Friday, August 31, 2007

I'm So Excited...

...I cain't Sleep! Time to wrap-up the Southern Reading Challenge! I have one final Mister Linky and then we will draw for the autographed copy of Martin Clark's The Many Aspects of Mobile Home Living plus another pecan treat! So, if you've hung in there wid me this summer, and finished 3 Southern settings by Southern author books, sign on the dotted Mr. Linky line. Be sure to either include your summary post of the challenge OR a link to the third book read. Ain't those legs adorable on the cover?!?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Katrina Remembered

Made with Cottonballs and Hairspray!
How easy is that!

Katrina Books of Interest...

Breach of Faith by Jed Horne (2006)

City Adrift by Jenni Bergal (2007)

Disaster by Christopher Cooper (2006)

Face to Face with Katrina Survivors
by Lemuel A Moye (2006)

Feet on the Street by Roy Blout, Jr (2005)

The Great Deluge by Douglas Brinkley (2006)

Hurricane Katrina by Reginald DesRoches

In Katrina’s Wake by Bill McKibben (2006)

Katrina: Mississippi Women Remember
by Sally Pfister (2007)

Katrinaville Chronicles by David G. Speilman (2007)

New Orleans Mon Amour by Andrei Codrescu (2006)

Path of Destruction by John McQuaid (2006)

The Strom by Ivor Van Heerden (2006)

The Year of Fog (copy)

It was cold and foggy the morning we decided to walk Ocean Beach. There had been a couple of intense storms that week and we were hoping to find whole sand dollars.

Emma was her cheerful self and a constant tug as she continued to leave my hand for the interesting shells. I asked her to behave but I really couldn’t blame her for being excited. At six years of age everything is exciting and Emma’s excitement was contagious.

I had brought my Holga, an inexpensive little plastic camera I use when feeling artsy, and that morning was perfect. Well, except for the constant struggle with Emma. I found it hard to juggle her little hand and focus the camera at the same time.

This is when I made the mistake of a lifetime. In the excitement, I allowed Emma a privilege I had no right to offer.

See, Emma’s not my child. She is the sole property of my fiancĂ©, Jake. The man I was to marry in three months, but now, I’m not sure.

These are the facts as I remember them. Emma begged me to let her go and I let her go. She ran up ahead and I took her photo as she skipped away. I told her to come back, she was getting too immersed in the fog and I couldn’t see her. I looked down and there was a dead seal at my feet.

Had Emma seen the seal? Did it scare her, making her run in the opposite direction to find me? I mean, I only looked down for a few seconds, just enough time to get some shots. How far could she go on her little legs in this fog?

The Year of Fog is Alabama native Michelle Richmond's second book. According to her web page the book “was selected by Kirkus Reviews as one of the best books of 2007 for reading groups, and has been optioned by Newmarket Films.”

One will fall in love with author Richmond’s style as she describes a year in Abby Mason’s suspended life. Readers experience a jumble of guilt, shame and confusion as the days drag into weeks which draw into months, and still Emma’s whereabouts remain shrouded in the fog.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Brad Pitt Crowned Miss N'awlins

Five days from now, it will be the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Brad Pitt and Working Words 100 at Books and Stuff want to keep the focus on New Orleans.

Take a look at WW100 original comparison of past and present New Orleans using the books A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole and Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans.

Oh, yeah. Take a LONG look at Brad, too! ;D

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Owen & Mzee (copy)

It was a balmy post-tsunami day when he was discovered on the coral reefs away from shore. Two feet tall and 600 pounds, he was a meager shadow of his parents and other herd members. But, where was the herd?

He was mad, too. People kept crowding him and throwing nets on his back. He didn’t like these men and he really didn’t like nets. His instinct told him to run, to charge, but a man called Owen Sobien put a stop to all the chaos. In one fluid motion he leapt atop the rounded figure, securing him with a shark net.

Applause erupted as our new friend was ceremoniously named Owen and unceremoniously shoved in the back of a pick-up truck. The ride was dusty and hot in the African sun as they traveled to Mombasa, Kenya where an animal sanctuary named Haller Park awaited their arrival. Unfortunately, there was a problem; the existing herd was territorial and extremely aggressive. Owen would surely be killed.

Since he was still a baby, the park managers moved him into an enclosure called a boma. At the time the boma was home to gentler animals such as, “bushbucks, vervet monkeys and a few Aldabra tortoises.”

As they backed the truck into his new home it was becoming dark. Owen struggled to stay in the truck, but the annoying people prevailed. His slightly ungracious exit was followed by a quick bee line to a dark object in the corner of the boma. Within a minute the object moved, so he moved. The object moved again, so he moved again. Everyone smiled and called it a night.

The next morning, park managers were shocked by what they saw. Owen, a mammal, was sleeping next to a cold-blooded reptile. Not just any reptile, but a 130-year-old, grumpy, Aldabra tortoise.

This is the true story of Owen, a baby hippopotamus, and his constant-companion tortoise named Mzee [mm-Zay]. Currently, three books celebrate this extraordinary friendship: Owen & Mzee: Best Friends, Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship, and Owen & Mzee: The Language of Friendship. Each book celebrates their famous kinship, and is perfect for the child ready to transition into chapter books. Elementary teachers might find these books a refreshing approach to units on animals. Coloring sheets and activities can be found online at

Note: Authors include Isabella Hatkoff, Craig Hatkoff, and Dr. Paula Kahumbu. Photography by Peter Greste.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

That's Right, Mello Yellow!

You Are a Yellow Crayon

Your world is colored with happy, warm, fun colors. You have a thoughtful and wise way about you. Some people might even consider you a genius. Charming and eloquent, you are able to get people to do things your way. While you seem spontaneous and free wheeling, you are calculating to the extreme. Your color wheel opposite is purple. You both are charismatic leaders, but purple people act like you have no depth.

Thanks Book Diva, this was fun! :D

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Vigil Time 2007

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Flower Confidential (copy)

When I was little, I loved farm days with my grandfather, Papa. He raised steer and tobacco on acreage in Castalian Springs, Tennessee, west of Gallatin.

This particular year the tobacco was raised in a field adjacent to the road. Upon my arrival, I excitedly commented on the beautiful flowers. Papa let out a quick puff of air in disgust as he gruffly told me, “Flowers don’t make me money, leaves make me money.”

Here was my first lesson on manipulating plants. The flower buds are taken off tobacco plants to force leaf production. The official term is toppin’ and apparently my grandfather was behind. I would have loved to help; unfortunately, the plants were taller than my 10-year-old self.

Enter in Flower Confidential by Amy Stewart, which exposes the flower industry, thorn and all. “Each blossom is a unit of profit,” Stewart enlightens us as she pursues producers, all over the world, reporting on the cut-flower industry. An industry which isn’t as cutthroat as one might think, except Leslie Woodriff.

Stewart describes Leslie Woodriff as the, “last generation of true old-fashioned flower breeders.” Not your typical breeder, Woodriff sparsely kept records, cleaned his greenhouse, or watered his plants. Yet, this man discovered the “Star Gazer,” which revolutionized the lily business and made others rich.

Stewart not only educates readers by defining DIF and photoperiod, she provides historic background for favorites, such as violets, roses, and tulips. In one chapter, “How the Dutch conquered the World,” she quips the craziness surrounding tulip bulbs. In the 17th Century, Dutch florist might pay a couple thousand gilders for one bulb. Using the same amount during the period, one could purchase, “ordinary goods: several pigs, oxen, and sheep, a few tons of grain, tons of butter, barrels of beer, and a ship to carry them on.”

With each chapter, I kept thinking, “What are we losing by forcing plants to bloom?” Will flowers lose their scent because they no longer need bees to propagate their pollen? What about the Easter Lily which miraculously blooms Easter morning? That is, with the help from greenhouses controlling temperature, fertilization, and light deprivation.

Papa’s Easter Lily, with four, forced blooms in the church sanctuary, became 12 blooms in nature that following spring.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Like Welty and O'Connor!

Vidalia from Vidalia's Books discovered a new author which she claims, "follows in the tradition of southern authors like Welty and O'Connor. Her stories are haunting. She writes with a wry, bemused voice and a strong talent for description. Please note: this is NOT "chick lit." Highly recommended." Read more...

This is exciting news for us Welty and O'Connor lovers! I rushed to work and bought-up all the books I could find by Alabama native Jennifer S. Davis. Thanks, Vidalia!

Death Week 2007

Oh, you haven't heard? This is the week thousands of fun Elvis fans flock to Memphis to celebrate his life and death.

Big events include the Candlelight Vigil, Memorabilia Swap, 5k run or One-Mile Walk, Elvis Karaoke (to warm-up the impersonators), and Special Tours of Graceland.

For those of you outside of Memphis, Turner Classic Movies will run an Elvis Marathon, August 16th, which will last all day!

Before the fans arrive, regular Memphians can be found dusting their photos of the King, filling jukeboxes with his 45s, and stocking extra bananas for that oh-so special PBB.

Matter-of-fact, any Memphian worth her weight in gold even has an Elvis story to share: for example, Elvis drove a truck and once gave my friend a ride home to Como, Mississippi after he brokedown on the interstate.

Needless to say, with every sucessful Elvis Week comes "I knew Elvis" books. Fredric Koeppel, entertainment reporter for the Commercial Appeal, compiled them for the Sunday edition and I thought I would pass them along


Elvis: Still Taking Care of Business by Sonny West
Elvis Straight Up by Joe Esposito
Aloha, Elvis by Jerry Hopkins

Photo by Mike Brown/The CA

The Commercial Appeal photo caption~ August 13, 2007

Elvis impersonators Steve Rosati (left) and Keshav Patel, who both happened to have traveled to Memphis from Montreal, Canada, sing a karaoke duet at the Elvis Expo 2007 held at the Memphis Cook Convention Center through Tuesday. "These are the best kind of people in the world, Elvis fans and Elvis impersonators," Patel said.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Challenge Challenged!

This week's pecan winner is Lesley at A Life in Books!

Congratulations, girl!

I had promised Lesley a month ago I would join her Airchair Travelers Reading Challenge and am now finally getting to it. With this post, I ask her permission to not make a list, but rather list those I read in that category as I read them. Is that unethical for any reading challenge?

My work reading must come first. I hate to be snobbish. I find the challenge of participating in these challenges, comes from integrating them into articles for the newspapers I serve. My first choice, Eat, Pray, Love, was an easy pick because of its timeliness. It's number one on the paperback bestsellers list; plus, people are really talking about it now. Thus, I read it, wrote about it, and marked it off my Airchair Travelers Reading Challenge list.

One may have noticed the original list for the Non-Fiction Reading Challenge morphed. I replaced books I did plan to read with NFs read within the allotted time period. The original list was my attempt, at looking into the future, to read timely or crowd-pleasing books. Manhunt and Mockingbird remain on the list for I think they still have people appeal.

I just hope Joy at Thoughts of Joy will forgive me.

The idea (not making a list) actually came about as a poke at Ed. The Southern Reading Challenge was countered with a mock Damn Yankees Reading Challenge by Ed at Recycled Thoughts. My reading pattern this summer was Northern as the result of an impending vacation to New York City. As I wrote articles, I noticed just as many books for Ed's challenge as for my very own. So, I thought I would give Ed a little thrill by listing the Northern books read.

Thanks to Sage (his button & title idea), Ed has enjoyed three participants in his joke.

Fellow Bloggers and Challengers, I ask you, am I a reading challenge prima donna?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

New Southern Authors!

Some of our fellow Southern Reading Challenge participants have found new authors in the genre! Way to go you venturesome folks!

NolaDawn at Kids, Cats, & Books ~ What Else is There said, "No Place, Louisiana is a first novel for author Martin Pousson. It gives a look at life in Louisiana’s Cajun country as seen through the eyes of Nita, who is looking for any way to escape her poor life. Unfortunately, Louisiana is it. Great voice, immaculate timing, and classic Southern drama set in the slow 60s and 70s of the lazy bayous of Louisiana. You feel Nita’s yearning and want something more for her but know what the limitations that are placed on her are. A new Southern classic for me." Read more...

Nymeth at Things Mean a Lot had quite a bit to say about Crossroads: Tales of the Southern Literary Fantastic (a collection of southern short stories) edited by F. Brett Cox and Andy Ducan. She also had a visit from one of the editors, F. Brett Cox. He noted, "Andy and I knew when we took on this project that the range of stories we wanted would, inevitably, lead to some people liking some stories a great deal while asking of other, "What is _that_ doing _here_?" But one our main goals was, as you noted, diversity, and I think we achieved it." Read much more at ...

Friday, August 10, 2007

Simpsonize Me!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Dawg Days of Summer

It was a nasty 101 degrees with a heat index of 107 today. (My little weather gurl (in the sidebar) was probably runnin' around nakeed instead of her usually yellow polka dot bikini! Oh, and today is the anniversary of the release of Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini!) The weather promises to be more the same for the rest of the week. Can you even imagine life without air conditioning in these conditions? We got our first window unit in 1973, praise be.

Thought this would be a good time to post a painting idealizing the historic blues cross(rail)roads of the South, where the Southern Crosses the Dawg.

Eat, Pray, Love (copy)

I admire writers who willingly place their lives on public display through personal memoirs. Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt, Night by Elie Wiesel, and The Liar’s Club by Mary Karr immediately come to mind as examples. This week I read Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert; a book that combines two of my favorite non-fiction genres—memoirs and travelogues.

Before we delve into the book, I wish to define the word memoir. Most readers use memoir, biography, and auto-biography interchangeably which is an injustice to the writer. Biographies are meant to convey one’s life from birth to death, or in the case of auto-biographies near death. With memoirs, the writer concentrates on a specific event within a life and tries to give it meaning. In Wiesel’s Night, the reader faces horror upon horror as he travels from ghetto to concentration camp during the Holocaust. His specific event is the Holocaust, but we know, through Oprah, he continues to live an eventful life.

Eat, Pray, Love is Gilbert’s search for meaning after an acrimonious divorce which spirals her into depression. To break her cycle and “comeback” from failure, she plans a yearlong trip abroad. Her inspiration for the wanderlust is a string of beads called japa malas which contain 108 beads. A precursor to rosary beads, she uses the 108, “a perfect three-digit multiple of three” as her outline for the book, as in 108 entries with 36 chapters per three countries.

Continuing with the trilogy theme, she further chooses three goals to achieve while living in each country. She calls them pursuits and while in Italy she pursues pleasure through food, in India she pursues devotion through meditation, and in Indonesia she pursues balance through human contact. Her title Eat, Pray Love derives from the adjectives describing each pursuit as she accomplishes them.

I’m shocked Gilbert chooses food over the obvious pleasure many recent divorcĂ©es opt for. Staring her in the face are two Italian gods, otherwise known as Giovanni and Dario, or the Tandem Language Exchange twin brothers. My jaw drops as she spends fifty, flirty hours drinking wine and watching sunsets with Giovanni only to be left at the door with a handshake. Dang those English Puritan genes!

Many a reader will enjoy Gilbert’s self-imposed travel through raw emotions with an upbeat flare. She reminds us, “God never slams a door in your face without opening a box of Girl Scout cookies.”

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Winners-Step Right Up!

Friday Night Pecan Delight Winner
You know the drill...

Sense of Place Winner
I want to thank everyone for participating. All entrants were excellent and deserve an autograph copy of Plain Heathen Mischief, but I only have one! If you haven't already, please stop by these bloggers and check out their "sense of place" photos. Thanks again for the interesting posts, quotes, and photos!

1. A Fondness For Reading with To Kill a Mockingbird
2. Lynne's Little Corner with The Beach House
3. Shelf Life with Fair and Tender Ladies
4. Tiffany Norris with Deliverance
5. Book Girl's Nightstand with The Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell
6. Musings of a Bookish Kitty with When Crickets Cry
7. Book Haven with The Optimist's Daughter
8. A Striped Armchair with Delta Wedding
9. Misfit Finds Her Place with A Good Man is Hard to Find

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Tobacco Road (copy)

Is Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell meant to be taken seriously or is it a comedic tour de force? I read the book cold-turkey. This is how I like to describe a book in which I lack prior knowledge of plot, characterization, or theme. I merely pick the book up to try a new author or in this case I liked the title.

I was halfway through the book before I stopped to read the small bio, brief description, and critic comments located on the back cover. The New York Herald Tribune claims, “Mr. Caldwell’s humor, like Mark Twain’s, has as its source an imagination that stirs the emotions of the reader.”

Ah, Mark Twain(ish) humor, it is supposed to be funny. That changes everything! The characters and their disregard for human life, other than their own, was a little disheartening to read. Knowing now that it is a farce, allows me to really enjoy the story full of unbelievable characters.

Leading the role for most unbelievable is main character, Jeeter, patriarch of the Lester family. Jeeter is all about Jeeter. He even shoos his own mother from the dinner table. Ada, his wife and producer of 17 children, is a quiet woman, but lately, “hunger has loosened her tongue,” and made her a trite annoying. All of the children except for Dude, 16, and Ellie May, 17, have left home for the big city of Augusta, Georgia and its cotton mills. The youngest child, Pearl, 12, was traded to Lov Bensey for food. Grandmother Lester is allowed to haunt the house as long as she stays out of the way. The family actually wills her to wither and blow away.

The book was originally published in 1932, and the timeline is concurrent with the Depression. The Lesters have become sharecroppers on their own original Lester land after Jeeter squanders their assets with fraudulent home loans. As the story opens the family is subsiding on corn meal, snuff, and chicory, while Grandmother Lester forages off the land.

I am so thankful this book is comedic in nature. Not, laugh-track, ha-ha funny such as Beverly Hillbillies or Green Acres, but rather a relief these aren’t real people. The character Elly May Clampett is way more forgiving to the eyes than poor, hair-lipped Ellie May Lester. Oh, and how misleading is the title, where’s the tobacco?