Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Gimme a Minute!

Ha! I love this pic. I can see having a hard time with this decision.

As for me, I'm brain-swamped. Getting items together to start the new gig, wrapping up the old gig. Busy, busy, busy! I'll be back later in the week, but for now...

Would you choose youth or end it with bacon?

Gimme a Minute!

Ha! I love this pic. I can see having a hard time with this decision.

As for me, I'm brain-swamped. Getting items together to start the new gig, wrapping up the old gig. Busy, busy, busy! I'll be back later in the week, but for now...

Would you choose youth or end it with bacon?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Tasks, Tasks Everywhere!

Reading what??? Books? Yeah, no.

I have had a hard time digging into my reading the last week or so because of all the HAPPENINGS. Not surprising at all, I'm sure. I laid aside Teju Cole's Open City. It was a gorgeous book, and I'm certain I'll come back to it, but I just cannot do a meandering plot right now.

I started on Cinder earlier in the week and it's admittedly not sucking me in immediately. I think I'm still in the mood for something more adult-fictiony but not overly cerebral. SO, I dove into Eowyn Ivey's The Snow Child last night, and I think it's going to do the trick. The writing is lovely and I'm already feeling the tug of wanting to read further.

From the opening pages...
Mabel had known there would be silence. That was the point after all. No infants cooing or wailing. No neighbor children playfully hollering down the lane. No pad of small feet on wooden stairs worn smooth by generations, or clackety-clack of toys along the kitchen floor. All those sounds of her failure and regret would be left behind and in their place there would be silence. (3)
In other news, I turned in my resignation letter to my existing job just yesterday, and while I'm excited for my future, it's bittersweet to be leaving the students and my team of instructors and my fellow PCs that I love so much. I'll be drafting an announcement to the instructors and breaking the news to some of my students today, in fact. I see lots of hugging in my near future.

That's what's shaking around here. The weekend will be low key -- catching up on some grading for my online classes and getting those squared away before more madness at work next week.

What are your plans for the weekend?

Tasks, Tasks Everywhere!

Reading what??? Books? Yeah, no.

I have had a hard time digging into my reading the last week or so because of all the HAPPENINGS. Not surprising at all, I'm sure. I laid aside Teju Cole's Open City. It was a gorgeous book, and I'm certain I'll come back to it, but I just cannot do a meandering plot right now.

I started on Cinder earlier in the week and it's admittedly not sucking me in immediately. I think I'm still in the mood for something more adult-fictiony but not overly cerebral. SO, I dove into Eowyn Ivey's The Snow Child last night, and I think it's going to do the trick. The writing is lovely and I'm already feeling the tug of wanting to read further.

From the opening pages...
Mabel had known there would be silence. That was the point after all. No infants cooing or wailing. No neighbor children playfully hollering down the lane. No pad of small feet on wooden stairs worn smooth by generations, or clackety-clack of toys along the kitchen floor. All those sounds of her failure and regret would be left behind and in their place there would be silence. (3)
In other news, I turned in my resignation letter to my existing job just yesterday, and while I'm excited for my future, it's bittersweet to be leaving the students and my team of instructors and my fellow PCs that I love so much. I'll be drafting an announcement to the instructors and breaking the news to some of my students today, in fact. I see lots of hugging in my near future.

That's what's shaking around here. The weekend will be low key -- catching up on some grading for my online classes and getting those squared away before more madness at work next week.

What are your plans for the weekend?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

I had a beautiful, thoughtful beginning to this review all worked out in my head. And then I went to sleep, and now it's been a whole other day, and I have no idea what my great beginning was. So we'll go with this mediocre one.

Swamplandia! is the story of the Bigtree family-- alligator wrestlers who run a Florida theme park. The Chief and Hillola are the eccentric parents. The kiddos, from oldest to youngest are Kiwi, an awkward 17-year-old boy; Osceola, 16, who fancies herself a Spiritualist; and precocious Ava, 13. The book picks up after Hillola passes away as a result of ovarian cancer, and her brood is left floundering, looking for a way to keep the park relevant with new competition in town and a dwindling tourist population.

Soon the Chief takes off to the mainland to stir up some investors, and all hell breaks loose. Kiwi bolts for the mainland with the good intentions of working at the new theme park in town, World of Darkness, and paying off the family debt. Osceola runs off to marry a ghost. Ava, left to her own devices, heads out with an odd and off putting "Bird Man" on a trek to the underworld.

So we have a family drama and a Southern Gothic romp all wrapped up in one novel. It's an odd combination, and I had my doubts from the outset that it would work for me, but I found myself heavily invested in the characters' individual journeys. The book alternates between Kiwi's experiences working on the mainland and his troubles assimilating with mainstream culture to Ava's menacing and otherworldly journey.

Each of the characters in Swamplandia! is thoroughly lost in his or her own way. Each of them is trying to find solid ground after the loss of their mother who is literally the star attraction around which the Swamplandia theme park universe spins. Without her, each little familial entity flies in his or her own direction, untethered.

Karen Russell's writing, is undoubtedly beautiful. She was especially deft at juxtaposing kitsch elements with really elevated figurative language and surprising analogies. Her voice is distinct--and dare I say it--crisp! A short example that I noted before the e-book expired...
Heaven, Kiwi thought, would be the reading room of a great library. But it would be private. Cozy. You wouldn’t have to worry about some squeaky-shoed librarian turning the lights off on you or gauging your literacy by reading the names on your book spines, and there wouldn’t be a single other patron. The whole place would hum with a library’s peace, filtering softly over you like white bars of light… (234-235)
And speaking of libraries, I should mention, one of the quirky parts of this book included an abandoned "library boat" close to the Swamplandia! theme park where the island inhabitants could freely take books. Not a proper library, just an abandoned boat with a lot of books on it. Someone would have to pry me out of there with a crowbar. *swoon*

Despite the good writing, this will be a polarizing book. Because it is so quirky and kitschy in parts, and because it steps out with some supernatural elements, many readers will not be fulfilled and will find this book silly or otherwise disappointing. But I have to say, I found the kitschy/supernatural portions so SO clever. Without giving too much away, I was especially suspect of Ava's journey to the underworld with the Bird Man. While I thought it might be an ill-fated outing, I was unsure enough and sucked into the story enough, that I could've "bought" it all the way to the underworld or I could've been a little crushed if it didn't pan out. I won't tell you which way it goes.

For readers who are interested in analyzing the literary elements, I think this is a great book. There is a boatload (pardon the pun) of symbolism that's so knock-you-over-the-head obvious that it's worth poking into beyond the surface to see what Russell is driving at. If you don't consider yourself an analyzer, you can still appreciate this story for the odd characters, their wonky lives, and their individual journeys and comings-of-age.

Rating:
Snuggle -- Skewer

Pub. Date: July 2011
Publisher: Vintage
Format: E-Book
ISBN-13: 978-0307276681
Source: Library

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

I had a beautiful, thoughtful beginning to this review all worked out in my head. And then I went to sleep, and now it's been a whole other day, and I have no idea what my great beginning was. So we'll go with this mediocre one.

Swamplandia! is the story of the Bigtree family-- alligator wrestlers who run a Florida theme park. The Chief and Hillola are the eccentric parents. The kiddos, from oldest to youngest are Kiwi, an awkward 17-year-old boy; Osceola, 16, who fancies herself a Spiritualist; and precocious Ava, 13. The book picks up after Hillola passes away as a result of ovarian cancer, and her brood is left floundering, looking for a way to keep the park relevant with new competition in town and a dwindling tourist population.

Soon the Chief takes off to the mainland to stir up some investors, and all hell breaks loose. Kiwi bolts for the mainland with the good intentions of working at the new theme park in town, World of Darkness, and paying off the family debt. Osceola runs off to marry a ghost. Ava, left to her own devices, heads out with an odd and off putting "Bird Man" on a trek to the underworld.

So we have a family drama and a Southern Gothic romp all wrapped up in one novel. It's an odd combination, and I had my doubts from the outset that it would work for me, but I found myself heavily invested in the characters' individual journeys. The book alternates between Kiwi's experiences working on the mainland and his troubles assimilating with mainstream culture to Ava's menacing and otherworldly journey.

Each of the characters in Swamplandia! is thoroughly lost in his or her own way. Each of them is trying to find solid ground after the loss of their mother who is literally the star attraction around which the Swamplandia theme park universe spins. Without her, each little familial entity flies in his or her own direction, untethered.

Karen Russell's writing, is undoubtedly beautiful. She was especially deft at juxtaposing kitsch elements with really elevated figurative language and surprising analogies. Her voice is distinct--and dare I say it--crisp! A short example that I noted before the e-book expired...
Heaven, Kiwi thought, would be the reading room of a great library. But it would be private. Cozy. You wouldn’t have to worry about some squeaky-shoed librarian turning the lights off on you or gauging your literacy by reading the names on your book spines, and there wouldn’t be a single other patron. The whole place would hum with a library’s peace, filtering softly over you like white bars of light… (234-235)
And speaking of libraries, I should mention, one of the quirky parts of this book included an abandoned "library boat" close to the Swamplandia! theme park where the island inhabitants could freely take books. Not a proper library, just an abandoned boat with a lot of books on it. Someone would have to pry me out of there with a crowbar. *swoon*

Despite the good writing, this will be a polarizing book. Because it is so quirky and kitschy in parts, and because it steps out with some supernatural elements, many readers will not be fulfilled and will find this book silly or otherwise disappointing. But I have to say, I found the kitschy/supernatural portions so SO clever. Without giving too much away, I was especially suspect of Ava's journey to the underworld with the Bird Man. While I thought it might be an ill-fated outing, I was unsure enough and sucked into the story enough, that I could've "bought" it all the way to the underworld or I could've been a little crushed if it didn't pan out. I won't tell you which way it goes.

For readers who are interested in analyzing the literary elements, I think this is a great book. There is a boatload (pardon the pun) of symbolism that's so knock-you-over-the-head obvious that it's worth poking into beyond the surface to see what Russell is driving at. If you don't consider yourself an analyzer, you can still appreciate this story for the odd characters, their wonky lives, and their individual journeys and comings-of-age.

Rating:
Snuggle -- Skewer

Pub. Date: July 2011
Publisher: Vintage
Format: E-Book
ISBN-13: 978-0307276681
Source: Library

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Seven Years Blogging and No Itch

Seven years ago today, Estella's Revenge was coughed into digital existence after I deleted my first blog, The Waste Land. I was sitting in a run-down faculty workroom at my first (adjunct!) college teaching job with several hours to kill until the next class I had to teach.

It's something to sit back and think over seven years of blogging. While I always blogged about books because I was ALWAYS reading for school, it wasn't until 2007 that I really took a hard turn toward book blogging and let some of the miscellaneous fall away.  I went back through my archives today and looked over some of my posts and year-end favorites from those years. Many of the comments are from bloggers who still comment here now. The majority of those folks are still cruising by this site on a regular basis.

While there is occasional drama in the blogosphere I suppose what I want newer bloggers, or even just disillusioned bloggers, to focus on is the very real relationships that come about because of blogging. All of the swirling angst is irrelevant. It doesn't matter what authors and publishers say or what they want. It doesn't matter if you write "reviews" or "reactions." It doesn't matter what anyone's opinion of blogging may be. It doesn't matter if you're getting paid or not. We do this for us and we do this for each other. We blog because we love books and we love sharing what we read.

Estella's Revenge has been through some distinct phases. Including a name change. While the address was always Estella's Revenge, the original blog title was Tripping Toward Lucidity. As I was working my way through my Masters degree I felt as if I was just stumbling along trying to accomplish whatever was right for me. I was saucy then, bordering on angry, and just finding myself in the world.

I've been through successful and failed relationships on this blog. I've had a baby. I've accomplished many of the things I wanted to do professionally like being an English professor. And I even went one step further to be a Program Chair--something I love but I never foresaw being an administrator.

And many of you have been with me the whole time. Reading, offering support by way of comments and e-mails, gifts and tokens of friendship. Kind words, most of all.

The next time you feel pressured to blog or beaten down by the number of review books on your shelves or pressured to do this or that: just stop. While I get caught up in those feelings from time to time, taking a moment to reflect on the last seven years has reminded me that all that stuff is just extra baggage. I blog for me. I blog because of you. And I thank you so much for being with me whether it's been seven years or seven minutes. Any time you spend reading and becoming a part of my life is appreciated.


Now, let's get on to the really good stuff: the "Spread the Love" giveaway results!!!!

The winner of La Perdida by Jessica Abel is Emily O from Reading While Female!!!


The winner of The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Agawa is Alley from What Red Read!


Last but certainly not least, The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt goes to...Brooke from The Blog of Litwits!!!

Thanks to all who entered the giveaway. It's my pleasure to pass along some books I enjoyed and I hope you enjoy them, too.


Now, let's all drink champagne and eat cake. 

Seven Years Blogging and No Itch

Seven years ago today, Estella's Revenge was coughed into digital existence after I deleted my first blog, The Waste Land. I was sitting in a run-down faculty workroom at my first (adjunct!) college teaching job with several hours to kill until the next class I had to teach.

It's something to sit back and think over seven years of blogging. While I always blogged about books because I was ALWAYS reading for school, it wasn't until 2007 that I really took a hard turn toward book blogging and let some of the miscellaneous fall away.  I went back through my archives today and looked over some of my posts and year-end favorites from those years. Many of the comments are from bloggers who still comment here now. The majority of those folks are still cruising by this site on a regular basis.

While there is occasional drama in the blogosphere I suppose what I want newer bloggers, or even just disillusioned bloggers, to focus on is the very real relationships that come about because of blogging. All of the swirling angst is irrelevant. It doesn't matter what authors and publishers say or what they want. It doesn't matter if you write "reviews" or "reactions." It doesn't matter what anyone's opinion of blogging may be. It doesn't matter if you're getting paid or not. We do this for us and we do this for each other. We blog because we love books and we love sharing what we read.

Estella's Revenge has been through some distinct phases. Including a name change. While the address was always Estella's Revenge, the original blog title was Tripping Toward Lucidity. As I was working my way through my Masters degree I felt as if I was just stumbling along trying to accomplish whatever was right for me. I was saucy then, bordering on angry, and just finding myself in the world.

I've been through successful and failed relationships on this blog. I've had a baby. I've accomplished many of the things I wanted to do professionally like being an English professor. And I even went one step further to be a Program Chair--something I love but I never foresaw being an administrator.

And many of you have been with me the whole time. Reading, offering support by way of comments and e-mails, gifts and tokens of friendship. Kind words, most of all.

The next time you feel pressured to blog or beaten down by the number of review books on your shelves or pressured to do this or that: just stop. While I get caught up in those feelings from time to time, taking a moment to reflect on the last seven years has reminded me that all that stuff is just extra baggage. I blog for me. I blog because of you. And I thank you so much for being with me whether it's been seven years or seven minutes. Any time you spend reading and becoming a part of my life is appreciated.


Now, let's get on to the really good stuff: the "Spread the Love" giveaway results!!!!

The winner of La Perdida by Jessica Abel is Emily O from Reading While Female!!!


The winner of The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Agawa is Alley from What Red Read!


Last but certainly not least, The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt goes to...Brooke from The Blog of Litwits!!!

Thanks to all who entered the giveaway. It's my pleasure to pass along some books I enjoyed and I hope you enjoy them, too.


Now, let's all drink champagne and eat cake. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Monday, Reading, Finally!

After a rough week last week, and after a rocky beginning to the weekend, things have smoothed out and I'm back to reading, blogging, and commenting. I've missed y'all! The weekend was fun as I spent most of Saturday and Sunday having quality time with Greyson, and Sunday afternoon was reserved for a birthday party for Rocketboy filled with pizza, cake, and teenage antics.

After G hit the sack last night, I took a few minutes to finish the book I've been reading for over a week: Swamplandia! by Karen Russell. I can't believe I've been reading it that long, but it really wasn't the book's fault. It was an odd book to say the least, and I'm looking forward to writing the review of this one if I can figure out exactly what I want to say about it. THAT will be the hard part!


I have a few minutes to dawdle this morning before I get ready and leave for work, so I sat down with Teju Cole's Open City to see if I really want to read it. As much as I'm enjoying my Tournament of Books reading, I also have that inevitable itch to read whatever I want to, without obligation. I whipped through a quick 20 pages of Open City, and I think I will read it intensely for a day or two and see if I still feel positively about it. It's one of those meandering books that will likely read a little on the slow side, and I think I might be more interested in a good ole plot-driven book at this point. Cinder is still sitting on my nightstand, staring at me!

What kind of reading mood are you in this week?


P.S. Don't forget to enter my "Spread the Love Giveaway" up on the navigation bar at the top of the page. Tomorrow is my 7-year blogiversary and I'll be announcing the winners then!


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is brought to you by Sheila at BookJourney!



Monday, Reading, Finally!

After a rough week last week, and after a rocky beginning to the weekend, things have smoothed out and I'm back to reading, blogging, and commenting. I've missed y'all! The weekend was fun as I spent most of Saturday and Sunday having quality time with Greyson, and Sunday afternoon was reserved for a birthday party for Rocketboy filled with pizza, cake, and teenage antics.

After G hit the sack last night, I took a few minutes to finish the book I've been reading for over a week: Swamplandia! by Karen Russell. I can't believe I've been reading it that long, but it really wasn't the book's fault. It was an odd book to say the least, and I'm looking forward to writing the review of this one if I can figure out exactly what I want to say about it. THAT will be the hard part!


I have a few minutes to dawdle this morning before I get ready and leave for work, so I sat down with Teju Cole's Open City to see if I really want to read it. As much as I'm enjoying my Tournament of Books reading, I also have that inevitable itch to read whatever I want to, without obligation. I whipped through a quick 20 pages of Open City, and I think I will read it intensely for a day or two and see if I still feel positively about it. It's one of those meandering books that will likely read a little on the slow side, and I think I might be more interested in a good ole plot-driven book at this point. Cinder is still sitting on my nightstand, staring at me!

What kind of reading mood are you in this week?


P.S. Don't forget to enter my "Spread the Love Giveaway" up on the navigation bar at the top of the page. Tomorrow is my 7-year blogiversary and I'll be announcing the winners then!


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is brought to you by Sheila at BookJourney!



Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday, the 2012 VD Edition

Yes, I turn Valentine's Day into VD at every available opportunity. What will I be doing to celebrate? I will eat Dove chocolate truffles and red velvet cupcakes until I fall into a carb coma. But that's only after Greyson celebrates with a little Valentine's Day party at school and I shower upon him my gift of choice: BOOKS! Yep, my kiddo is getting two books, a Thomas the Train toy, and the teeny weeniest box of chocolate I've ever seen. Huzzah!


It's also Top Ten Tuesday once again, and I'm totally digging today's theme: Books That Break Our Hearts a Little! I consider it a very high compliment if a book can make me cry or make my heart feel like it's breaking. In those cases, the author has most definitely written characters and plot that I can wholly invest in, and what's not to applaud about that?


Without further ado, the top ten books that broke my heart a little. And you might see a couple of themes running through these choices. 



ROOM broke my heart a lot. It shattered it into pieces and stepped on them over and over and over again. This story is not without hope but I felt so completely, utterly invested and compelled in spots that I thought I'd have to stop reading. Even though it ends well, it broke my heart along the way.


The Book Thief was shocking as it made me bawl beginning around page 250 and there are something like 500+ pages in the book. I was in love with the characters, the plot, and the historical moment for a big trifecta of heart breakage.


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a very obvious choice, but it didn't break my heart any less. Not only because the fate of some of my friends I'd loved along the way just sucked but because it's OVER. J.K. Rowling, I love you!



In The Hours, the issues that stuck out to me most were the dueling feelings of nurturing and guilt that mothers, friends, and partners work through. But it's also about the crushing weight of obligation and events that spin out of one's control. It was a book I read when I was quite young (early 20s) that introduced me to some of the issues I would face (and that most people face on some level) as they age. 

The Birth of Love is a book I could relate to as a new mom. Namely the guilt that goes along with it. While this one didn't necessarily make me cry, it was the little moments and everyday struggles a family faces...the little hurts...that broke my heart.

Beasts by Joyce Carol Oates is not really an obvious choice on a surface level. The main character goes through a great deal of trauma at the hands of an older professor and his wife. Her heart is broken on a number of occasions by their actions, and I was totally invested in the character. These feelings were also heightened by Joyce Carol Oates's ability to write an oppressive atmosphere into this little novella.



The Passage was so long and involving, I couldn't help but be engaged with the characters and their individual plights. If I hadn't been involved, I never would've finished this chunkster, but as it was, I raced through it when I was home on maternity leave. Between the action and the struggles and the damned monsters trying to eat everyone, I got my heart broken a couple of times. But nothing broke my heart liked the CLIFFHANGER ENDING! I can't wait for The Twelve to come out!


Y'all know I had to throw in a short story collection somewhere, so I'm giving the "break my heart" award to Simon Van Booy's The Secret Lives of People in Love. There were a mixture of story lengths in this book, but it was some of the shorter tales (just a couple of pages) that compelled me most for their observations and sometimes for the shock of the endings. 


The Golems of Gotham by Thane Rosenbaum is one of those largely overlooked novels that I champion at every available opportunity, so I'm singing its praises here, too! Not only are the present-day characters heartbreaking: a man and his daughter, reeling after the death of his parents (her grandparents). In this book we also get to meet a few ghosts of the Holocaust: Primo Levi, Jerzy Kosinski, Jean Amery, and Paul Celan--all writers who committed suicide after surviving concentration camps.The writing is gorgeous, the premise is unique, and the grappling with loss was heartbreaking, though this is another hopeful ending. 




Just, yeah. The Road. Earth is destroyed, civilization is limping along, and a dad and his son are just  trying to survive. OK, Cormac McCarthy, YOU GOT ME!


What books broke your heart a little? Bookworms wanna know. :)

Top Ten Tuesday, the 2012 VD Edition

Yes, I turn Valentine's Day into VD at every available opportunity. What will I be doing to celebrate? I will eat Dove chocolate truffles and red velvet cupcakes until I fall into a carb coma. But that's only after Greyson celebrates with a little Valentine's Day party at school and I shower upon him my gift of choice: BOOKS! Yep, my kiddo is getting two books, a Thomas the Train toy, and the teeny weeniest box of chocolate I've ever seen. Huzzah!


It's also Top Ten Tuesday once again, and I'm totally digging today's theme: Books That Break Our Hearts a Little! I consider it a very high compliment if a book can make me cry or make my heart feel like it's breaking. In those cases, the author has most definitely written characters and plot that I can wholly invest in, and what's not to applaud about that?


Without further ado, the top ten books that broke my heart a little. And you might see a couple of themes running through these choices. 



ROOM broke my heart a lot. It shattered it into pieces and stepped on them over and over and over again. This story is not without hope but I felt so completely, utterly invested and compelled in spots that I thought I'd have to stop reading. Even though it ends well, it broke my heart along the way.


The Book Thief was shocking as it made me bawl beginning around page 250 and there are something like 500+ pages in the book. I was in love with the characters, the plot, and the historical moment for a big trifecta of heart breakage.


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a very obvious choice, but it didn't break my heart any less. Not only because the fate of some of my friends I'd loved along the way just sucked but because it's OVER. J.K. Rowling, I love you!



In The Hours, the issues that stuck out to me most were the dueling feelings of nurturing and guilt that mothers, friends, and partners work through. But it's also about the crushing weight of obligation and events that spin out of one's control. It was a book I read when I was quite young (early 20s) that introduced me to some of the issues I would face (and that most people face on some level) as they age. 

The Birth of Love is a book I could relate to as a new mom. Namely the guilt that goes along with it. While this one didn't necessarily make me cry, it was the little moments and everyday struggles a family faces...the little hurts...that broke my heart.

Beasts by Joyce Carol Oates is not really an obvious choice on a surface level. The main character goes through a great deal of trauma at the hands of an older professor and his wife. Her heart is broken on a number of occasions by their actions, and I was totally invested in the character. These feelings were also heightened by Joyce Carol Oates's ability to write an oppressive atmosphere into this little novella.



The Passage was so long and involving, I couldn't help but be engaged with the characters and their individual plights. If I hadn't been involved, I never would've finished this chunkster, but as it was, I raced through it when I was home on maternity leave. Between the action and the struggles and the damned monsters trying to eat everyone, I got my heart broken a couple of times. But nothing broke my heart liked the CLIFFHANGER ENDING! I can't wait for The Twelve to come out!


Y'all know I had to throw in a short story collection somewhere, so I'm giving the "break my heart" award to Simon Van Booy's The Secret Lives of People in Love. There were a mixture of story lengths in this book, but it was some of the shorter tales (just a couple of pages) that compelled me most for their observations and sometimes for the shock of the endings. 


The Golems of Gotham by Thane Rosenbaum is one of those largely overlooked novels that I champion at every available opportunity, so I'm singing its praises here, too! Not only are the present-day characters heartbreaking: a man and his daughter, reeling after the death of his parents (her grandparents). In this book we also get to meet a few ghosts of the Holocaust: Primo Levi, Jerzy Kosinski, Jean Amery, and Paul Celan--all writers who committed suicide after surviving concentration camps.The writing is gorgeous, the premise is unique, and the grappling with loss was heartbreaking, though this is another hopeful ending. 




Just, yeah. The Road. Earth is destroyed, civilization is limping along, and a dad and his son are just  trying to survive. OK, Cormac McCarthy, YOU GOT ME!


What books broke your heart a little? Bookworms wanna know. :)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Spread the Love Giveaway

Next week is my 7-year blogiversary and I'm giving away books! Click HERE to enter my Spread the Love Giveaway and win one of the following beauties...

Note: Comments on this post WILL NOT enter you into the giveaway!


This giveaway is only open to US residents (Sorry! I'm too broke for international shipping!) and I'll draw the winners on February 21st!

Spread the Love Giveaway

Next week is my 7-year blogiversary and I'm giving away books! Click HERE to enter my Spread the Love Giveaway and win one of the following beauties...

Note: Comments on this post WILL NOT enter you into the giveaway!


This giveaway is only open to US residents (Sorry! I'm too broke for international shipping!) and I'll draw the winners on February 21st!

It's Monday and I'm a Reading Fool!

Or maybe just a fool. I'll let you decide.

SO, this past week I finished reading and reviewed two books. WHOA NELLY! I was only sort of wowed by Ann Patchett's much-typed-about State of Wonder. However, I was surprisingly bowled over by Nathacha Appanah's The Last Brother. And if you haven't started reading that book yet, you need to get on the stick. Do it! Do it!

Right now I'm about 70% (Goodreads influence) done with Karen Russell's weird novel, Swamplandia!. I like it, but it's not without its own issues. I'll discuss that in my review this week.

The library continues to be a source of avalanchery (yes, it's a word now). I have a digital copy of The Tiger's Wife waiting in the wings via my library's Overdrive service, and I picked up my hold copy of Teju Cole's Open City on Friday. AND--yes there's an AND--I expect the e-book of Michael Ondaatje's The Cat's Table to drop anytime. Oh, and The Stranger's Child by Alan Hollinghurst is the next one I'll receive from my physical holds list. Then will come 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, and that might spell the end of my reading mojo.



SERIOUSLY! These are all Tournament of Books books. I have to say, I'm kicking some serious arse in the Tournament of Books (personal) Challenge, but I'm also kinda ready to read whatever I want with reckless abandon. Cinder is staring at me from my stacks and oddly enough, I'm already feeling the pull of Son of a Witch after my successful romp through Wicked earlier in the year.

Tournament of Books aside, I got quagmired in The Norton Anthology of American Literature this weekend. I mentioned the online classes I inherited in my previous post. One of them is Early American Lit (blah), so it looks like I'll be re-reading some Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, and Washington Irving in the coming weeks. I'm OK with Irving, but Paine and Franklin make me vomit in my mouth a little.

And that's it! Only one book in the mail this week, and unsolicited copy of Five Bells by Gail Jones. It doesn't really look like my kind of thing, but we'll see. I have hopefoolery. Full of new words today.

If you don't already know, It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by the ever-lovely Sheila over at BookJourney. Get thee there!

It's Monday and I'm a Reading Fool!

Or maybe just a fool. I'll let you decide.

SO, this past week I finished reading and reviewed two books. WHOA NELLY! I was only sort of wowed by Ann Patchett's much-typed-about State of Wonder. However, I was surprisingly bowled over by Nathacha Appanah's The Last Brother. And if you haven't started reading that book yet, you need to get on the stick. Do it! Do it!

Right now I'm about 70% (Goodreads influence) done with Karen Russell's weird novel, Swamplandia!. I like it, but it's not without its own issues. I'll discuss that in my review this week.

The library continues to be a source of avalanchery (yes, it's a word now). I have a digital copy of The Tiger's Wife waiting in the wings via my library's Overdrive service, and I picked up my hold copy of Teju Cole's Open City on Friday. AND--yes there's an AND--I expect the e-book of Michael Ondaatje's The Cat's Table to drop anytime. Oh, and The Stranger's Child by Alan Hollinghurst is the next one I'll receive from my physical holds list. Then will come 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, and that might spell the end of my reading mojo.



SERIOUSLY! These are all Tournament of Books books. I have to say, I'm kicking some serious arse in the Tournament of Books (personal) Challenge, but I'm also kinda ready to read whatever I want with reckless abandon. Cinder is staring at me from my stacks and oddly enough, I'm already feeling the pull of Son of a Witch after my successful romp through Wicked earlier in the year.

Tournament of Books aside, I got quagmired in The Norton Anthology of American Literature this weekend. I mentioned the online classes I inherited in my previous post. One of them is Early American Lit (blah), so it looks like I'll be re-reading some Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, and Washington Irving in the coming weeks. I'm OK with Irving, but Paine and Franklin make me vomit in my mouth a little.

And that's it! Only one book in the mail this week, and unsolicited copy of Five Bells by Gail Jones. It doesn't really look like my kind of thing, but we'll see. I have hopefoolery. Full of new words today.

If you don't already know, It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by the ever-lovely Sheila over at BookJourney. Get thee there!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Sunday Salon - Tag! I'm It!

Happy Sunday, bloggy lovelies! This week has been some serious crazy. Hectic, hectic mess. 


Y'all may recall that I was originally teaching fewer online classes this semester than I have in previous semesters. While I usually teach four online sections, I was down to two. While it was a hit in the paycheck department, it was an increase in free (READING) time. And then this week happened. I've now inherited an additional three online sections. I cannot seriously complain since it's a blessing in the pocketbook, but it's been a bit hellacious trying to assess where the students are in the courses and put my own sections together in a week's time. Woohah! Makes for a fast-paced week and lots of lost bloggy time this week. Now that it's Sunday, I have a few minutes to sit back and take the week in and dig into some reading. 


I didn't know quite what I was going to write today, but VOILA! I was tagged by Trisha from Eclectic/Eccentric to answer her super awesome fantastic fun questions. And I will. So here we go.




Rules
1 You must post the rules.
2 Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post and then create eleven new questions to ask the  people you’ve tagged.
3 Tag eleven people and link to them on your post. (I'm cheating here. Questions to come...brain drain.)
4 Let them know you’ve tagged them! (See parentheses above.)





1. What is your favorite piece of art?


My fave piece of art might be an odd choice, but I love it anyway. In my younger days I would've gone for a more popular choice like Van Gogh's "Starry Night," but for as long as I've been visiting the Dallas Museum of Art, I've been in love with Constantin Brancusi's "The Beginning of the World." It doesn't look like much here, but it's the most perfectly smooth, beautiful egg. I just want to lay my cheek on it every time I see it. Beautiful imagery here. 




2. What literary character do you think would make an awesome world leader?


Ok, I can't fall back on Estella on this one, so let's see. Mr. Knightley from Jane Austen's Emma. He's precise, concise, and morally strong. And if I can picture him as Jeremy Northam from the film adaptation, he's also a looker.


3. What color do you think should be outlawed from clothing?


Pink. All pink. Outlawed from everything. I don't like pink. Although, my first car was "raspberry" and that's too close for comfort.


4. Hats. Yes or no?


Under the right conditions--and I'm speaking only for myself. Other people are adorable in hats all the time. When I have long hair I am not opposed to a well-chosen ball cap. With my hair short as it is now, I side with floppy, crocheted, wintery hats. 


5. What contemporary novel should be added to the high school curriculum?


Feed by M.T. Anderson. It's contemporary YA. It has just enough curse words to get a high schooler's attention on a very surface level and cause a little scandal to get them interested. Then ALL the issues are so so so discussionworthy. Issues of body image and constructing beauty ideals, Internet addiction, the role of advertising in society, open access to information, environmental issues, synthetic environment vs. bonafide nature, I could go on and on. Even though it's YA, I've used it in college comp classes and we still discuss the heck out of it. Will be using it again in the coming Fall semester.


6. What book featuring real people do you think could work if the characters were switched to animals?


Oh my...this question is hard for me as I am adamantly against books starring animals. Let's go with Great Expectations. I think Miss Havisham would make a great cobra.


7. Genetically designed humans. Hell yes or absolutely not?


In literature or in life?! I read plenty of books about them but the idea of the real thing scares the pooshnickens out of me.


8. What book would you like to see get parodied a la Pride and Prejudice and Zombies?


Hahhaaha, Lady Chatterley's Lover. The bad, scandalous possibilities are endless. Or maybe Madame Bovary, too!!! 


9. What book would you absolutely hate to see get parodied?


Don't touch, Gatsby. Back off, now!


10. TV. Awesome source of entertainment or horrifying time suck?


Time suck. That's not to say that I don't enjoy a lot of TV. I am completely addicted to Chopped on the Food Network and Sarah's House on HGTV. BUT, for the most part I try to turn it off and read instead. Otherwise I'll have another 30-book year, and that's unacceptable to me. 


11. What literary character should immediately jump off the page and into your bed


Trisha, questions like these are why I LOVE you so much. I always throw back to the classic novels. Let's call it a Darcy-Andi-Knightley sandwich, shall we?!


I'm tagging:
Heather from Capricious Reader
Amanda from Fig and Thistle
Emily at The Alcove
Rebecca at Drunk Literature
Chris at Chrisbookarama
Lisa at Books, Lists, Life


Your questions, should you choose to accept them...
1. Who would rank on your list of crushworthy authors--either for their skillz or their cutiepieness?
2. What is your favorite guilty pleasure book if you have guilty pleasure reading?
3. Which literary female heroine would you most like to be for a day and why?
4. Which television female heroine would you most like to be for a day and why?
5. If you found out you were preggers (stop hyperventilating) OR if you were buying for a friend or family member, which children's book would you consider a MUST HAVE for beginning a child's library?
6. Do you have a favorite independent or small press? Why do they rock?
7. Have you read any independent or undersung books lately? Something that's been flying under the bloggy radar?
8. What's on repeat on your MP3 player? (Selfish, I need new music.)
9. If you would be any pair of shoes, what would they be (feel free to refer to Pinterest or Google Image Search)?
10. If you won a million dollars, what would you do first?
11. Adult beverage of choice? 

The Sunday Salon - Tag! I'm It!

Happy Sunday, bloggy lovelies! This week has been some serious crazy. Hectic, hectic mess. 


Y'all may recall that I was originally teaching fewer online classes this semester than I have in previous semesters. While I usually teach four online sections, I was down to two. While it was a hit in the paycheck department, it was an increase in free (READING) time. And then this week happened. I've now inherited an additional three online sections. I cannot seriously complain since it's a blessing in the pocketbook, but it's been a bit hellacious trying to assess where the students are in the courses and put my own sections together in a week's time. Woohah! Makes for a fast-paced week and lots of lost bloggy time this week. Now that it's Sunday, I have a few minutes to sit back and take the week in and dig into some reading. 


I didn't know quite what I was going to write today, but VOILA! I was tagged by Trisha from Eclectic/Eccentric to answer her super awesome fantastic fun questions. And I will. So here we go.




Rules
1 You must post the rules.
2 Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post and then create eleven new questions to ask the  people you’ve tagged.
3 Tag eleven people and link to them on your post. (I'm cheating here. Questions to come...brain drain.)
4 Let them know you’ve tagged them! (See parentheses above.)





1. What is your favorite piece of art?


My fave piece of art might be an odd choice, but I love it anyway. In my younger days I would've gone for a more popular choice like Van Gogh's "Starry Night," but for as long as I've been visiting the Dallas Museum of Art, I've been in love with Constantin Brancusi's "The Beginning of the World." It doesn't look like much here, but it's the most perfectly smooth, beautiful egg. I just want to lay my cheek on it every time I see it. Beautiful imagery here. 




2. What literary character do you think would make an awesome world leader?


Ok, I can't fall back on Estella on this one, so let's see. Mr. Knightley from Jane Austen's Emma. He's precise, concise, and morally strong. And if I can picture him as Jeremy Northam from the film adaptation, he's also a looker.


3. What color do you think should be outlawed from clothing?


Pink. All pink. Outlawed from everything. I don't like pink. Although, my first car was "raspberry" and that's too close for comfort.


4. Hats. Yes or no?


Under the right conditions--and I'm speaking only for myself. Other people are adorable in hats all the time. When I have long hair I am not opposed to a well-chosen ball cap. With my hair short as it is now, I side with floppy, crocheted, wintery hats. 


5. What contemporary novel should be added to the high school curriculum?


Feed by M.T. Anderson. It's contemporary YA. It has just enough curse words to get a high schooler's attention on a very surface level and cause a little scandal to get them interested. Then ALL the issues are so so so discussionworthy. Issues of body image and constructing beauty ideals, Internet addiction, the role of advertising in society, open access to information, environmental issues, synthetic environment vs. bonafide nature, I could go on and on. Even though it's YA, I've used it in college comp classes and we still discuss the heck out of it. Will be using it again in the coming Fall semester.


6. What book featuring real people do you think could work if the characters were switched to animals?


Oh my...this question is hard for me as I am adamantly against books starring animals. Let's go with Great Expectations. I think Miss Havisham would make a great cobra.


7. Genetically designed humans. Hell yes or absolutely not?


In literature or in life?! I read plenty of books about them but the idea of the real thing scares the pooshnickens out of me.


8. What book would you like to see get parodied a la Pride and Prejudice and Zombies?


Hahhaaha, Lady Chatterley's Lover. The bad, scandalous possibilities are endless. Or maybe Madame Bovary, too!!! 


9. What book would you absolutely hate to see get parodied?


Don't touch, Gatsby. Back off, now!


10. TV. Awesome source of entertainment or horrifying time suck?


Time suck. That's not to say that I don't enjoy a lot of TV. I am completely addicted to Chopped on the Food Network and Sarah's House on HGTV. BUT, for the most part I try to turn it off and read instead. Otherwise I'll have another 30-book year, and that's unacceptable to me. 


11. What literary character should immediately jump off the page and into your bed


Trisha, questions like these are why I LOVE you so much. I always throw back to the classic novels. Let's call it a Darcy-Andi-Knightley sandwich, shall we?!


I'm tagging:
Heather from Capricious Reader
Amanda from Fig and Thistle
Emily at The Alcove
Rebecca at Drunk Literature
Chris at Chrisbookarama
Lisa at Books, Lists, Life


Your questions, should you choose to accept them...
1. Who would rank on your list of crushworthy authors--either for their skillz or their cutiepieness?
2. What is your favorite guilty pleasure book if you have guilty pleasure reading?
3. Which literary female heroine would you most like to be for a day and why?
4. Which television female heroine would you most like to be for a day and why?
5. If you found out you were preggers (stop hyperventilating) OR if you were buying for a friend or family member, which children's book would you consider a MUST HAVE for beginning a child's library?
6. Do you have a favorite independent or small press? Why do they rock?
7. Have you read any independent or undersung books lately? Something that's been flying under the bloggy radar?
8. What's on repeat on your MP3 player? (Selfish, I need new music.)
9. If you would be any pair of shoes, what would they be (feel free to refer to Pinterest or Google Image Search)?
10. If you won a million dollars, what would you do first?
11. Adult beverage of choice? 

 
Images by Freepik