Friday, February 19, 2010

From the Bookshelf: Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

I've gotten a serious windfall of books since Christmas time.    Check out all of my new lovelies:


Plus I just scored an ARC copy of Jeanette Walls' Half Broke Horses at my writers' group meeting tonight for answering a book trivia question.  Sweet!  I am having a smidge of anxiety though because -- seriously, when am I going to have time to read all of these?!  

If this were last August, I'd rip through all these bad boys in two weeks, but with Archer and devoting more of my free time to writing I'm thinking it's going to take considerably longer than that.  That's OK though, I'll take my time and enjoy them all.

Here's what I'm in the middle of tearing through right now (thanks to my awesome NBC book exchange elf Crystal who sent this to me):

The prologue got me interested.  France, 1565.  A creepy dark angel appears in a graveyard and extracts an ominous promise from an unsuspecting man.  There is talk of Nephilim, a legendary race of half mortal, half fallen angels.

Sounds good, right?

The first few chapters, however, felt a little too familiar.  Fast forward to present day Maine and meet our heroine, Nora Grey (No relation to Meredith, by the way).  A mysterious, smoldering new guy stares at Nora and makes her feel uncomfortable in Biology.  Nora enjoys driving her beat up old car.  Nora lives with her single parent.  It's rainy and foggy all the time. 

Twilight with angels anyone?  
 The similarities were eye-roll worthy, but apparently not enough to make me stop reading.  It just seems like a shame that an otherwise well written and creative book had to fall back on this formula. 

I'm about halfway through now and I'm officially sucked in.  The author has done a really good job of slowly ratcheting up the tension and it's getting hard to put down.  The dialog is good and I like the characters, especially Nora's sidekick and instigator Vee and her fruit color wheel diet.  I'm intrigued by what's going on with Patch, though I'm not an especially big fan of the name (says the girl who named her main character Malady).  Is he the dangerous stalker in the ski mask or is he Nora's protector?  And what about Elliott?  Gah!

I'll give you my final verdict on this one when I finish.  For now, I've got to get to shut eye so I can get some more reading and writing in tomorrow. 

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Pardon My Dust

Since I'm making a fresh start, I'm giving the old blog a little makeover.  Apparently Stacey and Clinton don't do blogs so I'm on my own here and not so savvy with all of the XML and HTML codes.  Please excuse the mess while I'm experimenting.  

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Remember Me?

Hello. Hello. Hello.
Anybody out there?
Any chance anyone is still reading?
I know, I know. It’s been a while. OK, a long while. OK, so almost a year, but here I am, back with something to say again.

So what have I been up to since you last heard from me? Well, for starters, a little less than a year ago I took a pregnancy test. Two pink lines. I was excited. I scared out of my ever loving mind. And wishing I’d had just one more glass of wine before my nine month hiatus. But anyway, to make a long story short, last November Archer was born and now it’s hard to remember what life was like before him. By the way, I love how we use the passive voice to talk about birth, as if there weren’t 20 hours of labor and 2 hours of pushing involved on the part of his mother.

Part of the reason I kind of stopped blogging was that a lot of my life was consumed by all of the new things that came with pregnancy- praying that I wouldn’t vomit in class, seeing Archer’s heartbeat for the first time, trying to find shoes that would fit my swollen Shrek feet, planning our babymoon getaway. The truth is I didn’t want to blog about all of that. No, that’s not entirely it. More like I didn’t want to jinx it. My mom had something like five miscarriages, both in the early and late stages of her pregnancies. Even though I had the sense that everything would be fine, there was still a niggling superstitious part of me that was very careful about putting it all out there. Just in case.

The other part - I got bored with my blogging subject matter. I started this blog to share stories about walking the Camino de Santiago and my other travels, adventures and general nerdy hijinks, but since I started traveling less, I started blogging less. Then I thought maybe I’d go the book blog route, but that just wasn’t working for me. I felt like I’d kind of painted myself in a corner and the fun leaked out of it.

So, I just let the blog lie fallow for while, but I think it’s time to grow again.

Instead of trying to make this a Travel Blog or a Book Blog or a Mom Blog or a Writing Blog, I’m taking a more holistic approach this time. One thing that used to scare me about having kids was this notion that I had to trade in so much of what made me me in order to be a mom. I feared that I could either ____________ or be a mom. I could either hike the Inca Trail to Macchu Pichu, have time to snuggle with my husband, spend time writing and planning challenging lessons for my students, have time to watch Lost, read stacks of books and still play Balderdash with my friends on the weekends OR be a mom.

Not that things haven’t changed, but for the most part, my fears were unfounded. Something Paul helped me realize is that giving up your identity in order to become a mom is a choice.  I may not be able to spend hours on end writing in a coffee shop everyday, but I can write longhand in my notebook when I’m feeding Archer or steal a few minutes here and there. We still go out to dinner with our friends. Paul and I even went to watch New Moon a week after Archer was born. I get to have this amazing little person in my life and I’m still perfectly capable of having an intelligent conversation without a single mention of poop or spit up.

I’m still learning and I know it won’t always be easy. There will be growing pains and sacrifice, but I hope you’ll join me as I try to replace the OR with an AND.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster

Bitter is the New Black : Confessions of a Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smartass, Or, Why You Should Never Carry A Prada Bag to the Unemployment Office Bitter is the New Black : Confessions of a Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smartass, Or, Why You Should Never Carry A Prada Bag to the Unemployment Office by Jen Lancaster

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
I have read Jen Lancaster's blog off and on for a while now and I like her snarky no holds barred sense of humor.

I was also a victim of post 9/11 layoffs so I could empathize with some of the things she went through. I also think this is a book a lot of people in our country's current economic situation could appreciate as well. I have to say though, I was impressed by Jen's industriousness. I did OK on unemployment until after graduation the next spring, but after that I'm pretty sure I was depressed and sleeping in while she was up at 7am making calls and applying to every job posted on Monster.

This book really could have been just one big funny rant, but I was pleasantly surprised at the depth of it. The earlier chapters cracked me up, but for me it was the balance of humor and the humility, the lessons she learned over the course of her unemployment that brought resonance to the book. Not that I didn't enjoy her 'fat girl at the Chicago Marathon Health Fair'episode and her commentary about the 'Russian Army' building the house next door. It was just that I also liked seeing how she and her husband Fletch supported and took care of each other in the hard times and the way she swallowed her pride and took a greyhound bus to see her mom when she was in the hospital.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and look forward to reading her other work.

View all my reviews.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Writing Angst


My level of frustration is reaching a frenzy at the moment and I am really tempted to just give up and go to sleep. I am being nominated for an Outstanding Teaching by Part-time Faculty award and my portfolio is due tomorrow. Everything is pretty much in order except for my Teaching Philosophy and Statement of Focus. Its wordy. Its filled with abstract mumbo jumbo. My sentences are too long. There's no conclusion to speak of. Blech! I just keep going over and over it and the words are refusing to bend to my will.

I am so steeped in it that I am having trouble getting perspective. And its way past my bedtime. I'm just praying that I'll get some divine flash of inspiration sometime in the next 5 minutes while I can still keep my eyes open.

On a happy note, it looks like this is my 100th post. At least there's something happy to boost my ego.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Geography of Bliss: One Grumps Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner

This is the first non-fiction book I have read in a long time and I think this is one I will go back to again and again. The premise of this book sold me immediately- Eric Weiner, a long time NPR foreign correspondent realized that he has spent the bulk of his career traveling to rather depressing, unhappy places and decided, for a change, to seek out the happiest places in the world. His journey first takes him to The Netherlands to meet with the world’s foremost happiness researcher and then on to Switzerland, Iceland, Qatar, Bhutan (where the government actually measures GNH – Gross National Happiness), Thailand, Great Brittan, Moldova, India and then back home again.

I bought this book over a year ago in hardcover (gasp!) because I just had to have it right this minute, but alas I got onto a big fiction kick and it sat on my shelf patiently waiting until now to find its way into my hands. However, I think my timing was serendipitous because it seemed that every time I picked it up, something I’d just been thinking about popped up in the pages. After my husband and I were watching Lost and discussing who the real Jeremy Bentham was (Jeremy Bentham was the name John Locke used after leaving the island) and who shows up in the book that very same night when I sat down to read? Yep, question answered. Bentham, incidentally, was famous for his utilitarian principle “the greatest happiness for the greatest number.”

One thing I loved about this book was that it was full of passages and observations that really gave me food for thought. My copy is full of dog-eared pages and lines I’ve gone back to and jotted down. My favorite section was the bit about Iceland entitled Iceland: Happiness is Failure where Eric explores the link between the act of creating and happiness. Apparently in Iceland there is not such a negative stigma attached to failure which encourages a culture rife with creativity. One Icelander quipped that they would probably erect a statue to the one person who in Iceland who had not written a novel or poem or song. Here’s a passage from that chapter that especially resonated with me:

“There’s no one on the island telling them they’re not good enough, so they just go ahead and sing and paint and write. One result of this freewheeling attitude is that the Icelandic artists produce a lot of crap. They’re the first to admit it. But crap plays an important role in the art world. In fact, it plays exactly the same role as it does in the farming world. It’s fertilizer. The crap allows the good stuff to grow.”

Imagine how much more we might achieve in America if we, as a culture, weren’t so afraid of the ramifications of failure. I could sure use some time in Iceland creative boot camp.

My one disappointment with this otherwise thought provoking and very well written book was that the section on America seemed a bit rushed. It offered stories only about Miami and Asheville, North Carolina which hardly seemed representative of our entire country. But then, I wondered if any city or state might have been able to capture the essence of America. Probably not.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Keeps Me On My Toes!

Yesterday was one of those days.

I've got a lot going on in the next couple of weeks and I think my brain overload is starting to catch up with me. Here's my funny story from yesterday (at least it seems funnier in hindsight).

I get to school nice and early feeling very prepared for the day, sip my coffee and take my time doing some writing in my car. I get ready to walk to class when I discover I've left the bag with all of my teaching materials at home in the living room. And I've only got 12 minutes before class starts. I start to panic but realize I don't have time, only 11 minutes left now. This is very out of character for me as I am usually super meticulous about checking that I've got everything I need. So I ran to my office, scrounged up another copy of my text book and quickly printed and copied some materials and luckily was able to wing it with my students none the wiser. If it had been any other class on any other day, things wouldn't have turned out nearly so well.

This must have jostled my brain out of its normal routine because I actually had a very productive and creative day after that.
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