Monday, August 28, 2006

Only three days left in August. Where has the summer gone? Another week has begun and the first day has already come to an end. I celebrated making it through the first 2 weeks at ECU and a bit more by getting a manicure and pedicure this afternoon. Of course, I messed up my thumb nail before I even got out of the salon! Oh well, for me it is the pampering I love anyway. :-) It was 91 degrees today and I don't even want to think about the humidity. It was cloudy when I dressed this a.m. so I put on black jeans and a black sleeveless sweater, thinking about the arctic temperatures in the library. Oh mama - bad idea when your assigned parking lot requires a hike! Dressing like Johnny Cash in this heat just doesn't work!

Didn't get much of a chance to read this a.m. as Mary and I chatted for the longest time about their new house. The prior owner was a smoker and she found out her "ivory" refrigerator is actually white, underneath all the smoke and gunk. Mary is a surgical technician so she is a germ freak - I felt bad I wasn't there to help her clean that kitchen. MJ's bedroom has a huge wall mural of the space shuttle that he loves so she is going to leave that up. Can't wait to see the house. I will be there for Christmas. Steve too, if I can get him to agree to go to snow country in the winter!

But, I did finish Trudy Krisher's Fallout. I am so glad Holiday House changed the cover to show palm trees in a hurricane rather than the atom-ish SF looking cover that is on the ARC. This is a historical fiction novel, not SF and the old cover gives the wrong impression. I couldn't wait to read it as it is set in North Carolina, during the hurricane season of 1954. I also wanted to read it as I love Krisher's writing style. My favorite of her YA novels is Kinship. When her older brother stands in for her wayward father the tears ran down my face. Fallout hasn't knocked Kinship out of first place, but I devoured this book. There are few YA novels set during the Cold War Era, addressing McCarthy's anticommunist vendetta, and the bomb shelters that many Americans built in their backyard. This must be the year for the Cold War novel as I recently read Karen Cushman's The Loud Silence of Francine Green. Cushman's Franny is an 8th grader in a Catholic school and Krisher's Gen (Genevieve) is a 9th grader in a small town NC high school. Gen revolved around the popular crowd the year before because of her best friend Sally, but now that Sally has moved Gen is on her own, figuratively and literally. That is until Brenda Womper shows up in the classroom and begins to raise a ruckus immediately. She lets everyone know that she is from California and she doesn't agree with the Civil Defense teacher as to how "safe" crawling under a desk and covering your head is if an A bomb is dropped nearby! As much as she tries not to, Gen becomes friends with Brenda because they are forced to spend time together, with Brenda tutoring Gen in Algebra. Of course, Brenda's father is one of those Hollywood men that fell under the hatchet of McCarthy and his war against the Red. And Brenda's mom is a scientist - something that doesn't go over well with the Southern small town housewives, including Gen's mom, who is the local Tupperware hostess. Not only is this an enjoyable read, it is educational, but Krisher does not lecture or hammer home the history lesson. The historical backdrop builds itself as Krisher creates a downright interesting story about a young woman coming of age during the McCarthy Era. A great booktalk title for the Middle School. Give this one to the History teachers to read. :-)

Okay - it may be almost 8 p.m., but I need to get a few minutes work on the booktalking book in!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

At least I didn't wake up at 5 a.m. this morning. I slept in a bit and then curled up and read an "adult" book. I don't do that often, but I have a couple of series and authors I really like. One of them is the Hot Flash Club books by Nancy Thayer. I am not quite as old as the ladies in these books, but I do enjoy laughing at the characters enduring some of the same things I go through as I deal with the aging process. I thought it appropriate to read The Hot Flash Club Chills Out as summer comes to an end. It is set on Nantucket, where the ladies have access to a house for the summer. With all the changes going on in these ladies' lives it is a good thing they have a place to escape the summer heat in Boston and to chill out. :-) Even though the climate is so much different, the laid back lifestyle of the island reminded me of the Virgin Islands. The people who live on the island all pitch in to help each other. The same thing is happening in the VI right now. A musical fixture on the island, RJ, has been in the hospital and recently died. The locals are pulling together to help pay for his medical bills as beach bar singers certainly don't have health insurance. We had a wonderful Cinco de Mayo this year listening to him sing at Charlotte Tamales, our favorite Mexican restaurant on the island. He will be missed.

So my bedtime reading will be a YA novel to discuss soon! :-)

Saturday, August 26, 2006

It is only 11 a.m. and I have been up for 6 hours already! I woke at 5 a.m., finished the book I was reading last night, did some grading, checked my email, took out trash, put on my new license plate, etc. and still was at the Human Society Rummage Sale and back home by 9:30 a.m. Found a magazine rack for $4 so I was happy. But, not happy when I drove all the way across town to Sam's and they weren't open yet. Steve thought that was pretty funny- something not open early enough for me. He refers to me getting up at the crack of noon. It isn't that bad, but 5 a.m. certainly is not usual for me.

Although it isn't the book I finished this a.m. I have to write about Alice Hoffman's Incantation. Can a reader fall in love with the prose of a book? If one can, I did. Hoffman's use of sparse lyrical and oh so-descriptive language feels rich on the tongue even when reading silently. I didn't think I could like a Hoffman title better than Green Angel, but Incantation is so stunningly painful but beautiful to read that it blew me away. I have always loved the different hues of blue, but the way Hoffman uses blue practically as a character makes me crave blueberries, aquamarine blue seas, and the deep lush midnight blue of an evening sky. Estrella lives during the Spanish Inquisition, initially with no knowledge that her family is one of the hidden Jewish families in their community. Her older brother is even training to become a priest. Everything changes when sixteen-year-old Estrella (Esther) and her best friend Catalina both fall in love with the same young man, who is "promised" to Catalina. Andres shares Estrella's feeling and Catalina betrays her friend as revenge. The torture and death scenes in the village square are difficult to read, but Hoffman beautiful portrayal of the love between Estrella and her mother and brother that this is just bearable to the reader. Burning Time by Carol Matas came to mind as I read Incantation. Both tell the tale of a daughter whose mother becomes a victim of the Inquisition, but for different reasons. Of the two, Incantation went deeper to the heart.

All for now.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

What a hectic last few days it has been, but great fun getting to know the other new faculty at ECU. We even made the 1/2 day long endurance test of having to fill out all the forms for HR somewhat enjoyable. I love being around the energy that stirs the air on a university campus. Today is the first day of classes for the students, but they have been all over campus and town for the last week or so. Greenville is certainly a less quiet town now than during the summer. I ordered a rolling backpack from last night as I am on the waiting list for the close to the library parking and have to walk a bit from the next tier parking lot. The walking is not a problem - I actually enjoy it - except I typically have a bag of books dragging my left shoulder down.

Along with all the no so exciting orientation materials, I read Ally Kennen's Beast. It is several chapters into the book before you realize what the beast is that Stephen has had in a cage for the last few years. It has grown in size and strength and he is terrified of it, but he keeps spending what little money he makes on food for it - sometimes a pig that is so large he gets himself in trouble with his foster family while cutting it up in the garage. They don't know about the Beast and they buy his story that he is bringing the pig to his deadbeat father as he hasn't any money or food. Stephen's father was in prison but now lives like a hermit out in the woods. At seventeen, Stephen has been in and out of foster homes for years, but he has been with the Reynolds for three years and likes them all, except for teenage Carol. She goes out of her way to get him in trouble, from the first day he arrived. Of course, it is Carol who figures out what he is up to and has seen the beast with her own eyes. They recruit the blacksmith Stephen has begun working for to help them trap the escaped beast. In a way this novel reminds me a bit of "the boy who cried wolf" as Stephen has gotten into so much trouble and lied so much during his time in foster care that no one believes him, including Eric the blacksmith, until Carol assures him she has seen it. This book is as much about the beast inside of Stephen as it is about the physical beast he has kept alive in the woods, both fearing and loving it in his own way. This is one of those guy books that will make the rounds as soon as you introduce it to them. The cover also lends itself well to booktalking.

All for now.

Friday, August 18, 2006

So much for the nice relaxing a.m. that I had in mind. Received a call from the condo management company that my downstairs neighbor's ceiling has a leak. Sure enough, it was the commode in the master bath. And no Steve home to fix it. Luckily my new neighbor works for a different management company and sent their plumber over to fix it. A relaxing a.m. it was not. The plumber told me that the water here has lots of chlorine in it and does a number of the rubber gaskets, so I guess this won't be the last time I see him. Oh joy!

Love the cover on Firestorm by David Klass - a beautiful blue undersea scene of a guy surrounded by what look like sharks. Sure got my attention. I had read some of the prepublication information on this book - it is the first YA book that Greenpeace International has supported. If you visit their website at you can download and listen to an interview with Klass. Because of this link to Greenpeace and my love of California Blue, an earlier Klass novel with an ecological theme set in a logging area, I was looking forward to reading this. Both books have older teenage males who must decide what role they will play in stopping the destruction of endangered species. In Firestorm, Jack is a human transported back from the future to find the Firestorm and save the oceans. The ecological lessons are given by Gisco, a very large furry telepathic dog that communicates with Jack. The ecological lessons/warnings are a bit "heavy" at times, but the point is well taken. Also, Gisco is the only one in the book with a sense of humor! This is the first in the Caretaker Trilogy so it ends very abruptly, clearly unfinished. Jack's feelings of betrayal when he realizes the life he has lived for 17 years has been a lie - his parents are only caretakers from the future to help raise him to the age that he can save the world. Now that he is trained to do so, the next book should be just as interesting. Can't wait to read it.

Off to the Hyundai dealer to have them "detail" the car yet again. Let's see if this time they can finish up without leaving a black footprint in the carpet! I am taking a book for sure. Last time I sat there for over 2 hours.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I am so excited - I have the morning news on my new TV! I wanted to stay up last night and watch a movie but I was just too tired and wanted to lay in bed and read. And I can't be a night owl tonight either as I have to be up and at ECU early tomorrow morning to drive out to Washington for a meeting. Washington is on the water do I can get a bit of an ocean fix. :-)

A dreary day here, but that is fine with me. It has been so darn hot. I am looking forward to autumn, whenever it comes here in Eastern NC. Am headed out of here shortly to attend a workshop on the new version of Blackboard, the online software we use for the courses. Hard to believe Fall courses start next Weds. Where did summer go? To teaching two sections of Children's and YA Literature is where it went for me! I will have to leave a bit early as I got lost on campus Monday when I was trying to find a building. Maps don't help me a whole lot as I have no sense of direction!

For those of you who have been reading my blog for awhile know that I am a lover of the edgy YA novel for older teens. A Room on Lorelei Street is still my favorite. Adam Rapp's 33 Snowfish will not replace it, although it is the most edgy out there YA novel I have read. It is so dark and raw that it is difficult to keep reading, but you do because you need something good to happen to at least one of the characters in this book about runaways/throwaways. Custis is the main character in a trio that includes Curl, a teenage prostitute, and Boobie, a stoic 17 year old who has killed his parents. After the murders, the three run in Boobie's family Skylark, spray painted black to avoid detection. Although the he is the youngest, Custis is the most lucid but that isn't saying much as he has migraine type headaches that cause him to wake up in a new location, with no idea how he got there. The horrific life experiences these young people endure are heart breaking and at times stretch the reader's sense of belief to the very limit. Mine stretched and broke. This book deserves a place in every YA collection, but personally I was not enthralled with it. Many YA specialists are - they love both the book and Adam Rapp. Even though I am not crazy about this book, I think anyone who works with teens and their literature should read it.

Time to go. I love my 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe! It drives like a dream and corners tighter than the RAV4. I also love the 18" wheels, which put me sitting up higher. And to think that I am the one who used to love to drive a Trans Am that sat so low my butt almost hit the pavement! :-)

Monday, August 14, 2006

Just received a short email from Steve saying they had just gotten a pretty substantial earthquake in the islands. There were several smaller ones since we lived there, but nothing really big. He said this one felt like over a 6.0. Looked online, but didn't find anything about it. I told him to check the crack in the kitchen wall as the cistern is right behind it. I immediately envisioned thousands of gallons of cistern water rushing into the apartment.

Went wandering through the stores yesterday to get myself out of the house. I am having shopping overload - too much to choose from. It is easy in the islands - if they have it, buy it! If CostULess or Kmart doesn't have it you won't get it anyway! I wandered the aisles of Target - it was overwhelming! I was so overwhelmed in Barnes and Noble I got a headache and walked out without buying anything. That is the first for me in a bookstore! I need to go downtown to the second hand bookstore that is not so overwhelming - buy a cup of tea and just browse or sit and look at a few titles.

Off to a technology workshop this afternoon on resources available to us for teaching online. Need to dress warm as the buildings are so darn cold. Found a heated floor mat online yesterday. I may order it for my own office. BRRR!!

On a much slower pace, I savored Kimberly Willis Holt's Part of Me, a delicious multigenerational tale set in the bayous of Louisiana - near Houma, for those of you who know Louisiana. Rose's mother has been forced to move back home when her Texan husband walks out the door and doesn't come back. Not wanting to be beholden to her father any longer than she must, Rose's mom goes to work shucking oysters and insists Rose lie about her age and get the job as the bookmobile driver. So, 14-year-old Rose says she is 17 and thus begins her live as a bookmobile driver. She soon learns that putting lower reading level novels on the adult side of the shelves makes sense as the women who check out the cookbooks don't read well. Set up as short stories/chapters, future generations of Rose's family are highlighted, including her son Merle Henry, who wants nothing more than to trap a mink. Let's just say, Rose has a hand in this endeavor. :-) Annabeth, Merle Henry's daughter, spends the summer with Gamma Rose, trying to get the attention of a neighborhood boy, and is taken to the bookmobile just as her father had been as a child. Through the years Rose has been filling notebooks full of her stories, stories she thinks no one else will read. With longing, she suggests to her children and grandchildren that perhaps they will become writers. She may be on in years, but Rose will have a chance to share her stories. The reader feels like he/she is taking a leisurely stroll with Holt and Rose as they amble along the bayous, discussing Rose's family through the years.

All for now. Gotta go check to see if Steve emailed any more details on the earthquake.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Sorry it has been so long between postings. What a hectic few weeks it has been with this move. But, I now have wireless Internet through our cable provider so I can use my laptop anywhere in the condo. Haven't been able to use the cable though as my TV won't arrive until Tuesday.

A sunny Sunday morning here in Greenville. The master bedroom has a large window with an Eastern exposure so I am waken by the sun. I really don't mind as it allows me to wake up slowly. Had my early a.m. Diet Coke and reading time, but no Sophie on my tummy. I sure miss her. Feels weird to walk around the condo talking to myself instead of to her. And she talks back! At least with the cat under foot I didn't look like quite as much of a loon. Steve is taking her in for her rabies shot so I can bring her back with me when I am on island in October.

Talked to Steve yesterday morning. RJ, one the well known pub/bar singers on the island, is in the hospital on a respirator. No insurance, so the guys were doing a poker run last night to five different places as a fund raiser to help pay RJ's medical bills. I told Steve to lose as much as we could afford. I can close my eyes and see the smile light up RJ's face when he recognized us when we walked in to Megan's or Bottom's Up. And that man has a voice that can soothe the savage beast.

Was in my new office a couple of days ago unpacking review copies. It is like Christmas for me and all I want to do is grab an armload and go hide somewhere and read. My first read from the ARCs was Holly Bennett's The Bonemender's Oath, as I loved the first book about Gabrielle, the healer who discovers she is half Human and half Elvish, The Bonemender. The second book delves deeper into Gabrielle and Feolan's relationship as they help young Derkh, the soldier who Gabrielle heals and welcomes into her home, accept that he is no longer the enemy. Gabrielle's trickster brother Tristan and his beloved Rosie are central to this story as she is the target for a crazed merchant who wants to wed her at any means, even kidnapping and murder. Reading Bennett's books is like savoring a delicious cup of herbal tea in front of a fire - sips of the unique flavors of a Elvish world swirl about and mingle with the warmth, humor, and loving brew of a Human family. "Life was right now, right here, in her hands. She examined the cup she held - the gloss of it, the rich color, the exquisite transparency of the liquid within - and she drank deep".

I am off to Belks this afternoon to buy a set of pots and pans that are on sale. Not that they will get much use until Steve is here, but at least I will have them. I did actually use the little toaster oven and made myself a turkey pepperoni and veggie cheese pizza yesterday for lunch. Also pigged out on mint chocolate chip soy ice cream last night. Need to be careful or I will put on lots of weight now that all the soy and rice products I couldn't find on the islands are available at the local Kroger.

All for today.

Friday, August 04, 2006

In a little less than an hour Steve will be here to pick me to begin a very busy day. We will drive all the way back down to Greenville when he finishes his training session this afternoon. I have been on the phone all morning with the insurance agent, loan officer and dealership. I will pick up my new car tomorrow - a slate blue 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe. Very pretty! I got spoiled with sitting up high in the RAV4 and wanted another small SUV.

Don't know how soon my Internet connection will be up at the condo and the ECU library is closed for the weekend so I can't even go use their wireless connection. And, I won't be able to pick up my sheets and comforter for tomorrow night so we will have to buy a set of sheets and a blanket. I will have Internet withdrawal during the weekend!

Haven't had any time to read. We watched Weekend at Bernie's last night. What a stupid, but snort laugh funny movie. Hard to believe we were laughing over two young guys using a guy's dead body to be able to part for the weekend. Steve's choice of movies - not mine! :-)

May be a few days before I get back to the blog and even a few more before I have had time to read. I forgot how much work moving is! Even the shopping isn't that much fun because I am feeling pressured by time constraints. And, sad that I know once I drop Steve off at the airport in Raleigh I won't see him until probably October.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Time sure flies when you are having fun, or at least super busy! I am working on checking all the hot links in the documents for my Fall courses at ECU and clicked on MadChatter and saw the last time I posted was July 25th. Wow! What a busy few weeks it has been. I am sitting in the Woodfin Suites in Rockville, MD, right outside of DC. Steve is in an IT training session here so I decided to drive up with him and spend the week rather than being in our new condo with no furniture. Being here is forcing me to settle down a bit and actually get through my tons of email and get work done on my courses.

We flew into DC last Friday night, drove to Greenville on Saturday in time to check out a few car dealerships and drive the Hyundai Santa Fe, which I fell in love with. Haven't bought one yet though - maybe this coming Saturday. Had to at least drive the Mazda little SUV - didn't like it at all. Sunday we ran around to every furniture store open and laid on more mattresses than I want to even think about. I hate bed shopping. The washer and dryer were the easiest to pick out as was the pedestal table which is also a poker table - pleased both Steve and I. :-)

We closed on the Condo Monday morning, stopped by the utilities place to make sure the power didn't get turn off, and left for DC. We drive back down tomorrow and our bed, washer, dryer and table will be delivered on Saturday. The essentials - somewhere to sleep, eat and/or work on the computer, and a way to wash clothes. Will have to stop by the office to pick up the stuff I had sent there so we will have bedding and dishes. Saturday will be a busy one trying to get things done that I need Steve's help with as he flies out of Raleigh on Sunday. I better have a car by then or I will end up keeping the PT Cruiser we rented for the week. The car is cute, but the seats are really uncomfortable for these old bones of mine.

Then Monday I will drive all the way to Greensboro - other side of the state - to a meeting. Oh well, no one can say my life is boring!

I did finish the bio about Hepburn and Tracy - An Affair to Remember. I have been fascinated by the actors of that time period since I was a kid so I enjoyed the references to others I recognized. I think the reason Tracy and Hepburn stayed together for so long is no one else could handle their abrasive attitude toward others. They were not nice people!

Also read Richard Peck's The River Between Us. Can you believe B&N online has this listed for ages 5-12? I have a sneaking suspicion that should be grades 5-12. I do love Peck's writing, but I see adult appeal in his books much more so than I do child or teen appeal. They are written as reminiscences and that makes a big difference - it is the view of an adult looking back on his early years. But, I do love Tilly, the daughter who will never gain her mother's love as much as she tries and Delphine, the "free woman of color" escaping the war in a small Illinois river town. Delphine's poise and determination for a fifteen-year-old seems unbelievable today, but by New Orleans standards of the time she should have been already put up in her own home by a rich white plantation owner, like her mama had been. I enjoyed every moment of the book and would love to talk to a teen who has read it and liked it as well.

Okay - enough "fun" writing - back to updating course documents.