Online Nursing Degrees? Why Not?

In reading three Michael Perry books in succession, I was struck more than once by the fact that he attended – and completed – nursing school. While I’m fairly certain he went to a physical school in Eau Claire, WI, I like the notion of such a person attending an online university.

One such school is Western Governors University, which has a program allowing you to study nursing (rn to bsn online) via distance learning. What’s more they’ve designed their program so that motivated learners can work at an accelerated pace, writing papers and meeting challenges to prove their knowledge, and not suffering through a traditional educational environment.

In a way, it reminds me of the “College of Professional Studies” my mother went through when earning her Organizational Behavior degree via the University of San Francisco. She wrote papers to earn either upper or lower division credits, and only had to meet with a live person once a week, though she made it very clear that earning her degree was her primary job during that time. Western Governors University says it expects distance learners to put in a solid 20 hours a week of work, and I know my mother did at least that much – and that was in 1987, before internet learning was even possible.

Distance learning isn’t for everyone, but if I were going back to school, I’d look for something similar to Western Governors University’s program. It separates coursework into six-month chunks, during which each person works at her own pace, completing “…as much of your degree as possible…” with the assistance of a mentor, who guides you through the process and the required information.

I have to confess, when I was asked to give an opinion of this program, I thought, “you can’t learn nursing online,” but I was wrong. After reading the information, and scanning the website, I’m confident that WGU has created a comprehensive nursing program for nontraditional learners.

Don’t you just love it when technology is used to make the world a better place?

For the Love of Reading

I’ve always thought that memes are the blogger’s equivalent of joining a franchise affiliate program – you’re given the form and content, but have the room to put your own spin on it. I’m in a meme-ish mood today, hence this one.

What have you just read?
I just finished reading William Dietrich’s latest Ethan Gage adventure, The Barbary Pirates

What are you reading now?
I’m between books. I have two I need to review, Skin and Bones by an author whose name I can’t remember, and which appears to be missing in my house (I swear it was on the counter an hour ago) and This One is Mine by Maria Semple. Guess which one I can actually find?

Do you have any idea what you’ll read when you’re done with that?
Whichever one of the two above that isn’t first, will be second, but then I’m open. I have a bunch of books I recently bought that I haven’t read yet, and there’s a new Holmes/Russell coming out soon.

What’s the worst thing you were ever forced to read?
Miss Lonelyhearts, by Nathanael West. I had to read it for a writing conference a couple years ago. It is, hands down, the most bleak, depressing, unrelentingly dark piece of fiction I’ve ever been exposed to.

What’s one book you always recommend to just about anyone?
Katherine Neville’s The Eight

Admit it, sadly the librarians at your library know you on a first name basis, don’t they?
No. I’m not a frequent visitor to our local library. The collection sucks, the first rack when you walk in is Christian fiction, and it smells funny. Give me funky bookstore-cafes over libraries, any day.

Is there a book you absolutely love, but for some reason, people never think it sounds interesting, or maybe they read it and don’t like it at all?
Jane Eyre. No really, in an age where the classics are not required reading, anything Bronte earns sneers. In more modern fiction…Bread Alone by Judith Ryan Hendricks.

Do you read books while you eat?

While you bathe?
Yes, but generally only paperbacks.

While you watch movies or tv?
Sometimes if we rent a DVD that is more Fuzzy’s taste than mine. Ditto television.

While you listen to music?
Sometimes, but it has to be instrumental music.

While you’re on the computer?
E-books and fanfiction, and once in a while, a proof or ARC that’s been delivered via PDF.

When you were little did other children tease you about your reading habits?
No. All my friends were bookish and geeky, too.

What’s the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was so good you couldn’t put it down?
Coop, by Michael Perry

Have any books made you cry?
Not whole books, but scenes. Certain scenes in The Zookeeper’s Wife, for example, or, when I was a girl, Little Women

Retro-Reading: Where Did I Come From?

When I was five years old, and cognizant enough of the world to start asking where babies came from, either my mother or a friend of hers presented me with the wonderfully candid, but not explicit, children’s book Where Did I Come From? written by Peter Mayle. Yes, that Peter Mayle. The very same one who spent A Year in Provence.

Recently, after a burst water-heater flooded our garage, and forced some long overdue cleanup, my husband found my 1973 edition of the book. It’s battered, stained, and a little warped, and the dustjacket has been missing for decades, but it’s still in excellent reading condition, and when he presented it to me, I blew the dust from its cover, and sat down to do just that.

The cartoon sperm, dressed to the nines in top hats and tails, though sans tuxedo shirts, are just as cleverly depicted as ever, but the thing I truly appreciate through almost-forty-year-old eyes, is that the mother and father cartoons are not pretty people. These are not illustrations based on actors (unless they’re extremely loosely based on the cast of the Brit-Com French Fields, but instead they are lumpy and frumpy, and kind of bald. Well, the father is bald. And frankly, I find this refreshing, because most of our parents don’t look like actors now, and didn’t when we were young children, either.

The book itself is a frank discussion of how babies are made, and while it does use correct names for genitalia, it’s fairly vague about the mechanics of it all.

It also has the subtle humor that I now know is one of Mayle’s trademarks.

I don’t think every adult should run out and read this book.
I do think it’s a wise investment for parents of young children who are beginning to catch on to the fact that the stork story doesn’t hold water.

Book Review: Coop, by Michael Perry

Coop: a Year of Poultry, Pigs, and Parenting
Michael Perry
Harper, 368 pages
Get it from Amazon >>

I wasn’t going to post any kind of review of Coop here, but I love Michael Perry’s writing so much that I couldn’t not.

In this, the third of his collection of memoirs about his adult life in rural Wisconsin, Perry writes about everything from becoming a parent, both to a stepdaughter (he refers to her as a “given” daughter) and to a new baby girl, to raising hogs to building the titular chicken coop, which project becomes the recurring theme in the book.

As always, Perry’s description of his own carpentry skills is self-deprecating at best, and whether he’s discussing the way he salvaged windows from his previous home for the coop or talking about industrial hand wheels, he’s funny and engaging, and also makes you want to reach into the pages of his book and just offer a hand.

He’s also unabashedly proud of and impressed by the women in his life – and it is that directness and admiration that makes Coop a great gift for a mother, daughter, wife, or friend. It’s not typical chick-lit, not even close, but his writing is so easygoing that reading this book with a cup of coffee on the back porch is something every woman I know would likely enjoy.

I mean, I read it that way, alternating coffee and sips of iced tea, lightly sweetened with local honey.

I’m not sure if Perry has another book planned next, or if he’s going to concentrate on music for a bit, but I eagerly await his next words.

And you should, too.

Booking Through Thursday: Break


On Thursday, March 25th, Booking through Thursday asked:

Do you take breaks while reading a book? Or read it straight through? (And, by breaks, I don’t mean sleeping, eating and going to work; I mean putting it aside for a time while you read something else.)

In my world, there are two kinds of books. One kind is what I call “bathroom books.” These are often, but not always, books of essays or short stories, tend to be non-fiction when they’re longer works, and are easy to pick up just for a few minutes, and put down when there’s something else that must be done.

Then there are the books that I immerse myself in, the ones where I literally plan to have a clear schedule, a pot of tea or coffee, and nothing to do but read. Most often, these are thick novels with compelling characters. Sometimes they’re memoirs. Maeve Binchy and Lauren Willig are two of my favorite authors of this type of book. So is Katherine Neville. And Madeleine L’Engle.

The truth is, my preferred reading style is to read straight through unless something forces me to stop, no matter what I’m reading, and when a book is really good, I get lost in it, and even expect the weather outside to match the weather in whatever I’m reading.

Do I take breaks?

Only when I absolutely have to.

Review: The Barbary Pirates, by William Dietrich

The Barbary Pirates
The Barbary Pirates: an Ethan Gage Adventure
William Dietrich
Harper, 336 pages
Get it from Amazon >>

A few weeks ago, I was offered the chance to receive an ARC of the latest Ethan Gage adventure, The Barbary Pirates, by William Dietrich. In less time than it takes a patient on House to shake off a finger pulse oximeter, I leaped at the chance. After all, I love historical action/adventures – why else would The Eight, by Katherine Neville, be one of my favorite books.

In truth, I’d never read an Ethan Gage adventure, but I’m planning on spending some money at new and used bookstores in town, because I am hooked.

At the risk of ruining the plot, because this book is a mystery, or at least a puzzle, I won’t rehash it. What I will say is this: The Barbary Pirates is a wonderful swashbuckling adventure through history, and includes Napoleon and Robert Fulton as characters, has the Lousiana Purchase and the first submarine as important plot keys, and involves Atlantis, Egyptian History, and a mysterious and creepy (not to mention dangerous) organization called the Egyptian Rite, and of course, all of this has to do with a race to find the Mirror of Archimedes – the device rumored to have incinerated a Spanish fleet – before the “bad guys” can do so.

With romance, action, mystery, and historical figures popping up (Ben Franklin is quoted. A lot.) willy-nilly, this book is a wonderful romp akin to the National Treasure movies and Clive Cussler’s novels. Translation: it’s great fun, and you HAVE to read it.

This review is based on an uncorrected proof of the book. The Barbary Pirates will be available at your favorite bookstore on Tuesday, March 30th.

DVD Review: Night at the Museum: Battle for the Smithsonian

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian
DVD, 105 minutes
Get it from Amazon >>

Several years ago, my husband and I watched the original Night at the Museum on DVD, because we’d missed it in theaters and thought it seemed entertaining. We were not wrong. Several weeks ago, we rented the sequel, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian from our cable provider’s OnDemand system, and again had an enjoyable evening.

Ben Stiller was engaging as the night watchman, and Hank Azaria was great as the Egyptian prince come back to exact revenge (I’d love to see this character do infomercials or diet pill reviews, because the accent chosen was hilarious), but for me, the best part of the movie was Amy Adams as a brash, fun-loving Amelia Earhart. In fact, I so loved her performance that when we rented Amelia a few days later, Hillary Swank’s portrayal of the same person, while most likely more technically and historically accurate, seemed cold and uninteresting.

But of course, the main thrust of the movie was not to be a pop version of “The Amelia Earhart Story.” Instead, it was about protecting the same golden tablet that keeps the museum pieces coming to live after dark, without letting the Egyptian prince take over the world.

It was funny, engaging, and had enough adult humor to feel like it wasn’t completely mindless.

But I can’t get Amy Adams’ performance out of my head.

DVD Review: Up in the Air

Up in the Air
Up in the Air
DVD, 109 minutes
Get it from Amazon >>

My friend Deb doesn’t generally give me advice on diet aids, but she does recommend movies. When she, a road warrior herself, recommended the recent George Clooney movie Up in the AIr I had to see it. My husband and I rented it a week or two ago, and watched it together.

The story itself, that of a man who lives his live in the space between plane flights, who begins to question his existence only after corporate changes force him to settle in one place, and after a relationship with a woman who lives an (apparently) similar life. It’s also about his ersatz mentorship of a younger employee at his firm, the woman who instigates the change in his life. The casting, as the director plainly stated in the featurette, was a bid to make the lead character, a corporate hatchet man, still be likeable.

Clooney was a subdued version of himself in this film, but the downplaying worked, and he was, indeed, likeable. Female fans should not miss the special features, which include a deleted scene in which we see him scrubbing a toilet (Deb and I agree: it was worth the rental fee just for that.), and Anna Kendrick (of CAMP among other things) was fragile and tough at the same time as the protege. The female road warrior/lover, played by Vera Farmiga was beautiful and compelling, and Jason Bateman’s few scenes as Clooney’s boss were all immensely watchable.

Up in the Air works because of it’s subtlety and poignance, and I’d recommended it to most women, and some men.

DVD Review: The 10th Kingdom

The 10th Kingdom
The 10th Kingdom
Not Rated
DVD, 417 minutes
Get it from Amazon >>

When The 10th Kingdom originally aired on NBC several years ago, American audiences didn’t watch in high enough numbers for a sequel to be given the go-ahead, and that’s too bad, because it’s really a charming miniseries with an excellent cast.

It’s the story of a young woman named Virginia (Kimberly Williams-Paisley), a waitress who lives with her janitor father (John Laroquette) Tony in an apartment near New York’s Central Park. Her mother abandoned the family when she was seven. One day, an apparently-stray golden retriever barrels into Virginia’s bike as she’s riding to her job at Tavern on the Green, but he isn’t really a stray, he’s a fairy tale prince who’s been transformed into a dog, and he’s being chased by a half-wolf, Wolf, (played by Scott Cohen) and three trolls.

While Virginia hides the dog, and tries to avoid Wolf, her father tangles with the trolls. Eventually, after some wishes go awry, all of them journey by magic mirror to The Nine Kingdoms – a group of countries originally ruled by the likes of Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, and Queen Riding Hood (the age of the Naked Emperor is mentioned as well) and now threatened by the evil queen, and the troll king.

Adventures, some loosely tied to the fairy tales we all grew up with, and some not, ensue, and of course, Wolf and Virginia, who spend much of the time bickering, end up falling in love, before they, with her father and the dog-prince, save the kindgoms and live happily ever after…at least for a while.

It sounds formulaic, but the twists away from the classic tales are fabulous, and some of the performances are amazing. Kimberly Williams-Paisley has been a favorite of mine since I first saw her in the remake of Father of the Bride and Scott Cohen’s Wolf is charming, funny, and a little bit dangerous – just as every leading Wolf should be. A scene that’s barely more than a cameo, with Camryn Manheim as Snow White, is touching and lovely (and she comes off as a totally credible Snow, by the way), and Rutger Hauer is both creepy and a little sexy as the Queen’s huntsman, while Diane Wiest, playing against type, is delicious as the Evil Queen.

With enough subtext and double entendre to please adults, and a family friendly presentation, The 10th Kingdom is a great movie for a snow day, either watched all at once, or in three parts. It ships on 3 DVDs.

Booking Through Thursday: Sensual


On Thursday, March 18th, Booking through Thursday asked:

Which do you prefer? Lurid, fruity prose, awash in imagery and sensuous textures and colors? Or straight-forward, clean, simple prose?

(You thought I was going to ask something else, didn’t you? Admit it!)

I like vivid imagery as much as the next person, and I really appreciate it when an author can surprise me with a description, but I’m not a particular fan of lurid writing. I find it gets tiresome after a while. Give me a Diane Ackerman book – fiction or non – and I’m a happy woman. Give me Michael Perry, Kathleen Norris, or Madeleine L’Engle, and I’m completely satisfied. But even though all of them are extremely descriptive writers, none of them is particularly lurid or fruity.

Well, except when they’re writing about actual…fruit.