Category Archives: Books

Hotel On the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

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The Quirky Girls are having a party and you’re invited!!

Date: 4/22/2011

Time: 8:30 PM ET

Location: The Bumbles Blog

Pick up a copy of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, read it, review it on your blog if you wish, then come and share your thoughts with The Quirky Girls in a live chat.  We’ll talk about the book, and then as frequently happens when friends get together, our conversation will possibly devolve into other meaningful and earth-shattering topics such as the efficacy of duct-tape as a cure-all for warts and how the Sweet Valley High series, though unbearably stupid, is a cherished childhood memory.

A blog review (or blog!) is not necessary to participate.  Also, if the business of life prohibits you from finishing the book, come and chat anyway.

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Checking In…

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December has been a mixed bag.  How is this you may ask?  Well let me explicate.  🙂

BAD: I was deathly ill the first two weeks.  I had the raging fever, chills, nausea, coughing (snot fun!), the whole nine yards.  Wasn’t flu-which THANK YOU, OH GREAT HIGHER POWER, because after relentlessly nagging my nursing students to turn in their flu shots, they would have never let me forget this.  Wasn’t pneumonia.  It was just a nasty mean little bug which required two rounds of antibiotics and some codeine, followed by hydrocodone-based coughing syrup just to get through it.

GOOD: The tech guy at my office taught me how to VPN from home and my boss allowed me to work from home almost the entire two weeks so I didn’t have to take so much sick time.  Most days were half-days and if I disappeared offline for hours at a time to rest, no one raised an eyebrow.  My office-peeps rock!!!!!

BAD: I ran out of money, like December 4th.

GOOD: The professors pitched in and gave every single secretary in the office a cash bonus out of their own pockets.  It’s not a lot, but it’s enough to get me through the month without having to borrow money from my parents or my sister.

BAD: I was sick when my parents bought my birthday lemon pie and I couldn’t even really taste it before it went bad.

GOOD: My former boss (from social work) stopped by my office the other day and gave me a plate of her homemade lemon bars, which DUDE, those babies are awesome.  Graham cracker crust, cream cheese and lemon.  That first bite of mannah did not taste as good.  Just saying.

BAD: I am officially out of room for books.  Like literally-in my closet where the clothes should live, I have stacks and stacks of books.  There is NO MORE ROOM IN THE INN.  Which for a total book-whore like myself is sadness.

GOOD: My sister and my friends pitched in and gave me a Nook for Christmas.  And my work-group of friends who were in on the secret gave me a pretty little cover for my Nook.  What?  You want to see it?  Okay.

Tupper Quote Cover in Leaf by Barnes & Noble: Product Image

So, although, being broke and being sick on my birthday sucked dirty socks, I’m going to say that the good outweighed the bad by like A LOT.

Aside from that, there are all kinds of things going on in the lives of my family and friends that I’m truly invested in.  I have an Arizona friend I need to feel better ASAP.  I have a family member in Utah that I’m sending all my happy-this-will-totally-work vibes out to.  I have a sister who is making huge life changes and is brave and badass.  In short, with all the other stuff all the other people in my life are dealing with, I’m just feeling blessed that I get to be in their lives.

Book Review – Darcy’s Passions

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Darcy's Passions: Pride and Prejudice Retold Through His Eyes

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is an addiction of mine.  Like chauceriangirl with her epic love for Chaucer, I will read any permutation/mash-up even remotely related to Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett.  Sometimes, the results are brilliant, such as Pamela Aiden’s three volume retelling, in which Mr. Darcy’s character development is given a unique perspective completely in line with with the historical events and social mores of the time.  Other attempts are dreadful, such as Linda Berdoll’s Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife, which turns the property into erotic soap operatic nonsense.  Most of them, Regina Jeffers’ Darcy’s Passions included, fall into the third category: kinda good with some problems.

Mr. Darcy in Jeffers’ version makes a rather lovely journey from his arrogant, prideful beginnings to the more gentlemen-like man Elizabeth Bennett falls in love in with.  Several characters are fleshed out, most particularly that of Georgiana Darcy, who is beautifully sketched as a young girl on the cusp of womanhood.  She is at once naive and decisive, and her relationship with her much adored older brother is exquisitely drawn.  Darcy’s character transitions are delineated by his changing relationship not just with Miss Elizabeth, but with all those he interacts with.  He is continually learning and growing, and though he occasionally falls back into old habits and patterns, he learns to recognize and rectify his behavior before it can get out of hand.  Though certainly no Jane Austen, Jeffers, for the most part, does a nice job of retelling one of literature’s great love stories.

The trouble lies in the last third of the book.  Not content to leave off at Darcy and Elizabeth’s marriage, Jeffers continues the story another eight months through the conception of the Darcys’ first child, the engagement of Col. Fitzwilliam to Anne de Bourgh, and the introductions of Georgiana and Kitty respectively to the gentlemen they may eventually marry.  Part of the strength of the first two-thirds of the novel is that Jeffers had Austen’s general plot and dialogue to fall back on.  It gave depth and believability to Darcy’s version of events.  This was lacking in the latter part of the book, to Jeffers’ detriment.  In addition to speaking words that did not feel true, she had her characters using modern colloquialisms, such as when Elizabeth claimed that she “totally forgot” something.  It kicked me forcefully out of the story and I was never quite able to buy back into it.  It also seemed that Jeffers couldn’t figure out what Darcy and Elizabeth might talk about in private.  Most of the conversations were some variation of the proposal scene in the original version.  In one section, she had them quoting word for word, a mash-up of Beatrice’s and Benedict’s best lines from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.  Considering how drastically Shakespeare’s couple differs from Austen’s, it just didn’t work.  After the third go-around on the same exact topic of conversation, I began losing my patience.  Finally, Jeffers was unable to resist the temptation to up the melodrama by creating a situation in which one character almost loses his/her life, prompting the other character to realize how wrong he/she was about an earlier argument.  It was just silly and felt like something one would find on fanfiction.net.

One could successfully argue that all of these permutations are fan-fiction, but I expect higher quality from the published kind.  Jeffers might have been better off condensing the last third of the book into an epilogue.  If you are a dedicated fan of Pride and Prejudice and you love to read every version out there, then by all means avail yourself of Darcy’s Passions.  It is a truly enjoyable read up to Darcy’s and Elizabeth’s engagement.  If you haven’t read Pride and Prejudice yet, then skip this and go for the original – superior – version.

The Blupdate Where I Catch Ya’ll Up With Stuff

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I’m settling into my new job now.  There are actual daily duties and instead of a bunch of nothing to do all day long, I have a bunch of too much to do all day long.  They did warn me–they assured me that come late April/early May, I’d be missing the slow days.  That’s not entirely true, though.  I’d rather have an insanely busy day than one in which I’ve nothing to do all day long except for surf the internet and read bad Buffy or Glee fan-fiction.  I know it’s shocking, but after a while, internet surfage gets dull.  Plus the fan-fiction?  Only 1/10 of the stories I read are actually good, and those just get me frustrated because the writers are good enough to branch out and write their own stuff.  I don’t know why I punish myself so.  But now that I’m busy I rarely surf the internet and I don’t have time for fan-fiction at all.  So all is well.

So, without further ado, here’s my random blupdatey goodness:

  • I’ll start with the one I want to talk about the least.  M and I are over, at least for now.  I won’t get into the whys and blahdy-blahs, mostly because it has to do with his issues more than mine, and this isn’t really the forum to discuss it all.  I will say that he’s a good person, so even if you are tempted to call him names (only because you love me, I know that, Foi-that’s why I enjoy insulting the people I feel have wronged you), please don’t.  It’s not easy or fun for either one of us.  Movin’ on…
  • I’ve been reading a lot of books lately.  I’m always wanting to a big list of what I’ve read going like Chauceriangirl does or terrific reviews like Jehara, but I forget to write my thoughts down as I’m reading and I wind up not thinking of anything to say about them.  Or I return them to the library and forget to write down that I read it.  That doesn’t make a book bad, by the way–forgetting that I’ve read it–it just means I’m a flake and there’s only so much room in my head for stuff before it gets squeezed out by some other random thing.  I once asked a librarian at my library if I could get a list of all the books I checked out and she looked horrified.  “We don’t do that, ma’am.  Once the book has been returned, we are not able to retrieve those types of records.”  In retrospect I get that-it’s a privacy issue and I’m sure Big Brother would be all over that like bees on honey.  I was sort of embarrassed I even asked, especially after the look of shock on her face.  My mind just doesn’t think that way.  Anyway, back to the books.  I just returned a bunch, amongst them some books by Jim Butcher (Dresden Files, which are compusively readable, but have such an extremely involved mythology that if you don’t read them in quick succession, you wind up losing information and doing the ‘huh?’ face), some books by Sherrilyn Kenyon (Dark-Hunter novels and complete brain-candy, but even more compulsively readable than Jim Butcher), a delightful and extraordinarily whimsical fairy-tale by Charles DeLint, and…some other stuff.  I have a new batch at home and I now pledge to write them down when I get home so I can talk about each one.  One I will NOT be talking about is “Shakespeare’s Landlord” by Charlaine Harris.  I picked it up because I like Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire series.  But the lead character in this series, Lily Bard, is more along the lines of Kay Scarpetta than Sookie Stackhouse.  I don’t dislike those types of intense character-driven mysteries, but I really have to be in the mood for them and I’m just not, these days.  I got about a third of the way through before I decided I didn’t want to finish it.  I didn’t even cheat by looking at the end.  I just don’t care who did it and I already know Lily was cleared of suspicion, because this is a series, which means our battle-scarred heroine got the bad guy and justice prevailed just in time for book 2.  I have higher hopes for the Aurora Teagarden character by Harris, which I just started last night.
  • The movie “How to Train Your Dragon” is easily the best thing out in theatres right now, and possibly one of the best animated movies I’ve ever seen.  That’s just my opinion, of course.  And as the crude expression goes, opinions are like…well, you fill in the blanks.  I’m sure you’ve heard it before.

This is really all, I think for now.  I’m just not feeling very talkative right now.  But hope all is well with all of you!  I’ll be droppin’ in on my blog buddies, so even if I didn’t comment, trust me–I read.  🙂

The Izzybella Pot-Kettle Update

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The blupdate title refers to Chauceriangirl accusing me of being pot-kettley when I complained about how she hasn’t blupdated in like forever.  So, some randomness…

  • King Authur (the cavalier spaniel) was so freaking cute on Saturday afternoon.  The afternoon sun was streaming into the living room windows, and he’d settled in to sleep with the warmth of the sun on his back, when suddenly he spied the refracted light the sun made off his dog tags.  He stood up, growled and then pounced, only the refracted light went away.  He backed up and looked around, and lo and behold, there it was again!  Happiness!  So he pounced again, only to be thwarted.  Wash, rinse, repeat.  He did that for about an hour while the monster and I laughed ourselves silly.  I wish I had video because it was truly adorable.
  • One of my acquaintances emailed me and asked me to house-sit.  Usually I do this for families with pets who would rather not board them.  It works out all around most of the time.  The pets don’t get boarded.  I get however many days peace and quiet, plus get to play with their animals, which lets face it, I’m a sucker and love to do.  And on top of all that, I get money for it.  So it works.  Only after I tentatively agreed, I found out her two children (one teenager and one tween) are part of the house-sitting deal.  Now, first off, I think it’s misleading to call it house-sitting when it’s actually baby-sitting.  House-sitting implies taking in the mail and newspaper daily, watering plants, feeding fish, walking the dog.  It does not generally imply “take care of my two exceedingly talkative and active children.”  Because there’s the rub.  This acquaintance is very charming and I like her very much, but her children are…um…great in small doses.  See, there’s no nice way to put this.  I feel like Cruella DeVille or something.  I like children, but a full week’s worth of baby-sitting sort of freaks me out.  I don’t have children.  I don’t have much experience with children.  The last time I babysat on my own, I was still in high school and 21 Jump Street was my favorite show.  My sister is the one who is a natural with children–I’m…not.  Usually one of two things happen when I meet a child (and I’m not sure which I find more disconcerting)-either the child looks at me and promptly bursts into tears OR it is abnormally affectionate with me and thinks I’m the greatest thing since sliced bread.  It would make sense why the former bugs me.  I mean who wants their face to prompt a massive crying explosion from anyone?  But the latter is freaky-deaky.  And it doesn’t matter how uncomfortable I am or even if I physically pick the child up and return it to it’s owner.  It still comes back all snotty and huggy and clingy.  And I just worry I’m going to drop it or break it or generally damage the merchandise.  This makes me sound terrible.  It really does.  And I’m sure if I had of my own, I would see things completely differently.  I don’t know.  I mean they are above 12, which means they aren’t quite as needy.  But isn’t 12 and older when they start getting sneaky???  So to back out or not back out.  That is the question.
  • I want to see “How to Train a Dragon.”  In 3D. 
  • I’m wearing my red ballet flats today-the ones that are kind of shiny and remind me of Dorothy’s ruby slippers.  I like those shoes.  I bought them because CG made me.  I was annoyed slightly then, but I admit she was right.  CG has good taste in shoes.  CG bought a pair of shoes a couple of weeks ago and left them in the trunk of my car.  They’re super-cute.  And in my size.  And they match a lot of my stuff.  FYI, this is Latin for “if CG doesn’t pick up her shoes soon, izzybella will be wearing them to work.”
  • I found a new author.  Well, new to me anyway.  She’s actually been writing a while.  Her name is Mary Janice Davidson.  She writes a couple of series that I know of–one is about a mermaid working as a marine biologist at the New England Aquarium, and the other is about a mildly vaccuous, shoe-obsessed young woman, who dies, then rises as a vampire, and then turns out to be their prophesied queen.  The first book in the mermaid series was very funny-like laugh-out-loud funny.  The actual literal LOL funny where you are, in all truthfulness, laughing out loud, instead of chuckling softly on the inside.  It’s a quick read and it’s total candy, but I really enjoyed.  I also cracked up at the first book in the queen of the vampires series.  Think Buffy with shades of Sunnydale Cordelia (not saintly LA Cordelia) and a light sprinkling of Sookie Stackhouse.  It’s hilarious how grossed-out she is at drinking blood and how casually she takes her extra-special queen-like vamp powers (holy water?  no effect.  crosses?  no effect.  constant need to drink blood?  not so much.  sunlight?  no effect, well, except that it makes her really sleepy).  I liked it so much, that as soon as I finished it, I drove to the library and checked out all the books in the series.  Again, they’re fast reads, but hugely entertaining.  I’m on the fourth book now and still very amused.  I also read a collection of four short novellas by her…pure fantasy, which you know right away because the short chubby girl in the first story inspires insta-love and lifetime commitment in the tall, hunky, broody Scottish werewolf.  They have the best sex ever, then he whisks her away to his castle in Scotland and marries her.  You know.  ‘Cause that happens all the time.   The only thing that bugged me was the second (third?) story in the novella, which tried to bring a humorous spin to what was essentially rape.  I really don’t have a sense of humor about that, so for me it was an unsuccessful attempt.  I get that both the characters were super-powered (vamp and a werewolf) and that the essentially cranky nature of the woman and sunny nature of the man was all part of the joke, but it was massively annoying to me.  That kind of storyline never goes down well in my book.  But the rest of it was amusing enough and I REALLY like the mermaid and queen vamp series.  So, it’s always good to have more fun stuff to read.

Okay, was this blupdatey enough for you, CG?  I hope so.  I also hope you forget about your shoes, because I think they’d look really good on me.

First Day…

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Okay, so it’s only 10:00 a.m. and probably too early to tell what it’s going to be like.  Kind of like writing an autobiography when you’re still a teenager.  What’s the point?  But this is all completely different from my old job and therefore feels a little bit strange.  For starters, I miss my work-mom like crazy.  Besides my sister, Work-mom is the probably the only person I know who will accept me no matter what.  Maybe it has to do with life experience?  Maybe it has to do with the fact the she’s abnormally mellow?  I don’t know.  But I never have felt judged by her even when she straight up tells me I’m wrong about something.  There aren’t many people in the world like her, so you have to cherish that kind of person when you find them.  So I miss her a lot.  I also miss my other friends and coworkers there and they know who they are.  There are a couple there that I won’t miss and they probably know who they are, too.  I know I will probably meet very nice people here also (luckily there are nice people just about everywhere), but it’s not the same. 

It’s very quiet here, which is also different.  SSW classrooms and offices were kind of all together like a big mixed salad.  Here, the classrooms are separate from the offices–not just different ends of the hallways, but separate floors altogether.  I share an office with a young woman who seems nice, but is feeling very sick and therefore, not very talkative.  I’m sure I’ll get to know her better later.  But it kind of adds the general silence of the building.  I can’t think of any job I’ve ever had that was this quiet.  It’s a little disconcerting.  I don’t think I like it very much.

The two people who are to train me still haven’t come into work.  They allow you to flex hours here and a lot of staff start at times other than your traditional 8:00 a.m.  So I haven’t done much this morning.  Have gone online to review some of the coursework.  I changed my office telephone number and mailing address on the central computer.  I clicked on facebook for a few minutes.  I’ve emailed my three favorites at Social Work to whine a little bit.  Other than that?  Not much.  I’m sure once they’re here to train, I’ll be really busy, but I feel sort of out-of-sorts right now.  I don’t like having nothing to do.  It’s boring. 

On a not-related-to-work note, I found a new book series that is nothing but pure cheese–the junk food of books.  It’s the Dream Chaser series by Sherrilyn Kenyon, which apparently  kind of pours into a ton of other series she’s written.  In her world, the gods of Olympus do, in fact, exist and interfere in the lives of mortals.  It’s very goofy, lots of god-magic, steamy dream scenes involving a river of chocolate and hot sex.  They’re the kinds of books I would read  over and over and then deny later that I’d ever even picked up at the library, much less devoured in one sitting.  I think she’s a new guilty addiction, along the lines of Charlaine Harris and her Sookie Stackhouse novels.  Perfect for dreary days that desperately need some kind of pick-me-up.  I reserved about four other of her books from the library, along with a “money makeover” book I read about online. 

Okay, I think I’m going to go explore the building some more or something.  It’s so quiet in here….

Checking In…

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I’m working my part time shift at the theatre right now.  One of our lovely cleaning crew is here vacuuming, and I swear the vacuum cleaner just made a noise that sounded like she vacuumed up a cat.  It was kind of a “rowrrrrrr” sound like my siamese cat, Lester, used to make.  Very concerning.  And then the wind keeps blowing one of the glass doors open and shut.  It could be very spooky if I were superstitious and bought into the legends about theatres being haunted.  But I am not.  Mostly.  It helps that I’m here in the middle of the day and most profoundly NOT alone.  🙂

The honeysuckle in my backyard is in bloom and it smells so sweet.  I love honeysuckle.  When I was a little kid my grandmother had a huge honeysuckle bush in her backyard and when it was in bloom I used to stand in front of it for hours (literal hours) just smelling it.  I wonder if that causes brain damage.  It could explain a few things.  🙂  I kid.  A little bit.  But honeysuckle is my second favorite flower, next to daisies.  I love daisies.  So simple, yet so ridiculously pretty.  I’d rather have a bunch of daisies than a dozen long-stemmed red roses.

This time of year is wonderful anyway.  It has spawned yards and yards and yards of horrible poetry, but I completely understand the sentiment.  How could I not, when the Texas highways are lined with bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush and buttercups and those black-eyed yellow flowers some people call weeds.  They’re so pretty.  And the iris have been in full bloom and the knock out roses in the backyard are red and pink and huge blossoms.  Then there’s the wisteria, though it’s mostly gone now, replaced by green vines.  Wisteria in full bloom is probably my third favorite flowering plant.  I really do love spring.  The hastas are starting to flower and pretty soon our hydrangea bushes will be absolutely covered in pink and blue flowers.  Not to be a big old sap, but wow!  So pretty.

I’m getting together with Foi after work for a little while.  We’re scanning photographs for Dad and Carol and, depending on how quickly that goes, going to the largest half price book store in Texas.  Mmmm…books.  They just smell good.  The e-book readers are neat but there’s still nothing like holding an actual book in your hand.  And by holding an actual book, I mean one that I want to read, not one that was assigned to me. 

I’m still not sure about the social work degree.  I am taking macro and human behavior this summer, but if I feel the same as I have this semester, I will stop before I’ve gone any further.  I just think the social work masters will help me two-fold.  One, I can head up my department, which, frankly I think I’m qualified to do even without the masters degree, and two, it will be beneficial when writing outreach grants for theatre.  V will be home eventually and she plans on opening a branch of Lime House out here and I do want to be a part of that.  I think monies would come more swiftly with a MSW on staff.  But even considering all that, I will stop if this coming semester is as unhappy-making as the current one has been.

Which…one more week from Monday and I am done with this semester!!!  I just have one paper to finsih writing and one final to take.  I technically should be doing homework instead of driving to a big book store this afternoon, but I’m feeling so free and happy.  Homework will just sully the mood.  🙂  I’ll do it tomorrow.  Procrastination can sometimes be a very good thing.

Well, I’ll end this now.  My theatre shift is almost over and I need to balance out the till, so to speak.  Thanks for checking in with me and I hope YOU are having a great day, too.