Friday, November 27, 2009

Decorate for Dax, St. Jude's and Thanksgiving

This past year, I feel like I have gone through many times of depression and pity parties. And most of the time I feel justified. I'm tired. I work too hard. I don't see my kids enough. Blah, blah, blah. A lot of the time I think I have it rough compared to most people. Then reality smacks me in the face, and I feel ashamed.

The Lockes are a local family. And they are dealing with the ultimate sadness with a grace and dignity that is almost unheard of. Their 2-year-old son Dax is sick. And he is not going to get any better. Sweet little Dax has been a patient of St. Jude's, and is now home to spend his last few weeks. "Decorate for Dax" has become the mantra around here. Because he loves the lights of Christmas, friends, neighbors, and even strangers have come together to share the lights with Dax. People have decorated early. Photos have been sent in from all over the country. And money is being raised for St. Jude's Research. I know how important this is. As a survivor of childhood cancer, I know all too well the value of a place as wonderful and caring as St. Jude's. This year, my kids and I are spending a few days helping a friend (who is a St. Jude's Runner) raise money for the cause. And I donated some of my tips from yesterday in Dax's name. I only wish I could do more.

This story breaks my heart. Please go and read about the sweet, brave little boy. And if you have a few spare dollars, donate them to a cause like St. Jude's. At the Thanksgiving table tonight, I broke down, so incredibly thankful that I don't have to go through what the Locke's are going through today. My kids are healthy and strong. And I thank God every day for that. It makes me feel a bit humbled and ashamed of being such a terror the last few months. And I will work my double shift tomorrow and Saturday.....and I will be incredibly elated to do it: because I know that at the end of the day, I can go home and hug my kids.

If you would like to make a donation in Dax's name, please follow this link.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Under the Weather.....

In case you were wondering if I dropped off the face of the Earth. Nope. But I've been sick. Yuk. That's how I feel. But after the last few days, it's definitely a step up. Since the weekend, I have been sick. Mike went to a racquetball tourney in Lombard this weekend. I sent the kids to the grandparents, and as soon as I got home from work...I went to bed. Sunday night Mike came home, took one look at me, and called in to work for me. Apparently, I had a 102 degree fever. I haven't left my bed...till today. I can't remember the last time I felt this bad. Fever, coughing, sore throat and headache. I'm finally starting to feel better. Let's hope I can make it through the holiday.....alive!!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Having a Rory Gilmore Moment......

I never once watched The Gilmore Girls when it was on TV. We have DirecTV, and can not get the CW channel. So for over 7 seasons, I missed out on this FANTASTIC show. When I was off work, with my arm in a sling about 2 months ago, I really wanted to spend time reading. But every single time I picked up a book, I fell sound asleep. Probably partly from the sheer exhaustion that had built up, and partly from all the pain medication. So....I went to the library to try to find something that would hold my interest.....and I stumbled across the first few seasons of The Gilmore Girls. And I fell in love. Absolutely, truly in love. For those of you that haven't watched the show, it's about a single mother, Loreli, and her teen daughter, Rory. And Rory is a reader. the Rory moment: Because we have been slow at work, I've spent more than a lunch hour reading. Lately, I have taken to carrying a tote bag to work with me. It's just more convenient. I throw my small purse in it, a bottle of soda, a bottle of water. My written reading journal. And books. Not just one either. But a few.

Last night, I was sitting in the break area, and my co-worker came up to me and peered in my bag. Tom looked at me kind of funny. Then he asked me, "Why do you have so many books? You can't possibly read them all." How do you explain it to a non-reader?? The fear of not having something to read. Well. I tried. I said, "Tom. Look. This is the fiction book I'm reading right now. It's a paranormal/Gothic book. But in case that doesn't interest me at the moment, I have another fiction book. It's historical fiction. I'm also reading a book of essays. I have a de Lint book of Newford Short Stories going. Oh...there's also a graphic novel thrown in there. Just in case the mood strikes me. And finally, a memoir. Non-fiction. A girl just doesn't ever know what she is going to be in the mood for when she leaves the house."

Apparently, I did a lousy job of explaining. Tom looked at me like I had just sprouted a third eye. Oh well. Check out the video below. See why I adore Rory. It's me!! Is it really a sickness? On a side note, I did see that someone was doing a "Rory" Challenge. I. Must. Join.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Booking Through Thursday and Thursday Randomness

Booking Through Thursday:

Today’s question was suggested by Barbara:

Do you think any current author is of the same caliber as Dickens, Austen, Bronte, or any of the classic authors? If so, who, and why do you think so? If not, why not? What books from this era might be read 100 years from now?

Interesting question, but one that is incredibly hard to answer. I mean really, how do you compare Jane Austen to some of our modern authors? What made Charles Dickens so special all those years ago? At least part of it is the quality of the writing. During the 20th Century, we've seen some really fantastic authors whose quality of writing is unbound: John Steinbeck, Toni Morrison, Salman Rushdie, Kazuo Ishiguro, Kurt Vonnegut.

But I also think a part of the equation is a great story. Do we have some phenomenal story tellers today? Damn skippy we do: Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Margaret Atwood, J.K Rowling. Is Harry Potter or The Stand considered "Great Literature"? No way. But are they still fantastic STORIES? Absolutely. Will people still be reading them 100 years from now? I'd like to think so. I guess only time will tell!!


Hey all!! I know. It's been a few days since I posted. I haven't been around a whole lot. I was off work this weekend, and my computer was acting up a bit. First, it was a Network cable that had gone bad. Once that was cleared up, a few more problems popped up. I've decided it was a case of demonic possession!! My mouse/pointer started doing all sorts of weird things. Moving to different places all by itself. I changed an adapter, and it's seems to be working ok. For now. If that doesn't work, I'm in the market for an exorcist!

I'm not going to be able to participate this year in the Blogger Secret Santa. I'm really kind of bummed, but I figure the more corners I cut, the better off I'll be. Christmas is coming up quickly. I would, however, like to send out some blogger Christmas cards this year. I just have to figure out how to stalk all of you and find your Real Life addresses!! Is it weird to ask?? I've been trying to decide.....

One of the guys I work with just got a Twitter account. He was asking me questions about it, and I told him I'd follow him. When I went to work yesterday, he told me he followed my link to my blog, and read some of my book reviews. Now, my blog isn't something I advertise to my "Real Life" friends. In fact, most don't know a thing about it. I don't know why, but I've never really felt the need to bring it up. It's just my own little thing, and I kind of like to keep it that way. No one I work with has ever said anything about it and honestly, I didn't figure anyone has ever read it. So, I asked Tommy what he thought. He said, "Wow. They are really good. Like totally professional. Like something I could actually READ in a Newspaper. I can't believe you really wrote them!". I'm still not sure how to take this. Should I be flattered? Or a bit insulted that he didn't think I was smart enough to string together some intelligent, coherent sentences?? I'm going to go with flattered. For the moment, it's easier!!

What am I reading? I'm about 1/2 way through Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Cherie Priest. I was really excited to start it, but I've kind of lost a little steam the last few days. I also started the book of essays, Couldn't Keep it to Myself. A fantastic book. Since I'm working all weekend (on the overnight scene), I'm pretty sure I'll get a fair amount of reading time in. I need to get a few graphic novels under my belt. I have so many books from the library, I REALLY need to get some finished!! Just trying to figure out what to read next!!

Melissa de la Cruz, author of the Blue Blood series, is going to do an interview for me!! I'm pretty stoked about it too. Her publicist contacted me about reviewing the last book in the Blue Blood Series. Told her I would love to, but I haven't read 2 or 3 yet! So, she kindly sent me all 3 books. AND said she would schedule an interview!! I'm hoping to get to one big review for the books, and the interview before Christmas.

I'm thinking that's all for now. I'm already contemplating my 2010 Challenges. Scary, but the list is already getting huge!! I could probably plan out my entire year of reading already. Sheesh. A post for another day!! Maybe tomorrow!!


Saturday, November 14, 2009

What is With All the YA Vampire Books? Review: Blue Bloods by Melissa De La Cruz

Good Lord, there are a bunch of books/series that fall into the YA Vampire category: Twilight, Morganville, House of Night, Vampire Academy, Vampire Diaries. The list seems endless. And now Melissa de la Cruz has decided to dip her toes in the Vampiric waters. Blue Bloods (336 pgs, Hyperion, 2007) is Book One is this series that offers a new twist on an old legend.

One hundred and two people arrived on the Mayflower in November of 1620, but less than half lived to see the establishment of the Plymouth Colony the next year. While no one had died during the Mayflower's voyage, life after arrival was extremely difficult, especially for the young. Almost all of the lost were hardly sixteen years of age.

Life in New York City was rather unusual for Schuyler Van Alen. At fifteen, Schuyler is rather a loner. Enrolled at the exclusive Duchesne School, she really only had a couple of friends. Oliver, her best bud since 2nd grade. And Dylan, the new guy at school, who didn't want to conform to anyone's idea of a prep student. Schuyler is also a non-conformist. She prefers vintage to Prada; Converse to Jimmy Choo. While she doesn't know her father, her mother has been in a coma for as long as Schuyler can remember. It is for this reason that she lives with her rather cold Grandmother, Cordelia.

Now that Schuyler is fifteen, she has been noticing some changes. Mainly, the strange blue veins that seem to be showing up on her arms, but also a few others. When a Duchesne student is found murdered, the death haunts Schuyler in ways she never thought it would. Then, she receives an invitation to join the most prestigious charity organization in the city: The New York Blood Bank Committee, or just "The Committee". And while The Committee DID do charitable work, there was also another element to it. It is within this group that Schuyler and the other kids learn about their true origin. For they are not regular human teens: they are all Blue Bloods, a group of immortals. An ancient group of vampires that have lived since the beginning of time and are invincible. Or at least they are supposed to be. But it might not be true. The student who was murdered? A Blue Blood. What does that mean for the others?

First of all, I have to say I wasn't super crazy about this book. I mean, I liked it. And truthfully, the storyline is really unique. But it seemed like the entire book was just a set-up for the rest of the series. And because of that, it made it hard to get to know the characters very well. The characters that did get introduced all appeared a little flat. I mean, they were very stereotypical: Schuyler, the quiet loner. Jack, the rich guy that keys in on the loner. Mimi, the uber-rich, nasty mean girl. Oliver, the loner's best friend. Nothing rang of uniqueness. Also the book felt more like "Gossip Girl" than "Dracula". What I mean, is that it spent way more time talking about rich teens that Vampires.

I will give de la Cruz big kudos for coming up with one of the most original vampire origin stories I've ever heard. Truly a great storyline. Because I really liked the storyline, I'm hoping the rest of series will be better, especially since we've already established the "set-up". So, although I thought Book 1 was lacking a little, I see enough of a reason to continue on with the series. 3/5

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I Just Can't Seem to Get Enough of the Morganville Vampires!

I admit it. Vampires, zombies, werewolves, faeries.....I love them. There is just something so fascinating to me about the paranormal. The books I have read dealing with them are fun. They take me to a new place, with completely new problems. Although the books aren't great literature, they help me escape. Again. I love them! Even though the RIP challenge ended at Halloween, I have a huge backlog of books that I wanted to read for the challenge, but didn't quite make it through. So, I'll probably be reading them through the end of the year. Today's paranormal read is Book 5 of the Morganville Vampire Series: Lord of Misrule by Rachel Caine (256 pgs, Signet, 2009).

It was all going wrong, and Morganville was burning -- part of it, anyway. Claire stood at the windows of the Glass House and watched the flames paint the glass a dull, flickering orange. She could always see the stars out her in the Middle of Nowhere, Texas -- but not tonight.

As with every other book in the series, this one picks up immediately after book 4 has ended. Amelie, Morganville's Founder and reigning bad-ass, had been staked at the Feast that was hosted in her father, Bishop's, honor. Although she was still alive (or alive as a vampire could be), she is weak. And now the vamps and humans alike of Morganville are going to have to take sides. Will they stick with Amelie and try to keep the peace and bond that exists between humans and vampires? Or will they join sides with Bishop, who wants to wipe out Morganville once and for all, using the humans basically as cattle. To top it all off, now there is a faction of humans that are joining in the mix: the humans that want to take back Morganville for themselves, killing off all the vampires in the process.

Claire and her friends are caught right smack in the middle. Although Claire would love to free from the vampires of Morganville, he allegiance still stands with Amelie. Not only is she pledged to her, but she is also trying to help find a cure for the mysterious disease that is starting to show itself amongst the vamps. Because her friend Michael is now a vampire, Claire will do whatever she can to help save him. But at what price to her friends and family? And what is going to happen with Amelie's forces collide with Bishop's?

I just can't seem to get enough of this series! One thing I can definitely say about Rachel Caine: the woman can write an interesting story!! Once again, the story starts out fast, and just keeps accelerating!! There really isn't much more to say that I haven't said about previous books. It is fun, fast-paced and exciting. But be warned: Each book, this one included, leaves you with a HUGE cliffhanger. If you like closure in your stories, you will not get it! However, if you like YA books or you like vampires, you really should read this series. Or, if you just want to read something a little "fluffy" and escape, then you should read this series. Or....if you just want to pick a book that is fun, read this series. Best advice I can give. Highly recommended. 4.25/5

Monday, November 9, 2009

Library Loot, Christmas Shopping and A Much Better Night....

Well, I guess my pity-party worked, because I feel much better today. Honestly, I think it's just my way of releasing all that stress that builds up. I don't really have a lot of close friends that live around me anymore. It's weird. I have tons of acquaintances. But they usually fall into group of people that think of me as "Bella's Mom" or "Mike's Wife" or something like that. Most of my close friends don't really live around here. And truthfully, with the schedule that I keep, I seem to have alienated the ones that are still around!! So, when I feel the need for someone to unburden myself to, it seems the most logical place is to take to my blog and dump. Whatever the reason, I feel "lighter" today.

I even started Christmas shopping!! OK, that may not seem so amazing, unless you REALLY know me. My usual start for holiday shopping is around Dec. 18th! But the girls picked out some iPod's, and Best Buy is running an amazing sale this week. Plus I could put them all on an 18 month plan with no interest. Each kid is getting a "big" gift, then probably a lot of books!! I'm still not sure what to get Chad. Truthfully, I don't even want to think about Christmas. Normally, each year we have a Santa Saver account that I drop money into each week. This year, with Mike being off, not so much. But I'm trying to pick up one extra day at the restaurant a week. That day, all my money is getting put up just for Christmas. Mike and I have pretty decided against buying each other much. But the kiddies have worked hard all year. They deserve a nice Christmas. They are going to get it too.

Well....I guess I should just get on with my library loot. I swear, I really need to stay off the library's website. Seriously. At least this week, I actually returned about 6 books. This is the list of books that I have picked up in the last week:

This is actually one of the books I'm most excited about. I'm reading it as a part of the Women Unbound challenge. It's Couldn't Keep It to Myself by Wally Lamb and the Women of York Correctional Institution. Lamb teaches writing workshops at the prison and these are some essays that have come out of that experience. So far, I've only read Lamb's introduction, but it had me in tears. Can't wait to read more!

Non-fiction read #2, and another Women Unbound Challenge book is Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China by Leslie T. Chang. Deals with the hardships of women in China. I'm really not a huge non-fiction fan, but this sounds really interesting. I guess we will see how it goes.

The House at Sugar Beach: In Search of a Lost African Childhood by Helene Cooper is a memoir that I wanted to read for the Non-Fiction Challenge (which I failed at MISERABLY!) I liked memoirs. And I've read a couple based in Africa. I'm hoping this is just as good. If I can get to it, I think this will be a great selection for the Women Unbound Challenge.

Bastard out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison is a fiction selection for the Women Unbound Challenge. See what I mean about the library website?? I find a challenge I want to start, make a list of books, and then just go online and FIND them. I've been wanting to read this book for years. Figure now would be a great time!! Heard great things about it.

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater is a book I've seen lately across the blogosphere. YA and paranormal are my favorites these days, so this one jumped right out at me. I'm thinking it has to do with werewolves. Always kind of liked them!!

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson was kind of a spur of the moment kind of book. I saw it on the shelf as I was browsing. I remember reading a lot of good reviews. Another YA book, it seems a little science-fictiony. Can't hurt to try it!

Halloween may be over, but that doesn't mean my love for horror novels is completely satisfied. I read about Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge at Carl's blog. He always finds fun creepy reads during RIP time. Thought it would be a good one for those long nights at work when I'm alone and want to scare myself silly. Or maybe not!

I've been loving Rachel Caine's YA series, the Morganville Vampires so much (I have a review to write for Book 5, which I just completed), that I wanted to try her adult series. Ill Wind is the first book in the Weather Warden series. It looks like it will be a fun read!

Breathers by S. G. Browne is another zombie book. I read Chris' review and thought it looked like a whole lot of fun. Besides, the cover just rocks, doesn't it??

Dangerous Angels by Francesa Lia Block is a selection for the GLBT Reading Challenge. I've read a couple of Block's books before and just the lyrical way she writes. When Nymeth and Debi reviewed this one, I knew I had to add it to my challenge list. Besides, it's another book with an awesome cover!!

I'm Not Scared by Niccolo Ammaniti is a book I read about during the Read-A-Thon. I think I saw it over on Eva's blog. Then again, it was really LATE and I could be wrong about that. Regardless, it looks really good. Ammaniti is an Italian writer and this is his American debut.

Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie is a book that I KNOW I read about on Eva's blog. I've wanted to read Alexie for a while now, and this one deals a lot with music. Another one of my loves. Can not wait to given this one a chance.

Finally, a book I am SO excited about. And one that was a complete impulse. I just happened to be passing the New Release shelf at the front of the library and this book practically jumped off the shelf at me. In fact, I think I might have even squealed out loud!! The Gates by John Connolly is his newest novel. After reading The Book of Lost Things and just finishing Nocturnes, Connolly is becoming one of my favorite authors. I can not wait till I get a chance to read this one!!

That's it was for this week's Library Loot. Of course, it's more than enough for me. The number of books coming in seems be WAY higher than the amount of books going out. Gotta work on that!!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sunday Salon...a Whining Post AND Short Story Sunday

Commence Whining: I haven't done a Sunday Salon post in MONTHS. Lately, I haven't really felt that I have anything of any value to say. I mean, I love blogging. But recently, I've just felt so bogged down with life that the little time I have to blog, I can't think of anything to say. Does that every happen to you? I mean, I actually have a ton of posts I could write: A RIP Wrap-up, a couple of book reviews, a Library Loot post, more challenge post. Or even something family related. And yet when I sit down at the computer, the blahs hit. Nothing I type is interesting. Nothing really excites me. And all I can think is this: "Who wants to Read this Crap anyway?" Am I actually doing something worthwhile here?? I hope so. I'd hate to think that I'm just wasting my time. With so little time, sometimes I feel like I'm on the fringe of blogging. Not really here enough to make the little connections that are necessary to keep going. Not being able to participate in all the fun, like the Read-a-Thon. Not keeping track of the friends I have made well enough.

I don't know. Maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm just feeling the pressure of the season, and the stress of Mike not working. Or the stress of all the hours I've been putting in. Or the pressure of spending quality time with the kids when all I really want to do is crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head and sleep well into next week. Or maybe it's the fact that my shoulder isn't healing all that well and I'm constantly in either A). Pain or B). a Pain-Killer Induced Haze. At one point a few years back I was actually taking some anti-depressants. Maybe I should find me some "happy" pills again.

I'm not writing this for any type of sympathy. I think I just need to let it all out. Truth of the matter is, I am sitting here, seriously lonely right now. I'm working the weekend at the Red Cross. Saturday night/Sunday mornings are the worst here. Next to one security guard, I'm literally the only person in the building. I'm here mainly for emergency purposes. I like alone time. But tonight, I'm just craving an actual person to talk to. Unfortunately, even Twitter is rather deserted tonight. I guess every once in a great while I need to step back, take a breath, and re-evaluate things. Tonight seems to be one of those times.

End Whining.

In all actuality, it was a good week. The kids parent/teacher conferences were this week. Bella is getting all B's, except Reading, where she is excelling. (go figure!) She lacks a little self-confidence, but she got the lead of Mrs. Santa Claus in the Christmas play, so she's actually doing better. Ana is reading at a 5th grade level (in 2nd grade). The teacher is moving her to an Advanced Readers Group with 3 other kids because she's afraid her 2nd grade work is going to bore her. Straight A's. And Chad....all A's, except for a B in Art. He's taking High School level Algebra and is in all Accelerated classes. His teachers are already recommending AP classes for him in high school. So yeah...I'm pretty proud of the Kiddies. We even went to see a movie tonight: Cirque du Freak: Vampire's Assistant. Is it just me, or is John C. Reilly like the coolest nerd ever??

I have 2 book reviews to do. I've actually been reading. Right now, I'm reading a fantastic collection of essays. I don't really like essays, but this one is well-worth reading. I can't wait to review it!!

So....on to a few Short Stories for this Sunday: Again, from John Connolly's Nocturnes.

The Inkpot Monkey - Mr. Edgerton was suffering from writer's block. Mr. Edgerton was a modestly successful author. But lately he has been unable to write a word. Always looking for inspiration, he wanders into an old antiques store and sees a little inkpot, with what looks like a tiny stuffed monkey. According to ancient Chinese mythology, the monkey will provide artistic inspiration in return for the residues of ink left at the bottom of the inkpot. Mr. Edgerton is willing to try anything to escape the writer's block, so he buys the little inkpot monkey. But is he really ready to give all the monkey wants in return for the inspiration??

The Shifting of the Sands - The decision to reopen the rectory at Black Sands was not made lightly. The people at Black Sands were not a religious people. In fact, they went out of their way NOT to be. But they were a prosperous group, and lucky too. In fact, for a sea-faring community, they were incredibly lucky. Not even once has a Black Sands native been lost to the sea. However, once every twenty years an outsider drowned in the area. 20 years ago, it was the rector at the church. But now that a new rector is in town, will he survive or will he have the same fate befallen upon him?

Some Children Wander by Mistake - The circus seldom came to towns in the North. For William, the thought of the circus was incredibly exciting. He was pretty much a loner at school. He has dealt with his share of bullies, too. But he loved the idea of the circus. Because he LOVED Clowns. And the circus brought with it the promise of clowns. But while William does get to see the clowns, it's not at all the way he pictured it. Because he finds out a little truth in life: Clowns are not made, they are born.

Deep Dark Green - We never should have gone near Baal's Pond. There was a mystery surrounding the dark waters of Baal's pond. At one time, there was a house on that very spot. But something sinister lived in there. Something that took the village's children. So the villagers took it upon themselves to destroy everything. And with some stolen kegs of gunpowder, the river was re-directed over the spot on which the house sat. Now, that is where the deep, dark waters of Baal's pond sits. The kids say you should never swim there. For if you do, you might not ever come back.....

I am once again amazed at how wonderful and creepy Connolly's short stories are!! As a self-confessed Coulrophobic, I have a deep-seated and extremely unnatural fear of clowns. They freak me out. Always have. *shudder* So let's just say that Some Children Wander by Mistake completely played to all my fears!! I KNEW there was a reason I hated them!! But really, each story was good. Like I said in previous posts, if you liked fun, creepy, eerie short stories, go get this book!! (Will post the last of them next Sunday!)

Till then, Happy Reading!!

Friday, November 6, 2009

One More RIP Book....We Have Always Lived in the Castle

I realize that the RIP Challenge is over. I haven't had a lot of time to post the last few weeks. (To be honest, I think I did finish a day or two late anyway!) I still haven't even finished reviewing my short story collection from John Connolly (which I DID complete and found incredibly creepy and just wonderful). But I'll get to that too. For now, you are just going to have to settle for this review: We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (210 pgs, Penguin, 1962). It is going to be used as a selection for the RIP IV Challenge.

My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead.

If that's not one of the most unique and creepy opening paragraphs, then I don't know what is. Mary Katherine Blackwood, most commonly known as Merricat, lives with her sister Constance and their crippled Uncle Julian. Constance is a total recluse who refuses to leave her home. She had been accused of the murder of the rest of the family (a poisoning by arsenic), but had been acquitted by the courts. Unfortunately, the rest of the town didn't seem to agree with the ruling. In the beginning, we see Merricat going to the village for supplies. Everyone is a little distant, but it becomes clear that the Blackwoods are pariahs in town.

But their lives have routine. And all is the same until the day Cousin Charles enters the picture. And that is the beginning of the end.
There is not much more I can say about the storyline itself without giving something away. And trust me, it is best just to read it for yourself. From the beginning, things seem just a little "off". Merricat is an eighteen year old girl; and yet she is treated and acts like a child. And then there are her strange little rituals and her weird imagination. As the story progresses, with Merricat as the narrator, the reader isn't really even sure how much of the tale is real. She is not exactly the most reliable of narrators.

Shirley Jackson is amazingly adept at creating a story that is amazingly creepy in such a simple way. Not in the real sense of monsters or demons, but in an even scarier, psychological way. It truly is a gift of a great writer. From the beginning you know that something isn't right. And even though the "surprise" isn't much of a surprise by the time it is revealed, it is chilling in it's own way. From deep in your gut, you can just FEEL that it is all wrong.

It is a ingenious little story, and yet I hate to admit that I didn't like it. I can see the brilliance in the writing, but did I enjoy it? Not really. And I've been really trying to figure out why. I think it's because I didn't like any of the characters. To me, not one of them was likable. Although it is written to make Constance seem all sunshine and roses, to me she was just as much of a loon as Merricat. Actually, she was even crazier. (again, I can't say much more than that). Uncle Julian is old and senile. Cousin Charles is only out for his own personal gain. The villagers were mostly a vile bunch. And I disliked them all immensely. I guess, for me personally, I have to connect with someone to enjoy the story. Or at least this one anyway.

BUT, I loved The Lottery. And I really want to read The Haunting Of Hill House. I'm not giving up on Jackson. As I said, the story really is extremely well-written. It's good. I just didn't like it!! If you like creepy little tales, maybe this one is for you!! 3.5/5

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Women Unbound Reading Challenge and a Few Other Tidbits

Another reading challenge you say?? Whatever for?? Well....because. Because I love challenges. Because I love making lists. And because I love the idea of reading some books out of my comfort zone. Also...this looks like it is going to be a REALLY GOOD challenge!! Lots of fun. And besides...they have some really cool buttons (ok..that's my shallow side coming out!) The Women Unbound Reading Challenge is hosted by 3 fantastic women: Aarti from Booklust, Care from Care's Online Book Club, and Eva from A Striped Armchair. Apparently this challenge was brainstormed over a Twitter session one day (damn my having to sleep during the day because of work!! I miss out on so much Twitter fun!) This is a year-long challenge from November '09 to November '10. Books to be read should be both fiction and non-fiction and deal with "women's studies".

You can do any level of participation you are comfortable with. The three levels are:

Philogynist: read at least two books, including at least one nonfiction one.
Bluestocking: read at least five books, including at least two nonfiction ones.
Suffragette: read at least eight books, including at least three nonfiction ones.

Since I have a list of so many books I'd like to read, I'm sticking with the big guns: Suffragette level.

As always, I made a list, but I also reserve the right to change my mind at any given time. My prerogative as a woman!!

So far, this is what I have:


  • Bastard out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison
  • Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood
  • Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
  • Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters
  • Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Out by Natsuo Kirino
  • The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula le Guin
  • Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
  • Empress Orchid by Anchee Min


  • Couldn't Keep it to Myself: Wally Lamb and the Women of York Correctional Institution (Testimonies from our Imprisoned Sisters) Edited by Wally Lamb
  • Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China by Leslie T. Chang
  • The House at Sugar Beach: In Search of a Lost African Childhood by Helene Cooper
  • Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel
  • Catherine the Great: Love, Sex and Power by Virgina Rounding
  • Persepolis and Persepolis 2 by Marjane Satrapi
  • Self-Made Man by Norah Vincent
  • Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Sheesh. That's way too many books, but I couldn't stop finding great books once I started looking!! Join in with me in this challenge. Come on. You know you want to!!

This weekend was Chad's last football game. He has played the entire year at Linebacker. He really likes defense. But the last few weeks of practice he really kicked it up a notch. Since he is so strong for such a little guy, the coaches decided to play him at fullback and give him a chance at running the ball. He did really well....and in the last game of the year, he busted one up the middle for a 42-yard touchdown!! I was so proud!! Probably not quite as proud as he was, but close!

I have parent/teacher conferences this week. So far, the kids seem to be bringing home great grades. Bella is having a bit of trouble concentrating....and rushing things, but I think she'll be ok.

Remember my best friend's movie?? They are almost done with the editing. Red Carpet showing here in Peoria is in January. And they are going to enter it into some film festivals. Aaron's trying to talk me into getting the kids' an agent, and trying to get them some modeling work. Chad wants it pretty bad, so I guess I may have to look into it. He was contacted a few weeks back for a modeling school, but they wanted $2500 for the class. More than I could afford! Aaron's knows a few agents, and I have a couple of local places that offer acting classes. If he really wants to do it, I think I'm going to go through someone who won't charge quite so much. Seems a little shady to me.

That's about it for me. Happy Reading!! Later!