Tuesday, September 27, 2011

On Scary Books That Freak-a-Me Out

I don't think anyone would argue that there are distinctly different categories of "scary." There is blood and guts scary, alien scary, ghost scary, gross-out scary, sacrilegious scary, unseen scary. Of all the scaries, I tend to fall prey to the "unseen scary" most of the time.

I am a sucker for Halloween and I am a sucker for the atmosphere of fall, and the weather changes combined with all the pre-Halloween hoo-hah, make me want to read a ton in the RIP VI vein and I always watch scary movies and TV shows this time of year. When it comes to categorizing "scary" I tend to think of TV and movies first. Maybe because when I was growing up, I unwittingly stumbled into a lot of scary movies that SCARRED ME FOR LIFE! For example, when I was three or four, I was changing the TV station for my mom, and it happened to be those pre-historic times before remote controls or on-screen channel guides. I happened to flip to The Exorcist just as Linda Blair got down with the pea soup vomit action. I kid you not, I was 23 before I ever watched The Exorcist in its entirety after that little foray into scaryville.

Another overtly scary and troubling movie I happened upon in my youth was House (1986). A guy moves into his dead aunt's house and all hell breaks loose. Ghosts, ghouls, dead servicemen with AK47s. Scared the crap out of me. Watch the trailer on YouTube...it's very 1980s horrorlicious.

While gore and supernatural stuff scared the stuffing out of me as a kid, as I've gotten older, I'm much more troubled by what I can't see. In movie terms, this means that films like The Others absolutely effin' terrified me!!!! Bumps in the night, ooky kids, skittering footsteps across parquet floors, big houses with weirdly calm staff -- CREEP ME OUT. I love psychological thrillers and "ghost" stories, and if there's a surprise twist at the end, all the better. 

In book terms, I also find myself much more frightened by psychological tricks rather than flash and gore. I was a devoted Stephen King fan when I was a teen, and back then novels like Pet Sematery, Carrie, Salem's Lot, and The Shining were the kind of scary I relished. They were outlandish, wild, and scary in a very overt way.

Now that I'm older and even more of a chicken than when I was growing up (ahem!), I prefer my books like I dig my movies: psychologically twisty and "unseen" scary. I know I've praised The Little Stranger up one side and down the other, but I'm GONNA DO IT AGAIN! That book scared the proverbial pee out of me. The plot unfolded very slowly, and for the first half of the book or so, "ghostly" events were few and far between. A moved cuff link here, an odd burn mark there. As the book progressed, though, the ghostly happenings came much more often to the point that there were some scenes that made me shudder. But again, in theory, it all could've been explained away by the characters' psychological state. Let's face it, the family in The Little Stranger could've all been nutters. Losing one's mental faculties is scary to me. What might or might not be moving around in the night is also unsettling.

I'm finding The Lantern to be the kind of scary I really dig. I won't mention any specifics, but the plot unfolds in a tortuously slow manner. The chapters are incredibly short -- just a few pages each -- and it builds wonderful tension. Also, I'm used to my Gothic scary stories taking place in ominous settings. Give me a moor and I'm happy. But the action in The Lantern takes place in a very sunny, pleasant French country estate. Birds singing, music playing, lavender a-growing. Throw in a creepy lantern or a weird occurrence and it's heightened all the more by the unconventional landscape.

I'm wholly overtaken by my love of subtly scary stories as of late. The thought of a wildly contemporary or Postmodern novel isn't appetizing at the moment. I want to be engulfed in crumbling estates and tortured characters. It's been a while since a "type" of book captured me so, but I have a feeling this current fascination will make for a very fulfilling RIP VI this year.

So what do you find scary? Any suggestions for other subtly scary novels for RIP VI? Is there a particular type of book that's interested you for an extended period of time in recent months?

Monday, September 26, 2011

You Give Good Cover

You all know, after years o'blogging, that I am a cover nut. And since I'm smack-dab in the middle of readign Deborah Lawrenson's The Lantern, and I can't talk about it yet because it's for a readalong, this seems like a good time to skewer and snuggle some covers.

I gushed and gushed and fawned over Erin Morgenstern's debut novel, The Night Circus, but if I'm being completely honest, the US cover just doesn't do it justice!!! I like that if you look closely, what originally appears to be a doll in a hand is actually an abstracted view of the circus tents with the striped clock at their center. However, it's quite contemporary and sharp-looking, and it doesn't seem to jive with the Old World, surreal feeling of the novel for me.

I am, however, a much bigger fan of the UK cover. I have a tendency to fall for anything in silhouette, and the couple on this cover look very much like I imagined Celia and Marco. Part of what captured me in this book was Morgenstern's description of not only the circus itself, but the costumes the performers wore, the food they ate, the decor in their homes and tents. Somehow the UK cover captures that for me a bit more than the US version. What do you think?

Another cover I'm tooootally jonesing for, is my newly-acquired The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt. I'm a huge lover of clean, contemporary cover design a la Jim Tierney or Chip Kidd. Dan Stiles is the illustrator to thank for this particular cover, and I couldn't be more impressed. It's cartoony but so very clever as the brothers' heads form the eyes of the skull/moon that looms in the background. Sleek, simple, and clever. What's not to love???

Which covers have caught your eye lately?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Explosion of New Books

I don't know if y'all noticed, but I had an explosion of new books on my stacks! I originally posted about a trip to my local, now-defunct Borders store when merchandise was 60-70% off. Silly me made a return trip when items were 90% off and, boy, I found more than I thought I would!!!

Books that jumped into my cart and came home with me:

  • You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon (have seen several favorable bloggy reviews of this one)
  • Sunset Park by Paul Auster (I'll basically buy anything by Auster, though I haven't really heard much about this one)
  • The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle (I don't really feel terribly motivated to read this, but I liked the Penguin Ink cover!)
  • Hummingbirds by Joshua Gaylord (Another tattoo-inspired cover caught my eye. The blurb sounded interesting enough.)
  • The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson (Much buzzed about)
  • Edible: Stories by Mark Kurlansky  (Food stories can't be a bad thing)
  • The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt 
I'm pretty darn excited about all of these -- especially The Sisters Brothers since it's been shortlisted for the Booker. I'll probably jump into that one as soon as my RIP reading slows down.

Have you read anything on the list that I should move to the top of the pile?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bookish Brain Dump: The Lantern!

Whoa, y'all! We're in mid-audit. Well, it's audit day. It hasn't started yet, and I'll be hella glad when it's over. I think we're well prepared and nothing to really worry about, but of course there's a little anxiety until it's DONE!

Behind the scenes, my brain is still stuck on books. Yesterday I downloaded Deborah Lawrenson's much blogged-about novel, The Lantern, for the RIP VI readalong.

From Lawrenson's website:

The Lantern is a modern gothic novel, inspired by a crumbling hamlet in Provence. When I began writing, it was going to be an homage to Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, with its young heroine who finds her man becomes more mysterious to her the longer she is with him.

Along the way it became a novel about perfume and blindness and the past life of houses, and also about books, reading and the imagination.

And while the story was all in my mind, the beauty of the Luberon region that provides the backdrop was just there to be captured in words…

Captivating, no? I laid in bed reading the first few chapters on my iPhone last night after Greyson went to sleep. I was instantly caught up in the language, and I can't wait to see what this book holds for me. I've become very interested in "house novels" since reading Sarah Waters' The Little Stranger earlier this year. The house certainly became a character of its own in that book, and it sounds like I have something similar ahead in this one.

I'm also sort of fascinated with the chapter layout in this one. The book is only 350ish pages (388 maybe?) but there are like 60 chapters or somethin'!

I hope some of you are planning to join in. The schedule for this group read will be:

  • Monday, Oct 3 to Oct 9, Parts 1 and 2 (Questions by Carl). Answers post Monday, October 10th.
  • Monday, Oct 10 to Oct 16 Parts 3 and 4, (Questions by Kailana). Answers post Monday, October 17th.
  • Monday, Oct 17 to Oct 23 Part 5 and Wrap Up, (Questions by Heather). Answers post Monday October 24th.
Visit Stainless Steel Droppings for more info on the readalongs!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Sunday Salon - Of Hair Chopping and Book Woes

Ahh, the art of the self-portrait. Not a great job, but at least I got the biggest news of the week, which is my HAIR CHOPPERY! If you remember, I had long, curly hair. It was most recently cut into a short bob when Greyson was 6 months old. 11 months later I have gotten sick of the long heaviness and got it ALL CUT OFF into a spikey rocker pixie.

I think I'm in lurv, y'all. Air hits my neck; I can see my earrings! The stylist left it a little longer on top than I actually wanted, so I have to tame and finagle my curls to look messy and spikey and not Lyle Lovett boufant. But that's OK. I'll have it trimmed when I can't stand it anymore.

In other news, I am prepping my academic program  at the college for an audit this week. It's actually for one of the programs in our school of Justice, but since General Education supports ALL programs, my faculty files and such have to be beautiful and pristine. It's a huge pain in the arse, but it will be worth it to have it DONE. That's Wednesday, so don't expect to hear much from me in the early part of the week. I'm certain I'll be working late on Monday and maybe even Tuesday.

I was really relieved to have BBAW last week because it gave me something to post about, and I really haven't gotten a whole lot of reading done. I'm still enjoying The Good Doctor Guillotin by Mark Estrin (Unbridled Books), but it's not involving in the same way, oh, The Night Circus was. What is, right??! I'm reading it on my Nook, and my Nook needs charging. Not a particularly taxing task, but in the middle of audit hell this week, I just haven't thought to plug it in.

I'm about to jump into Me Again by Keith Cronin. I've seen several really positive reviews for this one so far, and it's for a TLC Book Tour. My stop is October 10th. I'm being proactive, see! I'm not procrastinating! I also did not realize (duh!) when I accepted the tour date that the 10th is two days before the start of the next academic term. Oopsy! So yeah, another reason to start reading and SHOW OFF MY PREPAREDNESS!

I hope you've all had a great, restful weekend. See y'all on the flipside o'the audit!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

BBAW, Day 4: Reading Habits!

Book bloggers blog because we love reading. Has book blogging changed the way you read? Have you discovered books you never would have apart from book blogging? How has book blogging affected your book acquisition habits? Have you made new connections with other readers because of book blogging? Choose any one of these topics and share your thoughts today!

Book blogging has drastically changed the way I read and the books I choose. I mentioned in my previous post that before I started blogging, I belonged to Yahoo! Groups, and that's where I really gained my introduction to talking (typing) about books with others. Like so many of my fellow bloggers, I don't have a ton of friends in my daily life who read, so I was looking for a bookish, conversational fix.

With all that conversation -- and with the rise of book blogging -- came LOTS of recommendations! With a decent library system in the town where I live, coupled with the MANY Half Price Books stores, along with my Nook addiction, my book collection has exploded. Given, it was much worse 7 years ago than it is now. I realize I can't keep everything and I won't re-read everything, so I purge quite often, sell books to used bookstores, and donate quite a few of them to my stepkiddos' school libraries and the college library where I work.

Since I've been blogging, I can look over previous years' reading and see lots of ebb and flow. In 2009, I had a decent year as far as the numbers went, but I only read ONE novel. ONE! I have no idea how that even happened. 2010 was a lesser numbers year since I had a baby and took on some new duties at work. So far 2011 is the lowest numbers year I've had in about eight years, BUT, thanks to reading lots of lovely blogs, I made a big decision for myself. If I'm going to read less, I'm going to read more fulfilling-to-me material. Typically, I feel quite rewarded by reading literary fiction. That's totally personal preference and not a judgement. Those are the books I usually hug when I turn the last page and they go on my keeper shelves.

With this personal proclivity in mind, I dove headlong into prize winners and sundry literary fiction this year. I made it a personal goal to read through all of the 2011 Morning News Tournament of Books contenders (probably won't finish by the end of the year, but it's been fun trying!). I also joined the Orange July event and I've paid more attention to awards this year. I've also begun to turn down many review books that are offered to me and only request the novels I REALLY want to read (The Night Circus, The Summer Without Men).

Bloggers, of course, have fueled the fire of my interest in literary fiction. Blogs like Nonsuch Book, nomadreader, and Literary Musings are just a few of the lovely enablers I read regularly.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

BBAW, Day 3 - More Community!

The world of book blogging has grown enormously and sometimes it can be hard to find a place. Share your tips for finding and keeping community in book blogging despite the hectic demands made on your time and the overwhelming number of blogs out there. If you’re struggling with finding a community, share your concerns and explain what you’re looking for–this is the week to connect!

I've been in this community for six years, and that makes me an OLD LADY. There have been a ton of changes in the book blogging community over time, namely that the community as a whole has exploded with new bloggers! It's a wonderful thing, after all this time, to still be making new friends, and it's nice to see new projects, events, and memes popping up all the time.

When I first started blogging, I felt a part of the community mostly because friends from Yahoo! Groups came over to blogging around the same time  (Heather, Nat, Les) and because of the former project Heather and I worked on together: Estella's Revenge E-Zine. Since my life has changed so drastically in the last few years, I finally had to face the fact that the E-Zine could no longer take up quite so much of my time. I also find I have to be very choosy in picking events and projects in which to take part in the blogging community because of home life committments and a rigorous administrative and teaching schedule.
At this point in my life, I find that the best ways to stay connected are simply visiting and commenting on others' blogs! I make a point to visit the blogs of people who stop in and comment here at Estella's Revenge, and I love finding new blogs through my friends and those I read consistently. I also have a Twitter account that I use less than I'd like (http://www.twitter.com/estellasrevenge) and I've started a Tumblr (http://www.tumblr.com/estellasrevenge). I also find it helpful to use other social networking outlets like Facebook and Goodreads. I find that I get more traffic and meet more new people because we're such a Facebook-centric society these days. I visit those who appear on my wall, and my peers do the same. Even some of my work friends visit my blog based on Facebook posts. In fact, the Director of Student Finance here at the college is reading The Little Stranger as we speak! Or she was. Haven't heard an update lately, so I'll have to check in on her progress. :)
All-in-all, the blogosphere can feel overwhelmingly large, even to someone who's been in it for a very long time. Find the blogs you like and branch out from there. You'll make friends, have a good time, and ultimately, that's the goal!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Here it is folks, the review I've been alluding to for a few days now. You already know I LOVED The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, and  this novel has been a hype book since well before publication. In my humble, gushy opinion, this is one of those novels that's completely worth the hype.

First, the story in all its magical wonderfulness:

Celia Bowen is the daughter of a famous, very showy magician who goes by the stage name, "Prospero." His real name is Hector Bowen. While Hector exists under the guise that he's only an illusionist, a magician who uses tricks of mirrors and slights of hand, he really does magic.  His nemesis, friend, and fellow magician, Alexander -- a mysterious man in a grey suit -- thinks it dangerous to so openly show off magical abilities, even if the audiences think Prospero is only a performer like any other.

Here begins the challenge. Hector knows his daughter Celia has innate magical abilities and challenges Alexander to train a student of his own choosing to compete in an ongoing magical duel. What comes of the challenge is The Night Circus, a living arena for the two to play out their feats of magic. No two students could be more different in their training and upbringing, and as the old saying goes, "Opposites attract."

There are so many things I loved about this novel, but to begin, the plot structure and the pacing are exquisite. The book is split into five sections: Primordium, Illumination, Intersections, Incendiary, and Divination. Within those sections are short chapters from various characters' points of view. Interspersed between some of the chapters are short asides that the describe the circus as if the reader is a circus patron walking through it and experiencing it for the first time.

Given this delicate, very detailed structure, the plot unfolds quite slowly, with a great deal of care and a ton of vivid detail about the circus and its inhabitants. I've seen the comparisons already (in structure, not story) to Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife. I think it's a fair comparison. The experiences of both were pleasurable and comparable for me as a reader who pays a great deal of attention to structural elements. It had to have taken Morgenstern a lot of time and an admirable amount of effort to put the twists and turns of this novel together. Additionally, by providing a solid foundation for the characters and their upbringing and training in magic, as well as the planning of the circus before it begins to tour, I found the characters and their motivations all that much more believable. It felt like a fully realized society of performers.

Beyond the novel's structure, the detail in the writing is just stunning. I felt as if I was experiencing the look and feel of The Night Circus. I could imagine the tents, each of the acts, the bonfire that serves as the heart of the circus, the food on sale to the patrons, the way the various acts dressed and conducted themselves. Hardly ever do I read a novel that makes me feel so thoroughly immersed in the fictional world.

It's only right that I give you a little taste of this novel! I really liked one of the early chapters titled, "Horology" (the study of the measurement of time or the art of making clocks and watches). A dreamy, surreal clock is a centerpiece of The Night Circus and reading about it's appearance from the maker's point of view was just beautiful:
The face of the clock becomes a darker grey, and then black, with twinkling stars where the numbers had been previously. The body of the clock, which has been methodically turning itself inside out and expanding, is now entirely subtle shades of white and grey. And it is not just pieces, it is figures and objects, perfectly carved flowers and planets and tiny books with actual paper pages that turn. There is a silver dragon that curls around part of the now visible clockwork, a tiny princess in a carved tower that paces in distress, awaiting an absent prince. Teapots that pour into teacups and minuscule curls of steam that rise from them as the seconds tick. Wrapped presents open. Small cats chase small dogs. An entire game of chess is played.
Seeeee???? Detail can be tedious at times, but this is the kind of detail I love. Detail that makes the wheels in my head turn and takes me away to some place far outside my own experience.

This is my first book for Carl's RIP VI challenge, and I cannot think of a worthier novel to epitomize this cozy, magical, wonderful transition to autumn that I feel every year. To have a book mesh so nicely with my own mindset and reading wishes during this time of year was great, and I feel certain The Night Circus will earn a re-read in the next few years. Such is always my highest compliment to any book, and this one is highly deserving.

Snuggle -- Skewer

Pub. Date: September 13, 2011
Publisher: Doubleday
Format: pre-publication paperback
Source: The wonderful folks at Doubleday provided an ARC.

BBAW, Day 1

It's time! Book Blogger Appreciation Week is upon us, and I do plan to participate here and there throughout the week as much as I can. When I saw today's topic, I was especially keen to jump on in!

While the awards are a fun part of BBAW, they can never accurately represent the depth and breadth of diversity in the book blogging community. Today you are encouraged to highlight a couple of bloggers that have made book blogging a unique experience for you. They can be your mentors, a blogger that encouraged you to try a different kind of book, opened your eyes to a new issue, made you laugh when you needed it, or left the first comment you ever got on your blog. Stay positive and give back to the people who make the community work for you!

First off, I hate choosing. I'll just say, I read a TON of blogs, and I love each and every blog and blogger for different reasons. You bring this community to life for me every day.

The first blogger I'd like to recognize is Allie from A Literary Odyssey. Allie is a great example of a committed, passionate blogger. She has a goal to read 250 classics, and she's working through those at what I consider a REALLY impressive rate. She's also a teacher, though her state has been hit hard by the flailing economy. I love Allie's blog for her writing but also because Allie herself is a wonderful, thoughtful, lovely person.
Another blogger I'm thrilled to mention is Bellezza of Dolce Bellezza. She's also an educator, very well read, blogs about interesting and varied reading choices. Beyond all of these wonderful attributes, I find Bellezza an inspiring woman. She's sassy, she's honest, and she's a woman of faith. Reading her blog always reminds me to stay centered and find the beauty in everyday things.

Finally, Carrie from nomadreader is another enduring favorite, and a rock awesome librarian! She has inspired me to read more literary fiction with her informed, finely crafted reviews. I also love her posts about cuisine and travel. She's a nomad after my own heart. Her blog inspires me every time I visit.
Thanks to all of these ladies for always spurring me on in my own blogging. You're an inspiration!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Sunday Salon - Andi's Vacation Chronicles, Day 6

My vacation is winding down, y'all, and I could not have hoped for a better, more relaxing bunch of "me" time to get centered and ready for the remainder of the calendar year at work. Tomorrow it's back to my 7:15am class, management team meetings, audit preparation, and my co-workers I enjoy so much. I don't dread going back, but I do mourn the loss of unlimited reading time.

While I had hoped to complete at least two or three books this week, I only finished one, and you all know it because I've been gushing about it ever since. I plan to post my review of The Night Circus tomorrow so you'll know exactly why I love it so much.

In other news, I started my next read, also for RIP VI, The Good Dr. Guillotin by Marc Estrin, published by Unbridled Books. It's the story of five men, all involved in one way or other with the first guillotine in France. One is an early criminal to meet his fate there, another the doctor who wanted to invent a "humane" execution device, the executioner himself, etc. So far it's a really quick, interesting read, so I'm hoping to polish it off early this week.  

Also on the docket for today: reading some short stories to catch up for my Science Fiction and Fantasy class. I'm certain at least some of these stories will count toward the RIP VI Short Story Peril, so expect to see a post about those, soon.

Finally, like so many others, I'm contemplating the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 today. I was fortunate not to have lost anyone in that tragedy, but like so many Americans, we feel a kinship to those who endured this horrible event. It's become such a defining part of our history as Americans, and it's hard to believe it's been 10 years already. My prayers go out to those who still wrestle with the reality and endure the lasting pain of what happened there 10 years ago.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Choosing What to Read After The Night Circus, or Book Binge!

As you all know, we're inching closer to the closing of the Borders chain here in the U.S. I've been on the Borders e-mail list for ages, and when I started getting sale notices, I didn't pay much attention. But when I got the most recent sale notice, and everything was 70-80% off, I leapt into action like a book-eating jungle cat.

Only moments ago, I finished The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, and let me tell you all, I am BURSTING to post about it. BUT, Heather and I are reading it together and I'm waiting to discuss it with her a bit before I gush to you all. However, if you've noticed my sidebar you will now realize that I've hereby declared The Night Circus "The BEST Book EVER in the Land." Pretty swanky title, eh? More on that later...

SO, trade paperbacks 70-80% off are reasonably cheap, so I got myself four of them at the Borders sale. I'm now circling them trying to decide what to read next that might even remotely hold a candle to The Night Circus. OR something that might be different enough from "The BEST Book EVER in the Land" to keep my reading mojo smoldering. I picked up...
  • Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters because I was so overcome with adoration for The Little Stranger
  • Amsterdam by Ian McEwan because he totally RULES ME with books like On Chesil Beach and Atonement
  • The True Story of Hansel and Gretel by Louise Murphy because there's Holocaust/fairy tale tie-in element and I'm for sho' all over that 
  • Born to Rule: Five Reigning Consorts, Granddaughters of Queen Victoria by Julia P. Gelardi (non-fiction) because I have an ongoing and ever-growing obsession with all things Victoria ever since I watched the film, The Young Victoria, starring the stunning, grossly attractive, and always fashion-forward Emily Blunt (girl crush)
 So what should I read???? Have you, or you, or you read any of these books? Are you lusting after any of them too? HELP!

Andi's Vacation Chronicles, Day 4

Helloooo again, my lovelies! The last time I posted, I was on day one of my vacation, and now I find myself on day four. How did that go so fast? Seriously, when I'm at work the week drags, and when I'm home reading books and getting my toenails painted, it flies!

What have I done this week? A lot of reading and a lot of lazing around and I got a manicure and pedicure. And I shopped a little bit.

Yep, that's all. I'm a strong believer that vacations are just as rewarding when they're uneventful as when I do tons of traveling and blowing and going.

I've raced through 260 pages of The Night Circus and it is LUSCIOUS. I'll actually post a few passages this afternoon, and I'll also be finishing it as soon as I get home today. Right now I'm parked at Starbucks with my laptop, enjoying a beverage and finishing up some grading for my online classes.

I daresay if The Night Circus ends as strongly as it started, it will be a favorite for the year.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Andi's Vacation Chronicles, Day 1

What's upppp?! I'm on vacation. I get a little "Jersey Shore" when I'm on vacation from the looks of that greeting. Some of you might remember that I had a week off of work a few months ago, and in a very nasty, tragic turn of fate, I had a stomach virus that I thought was going to kill me. Luckily, the coast is much clearer this time around.

I spent the holiday weekend with girlfriends who also happen to be work colleagues. Our boss had a baby (preemie, adorable!) six weeks ago, and thus far she's been living at the center of a tornado. We helped her get organized, decorate a bit, and generally do some additional nesting to get comfy and cozy at home.

In other news, Greyson got his first haircut. If you follow me on Facebook you've already been inundated with first haircut announcements. But if you don't follow me on Facebook, prepare to be inundated here.

Click to see more cuteness up close...

For all my son's redeeming qualities, doing things for the first time with coolness and calm does not seem to be one of them. I had my arms around the child for 3/4s of the haircut while Chuck took pictures, and I left Cool Cuts 4 Kids looking like a yeti. Greyson started off insanely upset but ended strong with laughter, a lollipop in his ear, and a smile. And a super-freakin-cute haircut to boot!

So I consider today my starting point for vacation. I don't count the weekend since I wouldn't have been at work anyway. Greyson woke me up at 6am, so we got ready, clothes on, teeth brushed, I dropped him off at daycare, and I headed out to Starbucks for a little work time. I spent almost two hours doing administrative tasks for my online classes, and that's surely enough work for Day 1 of My Glorious Vacation.

My mom is off work today too, so we'll probably run amuck this afternoon. I also have big plans for reading and pedicuring this week. Other than that? Not much except relaxing, maybe a little window shopping, and MORE READING and blog reading.

On the reading docket:
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (haven't made much headway, but also haven't been home)
  • Stealing Beauty by Anne Rice
  • Any number of the gazillion books in my house and on my Nook
What are you doing today?

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Review: Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day

I've mentioned here that I'm teaching a Science Fiction and Fantasy class this term, and it's a timely accident that I happened to read Ben Loory's short story collection, Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day in conjunction with it! As I was reading back through a collection of traditional (twisted!) folk and fairy tales, I was also reading a collection of contemporary (twisted!) fairy tales in my free time.

What makes a contemporary fairy tale? A lot of novels and collections are marketed as "modern day fairy tales," but I've never truly read a collection of contemporary tales that so accurately reflect traditional folk and fairy tales.

First off, the stories are short. Some are less than a page long while others max out between five and ten pages. The characters are vague with names like "A boy" or "A girl." While the characters are Everyman and Everywoman, the stories are anything but bland or nondescript. They're crazy, odd, gross, troubling, affecting, sad, joyful, stunning. Given the average length of the story, I would venture to guess there are nearly 50 stories in this book. I don't have it with me or I'd start counting. It's a huge number, though, in comparison to run-of-the-mill story collections.

In the second story in the collection, titled "The Pool" a man thinks he sees a shark in his local public swimming pool. He's shamed when no one else sees it and they all look at him like he's crazy. The next day he asks the life guard if he ever sees anything odd in the pool, and his cryptic answer taunts the man into following up on his suspicions. He climbs the fence to find out for himself. He stretches out on the diving board and stares into the darkness of the water for hours and hours. Just before dawn he realizes what's staring back from the blackness. 

Whaahahahahahaaa! <--evil laugh (sorry, couldn't help myself)

"The Pool" really sent shivers up my spine. I don't want to tell you what's staring back or what happens in the end, but if you'd like to find out for yourself, you can check out the Amazon.com preview of the book. It includes this story in its entirety. 

While "The Pool" is brief, it has a stark, troubling impact, and it's representative of numerous stories in this collection. Many of the characters find themselves facing dark elements: death, horror, realizations about life and suddenly they become part of the death and destruction they face in the world. This type of tale reminded me of the Nietzsche quote, "He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you." Don't get me wrong -- this collection is NOT a downer, but I happened to find this kind of tale the most memorable.

It's really difficult to describe this book fairly and accurately because with such a mass of stories and such varied, odd content, it doesn't fit into any genre cleanly. The only problem I had, was that sometimes the stories were too short and obscure enough that they simply left me scratching my head. Although, if I read a collection of traditional fairy tales all in a row, I do the same thing. This book is probably best digested in chunks. A binge of stories here and there instead of racing through.

If you're looking for another book to add to your RIP VI challenge pool, I definitely suggest Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day. It's original, fun, and offbeat -- definitely one I'd discuss with a group. If you finish it come on back and discuss it with me!

Snuggle -- Skewer

Pub. Date: July 26, 2011
Publisher: Penguin
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

You can also check out Ben Loory's website HERE. And he's on Facebook!

Images by Freepik