Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sherry and Narcotics

In a full-blown bout of book bitchery I left this novel on my shelves for far too long. I received an ARC, it's got an ugly (in my opinion!) cover, I made assumptions based on the title.

I'm an ass. I admit it.

Somehow I FINALLY got over myself and picked up Nina-Marie Gardner's first novel, Sherry and Narcotics, while I was reading Sarah Addison Allen's, The Peach Keeper. Whoa, what a move on the part of the universe. Addison is sweet, Gardner salty. Addison sentimental, Gardner balls-to-the-wall raw. It was a perfect pairing and Gardner actually came out the fresher breath of air in this situation.

Mary is an American newly out of graduate school and living illegally in London. She works online editing college entrance essays for international students bound for Harvard and the like. She's also a raging alcoholic, totally in denial. Her father has died, her relationship with her mother is distant and cold, and she ends up corresponding with a dreamy poet via e-mail and text messages. They end up meeting and starting an affair and the proverbial "train wreck" begins.

Nicole from Linus's Blanket describes Gardner's writing as "ridiculously addictive," and I'm going to have to hunt Nicole down and figure out how she snatched that description straight out of my brain! There's just no other way to put it.  In the early pages of the book I was slightly annoyed with Gardner for writing what seems to be a highly biographical novel about a torrid affair and addiction (per some interviews I read), but two chapters in I was totally onboard for the train wreck.

Gardner's strength is in writing the addict's life and conveying it as perfectly normal. At first, as I was reading through Mary's adventures with wine, I thought she was probably drinking a bit much, but she seemed to keep it indoors and function pretty well. But by the end of this book, she's a sad sack. She wears rose-colored (wine-colored?) glasses throughout her relationship with the poet and leaves the reader wondering how in heckfire she ever thought THIS and THAT were good ideas! I'll say it again -- train wreck!

Overall, I liked Mary, and I could relate to her on some level, as I think any college girl with low self-esteem has done some pretty stupid relationship things. Mary's dilemma was amped up by her addiction to a level I'm certainly glad I've never experienced. As for the poet in her life, I wanted to kick him in the crotch.

I have to hand it to Gardner, she sucked me right into her prose, and I never looked back. This novel is marketed as "chick lit noir" on some of the materials I received, and while I'm resistant to that label, it's an interesting one for certain. I still struggle with the term "chick lit" all around as it seems unnecessarily dismissive and condescending. This novel is representative of a darker "young woman with relationship" novel, though I'd be terribly remiss to stick any labels on it. Whatever one chooses to call it, it's an involving, provocative novel. I will happily read more of Gardner any day.

Thanks to Meryl Zegarek Publications for thinking of me for this review opportunity!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Week of the Fiery Hair

Not the title of a book, unfortunately.

It's the changeover week from one academic term to the next. Yesterday was the first day students were back on campus and today I work a 13 hour day. Umm, yeah. SO that's why I haven't posted this week. Also had some very exciting, tornado-sireny weather in Texas the night before last, and Greyson ran a 103 fever all night. Not the best night I've ever had, but outside of the craziness, I have been reading!

I'm smack in the middle of Tom McCarthy's C a very weird and slightly disturbing novel so far. But, I like that sort of thing so it's all good. I realize a big chunk of the blogosphere is BEAing and Book Blogger CONing and Armchair BEAing this week, and I can't wait to grab some time to catch up on my blog reading and find out how everyone's week has been!

Also, did everyone see the announcement for the 2nd Generation NOOK??!!! I totally want one.

For now, I'm going back to work. I will be reading at lunch and maybe blog reading a bit. Oh, and my laptop is in the shop, so regular posting should resume when I get it back and work calms down a bit. In the meantime, behave and happy reading!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Peach Keeper

Affirmative! I liked it just as everyone else seems to!

Publisher Blurb: It’s the dubious distinction of thirty-year-old Willa Jackson to hail from a fine old Southern family of means that met with financial ruin generations ago. The Blue Ridge Madam—built by Willa’s great-great-grandfather during Walls of Water’s heyday, and once the town’s grandest home—has stood for years as a lonely monument to misfortune and scandal. And Willa herself has long strived to build a life beyond the brooding Jackson family shadow. No easy task in a town shaped by years of tradition and the well-marked boundaries of the haves and have-nots.

But Willa has lately learned that an old classmate—socialite do-gooder Paxton Osgood—of the very prominent Osgood family, has restored the Blue Ridge Madam to her former glory, with plans to open a top-flight inn. Maybe, at last, the troubled past can be laid to rest while something new and wonderful rises from its ashes. But what rises instead is a skeleton, found buried beneath the property’s lone peach tree, and certain to drag up dire consequences along with it.

This is my third Sarah Addison Allen novel, and I ate it up in a hurry just like the others. This one has made the rounds in the blogosphere, so I don't think I have anything revolutionary to add. I will say, this is not my favorite of her novels. I liked the overall premise, I liked the characters, but somehow I didn't feel quite as close to them or as involved in their lives as I have Addison Allen's characters in the other books.

Of the bunch, Willa Jackson was most definitely my favorite, though I felt her role as the "Joker" was a little contrived and weird. However, if I were to be friends with any of the characters, I'd probably get along with her the best.

This novel is a little darker than Addison Allen's previous works -- more ghosts, less magic for the heck of it. Maybe that's another thing that made this novel a little less enjoyable than the other two under my belt: it just didn't sparkle quite as much.

Small criticisms aside, it was a great book to keep me happily reading and de-slumped. Another winner from Addison Allen, if not perfect.

I'm counting this one toward the Once Upon a Time V challenge for it's fantastical elements.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Such a DNFer

Whoever put this image together should be flogged by the literature gods.
 I said it earlier in the week, but I'm a total DNFer when it comes to Jonathan Franzen's Freedom. Sadly, I was REALLY EXCITED about this book going into it. Jill and I set up a buddy read, we were being humorous about it via e-mail. Then I hit page 55 and wanted to hurl the damn thing into the nearest rock quarry with a cement block tied to its ankle.

Jill already posted her half of the conversation over at Fizzy Thoughts, but here's mine...

May 9th: Hey lady! You mentioned possibly buddy reading Freedom a while back. Still interested? I have a copy but it's scaring me. :(

May 10th (in response to Jill's being exhausted from taking the book off the shelf): It is quite the chunk. It's been forever since I've read a "real" book this big. Afraid it might throw my back out.

May 11th (procrastinating already): I didn't bring my big chunky copy with me to work, so I'll be trying to make a dent tonight when I get home. This is one of those instances when I REALLY wish I had an e-reading copy!

May 12: I was trying to finish up the last few pages of The Summer Without Men last night and this afternoon, but I spent a chunk of time this morning before work digging into Freedom. I'm just past the weird mention of 9/11 on page 26. It seemed totally irrelevant to the situation and more like a stop on Franzen's checklist of crap to include in these poor, vapid creatures' lives. Although, part of me wonders if that'll play a role in what's-his-face's turn to dirty politics that I assume is coming later.

I have a hard time with 9/11 in novels in general. I'm not necessarily that person that thinks it's "too soon" or anything, I just haven't read a book that handles or says anything significant about it in a new way. It's just this nebulous turning point in a lot of books these days.

I have to say, after the first section, my heart SANK to see that the second section is prissy Patty's autobiography. REALLY? Although, she does seem like the type to go on about herself in 3rd person for serious number of pages.

Also May 12th: Page 55 -- ONLY PAGE 55 -- and plucking out my nosehairs one at a time would be more pleasurable.

May 12th (again!): I'm only on page 60-something and I loathe these jerks. Quittin' time!!! Still baffled by why people think Franzen is so friggin' great!

I'm all onboard with detail too, but this is inane, obnoxious, want to throw this coworker who won't shut up off the roof detail. Byatt which I just finished was breathtaking was finely crafted and beautiful and fulfilling. Absolutely nothing remotely fulfilling about Freedom. I'm so glad you're a quitter too. Down with pathetic books!

May 12th (still): ...we should do this again with a book that doesn't suck. :D

Annnd that pretty much says it all. I have to say, Franzen's writing isn't bad -- he's humorous, sarcastic, and air of the pompous jerk about him. But DEAR GOD the detail. Detail about people I didn't like, wasn't pulling for, was actually hoping would meet their demise Donnie-Darko style with a jet engine to the roof. At the end of the day, it's not the detail that killed this book for me. It was all the jerks in it. All the unlikeable people that I did not give a crap about. Unpleasant, selfish, pathetic.

I'm also offended by the professional reviewers I've read who say that Americans no longer want books that read like a long conversation. Actually, reviewers, I just don't want a book that reads like a long conversation with the worst of the English graduate school set.  I want finesse! Not pessimistic vomit!

I'm going to hose myself off on the patio.

Monday, May 16, 2011

It's Monday! What are You Reading? -- A LOT!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading This Week? is a weekly event to list the books finished last week, the books currently being read, and the books to be finished 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!

A few months into 2011 and it seems I've finally hit my reading stride! Now if I can make it last, I'm golden. This past week I finished The Summer Without Men by Siri Hustvedt, which I've covered thoroughly, so I won't revisit too much.

I started reading The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen, and I'm about halfway through. I intended to read a bit more than I actually did yesterday, so I'll likely be reading this one for another day or two.

Yesterday, while Greyson was playing, Chuck was napping, the Rockets were off doing something or other, and my Nook was out of reach, I picked up Sherry and Narcotics by Nina-Marie Gardner. I didn't expect to be sucked in, but apparently I was because I knocked off a big chunk while I was lying around, and I took it to the park with us and read in spurts. According to the publicist material, it's labeled "chick lit noir," so I'm curious to see how that spins out. These two books are pretty much polar opposites, so it makes for an interesting pairing.

Up next? Wellll, in the grand tradition of library holds, I had several come in at once. Two of my e-book holds became available: The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht and The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown. Of the two, I'm excited for both, but maybe slightly more for The Tiger's Wife. It was shortlisted for the 2011 Orange Prize, and I decided to read it after I watched this PBS Newshour interview with Tea Obreht over at Bluestalking. It's worth watching if you have a minute.

I'm at work super early this morning to help out a co-worker, but I guess I'd better get to doing some actual work! I hope you're all having a fantastic, worry-free Monday.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Sunday Salon - Gleefully DNFing

Happy Sunday, my bloggy lovelies. It's mid-day on Sunday, and I'm parked at Barnes & Noble for my weekly mama time. I actually spent the majority of the morning grading essays, and now that that's done, I have a few minutes left to blog and read a few pages.

It's been quite the eventful week in my reading life. I finished The Summer Without Men and dove into Jonathan Franzen's Freedom for my personal Tournament of Books reading challenge. Shortly after, roundabout page 55, I turned tail and ran. OH. MY. GOD.  I have a whole post coming up on DNFs, but I just have to say, SO not my cup of tea. More like a cup of vile, slimy refuse. Franzen and I are not friends. Not at all. I realize this has been an "IT" book of gargantuan proportions, but much like the last "it" book that made me want to projective vomit (The Lovely Bones), I don't feel even the slightest twinge of guilt for gleefully DNFing on this occasion.

Couldn't resist. It's just too adorably tongue-in-cheek.

On a happier note, after I finished cleansing and resurfacing my eyeballs to get over Freedom, I downloaded Sarah Addison Allen's The Peach Keeper. I'm on page 73 and it's a short book, so if I don't finish it today, it'll probably be tomorrow. Smooth sailing as always with Allen. I'm already eyeing my shelves to see what I'd like to try next. It's a toss-up between my remaining library checkouts (By Nightfall, C) and some of the goodies languishing on my shelves and my Nook.

The town where I live is reading Jamie Ford's Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet for it's OneCommunity project this year. I just happen to have downloaded it from Kobo a while back, so it's waiting patiently for me. I would also like to finish Affinity, by Sarah Waters. I was loving it before life interrupted a couple months ago.

Annnd that's about it. A lazy Sunday is the way I like it. After I snag a bit o'reading time, I'm headed home to hang out with Chuck and the Rockets. We're planning a trip to the park later this afternoon complete with grilling.

I hope everyone is relaxed with a book today!

Little Black Book of Stories

I loved it, y'all! My first book by A.S. Byatt was a smashing success. And to think I was afraid she'd be all...stuffy. NOT SO! Going into this book, I was tantalized by the title, not to mention the darkly-awesome cover. It's a slim volume weighing in at only 250 pages, and it's split into five menacing tales.

Keep in mind, before we really get into this review, that the tales aren't really overtly scary so much as twisty, and some of them are delightful, and one or two are a gruesome in parts. It's a mixed bag, and every story truly kept me guessing. Byatt has some wily tricks up her sleeve, and I was never, ever bored. I was never unfulfilled. Each one of these short story gems was perfectly formed on its own -- none of this wishing for a novel business!

The first in the collection, titled "The Thing in the Wood" is about two little girls sent to the countryside during WWII's London blitz. They encounter a monster of epic proportions in the woods -- all decaying nastiness, oddity, and sorrow come to life. They return later, as mature adults quite by accident, and face it again, though one fares far better than the other.

Another story that stands out is "A Stone Woman." A perfectly normal woman begins to turn to stone and crystal after her mother's death and an emergency abdominal surgery. Stone begins to sprout from her middle until she's totally enclosed in it -- stony throat, molten lava blood, crystallized tongue. Amidst her change, before it takes over completely, she decides to visit a cemetery. She doesn't know if she'll die once she's completely turned to stone, but she wants a nice place to harden, if that's her fate. She doesn't find a suitable spot, but she does meet Thorsteinn, an Icelandic stone cutter, and they become fast friends. They visit Iceland during the summer months, and there the woman is able to find redemption and peace. It was really a beautiful story reminiscent of fairy tale and dripping in the mythological. Magical and beautiful. One of my favorites.

Finally, one of the most ironic stories is "Raw Material." A creative writing teacher laments his class's tendency toward the sensational. Meanwhile, he really becomes drawn into one elderly student's work. She writes finely crafted nostalgia pieces about her life growing up, and to say that the class doesn't appreciate them is an understatement! The ironic twist comes at the end when the teacher discovers that his star pupil was living a gruesome and sensational life the whole time she was writing about the niceties of her early years. Surprise! I won't even tell y'all what the gruesome is, but UGG!

To say that I'm impressed with Byatt's work is just not enthusiastic enough. It's rare that every story is a 10, but it happened here. Given, with only five stories in the collection, they trend toward the longer side of short fiction, and it's a great opportunity for fulfilling character development and the premises are just outstanding.

Little Black Book of Stories is a winner for the short story lover and the hesitant short story reader alike.

Note: This post was RE-POSTED after the great Blogger outage earlier this week. It wasn't until today that I realized it was missing -- along with all the comments. Arrrrg!!! *shakes fist at the sky*

Friday, May 13, 2011

Dear Blogger,

I'm glad to see you are back, but I'd really prefer you not act like one of the spoiled, temperamental students I occasionally run across.


Ms. M.

Still deciding if I'll repost my missing posts or hope Blogger restores them.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Summer Without Men

I do a little jig every time Siri Hustvedt releases a new book; however, I have to admit that I had more than a few reservations about her newest novel, The Summer Without Men.
  1. Cover = gag
  2. Premise = meh
  3. First two times I tried to read it = epicfail
All those scary contributing factors aside, I actually really enjoyed this book once I quieted my motherhood-induced ADHD, sat down, and read for a while. The premise is still "meh," but the execution is far more than "meh."

Mia is a poet, mother to a grown daughter, mental hospital graduate, and wife-in-limbo. After a scandalous number of married years, her renowned neuroscientist husband decides he needs a "pause"...read, French co-worker affair. This is the morsel that sends Mia over into the psychiatric ward, but upon being released, she runs off to visit her mother in Minnesota where the mom lives in a retirement home. She rents a house and the proverbial healing begins. Oh, and her mom has four friends, and the collective geriatric bunch is labeled, "The Five Swans."

You can probably see why this premise gave me pause. It's very...how do I put this delicately...standard? Boring even? I was picturing a darker version of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.

End of the day, I should've had more faith in Hustvedt, as this was not as sweet and sticky as I feared. In fact, it was quite cunning and hilarious in spots, sad and just plain interesting in others. Mia's experience is a peak inside womanhood at a variety of ages and maturity levels. She socializes with The Five Swans, teaches a poetry workshop to young girls, and acts as a sounding board and escape for her 30-something married neighbor and her children.

I assumed from the book's description that The Five Swans would monopolize Mia's time in the book, but not so. It's a pretty even split over the different groups. Of the Swans, though, Abigail takes the cake. She's in her 90s, noticeably hunched, and uses a walker, but she's a hoot. Throughout the narrative we come to find out that she had something of an unhappy life, but she tended to express her discontent in odd and titillating sewing projects -- unforeseen nudity, lewdidity (made that up!), and just all-around craziness sewn into the undersides of tablecloths, the linings of dresses, and hidden in wall hangings.

This first account of her creations delighted me...
The image on my lap was another needlepoint, but this one was dominated by a huge gray-blue vacuum cleaner, complete with an Electrolux label on its flank. The thing was not grounded but airborne, a flying machine guided by a disproportionately small, mostly naked woman--she wore only high heels--who sailed alongside it in the blue sky, commandeering its long hose. The household appliance was engaged in the business of sucking up a miniature town below. I studied the two legs of a tiny man that stuck out from the bottom of the attachment and the hair of another pulled upward by the air, his mouth open in terror. Cows, pigs, chickens, a church, and a school had all been uprooted and were soon to be digested by the hungry hose. Abigail had worked hard on the suction disaster scene; each figure and building had been rendered in tiny precise stitches. Then I saw the miniature sign that said BONDEN hovering just outside the vacuum's mouth. I thought of the hours of work and the pleasure that must have pushed her forward, a secret pleasure, one touched by anger or revenge or at the very least a gleeful feeling of vicarious destruction. Many days, perhaps months, had gone into creating this "undie."
It's this kind of careful description that brought Mia's experiences with her mother's friends to life. I also experienced the same vigor and humor and touch of sadness in her interactions with the other women and girls in her life.

While this is not my favorite Hustvedt, and not the first one I would recommend to the uninitiated, it's a good, solid book. One of the things I've enjoyed about her previous works--The Blindfold and What I Loved in particular--is her overwhelming intelligence in psychology, science, and philosophy alike. She doesn't mind letting it seep onto the page, that's for sure! While I didn't find this book to be as experimental in those areas, it was still super smart, and she waxed poetic, psychological, and philosophical at times. I would've felt cheated without those parts of it.

Transparency alert: Thanks to the good people at Picador Paperbacks for sending an ARC! Sorry it took so long to get around to reading this book, but I'm glad I finally did it.

The Kitchen Daughter Meets BookClubSandwich

It's that time again! There's been a'votin' going on. The tally is in, and the readers have chosen Jael McHenry's novel, The Kitchen Daughter, for the next BookClubSandwich discussion.

Watch Sophisticated Dorkiness, Kim's blog, for the announcement of the discussion date.

I'm really excited to be reading this novel. First off, I adore the cover. Is it a nightie? Is it a netsack full of peppers? Whatever--it's pretty! Besides that, the premise is great:

“After the unexpected death of her parents, painfully shy and sheltered 26-year-old Ginny Selvaggio seeks comfort in cooking from family recipes. But the rich, peppery scent of her Nonna’s soup draws an unexpected visitor into the kitchen: the ghost of Nonna herself, dead for twenty years, who appears with a cryptic warning (“do no let her…”) before vanishing like steam from a cooling dish. … The more [Ginny] learns, the more she realizes the keys to these riddles lie with the dead, and there’s only one way to get answers: cook from dead people’s recipes, raise their ghosts, and ask them.”

Ha! Right? So excited. I hope you'll join us for discussion!

Sunday, May 08, 2011

TSS - The Mother's Day Salon!

Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there! I hope you're all being ridiculously pampered and loved upon. My family gifted me the opportunity to sit in a bookstore for a couple hours this morning, and I'm taking the opportunity to read and blog while I have the chance. Grades for my online classes are due this week, so beginning tonight or tomorrow, I'll be in a grade posting frenzy!!!

For now, I'm camped out at Barnes and Noble with my laptop, enjoying a Skinny Caramel Macchiato and deciding which book to read next. I polished off A.S. Byatt's Little Black Book of Stories last night, and I was REALLY impressed. Glowing review coming soon.

I have several books from the library, and my intention was to pick up Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen, next for my personal Tournament of Books Reading Challenge. This leads me to an epiphany...

What the last couple years of reading have taught me is that I've sort of lost my reading identity since I graduated from my Masters program. That is, then I was motivated by the company I kept to read a lot of children's and adolescent fiction and a lot of literary fiction. That's just what we talked about, so that's what I read.

With my reading in shorter supply this year, I find myself really craving quality reading. If I'm going to carve out lunch hours and late nights of the written word, it'd better be good!!! The blogs I enjoy reading the most and the books I lust after the most are typically literary fiction, so I'm making a concerted effort to read more of it this year. Thus, the Tournament of Books reading challenge.

What I also know about myself, is that I DO NOT want every book I read to be about dysfunctional families. There tends to be a slog-worthy bunch of dysfunctional families in literary fiction, so I typically gravitate toward those with a specific angle. Maybe it's a touch of magical realism (Lemon Cake) or a dark and sinister mood (Little Black Book of Stories). As I read the blurb for Freedom last night, and as I slogged through the first 10 pages, what I realized is that it seems to be a more straightforward dysfunctional family story. I doubt anyone will sense emotions in food, let's just put it that way. After 10 pages I kinda wanted to pluck my eyeballs out!

Franzen is undboutedly a talented writer, but he also comes across to me as a bit of a verbose and pompous ass! Does that mean I won't read his book? Certainly not! However, I do think I have to be in just the right mood. In the spirit of reading quality books that DON'T make me want to maim myself, I'm considering a couple of other options.

Y'all know how much I LOVED The Hours, by Michael Cunningham. It's one of my very favoritest books ever. I also read his follow-up to that novel, Specimen Days. While SD wasn't as fabulous, it was still pretty good and it had an interesting angle. Not sure yet how angular this one is, but I'm hoping Cunningham can slap me with the same emotional oomph that he did in The Hours.

Blurb: Peter and Rebecca Harris: mid-forties denizens of Manhattans SoHo, nearing the apogee of committed careers in the arts—he a dealer, she an editor. With a spacious loft, a college-age daughter in Boston, and lively friends, they are admirable, enviable contemporary urbanites with every reason, it seems, to be happy. Then Rebecca's much younger look-alike brother, Ethan (known in the family as Mizzy, “the mistake”), shows up for a visit. A beautiful, beguiling twenty-three-year-old with a history of drug problems, Mizzy is wayward, at loose ends, looking for direction. And in his presence, Peter finds himself questioning his artists, their work, his career—the entire world he has so carefully constructed.

I also received an ARC of Siri Hustvedt's new novel, The Summer Without Men, a while back. I've tried getting into this slim volume a couple of times, and I haven't had the most luck thus far. What I've adored about Hustvedt in the past in her novella, The Blindfold, and her novel, What I Loved, is her rich blend of psychology, academia, art, and emotion. She's whip-smart and a really talented writer, but I didn't love her previous novel, The Sorrows of An American, and so far Summer is only so-so at best. I keeping hoping if I persist past page 30 I'll be enthralled. Although, the premise of this one seems far more ho-hum than any of her previous works.

Blurb: Mia Fredrickson, the wry, vituperative, tragic comic, poet narrator of The Summer Without Men, has been forced to reexamine her own life. One day, out of the blue, after thirty years of marriage, Mia's husband, a renowned neuroscientist, asks her for a "pause." This abrupt request sends her reeling and lands her in a psychiatric ward. The June following Mia's release from the hospital, she returns to the prairie town of her childhood, where her mother lives in an old people's home. Alone in a rented house, she rages and fumes and bemoans her sorry fate. Slowly, however, she is drawn into the lives of those around her — her mother and her close friends, the Five Swans, and her young neighbor with two small children and a loud angry husband — and the adolescent girls in her poetry workshop whose scheming and petty cruelty carry a threat all their own.

That's where I am in my reading this Mother's Day. I'm closing up the laptop to go have lunch with my mom right now and then back home to hang with Chuck, The Rockets, and Baby G for the afternoon and evening. See you all later this week!

Thursday, May 05, 2011

The Butt Book and Charlie the Ranch Dog!

A while back I read a review of Artie Bennett's picture book, The Butt Book, over at Bookfoolery and Babble and was instantly interested!!!

What's not great about butts? Cute lil illustrated ones, at that! After my comments on Nancy's blog, the author was kind enough to send a signed copy in exchange for an honest review.

I can honestly say it's delightful! The book explains what our butts are for, their various shapes -- animals have 'em, humans have 'em. Everyone has one!

In addition to the funny little rhymes about butts, I was totally taken  by the illustrations. They have a woodcut look to them with heavy, scratchy lines, and wild colors. Here's an example:

A big round of applause for Mike Lester, the illustrator!

Love it! I'm so glad to have a copy of The Butt Book. The older kids have loved it (including Chuck), and I'm sure Greyson will love it in good time. The only downside? If you don't want your child to use the word "butt" this one is certainly not for you.

Just yesterday I happened to receive a second picture book worth reviewing (Thanks, HarperCollins!): Charlie the Ranch Dog, by none other than Ree Drummond of the wildly popular blog, The Pioneer Woman and illustrated by Diane deGroat.

Charlie the Ranch Dog is downright adorable! Drummond does a perfect job capturing the funky dog personality. Charlie thinks himself quite a hard worker. He scares cows from the yard, helps his mom in her garden, and generally keeps an eye on things so they run smoothly. The real deal: Charlie is usually dozing while Suzie does the work. But don't tell Charlie!!!

This picture book had the warmth and charm of Drummond herself, and it's definitely going into the permanent collection! If you'd like to meet the real Charlie, watch the video below...

Sunday, May 01, 2011

The Sunday Salon - The Quick Version!

Happy Sunday, everyone! It's a quick Sunday Salon today. I spent part of the weekend at my mom's house grading papers and trying to get caught up with my online classes. Tomorrow it's back to work and the madness of the end of the term.

Truth be known, while I was working, I also got a pedicure and bought a kickass pair of wedges. Chuck is rolling his eyes right now. Ahem!

After finishing up The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake earlier this week, I took a quick look at my shelves and plucked Little Black Book of Stories by A.S. Byatt. I've never read Byatt -- well, never finished any Byatt. I figured this would be a good opportunity, and I'm hoping somehow this little collection will fit into Carl's Once Upon a Time Challenge.

So far I'm really enjoying Byatt. The first story, "The Thing in the Woods" is fabulous. Very creepy and a little icky and a whole lot cool with some WWII background built in. Hopefully I'll be able to read more later today and I'll have more to report this week.

I'm about to pack up some stuff and head back to Dallas to round out the weekend with Chuck and the Rockets. I hope you're all having a wonderful Sunday!
Images by Freepik