Friday, July 29, 2011

get lucky


Got my eyes on the latest novel by Houston-based writer, Katherine Center!

"latest" = published in 2010

(notice how I used the modifier "finally" to explain that I know this book isn't exactly "new" anymore)

But in the grand world of the written, it doesn't always matter when you come to a book -- but that you found your way in the first place...

Here is an excerpt from the FIRST CHAPTER.

It took no less than a day to finish (take that former-slow-reading-self)!

Here is a mini-synopsis via Publishers Weekly:

"Sarah Harper is on the New York fast track at a top advertising agency until she grows a conscience overnight and sends out a companywide e-mail debunking her popular bra campaign. Fired, she flies home to Houston, where she crashes with her older sister, Mackie, and Mackie's husband, Clive. Turns out Mackie has problems of her own: after years of trying to have a baby, she announces she's done. In an effort to do something good for a change, Sarah offers herself up as a surrogate."

Interested? My favorite parts include Sarah's struggles (what?) after the deed is done. There is turmoil and sincere doubt/fears, which lesser writers would've glossed over. It's not a traditional fairytale ending...

Or maybe it is? While carrying her sister's child, Sarah gets involved with saving "The Love Library" (bibliophile alert! bibliophile alert!). This aspect of the novel seemed to take center stage for a bit, and since I enjoyed it--I wasn't bothered.

Could a reader more interested in the "surrogate part" get upset?

I started wondering if Sarah Harper would've been a fantastic character to carry through in a format closer to a dozen related short stories as opposed to a novel. But that's just my own instincts talking (since the short story is my preferred method of madness).

OR I could see Sarah as a sitcom: drama with a sprinkling of comedy. She is someone I seem to know now, a friend. I want more of her!

All of Katherine Center's heroines do this to me, they come alive on the page!


related: Everyone is Beautiful from 2009 (also by Center)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Within the Last Hour:

The White Stripes – My Doorbell
The Raconteurs – Broken Boy Soldier
The White Stripes – Seven Nation Army
Kings of Leon – Wasted Time
Kings of Leon – Sex On Fire
The White Stripes – My Doorbell
The White Stripes – Take, Take, Take
The Raconteurs – Store Bought Bones
The Raconteurs – Level
The Raconteurs – Together
The Raconteurs – Steady As She Goes
Buddy Holly – Everyday
The Cleftones – Heart And Soul
The Platters – The Great Pretender
The Del-Vikings – Come Go With Me
Buffalo Springfield – For What It's Worth
The Mamas & The Papas – California Dreamin'

Do you see a pattern developing?


Friday, July 22, 2011

Book(shelf) Porn!

I was having lunch with a couple friends earlier this week when BAM! I was knocked out by a ton of books? No, but I may as well have been...

I was directed to one of the greatest sites EVER in the history of the Internet: RIGHT HERE!

It's described as a photoblog "showcasing only the best photographs of bookshelves" created by Anthony Dever in Jan. 2009.

(bookshelf/door is from Book. Book. Book.)

I call it absolutely AMAZING.

Clicking through pictures and making sounds not normally associated with books is...FUN!

My own collection of books should be shuddering with excitement now that I have all of this...inspiration.

*rubs hands together and laughs maniacally"


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Orphan Sister

On top of being a graduate student, (studying creative writing) I am now a soon-to-be teaching fellow with my own freshmen composition class...

needless to say, reading strictly for pleasure is something I've forgotten how to do.

I read.

But there seems to be an ulterior motive now. A set of questions always linger not very far from the center of my brain, something like this:

What does this style reveal about the subject?
How are these sentences working together?
Could my class benefit from reading this?

So I was a little nervous when I got the latest novel by GWENDOLEN GROSS in the mail. Would I be able to turn off my student/teacher brain?

The answer is NO. BUT it didn't take away from the reading for pleasure aspect! In fact, reading a well-crafted book written by someone who knows (and teaches) the art of writing made my brain work overtime.

The Orphan Sister is not the first book I've read by GG (as I affectionately call her). In 2007, I blogged about one of her previous works, The Other Mother. She has published four novels altogether and I've had the pleasure of reading three. (I wrote pleasure!)

There is a lot of beauty within this book, through images and ways of communication. Triplets, Odette, Olivia, and Clementine provide a different sisterly atmosphere--because they are polyzygots--a set of twins from the same egg and a separate one, almost a spare.

The three often communicate through their thoughts, so we get to hear or witness internal dialogue, something I'm never come across while reading before--other than in monologues--but by definition a monologue is not necessarily known by another character.

My favorite part of the book is the background life of Clementine--the non-twin of the triplets. She is a bit of a free spirit or black sheep as far as the family dynamic is concerned. Instead of medical school, like her father and sisters, for example, she is interested in becoming a veterinarian.

Unlike her sisters, Clementine is single. Unlike her sisters Clementine is NOT pregnant. She didn't go to Harvard, but attended Oberlin. Instead of accepting her parents odd, mysterious relationship, she dissects it.

Her other-ness or orphan-ness makes her a character worth rooting for!

Other little "things" from the book:
  • Adjective Sandwiches which combines two of my favorite things: Words & Food
  • Alliteration, the artful arrangement of words containing the same beginning letter
  • Surprises at least five--a few of which I did NOT see coming
So I recommend this novel, obviously. It's a relatively fast read, but deeper than your average summer book. There are even "book club" questions at the end and an interview with the author--perfect for sharing with sisters, biological or chosen.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Ghostly Competition

Aside from watching marathon spans of Ghost Adventures, the Travel Channel (and Zak Bagans) have found another way to scare the absolute bejesus out of me...(July has suddenly become "scary month.")

Enter Paranormal Challenge (Friday nights at 8pm cst) where two teams go head-to-head investigating the same haunted location in hopes of gathering the "best" or most convincing evidence of spirits.

They are then judged by a panel of respected members of the paranormal community on their team work, use of equipment, and the evidence (photographic and sound) they are able to gather.

Through social media (Twitter) I've been able to get to know a few of these teams of paranormal investigators, especially Northeastern Spirit Society (based in Fairmont, WV).

(Check out their awesome logo)

Although they have a lot of experience between them, the group has only been investigating together for about a year now.

Tonight you can watch them in action on the Travel Channel as they explore the famously active West Virginia Penitentiary in Moundsville...

It's an interesting place with a lot of violent history. Do I sound like an expert? I'm not. I only watched the original episode of Ghost Adventures and did some reading on the location. Simple.

In anticipation of their episode (they just keep getting better each week) I caught up with the lead investigator of NSS, Daniel Bellay, for a fun interview.

He explained that his first paranormal experience happened when he was a child, when he went to explore a "haunted" location with friends.

It was a "distinct feeling" and experience he says he'll never forget.

WHY do you enjoy investigating paranormal activity?

"I have loved the paranormal since I was a child playing with Ghostbusters gear and wanting to see spirits. I do it now because I feel as though I have a skill at contacting spirits and capturing evidence. It is a passion and a hobby that exhilarates me."
As an adult, Daniel began making friends with others who were also interested in the paranormal. With "TONS"of solo investigations between team members, they began investigating together on a very frequent basis.

He says their "weekly hangout" is at the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, WV, where a couple of the team members lead Ghost Tours.

Something very important to Daniel is accepting everyone for who they are and listening to others when it comes to their paranormal beliefs and techniques. You could say that Acceptance is a team motto.

Through paranormal investigations, Daniel said he "hopes to discover answers about how we can better communicate with spirits." He is fascinated by the intelligent responses captured during his investigations.

For those unfamiliar with the term, an "intelligent" response is when spirits seem to communicate with a person--such as answering questions or saying names of present individuals. The spirit seems to be aware of its surroundings as opposed to "residual" responses where energy is trapped and the same sounds are heard (for example, tapping associated with a specific event) over and over again. Residual activity is the most commonly captured.

This, along with other terms are often used on these types of shows, but they are almost always explained. You don't need to be a para-expert to watch, and you might find yourself inspired to scout out a local "haunted" location yourself.
What advice would you give to "new" investigators or people who are interested in conducting investigations?

"Keep trying to find the best piece of evidence you can week after week. If you catch something amazing, go back and try to improve your skills to get something even better next time. There are no guarantees in the paranormal, you just need to learn how to communicate and get a response."
Tune into the Travel Channel tonight and see what happens, I know I can't wait!


Friday, July 8, 2011

The Ghost Belonged to Me

It was suggested that instead of rewatching (and maybe ruining) the Child of Glass, maybe I should get my hands on the book it was based on instead.

So I did.

Released in 1975, The Ghost Belonged to Me by Richard Peck was the first in the "Blossom Culp" series. News to me, because I've never heard of it.

Of course, I didn't know the book even existed until recently.

Even though it's written for the preteen set, I found a used copy on Amazon and ordered it alongside my books for the Fall semester.

It took me no time to finish it.

Instead of taking place in Louisiana in the 1970s (like the movie) the story occurs near the turn of the century (1913) in Missouri, close to the Mississippi river. Little spooky details that invoke thoughts about my current life.

I'm not sure how I feel about the prose in general though, it was a bit awkward and I think it just isn't because I'm probably three times older than the target audience. All of the books I read as a child were usually written by women. This one, is not.

Now that I've seen "where" the movie came from, it seems as if I should just go ahead and watch it.



Thursday, July 7, 2011


I dwell in Possibility--
A fairer House than Prose--
More numerous of Windows--
Superior--for Doors -

(Emily Dickinson)


*Photo taken at the 160+ year-old Georgia "State Lunatic, Idiot, and Epileptic Asylum" in Milledgeville, May 2011*

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Surgeon at 2 A.M.

Over one bed in the ward, a small blue light
Announces a new soul. The bed is blue.
Tonight, for this person, blue is a beautiful color.
The angels of morphia have borne him up.
He floats an inch from the ceiling,
Smelling the dawn drafts.

(Sylvia Plath)


*Photo taken at the 160+ year-old Georgia "State Lunatic, Idiot, and Epileptic Asylum" in Milledgeville, May 2011*

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Ivy Green

Oh, a dainty plant is the Ivy green,
That creepeth o'er ruins old!

Of right choice food are his meals, I ween,
In his cell so lone and cold.

The wall must be crumbled, the stone decayed,
To pleasure his dainty whim:

And the mouldering dust that years have made
Is a merry meal for him.

Creeping where no life is seen,
A rare old plant is the Ivy green.

(Charles Dickens)

*All photos taken at the 160+ year-old Georgia "State Lunatic, Idiot, and Epileptic Asylum" in Milledgeville, May 2011*

Monday, July 4, 2011

Summertime Obsession

(other than the Casey Anthony trial)

A couple days before leaving Milledgeville for the Summer, I was clicking around late one night and happened upon a show on the Travel channel: Ghost Adventures.

Because it was so late and I was alone in my apartment, I should've known better--but I watched episode after episode of Zak Bagans and crew investigating haunted places throughout the world. It was a marathon, after all, and no matter how hard I tried I could NOT turn it off!

Several episodes later, I'd be lying if I told you it was easy to go to sleep.

Fast forward to NOW I've been lucky enough to catch these episodes:

Bonnie Springs Ranch (Old West ranch)
Fort Chaffee (haunted fort)
Jerome Grand Hotel (most haunted structure in "Ghost City")
Linda Vista Hospital (East LA hospital haunted by gang violence)
Moundsville Penitentiary
Old Fort Erie (War of 1812)
Prospect Place (stop on the underground railroad)
Sacramento Tunnels
Villisca Axe Murder House (house where 8 people were murdered)
Yorktown Memorial Hospital (abandoned hospital in Texas)
Waverly Hills (sanatorium)
Old Idaho Penitentiary
Hales Bar Marina

At least that's all I *think* I've seen...the show seems very similar to one that aired on MTV ten years ago: FEAR where (according to Wikipedia):

"The program follows a group of 5 or more contestants being left at an allegedly haunted location and led them on a series of dares over two nights to explore and confirm whether or not the place is haunted."

It was extremely creepy to watch and although it only ran for sixteen episodes, I learned it was cancelled because it was extremely expensive to produce.

The major "creepy" factor for FEAR was all the "dares" contestants had to perform like staying in a prison cell (alone) for more than 12 hours without lights under complete radio silence. Um, no. Just thinking about it makes my skin crawl.

In GHOST ADVENTURES the crew uses known history and often tries to provoke similar situations into happening. Without an outside camera crew, they are responsible for all of the the electronic equipment, etc.

Am I skeptical? No. Could I do something similar? Yes BUT nothing "Fear" style.



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