Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Merrick

"Understand, she was not a genius of a child, but merely one of considerable intelligence and talent, who after years of frustration and boredom had seized her opportunity at last."
--Merrick by Anne Rice

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Beast in the Jungle

He continued to look at her. "What then is the matter with you?"

"Well," she said after another wait, "the matter with me is simply that I'm more sure than ever my curiosity, as you call it, will be but too well repaid."

--From "The Beast in the Jungle" by Henry James

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Don't pass out because I am actually posting something...

Wow. I have really been out of the blogging world. I haven't blogged anything in a really long time, mainly because I have been so busy in my "real world" job. The end of the summer through the holidays are my busiest time around here, so I just haven't had the time (nor have I felt energized or inspired enough) to write anything.

I am finally feeling like I want to step back into my "literature" world again, so I have set a few goals for myself. One goal in particular is to get something ready to submit to the VI conference next year. I don't want to quit working in the field I spent the better part of a decade participating in! So, I am working out some possible avenues of research at the moment. The only thing I know for sure is that I don't want to write about Dickens! :)

As far as my other writing: I am finishing up a chapter on A. E. Wilson, and I am outlining my NaNoWriMo project. This is the first year I feel up to it since 2008, so I am ready to go on Nov. 1!

As far as what I am reading: I had to take a break from the Alabama novel thing for a while, because I felt overloaded. I will get back to it eventually, but for now...well, I just need a break. So, I picked up a book in a genre I rarely read: mystery. I started reading Chelsea Mansions by Barry Maitland, and I love it! Granted, like an idiot, I started with a book late in the "Brock and Kolla" series. Still, Maitland doesn't include a lot of spoilers--or, if he does, they are cleverly worked into the story, and I have no idea I am being spoiled on earlier books. I have already bought the first book (The Marx Sisters), and I will probably go ahead and read that next. I also want to read the new Christopher Rice novel, and I hope to read Rowling's The Cuckoo's Calling soon.

In other news, I am turning my spare room into a home office, which is LONG overdue. I can't wait until it is finished. I have cleaned out EVERYTHING in the room and gotten rid of tons of stuff, including books. The goal, eventually, is to buy new bookshelves for the room. Until then, it will be fairly haphazard and nothing will match. But that is okay. I will just be happy to have a space to work/write. Right now, my huge desk takes up so much room in my bedroom. I also find it hard to work in the bedroom, because I associate it with sleep (obviously). That is why most of my dissertation was written in coffee shops. :)

Well, hopefully, I will get back to this blogging thing soon. Hope all is well with you!

Friday, August 16, 2013

I heart professors who are also romance authors...

I was out on campus for a conference (actually, and "unconference") last week/weekend, and I came across this office door in New College:


I LOVE THIS.

I immediately tweeted this picture (and one below) to my friend, author Vicky Dreiling. We are so happy that a college professor is giving the "okay" to read romance novels! Then, I wondered....who is this person? Well, it turns out that she (Catherine Roach) writes under the name Catherine LaRoche! Her first novel, Master of Love, was published by Simon & Schuster last year! She is also working on a scholarly book about the romance genre, which makes me extremely happy right now!

Anyway, next to her door is a sign-up sheet for students who would like to "come on in" and "borrow a romance novel"! (I love the highlighting.)


And, of course, I can't resist this sign...


Rock on, fellow romance writers. Rock on.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Saw this on my Tumblr page, and thought I would repost here...

From “With the Dead"

"And now I rest! A dreadful rest, accursed,
Made weary with despair and furious
With the old hate and the old bitter love:
Because I must, despite myself, remember…"
—Augusta Webster

I miss being on vacation...


...basically because I  miss seeing this face all day long. :)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

RWA 2013

So, I am finally rested up from attending the Romance Writers of America conference in Atlanta last week! I had a great time, met so many amazing and inspiring people, and learned a ton! I am officially addicted to RWA, and since I returned, I have already downloaded several audio recorded sessions from the 2012 conference! So, here is a rundown:

Day 1: Arrival, orientation, literacy book signing event! Everything went really well. I got checked into my room early, picked up my registration packet (and my "first timer" ribbon!...PS: WEAR THIS IF YOU GO! You only get it once, and it really does help. People are super nice to you and help you navigate the craziness that is your first time to the conference.), and went to the first-timer's orientation. If you plan on going to your first RWA event, definitely go to this session. You are introduced to a lot of terms (some you know and others you may not), and you also learn the important "dos and don'ts of the conference...including conference etiquette). As soon as I got out of the orientation, I went to get in line for the literacy signing. Honestly, I wish I had just waited and walked in after the line went through. (Of course, I only had a couple of people I wanted to meet first thing. If you want a book signed by one of the most famous authors, it might be a good idea to get in line.) At the literacy signing, I finally got to meet Vicky Dreiling, and I had the chance to meet Linda Howard! Roll Damn Tide, Ms. Howard! (Linda Howard is an Alabama bestselling author, so I was super excited to meet her!)

Day 2: I went to lots of workshops, met the amazing Barb Han (a new writer with Harelquin), and attended the Keynote lunch. AMAZING. Cathy Maxwell gave the keynote address, and it was so inspiring! Also, the fabulous Lisa Gardner and her mom sat at our table! More workshops in the afternoon, and then I collapsed that night! I really enjoyed all of the workshops this day. I think my favorite was Susan Elizabeth Phillip's workshop on characterization. She is so much fun, and I really learned a lot! I also went to a couple of publisher signings. One of the afternoon sessions was with Jayne Ann Krentz and Susan Elizabeth Phillips. So fun! And Lisa Gardner was sitting right behind me. At some point in the session, some woman answered her cell phone...and continued talking on it. NOTE: DON'T DO THIS. I mean, seriously??? It was horribly rude.

Day 3: VERY helpful self-publishing workshop by Liliana Hart started off my day. Wow. She is an excellent presenter. Then, I attended more workshops and signings, and I also went to the awards luncheon. So fun! And Kristan Higgins gave the speech...she is super funny and inspiring, too! We were all crying by the end. More workshops in the afernoon, etc. I also had a chance to briefly catch up with Beth Albright, a native of Alabama who is publishing the "Sassy Belles" trilogy with MIRA. I love her! I also met Sylvia Day, the president of RWA and the author of the "Crossfire" series. I am not big into erotic romance, but I have to say that Sylvia completely amazed me. I admire her so much.

Day 4: I had to leave early today, so I only attended one workshop (one with Vicky Dreiling...it was really for writers already advanced in their career, and it was about having an assistant...still, I took a lot out of it, because I have assistants who work for me at the magazine. So, good stuff!). I got home fairly early, and that was that!

Anyway, LOVED RWA 2013!!!! I really hope I get to go next year!! Here are some photos....

Cathy Maxwell giving the Keynote speech. Sorry...I was too far back to take a picture of her on the stage! So, the big screen will have to do!

Jayne Ann Krentz and I! I adore her!

Lisa Gardner signing books. My mom loves Lisa's books!

Sylvia Day and I.

Jayne Ann Krentz and Susan Elizabeth Phillips before their session"Secrets of the Best-Selling Sisterhood."

The fabulous Linda Howard!

Finally! Vicky Dreiling and I get to meet! 



Tuesday, July 09, 2013

So, yeah. I've been out of the loop.

Sorry for not posting! I have been super busy, trying to get all of my work affairs in order before leaving for vacation in about a week! That and getting the summer issue to the printer has made life exhausting.

I am super excited about having some time off. I really need to recharge (and sleep). I will be going to the RWA conference, so I will write a blog or two about it! Anyway, until next time, have a great week!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

I'm a total fangirl when it comes to meeting authors!


So, yesterday I got to meet Lila Quintero Weaver, the author of Darkroom. (See my review HERE.)  I was super excited!! Though I don't like to bug people for pictures, Lila was kind enough to pose with me! She is so nice and such an amazing artist and writer. Check out Darkroom when you can!!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Happy Birthday, W. B. Yeats! (Born June 13, 1865.)

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)


SAILING TO BYZANTIUM
I
That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
---Those dying generations---at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unaging intellect.

II
An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

III
O sages standing in God's holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me 
Into the artifice of eternity.

IV
Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come. 

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

So....here is what I am thinking about reading next...





What a Wicked Earl Wants, by Vicky Dreiling


(Note: I will be cross-posting this on my other book blog...yes, I have started another one. It isn't because I love blogging so much as that I have to find a place to put all of my book experiences! Anyway, there it is.)

From the back cover...

WILL A RAKE'S WICKED WAYS Andrew Carrington, Earl of Bellingham, believes in being a gentleman, whether it's fishing a soggy stranger out of the Thames or assisting a fetching lady into his bed. If the stranger becomes a friend and the lady a mistress, all the better. He certainly welcomes the opportunity to help Laura Davenport, a dazzling young widow with a rebellious stepson. Her gratitude, he hopes, will take an amorous form. But from the moment he sets foot in her drawing room, he gets far more than he bargained for ...  LEAD THE LADY ASTRAY? It was a moment of desperation. On the brink of losing her stepson, Laura turned to the notorious Lord Bellingham for help. Suddenly she, a vicar's daughter, is in the precarious position of resisting his tantalizing advances. How Bell earned his wicked reputation is clear; the surprise is how much more there is to him than the gossip sheets could possibly reveal. Now every moment with this dangerously desirable man puts Laura's good name at risk-and promises pleasure unlike any she has ever known ... 

You all know that I love romance novels. To say that I loved this book would be an understatement. I have always enjoyed reading Vicky Dreiling's romance novels, but What a Wicked Earl Wants jumps into a whole new category. This book, though it definitely has Vicky's trademark humor at times, is much more serious and centered in its storytelling than any book she has written before.

Though I love all of her characters (and, until now, Hawk from How to Seduce a Scoundrel was my favorite fantasy hero), the people created in this book are much more complex than any she has drawn before. I have read other reviews, and many people say the same thing. There isn't a character in this novel that doesn't have a distinct personality and a solid purpose in the story. Most impressive of all, however, are the heroine and hero.

Encountering Laura Davenport and Andrew Carrington, Earl of Bellingham, has been a great experience, because they are so realistic. Laura is a vicar's daughter who has always sacrificed herself for the good of others and continually, due to her upbringing, shames herself for any "selfish" desires or needs. She is only in her late twenties, but she is a widow who has resigned herself to living alone for the rest of her life and only playing the role of mother for her stepson, a wayward young man who ends up making a profound transformation. Andrew Carrington, the hero, is equally authentic and well considered. Some have complained that his transformation is unsatisfying, but I didn't feel that way. He certainly wrestles with his demons, but I do think that he comes to some comfort and peace in the end. And I don't think that Laura would expect him to be "over it" by the end of events depicted in this novel. In fact, that is why I liked the ending so much. It is happy, but it is also an ending where I can totally see "what happens the next day." Neither character would expect that life is suddenly going to be beautiful and without struggle...because that just isn't life, and both of them have learned that lesson well before the ending of this book.

So, yes, the characters are strong...but so is the storytelling. I loved that Vicky took several familiar plot devices used in historical romance novels and turned them into meaningful experiences for the character and the reader. What I liked best is how she took problems that many of us face today (co-parenting, step-parenting, women's issues, guilt, etc.) and seamlessly integrated them into the story in a realistic way. Though the problems encountered in the story are universal, they were portrayed well in terms of the novel's Regency setting. In other words, I didn't feel as if I was reading contemporary problems set in a contemporary setting. Rather, I felt as if I was reading about timeless issues in a historical setting, and it made me really think about things in a new light. In other words: To see Laura struggling with the issues of guilt, shame, and religion was proper to the historical time period, but I also think that the connections with modern women and our struggles with these same issues are important to recognize. The societies might be different, but the core issues still haunt us.

And--THANK YOU, VICKY--Bellingham is a  masculine hero without being violent or turning into a Christian Grey. It was so nice to read about a man who admitted his faults and his strengths unapologetically without either a) looking weaker for them; or b) turning into a monster because of them. In short, this book made me happy to read historical romance. (No, uninformed readers, historical romance--real historical romance--is not the Fifty Shades of Grey mommy porn. You won't find any sex until well over 200 pages into this novel.)

What a Wicked Earl Wants
is a book that represents the historical romance genre so well. It is about people, relationships, coping with universal problems, and, of course, a happy ending. Still, I even though we get our happy ending at the end of this book, I still feel that it was darker overall than Vicky's other novels--and that isn't a criticism. It was a completely appropriate approach to the story told, and I think she pulled it off beautifully.

Five stars!!!  Buy HERE!!!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Charles Lamb, my latest fascination...

(Wikimedia Commons)

There is an awesome portrait of him HERE, but I can't post it because it isn't in the public domain. Sigh. Still, you can see it for yourself by clicking on the link.

I am fascinated by the story of Charles and his sister Mary. For a brief overview, see HERE. I am in the middle of researching this sibling pair, and I will probably bore you with blog posts about them as time goes on. Sorry in advance. :)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Finally!

I finally bought a keyboard for my iPad! I can't tell you what a difference this is making for me. I have the iPad for work, but I often find it so cumbersome to use it for editing, simply because I always have to use the touch keyboard when I try to edit. This is SO much better! I love it! I feel like I have a second laptop, and this means that I will use the iPad that much more.

Also, I downloaded Pages from the App Store. I love it, too. I always used the Apple word processing software before they started using Word. I found Appleworks (and its various incarnations) to be so much more user friendly. I have missed it! Well, now I basically have it again! YAY! I can do just about anything on Pages through my iPad, and I can install it on my computer at home, too. This is a great day!

In other news:

Jeff graduated from BCT on Friday! AND: the graduated with honors in the top ten percent of his class!! Hooray for Jeff! I am so proud of him! I know that his parents and sister are having a great time with him, but his weekend pass is almost over. :(  He will stay at Ft. Sill for his AIT training. At least we will see him afterward when he comes home for a little while before shipping out!

Well, that is about it. I am just so happy to be able to blog remotely with this keyboard. I love, love, love it!! (Yeah, I know...I am behind the times...but these things are expensive. I had to wait until I could afford it all! LOL! The funniest part is that I keep trying to use my thumb to scroll up with a touch pad, just like I do with my laptop. Then, I have to remind myself that I have to use my fingers on the actual iPad screen and not my keyboard! Ha!)

Friday, May 17, 2013

Thursday, May 16, 2013

I don't feel so bad...

So, I googled photos of other "TBR" piles, and I realized two things:

1. We have a lot of the same books in our "TBR" piles....

2. I am not alone in my guilt that I have a lot of unread books around the house!

It really is pathetic, though. I mean, books are expensive. Why do I buy one and then not read it immediately? Better yet: why do I buy books at all right now (or even download them), if I haven't finished what I have? I think the truth is that I am an emotional reader. What I mean by that is that I have to choose my reading material based on my mood or need at the time. Still, I have way too many books. I need to donate them to our friends of the library store, because I know I will never get through all of them.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A beautiful Tuesday on campus at The University of Alabama!

Denny Chimes
(Photo by Susan Reynolds)

Historical Marker
(Photo by Susan Reynolds)

Gorgas Library
(Photo by Susan Reynolds)

Gorgas House
(Photo by Susan Reynolds)

A spot of shade on the quad...PS: Thanks, squirrel, for photo bombing my picture.
Good thing you are so cute. :)
(Photo by Susan Reynolds)

Monday, May 13, 2013

R.I.P. Kilgore House

“I have spent the past three years writing an architectural history of the University of Alabama for the UA Press (it will be available this September), so I am very familiar with the campus. I think the demolition of the Kilgore House today was a terrible loss for the University and also Bryce Hospital.

“The University has spent a tremendous amount of time and money developing a well thought out master plan and a set of architectural guidelines for future growth that (on paper, but obviously not in practice) pay respect to and "protect" the historical portions of campus. These guidelines also emphasize ‘green solutions’ whenever possible (sending a 123 year old house to a landfill is not one of them). Demolishing an historic building with many important historical and architectural links to the history of both the University of Alabama and to Bryce Hospital is, in my opinion, shocking. Replacing it with an ‘outdoor food court’ leaves me speechless.” 

-- Dr. Robert Mellown, Associate Professor of Art History Emeritus


Agreed, Dr. Mellown. The historic Kilgore House is being torn down today and tomorrow. As some of you know, I used to work there (as of last July...we were moved out and into another historic home, which is also lovely, in downtown N'port). Anyway, this is my favorite photo of the house (well, the interior, at least). I was upstairs in my office when a violent thunderstorm began. I was a bit scared to be up there (the chimney over my office was unstable and the wind was really blowing hard), so I came down and sat on the staircase. This photo shows how warm and homey our work space was.

I wrote almost all of my dissertation at the Kilgore House, and I made friends with more than one ghostly presence. :)  I will miss the house terribly.

Click HERE for an article about the Kilgore House.


Thursday, May 09, 2013

The Cahaba River!

If you would like to see photos of our (the magazine staff's) field trip to see the Cahaba River and Centerville, check out my blog Alabama Letters! Click HERE.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close


By Jonathan Safran Foer

Teaser from Amazon:

Nine-year-old Oskar Schell has embarked on an urgent, secret mission that will take him through the five boroughs of New York. His goal is to find the lock that matches a mysterious key that belonged to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11. This seemingly impossible task will bring Oskar into contact with survivors of all sorts on an exhilarating, affecting, often hilarious, and ultimately healing journey.

If you saw my preview to this review (posted last week), you know that I have never read a novel about September 11, 2001. I have waited a long time to see a novel that might describe something--anything--about those events in an accurate way, and I think that Jonathan Safran Foer's novel comes as close as possible. Because how do you really describe something like 9/11? No, I wasn't in New York City. I am not a New Yorker. But that doesn't mean that that day didn't have a profound impact on my life.

And I remember almost everything about "the worst day," as Foer describes it. I remember my mother waking me up, saying that a plane had struck one of the Twin Towers. I remember turning on the television just in time to see the second plane flying toward the next tower. I remember holding my breath and knowing, immediately, that this was not an accident. I thought about the people in the planes and then about the people in the towers. I knew the towers wouldn't hold up.

I had to go to class that day, and I remember running to our student union building before class so that I could stare in silence (with a couple hundred other people...people I didn't know but who were such a comfort) at a television screen. News tickers started to take over my life. When I finally walked to class, I was still in shock. I couldn't imagine discussing literary criticism in the  middle of all of this. But that is what we did...well, at least after the first fifteen minutes of class. My professor, when he came into the room, went on a tirade about Bush, and I remember thinking, "This is not the time."

I also remember picking up my mom for her dinner hour that day. She had to work late, and I always picked her up to take her to dinner around 5 p.m. On the way to the department store where she worked, I saw guards standing everywhere around the Veteran's hospital, watching for who knows what. The streets were empty on the way to the store, and we sat in a small cafe and watched the news over dinner.

In the days that followed, I had a strange physical reaction to everything. My chest hurt so badly, and I realized that I had been curled up into myself for days (literally), and that my muscles were protesting. I went to church that Friday, because the president asked us to go. And I still continued to watch the news, leaving the television on as I slept at night.

Throughout the whole experience, the news (even though we might question what we heard in retrospect) was my lifeline to my sanity and my country. I had to watch because I had to know...something. Anything. The chaos and insecurity of that time--exactly what the terrorists wanted--happened. Some say that allowed them to win, but I would say that it made me stronger. The thing about constant news (and the need to know) is that it arms you. Sometimes it is with really bad information, and you have to develop the common sense to know how to filter what you hear. But having information makes you powerful. Knowing the state of the world makes you powerful--and usually in really unexpected ways.

As I said in my "preview" post about Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, one of my first thoughts after I calmed down from the chaos of 9/11 was that I knew the children and young people who went through it first hand in New York would one day produce works of art--movies, paintings, books--of such amazing beauty about this event. I don't think I was wrong.

Though Foer's book doesn't directly allow you to experience 9/11 through the eyes of one of the immediate victims in the towers or airplanes (which would be hard to do unless that person survived), it does give you the experience of nine-year-old Oskar Schell, whose father died in the towers on the morning of the terrorist attack.

I love Oskar. He is strange and quirky and unreasonable in so many ways, but his voice stays with me. I miss him now that I have finished reading the book, and, to me, that is the mark of a good reading experience.

The essence of the plot is this: 

Oskar Schell, released from school early on September 11, 2001, arrives home to find messages on his answering machine. The messages are from his father, who is trapped on one of the upper floors of the trade center towers. Unable to answer the phone when it rings again with his father's last message, Oskar is haunted by his actions and by the events which took his father's life. Oskar's father, Thomas, loved to play games that required Oskar to go on scavenger hunts, and when Oskar finds an envelope in his father's closet, he wonders if this is the last game instigated by his dad. The envelope simply has the word "Black" written on the outside. Inside, there is a key. Oskar spends the remainder of the book searching for the key's lock, meeting all kinds of people along the way who help him (ultimately) come to an understanding about himself and his father's death.

...

Yeah, that is it in a nutshell. But there is so much more. There is the background story of Oskar's grandparents, the mystery of Oskar's mother's actions throughout the story, and so much more to consider. In the end, the most wonderful thing about this book is that it explores what so many of us felt on that horrible day. Yes, Oskar is directly changed by 9/11, seeing as how he is related to a victim and lives in New York. He claims a certain ownership over the tragedy (I believe at one point he says, "Shouldn't this be mine?" or something like that). But his confusion and grief are common to most Americans and others around the world as they watched what happened.

The other side of the coin...

Not everyone loves this book, though. I read one review that explained that though Foer did get Oskar's sadness right, the rest of the book was "annoying." Well, it is told in unusual ways (there are photos and strange manipulations of text...but none of that bothers me...in fact, I like it). There are little things Oskar does that might seem annoying, but he doesn't bother me either. He is a child, but he is also an old soul in a child's body. He has been through so much, and it has completely altered his existence.

Another reviewer said that she didn't like the book because eventually she basically had to feel too much.

I get it. This isn't an easy read or an easy subject. We are all going to have different reactions.

But, just for me, the book was close to perfect. It captured the one overriding need that I had during the whole event: the need to cling to whatever truths I could find.

And Oskar does this, too. He talks about truth a lot, but he also struggles with holding onto it. It is a mark of trauma, this need to hold onto reality and yet relive and make up things, and Oskar's character brilliantly portrays this issue. One thing Oskar keeps saying throughout the book is, "I know this." Each time he said this (or something like it), I almost broke down. I think those moments captured the desperation of his mind to cling to anything that is stable. So much is unknown and causes him panic (a feeling, as I said, I remember well at that time), and to think of a little boy having to give himself some confidence in his world by saying, "I know this," is just staggering.

In any case, you should read this book. Though it can be strange and you need to make an effort with it at times, I think this book is totally worth it. It is cathartic, healing, and beautiful.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Galleys are here! AKA: Time to break into the chocolate stash.


Happy Birthday to my parents!


My parents have birthdays that are one week apart! Last weekend, my mom celebrated her birthday, and this weekend, dad will celebrate his! Happy Birthday to my parents! I love you!

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

I miss Jeff!!!


Jeff is at BCT in Oklahoma, and I miss him so much! This was taken VERY early in the morning on our graduation day (he graduated with his BS in criminal justice; I graduated with the PhD in English....it was a great day! I loved sharing it with him!). I love you, Jeff!!! I can't wait until you have leave to come home!!!!

What I am reading now: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer


I haven't updated in a while, because our production cycle was crazy at the magazine! Also, because of the delays, we had to jump right into the next issue...which has been crazy and full of challenges, too! I don't have a review ready for you just yet, but I should soon. I just finished a reread of About a Boy (for the online class I am participating in), and I am now in the middle of  Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. I am interested to see how this book will end. So far, I really love it. It is unusual and the main character, young Oskar, has a distinctive voice. I have read some reviews of the book where people found (eventually) the book to be a bit annoying, though every book reviewer also mentioned that Foer is capable of portraying the sense of loss very well. I agree.

This is the first "9/11" book I have been able to summon the courage to read (other than the 9/11 Report). As someone who loves books and writing, one of my first thoughts (after I could actually manage to think again) after the first days of the tragedy passed was that some incredible literature would come out of this event. Still, reading about 9/11 is a difficult thing to do, at least for me. I will discuss my reactions to 9/11 in my actual review of the book, but so far I think this book does a great job of capturing certain emotions I was feeling, even though I was not living in New York.

The imagination is a powerful thing, and I think that Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is doing a great job of capturing what happens to the mind of someone who not only lived in New York/America at the time of the tragedy, but also of someone who lost someone that day. Like I said, I don't have a final verdict yet, but I like it so far.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Wow...CRAZY!

This might just be my favorite article about Dickens studies EVER:


When Dickens met Dostoevsky

This article is long...but it is so worth it!

I finally read Outlander!


So, I finally read Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. It is an interesting book...I liked it for the most part, but I do have issues with the characterization of Claire. Some things struck me as totally unrealistic. I was also amazed at how much sex was in this book. I don't care, but I found it funny that so many people complained about the amount of sex in Into the Wilderness (by Sara Donati) when there is clearly much more of it in here. People amaze me sometimes! Still, like I said, that didn't bother me. For the most part, the scenes were well done. My only complaint has to do with some of the things Claire does. Anyway, I just started Dragonfly in Amber (it might take me a while), but so far I like it.


I am also reading A Clash of Kings, the second book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin. I am totally obsessed with the show (I had read the first book before watching it), and I LOVE Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister. Wow. AMAZING!!! He is just awesome!


Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Skipping out on "Top Ten Tuesday"...

So, I wasn't really feeling the "Top Ten Tuesday" theme for today, so I thought I would make my own. As you might have seen in my last post, this week is the U.S. Holocaust Days of Remembrance, so I thought I would make a list of ten books about the Holocaust (or that are related to the Holocaust)...

1. Night (really, the Night trilogy) by Elie Wiesel.

2. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank.

3. The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak.

4. Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum.

5. Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account by Miklos Nyiszli.

6. Schindler's List by Thomas Keneally.

7. Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay.

8. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne.

9. Maus: A Survivor's Tale by Art Spiegelman.

10. The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom.

Of course, there are so many more...but this is a place to start.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Holocaust Days of Remembrance

A great way to honor victims of the Holocaust is to participate in the U.S. Holocaust Days of Remembrance. At the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum WEBSITE, you can see pictures and read stories of victims. Then, you can share one of those stories on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media.

Today, I share with you the story of Tchiya Perlmutter. Click HERE.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Recommend the Most!

As always, "Top Ten Tuesday" is brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish. Check them out!


TOP TEN TUESDAY: TOP TEN BOOKS
I RECOMMEND THE MOST!

1. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. My favorite book. EVER. There is so much to be gained from reading this one. It is an absorbing read for a kid, but it is amazingly rich for adult readers, too. I love it.

2. The Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling. I admit, the first two books weren't that exciting on my first read, but I love the series starting with book three. From there on out, it is my addiction!


3. The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas. This book is so crazy, but I LOVE it. It involves parallel universe theory and all kinds of crazy elements. So good!

4. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I've discussed this one on the blog before, and most of you have already read it (just like you've read the HP series!), but it is worth saying that I think this is one of the most important YA series ever written. I love it.


5. The Secret History by Donna Tartt. Like Southern Gothic?? Yes, please! This book is one of my favorite books ever because of the atmosphere and characters. LOVE IT.

6. Darkroom by Lila Quintero Weaver. Darkroom is a graphic novel on par with To Kill a Mockingbird. You definitely need to check it out. Wow.

7. Bleak House by Charles Dickens. My favorite Dickens novel EVER. I know some people groan at the thought of reading it (it is really long), but I love this one. I love the writing and the characters.


8. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Need a side of crazy to go with your romance? Then this one is for you. I used to think this story was so romantic, but after reading it several (*cough*...more like five more...*cough*) times, I am of the opinion that Heathcliff is one of the most pathetic male leads I have ever seen...and Cathy is totally insane. What a pair, huh? Still, I love this book.

9. How to Seduce a Scoundrel by Vicky Dreiling. I LOVE this historical romance! It was the first one I ever read by Vicky Dreiling (who is also one of the most awesome people EVER). I laughed so much in this one (and it takes a lot to make me laugh). I also really liked the romance in this book. It was just what I was looking for in a regency!


10. Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati. I can't say enough good things about Into the Wilderness. It is a retelling, in some ways, of The Last of the Mohicans. I love, love, love this book. And, if you like Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, you will love that Jaime and Claire make a cameo! This is such a good story. I enjoyed the second book, too, but I really couldn't get into the rest of the series. Still, this book is good enough on its own to enjoy. READ IT!!!

Working, working, working

What a crazy month! I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but the magazine still isn't out of the door. Rest assured that when it is, I will be indulging in a couple of adult beverages. :)

Other items of interest:
--Jeff, my cousin, is fully integrated into basic combat training at Ft. Sill! We received our first letter from him yesterday, and I teared up while reading it. It was so great to hear from him. He is doing well!

--I am reading so many things right now, but probably the next book that I will review will be on this blog. I am reading Outlander (read it years ago...I have't read the rest of the series, so I needed to refresh). I am discovering so many great things about it that I didn't notice when I was nineteen...and I am noticing so many bad things about it that I didn't notice when I was nineteen! Anyway, it is still a great story and an absorbing read, and I look forward to the rest of the series.

--I will begin a book club discussion on Goodreads very soon. Our book club--the Neo-Victorian book club group--is reading The Crimson Petal and the White. If you haven't read this book yet, you should!

--I am participating in an online class with a former professor of mine, and our next assignment is to read On the Road. So, I will be posting about that soon, too.

So....as you see...I have been super busy and reading a lot! 


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

As a side note:

Please send good thoughts/prayers to two of my family friends and one of my little cousins. Each one of them is suffering from a form of terminal cancer. I wish scientists could find a way to rid the world of this disease.

On the bedside table...

Here is a preview of what I am reading right now...



I am rereading the HP series (Pottermore sealed the deal). I also decided to pick up (FINALLY) The Hobbit. I have never actually read anything by Tolkien. I still can't get used to the hobbits' hairy feet, but I am actually enjoying this book.

I will take a photo of the actual book pile on my bedside table tonight...but this will have to do for now. :)

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Pottermore. Yes. I caved.

So, in my renewed obsession with all things Harry Potter (well, okay, let's face it...the obsession has never gone away), I decided to log on to Pottermore during my lunch hour. Holy cow. What a mistake! I spent forever on there! I set up an account when it began, but I was a bit jaded by its purpose at the time. I just saw it as another way for JKR to make money (not that she shouldn't, but I was afraid there would be pointless crap on there).

But today I set up a new account!! Now that I am also totally obsessed with all things digital publishing related, I find this site absolutely AMAZING!!! It is awesome! And it really does provide a great interactive reading experience for kids new to the series as well.

The little girl who lives next door to me just started the series, and today, when I logged on, I thought about her and how cool it would be for her to get on this site. She can totally live out the books as she reads them, finding out new information and deleted scenes, collecting items for play, and making potions....all kinds of awesomeness!

The site is also wonderful for former readers, if you have the patience to get through the intro chapters you explore in book one. I love finding out the extra info (and, I must admit, making my first potion ROCKED!!).  I am curious to know how the Snape content will play out. The site has new content added regularly (of course, you can buy your ebook versions of the Potter series there as well), and it will take me a really long time to work through it.

It is a totally new aspect to fandom, because there seems to be a really strong community around it. I dropped out of the HP fandom for a while (though I continued to read fanfic), but talking with the little girl next door, playing on Pottermore, and, consequently, downloading the first book off the site has filled me with that old excitement!! I really want to go to another convention now!!! (Can't afford it, though...RWA (Romance Writers of America) conference this year!)

So, check out Pottermore. See what you think.

PS: I was sorted into Ravenclaw. I am so happy!!!

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

A Harry Potter Re-read?

I am getting the urge to read the Harry Potter novels again. This could prove dangerous. :)

Thursday, February 28, 2013

New Reviews!

I have new reviews up at Alabama Letters and I Love YA Books! (Yes, I decided to continue with WordPress. Heaven help me.)


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Monday, February 25, 2013

Some teenager in this town is going to hate me.

I went to the library on my lunch hour, mainly because I needed to get out of the office, and...WOW. I checked out the mother load! Monday mornings must be the best time to go there for new books (at least in the YA section), because I found several of the recent hardback releases I have really been wanting to read!

Here is my hardback haul for the day:




Each of these is a sequel to a book I have read recently, so I am super excited to have them without buying them! Also, teen readers in my town should take heart: I will have them back in the library before spring break.

I also managed to snatch up three other less recent titles (though they are still really hard to find at my library), so it is a VERY good library day! 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Abandon by Meg Cabot


Title: Abandon
Author: Meg Cabot
Genre: YA Paranormal
Release Date: 1/1/12 
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320
My Rating: 3.5/4 stars

From Amazon.com...
New from #1 New York Times bestselling author Meg Cabot, a dark, fantastical story about this world . . . and the underworld.
Though she tries returning to the life she knew before the accident, Pierce can't help but feel at once a part of this world, and apart from it. Yet she's never alone . . . because someone is always watching her. Escape from the realm of the dead is impossible when someone there wants you back.
But now she's moved to a new town. Maybe at her new school, she can start fresh. Maybe she can stop feeling so afraid.
Only she can't. Because even here, he finds her. That's how desperately he wants her back. She knows he's no guardian angel, and his dark world isn't exactly heaven, yet she can't stay away . . . especially since he always appears when she least expects it, but exactly when she needs him most.
But if she lets herself fall any further, she may just find herself back in the one place she most fears: the Underworld.

So...um...yeah. Confession time. This is the book that made me break my New Year's resolution (to not buy books...because...well, I don't really know why...other than to save money and make use of the public library). Anyway, that resolution is looking more insane by the minute, because you all know me and know how I am. I tend to go overboard on the asceticism thing, so I am being more gentle with myself and instead allotting a book budget. ANYWAY...back to this book.

It was an impulse buy. I was feeling kind of bored when I saw this gorgeous cover...and, then, I saw that it was a retelling of the Hades/Persephone myth...and...well, I bought it. And I am really glad that I did, even though my rating seems to indicate otherwise.

Here's the deal:

I thought that most of this book was beautifully done. I like where the story is going, and I have a huge and inappropriate crush on John, the underworld guy. I like the moodiness of the book. I like that the heroine tends to be a bit clueless (though I know several people who hate this), because I have a feeling that I would have been the same way at her age. I also like the manipulation of the mythology. Also, contrary to what other reviewers have stated, there is a ton of stuff going on in this book, which leads me to...

What I didn't like:
Like I said, there is a whole lot of stuff going on in this book. Cabot has mastered the art of holding back information and showing rather than telling. In Abandon, however, this goes a bit overboard for the audience, I think. There are scattered flashbacks and bits of information, almost as if it is stream-of-consciousness at times. I wouldn't mind this so much if there was a bit more organization to it. Yes, I know...stream-of-consciousness by its very nature seems to be without organization, but that is a misconception. I just felt like Cabot was trying too hard to be mysterious at times. It didn't bother me until the last third of the book, when it just seemed that things got out of hand. There was also a weird plot twist involving the grandmother...and I just didn't care. Anyway, this aspect of the writing is what lowered my rating.

Does this mean that I won't read the next book in the series? NO! I am so going out to find it this weekend! :)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

New Year's Resolutions are crap.

So, yeah. I broke my New Year's Resolution to not buy a book. :)

Oh, well. I made it longer than I ever thought that I would! Ha!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Favorite Characters in the Classics Genre

As always, the "Top Ten Tuesday" writing prompt is brought to us by
The Broke and the Bookish! Check them out!


Top Ten Favorite Characters in the Classics Genre!

1. John Thornton from North and South. I love him more than life itself. :)

2. Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice.

3. Little Jo from Bleak House.

4. Allan Woodcourt from Bleak House.

5. Dickon Sowerby from The Secret Garden.

6. Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights.

7. Estella from Great Expectations.

8. Jo from Little Women.

9. Cleopatra from Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra.

10. Alice from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Billy's Sports Grill in Northport

Just got back from a great lunch with some of the crew here at the magazine. We went to the newly opened Billy's Sports Grill, which is located in historic downtown Northport. The food was fantastic, and I love what they have done with the restaurant. The restaurant has been under construction for quite some time, so we have all been curious to see what it would look like. The owner took the old location of The Globe and  Opus, and he completely redid it, remaining faithful to the original nineteenth-century construction and architectural details.

The bar is constructed out of heart pine found behind walls as they uncovered older parts of the building. The main centerpiece of the bar is an antique from France.

The walls are plaster -- not sheet rock-- and it is just gorgeous!

Anyway, the food was fantastic. I had fish tacos and grilled veggies (very light and good); my boss and her husband had chicken and steak wraps; and my coworker, Rebecca, had a delicious looking burger (and the onion rings were awesome!).

Here are some photos...(sorry...they aren't very good, but we were in a hurry!)...