Monday, August 27, 2012

North and South, Installment the 4th

Sooo, this week is supposed to be the final week of the North and South Readalong.

While I am not finished yet, I'm looking forward to reading all of your wrap up posts!!! You have all week to post your wrap up and I'll announce THE GRAND PRIZE WINNER here next Monday. Noo, I'm not telling you the prize yet. I'm sure not.

For now, we have prize winners from the last two weeks! Each of these folks will receive a bookmark/greeting card from In My Book and their choice of e-book from the Girlebooks.com store!

Winners: 
Week 2: Brooke from The Blog of the Litwits
Week 3: Jill of Fizzy Thoughts

 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Blogging Blargggs!

Ugh, y'all. Serious ugh. I know I've been whining pretty regularly 'round here, but I don't see any signs of that stopping until after September 8th (after our big work conference). I am blessed to have a job, but I will be SO GLAD when the madness slows down a bit.

I've spent my morning working at Starbucks while Greyson lounges with Chuck. I've just wrapped up posting new work for the coming week, so it's almost time for me to head back to the apartment, hang with the older kids for a bit, and we'll head home to finish up laundry, sniff what's crockin' (Parmesan Chicken), and drape ourselves over the couch. He'll probably watch Shrek and I'll read...something.

Sadly, North and South came to a screeching halt for me when work cranked up the intensity. While I had no intention of bailing on my own challenge, that seems to be what's happened. I will finish it, but it'll be after the 8th. In the meantime, Heather or I will still be posting the check-ins (they wrap up this week) and announcing PRIZE WINNERS!!! Can't forget those.



In the meantime, I think I'm better suited to the IT-Along.

Oh, and you smell another read-along? You're right. Heather announced our The Little Stranger Readalong which is an RIP event this year. Thanks to Carl for allowing us to get in on the RIP action.

Finally, we're soliciting more Estella Society content for September, so head over to this post to get some ideas!

And...I'm done. I've been sitting at this uncomfortable Starbuckian table for far too long. See y'all the next time I get a quiet moment!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Taking a Moment to FREAK OUT!

So, yeah. No North & South today. Having one of "those" days at work, among other things. Other things = 4 online classes starting.

Be back tomorrow with a clearer head and better attitude.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday in a Flash!

My heavens! Where did this week go? Seriously, y'all, I woke up and it's Friday already. So, what's shaking you ask?

  • Estella Society is in full swing with goodies lined up through September.
  • North and South Read-a-long (#nsread) is in full swing with two installments left!
  • Work is in full swing with prep for an upcoming conference at the beginning of September
  • I took some time out to socialize last night! It was Rocketgirl's 16th BIRTHDAY so we enjoyed a b-day dinner AND I met up with friends from Old Job for Happy Hour.
What else is in full swing? Online classes start Monday, and I'M TEACHING FOUR (and pray for my soul), and they are NOT set up yet. Ahem! *badme* *mustgetafterit*

Oh, and there's this...

Oprah talked me into it. I swear! I was minding my own business, looking through some O 2.0 recs, and this little bitty goody jumped into my Nook. This is a collection of "columns" from The Rumpus wherein Cheryl Strayed wrote under the name Sugar and gave honest advice. Beautiful, thoughtful, painful, heart-bursting, personal, TMI types of advice. And it is STUNNING. I love it already and it seriously needs to be stashed away so I can finish North and South. Need catharsis! Look right here!

What are you up to? 


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Estella is BACK!!!!

Feel free to grab this!
That's right, y'all! The Estella Society launches to-day! We're having a little sing-along to celebrate our introduction to society. And don't forget the giveaway -- three audiobooks for the plucking! Come on over to http://www.estellasociety.com.

You can also follow on...
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Monday, August 13, 2012

#ItAlong

I've just joined the "It-Along" also known as "Jill and Christina talk us into reading a long-ass book about a killer clown...and we wear noses."

I feel like I'm part of the greatest (warpedest?) cult ever. And I should mention that Trish started this madness with her Standalong.

I'm officially diving back into Stephen King after roughly a 17 year absence. I read Carrie and Salem's Lot and The Shining when I was 15 (publication order, I realized later). I read Rose Madder in there somewhere. I attempted The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon in college (that doesn't count).

I'm glad to be back to King's classics!

North and South, Discussion #2

Hey folks! Today is the second round of our North and South discussion. On the agenda today: chapters 15-27. As usual I'm behind, but I wanted you all to be able to link up. Add a link to your post below and feel free to comment in the comments section. I'll be back later today with the announcement of our first prize winners and with my own North and South ramblings. Until then, link up!




1. What do you think of Margaret aiding her mother in keeping Mrs. Hale's illness from her father?

2. Margaret describes Mr. Thornton has her first "specimen" to "study." How is Margaret using Mr. Thornton as a "study" and how does using him as such affect her opinion of him?

3. Last week, Heather touched on Margaret's lack of tact. What do you think of her tact? How is it lacking? Or would you argue that it isn't lacking at all?

4. Anything else you want to discuss?




Edited to add my comments! 

OK, so I am still seriously behind. Not as badly as I was last week, but I'll be reading your posts with caution because I love Thorton and I'm not into the huge spoilers. lol

My biggest observation to this point is the commentary on class. More specifically, the commentary BETWEEN classes. I've read my share of British literature in college and on my own time, so of course I'm way familiar with these general issues. They're glanced over in Austen, Dickens deals with them in often brutal ways, but Gaskell's commentary is really enlightening and gives a different view. I'm even thinking back over contemporary historical fiction that examines class (Sarah Waters' The Little Stranger for one), and I've never felt like I experienced the yearning and the tension between the classes quite as much as I do in this book. Or the hard headedness for lack of a better expression. The slight spin, the entitlement involved from all sides. The lack of compromise. Reading Mrs. Thornton's take on class vs her son. Throw Margaret into the mix along with Higgins, and you've got pretty much every point of view represented.

When I was reading last night, I was particularly struck by the scene in which Margaret and her father repay Mrs. Thornton in Chapter 15. They're lead into a drawing room full of fine things, but every surface is covered and cared for in a way that hides the splendor. This is ridiculous to Margaret, but it resonated so much with me! The Thortons have risen up to inhabit this new middle-ground of merchants between the gentry and the poor workers. They have nice things and some power thrown in, but they've worked their asses off for it. Reminds me a bit of my grandparents -- products of a Great Depression mentality who had a nice home and land but who were farmers, lived by the laws of frugality, and washed and saved their sandwich bags (just one example).

Gaskell is just getting cooler and cooler and cleverer and cleverer as I read! Looking forward to how this theme and others develop as we go. :)

FINALLY, the prizes!!! Christina from Reading Thru the Night is the lucky winner of an "In My Book" bookmark/greeting card AND an e-book of her choosing from Girlebooks.com.

We'll be giving away another card and e-book every week of our readalong, so make sure and link up your posts!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Pin It and Do It August!

Trish is back with her superfab Pin It and Do It challenge, and I'm SO ONBOARD!!! This challenge was great the last time I participated, and I actually found some new favorite goodies from my stockpile of Pinterest items.

I'm going in at the Pinterested level and anticipating completing 4-7 pins in the month of August.

Ever since I've been doing the single mom thing, I've started taking advantage of my time on weekends-- while Greyson is with his daddio--to cook for the week. Along with cooking for the week has come the desire to cook and freeze. See Trish's awesome post about that today, too. I've been relying heavily on my "To Do Soon!" Pinterest board to give me weekend cooking ideas (and quick fodder for the challenge). In fact, I'll probably knock out at least 3 pins just this weekend! Here's what's cooking...

Yamberry Muffins -- loaded with good stuff, freezable, and easy to thaw on the go for Greyson's and my breakfast.
Greek Yogurt Pancakes -- See above. Easy freezy.
Quinoa Pizza Bites -- I WANT to like quinoa (and I want Greyson to tolerate it), and this might be the ticket.

I'll keep y'all posted on how these recipes pan out as it'll be a first time go-round for all of them. Wish me luck!

What are you pinning and doing?

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Review: The Language of Flowers

It seems like eons since I reviewed a book! I'm creeping through my reading lately, but the quality is still good, so I honestly can't complain too much. 

I picked up The Language of Flowers only because my new book club, the Girls Night Out book club, was discussing it in July. With some poking and prodding from Trish, I got off my butt and finally read the book on time (mostly) and was so thrilled to meet the group. And honestly, this is not a book I would've picked up on my own. Something about the premise made me expect cliche. I'm not too keen on "troubled young adults coming of age." I'm glad this one proved me wrong...

Victoria is turning 18 and finally free from the American foster care and adoption system. She no longer has to live in a group home, and she soon strikes out on her own facing homelessness and potential bodily harm living in the parks of San Francisco. Luckily, she find Renata, a florist shop owner willing to give Victoria a chance. We also find out about the biggest near-miss in Victoria's plight to be adopted growing up. 

Throughout the novel, the chapters flip flop back and forth between Victoria as an 18-year old making her way in the world and Victoria as a child as she lands in the care of Elizabeth, a vineyard owner. While I usually object to this form of storytelling (again, I expect cliche and it's been done), I enjoyed it a great deal here. There are definite parallels between the two time periods and one can't help but pull for Victoria to get it right already. To grow some courage and sticktoitiveness. 

The challenges Victoria faces are immense, and heaven knows I didn't agree with her choices much of the time, but I didn't find the narrative unbelievable. That is, everything she did seemed very much in character. 

What ultimately saves this book from being a huge downer is the inclusion of "the language of flowers"...the Victorian system of communicating messages through arrangements of flowers (each variety has a meaning). Victoria is great with flowers and learned the language of flowers from her potential adopter, Elizabeth. Working in a florist shop, it makes her a huuuuuge hit, as the emotions the flowers represent manifest themselves in the recipients' lives. It's not a huge magical realist element, just a touch. And it's never portrayed as magical...might just be the owners' own intentions coming to life with a little extra push from Victoria's flowers to give them some confidence. 

I haven't done the plot a particular lot of justice. There's A LOT that happens in this book, but I suppose you'll just have to read it yourself. Take my word, it's worth a try!

Rating:
Snuggle -- Skewer


Edition Pub. Date: April 2012
Publisher: Random House
Format: E-book
ISBN-13: 9780345525550
Source: Bought it!

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Reading Wisdom Sticks

First, I have to thank each and every one of you who commented on my "On Loss" post or reached out to me via Facebook, Twitter, and other outlets. It's been a very long time since I've had a heartbreak sneak up on me, and I didn't expect this new situation to affect me so acutely. I thought I was fine, and suddenly I wasn't.

It still hurts, it sucks, it's not easy by any stretch, but your kind words, offers of solace, and virtual hugs soothed. Wading through the mire is just rough right now, but better things are on the other side.

As is always the case, reading is my solace. My safe place. My getaway when I need it, or my intellectual stimulation. An extra layer of fun and comfort worked into every day. When I was at my lowest on Saturday, out of nowhere a line came to me:

"We accept the love we think we deserve."

Fitting. I know I deserve better than what I've been through, but it's what I accepted for three and a half years. And I could've sworn that line was something I heard on Oprah in passing. But low and behold, when I Googled it, it's a line from The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I can't even remember WHEN I read Perks. I think it must've been in the neighborhood of 2002 because my mom and I were living in my grandparents' old house after they passed away.

In general, when someone mentions The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I don't have particularly good memories. It was just ok. I don't remember it as terribly affecting. BUT, that line. That line is golden and arrived back in my life at just the right time to offer me comfort and motivation to change. With no prompting or re-reading. Just the right time. Like magic.

It's times like these that I'm most thankful for being a reader. The little bits and bobs that stick, stored away until the moment we need them most...nuggets of wisdom and insight and comfort and humanity that come back to lift us up.

Monday, August 06, 2012

North and South Read-a-long, Discussion #1

Hey everybody! Thanks for stopping by for our first installment of the North and South Read-a-long!

I readily admit that I'm still behind. This past week put a bit of a dent in my reading plans, but I shall catch up in the coming week. I hope you're doing better. Feel free to answer the questions below in your own blog post if they're helpful. Heather and I are both a little behind, so they may be slightly limited. You can also just feel free to ramble about your reading experience so far. No need for spoiler warnings if you're discussing Chapters 1-14.

1. How are you liking the book?

2. What is up with Margaret's father? Begin Heather's diatribe here: Is it just me, or is he one of the most self-centered characters ever? He inflicts all this pain and confusion the women of his family, then can't bare to hear them in distress. Good grief man, grow a few. (Feel free to leave that last part out, or rewrite it. I just had to get that out.) <--Andi chose to leave it because it's a peek "behind-the-scenes" at what our e-mails usually look like. Ha!

3. What do you think of Thornton and his first impression of Margaret? 

4. Feel free to ramble from here on and add your own link to the Mr. Linky...




So now for my own observations. And they are quite limited, but they're mostly in regards to Gaskell's writing rather than the plot.

It's interesting to read Gaskell for the first time, as I often see her compared to Jane Austen. I hadn't explored the similarities and differences until today, but some of the tidbits I learned are things I've picked up on very early in North and South. Namely, that Gaskell's writing is a great deal more realistic. That is, there doesn't seem to be the same humor or maybe the concentration of humor I expect to find in Austen. According to this post, Gaskell's work is closer to other Victorian authors: Dickens, Hardy, the Brontes than Austen's. Having read a good bit of Dickens and a couple of Brontes, I concur. :)

I do find the cadence of her writing odd at times and it's necessary to give it a fair bit more attention than I might've to other novels of this time period. It's not difficult reading per se, but word choice or analogies can be odd and take an extra time through.

As I said, I'm not as far in as I'd like, so there will be much more to say in future posts.

PRIZES!




Everyone who links back to their own post this week will be entered to win an e-book from the Girlebooks store as well as a beautiful "In My Book" bookmark/greeting card combo. If you haven't seen these, they're really cool! They fold out like a greeting card but are the perfect size of a bookmark. Like 'em on Facebook, too.


Saturday, August 04, 2012

And Just in Case You're Worried...

In case you're worried about me in light of my previous post...I followed up with this. I seriously feel a renewed faux-hawk haircut and a tattoo coming on. Then I should be fine. Renewal. Rebirth. A little rebellion. :)


Personally: On Loss

It's been a hell of a week. Between work issues and personal ones, I'm exhausted but I'm also feeling like my head is going to explode. Like I can't lie down and have any peace.

Some of you might've caught on that Chuck and I split almost exactly a year ago. There were stipulations on whether or not I would come home. Those stipulations were never met. We've argued about whether I should've come back all year long. But somehow through this whole sordid process I never completely let go of the hope that we'd get our stuff straight. That we'd find common ground. That one day we might even be able to be in a room together for more than 15 minutes without getting angry.

Today, I found out and saw enough to make me finally stop hoping. Stop wondering. Stop expecting a partner. Today I was done. And it hurts all over again. You might be wondering what I mean when I say I was finally done today. I moved into my own place three months ago, I live as a single mother with Greyson. It's been done. But there was still some stupid, mad hope. Some part deep down that believed the best could happen.

I dropped Greyson off with Chuck today. I worked. I met her and her children. She's very nice. I bought some new decor for the house. Some makeup and skin care stuff that I've neglected to buy for myself for a while. I cleaned. I ate whoopie pies and drank a glass of wine for dinner. I half-watched Mad Men and the Tudors on Netflix. I did not read. Too much brain power required.

It's time for bed, and I keep sitting here wondering how on earth to wrap my head around everything I feel. A little cracked. A little broken. Stupid mostly. Really stupid. Like I wasted a lot of time.

I also know it'll be better by the light of day. It always hurts more when the day has been long and tiring. I know I'll get up in the morning, have coffee, grade papers, clean and straighten a little, listen to some music, pick up Greyson, and we'll go on about our routines.

I am endlessly thankful every day for that little boy because he gave my life new focus and purpose when he came into the world. He helped me find contentment. To not feel so lost. So while I'm feeling beaten down, I am not lost. I have quite enough purpose to get through whatever rises up in front of me.

I know I was not blameless in all this. It takes two...and all that. I know I've made him miserable too. That has to stop.

I also know what's good for me and what's not. Arguing is not conducive to contentment. Neither is distrust, jealousy, anger. I choose something else. I choose to cry no longer than the time it takes to get from point A to B in the car. Or the length of a phone conversation with my mom. Or the length of time it takes to write a blog post and get it all out and let it go.

I choose to live a happy life. A quiet life, maybe. But a good one. Always. And to make the best life for my son that I can possibly make.

I accept prayers, hugs, and good thoughts. It never hurts to have friends and family who can hold us up when we feel bad. I can't wait to feel better. It just may take some time.


Friday, August 03, 2012

Itching to Book-Buy!

Sometimes I have an itch to buy books, and the itch has been BAD lately.



The Song of Achilles was a book I originally sort of poo-pooed. I had my fill of anything Greek as an undergraduate, but since I've been reading reviews and some of my favorite bloggers have enjoyed this one, my curiosity is officially piqued.

Wild was a choice for my book club a bit ago and I hadn't actually attended the book club at that point, so I kept passing this one over. Since then I've also read enough reviews of this one that I think I'm willing to jump in and give it a try. It's been a while since I've read any non-fiction, too, so it could be a nice change.

Finally, the "it" book lately. Gone Girl. I cannot imagine what must be so enticing, mesmerizing, and surprising about this one, but I suppose I'll find out soon!

That's what's going on my Nook next. What are you salivating over? 



Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Blargg and YAY! Estella Society and More!

Wow. This week. Blarrrg.

We're coming up on an extremely busy time of year at work, and this being my first year with the company, it has been super stressful. Things are falling into a groove, though, so hopefully more pleasant days are on the horizon. That's why I've been out of pocket for a few when I really wanted to be here bloggin'!

It looks like the North and South Read-Along is off to a rousing start! Seems like a Twitter conversation breaks out about it every night between 7 and 8:30 Central time. If you want to jump in, feel free to find us at the official read-along hashtag: #NSread. Check in with your questions, comments, or progress. Or you can stop in and heckle us. That works, too.

In other news, I'm reading my second selection for the Estella Society "Genre Cage Match." This one is Secondhand Bride by Linda Lael Miller. I won't give too much away, because you'll really want to see these buggers go head-to-head, but it's my first time reading Miller and at my buddy Shannon's recommendation. I'll let ya know how it all shakes out.

On that note, Heather and I have decided to shoot for an August 15th launch of The Estella Society!!! We have about half of the content we need, so if you have ideas you've been pondering, get to writing! Send your reviews of "under the radar" or backlist books, ideas for readalongs and readathons, one-time bookish musings, "book snob" pieces, pics or readerly artwork. We're pretty open to anything you want to share! This is a readerly playground so it should be fun, informative, and freeing to share your thoughts.

We're also plotting some launch giveaways and stuff like that. *nudge nudge*

That's about all that's going on in my world. It seems like I have a growing list of "to be read NOW" books. Partially because of my new book club and in part because there's just a lot of good books circling right now. I'll be back with more about those tomorrow.

What's on your wishlist at the moment?