Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Still Reading...


Still reading this big, hefty, chunky monkey. Nothing to blog. Savoring. Loving it. The addiction continues. Planning to follow this one up with:

 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Personally: Lazy Day and Pin It, Do It

"Lazy" seems to pop up in my post titles pretty regularly lately! I can't say I'm opposed. When I have an opportunity to kick out around the house, I take it. With nearly 12 hours on the run every day of the week, including a 2-hour commute (an hour each way), I love to spend time at home being domestic, playing outside with G, or kicked back in the recliner with a book.

I haven't had a legitimate day off since I started my new job (no rest between old gig and new gig), so this weekend was the perfect time to take some time to recharge.

Friday was a regular busy day, but Saturday was relaxing. I spent some time out shopping with my mom; I picked up a couple of summer tops suitable for the weekend or layering for work. We had a quick lunch at Cotton Patch Cafe (steak fingers and salad....AWESOME), and spent the afternoon letting Greyson run through a sprinkler.

Yesterday was a lazy morning reading, and Greyson spent some time watching his favorite show: Super Why! It's about reading. I don't complain too much about that either. Silly me decided to go for a grocery run in the mid-afternoon by the time the Texas temps reached 95. Not the best move I've ever made. Dropped G off to spend the night with the fam around 5pm and then mama hit up the shoe store! Got some cute bronze strappy sandals. My fave pair blew out last year, and it's unacceptable not to have a go-to pair in the summertime. Now I just need a pedicure. Bad. Really bad.


I've also been feeling pretty domestic this weekend. I finally decided to tackle a couple of the tasks on my Pin It and Do It board for Trish's challenge.

First up, Roasted Fajita-Spiced Chickpeas. I looooooove chickpeas. I don't really know why because they generally taste like air. But, I love the texture, the size of them, the fact that they don't mush together as easily as some other canned peas and beans. I love 'em on salads, I love to just eat 'em. And I love crunch, so this roasted version sounded really promising.

Photo credit
I made a half-batch of these because I only had one can of chickpeas in the house, and I'm glad I did. I liked the flavor a lot, but I cooked them on the low end of the recommended cooking time (40 minutes or so). I was distracted when the oven timer went off, so my mom took them out of the oven. The ones around the edges got crispy and crunchy but the ones toward the middle of the pan were tough-skinned but still soft in the middle. The tough skin/soft middle made for a less appealing texture, so I would've loved to cook them for another 10-15 minutes to get them all crunchy. I will definitely do these again as they'd be a great salad topper or a quick snack for my work lunch box.



Today I'm tackling another Pin It recipe: Vegetable Stock in the Slow Cooker! I prefer to use veggie stock in soups, stuffings and dressings, and when I'm cooking rice or couscous. I nearly refuse to buy boxed or canned stocks these days because of all the preservatives and sodium. Plus, they're expensive! And there is seriously NOTHING EASIER to make at home. I used A Year of Slow Cooking's recommended veggies in my stock: celery pieces, carrots, onion, garlic, and I threw in some orange bell pepper tops I had leftover. My stock is crockin' for the next 10 hours. I'll portion it out tomorrow night and pop those puppies in the freezer. My project for next weekend is chicken stock.

On the reading front, I'm still loving Drums of Autumn. I'm about 700 pages through it, so I'll finish up this week.

What are you doing this weekend (if you're off today and it's still your weekend)? How's your week starting out if you're back on the job today? Whatcha reading?




Thursday, May 24, 2012

Story or Writing: What's Your Flavor?



I posed a question on Twitter last week that got quite a few responses. I would love to share some of those, but of course, Twitter chose now to die. Arrgh! It was prompted by my own thoughts on what constitutes "immersion" reading. That is, books that make me feel as if I've been plucked up out of my life and plunked down in the middle of the story. These books also tend to be my long-time favorites.

The question:

What do you privilege or appreciate more, a good story or good writing?

I realize this is a hard question. I also realize this is a dramatically oversimplified question, but it did make me ponder for a good long while. I'm willing to concede that these two are often so inextricably linked that it's hard to pick them apart.

A story is made less of a good story by bad writing. Good writing can elevate a flimsy plot to the point of breathless admiration. But on the other hand, I know I've tossed more than a few books because the writing sucked. I've tossed more than a few because the story was abhorrent. It might be easier to answer this question: what makes you ditch a book faster: a flimsy story or crappy writing?

To approach my own question, I certainly appreciate both. Sometimes one stands out above the other. But what I was really thinking when I posed this question on Twitter was about the books I love. Love with a visceral, devoted, think-about-the-characters forever-and-feel-like-I-know-them love. Examples: of course, Outlander, but other loves of my reading life would be The Hours, Wicked, Pope Joan, The Lord of the Rings, Cider House Rules, The Great Gatsby.

What makes me love them so darn much??? Is it the story or is it the writing? Does it have to be both? Can it just be one or the other?

As I'm looking at them, I do begin to wonder if I secretly privilege a strong story line, strong characters, long  stories that allow me to wallow and stretch my legs a little. Of this sample, I would say that only about half are known for their especially stellar writing (Gatsby, Cider House, The Hours). While the rest are more plot-driven (Pope Joan, Outlander, The Lord of the Rings, Wicked). It's debatable, of course. I think Maguire does a great job with his writing. Tolkien, too, obviously. But in the wider world of books and critics and stuff (for what it's worth), the first three authors are probably better received for their writing chops and the rest admired more for plot, character, and other elements of the story.

Off the top of my head, I uber-love the following general bookish characteristics:

  • Characters I love and want to revisit
  • Smooth, believable dialogue
  • A strong sense of place and atmosphere
  • A plot that makes me a little breathless wanting to know what comes next
  • A feeling of swept-awayness that leaves me a little unwilling to come back to real life
While I don't think any of these can be accomplished by a writer with no skills--clever and believable characters require a deft hand--I'm looking a little story-heavy here. For a long time I wouldn't have been ok with this. Formal higher education in English pushes form and technique above all else much of the time which seems to fall into the "writing" camp. That was my experience, anyway. While I appreciate stellar writing any day of the week, it also takes a little more forward movement to engage me in a meaningful, powerful way. 

That is my final answer. Today. For now.

Now that I've begun to figure myself out, how about you? What leaves you wanting more and clutching a book to your heart?









Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: NOT About Books!?


Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!


As much as I love lists about books, I'm pretty stoked about this week's topic! Top Ten Blogs/Websites NOT About Books! I do read quite a few blogs outside of the book blogosphere, and I'm a creeper so I like to know what others are reading, too. Fun!


Fashion


The Plus Side of Me written by Rebecca. This is my favorite plus-size fashion blog. Rebecca is a fantabulous blogger, has beautiful clothes, and often participates in Five Take where five bloggers take on a trend in fashion, showcasing how they put their own spin on it. Did I mention that Rebecca's dog, Lola, and my Daisy could be twins? Freaky!


Lilly's Style is another favorite fashion blog. She tackles a lot of current and hard-to-pull-off trends like those pesky bright-colored pants. Gorgeous combinations of color and texture here. Go, Lilly!


The Chloe Conspiracy is yet another tantalizing fashion blog. I particularly love the diversity of this one. Chloe highlights upcoming sales as well as her own fashion posts. She's very Audrey Hepburn in the way she wears classic pieces, but they're often in funky colors and mixed with interesting combinations of patterns. I get lots of daring ideas here, even if I'm not always daring enough to carry them off. 


Photography and Design


I recently stumbled upon Andrea's (great name!) blog, Hula Seventy. Andrea describes herself as a photographer, writer, teacher, dancer. A Jacqueline of all trades (my words). I love this blog for its quirkiness and distinctive style. Go, Andrea!


Creature Comforts by Ez celebrates the little things in life. I love it for color and design inspiration. Again, it's one of those blogs that has a permeating presence. I feel like browsing there gives me a great idea of WHO Ez is. Good stuff!


Sunny Vanilla is written by Jen, a stay at home mom who loves photography, design, interior decorating, crafting, cooking, writing, and now sewing. Awesome blog. Just go read and bask in it. 


Food


Rachel Rappaport's Coconut and Lime is a great food blog that I enjoy for its international flavors and interesting recipes. Rachel is also the author of the Everything Healthy Slow Cooker Cookbook, which I need to add to my collection.


Skinny Taste is written by Gina Homolka, and I love this foodie blog because it doesn't skimp on the awesome. Healthy does not have to be boring. 


Pink Parsley is written by Josie, who has A DEGREE IN CHEMISTRY! I'm sorry, I sit in awe. I was barely able to crawl through my chemistry class my junior year of high school. But Josie loves the chemistry and logic behind a recipe, and she cooks seasonally. 


The Curvy Carrot is a really unique food blog. The subtitle says it all: "Healthy and Indulgent Meals Dangling in Front of You." From the About page: 
My philosophy on food: I don’t eat meat.  I eat eggs, I drink milk, and I inhale cheese.  I eat seafood every once in a while.  I’m not a vegan, although I do try to post recipes that are vegan-friendly.  
This blog is beautifully photographed (like all of these, actually) and I love the unique recipes that I would never think of in one gazillion years.  




And there you have it! Blowing the blog horn for blogs about cool stuff other than books. Because there really is other cool stuff out there. I know, I didn't catch on for a while either.  :D

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman

I just realized this is the fifth of Hoffman book that I've read! For a book tart, that's pretty good. From experience, I can tell you that I enjoy her short stories the most. And before you say, "But I don't do short stories," take a moment to consider The Red Garden.

The first point of note is that while this is a collection of stories, it's a short story cycle. That is, all of the stories are connected by location (Blackwell, Massachusetts; Hightop Mountain; Eel River). Furthermore, each story is set in a different year, and they follow several family lineages from the first story in the 1700s to the last story in the late 1900s (1990s I'd venture). What so many readers seem to dislike about short stories is the lack of continuity throughout a collection and a lack of depth and "knowing" the characters. This short story cycle structure really alleviates some of those concerns as many of the characters carry over from one story to the next. A precocious 6-year-old girl in one story may be the adult heroine in the next.

I was prompted to put this book on my wishlist for last year's Book Blogger Holiday Swap because I read another of Hoffman's collections, Blackbird House, several years ago, and it remains a favorite short story collection. It's also a beautiful cycle set around a single farm. and a specific home. Also set in Massachusetts, it takes place on the coast while The Red Garden is all about a mountain town. On a very basic, surface level I found the mountain setting magical and comfortable. As if I were snuggling down on a family vacation when I was growing up, always a bigger fan of the cool tree cover of the mountains than a scorching coast.

It's hard for me to tell you why I love this book simply because Hoffman's writing is somewhat enigmatic. Worst descriptor for writing ever? Mayyybe! Let's see if I can do better. There is always a sense of magic in Hoffman's writing. An elusive ghost here and there. A garden graveyard for a bear where the soil turns red and the plants all grow in crimson, the embodiment of heartbreak. It's just enough to give a sense of folklore and oral history, but in meeting the individual characters we see that they're very real people with real struggles in their time. They're likely to be memorialized in magical legend later on in the book as time ticks on and the residents of Blackwell lose the details over the course of 200 years.

I'm also fond of the fact that Hoffman doesn't shy away from the tragedy in this book. It's not all a downer, but these people lose love, lose their lives, experience illness and tragedy and great joy as well. In experiencing the lifetime of a family or a location, loss is part of the deal. But Hoffman writes it in such a wonderful, bittersweet way.

A few of my favorite stories:

"The Monster of Blackwell, 1956" - A young man with physical deformities runs away to live in the forest and survives off the land. By chance, he comes to the aid of a beautiful and promising young lady with a mind toward college. A Beauty and the Beast Story. Simple, sad, but enthralling.

"The Fisherman's Wife, 1935" - A strange young woman is rumored to be a mermaid. More likely she's married to a homicidal old nut, but our hero is determined to find out.

"The Red Garden, 1986" - The secrets of the red garden come to light and a difficult, lost young woman begins to discover her place in the world and in the town of Blackwell.

A passage from "The Truth About My Mother, 1903" - A sad story to start, but a hopeful, romantic end.
My mother's true feelings were there in her face. She didn't have to say anything to show how she felt about my father. He reacted as you might imagine he would. Hateful was too small a word. I wondered if the electricity at Luna Park had seeped into his skin, and that was why his meanness grew, like a charge, burning brighter throughout the spring. Fine weather seemed to affect him adversely. But in all honesty he drank whenever there was rain or snow or wind or falling leaves. He drank and burned, and we paid the price. We often kept the lights turned off, though ours had been one of the first houses in Brooklyn to be wired. We kept a lantern beneath my bed. 
As I've mentioned quite often lately, I appreciate those books that can carry me away into their imaginary world. Wrap around me like a blanket of rest and comfort. This was one of those books, and I am so thankful to have picked it up. Another winner in a string of winning reading.


Pub. Date: August 2011
Publisher: Broadway
Format: Trade Paperback
ISBN-13:  978-0307405975 
Source: A gift from Stacy at Stacy's Books



Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Sunday Salon - Finally, A Follow-Up

Well it took me the better part of a week to settle on another book to read after my Voyager foray. The final verdict? The Red Garden, by Alice Hoffman. I read the better part of its 270 pages yesterday afternoon in a single sitting, and I could not have found a better book to get me into the swing of things again.

I won't say too much, since I want to properly review this little gem, but if you've had any inclination, you should try it. Great book.

  

What's next for me??? Still trying to starve myself of Gabaldon for a little longer before I tackle Drums of Autumn. Of all the books on my shelves the two calling loudest right now are Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire and Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier.

If I choose Son of a Witch, I expect this to go one of the following two ways:

1. I'll love going back to Maguire's world and will eat it up.
2. I'll decide I don't give a crap about any of the characters besides Elphaba and give up.

On the other hand, Remarkable Creatures is a historical fiction novel, one of the many I've read lately, so we'll see if that craving holds up. I've already read a few pages of this one, and despite the long run of historical fiction reading, it is holding my attention so far.

Keep in mind, I could be reading something completely unrelated to both of these tomorrow.

Me = book tart. Moody, moody book tart.

Happy Sunday! I hope you're all overdosing on good books. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

DNFs For Now


I'm striking out all over the place. Although, I do realize it's it's probably not the books' fault. 

Corsets and Clockwork is not doing it for me. I find the stories a little uneventful for my taste. I know, again, probably not really, but in my current reading withdrawals, it is what it is. I was looking for some pretty heavy steampunk and in the first three tales it was hit and miss. I got a taste of atmosphere, but not enough to satisfy me. This may also be a side effect of the short story format. Likewise, I found the love in each story a little unconvincing.

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is simply too "quiet" for my current mood. I will most definitely come back to it as I like the writing and I find the Major compelling so far.

Still reading I Am An Executioner though the auhor has ticked me off and made me not trust him by ending two of the three stories I've read with "I'll let you decide" type endings. Not just ambiguous but by writing something akin to "I'm not going to tell" or "You can decide." WHAT-EVER. More than once is a cop-out!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Voyager by Diana Gabaldon

Excellent book! Read it! Now!

I'm out.











OK, not really. I could leave it at that, but what fun is that? I have to browbeat all of you into buying and reading it yourselves. And staying up too late. And being draggy at work the next day.

I loved this installment, the third in Gabaldon's Outlander series. While I loved Dragonfly in Amber, too, this one probably came closer to my adoration for the very first novel.

Voyager takes my favorite couple to the Caribbean, mon! There's lots of time on a ship, some time spent running crazily around the islands amidst the slave trade and other madness. An outbreak of an unsavory illness. You get the picture. I was also happy to see one of my fave peripheral characters make a raging comeback in this installment. You just never know who's going to pop up.

It's seriously taking all I have not to throw myself into Drums of Autumn, as mentioned in my previous post. While I would love to, absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that. I'll wait a week or two before I start the next book.

Which  book(s) are you in love with right now?


P.S. I read all 1,027 Nook pages in six days. Would've been five, but I had to work late!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Book Fallout

It always happens after a great book (or three). I'm going through my stacks and pinpointing all the books I DON'T want to read (after 50 pages or so), just waiting for the one that will "stick" and show me the way into reading something other than the Outlander series. Or maybe I'll just cave and start Drums of Autumn.

I'll get back to ya on that. Sit tight.

Currently in the running: I Am An Executioner: Love Stories by Rajesh Parameswaran


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sunday Salon - The Mother's Day Edition


Happy Mother's Day! It has been a heck of a weekend, so it's nice to sit back and take it all in for a few minutes. I sent Greyson off with Chuck yesterday and settled in to spend EIGHT HOURS working on a project for dear, sweet work. There's a good chance that effort will continue today, but for now it's up in the air, and I'm taking a break.

Mom and I exchanged gifts this morning. She's a complete perfume freak, so I bought a nice Burberry Body set for her. She bestowed upon me a huuuuge bag of Lindor Truffles, a new coffee mug in turquoise and yellow that says "Mom's Sippy Cup" (perfect), and a really cute pair of turquoise and shell earrings. Greyson deemed them all "pretty" and the rest is history. :D

Mother's Day means more to me this year somehow than ever before. To be honored with a day of love and pampering is such a sweet gesture, and I'm having a lot of fun showering good stuff on my mom as well. I whipped up a breakfast casserole this morning and I have a crock pot full of "Angel" Chicken cooking right now -- thanks to the Crockin' Girls cookbook from my previous post.

While I spent a good, solid eight hours working yesterday, I took a break last night to finish up Voyager. And wow. Just WOW!!! So very good. It's really taking everything I have not to jump straight into Drums of Autumn. I'll probably break long enough to read a couple of other books and then get back to the series. A review of Voyager is coming later this week.

So now I'm faced with the task of choosing a new book! Something I haven't really thought of for almost a month. These are the contenders:



Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson has been on my to-read list forever now. I finally noticed it as I was browsing the library's Overdrive selection and went ahead and downloaded it.

The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman was a gift from Stacy over at Stacy's Books back during the Book Blogger Holiday Swap. I've read a couple of the stories already, but I'm getting in the mood to jump back in.

Corsets & Clockwork: 14 Steampunk Romances edited by Trisha Telep. I've been threatening to jump into steampunk for a while now. When I saw this book reviewed over at Girlxoxo.com I knew I had to give it a go. Thanks for the recommendation, Tanya Patrice! This was a Mother's Day gift to myself -- just downloaded it. hehe

After such long, epic reading, short books and short stories are incredibly appealing. We'll see which one of these goodies "sticks." I think I'll go find out right now!

What are you doing this Mother's Day Sunday?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Weekend Cooking: Crockin' Crazy


Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend.You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post. 
-- Hosted by Beth Fish Reads

Good morning Weekend Cookers! I haven't participated in this event regularly because, quite frankly, I don't cook nearly as much as I used to. BUT, the review I have in store for you today is helping change that.

Disclosure: I WORK FOR THE PUBLISHING COMPANY. But I still really like this book. I waffled, but I did decide to offer you my thoughts on it.

That's how I came by a copy of this book, so I thought I'd just put it out there right from the start.


Moving on, The Crockin' Girls started grabbing attention with their Facebook page back in 2011 when they quickly amassed up to a million "likes." What began as a recipe group for other moms turned into a Facebook sensation. Now they have this fantabulous cookbook on the market and a website heavily populated with recipes and advice on slow cooking...as well as a blog and other tidbits about their lives. Their goal is to get families back to the table by saving time on the culinary preparations.

The recipes are simple and straightforward. I usually have all of the ingredients in my house on any given day. I can very easily plan my week's meals with these recipes, pick up the miscellaneous items I need on the weekend, and I'm set to crock a couple of meals a week. With leftovers it really helps flesh out the food situation when I don't feel like stopping by the store after work.

Beyond the easy recipes, this is a beautiful book. Every recipe has a corresponding pic and each page is colorful and visually textured with backgrounds and life. It's just lovely and stunning. The book itself is solidly made, and while it's hardcover, it easily lays open, flat on the counter while cooking.

Finally, there's a nice range of recipes: breakfast items, appetizers, large sections for meat-related entrees, sides, an Italian section, and finally, dessert! So far I've cooked a wooonderful breakfast casserole, a pot of "Cowboy Beans" and big plans to make some of the Italian dishes soon.

While the chapters themselves are a good range and variety, within each chapter some of the recipes got a little repetitive. There's a lot of Velveeta in this cookbook and there's a lot of chocolate lava cake. Not for the slim and trim for sure, but there is a "Crocking Lite" section on the website to help out with this issue.

So there ya have it. Having this book in my hot little hands has certainly helped get more hot meals on the table, and for that I am eternally grateful. I've had a great time picking out which recipe I'll crock next.

Here's to more weekend (and weekday) cooking!

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Dragonfly in Amber - And the Series at Large

I whipped through over 800 Nook pages of Dragonfly in Amber--second in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series--in about a week. Keep in mind, I am on the go for work/commute from 6am to nearly 7pm. Greyson is in bed around 8:30. If that doesn't give a clear enough indication of my addiction, I'll say it straight.  I've been reading while standing in front of the elevator, going to the bathroom, and standing in line at the grocery store.

Andi's Blurb: Jamie and Claire find themselves embroiled in the frippery of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the French aristocracy. While the hell that broke loose in Outlander was largely of the physical, adventurous, sword swinging kind, Dragonfly in Amber largely resembles a game of chess. Cryptic letters, mind games, and murder abound. Still some sword swinging, but not as much.

This book had a very different feel than Outlander, which according to moi, is a positive thing. My biggest fear going into this book was that a formula would begin to arise. Not so much! Not only was the plot different, but there were structural adventures as well: flashbacks namely, with some rotating narrative perspectives thrown in.

I won't go getting any more specific than all that for fear of giving something away. And truthfully, after almost 2000 pages of this series gulped down since April 23rd -- 16 DAYS -- some of the plot points from one book to the next are running together. I have to think a minute to discern where Dragonfly ended and Voyager began.



The bigger question is this: WHY this series?

I know y'all are wondering the same in light of a few key points about me that I've made well known:

1. I don't do chunksters -- ever
2. I'm a book tart, rarely reading a second book by any author (waves at F. Scott Fitzgerald and John Irving)
3. And I don't do chunksters. Oh I mentioned that already?

In short, I love these characters. And I mean I LOVE them.

Claire is great because she's feisty, headstrong, useful. She is not one to lay down (figuratively) for anyone and Jamie figures that out early on in the series. She's not literally perfect, but she's smart, self-aware, loyal. She seems like a real person and not a damsel in distress. Her flaws are realistic flaws and none too annoying.

Jamie is super because he's much of the same balance. He's smart, he's loyal, he has a hell of a moral compass (for a traitor). And Gabaldon realizes these characters in a way that I never felt like they did anything to betray themselves. There were no endeavors that made me cock my head and think, "he'd do that?" They react to events in the story the way I think they should, even if what they're forced into by circumstance makes me want to throw up (with anxiety).

I want them to BE OK! TOGETHER! So badly.

The story is masterfully woven, intricate, and just WORKS. I believe it and I want to know more all the time I'm reading. The end of every chapter is NOT a cliffhanger, but reading these books has left me personally in a state of cliffhanger. One more page. One more chapter. Just a few more minutes!!!

At some point in this little adventure, I will have to take a break. Because I'm exhausted. Tearing through these books is exhausting. An endurance test not so much because of the number of pages but because I am so thoroughly invested in finding out what happens next.

I will probably force myself to take a break after I finish Voyager, but I can honestly say I haven't had a reading experience like this one since my adolescence. In my adult life I have never read a series back to back. I rarely read chunksters like this one so darn fast. I rarely meet characters I will remember for the rest of my life.

These are damn fine stories. These are damn fine characters. These are favorite books.




Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Thoughts While Reading

Andi sits quietly reading Voyager on her Nook. These are the thoughts in her head. 

8:45pm: "Wow, this is a great book, too. I hope they stay this good."

9:00pm: "I should probably go to bed kinda early tonight since I stayed up until midnight reading last night."

9:45pm: "So much for going to bed early."

9:51pm: "Right, like he'd ever do that."

9:55pm: "Move it along, Jamie."

10:15pm: "SON OF A BITCH"

10:30pm: "I can't wait until Claire gets ahold of your ass, Jamie Fraser. I'm going to bed."


Hmmphf.

Monday, May 07, 2012

It's Monday, and I'm Reading!

Diana Gabaldon made me do the ugly, snotty cry as I finished up Dragonfly in Amber last night (at midnight). Now I am FORCED by the plight of these compelling characters to jump immediately into another leg of this journey. Weighing in at 1,072 pages, I am hurling myself headlong into...


Damn you, Diana Gabaldon, and your surly Scottish hero and your feisty Englishwoman. I am powerless!!!! And probably pretty annoying at this point, but I can't help myself.



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



Sunday, May 06, 2012

The Sunday Salon - On Impending Freedom

FREEDOM! That's right. I have been held in the shackles of online grading all weekend, and now I'm FREE! Yesterday was a big day all around. My mom, Greyson, and I started the day with FoxFest 2012 -- a festival here in our small town. Chuck and the Rockets joined us later in the morning for vendor booths, turtle races, good friends, and lots of food. Fried catfish for me and Fire Department BBQ for the rest. It was nothing short of delicious, but it was also super hot. I was glad to flee back to the house and the AC.

Even though I was ready to drop after half a day in the heat, mom was kind enough to keep Greyson occupied while I graded a class worth of research papers. Step 1 toward freedom.



We had a plan all along for me to spend today grading and GET IT DONE before the due date on Tuesday. I got to Starbucks this morning around 9 and I'm finished up now, taking a few minutes to blog. Just six hours worth of research papers, final exams, and gradebook tomfoolery. But I'm DONE, DONE, DONE. Did I mention I'm done? I need a couple of those cocktails now.

While I love teaching online classes, and while I'll miss the money over the summer, it's always a liberating feeling to have a break. Just one job (sorta, teaching one online class) over the summer months. What does this actually mean? MORE READING! I love caps today...sorry!


In reading news, I've just about polished off Dragonfly in Amber this week. I think it's safe to say I never have an excuse to bitch about not reading. I finished a 700-page book last week, an 800-page book this week. No more excuses. 250-400 page books should be a cake walk.

No idea what I'll read next. While I have a feeling I'm gonna want to jump straight into Voyager, I may force myself to chill a minute with another book. I have tons of goodies on my shelves. Like these...



On that note, I'm out of here and off to curl up with the rest of Dragonfly. 150 gut-wrenching pages left.

Tell me...what would you recommend I read next? 









Thursday, May 03, 2012

Miscellaneous Bookish Roundup!

Good morning, everyone! Just a quick post this morning to round up some loose ends that are hanging out there. 




First off, a reminder. If you'd like to enter the giveaway to win a copy of Michel Stone's The Iguana Tree, do your commenting now on this post. I'll draw the winning name early Saturday afternoon. I should note, this one took bronze in the Literary Fiction category in the Independent Publisher Book Awards. Congrats to Michel Stone and Hub City Press!






I've also been tempted by another of my favorite bloggers, and I'll be jumping in on Allie's A Victorian Celebration. The goal: read as many Victorian pieces as you wish during the months of June and July. Realistically, I don't know how many pieces I'll read, but ideally I'd like to re-read some Dickens. I've wanted to go through A Tale of Two Cities again for years. I read it as a senior in high school, but it's been a long time since then! And if I'm feeling a non-fiction mood creep up, I might also try to throw myself into Born to Rule by Julia P. Gelardi. I've had it on my stacks for a while now, and it's about five of Victoria's granddaughters who all married into other royal families. Stretching the theme a bit, but it's still Victoria-related!


Finally, it seems like I'm getting back into the swing of my own social media (blogging, Tweeting, Pinning) and not so consumed by work all day and night. The semester is wrapping up so I'm frantically trying to get online grading done, though. If you'd like to join me in a variety of forums to watch me run around with my hair on fire, you'll find me here:



While I know most of you are already in these places, and likely also already my friend, I am consistently astounded by the folks I love and follow and comment upon who I'll realize years later are not on my Goodreads friends list. Then I smack myself and wonder how that happened. No mas!
Have a great Thursday, everyone!!! I hope it's a bookish day.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Favorite Characters - Part the Second

I started a chronicle of my favorite characters last week, and I'm continuing that little journey today. And some new characters have made their way into the mix this past week. I'm certain you won't be that surprised.

Photo Credit 

A two-fer here: Jamie and Claire from Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I realize I started this whole thing with secondary characters, which would, in theory, make my fave character choices a little bit more diverse or off the beaten path. Screw that. I met Jamie and Claire this past week during my first reading of Outlander and they won me over. I had to include them here. Most of you probably know the reasons, so I'll just leave it at the pic. So funny.


Osceola (Ossie) Bigtree from Swamplandia! by Karen Russell. There are a lot of interesting, memorable characters in this book, but Ossie stuck out to me. There was most certainly a shroud of mystery around her--even moreso than the other characters--because she fancies herself a Spiritualist. Even runs away with a ghost. Ossie was absent for large portions of the book, but her enigma hung over much of the narrative. I wanted to learn more about her!


The "ghost" from The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. This was one of my very favorite books I read last year, and another chunky monkey that pulled me in completely -- to the point I wanted it to last much longer than it did. While it's never proven whether there's really a ghost haunting Hundreds Hall or if it's imagined by the nutty residents, it's a ripping good ride. That ghost sure has a sick sense of humor.


Dr. Annick Swenson from State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. What a biatch. Seriously. But she's oddly twisted and sympathetic and brilliant all at the same time. It's hard to say whether Dr. Swenson is a martyr or a purely villainous, selfish wench. Oy! I love characters I don't quite know what to do with.


The woman and Thorsteinn from "A Stone Woman" by A.S. Byatt. This is one of the most memorable stories from Little Black Book of Short Stories. Another couple of short story characters! Yay! "A Stone Woman" is really a haunting mythological tale tied to the oral tradition of Iceland. The nameless woman begins to turn to stone after her mother's death. Thorsteinn helps her find her way.

And there you have it! Some of my favorite characters, many of whom I've "met" in the last year of my reading. Going back over my reading and thinking about these characters brings back so many memorable, wonderful stories. I highly recommend each and every one.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Are You Pinterested?



Trish is a total enabler. She's put together the "Pin It and Do It" challenge for the month of May, and I do believe I'm gonna have to jump in here!

I'm going with the Timid Pinner level with plans to carry out 1 to 3 of my chosen pins!  The strategery right now is to tackle one recipe, one craft, and maybe try to read one book I've posted on my Book (Lust) Wishlist board. Sounds pretty well-rounded, eh?

If you visit my Pinterest page you'll see that I have a wide variety of boards: book-related, crafts, design, food, fashion, and OWLS! Lots of opportunity for creativity, but like so many others, I get bogged down and don't actually *do* these things. No more!

Thanks, Trish!