Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Buffet: Teaching New Lit Courses!

Having taught mostly at the technical and community college levels over the years, I don't get an opportunity to teach new courses often. It's mostly those ole freshman composition courses, developmental courses, and the occasional oddball writing or reading class. When I was a graduate student I was teaching or helping teach other things like children's lit, film, and guest lecturing on graphic novels, fairy tales, and even picture books.

The college where I work has recently added some new bachelors programs, and with those come additional teaching opportunities. Next term I'll have two sections of "Science Fiction and Fantasy" and one section of "Literature and Film." This is the first time I've gotten to teach either of them since grad school, and I cannot WAIT!

The way our school is structured, many of the required readings and the textbook choices come down from central administration. We have some choice in what else we bring into the class, but an overall structure is in place. With this in mind, we'll be reading the following:

Film and Lit:

Our main textbook is Adaptation: Studying Film and Literature. We will also be reading Stephen King's novella, "The Body" from the Different Seasons collection. We'll watch Stand By Me as a companion to it. We'll also be reading and watching Twelve Angry Men. Now these probably wouldn't have been my choices, so I'll likely bring in some additional materials like a portion of Daniel Clowes' Ghost World and the film adaptation. I had a wonderful adaptation class as a grad student, and I can't wait to share some of what we watched and read with my students.

In the Science Fiction & Fantasy class, we'll be using Science Fiction: Stories and Contexts edited by Heather Masri. We'll also be reading and watching a collection of stuff including The Great Fairy Tale Tradition by Jack Zipes and watching the adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Stardust. We'll be reading Ender's Game and watching Starship Troopers and Deep Impact. There's more, but according to the textbook list, I'm a little unsure what we'll be reading, what we'll be watching, and what we'll be reading AND watching. I've done a lot of work with sci-fi and fantasy over the years, so I'm really excited about this one, too.

I always have a blast putting together new course materials for classes like these, and I'll probably start on that ASAP. I'll keep you posted as my short story and excerpt reading list takes shape!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Clearing Out the Bodies

I haven't finished a book in over a month, and that's just stupid. In short, between life and Coop, I stalled out in a big way. To make a confession, I STILL have 50 pages left in Coop, and it's been over a week since I've picked it up. I think it's time to clear out the bodies.

I'm not throwing up the white flag completely; I will finish the last pages, but to say that it's become a slog is an understatement. While I enjoy the book overall, Perry's style is not fast-moving, and I need something to help me out of my slump.

With fresh starts in mind, I started reading Zadie Smith's White Teeth in the bathroom this morning. That's right. Somewhere between a shower and getting Greyson up for a bottle, I parked on the throne with new reading material. How's that for transparency and sharing?

I've had this book on my stacks for YEARS, and in an ongoing effort to clear out older books on my shelves, I've decided it's time for ole Zadie to have her moment in my life. I've often thought of picking up White Teeth, but the oft soul-sucking buzz made me turn away. In truth, I only own it because it was on the $1.00 clearance at Half-Price Books.

To my shock and awe, Smith made me LOL in the bathroom. From page 4, as Archie Jones tries to kill himself by asphyxiation:
The thinnest covering of luck was on him like fresh dew. While he slipped in and out of consciousness, the position of the planets, the music of the spheres, the flap of a tiger moth's diaphanous wings in Central Africa, and a whole bunch of other stuff that Makes Shit Happen had decided it was second-chance time for Archie. Somewhere, somehow, by somebody, it had been decided that he would live.
How's that for snappy prose? Somehow the narration reminds me of one of my favorite movies, Stranger Than Fiction. I hope the rest of the journey is this much fun. Any writer who can make suicide attempts laughable has my respect.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly event to list the books finished last week, the books currently being read, and the books to be finish this week. It was created by J.Kaye’s Book Blog, but is now being hosted by Sheila from One Person’s Journey Through a World of Books.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

It Lives! And has books.

"It" would be me! Sorry for the lack of posting. Lots going on.

The kids are back to school this week, and you know those new cell phones I Tweeted about on Monday? Well, Rocketgirl had hers repossessed on Thursday. High school, it appears, will be far more homework--especially when the evil genius is taking a pre-AP and a full-on AP course. Late in the week, when she was swamped with work, we decreed "No texting until homework is done." And she took it upon herself to text anyway. This was after she'd been admonished for texting in class. She's discovering that one major downside to having an English professor wicked stepmother is that we get REALLY PISSED about in-class texting and the avoidance of homework. She thought life with me was all daisies and ARCs. Not so!

The bookish excitement started early in the week with her AP classes. She'll be reading Great Expectations and The Alchemist in English. Given my online moniker, I'm super-excited about Great Expectations, but if I had to guess, she'll hate it. But she'll appreciate my online persona. The Alchemist seems a great choice for this particular age group, and she probably won't hate it. She texted me to say, "I need books for English," at which time I texted back and said, "And we already have them. Of course."

She's also reading Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin for AP Geography. Her school's Student Council set up a fundraiser for this school year to rake up $25,000 to donate to Mortenson's cause (building schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan). While she doesn't seem to be enjoying the book very much, she is sensitive to the cause. And she's thinking of joining Student Council. I'll be reading this one when she's done.

In other bookish news, I've had a few goodies land on my doorstep that I'm excited about. First is Paranormalcy, by Kiersten White. I keep saying that I'm burned out on YA paranormal, and I truly mean it when I say it, but then a book like this wanders into the house and I'm excited about a paranormal all over again. We'll see how it plays.

I also received a trio of books edited by one of my favorites, Simon Van Booy. Why We Fight, Why Our Decisions Don't Matter, and Why We Need Love are edited collections of images, essays, classic philosophy and other nuggets on those three themes. While I adore Van Booy's short stories, and I'm looking forward to trying these three little books, I'm also a little bit hesitant. The idea seems a bit hokey and gimmicky, but I truly hope I'm surprised.

Have I been reading on a daily or even semi-daily basis? Nope! Not so much. I've put my hat into the ring for an administrative position at work. Eeek! *biting nails* and I'm continually adding content to my new online classes. I've been having a blast doing that, but it's also eating up my time. I've also discovered that I may not like Coop as much as I thought. But more on that in another post.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Giveaway Winners!

I'm a little behind as I'd planned to draw for my giveaway winners on Saturday. My apologies for keeping you all waiting. Here are the lucky recipients!

The Poison Diaries by Maryrose Wood - Courtney from Stiletto Storytime!
The Season of Second Chances by Diane Meier - Elisabeth!
Once Dead, Twice Shy and Early to Death, Early to Rise by Kim Harrison - Mandy from She Reads!
A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon - R. from Mrs. O'Dell Reads (not sure if she regularly publishes her first name!)

Thanks to everyone who entered the drawing. You're doing me a great service by getting these books out of my living room floor. I expect to have another box soon!

Welcome to Insomnia!

I don't really have insomnia, since once in a blue moon probably can't be categorized that way. I woke up around 3:30am. Greyson is sleeping peacefully, Chuck is sleeping peacefully, the Rockets are tucked in their beds (though who knows if they're sleeping). Tomorrow is Rocketboy's first day of junior high and Rocketgirl's first day of high school. I think part of the reason I'm awake is that I'm SO EXCITED for both of them.

We shopped for school clothes, school supplies, and some odds and ends on Saturday. Yesterday we finished up our before-school errands with haircuts, and we bought them both....drum roll...cell phones! Dear God, please let us not regret this! We typed up a cell phone usage contract for both of them to sign, and this will be our supreme opportunity to hold responsibility squarely over their adolescent heads. 

In other exciting news, I can fit into a pair of my pre-pregnancy jeans. I haven't been brave enough to try my pre-pregnancy work pants, but that will come in the morning, sometime around 6:30. My mind is also abuzz with big hair plans (big plans, not to be confused with big HAIR) for the near future. Think color and a super-fabulous cut. I'm beginning to feel like less of a slave to laziness and more like my old self, so it's time to start looking like I give a bit of a crap about my appearance again.

So that's what I'm thinking about this morning (now 4:11am). The kids and style.

Oh, and you should all say a little prayer for Chuck. He's a full-time student this semester, and he's taking care of Greyson all by his lonesome. Here's hoping his nerves hold out. I know he loves getting to put in all this quality time with Mr. G. while he's a baby because he didn't have that luxury with the Rockets.

More later when I'm lucid enough to write about books. In the meantime, I'll take another stab at sleep. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I surrender!

I surrender!!! I give up!

I have four new online classes launching today in a new teaching environment, and it promises to be a mess. Any time a new educational tool is put into place, no matter how promising it looks, it's always a nightmare to get through the kinks and bring everyone onboard.

I'll be back in a few days when the furor dies down and I put my nose back in a book!

Monday, August 16, 2010

BookClubSandwich: Thoughts on Coop

Welcome one and all to the inaugural discussion at BookClubSandwich: Online book club for foodies and wannabes! Kim and I are excited to have you.

This is how the discussion will work. I'll post my opening thoughts here (a review of sorts), pose some questions, and you're free to post your own thoughts throughout the week and carry on a discussion in my comments or yours if you feel moved to do so. At the end of the week (next Monday), Kim will post a wrap-up at her blog. Don't forget to add your own post to the Linky List below so we can all follow each other's thoughts throughout the week.

The book up for discussion this quarter, Coop, by Michael Perry:

I'm not sure which cover you have, but if its either of these, you're in the right place.

My Thoughts:

I first heard of Coop when Heather, The Capricious Reader, reviewed it on her blog in May. While she told me not to expect Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I think I still did expect it on some level. Now, I should also make a confession right about here: I haven't finished the book yet. I'm about halfway done, and I should complete it this week, but I just had to get that off my chest! In essence, this isn't a proper review, but I can give you my thoughts at this point in the book. It's a review-in-progress, if you will.

While Perry is most definitely a good writer--finely crafted sentences and anecdotes abound--it hasn't all been smooth sailing. Let's start with a description of the book. Perry is writing about family more than chickens, animals, or anything else to do with the farm life. There's plenty of farming, mind you, but much of the book jumps back and forth from Perry's thoughts about his wife and stepdaughter, and his insecurities about impending fatherhood, to his childhood on a farm. His own parents constantly received foster children--some of whom stayed, some of whom went, and some of whom did not live to leave the farm. Not only do they have a herd of cows and sheep, they also have a herd of kids!

I really enjoy Perry's voice. He's funny and introspective by turns. He's sensitive and sarcastic. His writing comes across as very earthy, self-deprecating, and charming in general. That said, I found myself waffling back and forth between supreme entertainment and flustered exhaustion. His descriptions either made me cackle or roll my eyes. Let's have some examples!

A passage I didn't care for:
Our De Laval Milkers were composed of a stainless steel bucket that sat flat on the floor and was capped with a detachable top sprouting several sets of hoses. One set was plugged into the overhead vacuum pipe. The other two hoses--a narrow black "pulse tube" to provide vacuum, and a larger clear tube to carry the milk--were connected to a shiny silver claw from which radiated four hollow rubber tubes called inflations. The inflations were collared by individual stainless steel shells that created a potential space wherein the air pressure was alternately lowered and released by means of a revolving mercury switch and a wonderfully named unit called the pulsator.
Um, yeah. Personally, I found this whole description mind-numbing and slightly frustrating. I have no idea what a mercury switch is, I am not in the least bit mechanical, and I don't care. Given, it's not Perry's fault that I'm easily confused and mechanically retarded, but I think a little brevity of detail would've been appropriate here. He continues to wax poetic about the milking machine for a good while longer, and at the end of it, I felt as if I wanted those moments of my life back, but they were lost and never to be regained. In short, I wished he'd gotten on with the memory instead of giving me a blow-by-blow of the mechanics of a milker. I'd rather know how he worked it than trying for half a page to picture it.

On the other hand, some of his descriptions (especially of ineptitude) made me cackle. Good example:
For the first minute or so, I fared pretty well. I'd run in a straight line until I could feel the thud of her hooves, then I'd cut a real tight turn. While she slowed down to change directions, I sprinted clear again. With every juke I kept trying to work my way closer to the fence and safety, and before long we had zig-zagged to within about twenty yards of the woven wire, but I was getting winded, and that cow hadn't lost a step. Finally, when I cut two corners not quite tight enough and she tagged me with a half-root, I realized I had to make a break for it. I still had the rubber mallet, but if I squared off to whack her, I risked getting trampled. Instead, I decided to fling it at her head in the manner of throwing an ax, hoping to clock her good enough to slow her down. Gripping the mallet handle tightly and running full tilt, I looked back over my left-hand shoulder, gauged the distance and, still on the run, pivoted halfway around and flung the mallet at her crazy-cow noggin with every bit of strength I could muster.

And missed her completely.
Now THAT's the kind of silliness that brings me onboard. Less mechanical/technical, more foibles.

Right now, at the point where I stopped to write this review, we're inching ever closer to the moment his child will enter the world and there's a lot of laboring sheep. When did I think I'd ever write that on this blog?

Please leave your links below, and feel free to comment in the comments section. I'll post my final thoughts later in the week.

To think about:
  • How does this memoir live up to others you've read in the food/farming/sustainable living genre?
  • Do you have any particular favorite character from Perry's life? I'm particularly fond of his father and mother. Though the stories of siblings are often heartbreaking.
  • How does the quality of the writing work for you?
  • Share some of your favorite passages.
  • Sundry thoughts and opinions encouraged.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Get These Books Out of My Living Room (Giveaway)

It's just as it sounds. I've started a box of books to be gotten rid of. It's currently living at the foot of the bookshelves in my living room, and I'm tired of stepping over it. I have the following books up for grabs. Add your info to the form below, and I'll choose winners next Saturday, August 21st. Feel free to enter to win one or all of the books. It's up to you!

All of these are gently used ARCs except A Spot of Bother. It's from the used bookstore but in good shape.

The loot:

  • The Poison Diaries, by Maryrose Wood (book 1)
  • The Season of Second Chances, by Diane Meier
  • A Spot of Bother, by Mark Haddon
  • Once Dead, Twice Shy and Early to Death, Early to Rise, by Kim Harrison (set)

Good luck!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Miscellany: No Books Here!

It's been another hectic, productive week, and the blogging and reading has been slow. However, I had to tell you how much friggin' fun I had last night.

My last class adjourned at 5:45 and I headed off to Casino Night at the college where I teach. Last term we rewarded students with $25 worth of chips for every week they had perfect attendance. In short, they could earn up to $250 in chips for the term if they had perfect attendance for the 10 weeks.

Last night we set up slot machines, craps, roulette, blackjack, poker, and a bunch of other games on the empty floor above us. We served snacks, "mocktails," and the students gambled the night away for prizes. The grand prize for the highest of high rollers was a Nintendo Wii. Our faculty and staff even dressed up and put on a karaoke show. The ladies did their best Supremes impression (awesome!) and our director of Student Services sang a Barry White number. Hilarious. I almost launched mocktail out my nose.

I donned some plastic gloves, sang Adam Sandler's "Lunch Lady" song in my head, and served up meatballs, tortilla wraps, and cream puffs to a very long line of snackish students and snuck a few bites for myself. I was eyeing the prize table, but I managed to blow my one $5 chip on a lost round of roulette.

On the whole, it was a goofy, low-stress, fun night, and it was good to see faculty, staff, and students all kicking back and letting their hair down.

My plans for the weekend: finish piecing together some online classes that start next week and finish Coop!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

People Who Really "Don't Have Time" to Read

In my previous post about prioritizing reading, I wrote:
I quickly get annoyed with those people--students, acquaintances...ahem...relatives--who say, "Oh, I don't read. I just don't have time for things like that." All that basically means is that they don't like to read, and it's not a priority.
And several of you started your comments with: "But sometimes we really DON'T have time to read!"

And my response would be: "I know! Let me explain."

When I wrote that I get annoyed with those who say they don't have time to read, I really am talking about people who are lying between their teeth. You've met them, I've met them. They roll a little something like this:
Do I buy, check out, or otherwise read books? No. I don't have time. Do I own books? Oh no, I don't have the space for that. You mean you just bought 14 books at the library sale and you're going to actually read them someday? Wow, your life must be really boring if you have that much time to read.

Friends, that dolt is not a reader nor have they ever been. These are the "don't have time to read" people I'm talking about. The ones who curl an upper lip as they say, "Read? Uh, no. I don't have time for that."

I've met people like this--worked with them in libraries or taught with them in colleges, in fact! The last couple of lines about having a boring life have been SPOKEN ALOUD to me! I would link to the post about it, but I cursed a lot back then and it's not safe for work.

How scary is that? I have no idea why people will sometimes front like mofo's that they like to read when they don't. Ever. And haven't. Ever. Others will come right out and look at you like a zillion-headed hydra if you say you like to read.

We all go through dry spells, but these are the posers and idgits I was referencing in my previous post.

Do you have a particularly appalling non-reader story? Someone who made you feel like mud? Tell me, tell me!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Prioritizing Reading

I quickly get annoyed with those people--students, acquaintances...ahem...relatives--who say, "Oh, I don't read. I just don't have time for things like that." All that basically means is that they don't like to read, and it's not a priority.

For those of us who love to read, yearn to read, long to read, books can still be hard to prioritize into our lives sometimes. Right now is one of those times for me. I've mentioned the back-to-school fervor at my job, there's the addition of the home business (D'Aprix Creative) which runs out of our home, all the errands that go along with it, teenagers heading back to school soon and the ensuing quality time to soak up every last bit of summer, and let's face it, there's an infant in the house.

For the first time in the last several months, I'm really feeling the crush of obligation in everyday life, and it's certainly taking a toll on my reading. I used to carve out an hour or more of reading time each night before bed because I didn't go in to work until 11 or 12:00 every day. I could safely go to bed at 11:00pm and be rested the next day. Now that I'm up at 5:30 and teaching by 7:15, I have to hit the sack somewhere between 9:00 and 10:00 to keep my sanity.

This leaves me feeling homeless in the reading department. My routine has shifted dramatically, and I'm not sure where reading fits right now. My best options are to read during lunchtime at work and any accompanying downtime at school. Beginning-of-term is especially busy, as I'm sure you can imagine, so it'll settle down, but I'm cranky in the meantime. I have the whole of Friday off, but I'm usually playing with Greyson or trying to spend more time with the family. Keep in mind, I'm not looking for sympathy. This happens periodically. Reading slumps are cyclical, whether we like it or not.

So how do you prioritize your reading? Especially when things are busy or turbulent. Is there some fallback hobby that takes the place of your reading when you're brain-fried?

Monday, August 09, 2010

Reading and Teaching Food

I, I will surviiiiive! It's Monday, and how y'all doin'? I'm up, surprisingly perky, and in the middle of an English class at the moment. My students are on break, so I thought I'd take a few minutes to post my Monday goodness.

We had a good weekend. Swimming Saturday evening, visited my mom yesterday, did some cleaning and organizing, and whipped up some fried catfish last night while we watched the Cowboys game. While all of that was going on, Rocketgirl posted about her new books. She got into the ones I had recently packed up at my mom's house, so a big stack of those came home with us.

My "Monday What are You Reading" is slightly uneventful, but I've tried to embellish for your reading pleasure. Last week's academic start-of-term threw me off, so I haven't completed anything since Beatrice and Virgil. However, I do have quite a few books on the go:

In addition to Coop and The Secret Life of Bees, I spent some time digging into foodie books in preparation for my classes this term. I've taken a cue from Andi of AndiLit and decided to theme my freshman writing courses. We'll be discussing food in all its many facets: the familial, political, industrial, economic, environmental, and so on. We'll use this as a jumping-off point for our writing, and I think it'll be much more fun than what we've done in the past. The first paper they have to write is about a memory, so I'll have them write about one of their favorite memories of food. Their first reading will be an excerpt from "The Queen of Mold," Ruth Reichl's essay about her horrible-cook mother (taken from Tender at the Bone and published in part at Gourmet.com). Read it here.

So far I'm looking through the following books for other essays, pieces of essays, or chapters about all of the foodie topics I mentioned above:

Confections of a Closet Master Baker, by Gesine Bullock-Prado
A Cook's Tour, by Anthony Bourdain
Green, Greener, Greenest, by Lori Bongiorno
Food, Inc., edited by Karl Weber
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver
The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan

...and I might find something tasty-licious in Coop or The Bucolic Plague. Ya never know!

If you have any foodie/farming essays or books to recommend, please do! I'll gladly torture my students with the material!!!

In addition to our reading, I think we might also watch Super Size Me and Food, Inc. There's another documentary I ran across at Blockbuster, The Garden, that looks really good, too. Haven't gotten to watch that one, though.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Lazy Summer Saturday

It was a hellish week at work, and as soon as I got home last night, I think I died! Thursday was a 15-hour day, and I ended up teaching my three classes, and I sat in on three more for administrative purposes. Then, I had the day off yesterday, but I had to go sit in on an additional class (administrative again) from 8-10pm. Blah! Luckily, my boss is letting me leave early on Monday to help make up for all the additional time I've put in. That explains the previous post with all the hair pulling. As soon as the bald spots are covered over again, no one will suspect a thing.

Today has been a pretty lazy Saturday. We have one new and exciting development in the garden: tomatoes!

Yes, we have a hanging tomato plant. Not the "Topsy Turvy" but the cheap hardware store knockoff, and it seems to be working just fine. We were a little concerned because for the longest time we had lots of blossoms but no actual tomatoes. Now we have about five of the little boogers growing.

Now, my question for all you seasoned tomato growers: why the hell is one side of the plant looking dead??? We water it daily (because it dries out quickly in the 100+ degree heat). Maybe that side is getting more sun and we need to rotate? No idea.

All I know is, I'm ready for this little tart to put out so I can mix my homegrown tomatoes up with some basil and parmesan and make some fresh bruschetta!

One morning last week we had Greyson's stroller in the house (it's usually in the trunk of the car), and he's pretty happy to kick back and let the world pass by when he's sitting in it. I took him outside with me to water plants, and I think he's gonna be quite the little gardener! Ever since he was born, if he's really cranky, I can take him outside on the patio or into my mom's sunroom and he is mystified and falls asleep like a charm. Maybe I should invest in some baby gardening gloves and a blue trowel with puppies on it.

When he's in a good mood he kicks and swings his arms so hard I think he's going to take off. This was just such a morning.

The rest of my Saturday will likely be just as uneventful as the beginning of my day: clean a little, read a little, nap a little.

How's your Saturday?

Note: this post is playing double duty for Heather's Saturday Farmer's Market feature and Weekend Cooking over at Beth Fish Reads. Check 'em both out 'cause they're tons o'fun!

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Stinker List: Five Least Favorite Books

I recently concocted a list of 10 of my favorite books. Not THE 10, mind you, just 10 of the faves of all the many faves. Now I'm feeling snarky and overtired from this week back at work, and it struck me: how about a list of LEAST FAVORITE BOOKS!!!

Keep in mind, I'm not trying to be negative, nor am I looking to bag on a bunch of books, but this is one of those areas bloggers rarely discuss. We might mention a book we dislike in passing, but we don't focus on the stinkers. But the truth is: stinkers happen. This post is an ode to my personal stinkers.

Like many readers, I have a visceral reaction to some books. Sometimes I can explain why in minute detail, other times it's as much a mystery to me as anyone else. Sometimes it's whatever is going on in my life at the moment, other times it's a case of a very specific writerly problem I just can't stand. For some reason or other, these books hit a sour note with me. Feel free to share your own!

There's no picture of the first one, but it was in college that I read it, or attempted to, and it was called Letters from the Other Side, by Will Cunningham. It was Christian fiction about a band of angels who were all so stereotypically drawn as to have absolutely no grace or dignity left. There was a cowboy with a bad accent, a French angel with a beret and a bad accent, and there was probably a Jersey shore angel with a bad accent. Stereotypes of this magnitude and angels just didn't seem to mesh.

The next book that lives on my "Most Disliked' list is Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones. I can explain exactly what happened with this one, and it's not entirely the book's fault. First, it was surrounded by hype. It seems like everyone was saying wonderful things about it, and I went out and bought the book new in hardcover. At the same time, I was dealing with a death in the family. I was mourning the loss of my grandfather when I read it, and that grief was too much to incorporate into my reading of this book. Having watched the film version recently, which I did like a lot better, I still remember some of the problems I had with the book itself. Those problems still remain in my mind, but I do wonder sometimes how much my reaction had to do with my personal life as opposed to Sebold's writing.

Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck was another "gut reaction" type of book. I read it in college, and I vividly remember lying on the bed in my room and feeling sick to my stomach the way Lenny was treated in general. I thought it was so unfair and generally troubling that I literally wanted to throw the book out into the street in front of a garbage truck. How's that for a negative bookish fantasy? In this case, I can certainly still appreciate Steinbeck's writing and his economy of words in this novella, but it still made me want to puke.

 I was actually talking about this book, Elizabeth Scott's Living Dead Girl, with a colleague yesterday. I picked it up in grad school after a conversation with my mentor, and read it in one sitting. However, I can't say it was a good experience. This story of a young girl, kidnapped, starved, raped, abused, and generally made miserable, seemed like a sensational, oversimplified, horrible mess. Books don't always have to have a big "aha" moment, and I can see what Scott was going for (never blame the victim), but it just seemed a moot point. Read my full review here.

 Finally, one more classic to add to my hit list. Walden, by Henry David Thoreau was supremely disappointing. In this case, I blame the author completely and without remorse. Growing up, I always perceived Theoreau as an outdoorsman. One willing to go off the grid, get back to the land, and generally poo-poo society in favor of a simpler existence. The truth of the matter: he was a big fat gossip who lived in his pasture a short distance from town where he could still catch up on his socializing and paper reading. Faker!!! Hardly the outdoorsman. I laughed out loud when he came across a hedgehog or some similarly cute and furry creature on the walk back to his outpost in the pasture and had the urge to hunt and eat it. Sounds like a testosterone imbalance to me.

 So tell me, what books have scored low on your list lately? Maybe you have an all-time stinker? It's just a fact of life, so feel free to share!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Bookish Links, Reminders, and a Review!

Good (early) morning! Greyson woke me up squeaking and squirming at 5:30 this morning, so I decided to get up and "practice." I'll be up and getting ready for work this time every day beginning tomorrow, so I might as well go on and take the plunge. In the meantime, what better way to catch up on some blogging and reading!

As you might remember, my stepdaughter--the soon-to-be-14, Rocketgirl--reviewed Of All the Stupid Things here recently. She's been cranking out reviews like a madwoman since then, and she reads like crazy during the summer, so it only made sense to hook her up with her own blog. Go take a look at Rocketgirl Reviews if you have a moment, and if you leave a comment she'll "squeee!" and be very happy. So far she's written up her thoughts on To Kill a Mockingbird, The Shawl by Cynthia Ozick, and some others. And she's even sharing some quotes from her own writing.

Note: I got an unsolicited hug for creating this blog with her, so she is genuinely thrilled to have it.

Reminder: The BookClubSandwich discussion of Michael Perry's Coop begins here on August 16th. Heather was kind enough to pass along her copy, and it arrived yesterday. I read the first few pages, and I think I'm really going to like this one a lot! A good blend of funny and heartfelt, it's hitting the right note for me at the moment. I hope you'll join Kim and I for the discussion!

Finally, Rocketboy, not notorious for his reading unless it's a graphic novel, wanted to get in on the reviewing gig. He read Slob, by Ellen Potter, from his school's summer reading list, and this is his review:

I had to read a book for school, so I chose Slob. Slob is about this boy named Owen Burn Baum. He is 13 years old and lives with his foster mom. He is extremely smart. He is overweight and is made fun of because of it. Owen goes to school with his sister, named Jeremy. Her name is a boy's name because of this club named G.W.A.B. His foster mom always puts three Oreos in his lunch sack. One day they disappear and he freaks out. Throughout the book, Owen ends up making friends and losing friends while he tries to find out who takes his Oreos. He ends up inventing this machine that lets him see into the past. He finds out who stole his Oreos and and why, and he decides to go on a diet.

I liked the mystery and how it made you keep on guessing about who did this and who did that.

What I didn't like was, it was confusing about where he was and who he was talking to.

I'm glad my parents forced me to read this book because I actually enjoyed it.

And there you have it! Rocketboy will likely be starting a blog about gaming and art soon, so I'll keep you posted on that.

Monday, August 02, 2010

The Sunday Salon on Monday

I'm off work today!!!!! Can you tell I'm excited? In fact, I was off on Friday, too, so if you're wondering why you haven't seen me, I took the opportunity to "unplug" for most of the weekend. Thus, I'm just getting around to The Sunday Salon.

The family spent some time swimming, grilling, and watching movies the last few days, and I'm feeling delightfully recharged and as ready as I'll ever be to get back to work tomorrow. This term promises to be a challenging one. I'll be teaching at 7:15 every morning, and working 10 hour days with Fridays off. It sounds good in theory, but we'll see how it goes.

I spent my morning today getting the new issue of Estella's Revenge E-Zine online. I hope y'all will enjoy this first issue back. There are some really great essays and reviews and an interview with historical fiction author, Elizabeth Chadwick. Go see!

I've been dipping in and out of By Fire, By Water, by Mitchell James Kaplan, for the last few days, and I'm not having much luck. That's not to say that I'm not enjoying the book--I am!--but I think I need something a bit shorter to keep me going and out of a slump after The Passage.

This morning I was ruffling through my shelves and happened to lay eyes on The Secret Lives of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd. This is another one of those books that I'm coming to veryyyy late in the game. It's also one of those books everyone raved about in my online book discussion books back in the day. I'm not sure I've ever seen anyone say negative things about it. No idea why I've held off reading it so long, but I do know I finally broke down and added it to my shelves when I found it on clearance at Half-Price Books for a dollar. How could I resist?

I'm not very far in, but so far I really like the narrator's voice, and I can tell her story is going to be one to pull at my heartstrings. I'm hoping I can spend some quality time reading today while Greyson is napping and hopefully go ahead and take a big chunk out of it before the term madness starts on Wednesday.

So tell me: what books have you read lately that were so good they could keep you out of a slump?
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