Tuesday, January 31, 2012


So, I've been doing a lot of reading lately, and I do not have time or inclination to go into major reviews of what I've been reading. This is partly because it's late and I need to go get in the shower, partly because my head is so full of dissertation stuff that I can barely think, partly because I am frustrated with emails that have been coming in the last day and a half, and partly because for some strange reason I am hearing what sounds like muted guitar-thrashing solos in my right ear which is clearly either a sign of my impending mental breakdown or aliens trying to contact me through my teeth, both of which are equally likely.

So what does that mean? Quick and dirty book reviews!

Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas. Entertaining and witty. B+

A Duke of Her Own by Eloisa James. I remember this being entertaining enough at the time, but for the life of me, I can't remember--oh, wait, it was about Villiers. Okay, so it was actually pretty good, though it obviously didn't stick with me as well as her others. B-

Bitten by Kelley Armstrong. I almost didn't stick with this one as it started out so slow, but it was intriguing enough a take on werewolves and enough of a train wreck that I couldn't stop reading and have since started (but not finished) Stolen and have borrowed more/obtained more from Snarky Writer. B-

The Capture of the Earl of Glencrae by Stephanie Laurens. Oh, Stephanie Laurens, my love for you knows no bounds, and you have continued to blow me away in yet more of the best romance novels there are. The book just came out today, and my ever-patient and loving husband took me to Hastings to get it and then put up with my effectively ignoring him the rest of the evening and delving into the last book in the Cynster sisters trilogy where we finally get to meet the mysterious laird and learn why he's been so determined to kidnap one of the Cynster girls. And of course, it all turns out happily ever after. In Pursuit of Eliza Cynster might have my favorite hero in Jeremy Carling (because he reminds me so much of my own Prince Charming), but The Capture of the Earl of Glencrae hits every romance reader with one of the best stories I've read in a while. A+ (Yes, I'm a fangirl. Get over it.)

In other news, I've been doing a ridiculous amount of reading for my dissertation, but I am (obviously) trying to read something a little more light-hearted than discourse on Browning (though I'm so oddly excited by the prospect of dissertation research that I have determined, incontrovertibly, that I am the biggest nerd EVER). To that effect, I've checked out Sherrilyn Kenyon's Retribution and Richard Castle's Heat Rises (though I've not read Naked Heat yet either, but let's face it, they're basically episodes of Castle, so I think I can manage). I have already renewed them once, as I can't help feeling a little guilty for reading non-dissertation stuff. With the exception of The Capture of the Earl of Glencrae, which, let's face it, I would have started reading in the car on the way home if it a) hadn't been dark already and b) I didn't get carsick.

Anyway. Time for the shower and hopefully the guitar to stop shredding in my ear. It's so weird.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Rage Against The Man!

Who, in this case, is the United States Congress. Wil Wheaton has said it much more eloquently (and ferociously) than I. 1984, anyone?

I think scholars should be particularly concerned, given "fair use" paradigms currently in play and possibilities that SOPA/PIPA could eventually bring to pass. After all, the free exchange of ideas is the most valued idea of the university setting, and the Internet has allowed that to be the closest reality it's likely to get in our lifetimes.

So contact your congresspeople and let them hear your voice. This is one bill the American public CAN--and IS--killing. You want to stop piracy? Great. But don't take away a free and open Internet--for people in and beyond the United States--to do it.

ETA: Want more info on exactly why it's bad? Read this article, originally from Mashable, on "Why SOPA is Dangerous."

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Best laid plans....

I meant to be productive today, I really did. It truly is not my fault that circumstances conspired against me.

See, today was the first self-proclaimed official dissertation study day. I dutifully went to the library, picked up some books, sat down and engaged in some serious cogitation and reading.

And then the electricity went out. Over half of campus. And there was a tornado warning for the county.

It is January, people.

So my husband and I ran some errands--I went to the bookstore in search of Darwin, ugh--then went back to the library and checked out the books I had meant to check out, and I will work a bit more on them tonight, I think. In the meantime, I have the very first homemade pie I have ever made in the oven. We'll see how this goes.

In any case, despite the rather abortive attempt at studying (and yes, I know, I shouldn't give up entirely, but after sitting for an hour in the dark in the University Writing Center--because, hey, if you're going to die in a tornado, you might as well do it with friends--I decided to postpone some studying until this evening), I do feel like I got quite a bit accomplished. I've checked out a book called Destination Dissertation. It's much better than a book I just read called Writing the Doctoral Dissertation--my copy was very out of date and much more directed toward quantitative dissertations.

While Destination Dissertation is still skewed toward the sciences and social sciences, I really do feel that its ideas for working on your dissertation are much more adaptable to a dissertation in the humanities. Part of this starts with coding the literature.

I've already put quite a bit of effort into thinking about my dissertation--this was necessary as I was working on my Fulbright application. Today, I managed to get some things narrowed down. What exactly am I looking for in the poems I'm reading? How does this relate to a larger Victorian era? Just being able to look for places that can be categorized later is going to be really helpful later, especially when I'm trying to find something that I read on this subject in this book. Part of what this book recommends is that you read in front of a computer, and any time you come across something (at least in secondary literature), you type the passage out with a brief, easy citation--just the title and page number, for example. Then later, you print all of this out, and you can cut the passages up and rearrange them into relevant piles to help you organize your thoughts.

It's a lot like the way I suggest to my students that they work on organizing their papers--splitting up paragraphs into points and using the scissors to work them around, but I'd never considered putting it toward the research process before, and I think that this might also be a really valuable way to teach my students about what they need to do to research as well. So this book has helped as both a student and a teacher! Check it out, guys. (There's a copy in the UWC--I have the library's copy right now.)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Book Review: The 9th Judgment

This book should have taken me three hours to read.

Instead, it took me three days.

Now, most of you know that this in and of itself is unusual. More unusual was the fact that I seriously considered not finishing it at all.

I've enjoyed the Women's Murder Club series for quite a while. It's been entertaining enough, and while I know that I've been behind, per usual, I finally got a copy of this and borrowed my grandmother's copy of 10th Anniversary and have been meaning to read them both for a while.

So what's the problem? This book commits the cardinal literary sin. It is boring as hell.

Let's start here: we know who the villains are in the first ten pages. We know exactly who they are, and within twenty-five pages, we know how the two cases are intricately connected in one of the most idiotic plots ever. Pete, a Iraq vet with some serious problems, is married to Heidi and has two kids. Pete is killing women and their babies because he can. Heidi is carrying on a lesbian relationship with Sarah, who is a teacher living a second life as a jewel thief and who is similarly married to an abusive husband. She breaks into a house and and the husband, Marcus, an actor, uses the opportunity to kill his wife (who is a friend of Heidi's, oddly enough).

Don't yell at me for spoilers. Almost all of this is outlined in the first twenty pages of the book. Only Pete's seeming 'reason' is held back, and it's contrived beyond belief, as is the ending, where Heidi goes into witness protection and is allowed to take Sarah with her (Sarah, who then mails all the jewels she's stolen back to Boxer, partly because she now has an out from her abusive marriage and partly because she doesn't want to take the rap for the murder of Marcus' wife).

Then there's the problems with the shift in perspective. We keep going from third person limited in Pete and Sarah's POVs, to Lindsey Boxer's first person point of view. It's enough to make your head spin.

It has more white space than type--chapters should last longer than two or three hundred words. A two or three hundred word chapter isn't artistic. It's lazy.

Things only pick up at the end of the book in the last two sections--after the case has wrapped up--when Boxer thinks Joe's been killed in a plane crash. Only he hasn't. So then they take some time off, and it turns out that she may have just inadvertently passed up her opportunity at promotion by being incommunicado. What happens next? You'll have to read 10th Anniversary to find out!

Uh, no. I won't. I'm sorry, but even though there is a little piece of me wanting to peek at the opening pages of 10th Anniversary to see what happened, I refuse. I simply refuse. The only reason I finished this book was pure stubbornness.

The odd thing is, I've liked James Patterson before. I remember liking the previous installments of the Women's Murder Club. I've only read the first two Alex Cross books--sorry, serial killers tend to prey on young women, which I still am, so I think I'll pass--but they also struck me as being well-written, despite the incongruity of James Patterson writing a black man. I don't know if the problem is Patterson or Maxine Paetro, the co-writer of the WMC books (and, who I suspect, is the main force behind them at this point, given Patterson's penchant for farming books out to co-writers, much the way that Clive Cussler has done). And perhaps it's me--it's been quite a while since I've read a WMC book, and it's possible that my taste has changed, but The 9th Judgment is not a good read.

Final Grade: D+

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

Why January 2nd? Well, because I gave myself January 1st as one last day to sit around and do absolutely nothing productive. Also, because I woke up yesterday with a cold that seems to have broken my give a damn, though I'm kicking it into submission.

So I have a list of things that I want to do this week, all of which I will accomplish 15 minutes at a time (thank you FlyLady!). Most of them are small things--change bed linens, clean bathrooms, take down the Christmas decorations (which I may start today, despite my intention to leave everything up until Epiphany). These are my around the house things to do.

But January 2nd is also the start of my academic new year. My to-do list for the next week and a half is as follows:

  • Rewrite syllabus and course schedule for 1020. I changed books over the break, so I've got to fix everything to go along with that. I think it will really be a change for the better. This needs to be done by Monday so I can get copies made.
  • Order my first set of books for my dissertation. I need to consult with Dr. K about a couple of these first, so that's on my list. She already told me which edition of Tennyson I needed, so now I need my editions of Browning and Arnold.
  • Begin work on my teaching award application. This is going to mean substantially rewriting my teaching philosophy, so I'm putting thought into that.
  • Study each day for preliminary exams. This is really going to be the front-loading of my semester--I take them the last two days of March. I'd like to put in two hours of studying a day. I think that is a reasonable goal. I need to start with finishing a book that Dr. K loaned me--Desire and Domestic Fiction by Nancy Armstrong. While a lot of people are kind of skeptical about some of the ideas, I do think there are some really interesting ideas in there. (I don't agree with all of them either, but it is interesting.)
  • Anxiously await hearing back from the State Department about my Fulbright application. I don't expect to hear back until the end of the month.
  • Go to the Lower Division Spring Curriculum meeting on the 10th.

I'm sure there are more things that need done, but this is the beginning. Guess it's time to stop procrastinating and get started. I can do this fifteen or thirty minutes at a time too!