Wednesday, September 29, 2010

BookClubSandwich: The Jungle by Upton Sinclair!

The voters have spoken!!! The newest pick for the BookClubSandwich discussion is The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. It was a very tight race with The United States of Arugala and America the Edible at eight votes, but ultimately The Jungle won out with eleven.

Here's how things are shaping up for discussion:

Kim will post her thoughts on the book to open discussion on November 8th. We invite anyone who has read the book to post their own thoughts during the week and link to them on Kim's blog, and I will post a wrap-up of discussion and commentary on the following Monday, November 15th.

Personally, I've wanted to read this book for a very long time, and I'm thrilled to be able to with a group of my fellow bloggers. I'm especially excited since I've looked a little further into the history of the book and Upton Sinclair's background. Fascinating stuff!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Wanna Have Coffee and Talk About Books? And a new job!

I've never been to a book festival! I don't know how that happened either, especially since the Texas Book Festival happens in Austin every year. Quite honestly, I've missed it in past years because I just haven't paid attention to the dates. However, this year I am bound and determined to make a go of it and meet some of my fellow bloggers!

This year's Texas Book Festival is happening on October 16th and 17th and I've already started scouting out the panels I'm interested in attending and stalking the bloggers I want to hunt down for coffee or a meal. Chuck and I have been thinking of making a weekend trip somewhere for a while, and this opportunity just happened to pop up at a pretty opportune time.

Yesterday I found out that I've been promoted to an administrative position, so to be very practical, the money will be available for us to take this trip! Woohoo! And it can be a celebration of the new job, too. Just to fill you in briefly on the new work, I am the Interim Program Chair for the general ed. department. In other words, I'll be supervising our full-time and adjunct faculty in math, English, science, humanities, communication, etc. All the basic courses. It'll be "interim" for a term and then we'll jointly decide if I want to continue with the position and if I'm the best fit for the job. And I'm OK with that!

But back to the books. Authors I'm interested in seeing at the festival? Justin Cronin, M.T. Anderson, Holly Black, Laurie Halse Anderson, David Wiesner, P.J. O'Rourke, Julia Glass, Jennifer Egan, and others.

One of the biggest pieces of advice I've heard from other festival-going bloggers is to be flexible with the schedule. I know I won't be able to see all of these authors, but I am looking forward to a number of the panels and appearances and taking in the atmosphere in Austin.

So, who else is going? And who's organizing the get-together? ;)

Note: I know see that Amanda has posted about the Texas Book Blogger Party! Go see! 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Reading The Woman in White, Part 1

When one has a book blog, it can be really difficult to blog (and it can sometimes seem quite pointless) when a dramatic slow-down happens on the reading front.

Such is the case with me. The last book I read and reviewed here was Beatrice and Virgil, TWO MONTHS AGO. In the meantime I've read part of Coop (all but 50 pages or so), and I'm almost halfway through The Woman in White, and I'm about 1/3 of the way into Great House, by Nicole Krauss.

To what can I attribute this stall in my reading?

Does it really matter?

The same old life stuff, for the most part. Nothing new. Quite frankly, I'm tired of whining about my lack of reading time, so I'm changing my approach. I AM reading. It's just slow. So in the spirit of reading deliberately and carefully, I'm going to bring you with me as I read Wilkie Collins's The Woman in White for this year's RIP V Challenge.

Keep in mind, Wilkie has had more than his 15 minutes of fame in the blogosphere. He's been on tour with The Classics Circuit, for one. He's had his own read-along! Bloggers everywhere love him! I am not quite sure I have the best skillz for bringing my readers along as I tackle a particular work in installments. I don't think for a minute I could do it as well or as thoughtfully as Allie from A Literary Odyssey. But, by God, I'm giving it the old college try or whatever.

As the nook flies, I'm on page 118 of 497 pages. At the pace I'm going now, Greyson may be walking by the time I finish, but I really am enjoying the book a great deal. There's a sort of lightness to this classic. It's just good, fun reading. Sort of brain candy for the classics set. I don't mean that in a derogatory way at all, I'm just surprised by the ease of reading and how quickly I do move through this book when I can sit down and read uninterrupted.

Here's a synopsis because I'm not feeling terribly succinct at the moment:
The story begins with an eerie midnight encounter between artist Walter Hartright and a ghostly woman dressed all in white who seems desperate to share a dark secret. The next day Hartright, engaged as a drawing master to the beautiful Laura Fairlie and her half sister, tells his pupils about the strange events of the previous evening. Determined to learn all they can about the mysterious woman in white, the three soon find themselves drawn into a chilling vortex of crime, poison, kidnapping, and international intrigue.
While this is an epistolary novel, it doesn't feel particularly lettery. The sections are written by different characters, but I've only read two sections, and they were each on the long side. This is not The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society where the letters are sometimes less than a page or run maybe 5-10 pages at the most. While epistolary novels are all fine and good, and generally speaking the shorter the letters the quicker I read, I just don't think that would work here. I find myself far more invested in the characters if they have room to stretch their fictional legs.

That said, I already have my favorites. Narrator of the first section--Walter Hartright, the drawing teacher--is just lovely. I was charmed by his details about his lot in life and the business exchanges that led him to employment at Limmeridge House. It's just these types of period details that really get my mojo going for classics.

For pure spunk, sass, and good humor, I'm a huge fan of the "ugly" sister, Marian Halcombe. Like most "good," pretty, flat characters, Hartright's love interest, Laura Fairlie, is a bore. I'm really hoping she poisons someone or something. Spice her up a bit. I'm a firm believer that many of the "good" characters in literature are the most super-dull ever. Look at Paradise Lost, for example. Satan, interesting and fun. God, not so much.  *Note: this is in no way a reflection of my own faith. So there!

But back to Marian Halcombe. She's quite a character (har!). She's clever, single, open-minded, outspoken. I'm looking forward to whatever ole Wilkie has in store for her.

So that's it! My thoughts on the first 118 pages of The Woman in White. I hope to knock off another hundred pretty quickly, so check back for more progress. If you have your own input into this novel, I would love to hear it!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Introducing: The Nook "LendMe" Library Blog!

I was hit by a stroke of inspiration! As a Barnes and Noble Nook user, I always itch to use the "LendMe" feature to loand and borrow books, but none of my "real life" friends have a Nook! Thus, I'm dependent on bloggers to Lend with me.

With this urge in mind, I've created the LendMe Library, a blog where I'll list available LendMe books from Nook users and bloggers. If you want to borrow a book from someone, come browse the database of titles, contact the owner (me!), and you're ready to go!

Because this is a brand new blog, I'm the only person with available books listed in the database of Lendables. Come on over and help me fill it up!

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

BookClubSandwich: Picking a New Book

It's time again! Time for another round of BookClubSandwich, an online discussion group for foodies and wannabes. Kim and I have put together a pool of five books, and I've already set up a poll on the right-hand side of the screen where you may vote for up to two choices you're interested in reading. Our first discussion, Coop, was in August, so we'll likely shoot for a discussion date in or around November. We have yet to decide the final discussion date.

Please take the time to read through the publisher blurbs below, and let us know which books you're most interested in reading! Keep in mind, not all of these books are published in paperback just yet, so if you need to take that into consideration when voting, please do. I've noted the hardcover releases, though they may emerge in paperback before discussion time.

America the Edible: Why We Eat, What We Eat, Where We Eat by Adam Richman (hardcover) - In America the Edible, Travel Channel host Adam Richman tackles the ins and outs of American cuisine, demonstrating his own unique brand of culinary anthropology. Believing that regional cuisine reveals far more than just our taste for chicken fried steak or 3-way chili, Richman explores the ethnic, economic, and cultural factors that shape the way we eat—and how food, in turn, reflects who we are as a nation. Richman uses his signature wit and casual charm to take youon a tour around the country,explaining such curiosities as why bagels are shaped like circles, why fried chicken is so popular in the South, and how some of the most iconic American food—hot dogs, fries, and soda—are not really American at all. Writing with passion, curiosity, and a desire to share his knowledge, he includes recipes, secret addresses for fun and tasty finds, and tips on how to eat like a local from coast to coast.

Deeply Rooted: Unconventional Farmers in the Age of Agribusiness by Lisa Hamilton - A century of industrialization has left the food system riddled with problems, yet for solutions people look to nutritionists and government agencies, scientists and chefs. Hamilton asks: Why not look to the people who grow the food?

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair - Upton Sinclair's The Jungle follows the fortunes of Jurgis Rudkus, an immigrant who finds in the stockyards of turn-of-the-century Chicago a ruthless system that degrades and impoverishes him, and an industry whose filthy practices contaminate the meat it processes. From the stench of the killing-beds to the horrors of the fertilizer-works, the appalling conditions in which Jurgis works are described in intense detail by an author bent on social reform. So powerful was the book's message that it caught the eye of President Theodore Roosevelt and led to changes to the food hygiene laws.

Medium Raw: A Blood Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook by Anthony Bourdain (hardcover) - In the ten years since his classic Kitchen Confidential first alerted us to the idiosyncrasies and lurking perils of eating out, from Monday fish to the breadbasket conspiracy, much has changed for the subculture of chefs and cooks, for the restaurant business — and for Anthony Bourdain.
Medium Raw explores these changes, moving back and forth from the author's bad old days to the present. Tracking his own strange and unexpected voyage from journeyman cook to globe-traveling professional eater and drinker, and even to fatherhood, Bourdain takes no prisoners as he dissects what he's seen, pausing along the way for a series of confessions, rants, investigations, and interrogations of some of the most controversial figures in food.

The United States of Arugula: The Sun Dried, Cold Pressed, Dark Roasted, Extra Virgin Story of the American Food Revolution by David Kamp - One day we woke up and realized that our macaroni had become pasta, that our Wonder Bread had been replaced by organic whole wheat, that sushi was fast food, and that our tomatoes were heirlooms. How did all this happen, and who made it happen? The United States of Arugula is the rollicking, revealing chronicle of how gourmet eating in America went from obscure to pervasive, thanks to the contributions of some outsized, opinionated iconoclasts who couldn't abide the status quo.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Introducing...ME! Wait, What?

Thanks to the Interview Swap for Book Blogger Appreciation Week, I came to a realization. Not everyone has been reading this blog for the five years that it's been going!!!

I know, right? Holy crap! What a stupid realization!

The bottom line: it appears many of you were wondering where this blog's name came from, and since it's one of my most proudest accomplishments in like, LIFE, I figured I should perhaps reintroduce myself, do some explaining, and generally welcome the new readers onboard since BBAW.

We bloggers often find each other en media res and, personally, I would like to see more bloggers doing what Amanda from The Zen Leaf has done. I feel like I know so much more about Amanda since she posted her own re-introduction, and if we can just get a big ole wave of this going through the blogosphere I would probably wet my pretty new pants with excitement.

This is me. This was before I had a baby, so my face is much thinner, and my hair is much shorter (with less gray). So, basically, add 15 pounds of weight, 15 pounds of hair, and some bags under the eyes, and you have a more up-to-date picture.

I am one of the old ladies in the blogging community. For five and a half years, I've been haunting the virtual stacks. If I explain the name of my blog you'll understand a bit of my bloggy history:

When I started the blog in 2005, I was in a bad mental/emotional space because of the relationship I was in. My "other" didn't like my blogging, and I basically started it out of spite. The most spiteful character in literature I could think of, and one I've been fascinated with for ages, is Estella from Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens. Her whole purpose in life was the torture men (thanks to the woman who raised her...Miss Havisham). The torturing of the menfolk sounded pretty good just then, so Estella's Revenge was born. As I've grown and aged and settled down, the title has grown with me. I suppose Estella's greatest revenge in the novel is ultimately on Miss Havisham. Estella grows up, matures, and finds happiness. Something I'm sure that naughty old Havisham would not have wanted. Likewise, I've matured, settled down, and am very much content these days.

So, there ya go. That's how my online persona was born, and I really am pretty proud of that brief stroke of cleverness that's served me so well over the years.

For work, I am an English professor. I've been professing for about 7 years now. I taught high school in rural North Carolina for one year, and I ran screaming to higher education as quickly as I my little stubby toes would carry me. While teaching can be a pain in the arse sometimes, overall I am extremely happy with my job. I rarely dread going to work, and I always like interacting with my students and colleagues. I'm continually challenged with new ways to present material. I've recently applied for an administrative position, and while I'm a little nervous about the idea of leaving the classroom, I think I'm also ready to try something new. I still get my fix teaching online classes for extra money.

Note: I do not have PhD, which would prompt some to say, "Then you're not a professor, dahling."

Like hell, I say!

I have a Masters degree, I was accepted to Illinois State University for a PhD, but I didn't go. I like sleep and sanity, and my liver had all of the drinking it could take as a Masters student. Instead, I started a second Masters, this one in Library Science, and it's currently on hold.

In my daily life, I'm just a normal person with a smartassy streak. I have a wicked, pointy, silver tongue that I do my best to keep under wraps. It looks regular pink in that picture, though. Despite my way with words, I'm also a really nice person. Some might even refer to me as chipper. Secretly, I am chipper, but I also like my alone time, so it doesn't hurt my feelings AT ALL to hide myself for a good many hours a day.

I'll be turning 30 in November, and I'm not skeered at all. The older I get, the better my wardrobe gets. I've had multiple facial piercings in my life, I do not have any tattoos, and I'm getting ready to dye my hair a slightly inhuman shade of red.

I live in Dallas, TX, and I have a family: Chuck, The Rockets are my stepkiddos aged 12 and 14, and Greyson is the new addition at 5 months. We have three dogs and a cat in a smallish condo, which basically means we're gluttons for punishment. Daisy is a 30-pound terrier mix of some odd, leggy variety. Storm is a Rottweiler mix, and ironically, she is afraid of storms. Hides in the bathtub when she hears 'em comin'. Dingo is a big, old, cranky something or other. And Samson is our doily of a cat.

You'll find me in various places in the blogosphere. I founded and currently co-edit Estella's Revenge E-Zine, about none other than books. I used to write a column for called "The Finicky Reader" until my life blew up. You can find more contact info on my Review Policy.

I roll with a group of bloggy ladies I've "known" for over 10 years. Heather, Bookfool, Amanda, Readerbuzz, Tanabata, Les (and others) were in Yahoo! Groups discussing books long before this blogging deal became the big thing. We've all been blogging for a hella long time, too, and I'm blessed to have started the online book journey with so many kindred spirits. I've also been lucky to meet so many of you other book-obsessed, tasty little tarts along the way. I wouldn't trade this part of my social life for anything.

When it comes to bookish tastes, I'm all over the board. My specialties in graduate school were childrens/adolescent lit and graphic narrative (comics!). I love picking apart children's and adolescent lit for all its weirdness, hypocrisy, and adult humor.

When it comes to everyday reading, I go through phases. Last year I only read one literary fiction novel. ONE! This year I seem to be reading more literary fiction, memoirs, and environmental/green living type books. I am decidedly toasted when it comes to YA paranormal fiction. No. Thanks. For the time being, anyway.

I am a complete technological nut. I have a Blackberry, an iPod Touch, a Nook e-reader, a laptop, a couple of miscellaneous iPod shuffles for working out, I Twitter, Stumble, Goodreads, Facebook. In short, I likes the Interwebs. Oh, and podcasts. I love me a podcast.

When I'm not on the computer I like to cook, watch HGTV and Food Network, and I enjoy the outdoors. I promise, I'm not online ALL the time.

So, yeah, that's me in a nutshell. As a person, as a reader, as a writer and blogger, and bears, Oh MY! If you have any questions, let me know.

I had a chicken fried steak sandwich for dinner last night, just in case you were wondering.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bronchial Meltdown! And New Books...

My cold turned into bronchitis. Yay! I'm on so many drugs it's ridiculous. Horse-sized pills, syrups, inhalers, steroids. I usually feel a little better in the mornings, but as the day wears on I fade pretty fast.

Thanks to this hellish malady, I missed the last day of BBAW! The final question asked what we enjoyed about BBAW and what our blogging goals are for the next year.

My favorite day of BBAW was probably "Forgotten Treasures." I had such a good time romping through my own archives for a recommendation--The Journal of Dora Damage--and I saw tons of great books recommended by my fellow bloggers. Of course, I also adored the Interview Swap and thanks again to Brooke for being my partner!

As for the next year of blogging: the expected answer is to say "I want to review more!" since my reviews have slowed down significantly. However, I'm not going to do that to myself because I read as much as is humanly possible without neglecting my family or my job. Those two things have to take precedence, so as hungry as I am for it, reading gets pushed back a smidge.

I do want to keep productively blogging. I love talking about a reading life with my bookish friends, whether I'm cranking out reviews or not. I am a book person to the core, no matter how many books I can actively consume in a week or a month or a year.

And speaking of books, I just looked over at B&Ns e-book deals and found two yummy, and very reasonably priced, new-to-me books. One is the highly praised Case Histories, by Kate Atkinson. The other is Strange Bedpersons, by Jennifer Crusie. I've read quite a few of Crusie's novels in my time, but it's been several years since I got hold of one. They're really fun, light reading for the days my head needs a break.

I hope you all had a wonderful BBAW, and a great weekend. Wish me luck getting all mended and back to feeling human. Right now I'm definitely somewhere in the zombie category.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

BBAW: Day 4, Forgotten Treasures

Book  Blogger Appreciation Week has been a grand ole time so far, and today promises to be just as delightful! You know I love tossing out recommendations, and this one jumped and surprised me! I went all the way back to my review archives for today's goody, and I can't wait to share!

I read The Journal of Dora Damage, by Belinda Starling, in October of 2007, and I have rarely ever seen it reviewed elsewhere. It was a really wonderful historical fiction novel. From my 2007 review:

London in the 1860s is a dangerous, scandalous place to exist, especially if you're Dora Damage, the matriarch of the ailing Damage Bookbinders. When her husband, Peter, begins to fall into rheumatic disability, Dora surpasses her station as a submissive wife and mother and takes over the family business.

Dora shows an exceptional talent for binding books, from her creative embroidery and color choices, to her quick mind and willingness to work her hands to cracked, aching stubs. However, no matter how hard she tries in the beginning, the money just doesn't come. Finally, based on her covert work, she lands a job binding ladies' journals and other miscellaneous books. This first innocent employment leads to greater, more dangerous things--namely the task of binding pornography for a treacherous group of London's powerful and ruthless upper crust.
This is one of those books that's done better with the passage of time than I might've originally anticipated. When I saw it staring back at me from my archives, I immediately though, "Ooh! I remember that book!" And I do! Which is saying a lot since I can barely remember my own name. This reading experience comes back to me in vivid detail, and that's a sure sign of a fantastic find.

I remember specific events from the book, the characters' dispositions, and the overall impression I got from the reading. I even recall that I thought the conclusion was a little sensational, but I didn't care. I was charmed by this bookish book. I was fascinated by the binding process and Dora's daring choices. I was swept away.

Read my full review here.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

BBAW: Day 3, Unexpected Treasures

Today's Book Blogger Appreciation Week topic is Unexpected Treasures! From the BBAW site:
Book bloggers can be some of the most influential people around!  Today we invite you to share with us a book or genre you tried due to the influence of another blogger.  What made you cave in to try something new and what was the experience like?
No kidding! My shelves wouldn't be nearly as loaded down as they are now if it weren't for my bloggy friends. I read pretty widely now, so I can't say that I've been pushed into any new genres lately, but I often pick up books because of blogger recommendations. Just looking over my sidebar for this year, here are the books I've read because of widespread blogger chatter or specific bloggy friends:
Yep, just as I thought. A lot!

In short, I get my book recommendations almost exclusively from my fellow bloggers these days. I find them far more influential than "professional" reviewers, and this coming from a gal who subscribes to the NY Times Review of Books on Nook. Yeah, I still prefer, and appreciate, bloggers.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Life is Good!!! And I'm Nosy!


To accept the award you must link back and thank the person who gave you the Life is Good Award and then answer the ten survey questions. Then you can pass it along to

Thanks to Brooke of Cupcake Queen Book Reviews for passing this lovely award along! I do very much appreciate it! I'd like to give it to:
The truth is, these are some of my favorite bloggers whether I've been following them for long or not, and I'm nosy! I want to know how they'd answer the questions below.

1. If you blog anonymously are you happy doing it that way; if you are not anonymous do you wish you had started out anonymously so you could be anonymous now?

Sometimes I do wish I blogged anonymously. Now that I'm working for a college full-time and whatnot, it would be nice to slink back a bit. Oh well, too late!

2. Describe one incident that shows your inner stubborn side.

Oh crap, I'm one of the most stubborn people I know, and that's not necessarily a good thing. I once read Chuck's mother the riot act when she lived with us because she refused to do the dishes the way I'd requested. We were trying to get the kids in a habit of doing their own dishes to cut down on the workload, and she just wouldn't conform. We had it out, verbally, as a result. It's not only an example of my hard-headedness, but also the female battle for territory when the mother-in-law lives in.

3. What do you see when you really look at yourself in the mirror?

Shallow answer: Bad hair! I haven't had it cut for ages, far before Greyson was born, and if it wasn't curly it would touch my butt. I also have a few too many grey hairs for my taste, so I need a color job! I have plans for the near future to cut it short and dye it red.

Thoughtful answer: Someone who just wants to do the right thing, who is painfully, stressfully responsible. I pride myself on being a moral and responsible adult, and I can thank my mom for making me that way. When life cuts in and keeps me from accomplishing what needs doing, I get really upset at myself and life.

4. What is your favourite summer cold drink?

Alcoholic: Blue Moon Honey Moon ale
Non: Diet Pepsi!

5. When you take time for yourself, what do you do?

Lately I've taken to window shopping in my downtime. Sometimes it just feels good to be out of the house alone for a dose of independence. I go try on shoes, whether I buy them or not. I might peruse the home decorating stores for cool new stuff. When it comes to reading, I like to park myself in Barnes and Noble and download free Nook content.

6. Is there something you still want to accomplish in your life? What is it?

I desperately want to buy a house. Not only is our space too small, I've just always wanted a home I could mold into something of my own. I am also thinking of taking my career in a slightly different direction. It involves getting back into the swing of Library School.

7. When you attended school, were you the class clown, the class overachiever , the shy person, or always ditching?

I was something somewhere in between. I was a very good student and considered a goody-goody to a large extent. I had a huge range of friends from stoners, to other goody-goody overachievers, to athletes, and artsy folk. For a long time I didn't have any particular crowd, but I found a group of girls--the "Table of Success"--who were much like me and could adapt to any situation. I was the school mascot (complete with Fox costume), I was in art, I was literary, I got my tongue pierced when I was a senior, I was ready to go to college as soon as humanly possible. I was all over the place.

8. If you close your eyes and want to visualise a very poignant moment of your life what would you see?

Greyson's birth! Highly predictable answer, but so true. My life changed completely in that moment. I have never loved anyone as much as I love that little boy, and if it's even remotely possible, he's made me even MORE responsible and determined to do good things for people.

9. Is it easy for you to share your true self in your blog or are you more comfortable writing posts about other people or events?

Uh, yeah. I've been pretty darn open on this blog over the years. I've discussed depression, abuse, pornography, politics, religion, feminism, environmentalism, social responsibility. I've dropped the "F bomb" a lot in my younger days. I've ranted and raved. I've been quiet and introspective. It's only in the last 3-4 years that I've taken this sharp turn towards books. Before that it was much more about life and school and partying and growing up.

10. If you had the choice to sit down and read or talk on the phone, which would you do and why?

Read! Because it's my favorite thing. It makes me feel satisfied with life.

BBAW: Day 2 - Interview Swap

It's another day of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, and this is one of my favorite activities. This is my first time doing the BBAW Interview Swap, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! Please welcome Brooke from Cupcake Queen Book Reviews!

If you haven't been to Brooke's blog, I have to tell you, it's a feast for the eyes and the readerly mojo. She has one of the prettiest blog aesthetics I've seen in a good while, and my mouth waters every time I visit. Cake is one of my favorite things ever in life, and to visit Brooke's blog is to be tempted by cupcakes. Yum! Brooke blogs about YA titles, and there's plenty to tempt there, too.

Here are the questions I asked of her:

Andi: How do you find time to read with all you have going on in your life? I know your bio says you have a one-year-old daughter, and you're a teen mom. I'm almost 30 with a 5-month-old, and I'm still searching for balance. Any advice you have would be great!

Brooke: Well, the best advice I can give you is to read anytime you have some downtime. I usually read when my daughter is sleeping and at night time. I also read when she's playing by herself. I know it's much different with a 5 month old. Take some time before going to bed to read a couple pages :)

Andi: You're the cupcake queen! I love cupcakes and anything to do with baked goods. Do you have any favorite books about food or do you have any favorite cupcake books/sites you could recommend?

Brooke: I know! I love cupcakes of course too. I haven't actually gotten any books on cupcakes yet. It's on my to-do list though. My favorite cupcake websites are:

Check them out!

Andi: What's your favorite YA novel you've read in the last year? I've fallen off the YA wagon a little bit lately, so I could use any recommendations.

Brooke: My favorite would have to be Impossible by Nancy Werlin. After I read it, it offically became my new favorite book. I love the adventure,romance, and the part about being a teen mom. I also love the Perfect Chemistry series and Wings series. So many great YA novels have been released this year.

Andi: What made you decide to participate in Book Blogger Appreciation Week? What are you most looking forward to?

Brooke: I thought it would be awesome to get to know more book bloggers and meet new people. I am most looking forward to reading everyone's interviews. It's nice to know more about people outside the book blogosphere.

Thanks so much to Brooke for answering my questions. You'll be able to read my answers to her questions at The Cupcake Queen Book Reviews!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Book Blogger Appreciation Week: Day 1

Today is the first day of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, and I'm getting started early. I hadn't planned to blog today given that I feel like death warmed over, but how could I reasonably resist? It only happens once a year, so I'm definitely onboard!

Today's topic is: For those of you who participated in BBAW last year, what’s a great new book blog you’ve discovered since last year’s BBAW?

For those you new to BBAW, what was the first book blog you discovered?
Since I have the memory of a gnat, I have no idea who I discovered via BBAW last year. I did participate as much as I could've, though I didn't really feel that I got my fill. In the spirit of spreading the bloggy love, let me make a list of blogs I love, whether I found them this year or in years gone by. This is certainly not all-inclusive since I have something like 200 blogs in my reader. Consider this a shout-out to everyone, though. I *heart* you all!
  • Formerly The Blog Jar, Amanda from Fig and Thistle is a long-time friend and long time blog goddess. She's crafty, bakes delicious goodies, and reads books I envy. She's so classically fabulous it's ridiculous.
  • Frances from Nonsuch Book is another favorite. Her blog is as beautiful as it is informative, and I always enjoy her recommendations, giveaways, and the scoop on beautifully designed books.
  • Katie from Mama the Reader is a real-life friend of Amanda's, and I discovered her that way. Not only is she a reader, she's a kick-ass mom. It seems like she's always doing momly things I'm interested in before I get to them.
  • Emily from The Alcove is another recent favorite. We found each other a while back. She's relatively new to the blogging world, and I'm an old bloggy lady. We both read, teach, and we bonded over the Nook! She writes fantastic reviews, reads widely, and I just admire her to pieces.
  • Trisha from Eclectic/Eccentric needs no introduction because her reputation precedes her. To keep it short and sweet, I think she's one of my reading twins or reading soulmates. And we're both English profs, so we jive on that level, too.
I could go on for ages, and I probably will blow the blog horn later in the week as well, but this should get you all started reading. I think what I admire most about these ladies is not only their prowess at book blogging, but they share enough of themselves and the other aspects of their lives on their blogs that I feel like I really know them. I would trade off an appendage to get them all together for coffee and book talk.

Happy first day of Book Blogger Appreciation Week! It promises to be a rollicking good time! Check back tomorrow for the BBAW Interview Swap!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Program

The snot monster is here for his yearly visit; he just happens to be early!

If you're not sure what the heck I'm talking about and fear I might be hallucinating, let me explain. I get sick this time of year every year. Seemingly on my birthday. However, the snot monster (illness) seems to be early since it's just mid-September. It started with Rocketboy, moved to Greyson, Chuck was the next victim, now there's Rocketgirl and myself. My sinuses hurt so badly I could positively claw my face off.

I'll be back when I'm well enough to be upright.

The Sunday Salon - Great House, Wordle Madness

Wordle: Estella'sRevenge

It looks all tiny and sad up there, but I haven't made a Wordle in a while. Put in my blog address and voila! Bookish goodness! Click to make it big and beautiful.

Greyson seems to be feeling better, and now Chuck and I are each coming down with a cold. There's been much Sudafed, Afrin, and miscellaneous cures floating around the house the last couple of days.

While the boys slept last night--Chuck on the couch in a haze, Greyson in his crib in footie pajamas--I took the opportunity to really dig into Great House, by Nicole Krauss. I've bubbled and squeed about this one before, and now I'm finally getting to read it. It has an October release date, so I've put it off this long, and I'm so excited about it.

50 pages in, I'm lovin' it! I've marked several memorable passages, and I'm excited to see where the story is going. So far an unnamed narrator (a writer)  is recounting her day-long relationship with a Chilean poet named Daniel Varsky. After breaking up with her boyfriend, Varsky lets the narrator take his furniture since she's left with almost nothing. He's headed back to Chile to play a part in revolution (this is the 70s). The desk our narrator receives supposedly belonged to the poet, Federico Garcia Lorca. In the present day, Varsky's daughter shows up to reclaim Varsky's furniture, including the desk the narrator has has used for 20+ years to write seven novels

Intriguing premise. I know this desk is the centerpiece around which the story oscillates (how's that for a Sunday morning word?!), and I'm curious what's coming next. The narrator is suitably heartbroken to lose such a splendid and sentimental piece of furniture, and while she doesn't believe in the writer's need for routine or special accoutrement (Ha! Another good word!) for writing, I do believe she may be fooling herself.

I'll be spending the rest of my Sunday grading papers and reading this book. Chuck has a drawing class from 9:00-3:00, so in truth I'm probably fooling myself. I'll be keeping Greyson occupied and probably visiting with my mom for a few hours.

For more bookish goodness from my house, check out Rocketgirl's latest post.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Flotsam (Because I Like the Word Flotsam)

It's Friday, and a woo-freakin-hoo to that. It hasn't felt terribly relaxing since Greyson was up on and off all night with a seriously bad attitude. We thought he might be getting a cold, so we had a doctor visit today to no avail. All seems well, so maybe he was just too snotty to sleep (literally, quite boogery).

I have done some bookish things today, despite being worn out. While Greyson was napping this morning, I downloaded Adobe Digital Editions on my laptop to organize my e-books. I downloaded some upcoming review books from NetGalley, and I looked through some other new e-books I've downloaded recently.

I'm still reading and loving The Woman in White, but I also have some review obligations coming up in October. It promises to be a very bookish month with RIP V going on and Dewey's Read-a-Thon. I have finally....and we need a BIG DRUM ROLL HERE...started reading Great House, by Nicole Krauss. I've had my eye on this one forever, and I was surprised when the publisher sent along an ARC.

In other news, I found The Art of Disappearing in my mailbox this week. It's for a blog tour in October. From my library holds list I have Little Bee and I'm next in line for Medium Raw.

All in all, it would be really helpful if I were reading more! All these yummy books are calling to me, and work has eaten up a chunk of time.

Today's Book Blogger Hop is a request to post our favorite review from the last three months. Mine would be The Passage! I still love this book. It'll be a re-read for sure. Head on over to Crazy For Books to join the hop!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

I, I Will Survive!

Just to keep the music theme going, I'm singing "I Will Survive." Thank you, Gloria Gaynor!

I had a job interview today. I get really nervous about those. It's a position at the college where I'm currently employed, and I think it went well. I won't truly believe it went well until I get the word on the next step. I'm a doom and gloom kinda girl like that. Expect the worst and be surprised! That's my motto.

Now the waiting. Blarrrrg!

Monday, September 06, 2010

Give It to Me Wilkie! Uh huh! Uh huh!!!

Sorry, that song popped into my head and I happen to be reading The Woman in White, and it was all downhill from there.

This book is the BEST decision I've made since my reading slump came on. Seriously, sometimes I think classics are the cure to all my ills. Somehow if I don't read one for a while I begin to feel the teensiest bit starved. Like I'm literarily dehydrated or something. I'm only 40-some-odd pages into Wilkie Collins's The Woman in White, but it's just so delightfully charmingly awesome, I can hardly contain myself. This is just what I've been looking for!

I know absolutely NOTHING about Wilkie, and I'm oddly delighted by my ignorance. I see this one mentioned in the blogosphere ALL the time, and most assuredly at RIP time, but I've gone in with almost no expectations. Which makes it even more delightful to be so delighted!

In other news, I started Alan Moore's From Hell today, and I'm far less exuberant about it. For the uninitiated: black and white graphic novel--BIG graphic novel--apparently about Jack the Ripper. Lots of naked prossies (prostitutes). Meh. I'll get back to it, but I'm all Wilkie's for a bit.

Rocketgirl hasn't blogged for a while after an unfortunate grounding and a boatload of homework. Can we say AP courses? Oh yeah. Anyway, she finished Three Cups of Tea (good story, but boring...overall thumbs down), blew through The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud by Ben Sherwood this weekend (loved it), and she's on to Little Vampire Women for her first RIP V choice. I'm sure she'll have plenty to say about these books on her own blog within the week.

Rocketboy has jumped on the RIP V train, too, and he's reading Z, by Michael Thomas Ford. He was home-bound (grounded) for part of the weekend, so he blew through several books, too. He read Electric Girl, vol. 2, by Michael Brennan and Calamity Jack, by Shannon Hale. He was so taken with Hale's retelling of "Jack and the Beanstalk," he's requested Hale's first graphic novel, Rapunzel's Revenge as well. For a reluctant reader, he sure is reading a lot.

It's back to work for me tomorrow after a four day weekend. 5:30 will come all too soon, so I'm off to soak up a bit more of The Woman in White and hit the sack. Night, y'all!

FTC Shout Outs:
  • The Woman in White -- FREEEEEE download for my Nook
  • From Hell - bought from a now-defunct Borders
  • Three Cups of Tea - by monetary transaction with the local off-campus college bookstore
  • The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud - purchased for Rocketgirl's recent birthday
  • Little Vampire Women - ARC from the publisher. Thanks, y'all!
  • Z - another ARC!
  • Electric Girl - library
  • Calamity Jack - library

Friday, September 03, 2010

Peril Pools and Book Blogger Hops

I finally got off my duff last night (first time I've ever typed "duff" unless it was in reference to Ace of Cakes) and put together my Peril Pool. Rocketgirl will be joining me for RIP V, and we have a hulking stack of books on the coffee table. Two stacks, actually.

I'm interested in reading:
  • The Vampire Diaries, The Return: Nightfall by L.J. Smith
  • Z, by Michael Thomas Ford
  • Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
  • Lonely Werewolf Girl by Martin Millar
  • The Zombie Chasers by John Kloepfer
  • Little Vampire Women by Louisa May Alcott and mashed by Lynn Messina
  • Marked by P.C. Cast
  • Shimmer by Dallas Reed
  • The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong
  • The Little Black Book of Short Stories by A.S. Byatt
  • Many and Many a Year Ago by Selcuk Altun
  • The Semantics of Murder by Aifric Campbell
  • Wild Nights! by Joyce Carol Oates
  • Drood by Dan Brown
  • A Severed Head by Iris Murdoch
Not pictured:
  • From Hell by Alan Moore
  • The Birthing House by Chris Ransom
  • 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill
  • Anything by Angela Carter!
  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
Many of these books have been in my Peril Pool for RIP before, but I rarely get around to as many of them as I'd like. Rocketgirl is really excited about the challenge, so wish us lots o'luck!

And a proud mama has to share a picture like this. Greyson was all decked out in his footie pajamas a couple of nights ago. I put him in his Boppy pillow, we read his new Where's My Mommy board book, and he passed out holding the book. That's my little bookworm!

Finally, you know how much I love Fridays. It's time for the Book Blogger Hop! Go on over to Crazy for Books and jump in!

This week's question: Do you judge a book by its cover? Uhhh, I just posted my top 10 covers yesterday. I am a huge fan or hugely annoyed by covers. Generally, they don't stop me from reading a book, though.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

The Stunning and Sassy: Favorite Covers

Top Ten Picks is an original meme over at Random Ramblings. This week's task is to pick 10 Favorite Book Covers, and I am equal to the task!

First, I had the absolute hardest time choosing which covers to include. I thought about only including books I've read, only including books I own, but then there are a slew of covers I don't own (yet), which are gorgeous! In the end, this is a mishmash of gorgeous covers.

Lauren Groff's short story collection, Delicate Edible Birds, and Ali Shaw's novel, The Girl With Glass Feet, represent a whimsical category involving subtle colors and stark silhouettes. I find these types of designs so attractive whether it's book covers, home decor, Etsy goodies, or whatever. If I ever actually get around to stocking my own Etsy shop, you can bet you'll find some goodies in this particular style.

Garden Spells and Vanity Fair fall into the "sumptuous and rich" category. I'm a sucker for the bold colors in all of Sarah Addison Allen's covers. While you wouldn't know it to see me in real life, I love fashion. While I'm not usually a fan of movie tie-in covers, the Reese Witherspoon version of Vanity Fair captured me with that stunning crimson dress.

These would fall into the "sassy" category. I adore, lust, and drool over Penguin's "Ink" series. Tara Mcpherson, one of my favorite artists and illustrators, did this awesome Bridget Jones's Diary cover. I'm also a huge fan of the snarky cover for It Sucked and Then I Cried, Heather Armstrong's (Dooce) memoir about pregnancy and postpartum depression. The funky, snide title politely cross-stitched on a pillow cracks me up every time.

Come on! You knew there HAD to be some foodie books! I adored Gesine Bullock-Prado's aptly titled Confessions of a Closet Master Baker (snort!). I get hungry just looking at it. Is it wrong to want to lick a book? Incidentally, Bullock-Prado's book has undergone a name change and is now My Life from Scratch. Far too "nice" a title, in my opinion. But the cover art on the new version is really pretty, too. I also love Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. The items in the young girl's hands are an heirloom bean called Christmas Lima Beans. Aren't they pretty? I'd probably trade a kidney for a packet of those seeds.

It was extremely difficult to narrow down my final choices. At the end of the day, I admire a cover that really captures the mood of a favorite book. Justin Cronin's The Passage is deliciously creepy. I love that we can see the lights (a big part of the book), and I'm just waiting for a viral to burst through the trees. It's beautiful and unsettling at the same time--much like the novel. John Connolly's The Book of Lost Things draws on that silhouette style I enjoy so much. And if you've been hanging around my blog for more than 5 minutes, you know I love me some red, white, black, and grey. This weird, wonderful fairytale mishmash definitely lived up to the cover. My expectations were set toward the fantastic from the get-go.

It was REALLY hard to pick favorites, and I had to leave out a number of covers I adore. I hope you've found some you like here, and if these pretty pics push you into reading one of these books, then I'd like a gold star, thankyouverymuch!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

"Bloodchild" is Bloody Fantastic! and RIP V!

I was looking over materials for my Science Fiction class yesterday after I posted my bloggy news, and I decided to delve into some short stories. I'm woefully underread in the sci-fi short story department, so I have quite a bit of brushing up to do before I teach my class next term.

I pulled up a 100 Best Sci-Fi Short Stories list to reference and see if any of the names rang a bell from my anthology. The first story I decided to try (listed at 92) was Octavia Butler's, "Bloodchild."

I've been interested in reading Butler's work for some time, but I knew little about her. One of the first times she came to my attention was Eva's review of Fledgling at A Striped Armchair.

I'm especially interested in Butler since she seems to be one of the few African American women in science fiction. A large cross-section of my students are African American where I teach, and I hope this discussion may be one "way in" for them to appreciate and be intrigued by science fiction. There are no English majors at my school, so I tend to approach most subjects in English from a practical standpoint. It's hard to make a term-long study of sci-fi "practical" so I'm going to have to give them interesting nuggets of information where I can. Critical thinking about issues will be a big component of our course, and Butler serves up plenty of issues in "Bloodchild."

If you're not already familiar, it's a bit of a disturbing story. Humans are used as hosts for a race of buggy creatures called the Tlic. In a stunning reversal of genders, female Tlic embed their eggs in male hosts, and the "birth" process is nothing if not gross and disturbing. When a male goes into labor, for lack of a better term, the female Tlic slices open his belly and harvests a litter of grubs which will grow into Tlic. He gets put back together after the process is over, and he may go on to have more litters. It's not that far off from real birth, aside from the whole grub thing, so on some level it makes the reader wonder why we're so horrified.

Gan is a boy partnered with a powerful Tlic named T'Gatoi. The story takes place on the first night he is to be embedded with eggs, and it also happens to be the first night he actually witnesses a birth. He is disgusted and horrified as you might imagine, and he considers breaking his partnership with T'Gatoi.

Aside from the issues of gender there's also the issue of colonization and oppression. The Tlic keep humans in a Preserve, so they are essentially host animals to the Tlic. T'Gatoi insists that she feels a great partnership and love for Gan, but one has to wonder how sincere this partnership can be when Gan has little choice in the long run. He's still oppressed. He's still enslaved. Even if he turned away from T'Gatoi and refused the partnership, she might honor his wishes, but he still has no other options than the Preserve.

I had my doubts about this story when I started reading it, but now I'm convinced that it's one I'll use for my class. Aside from the "eewww" factor which generally brings students onboard, there are plenty of bigger issues for us to discuss. We'll be talking about approaches to analysis as well, and this story is ripe with possibility for a feminist/gender reading as well as a Postcolonial reading.

Now I just have to hope my students get as much out of it as I did!

You can read an online version of "Bloodchild" at the Washington Post site, but it has some glaring and annoying typos. Still worth the read, though.

This brings me to another exciting event: the Readers Imbibing Peril (R.I.P) V Challenge! Carl announced it, and I'm ready to jump in! I'll be embarking on Peril the First to read four books which fit into the very large category of "scary." I'll also be participating in the Short Story Peril, since this falls right in line with what I'm reading anyway! I may also participate in the new "Peril on the Screen" category since Chuck and the Rockets like to expose me to scary viewing.

I haven't put together a Peril Pool just yet, but I know I have more than enough scary books on my shelves to choose from.

Be sure to keep up with the reviews at the RIPV Review Site!

Y'all come on! It's gonna be fun!
Images by Freepik