thyme, lemon verbena, and even a curry plant! Chuck's hand smelled like curry all day yesterday from playing with that plant. Sadly, some little critter (probably slugs) is eating my basil we've planted in the ground, so we've gotta fix that. I have some soap spray and beer traps all ready for the little buggers.

So there you have it! We're inspired to make our place in the city as environmentally friendly as possible by planting some of what we eat the most and poking around to find local producers where we can.

You can expect to see far more about our little patio extravaganza as it grows and starts feeding us. Watch for a recipe for stuffed banana peppers (if they turn out delicious).

Friday, June 04, 2010

An Updated Review of Nook!

There's been much talk of e-readers lately as I see that many more book bloggers are thinking of jumping on the bandwagon. Digital copies of ARCs are on the rise it seems, and digital content is growing online all the time.

Since I've had my Nook for a good five months or so, and it's been through multiple software updates, I thought I should post an updated review.

When I wrote my initial review, I hadn't had the device very long, and I was flying high on the newness of it. I did admit a few flaws, there were more that popped up, and a lot has changed since then, so here we go...

1. It's a very different device now. After my first review, I had some nagging problems pop up: Homer (my Nook's name) tended to lock up frequently requiring me to remove the battery to reset the machine. ANNOYING! I scoured the B&N discussion boards for help, and a software update was promised. I also had a problem with my device losing my place in my "Currently Reading" book, and spazzing out when I switched Airplane Mode on and off. For a minute there I started wondering if I'd made a bad decision requesting the Nook over Kindle.

Once the first software update rolled in, I breathed a heavy sigh of relief. The page flip function sped up tremendously, the locking up stopped, I no longer lost my place in my books, and the navigation changed just slightly. All of the little tweaks were positive and helped Homer run much quicker and with added efficiency.

The second software update was darn near revolutionary! The device originally had five touchscreen "buttons" for navigation:  The Daily, My Library, Shop, Reading Now, and Settings. It now has nine: the original five plus Games, Wi-Fi, Audio, and Web. This update really changed the Nook's capabilities. It has Sudoku and Chess loaded on for some quick gameplay, it can connect to my home's wireless (or Starbucks or wherever), and I can surf the web with the new beta web browser. The audio feature has always been included, but if you're an audiobook fan or like to carry music, it's nice to be able to jump straight to it from the main navigation screen.

I haven't had ANY trouble with my Nook burping or locking up or otherwise acting buggy since the first software update, and the second added really cool features that I was sad not to have when I first received the device.

2. There are some things I love or appreciate even more now than when I got it. In particular, I love all of the cool stuff that comes packaged with the price. The daily content has increased slightly. Two blogs (Daybook and Grin and Tonic) remain, while Unbound: Nook and BN Ereader Blog has been added. There's also a "Getting to Know Your Nook" feature which updates occasionally.

I usually filter into a B&N store about once a week or every two weeks to download free content. When you enter a B&N store, it automatically hooks to the store wifi and you can download exclusive essays. The amount of content has increased greatly over the past few months. Now every time I go in, there are about 15 items to download. There is also a "Free Friday" feature which can be accessed from anywhere (not just in-store). They feature a novel a week which is downloadable for free. I've gotten some good-looking ones and passed on a few that seemed lame. Finally, when in the store, you can read any e-book for an hour a day. You can come back and read for another hour the following day, etc. This gave me the opportunity to really try out (and make headway) in a book I was interested in buying. I don't feel like I'm taking a big chance. I already know I'll like it.

I love the downloadable samples of books. They usually run about 20 pages long, and they've really helped me decide what I want to buy and what I'll pass on in favor of the library. Since I'm a total penny-pinching cheapskate, I still favor free content, but I have downloaded a few books. The latest is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society since I'm sick of waiting for it from my library. Note: this feature is available anywhere, unlike the "Read In-Store" feature I mentioned above.

I also really appreciate that when I use the Search feature in the "Shop" area, it pulls up the free Google books alongside editions that require payment. I passed a copy of Willa Cather's My Antonia the other day and thought to myself, "Hey! I really want a copy of that one. I sooo don't want to pay for it." So I searched the title and VOILA! free copy from Google Books.

Nook is really handy for keeping a wishlist with me wherever I go. In the past I had scraps of paper, an Excel spreadsheet, and other sundry wishlisty nuggets floating around. Now I tend to keep Homer with me wherever I go, and I use the "e-wishlist" feature to keep track of my general wishlist. As I spot books in the store, library, or elsewhere, I can search for them and add them to my e-wishlist for safekeeping.

I REALLY REALLY appreciate the variety of formats the Nook can handle. Epub is a really popular format for e-books, and it seems like everywhere I search (outside and in addition to B&N), they're available. This has allowed me to download books (free and pay) from a number of sites other than B&N. While they do a hell of a job marketing to Nook owners, it's nice to not be completely tied to their format.

And just one more thing! Cute screensavers and stuff get added occasionally. I have a wonderful Tim Burton/Alice in Wonderland screensaver I love. You can add your own photos too. Soon Greyson will have a place on my Nook.

3. And I promise I won't gush much longer, but I should mention that when I first got the reader, it was weird to read on a reader. It does take some getting used to. Now, no problem. Once I downloaded a book which really sucked me in (The Girl Who Chased the Moon) I no longer thought about the device at all and only thought about the story itself. I actually find that I read much faster on the e-reader, too. Which is weird. Who knew?

4. Realistically, a few things that bug me: the screen and surrounding plastic can catch a glare. I've thought of buying some of the screen protectors to cut down on glare, but I read a review somewhere on B&N's site that they're really hard to remove. Kinda weirds me out. And once the navigation on the touchscreen dims, I can see my post-baby double chin in the reflection. Not a good self-esteem boost. Will definitely get rid of the extra pudge before I toss the Nook, though. :)

Everyone says that it takes forever to start up, and it does. Thankfully, I rarely turn mine off. Maybe once a month. It's recommended by B&N that you not turn it off too often. It goes to sleep on its own.

The covers are ridiculously expensive. 'Nuff said. I insist on having one for Nook safety purposes, but I ONLY have one. Until I win the lottery.

So, there it is! A comprehensive list of my thoughts on Nook five months after the original capture. I hope it's helpful for any of you out there searching for e-readers. I love mine as you can tell, and I'm thankful to my family for pitching in to buy it for me.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Before Year's End I Shall Conquer...

The title of this post shouldn't imply that I'm not looking forward to these books, but somehow they've wound up on my stacks, largely untouched, for YEARS. I'm sooo not proud of it, much like I'm not proud of the dust collecting on my nightstand lampshade (horrible, truly deplorable). Let the parade of shame begin:

I actually came up with the idea for this post after I read over Amanda's ridonkulously ambitious June reading pile and realized Vanity Fair is one of those books I really shouldn't let slide by for another year. Sometimes when I'm sitting in my living room feeding Greyson or watching TV, I'll happen to look over my shoulder at my hoardes of unread books in the bookcase and starting picking on specific ones. It seems like Vanity Fair, The Good Earth, and I Capture the Castle always fall into this category.

In the case of Vanity Fair, The Good Earth and I Capture the Castle, I've read a small portion and ended up putting them back on the shelves. Whether it was life biting me in the ass, boredom, or some other lame excuse, they've gone unread for far too long. That's why they're squarely on my mental DON'T FORGET THESE BOOKS IN 2010 list.

I'm considering downloading Vanity Fair for my Nook, but honestly, chunksters scare me every day of my life.  The thought of lugging this ham of a book around makes my wrists ache and my purse sag, but I can't say that the idea of reading a bazillion digital pages is much cheerier. Must get over my phobia of big fat books.

A far younger book on the list is Margaret Drabble's, The Red Queen. I snatched it up in one of Frances's very kind giveaways because, while the plot sounds great, I'm in love with the cover. I'm a sucker for crimson, and this one just screams awesomeness. Also, and this is really random, it reminds me of the "Red Queen" -- the creepy little girl computer who controls the zombie playland in Resident Evil. Even though the two have absolutely zilch in common, the thought is enough to get me all excited. Resident Evil is one of my favorite really bad scary movies.

Which books do you want to wipe off your TBR before 2010 passes you by?
Images by Freepik