Sunday, July 29, 2012

TSS: The Weekend That Wasn't

Oy! I need to go back to work to get some rest. It's been scorchingly hot in Texas (104-106), and that means if you go outside for anything, your life force is immediately sucked out through the skin. Despite the heat, I spent yesterday morning visiting one of my favorite places: Ham Orchards. I bought some yummies like buttermilk pie, peach salsa, fudge, and a container of their fantabulous chicken spaghetti. Note to mothers: hot weather and ice cream (even homemade peach and strawberry) along with a twisty car ride home WILL result in a sickly baby. Just sayin'.

So then, yesterday afternoon I was out and about with baby G. He was feeling much better, so we decided to pick up some basic groceries for the week. Low and behold my back tire went flat on Main Street. Thankfully, my mom and her special man friend came to our rescue. G stayed cool in the car while SMF changed the tire. Note: I am capable of changing a tire, but it's been, oh, about 15 years. In my defense I set a tire-changing record in driver's ed. My partner and I totally beat the boys.

So G and I proceeded to get the groceries, and when I got home I discovered that because of the wretched Texas heat, my house has shifted to the point that the front door won't lock. At all. I'll be watering my porch tonight in hopes that it settles back into working order. If you're a Texan, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Others, I'm sorry this makes absolutely no sense.

This morning was much more relaxing. G and I hung around the house in our jammies (instagram pics to prove it), and had a leisurely breakfast. We've done some additional running around (got two back tires on the car), and now he's hanging with his Daddy while I've graded papers at Starbucks. Will be headed home as soon as I type this.

Amidst all the madness, I have done some reading. I finished off The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. I'm really looking forward to reviewing that one, and we had a fantastic time discussing it at Thursday night's Girls Night Out book club meeting. 

I also finished off a romance novel for the shiny and new Estella Society website. I'll be writing a column called the "Genre Cage Match." My first two novels pitted against one another in a battle to the death are romances. I won't reveal everything in my hand, but the first one is Highland Heat, by Mary Wine. *snort* Love that title, eh? Cover's not bad either. 

If you haven't yet checked out The Estella Society (or heard me Tweeting it up), go on over. The tagline is: A Reading Playground Built By Book Bloggers, For Book Bloggers. You can also find us on Twitter, Facebook, and elsewhere (username estellasociety on Pinterest, Instagram, Goodreads, etc.).

So that's my weekend. Or lack thereof. I'm exhausted and overdue for a nap. Too late today, so I'll have to turn in early. I hope you've all had a productive, joyful weekend!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

North and South Readalong "Home Base"

Hey everyone! I have some updated info on the North and South Read-a-long, so I wanted to fill you all in and make this our "home base" post. I've also added a Mr. Linky to the bottom of this post so you can officially sign up if you'd like. I urge you to do so because there are giveaways on the horizon!

We're still sticking to the original schedule, and many of you have begun to gather your books whether they be audio, e-book, or print.  A few random discussions have already broken out on Twitter, and we're even contemplating a group "watch party" of the mini-series. If you're a Netflix subscriber, it's available via Netflix streaming. 

  • Discussion 1: August 6th - Chapters 1-14
  • Discussion 2: August 13th - Chapters 15-27
  • Discussion 3: August 20th - Chapters 28-39
  • Discussion 4: August 27th - Chapters 40-52
Also, as we begin reading, why not join in on some of the Twitter convo? We'll go with the #NSread hashtag! 

For each discussion date, I'll provide a post with a Mr. Linky where you can link up your thoughts. For each week's discussion we'll be giving away e-books from They've been very kind and have agreed to provide some swag for us. We'll also have some nifty bookmarks, and at the end there will be a tons o'fun GRAND PRIZE, but you'll have to wait to see what that might be. 

For now, sign up below and get to reading when it suits you!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Review: Shadow of Night. Yeah.

Well. You see. Hmmphf. 

Deborah Harkness's new book, Shadow of Night, has been all the talk 'round the blogs, and I am noooo different. I was itching to get my hands on it and dive right in. And then I did! And then I started reading! And then....NOTHING HAPPENED. For most of the book. 

Short blurb: Diana and Matthew are in the 1500s. Diana needs a witch coach to teach her to harness her witchy powers. There are lots of famous dead people: Sir Walter Raleigh, Christopher Marlowe, Queen Elizabeth! And 87,000 others that I won't name here. So. Many. Historical. Figures. Because Matthew knows everybody. 

I read this book along with Heather, and she and I generally share a brain. This buddy reading arrangement made for a supremely enjoyable experience even though the book was not as supremely enjoyable as I'd expected. I didn't dislike it. I just rolled my eyes a lot. 

In my previous experience with Harkness's work, I found Diana and Matthew absolutely, mind blowingly annoying. That is, they are a very codependent lot. Matthew is bossy and uber-protective. Diana is kinda wishy-washy for a kickass scholar. And she naps a lot. In this book, I did find their relationship somewhat improved. That is, Diana has become a better "Matthew handler." He was still bossy, but she was a little more willing to blow his behavior off or defy him rather than bow down every time. 

My biggest quibbles with this installment are these:

  • Too many conflicts. Kitchen sink, y'all. I counted 8-10 MAJOR conflicts. 
  • Slow-moving. It took an annoyingly long time to get anything accomplished. Failed attempts to find a teacher of magic are fine but eventually I expect the story to deliver significantly before page 500. 
  • Character weirdness. Matthew put up with things in this book that seemed remarkably out of character for him. I'm looking at you, Kit Marlowe.
  • There's a big WTF twist at the end with NO EXPLANATION AT ALL. Annoyed. Seriously. Not a cliffhanger, just a plot development that seemed out of place or unnecessary at this juncture. 

So, in short, this novel suffers from a ripping case of "middlenovelitis." Lots of unnecessaries that seem to take up a book's worth of time. 

Before you think I'm calling this one a lost cause, I did enjoy the historical romp in this book. I liked meeting the dead historicals (band name?) even though I thought there were far too many of them introduced here. I felt transported to the time period, but I was ready for more plot development and it felt like it stalled. 

I'm still looking forward to the final installment. I'm invested enough in these characters' lives to NEED that last book. I will definitely be reading with Heather again. Check out some of the greatest hits from our week-long conversation...

July 5th: 
AndiAre we ready? Are we???? lol 40 pages of The Secret Garden left for me which really adds up to about 20 pages on my Nook. Will finish at lunch today.

HeatherUm, yeah, about that. I *kinda* started it this morning. I was going to tell you, I swear! Woo hoo!

AndiLMAO! Well I secretly read 30 pages last weekend. So we're even. :D 

July 10th: 


July 13th: 
Andi: So how are you liking the book? Too annoyed to enjoy? 

HeatherOkay, that's spooky. I was just going ask you if you were as annoyed with this book as I was.

The end. Obviously, I cut out a lot of the spoilery stuff, because we typed TONS about this book. Even if we were both annoyed, it was highly discussable. 

So that's it. There is a lot of waiting to be done between now and the final installment of the All Souls trilogy. 

What did you think of Shadow of Night if you're already finished?

Snuggle -- Skewer
 OR Distracting one-armed hug and poke with a stick <--that's the one

Edition Pub. Date: July 2012
Publisher: Penguin Group
Format: E-book
ISBN-13: 9780670023486
Source: Gift from a blogging friend.

Monday, July 23, 2012

It's Monday! Reading, reading, reading...

It's Monnnnnday! What are you reading??? Hosted by Sheila over at BookJourney.

I finished up Shadow of Night last week. And boy, am I gonna have a review of that one coming up. Probably tomorrow, in fact. It wasn't all love, but it wasn't all blah either. 

I'm reading The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh now. I hadn't particularly expected to like this book, but so far I'm really enjoying it. The protagonist is an 18-year-old girl, Victoria, who's newly on her own in the world after being released from a group home when she timed out of the system. Now she has to figure out what to do with herself and that involves flowers. And someone she loved taught her the language of flowers. 

I don't like young, tortured protagonists, generally. I've read so many coming-of-age books and troubled teen books that I generally find them repetitive and formulaic. However, the addition of the "language of flower" helps add some interest to this one. I had never heard of the language of flowers. If you're as new to this as I am, check out a definition:
The language of flowers, sometimes called floriography, was a Victorian-era means of communication in which various flowers and floral arrangements were used to send coded messages, allowing individuals to express feelings which otherwise could not be spoken. 
Pretty cool! Now I'll be "eyeing" the flower arrangements in Victorian TV shows and novels. 

Click to embiggen.
I also usually don't like shifting narrative perspectives and time periods. This one jumps back and forth between Victoria's present and her past, helping to explain why she is the way she is. It's remarkably successful in this book. 

The good news is that this is my first read for a new-to-me book club. I will be joining Trish and the lovely ladies of Girls Night Out Book Club at a Real Bookstore on Thursday night to discuss this one. 

Finally, I'm already mentally gearing up for the upcoming North and South readalong!!!! Heather and I are already lining up some SWAG for participants to win over the course of the readalong. And I have to say, I think the grand prize is going to be pretty kickass. You should really join us if you're still waffling. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Reviewers vs. Authors: You're An Adult, and This is a Cluster

The latest controversy in the reviewer vs. author world. Wow, what a cluster. The shortest recap ever...
A website was cooked up to "call out" snarky, supposedly vengeful and inappropriate reviewers on Goodreads. Someone thought said reviewers were ruining authors' lives and careers. There was haranguing and posting of reviewers' personal info on this website (which I will NOT link to) and threatening phone calls came of it (though many of these allegations have been denied). Today Huffington Post Books posted a blog post from said website creators defending their stance. Outcry from the community ensued with a reply.
Now, I hate to be the one to point this out, but we're all adults. Goodreads users/reviewers and authors. Typically adults. I would say 80% (very unscientific guess). As adults, you would think we might be able to keep ourselves from bullying and threatening others. You would think we could avoid building new websites tailor made for BULLYING AND THREATENING OTHERS when you're screaming at the top of your lungs that bullying on Goodreads is wrong. 

My feelings on the author/blogger relationship are pretty cut and dry. I appreciate and admire a great many authors. I will not always like their books. I am snarky by nature. I rarely rip a book a "new one" per se (there was that time with Beatrice and Virgil), but I'm willing to spout off and justify my feelings about a book. I expect an author to be able to read my review (or one even snarkier) and live with it. You cannot tell me you expected every reader to like your book. If so, you live in fantasyland. The kind where every participant receives a ribbon. You are a bad loser in life.

One of the main reasons I've decided not to accept ARCs is because I give no author or publisher room to hold expectations over my head. I have opinions. They are my own. I shall write them if I please.

There is screwiness on both sides of this issue. If there really is a pack of rabid Goodreads reviewers trying to sink authors' books before they've even been published: shame on you! But the builders of this website are deplorable. Seriously cracked.

Reviewers and authors have to come to a point at which they just get along and get on with it. I know I personally have too much hanging over my head in a day to stalk, harass, or crucify anyone. Grow up and avoid clusters like this one, my friends. 

It's called maturity and apparently it's in increasingly short supply.


North and South Readalong!

All the best ideas are born in the comments OR on Twitter. 

Heather and I decided to read Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South after we did some cavorting over on (Note: We'll be reading the Girlebooks edition of the e-book for this readalong!). Neither of us have ever read Gaskell, and according to the Twitter recs, North and South is THE place to start!!!

And another fun thing: we have a third ghostly host. My friend Shannon from work is jonesing to read some Gaskell, so she'll be joining us. If I can talk her into it, I'll guest-host some of her commentary here. 

THEN Melissa from Avid Reader's Musings expressed interest. SO we have ourselves a readalong. Huzzah!

You'll have to excuse us, but we're all really excited, so we're not wasting much time. Find the schedule below. Dates represent the days we will post/discuss the indicated chapters. I'll provide a Mr. Linky here so anyone who wants to participate can share their posts. I'm too lazy to add a Mr. Linky right now, so just state your intent in the comments area. 

  • Discussion 1: August 6th - Chapters 1-14
  • Discussion 2: August 13th - Chapters 15-27
  • Discussion 3: August 20th - Chapters 28-39
  • Discussion 4: August 27th - Chapters 40-52
Come on over and join us! Grab a button while you're at it. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Requesting Recommendations: Midwifery!

Last week I requested recommendations for books on polygamy, and I had such fun seeing and collecting all your recommendations that I decided to ask for more!!!

Many years ago I read The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. I remember being very taken with the bits that had to do with birth and midwifery from this time period. More recently, I read Joanna Kavenna's wonderful, The Birth of Love, which dealt not only with modern day home birth, but also with historical birthing practices and early attempts to control the spread of disease.

I suppose recs don't have to be limited to midwifery, but historical birthing practices (and maybe modern too!) should play a part.

Can you help me out? My Goodreads wishlist NEEDS you!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Victorian Celebration and an E-Book Happy Dance

I'm so thankful to Allie over at A Literary Odyssey for hosting A Victorian Celebration over the course of June and July. I've been in a mode of reading contemporary fiction lately, and the push to read Victorian lit brought me to The Secret Garden.

Even though I had issues with the ending of that one, it was a great reading experience and I was reminded of what I love most about Victorian lit: the atmosphere!

While I don't think I'll get around to more Victorian novels before July is over, my appetite is officially whetted. Here are some of the books I'm keen to tackle throughout the rest of the year (and probably spilling over into next year).

North and South
A Tale of Two Cities
The Woman in White
Heather and I have decided we'll tackle Gaskell for our next classic buddy read. Neither of us have ever read Gaskell and a number of you on Twitter assure us that North and South is the place to start!

I read A Tale of Two Cities when I was 17, and it's high time for a re-read. As much as I loved it back then, I'm almost certain I'll appreciate it even more now.

The Woman in White has been sitting, unloved and unfinished, on my Nook for ages. Well, I do sort of love it already even though I never got around to finishing it. This is high priority, people!

Finally, Heather introduced me to ages ago. But I'm kind of a bonehead sometimes and I hadn't explored its full glory until recently. Now that I understand and appreciate it, I've downloaded QUITE a few e-books. Not all Victorian by any stretch, but awesome and written by some kickass women. Behold...

Daddy Long Legs by Jean WebsterThe Enchanted Castle by E. NesbitGirl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-PorterMemoirs of Court of Marie Antoinette by Madame CampanRoast Beef, Medium by Edna Ferber
And the best part is that many of these beauties are free! And they come in a variety of formats to suit your e-reader. I'm really excited and can't wait to download more! Note: I also got my copy of North and South from the site. Woohah!

Have you read any Victorian lit lately? How about great books by women writers?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Singing the Song of the Free Range Reader

I can't remember which of you loooovely bloggy peeps mentioned it, but someone referred to reading what you want, when you want without obligation as "free range" reading. I've been thinking about this particular term for a while now, and I've decided I love it. I thrive as a free range reader.

As I've been percolating on my reading, I've also begun to think a little about what draws me to different books. And I'm thinking very specifically. It sort of reminds me of my own proclivities in music. I'm a VERY eclectic listener. If you were to romp through my Spotify playlist you would see the following and MANY more: 30 Seconds to Mars, Bruce Springsteen, Marc Cohn, Eurythmics, Florence + the Machine, Jake Owen, Miranda Lambert, Aaron Copeland (classical), Samuel Barber (classical), Jay Z, John Legend, Lauryn Hill, Oasis, The Dixie Chicks.

I'm attracted to different types of musics for varied reasons, some of them being voice quality, instrumentation, lyrics, beat, a certain "mood" a song evokes. Likewise, I like books for a deluge of reasons that appeal directly to my mood. As I was looking at a list of books I've read over the last three years or so, I could make some direct comparisons in the qualities I like in music and the qualities that appeal to me in a gripping novel.

Miranda Lambert is one of the best lyricists in country music. Her music and lyrics are fresh and she has a decidedly quirky, lovely twang and vocal delivery. One of my favorite songs of hers is "The House That Built Me."
I thought if I could touch this place or feel itThis brokenness inside me might start healingOut here it's like I'm someone elseI thought that maybe I could find myselfIf I could just come in, I swear I'll leaveWon't take nothing but a memoryFrom the house that built me
In comparison to my reading, there's a wonderful connection with Alice Hoffman's book The Red Garden. There's the same sense of a warm, down home atmosphere and the creativity (in plot and analogy) that I adore in Hoffman's writing sync up nicely with what I admire in Miranda Lambert's lyrics.

There are other books that I get sucked into because they have a relentless pace to them. They're compelling from page one with a great story, good writing, and a level of interest that I may not at first be able to explain, but that becomes almost entrancing. A music/book pairing here would be Jay Z and Kanye West's "No Church in the Wild" with Justin Cronin's The Passage. You may recognize this song from the new Great Gatsby trailer. Without a doubt, the most intense book I've read in the last few years is The Passage. It's a great book with a winning combination of good writing, a breakneck pace, and interesting characters. Likewise, I'm totally taken with "No Church in the Wild." It's a driving beat, I love Jay Z and Kanye's voices, and the lyrics are clever and edgy.

Drug dealer chic
I'm wondering if a thug's prayers reach
Is Pious pious cause God loves pious?
Socrates asked whose bias do yall seek
All for Plato, screech
I'm out here balling, I know yall hear my sneaks
Jesus was a carpenter, Yeezy laid beats
Hova flowed the Holy Ghost
Get the hell up out your seats

Last, but certainly not lease -- I fell in love with Florence + the Machine's "Breath of Life." This song is included on the Snow White and the Huntsman soundtrack, but I think it also fits one of my favorite books of the year: Wicked by Gregory Maguire. I love the song because it's atmospheric and almost "heavy" in the way it can wrap me up (especially if I'm listening with headphones). Likewise, I was completely taken with Wicked because it's far darker, more political, and more intense than I'd ever expected. Elphaba is a troubled character with a troubled past and she fights through a great deal of political intrigue and hardship. The intensity, the beauty of the lyrics, and the dark atmosphere seem a good fit for this song. 

To get a dream of life again
A little vision of the start at the end
But all the choirs in my head sang,
No oh oh
But I needed one more touch
Another taste of heavenly rush
And I believe, I believe it
So oh oh oh
Who's side am I on?
Who's side am I?
Who's side am I on?
Who's side am I?

I’ve written a lot here lately about judgement in reading. People judge others’ reading (and some people judge their own) choices based on genre, literary merit (or a perceived lack). I’ve never once felt any need to justify my eclectic musical choices, and I choose music based on a very basic need in the moment. Mood dictates all in my musical choices, and it's been great to let that same sort of basic need lead me in my reading. There's never been a time in my life that I agonized over the right music. Why agonize over book choices? Read what fits the need.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Personally: Hot Times in the Kitchen

Small town Farmer's Market
I've been quite the domestic little monkey this weekend. Yesterday, Greyson woke up around 6:30am, so we fiddled around the house for a bit, got dressed and set out for the Farmer's Market. There are only two official Saturdays left for my Farmer's Market, so I wanted to get a peek before everyone disperses. We picked up two of the biggest zucchini I've ever seen, two yellow squash (also huge), and two small pies: razzleberry (raspberry/blueberry) for me and chocolate turtle for my mom. 

Passionate about an egg and cheese biscuit.
Half of a Razzleberry pie!
We proceeded to have a quick breakfast and then struck out to McKinney to meet up with Chuck. After that exchange, I did a quick sweep through Ross for some home items I needed (cutting boards, chef's knife), braved the ever-dreaded Wal-Mart (hell) to stock up on groceries, and then I came home. 

And cleaned, and cooked and cooked and cooked.

To be more specific, Skinny Greek Yogurt Chicken for the week, Southern Living's Artichoke and Pecan Chicken Salad, and Cheese and Veggie Quinoa Bites. I've made the first two before and looooove them. The Quinoa Bites are an acquired taste. Definitely improved by dipping in a bit of Ranch dressing. Just sayin'. Now I'm making zucchini bread in another attempt to sneak veggies past my toddler.

I've found that since I rarely get home before Greyson eats dinner during the work week, which means my mom has to hunt for something to feed him. It's to my advantage to cook up a bunch of stuff for the week when I have a chance on Saturday and Sunday. I also insist on taking lunch almost every day, so of course I benefit, too. There's nothing worse than realizing, at 6:30 on a Thursday morning, that I have no decent lunch food. I always end up taking a bag of microwave popcorn, scowling at it, and going across the street to eat at an overpriced deli. No thanks!

Did you do any kitchen magic this weekend? Have any adventures?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Bookish Stuff I Love

This book fountain I discovered on Facebook:

Nothing to see here! The video won't embed! Drat! Click and view. 

This contest. Another Facebook find. Play trivia games by genre and win coupons!

This book...

And reading it on my Nook with a brand new cover by Lisa!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Requesting Recommendations: Polygamy!

I'm endlessly interested in the polygamist lifestyle. I can marathon-watch Sister Wives, and I've chewed over reading the couple of novels I know touch on this topic. But beyond these two, my knowledge is limited.

Do you know of any fiction OR non-fiction about polygamy that I MUST pick up? Or maybe you've just heard of other books that deal with this subject and can add to my research list. Help me out, y'all!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Forays Into American Lit: Henry Roth

When I dreamed up this bloggy romp through my favorite American literature, Henry Roth was at the forefront of my mind. First, a little backstory...

In 2006 or so, I took a class on American Modernism. Don't make the mistake I made and refer to "contemporary" novels as "modern." The two were interchangeable in my head until a prof corrected me over nachos (there was also a vodka tonic). BUT, as I was to learn, Modernism is a distinctive movement in literature and the arts: 
American modernism like modernism in general is a trend of thought that affirms the power of human beings to create, improve, and reshape their environment, with the aid of scientific knowledge, technology and practical experimentation, and is thus in its essence both progressive and optimistic.
This is also another term for the Jazz Age, Roaring 20s, whatever you want to call it. If you love authors from this era, you're a lover of American Modernism. I *heart* American Modernism so hard, I just wanna pinch its cheeks!

But back to Roth. In the Modernism class, we read a ton of good stuff: Fitzgerald, Cather, Wharton, Dreiser. But I think Henry Roth was the biggest surprise to me. The biggest Roth in American literature is Philip Roth (The Human Stain, Portnoy's Complaint, American Pastoral, The Plot Against America). Henry Roth is quite different (far older, less masturbation). He's also quite an enigma. Here are a few bullet points from his bio:

  • Born in Tysmenitz near StanislawowGaliciaAustro-Hungary  (now known as Tysmenytsia, near Ivano-Frankivsk, Galicia, the Ukraine) in 1906
  • Began his life in New York in 1908
  • Roth lived in the slums of the Lower East Side until 1927, when, as a senior at City College of New York, he moved in with Eda Lou Walton, a poet and New York University instructor who lived on Morton Street in Greenwich Village
  • Call It Sleep was published in December 1934, to mixed reviews. It underwent a critical reappraisal after being republished in 1964.
  • Roth began a second novel but growing ideological frustration and personal confusion created a profound writer’s block, which lasted until 1979 (!!!!)
  • With the onset of World War II, Roth became a tool and gauge maker.
  • He later worked as a woodsman, a schoolteacher, a psychiatric attendant in the state mental hospital, a waterfowl farmer, and a Latin and math tutor.
  • Roth died in Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States in 1995.

He published eight books in total, but WHAT A LONG BREAK!

Now, admittedly, I was bad about not finishing my reading by deadline in grad school. There was a lot of beer to be consumed from week to week, so I did what I could. But I will always remember the moment Call It Sleep grabbed me by the hair. I'm not usually much for American immigrant fiction (it just doesn't grasp me the way other themes do), but this one was spectacular. I was working in the campus Writing Center the day of class and I was scrambling to finish by class time. Our professor was notorious for calling us out to analyze and wax poetic about the week's reading. Socratic method! I was always super nervous so I was bound and determined to finish the damn book. 

And it happened. Not only was I keen to finish it out of obligation, I had been grabbed. The characters were compelling, the plot was compelling, the writing was out of this world. And I was lying under a table in the Writing Center break room begging my colleagues to leave me alone. They were sympathetic, so they did, thinking I was just worried about getting verbally nailed in class. 

But obviously, Call It Sleep made quite an impression on me. And it's a book I'd dearly like to re-read sooner than later. Henry Roth is a memorable figure for me not only because of his great writing, but also because he seems such an odd, complicated character. Read his biography -- his was quite a life!

Have you read Henry Roth? Have you ever heard of him? 

Monday, July 09, 2012

The Secret Garden or WTF Ending?

I am 31 years old, and I just read The Secret Garden. Now you may think this a horrible tragedy, but I was not unaware of the story. I, like so many other kids, devoured this film version in 1993, and as with so many other watched-the-film-first works of literature, I just kinda never got around to the book. Incidentally, during most of my childhood I was wholly taken with horror novels of the R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike variety, so that's another reason I didn't tarry with Mary, Colin, and Dickon.

When Heather popped up and asked if I wanted to read a classic as a buddy read, I hopped on this opportunity. Sadly, my buddy finished FOREVER before I did (because I'm slow like that). But I'm glad she prompted me to read it because I really did enjoy this classic children's work.

For those of you even more clueless about this novel than me:
Mary is raised in India with no attention from her worthless parents. She's spoiled and given any and everything she wants by the servants at her disposal. When her parents die, she's sent to her uncles estate on the English moors: Misselthwaite Manor. There she learns not to be such a bratty, snotty little jerk because she meets a snotty little jerk just as spoiled rotten as she is. And they're good for one another. 
The parts I liked: The imagery is awesome. The writing is smooth and pleasing. There's lots of good symbolism (knowledge, Garden of Eden type stuff; also puberty/acknowledgement of the opposite sex symbolism). Yadda yadda. Very classically literary.

Now, for the part that surprised me a bit: WHAT HAPPENED TO MARY! This was Mary's story for about 85% of the book and by the end she'd been completely overshadowed by the plight of another character. LAME-O. As much as I liked seeing the characters evolve and grow, I was a little ticked that the ending seemed so abrupt and cut Mary out of the equation, essentially.

But overall, I liked more than I disliked about this book. I'm sure I would've enjoyed it as a kid and the lessons -- especially those encapsulated by the ending -- would've gone a long way with me. 

Snuggle (A chaste, polite one) -- Skewer

Edition Pub. Date: January 2012
Publisher: Halcyon Press
Format: E-book
BN ID: 2940013724839
Source: Purchased by me

Sunday, July 08, 2012

The Sunday Salon - Of the Snot Monster and Completed Books

Photo borrowed from Bellezza
Happy Sunday, everyone. I wish I was as inquisitive and full of life as Mary on the cover of The Secret Garden, but alas I've been struck down by a summer cold. Methinks it started with the allergies, and it was all downhill from there.

Luckily, Chuck agreed to hang out with Greyson for a few days. While I had intentions of relaxing, the hard truth is that I would've squandered relaxation time away doing laundry, unpacking the last few boxes in my bedroom, straightening, refitting the couch slipcover, sweeping, mopping, and generally doing the chores that seem so much easier without a toddler nipping at my heels. As it was, my body laid the smack down and MADE ME RELAX. I've consumed my weight in Alka Seltzer cold meds, Afrin, and a mountain of kleenex. I feel better than I did Friday night but I don't know that that's saying a whole heck of a lot.

With the forced downtime came some forced reading, and I cannot complain about that! I also marathon-watched some Sister Wives on Friday night when I couldn't sleep because of the nagging sore throat and cough.

I finished off Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden, which I really liked, though I do have some qualms with it. I'll post in more detail this week.

As soon as I finished TSG, I started ripping through Shadow of Night. This one is reading just as quickly as A Discovery of Witches. Somehow, Matthew's overbearing crap isn't quite as prominent (so far) in this installment. I suspect it's because there is so much more going on for our protagonist couple.

Finally, I'm already thinking about what I'll read next. I do think I'll return to The Last Werewolf and polish it off. But then I think I'll need to switch gears and change up my reading a bit to keep things fresh. I'm considering:

  • Wild by Cheryl Strayed
  • The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh for a Real Bookstore's book club discussion later this month where I'd get to hang out with Trish! 
  • Or maybe something off my shelves like John Irving's In One Person, which I won from Bellezza recently! Thank youuuu!
Decisions, decisions. 

I should also report some other surprising winnings. A while back, William Morrow hosted a Nook Simple Tough with Glowlight giveaway on Facebook. I entered, never thinking I'd win (and I already have a Nook). Well, I did win! And I tried out the new Nook but ultimately decided to pass it along to my mom. I'll do a proper review of the Nook with Glowlight, but I thought she would use this particular e-reader more than I would. So far, so good. She's been reading happily until she falls asleep in her chair. :D

What's coming up on the blog this week? Maybe a vlog review of The Secret Garden. Definitely my first installment of Romping Through American Lit with a post on Henry Roth and Call It Sleep on Tuesday. As for the rest of the week...who knows! Playing it by ear. 

Y'all have a great Sunday! 

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Lovin' American Authors and Belated 4th!

Yo! How was the 4th of July for everyone? It was low-key at my house. The fam came over to my place for lunch (pulled pork sammiches, tater salad, baked beans, cheesy artichoke spinach dip, red velvet cake, cholesterol medication), Greyson and I played outside in the afternoon, and then we slept through (most of) the fireworks. Except the ones that woke me up at 12:30am. I've never jumped out of bed so fast in my life!

So yesterday I stumbled upon an unlikely post idea. I just didn't have time to post it yesterday when it would've been most applicable! I was hanging out on my couch, Facebooking on my phone, when I ran across the following question from the good people at Kobo:
Happy Fourth of July from the Kobo team! Who is your favorite American author? Don't forget to share some titles!
Loaded question!!! As I started typing out some of my faves and typing and typing, I had a realization. But first, here was my answer:
Willa Cather (The Professor's House), Fitzgerald (Gatsby), Henry Roth (Call It Sleep), Auster (The New York Trilogy), Hustvedt (The Blindfold), Oates (Beasts), Thane Rosenbaum (The Golems of Gotham), Flannery O'Connor (anything!)
And the realization is this: a good chunk of these books were required reading in one of my grad school classes, and if they weren't required reading, they were influenced by a specific prof, a specific group of peers, and were consumed during that particular part of my life (25-26 years old). 

I never realized a whole cross-section of my all-time favorite books were so tightly linked together! As I was thinking back, my conception of and favorites from British literature were highly influenced by my high school classes and my early undergrad years. But those grad school years, that's when my love of American lit really kicked in like crazy. I really began to have a clear understanding of various movements in American lit and realize what some of America's authors have meant to the world. 

As I've gotten older, I've also discovered a sense of America-guilt? Somehow there seems to be an attitude of "you're from America, read something new-to-you." And I do. And I appreciate that approach, but I also really dig writing from my own country. Whether it's old or new, Puritan or Postmodern, I jones for American lit. Unabashedly. Maybe because I've studied it so much? I know the history and the history enriches it? Dunno. Bottom line: loooove it. 

So I think I've decided in the last few minutes (munching on a bbq sandwich) to highlight some of my fave American authors here. I'm not setting a specific schedule, but they'll be popping up from time to time as I feel motivated. I'm not interested in talking about their biographies (though those are interesting) as much as I'm interested in recapping some of my favorite books and stories that they've written and the why and the ways they affected me at that particular point in my life. They span some pretty varied genres and approaches, time periods and aesthetics. And I might even re-read some of them (Cather is definitely due). 

And of course, my question for you:

Who are some of your favorite American authors and which works are your faves?

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

In Defense of Readers Who Choose Fifty Shades

I was trawling through my Facebook news feed this morning and came upon a Fifty Shades of Grey naysayer. This happens to be someone who's close to someone else I'm close to. In other words, I respect this person and their relationship with someone close to me, so my intention here is not to be tacky or disrespectful, but the post simply got me thinking. Note: this was a male commentator.
Fifty Shades of Grey is about a real good looking guy who buys a woman all kinds of stuff, so in return he can sexually abuse her any time he wants? DEFINITELY not my cup of tea. Can't figure out who or WHY anyone would allow themselves to be treated that way, or WHY so many women are clamoring to read it?

A couple of things:
1. Anastasia is opposed to Christian buying her things.
2. She's also opposed to a full-on BDSM lifestyle.
3. Christian has to change his lifestyle to be with her. 

Those points aside, I did have some qualms with the Fifty Shades novels. Christian is too overprotective and controlling. The author makes a concerted effort to rationalize those behaviors with backstory. There were some things that, as a woman, I starkly disagreed with! However, I never felt that Ana and Christian were in an abusive relationship. There's that. 

So we've established that this blurb is factually, plotfully incorrect. But aside from that, there's an issue of implicating female readers that makes me uncomfortable. It's certainly not only this post, but a general attitude of chagrin and forced embarrassment when it comes to women's reading choices.

I'm sort of singing to the choir here, and Amanda from BookRiot already wrote an artful piece on this issue titled, "The Gender of Reading Shame."  I suppose my point in writing today's post is to add my voice to the chorus of "hell yeahs!" Women are so often made to "feel bad" about their reading choices. It's too romancey, too paranormal, too fluffy, too depressing, too anti-feminist, too butch. TOO THIS, TOO THAT. 

Amanda writes, "If women read 'unliterary' but stereotypically feminine genres, it’s deserving of a brown paper bag in the form of increased e-reader sales so you can read in public in peace." As opposed to the male reader who can read "unliterary" but stereotypically male genres and is left alone. 

It's always tough while dealing in stereotypes, but the bottom line is: women do often feel shamed for their reading because of their choice of genre, for following best seller lists, for engaging in a trend, etc. I'm almost certain I (we?) feel this more as a book blogger than someone who just reads for the hell of it and doesn't engage in the same level of immersion, discussion, and literary navel-gazing as I do (we?) on a daily basis. 

So what gives? I have absolutely no answers. Are women more impressionable? Are we more sensitive to naysayers? Are we imagining it? Is this the female reader's "glass ceiling?" Who imposes the shame? Females? Males? Is it a male-dominated society thang?

While I do feel this pressure and feel this imbalance in reading and judgement between genders I can't say that I'm going to care much when it comes to choosing books. Admittedly, I was embarrassed to admit to reading (and enjoying) Fifty Shades of Grey early on. BUT, I did. I said it. It is what it is. I won't NOT read from a particular genre or participate in a trend or buy a book because of shame.

In fact, now that I'm thinking about it, am a little more aware of it, I might just brazenly cover myself in romance novels and go sit in a public park. Hecklers beware. I'll shank you with my book light. 

Whatcha think?

Monday, July 02, 2012

VLOG! On This Monday, Whatcha Reading?!

Hey y'all! Welcome to my second video blog! Admittedly, the quality on this is CRAP! I recorded at home, and I'm not sure if my service is always this bad or if it was just because the weather was stormy and yuck. I lost Internet service completely for a while. Nevertheless, I'm posting because I won't be recording another vlog for at least another week.

For those of you who can't stand the quality, here's the recap in brief:

The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan - much improved! Not as many weird, overblown analogies at this point.

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness -- I received an e-ARC from a super secret blog buddy! I'm just trying not to race through this one. I'm doing a buddy read, so I have to STOP MYSELF from jumping ahead.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett -- A little slower than the other two but charming and lovely and a nice counterpoint to brutal paranormal (Last Werewolf). About 3/4 done with this one.

What's up next? No idea! Whatever calls to me since I'm "Reading whatever I want, whenever I want."

It's Monday! What are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila from BookJourney. Go on over and be a part! 

Sunday, July 01, 2012

The Sunday Salon -- Of Male Strippers and Books That "Stick"

I love post titles that will inevitably draw the riff-raff. Bring them on, I say.

SO why the title of this post? A couple of things. I had my first Girls Night since September last night. Girls Night is when my best friend from high school -- whom I have known since I was 16 and she was 14 -- gets me in trouble. We don't do this nearly enough, especially since we only live ten miles apart, but still we only seem to manage to do this fun stuff twice a year. She came over and helped me move recently, so I have a feeling we'll be doing this running about far more. I know I love it, so we should. We most certainly should.

Last night's Girls Night started around 5:30. I was still in post-house cleaning clothes and no makeup, so we sat around and shot the breeze for a while. Once I got off my duff and made myself presentable we sought refuge at our favorite local Chinese restaurant that recently got a LIQUOR LICENSE! And they have Saturday night Happy Hour.

Happy Hour watermelon sake. 
When we saw the prices on the drink menu we started mapping a game plan. We thought we'd get through two or three drinks UNTIL we saw the size of the $3 watermelon sake. OMG! Needless to say, we only got through one trough of sake each and Rachel's cheeks were a little numb by the time we were done. But it was delicious.

Next, we headed over to another neighborhood restaurant to meet up with Rachel's teaching partner and other buddies. There were six of us total, and we only got through one shot each before we realized Rachel didn't have the tickets to the main event: MAGIC MIKE!

Hellish driving (sober!) ensued as we raced over to her house to ruffle through the house for the tickets. With no luck, we headed over to the town next door to her grandfather's house to ruffle through his car (where she had previously unleashed her wallet). Thankfully, the tickets had fallen down beside the seat, and once we found them we were off again! We made it to the movie in plenty of time for:

Yes, six mid-thirties to mid-forties teachers ogling fictional male strippers. A good time was had by all even though the movie is JUST AS BAD AS YOU'VE HEARD. Maybe worse. But Matthew McConaughey was great. He really made the movie with his over-the-top flamboyant madness. And Channing Tatum has a nice...jaw.

And then it was midnight and I'd been up since 5:45am (thanks, Greyson!). So I came home, checked e-mail, read for six minutes, and passed out. A successful girls night, no doubt.

But on to the part where books stick. Because you're wondering about the books...I can feel it. I'm now kind of loving The Last Werewolf. I still occasionally want to kick Glen Duncan in the crotch for some of the overblown writing, but I'm getting to know Jake Marlowe and I like him. I also like the state of werewolfiness in this novel. Promising indeed.

What are you reading this Sunday? 

Images by Freepik