Month: August 2011

R.I.P. VI Reading Challenge

It is time for my favorite reading challenge of the year, Carl’s R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril Challenge!  I’ll be participating in Peril the First (reading at least 4 spooky or mysterious books, but striving for 7) and the short story, screen, and Fragile Things read-along.

Here’s my pool of potential reads.  What should I start with first?

  • At Bertram’s Hotel by Agatha Christie
  • Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier
  • The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
  • The Dead Secret by Wilkie Collins
  • The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox
  • The Alienist by Caleb Carr
  • The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman
  • The Haunted Doll’s House by M R James
  • Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
  • The Bad Seed by William March
  • Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
  • The Woman in Black by Susan Hill (re-read)

Hooray for deliciously creepy, autumnal books!


Readerly Rambles: 08/27/2011

What I’ve Finished:

  • A Word Child by Iris Murdoch:  I haven’t read a Murdoch book in YEARS and I don’t know why.  I love her novels.  Characterization is key in Iris Murdoch novels; each character is so human.  My human, I mean completely imperfect.  Much of the plot is driven by misunderstandings, secrecy, and strange acts of coincidence.  While this description may seem to describe the book as a light-hearted farce, that is not true.  The wit is biting and often harsh and the plots are generally less than cheerful.  A Word Child aptly suits that description; Hilary Burde as whiz at languages, works a boring job, is fiercely devoted to his sister, and carries a harrowing secret.  I simply couldn’t put this book down.
  • Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin:  I liked this book while I read it, yet feel a bit ambiguous towards it now.  The novel is a fictionalized account of Alice Liddell, Lewis Carroll’s inspiration for Alice in Wonderland.  It is well-written and interesting, but when I completed the book I felt like much of it was forgettable.  Benjamin writes very well about uncomfortable topics (like weirdly close relationships between grown men and little girls), but I felt as if she were skimming the surface.  I wanted a bit deeper of a read. 

What I’m Reading:

Currently, I’m only reading one book and this is because I can’t imagine diverting any of my reading time to another volume.  I’ve wanted to read this book for years and now I’ve finally gotten to it.  The story is about a nunnery and one nun in particular, Phillipa, and I can’t even begin to describe how much I love this book. 

Recent Purchases:

I’m too tired to bother whipping out a camera for a bookporn picture of my recent book purchases, so you’ll all have to use your imaginations:

  • The Virago Book of Ghost Stories
  • The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl
  • Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman
  • The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton
  • The Living Dead (zombie short stories!)
  • Zelda: A Biography by Nancy Milford
  • London: a Biography by Peter Ackroyd


Speaking of piles of purchased books, I’m contemplating a massive reorganizing of my book shelfs.  Here is my current set-up:

  • Two sets of shelves in the livingroom has authors A-Z (fiction, poetry, short stories, children’s books, etc)
  • The buildt-in shelves next to the fireplace has short story and poetry anthologies, non-fiction, Viragos, odd ball books, and library books.
  • Also, the shelves are overly crammed and sloppy.  bleh

The new set-up I’m thinking of:

  • Fiction authors A-Z on the double shelves (this will leave some room for growth!
  • The white built-in shelves will have Viragos and non-fiction
  • A small bookshelf I’m stealing back from Atticus (it did have toys on it, but now Atticus is attempting to scale it) will go in my bedroom and hold all poetry and short stories, library books, and my monthly TBR pile.

Any ideas on organizing?  How do you decide what goes on your shelf? 

Expect a spooky reading challenge list soon and I’ll be doing something cool in September!!!


Thoughts on a Library Disaster

I haven’t blogged in a while.  Actually, it feels like ages and ages.  I ran into the problem of only wanting to blog about One Thing and feeling like I should keep my mouth shut.  The gumption to write about something — anything — else has been absent.  So.  I’m going to open my mouth and write what I’ve been wanting to write.  First of all I would like to make some things clear:

  1. I am one person.  These are my impressions and ideas and I have not been fully briefed by all the parties involved.  I could be very wrong in some of the statements I make, but know that I make these statements based on observation and having folks in the know confide in me.
  2. If  you know which University and Library I work for, please keep that information out of comments, links, and posts relating to this.  I love my University and Library and I don’t want to cause undo stress because I feel the need to whine.
  3. No one has communicated to me written or verbally that I should not discuss this matter.  I was waiting for the big “Don’t Talk About It” from the higher up folks, but it never came.
  4. I’m not sharing pictures because I do not want to effect any legal action that may or may not take place.


It rained inside of the library last Friday.


Not a drip.  Not a trinkle.  An actual rain.

So what happened?

We’ve had roofers re-roofing our library and last Thursday night they left the site and didn’t COVER THE OPEN ROOF.  Yes, there was a large gaping hole in the roof.  There were ceiling tiles, but no roof.  And, yes, it rained that night.

Fast  forward to Friday morning.

The housekeeper arrives at 7:30am and disarms our alarmed building.  I arrive at 7:45am, put my bags in the office, and head off to the break -room to brew a pot of coffee.  While the coffee brews I leave our work area and head out to our Information Desk area.  The housekeeper and I are talking and we realize that in the very back of our one-story library there are men crawling around in the dark with bags.  At first I freak out, but then I recognize one of the men as a roofer and I notice they are counting something on the ceiling.  The housekeeper and I head to the back together to investigate.

I flip on the back lights and stand in the middle of the library.  I’m all at once panicked, angry, confused, and pretty much flabbergasted.  The carpet is soaked so badly in places that I’m splashing.  Wet, broken ceiling tiles are on the floor, the study tables, the couches, and some are draped across the actual books.  Water is dripping in places and streaming in others.  A few ceiling tiles are “pregnant”, i.e. full to bulging with water and about to burst.  The fluorescent light panels are filled with water.  Can I just say I was so proud of myself for not letting out a torrent of profanities?

One roofer has the AUDACITY to tell me it rained around the books and hit the floor.  At that moment I’m staring at a volume of Sherlock Holmes being dripped on. The most damage is in the P’s.   Those of you familiar with academic libraries  and the Library of Congress call number system will know that the “P’s” are LITERATURE.

Stretching back, some science, medicine, and textiles books are damaged but the brunt of the damage is in the literature section.  Chinese literature is okay, but after that the damage begins with British literature taking the most damage.

I left the back area and immediately called my library director (she was on her way to work and didn’t answer the phone) and called my supervisor.  Then some librarians showed up.  We closed the library for the day.  After that, the day was a blur: cleaning crews, administrators, insurance folks, roofers, concerned professors, consultants, maintenance workers, and art gallery personnel were in and out of the library all day.

We library folks headed to the damaged area to salvage what we could.   My first thought was to check on Elizabeth Bowen because I knew she lived on a top shelf.  There she was under a tile about to burst.  I grabbed every last Bowen volume and threw it on a library cart.  Rupert Brooke, alas, was already soaked through.  George Eliot was saved as was Thomas Hardy.  Sylvia Plath is soaked.  Shakespeare, Conrad, and Melville are pretty much gone.

Around 10 am, we couldn’t do any more and had to turn things over to the professional cleaners.  We went for coffee on campus and later that day we went out for Thai food.  We were shocked and MAD AS HELL.

If this had been the product of a natural disaster I think we all would have been grateful for what we could salvage and that no one was hurt.  But this damage was from lazy stupidity.  Seriously?  You leave the roof open?  All of this could have been prevented.  The one thing I’m most thankful for is that it wasn’t over our rare book gallery.

The past few days have been a period of waiting.  I worked at a yearbook camp over the weekend (I pretty much just set at the front desk and made sure no teenagers messed with the collection, artwork, or the disaster area).  I worked this week at the library, but didn’t go into the disaster zone.  I turned off our ILL lending, I stalled a book fine project because I couldn’t check the stacks for lost books, I tried to catch-up on other things.

We began to hear encouraging things — many books would be saved, things were drying out, everything would be okay.  Until yesterday.  Yesterday the library staff went to the back to check for mold blooms.  I didn’t go, as I have a mold allergy.   I went back there for 5 minutes to ask a question (because I heard it wasn’t too bad back there) and it is bad.  My throat went scratchy and the air smelled bleh.  Today, I’m home with congestion, a sinus headache, and a sore throat.  The librarians looked grim.

I don’t know what the final fallout will be.  I don’t know what will be replaced or how much money the University can spend.  Oh, and classes start Monday.

The past few days I’ve had a silly panic.  I forgot to check on Rebecca West.  I cannot tell you how much that bothers me.  She is on a top shelf.  I hope she isn’t damaged, because I can guarantee you she won’t be replaced.  I don’t believe a single university course teaches her and our replacements will need to support authors taught in the contemporary university classroom

This panic led to a strange book buying spree on my lunch break yesterday.  In 15 minutes I blew through the local charity book shop and bought 6 books.  It was weird.  I joke about needing to buy books and book binges, but most of the time I’m being hyperbolic.  This was a weird snatching, grabbing, desperate, sort of books buying. I’ll share the purchases in a different post.

So that’s it.  That’s what’s running through my mind.  It fucking rained in our library.  IT FUCKING RAINED IN OUR LIBRARY.

Library Loot: 08/17/11 Edition

I actually checked these books out over a week ago and I’m just now getting around to sharing:

Pretty good haul.

I should provide a synopsis, but instead I’ll let you click on the GoodReads links!  I’m tired and anxious to plop myself on the couch with a book.  Atticus has been sick all week and this mama is too sleepy to think.

I leave you with this link for the trailer to The Woman in Black.  I. CANNOT. WAIT.

Photo Friday: The Bake and Make Edition

An embroidered birthday hankie for a friend…

Blueberry Oatmeal Pecan Cookies…

A basketweave dish cloth. Most of it is knitted and then I did a crochet thingamajig border…

Cheery Cherry Muffins…

Basketweave Cloth…

I’m in a makerish mood.  I have plans to bake more Cherry Muffins, something new with blueberries, and a chocolate plum cake.  I’m also knitting more dish cloths for all the marrying/newlymoved/birthdaying folks I know.  I’ve also started a project for a stitch-along, but I couldn’t take pictures because the camera batteries are dead.  Oh yes, and I think I’m starting a low-key knitting group at the coffee shop.  Oh yeah!  And crafts, I have plans to make somethings with Hope and a few felt owls.

I hope you all are out there making something.  It is so satisfying and peaceful!

For Alicia Hope

This morning you were grumpy.  You stayed in your room for a solid half-hour after waking.  I heard drawers opening and slamming shut.  You stomped around your room in one new tennis shoe and the boot for your foot contusion.  Doors opened.  Bathroom door slammed shut.

After the 900th outfit change you sat at the table glumly stirring your bowl of Cream of Wheat.  Amidst the eye rolls and dramatic sighs you played with your little brother, you hugged your Dad, you nervously asked me if I liked your shirt.

Then you were out the door with a well-stocked backpack:  money for a school locker, lip gloss, bracelets, school supplies, lunch… you walked with head down to the school bus.  Nervous and excited.  Your ponytail bounced as you walked and yes, your shoes match your backpack perfectly.

I can’t believe you’re starting the sixth grade.  MIDDLE SCHOOL.  You’ll be playing the trumpet, keeping up with class changes, and joining clubs.  I know it is clichéd, but honestly I feel like it was just yesterday I dropped you off for your first day of daycare yesterday when you were 18 months old. Now you’re 11!   The time is going by too fast.

I wish I could say that this will be the best time of your life and with only good: friends, band practice, clubs, first crushes and most likely first boyfriends….. But I also know that my middle school years were harsh:  bullies, gossip, body changes, heartache, school stress….  There will be plenty of tough times mixed in with the good and exciting.

Already you’re forming your own opinions and ideas.  I watch you planning and dreaming and wishing things for the future.  I want so badly to jump in and plan, dream, and wish with you.  I want to be right there to celebrate the joys and wipe away the tears and hurt, but I know that you are forging your own path.  I must strive to offer you support and space.

When you were in the womb I thought about what I wanted for you in life and how I viewed my role as a parent.  More than anything I want you to be independent.  I want you to be your own person and know your own mind.  I’ve spent the last 11 or so years letting you pick your clothes, express your mind, and make choices.  I haven’t given you blatant independence.  You’ve also had responsibility: chores, consequences, and more than a few disappointments.

Now its time for this Mama to take a deep breath and step back.  I’ll help with homework, I’ll answer questions, I’ll offer my counsel, and (of course) there will still be discipline and rules, but I promise, Alicia Hope, to resist my urge to helicopter, to let you wear your mismatched socks without comment, to curb my snarky reactions to Selena Gomez music, I won’t forcibly hug you in front of your friends….  I promise to let you be you and part of that is letting you experience those joys and hurts without me sheltering you.

You are simply the most marvelous young lady I know.  You are my first baby and I love you with a love that is so fierce.  You are my Peanut and I am so proud of you.

I hope you are having a wonderful first day of school and I hope to hear all about it soon.  Remember to be yourself, do your best, and that I’ll always be here.  I love you.

Readerly Rambles: 08/05/2011

What I’ve Finished:

My reading has been clipping along at a lovely pace — well, for me at least — and I’ve finished several books in the past month:

  • Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner:  You can read my belated International Brookner Day post here.  I’ll certainly be revisiting this author, as I really enjoyed her writing style.  I’m a fan of witty observations paired with quintessentially British characters. 
  • The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett:  This nonfiction book is about John Gilkey, a man who has stolen over $200,000 worth of rare books and other items.  I was intrigued by the Bartlett’s extensive interviews with Gilkey, her chronicling of his thievery and upbringing, the depth of her explanations of the rare book world, and her interviews with Ken Sanders (the rare book dealer who caught Gilkey).  However, I think this book lacked a certain amount of depth.  Hoover repeatedly discusses Gilkey’s delusional outlook on life, his desire to “make” his image through book thieving, and his belief that he deserved these stolen goods.  She strongly emphasizes that he seems to have a mental break with reality.  HOWEVER, at no point does she discuss his issues/history with mental health professionals.  The book is a fast and enticing read despite its flaws; I finished the book while sitting in the movie theater awaiting the midnight showing of Harry Potter 7.2.
  • Elizabeth I by Margaret George:  Margaret George is my new author crush.  This is the first book I’ve read by George even though she has been on my TBR pile for ages.  It took a good 50 pages or so for me to get into the book, but once I was in there I didn’t want to come up for air!  What I liked most about the novel is that it begins with the Spanish Armada (Drake representin’) and covers Elizabeth’s later rule and death.  Most books seem to focus on the young Elizabeth and it was fascinating to read a novelization of her later life.  You must read this book!
  • The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories:  I’ve actually been reading this book off and on since December 2009!  This large volume is filled to bursting with deliciously creepy ghost stories.  Let’s just say I will NEVER play hide’n’seek in a house at night EVER (sorry kids). 
  • Interlibrary Loan and Document by Lee Andrew Hilyer:  this was a ridiculously concise book on ILL.  I think it is for folks who are totally unacquainted with interlibrary loan.  I picked up one or two things.  Yes, I read it for work and yes, it was infinitely dull.

What I’m Reading:

I have two books going at the moment:

  • A Word Child by Iris Murdoch: I adore Iris Murdoch, but I haven’t picked up a Murdoch book in ages.  I’m about 100 pages in and all of my favorite Murdochisms are present – pitiful and unlikable characters to which, oddly, I find myself liking, phenomenal feats of language play, wit, dashes of mystery, and dear god her powers of description.  I can’t put my finger on why I love her character descriptions so.  There earthy and real; her descriptions of people have this animal quality.  I’m on a mission to find the perfect description to illustrate this aspect of her writing.  More on that in the soonish future.
  • Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin:  This is my secondary read.  This book is planted in the nursery by the rocking chair for when I’m nursing and rocking Atticus.  I’ve only read the first chapter of this novel about Lewis Carroll and his Alice, Alice Liddell.  I haven’t read as much because I’ve developed a habit of dozing when rocking the baby.  I’m intrigued by the novel and slightly uncomfortable.  In the first chapter Alice is a child and mesmerized by Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) but there is something certainly creepy about the attraction between the two.

What’s Next:

I have a library book and an ILL book on my nightstand to read next.  Jane and Prudence by Barbara Pym (I’m on another Brit. streak) and Vin Packer’s pulp novella duo Whisper his Sin / The Evil Friendship.  The Packer story The Evil Friendship is about the Parker-Hulme murder and was part of the inspiration for Heavenly Creatures.

Loads of great reading going on and even more in the future.  Tomorrow I’m taking the kids to the library so I’m sure I’ll find a few more books jumping on-board.