Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Weekend reading and shopping

I know this is already Tuesday, but I haven't had a chance to post until now. Saturday was an absolutely gorgeous day here in the Piedmont of North Carolina. I just love this time of year. It was probably in the mid-80s with bright sunshine and a light breeze. I went downtown to go to the farmer's market and decided before I stopped in there I'd walk around downtown since it was such a beautiful day. I'm glad I did because I found two new shops that haven't been open for very long. One is called Southern Spirit and the lady who runs it is really nice. Everything in her store is handmade by an artist in North Carolina. I love that! There is a little bit of everything, too -- pottery, photography, painting, sculpture, wood turning, knitting, jewelry, soaps and candles, quilts and on and on. She is planning on hosting classes at the shop with some of the artists. I think she has a jewelry making class coming up. The other new shop is called Pottery 101. She is a local artist as well with some really nice pieces. She also teaches pottery classes. Of course, I went to one of my favorite independent bookstores -- The Literary Bookpost. I know I shouldn't have gone in, but I just couldn't help myself. I bought five books:

A Jury of Her Peers by Elaine Showalter
A Room of Her Own by Virginia Woolf (already read this one but wanted my own copy)
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf
The Awakening by Kate Chopin (Everyman's Library edition)

When I got home and my husband got up (he was working the night shift this past weekend), I showed him my purchases and he just grins and says, "That's exactly what you needed -- a few more books." He doesn't really care, he just likes to kid me about my little obsession.

Oh, and I actually did make it by the farmer's market, but they were getting ready to close. I didn't get the wonderful sourdough bread that I usually buy. She was out. So, I got some cinnamon bread, which is wonderful. I also picked up some cherry pecan bread, some oyster mushrooms and some homemade preserves -- damson and strawberry-rhubarb.

I stopped by the Sidewalk Deli and took something home for lunch. After I ate, I settled in on the front porch with my books. I actually read uninterrupted for a couple hours. It was heavenly. I am actually reading all the books that are in my Currently Reading sidebar. It's pretty unusual for me to have more than two books going at one time. I'm absolutely loving The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter. I've also read the first three chapters in the Showalter book, which is really good, as well. This is literary criticism/history. It sounds pretty dry, but it's really not. Showalter is a good writer, and it's interesting to hear about some of the earliest American women writers. I'll talk more about it when I finish. Of course, I still have three books that I've read recently that I haven't reviewed, yet. I'll get caught up some time, I guess.

Unfortunately, later Saturday afternoon, we got a call that my husband's uncle had passed away. He was 82 years old and lived in Asheville, NC, which is about 2 1/2 hours from us. So, we made the trip to Asheville Sunday for the visitation and again on Monday for the service. This means I had to be out of work again, which I hate after being out for a week when I was sick. Oh well, that's the way it goes. I hope everyone had a good weekend and your week has started nicely. I'm off to check in on all the blogs I missed reading over the last couple days.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

First Book and random good thoughts

I first heard about this nonprofit organization when I attended a literacy conference at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (you know, the home of the 2009 National Champions!!) back in 2007. I'm sure that many of you have heard of it, but if you haven't, you should really check out the website. They provide books for kids in an attempt to foster early literacy and a lifelong love of reading. I chose this organization to read for during Dewey's Read-a-thon last weekend. Even though I didn't get much reading done, I still wanted to donate to this very worthwhile cause. I know many of the read-a-thon participants read for a worthy cause during the event, as well. In fact, there was a nice list of possible charities on the Dewey's Read-a-thon site you may want to check out if you haven't been there already.

Oh, and as most everyone in the world knows by now -- she won!! For the first time ever, the person I was rooting for actually won. Elizabeth Strout won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for her book Olive Kitteridge. I loved this book and have gushed about it often.

I just wanted to thank everyone for their kind thoughts and wishes over the last week. I'm much better and actually glad to be back in a routine and at work. :) It sure is nice to know that there are so many wonderful book bloggers out there who care.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Best Laid Plans...

You know what they say about the best laid plans. Within five minutes of my last post yesterday morning at 10:30, my husband's grandfather stopped by unexpectedly to check on me since I had been sick. So, we sat out on the porch and visited for over an hour, which was really nice. He's one of my favorite people in the world. Before he left, my oldest son came driving up ready to help his dad and brother clean out our attic. So, I went to pick up some lunch for everybody. At this point, I still thought I would get some reading in that afternoon, which I did finally about 4:30. After lunch, I got stuck in the garage helping sort things out as they brought things down from the attic. We're going to have to have a big yard sale or else borrow a truck and take a load of stuff to the Goodwill. That took longer than it should have because I kept getting sidetracked looking at some of the boys' stuff from when they were younger. There were favorite books like Gus was a Friendly Ghost and A Day on the Farm. Of course, there were also favorite toys, such as the Jack and the Beanstalk stuffed book that Kyle loved when he was little. Well, you get the picture. It was nice though having everyone home and reminiscing a little.

But, late that afternoon, I finally did settle down in the chaise lounge on the front porch and read a little before everyone wanted to go out for dinner. I read another hour or so before bed, which probably brought me to a grand total of between 2-3 hours for the day. I want to get caught up with everyone else and how they did. I know it was a lot of fun for everyone. Maybe next year, I'll have more luck. So by the numbers, my read-a-thon was not very successful, but I had a great day, which did include a little reading. I'm off to watch The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency and then turn in early. I'll be back at work tomorrow after being out all last week. I know I'll have a great deal of catching up to do. I hope everyone has a great week!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Read a thon

I got up early (for me anyway) at 7:30 this morning and continued reading Maud Martha by Gwendolyn Brooks, which I'm loving by the way. My husband took me out for breakfast, which is the first time I've been out of the house except for going back and forth to the hospital since last Monday. We stopped by the farmer's market and picked up a few things, and I'm settling back in with my book. It is a gorgeous day here in North Carolina, and I plan on spending the majority of it on the porch with my books. I'll check in periodically with everyone else, but I'm mostly going to be reading.

Friday, April 17, 2009

O.K., I'm In

I have been very tentative to officially join Dewey's Read-a-thon because I know I won't be able to read for 24 hours straight. But, I just couldn't take it anymore listening to the excitement on everyone else's blog. So, count me in! I don't know how much I'll be able to read at all since I have been sick. But, I will read as much as I can and check in at the site to see what's going on with everyone else. I think I'll try to read as much as I can from my tbr stacks for some of the challenges I've joined. I have still yet to even choose books for the OUAT challenge! So, we'll see how it goes. If I just get a book or two read, I'll be happy. I have also decided that I would like to make a donation to a literacy organization. I'm leaning towards First Book right now. Since I'm not sure how much I'll read, I think I'll just make a donation to the charity instead of basing it on how many books or how many pages I read. Good luck to everyone and Happy Reading!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Time Warp

Well, it is now Thursday evening here in the U. S., and I feel as if I've just returned to the land of the living. You see, I went to bed Monday night feeling fine, and awoke around 4:30 AM Tuesday morning feeling quite nauseous and faint. I went to the bathroom and ended up on the floor unable to get up. This has happened to me several times in the past. I get these spells in which I feel as if I'm going to pass out even laying flat on my back. I break out in a cold sweat and begin tingling all over. It hits me suddenly without any warning. The only relief I can get is to hold a cold cloth on my face as my husband holds my legs up over my head and fans me furiously. The feeling finally passes, but I'm too weak to move. This time I had several spells an hour until I finally agreed to go to the ER Tuesday afternoon around 3:00 PM. They admitted me and did numerous tests -- EKG, chest X-rays, numerous blood tests, and a CT scan of my sinuses, and they couldn't find anything definitive. They've come to the conclusion that any time I get anything -- virus, infection, etc. -- my blood pressure bottoms out because it runs really low all the time. My regular blood pressure is usually something like 90/60. At the ER, it was 70/30 at one point. So, needless to say, I feel as if I have just come out of a time warp, not knowing what day it is, etc. I'm feeling much better now, except a little frustrated. I'm not convinced about the diagnosis and don't want to have to deal with this again. To add insult to injury, I didn't even feel like reading all week. Seriously though, I don't mean to sound like a whiny baby. I know there are people who deal with serious and chronic illness all the time. It really does make you appreciate your health when you're sick for a while.

I did finish A Lesson Before Dying on Monday evening before all this started, and this afternoon I started The Spare Room by Helen Garner. I'm not quite up to doing a review for the Gaines book, yet. But, hopefully I'll get that done over the weekend some time. I should probably finish the Garner book, as well since it is pretty short. I hope to also get caught up on my blog reading, as well. I never joined in the Read-a-thon officially, but I was hoping to read as much as possible. Now, I'm just glad to get back to being able to raise my head off the pillow and focus my eyes on a page. But, I'll look forward to hearing how everyone else did.

It's beautiful weather here in North Carolina and is supposed to be a nice weekend. So, I hope to get back to 100% soon and start enjoying the great Spring weather. I hope everyone has a nice weekend and good luck on the Read-a-thon.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Happy Easter and a Couple Book Reviews

I hope everyone is having a good weekend -- a holiday weekend for those who celebrate Easter.

Even though my posting has been quite sparse lately, I have been reading and keeping up with your blogs. I've recently finished Darling Jim, an arc from Library Thing and The Mrs. Dalloway Reader. I'm also finishing up A Lesson Before Dying for a book club on Tuesday. Hopefully, I won't wait so long to post my thoughts on that one.

First up, Darling Jim by Christian Moerk, which as I said is an arc from Library Thing. I purposely didn't read any of the reviews posted at LT. I'll go check them out after I get my thoughts down here. I'm always afraid I'll be influenced, even subconsciously, by reading reviews so close to finishing a book. I really enjoyed this one. For me, it started with a great cover, which looks like a torn piece of paper containing one of the diary entries of Fiona Walsh, one of the three Walsh sisters who live in modern day Dublin. They're all grown and lead relatively normal, happy lives even though they've had their fair share of past tragedy. Their parents died in an explosion, which left the sisters to the care of their aunt, Moira Hegarty. Moira is unstable but seemingly harmless, at least in the beginning. The sisters tolerate her quirks and continue to visit her weekly mostly out of a sense of obligation.

It's funny how one seemingly small event can drastically change the course of one's life. This is exactly what happens for the Walsh sisters and their aunt when a young, charismatic, itinerant storyteller finds his way to their village. Jim seems to be able to seduce virtually any woman of any age by telling them what they want to hear. He is a professional storyteller after all.

I enjoyed the mood and the atmosphere the author creates in this book. I also really liked the sections in which Jim tells his stories. I knew there was some type of connection between the story he was telling and his life, but I didn't figure it out right away. There were a couple of times in the book that I questioned the actions of one or more of the sisters. I just didn't believe anyone would react that way to the circumstances. I won't go into detail because it will spoil the story. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it.

Now, The Mrs. Dalloway Reader couldn't be more different from the previous book. It contains the full text of the final version of Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf along with critical essays, some of her short stories, an introduction by Francine Prose and Virginia Woolf's introduction to Mrs. Dalloway, as well as some of Woolf's correspondence. This is the first fiction I've read by Virginia Woolf. I recently read A Room of One's Own and fell in love with her nonfiction, which reads like fiction by the way. Any discussion I've ever heard about Woolf and her writing is pretty decisive. People seem to either love her or hate her. It's very difficult to come up with a concise way to describe this book because there really is no plot in the conventional sense of the word. The Mrs. Dalloway of the title is throwing a party and is on her way to buy flowers for the party as the book opens. We learn most everything about her and everyone else for that matter from interior dialogue. There is very little conventional dialogue. Rather, we learn what everyone is thinking and how they all relate to each other. Another note about her writing style -- she writes very long, complex sentences. It's not the kind of book that you can read without giving it the proper attention it requires. However, once I got into the flow of it, I found it quite easy to read. I know from this description, it sounds like a book in which nothing much happens, and that is true to a point. However, we learn a great deal about not only Mrs. Dalloway, but about her husband, her former suitor, childhood friend, as well as other people who she doesn't even know. Semptimus Warren Smith is a WWI veteran with shell shock who lives in London. I'm not sure how she does it, but Woolf interweaves his story into the world of Mrs. Dalloway. A friend of a friend mentions this young man at her party and it upsets Mrs. Dalloway that such a disturbing subject is broached at her party. I guess it is this seemingly simple premise, that once you actually look at it, makes you realize the extent of Woolf's literary talent.

I've heard several others say that To the Lighthouse is their favorite Virginia Woolf book, so that is probably the next book of hers that I'll read. If you haven't gotten around to reading Woolf or been somewhat intimidated by her (like I was), please give her a try. I think her writing is beautiful.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend and Happy Easter!!