May 30, 2008

Book By Its Cover

After perusing the shelves of many libraries and bookstores for over 30 years, I'm here to tell you, that yes, one can indeed judge a book by it's cover. And I don't just mean obvious covers, like those with spaceships or damsels in ripped bodices on their fronts. (Also be wary of books with full-color photos of the author on the entire back cover, especially if said author is named "Judith" or "Danielle.")

The cover up there is one of the loveliest I've seen in a long time. How did the author, Lauren Groff, score that one? I've known a few writers in my day, and have learned that beginning, first-time authors usually get precious little say over how their covers end up looking. Of course, Ms. Groff also scored a blurb from Stephen King. So...I'm thinking she may have a connection or two.

Regardless, I enjoyed The Monsters of Templeton muchly. It had historical bits, magical realism, and a very engaging narrator in Ms. Willie Upton. It took a while to truly get its hooks in me, but I'm thinking that's mostly my fault, as I'm been so distracted these days by the kitchen remodel, and my nightly mouse-surfing, and also the sheer chaos of my desk area, which is reaching tipping-point level these days. But once I got about a 1/3 into it, I was quite interested and had a lot of fun flipping back and forth to the various family trees printed throughout, trying to keep track of all those people as Willie tries to uncover the mystery of who her real father is. Another "Starred Review" in Publisher's Weekly. So you see? I know what I'm talking about when it comes to that cover-judging business.

Speaking of the kitchen remodel: it's looking sweet, to steal the lingo of all the 30-and 40-something husbands I know (including mine). Goodness....can't wait to share some pics of that here. In the meantime, there's still my Ikea blog, which I've updated more often that I have this one. It's looking good, but whew...5 weeks without a real sink and garbage disposal and dishwasher: Ugh. I'm over that.

Finally, in a bit of internet synchronicity, here's a painting revealed this week by the lovely and ever-more famous Emily of the Black Apple Etsy store and blog. For there is a very similar white (and gentle) sea monster in "Monsters," (even thought "Glimmy," as it's called, for it's home of Lake Glimmerglass, dies in the very first sentence of the novel). I thought I'd be clever and leave a comment on Emily's post about the similarity, but somebody else, who'd also read the novel, beat me to it. Such is the Internet...such is the world: If you think it, chances are somebody has beaten you to it, first.

May 16, 2008

Candy Store

Look at these beauties. They arrived last Friday in a padded envelope and as soon as I opened it and removed the contents, I got goosebumps. Chill blains. And also, a little teary-eyed. In case I needed any confirmation about what a closet interior designer I've become, simply witness my reaction to 2-inch squares of glass tiles.

The tiles are from Susan Jablon Mosaics, in New York. She's been on my radar for a while, since I looked her up from an ad in the back of Atomic Ranch magazine, admiring her mid-century mosaic line. My plan for the new kitchen is to install her subway tiles as a backsplash -- they are smaller than the average subway tile, at 1x3, but they come in sheets.

For all of last week, I'd pretty much abandoned the plan to go with the tile. I'm in charge of doing the installation myself (er, just as soon as I figure out how) and it all suddenly seemed overwhelming and too taste-specific for a tract-house kitchen and just too damn much all around, taking into account the whole kitchen-gut project.

And then my samples arrived. I ordered a bag containing every color in the glass tile line, since I wasn't sure which exact one I wanted and sample sheets of the subway tiles run about $15 each. (Which is also their price per square foot, fyi.)

This changes everything, I thought, as soon as I opened the bag and took out the first tile. They are beautiful. They are slick and cold and lovely to the touch. They are the Platonic ideal of color. Okay, maybe that's a bit much.

But still. I want to eat them, or lick them. The website didn't do them justice, and my pictures really don't, either.

SO. Tile backsplash project is back on. Pretty sure I'm going with 1906 up there, the pale aqua.

You are all so lovely though, my lovelies. I wish I could pick you all.

May 9, 2008

Now THIS Is Nesting

Well, actually, is it really nesting when you tear down extremely integral parts of the nest? Maybe the term is more like...."re-feathering."

Anway. I haven't written an actual "nesting" themed post yet over here on the The Reading Nest, but how's this for a first...the total demolition of my existing kitchen, to be replaced by Ikea cabinets, in a style called Nexus Yellow Brown.

Here is a picture of my kitchen, back when I had one, a whole week ago today:

Current Kitchen

And here's kinda what that same wall looks like now, except that the gash where the ceramic tile came out has been replaced with new drywall:

It's very exciting, and frightening, too. What if the end result sucks? (It won't, but the possibility exists.) The new cabinets will be slightly darker, still with a wood grain. They'll be much more modern, with stainless hardware. Here's a mock up of what we have planned, using the Incredibly Frustrating and Evil Ikea Kitchen Planning Software (its real name, no lie):
Kitchen rendering

If you're here reading this and you're not my husband, chances are you've typed in a Google search for my cabinet style, because you're anxiously trolling the web at 2am, hoping for pictures or comments from real-life people who are installing it. So let's just cut to the chase and send you over to my blog on IkeaFans, titled "New Kitchen in the 'Burbs." (Update 2012: Sorry, that link and blog are now quite defunct.)

Hope you find something helpful. Enjoy.

May 5, 2008


Finally, as in I'm finally back here with another post after almost a month. How did that happen? How are there only 6 weeks left in the school year? We've been so busy, and I've written many a post -- in my head. But I'm here now. Since I last checked in, I've been to Laguna Beach twice in the same week -- the first time was to spend the night in a too-cute-to-live 50s-era cottage overlooking the Pacific, a girls getaway to an insanely darling house, belonging to the father of a local friend. The second time, some days later, was to attend a reading and celebrate the publication of the first book by a writer-acquaintance. These were both fun and very different getaways. The first fed my need to soak in the sun, away from the kids for more than just two or three hours at a time. The second fed my need to soak up the presence of other writer-types, and be able to revel in the fact that I could refer to a book as a memoir, and not need to stop to explain that yes, "memoir" means it's a true story. (And yes, I AM a snooty, snotty book-bitch.)

Finally also refers to another recent event -- finally, finally, I found a book which fed my soul and was "that book" that I needed to read right now. I'm a firm believer in literary kismet, that sometimes the right book lands in your hands at just the right time and nourishes and enriches, and for me, also makes me learn something and prick up my little eager writer-ears as I take in both the language and the insight.

That book, pictured above, was, The Florist's Daughter, by Patricia Hampl. A quiet, nothing-much-happens kind of memoir, about Hampl's life in her role as a dutiful daughter to her much-beloved Midwestern parents. Beginning as Hampl sits holding her dying mother's hand in a hospital late at night with one hand (and writing the obituary on a yellow legal pad with the other, drawing judgmental looks from the nurse), it traces her parent's life stories, which, because of their very "smallness" and modesty, are just as rich and full of deep feelings as any life can be.

I don't think I would have appreciated the jewel-like words and images of Hampl's book quite as much if I hadn't first read The Glass Castle a couple of weeks earlier. Where The Florist's Daughter is full of much mulling and dwelling on motive and the interior life, Jeannette Walls' memoir is....action-packed, to say the least. It's the kind of shocking, tabloid sort of reveal that usually gets picked to be on Oprah, or made into a movie, or both. It's not that I didn't like the was definitely a page-turner, if only to see what those wacky, outrageously self-centered parents of hers would do or say next. It's the kind of book that you can describe to a friend like this: and then THIS happened, and then THIS happened, and oh my god, can you stand it...then they did THIS and said THAT, but she lived to tell it all and now is just dandy and very happily married and wrote this mega-bestseller and even got to be on The Colbert Report. The End. Whew. To be fair, I should note that, like Hampl's book, The Glass Castle also received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly. It's a good read -- just not "that" read, that I needed at this point in my life.

It's late and I'm getting tired and I can never find that happy balance between describing a book "in general" vs. doing a grad-studentesque literary review. So I'll let these 2 reviews for the Patricia Hampl book speak for me:

Debra Dean, author of The Madonnas of Leningrad:
"In this age of tabloid tell-alls and sloppy hyperbole, The Florist''s Daughter is a cool tonic: a memoir that sings the quiet anthem of good daughters everywhere. In Patricia Hampl's hands, supposedly ordinary people in allegedly ordinary lives are rendered with luminous grace and quiet beauty."

Kristin Ohlson, author of Stalking the Divine: "All of us eventually become orphans and lose not only our parents' physical presence but also the opportunity to keep asking, over and over, for their stories. Patricia Hampl''s lovely bruising book takes us to that final rupture between mother and daughter. Hampl offers the bloom of meditation on the mysteries between parents and children, between the past and the present, and between those old adversaries, beauty and truth."
Yeah. That's just what I was gonna say. Or, to quote Hampl herself: "Nothing is harder to grasp than the relentlessly modest life."

For me, this was THAT book that I was needing, longing for and I'm so glad it finally fell into my hands. I have a big interest in the memoir these days -- and am looking with great interest upon those books that tell a life the way I hope to (someday) tell my own -- quietly, thoughtfully, artfully sketching a life as a daughter, a person who has for the most part stayed in the same geography & landscape that shaped her, as someone hoping to tap into the mysteries of all those untold stories.

There is another book that's come my way recently which is also one of "those" special books. This one is so special I can hardly stand to turn the pages and is so remarkable that I can't bring myself to finish it yet. More on THAT very soon, I hope.

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