Guest Book Review & Giveaway: Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal

Do you or  your children spend a lot of time playing video games?  Do you worry about all that time wasted?  Maybe it wasn’t wasted after all..

Please welcome guest reviewer Alan Smith to Books on the Brain!  He’s reviewing Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal as part of its TLC Book Tour.  Alan, take it away!

First, I would like to thank Lisa for the opportunity to guest post on her blog, it is a great honor to do so.

According to a rough estimate by Jane McGonigal in her new book Reality is Broken, if you were to take the sum of the total hours that humans have spent playing World of Warcraft, it would be approximately 50 billion collective hours or 5.93 million years (which also happens to be approximately the same amount of time that humans have been walking upright).

So why do many people play video games so often?  What can we learn from video games to make reality a better place? Are there ways that we could put the real world skills that the millions of game have obtained by playing games players to good use?  All three of these topics are addressed in the book.

I have been a gamer for most of my life.  One of my earliest memories was sitting at my parent’s Apple II computer with a green monochromatic screen playing Conan: Hall of Volta as a kindergartener.  More recently, I have currently logged over 2400 hours playing Guild Wars (please note that many of these hours have been logged while I was still logged into the game, but not actually playing). Despite enjoying my time spent playing video games, I have always had a nagging sense that my video game playing has been largely a waste of time.

In addition to a long time gamer I have recently been trying to look at my life to see how I can use my talents and skills to benefit other people. I was very interested in the notion that the skills I have acquired by playing video games may be used to help others.  Because of this, I had a very optimistic outlook on what this book might hold.

Games seem to fulfill some basic need that we are not obtaining in reality, whether it be the elation of overcoming a difficult and otherwise unnecessary obstacle, permitting a gamer to accomplish more satisfying work, immersing oneself on an epic scale, or a list of other such basic needs.  Games in general help us to fulfill those needs in our lives and as such, may help us to enjoy reality more.

The author then discusses that we have millions of people playing video games throughout the world.  This is possibly a huge and relatively untapped resource that the world has.  What if we were able to tap into a gamer’s desire to play games to help the common good of society?  Many people are already doing this.  The author mentions http://www.freerice.com as one such website.  Through the collective efforts of gamers and the sponsors, http://www.freerice.com has donated almost 80 billion grains of rice to the UN World Food Programme. I would urge you to play http://www.freerice.com next time you would otherwise play solitaire or some other game pre-installed on the computer to pass a few minutes.

The last section of the book looks into how we can use the brains of gamers and the abilities that they have gained from playing games, to try and solve the world’s problems.  Not surprising, there are people already doing this too.  A few games have set out to try and see how gamers would react to certain world catastrophes and other such events, in order to collaborate and figure out possible strategies for either averting or solving these worldwide problems.

My one critique of the book would be that many of the world changing games that are mentioned in this book have long since ended and while you can still read about these games online, it is not the same as actually playing them.  However, with that said I am still interested in researching any future games which may come up in order that I may participate in them.

Author Jane McGonigal

Personally, the big take away from this portion of the book was that I do not look at my real world daily achievements the way that I look at the achievements I have in my games.  Since starting to read this book, I have tried to look at each assignment I finish at work, or the dinner I make or the myriad of other daily accomplishments as an achievement in and of itself.  While that may not be the main thrust of the book, it has brought a lot more happiness into my life and I am grateful for that.

In summary, your video game playing has not been a waste of time, maybe an untapped resource, but not a waste of time.  It would be better to think of the time you’ve spent playing the video games as training you for games which have the potential to change the world.  Now is an exciting time as we may be able to collectively put our gaming skills to good use.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has played video games at all, or to anyone who is looking at trying to change the world (I think almost everyone probably falls into either one or both of these categories).

Alan Smith is married to the brilliantly talented Danielle aka The1stdaughter at There’s A Book and has two crazy kiddos, Turkeybird and Littlebug. When he’s not chasing them around or curtailing his wife’s incessant need to “be involved” in everything possible, he loves playing basketball, serving at his church, and playing online games. Oh and the rest of the time, he’s an attorney for a small banking law firm on the Central Coast of California.

To enter the giveaway for Reality is Broken, simply leave a comment on this post by Wednesday, Feb. 2nd.  The giveaway is limited to US/Canada only (sorry).

For more information on Jane McGonigal and Reality is Broken, visit www.realityisbroken.com.

For more thoughts on Reality is Broken, check out the other blogs on the tour:

Tuesday, January 18th:  GeekMom
Wednesday, January 19th:  Boarding in My Forties
Friday, January 21st:  Shezcrafti
Tuesday, January 25th:  Nerds in Babeland
Wednesday, January 26th:  Books on the Brain
Thursday, January 27th:  Belle Renee
Monday, January 31st:  Reading Through Life
Tuesday, February 1st:  In the Next Room
Wednesday, February 2nd:  Total Fan Girl
Wednesday, February 2nd:  Juggling Life
Thursday, February 3rd:  Po(sey) Sessions
Friday, February 4th:  GeekDad
Monday, February 7th:  Mind of Mr. X
Wednesday, February 9th:  Book Dads
Date TBD:  Gaming Angels

Review & Giveaway: Dear Mrs. Kennedy: The World Shares Its Grief, Letters November 1963

Dear Mrs. Kennedy: The World Shares Its Grief, Letters November 1963 by Jay Mulvany and Paul De Angelis

Hardcover: 240 pages

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press; First Edition edition (October 12, 2010)

Forty-seven years ago this month, Americans as well as people around the world were brought together by a senseless act of violence against our youthful and much-loved President, John F. Kennedy.  The outpouring of grief from around the globe directed at Jacqueline Kennedy, the beautiful and elegant new widow, was massive and immediate.  She received more than one million letters in the weeks and months that followed the tragedy.  Although Mrs. Kennedy vowed to display the letters in the Kennedy Library one day, the letters remained filed away in a warehouse for decades waiting for the library to open.

Volunteers reading and sorting the letters

From grade school children to dignitaries, nuns, moviestars, and royalty to politicians and famous names like Martin Luther King, Jr and Winston Churchill, the expressions of sorrow and sympathy came from everywhere.  I truly appreciated the authors’ decision to do more than just catalog the letters.  They introduced each one by telling who the letter writer was in relation to the president, giving the reader a much more complete snapshot of the history of the time.  This was so helpful to someone like me, who had heard of Anwar Sadat, for instance, but wasn’t quite sure why I knew the name.

I think of the Kennedy assassination as the 9/11 of that generation.  Both events shattered our collective innocence.  People en masse remember where they were and what they were doing the minute they heard the shocking news.  Both events brought everyday life to a standstill and kept us riveted to our televisions.

My reaction to this book surprised me.  I was a baby at the time so have no firsthand memory of the assasination, yet I was greatly moved by the expressions of sympathy.  I had to put the book down more than once as the tears just flowed out of me.  It also made me realize more acutely than ever before the value of the written word; the art and sensory pleasure of beautiful stationary and handwriting as opposed to emails and text messages.

This is a book every American who cares about history should read as it is a fascinating portrait of the time; an intimate portrayal of the hope personified in one young man and the shock as that hope was extinguished so violently.

Highly recommended.

I thought it would be interesting to ask a few bloggers about their Kennedy memories.  This is what they wrote:

From Suzanne at Preternatura:

I was in preschool in a small town in Northwest Alabama, and we were on the playground when the news came in. I remember the teacher herding us back in our classroom and telling us the president had been shot. We were really too young to get it but others in my class I’ve stayed in touch with over the years remember it the same way. They closed school early.

More than that, I remember watching the funeral on our black-and-white TV (God, does that make me feel old), not understanding it but mostly watching Caroline and John-John, as everyone called him, since they were about my age. I remember sitting and watching it with my brother and my parents, and my parents being upset, but not much else. I was too young, and over the years my memories have gotten mixed up with all the iconic images we’ve seen from the media.

From Debra at Bookishly Attentive:

My parents, my twin sister, my grandmother and I were in a lighting store in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, probably shopping for a dining room fixture. I was three. I actually remember the store (I was fascinated by the lights, evidently) and I remember the owner (an older, heavyset woman) coming up to my parents and asking if they heard what happened, and if they had, why are they still shopping in the store?  She was crying, wringing a white handkerchief. I then remember my parents hustling us out to the car. She closed the shop behind us.

I asked my mother about this memory years later, after watching some kind of JFK documentary, and she said I had remembered the events almost perfectly.

I was too young to really process what had happened, but I do remember my parents being subdued.  I distinctly remember sitting on the floor of the living room of our old apartment on Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn. My mother, my sister and I were watching the funeral on the old black and white in the corner. The thing that made the biggest impression on me and what I actually remember to this day is the horse (Black Jack?) with the boots backward in the stirrups. I remember that scared the heck out of me.

I just think how totally different this world would have been if that day in November, 1963 had never happened. And it makes me immeasurably sad. Always.

From Terri at Reading, ‘Riting, and Retirement:

I was 13; I was in a junior high class (English I think); the news came over the loudspeaker, our principal announced it. I don’t recall precisely what we were doing in class; when the news came over the loudspeaker, I was confused at first. It didn’t sink in until later when I saw my friends in the cafeteria. There was lots of crying and hugging. I think they let us out of school early.

We watched TV non-stop for days. It was quite surreal, especially when Oswald was shot. I hate to admit it, but I was taking my cues from my parents, so I can’t really recall what I was feeling, other than scared and sad.

I remember watching Jackie Kennedy and being fascinated by her and by the Catholic rituals. I don’t think I’d ever seen them before (kneeling, crossing herself, etc). In my naïve adolescence, I decided I wanted to be a Catholic, so for a few nights I knelt by my bed and crossed myself. That was as far as I went though.

It was the beginning of a very volatile time in our country – many assassinations, the Vietnam war and its protests, etc. The age of innocence ended in those years, I think.

I have one copy of DEAR MRS. KENNEDY to give away (US/Canada only).  To enter, just leave a comment and let me know where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news of either the Kennedy assassination (if you’re old enough) or the terrorist attacks on 9/11/01.  The contest ends Sunday, 11/14, at midnight.

DEAD END GENE POOL Discussion with author Wendy Burden!

Hello, readers!

Tonight we are privileged to welcome Wendy Burden, author of DEAD END GENE POOL, to our Spring Reading Series discussion.  She will be here “live” participating in our discussion and answering questions for one hour beginning at 5 pm PST (8 pm EST) in the comments section of this post.

The conversation got going in this post, where I posed some discussion questions for everyone and asked for questions for Wendy.

I’ve been gathering your questions for Wendy and of course would welcome more.  Here’s what we have so far:

Here’s a comment from Lisa at Lit and Life, followed by a question from me:

One thing I found really interesting was how Wendy’s grandmother just threw money away in some ways (like buying prescription eyeglasses and then just tucking them away in a drawer) but was so tight with money in other ways (like stiffing the cabbies).    Any idea why she was that way?

From Nancy at Bookfoolery and Babble:

I’m curious who is on the cover of the book. Wendy’s mother or grandmother?

From Gaby at Starting Fresh:

Wendy comes across as so witty, intelligent, and spirited in the book.  Is she willing to tell us more about her life after the book ended?  We know that she’s owned and been a chef at Chez Wendy, but who did she marry?  Why did she decide to live in Oregon?  How is she raising her children?  How does she fill her days (aside from writing and touring)?

So many of us dream of money to become financially independent, have the mortgages paid off, take any job that we want, etc.  How has she chosen to shape her life and what makes her happy?  What would a perfect day for her be like?

Who does she like to read?  What is she reading now?

From Bellezza at Dolce Bellezza:

Is your irreverant, and often hilarious sense of humour, a way of covering up any pain you experienced in your unconventional upbringing?

From reader Vance Lancaster:

1. How much wealth was left when your grandparents died and how was it distributed? Did the fact that your brother was a co-executor of the estate affect the distribution or cause any problems?

2. What happened to each of the homes owned by your grandparents? Are they still standing? If so, do you know who owns them now and have you ever re-visited them?

3. I assume that most of your grandparent’s art collection went to MOMA. Was any great art left to you or your brothers or to your uncle? If so can you tell us who got what?

4. What is your most cherished item left to you by your grandparents? Is there anything that you coveted that went to someone else?

5. I understand that one of your uncles is alive and living in CT. Are you in contact with him? Can you describe his life today? Do you know if he has read the book and, if so, what was his reaction?

She'll be here for our discussion-ask her anything!

6. At the end of the book, you discover that Charles Thomas, your mom’s lover, contrary to what your mother told you is still alive. Have you made any attempt to contact him or has he reached out to you since the book was published? Have others that knew your mother or grandparents reacted strongly to the book?

7. Are your mother’s ex-husbands alive and are you in contact with them?

8. I understand that you have two daughters. Are their lives, in any way, similar to yours with your siblings. Do you recognize any of the traits of your relatives in them?

Edited to add:

From Ash at English Major Junkfood:

Did you write these as individual essays and then pull them together for a book, or did you know when you were writing that you wanted this to be a cohesive memoir?

Come by tonight at 5 pm PST (8 pm EST) to say hi to Wendy and see how she answers our questions!  Hope to see you then!

Spring Reading Series: DEAD END GENE POOL Discussion Questions

Hello Spring Readers!

This month we’re reading Dead End Gene Pool, a memoir by Wendy Burden, the great-great-great-great granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt which, according to her website, ‘qualifies her to comment freely on the downward spiral of the blue blood families.’ For anyone interested in the super-rich, this is a fascinating and witty account of growing up surrounded by tremendous wealth, but it’s also a tragic tale of family dysfunction and parental neglect.

We are so fortunate to have Wendy joining us in real time, right here at Books on the Brain, on May 18th at 5 pm PST. If you’ve read Dead End Gene Pool or are curious about it, please mark your calendars and join us as we discuss the book with Wendy!

Here is a synopsis of the book, followed by a few discussion questions:

For generations the Burdens were one of the wealthiest families in New York, thanks to the inherited fortune of Cornelius “The Commodore” Vanderbilt. By 1955, the year of Wendy’s birth, the Burden’s had become a clan of overfunded, quirky and brainy, steadfastly chauvinistic, and ultimately doomed bluebloods on the verge of financial and moral decline-and were rarely seen not holding a drink. In Dead End Gene Pool, Wendy invites readers to meet her tragically flawed family, including an uncle with a fondness for Hitler, a grandfather who believes you can never have enough household staff, and a remarkably flatulent grandmother.

At the heart of the story is Wendy’s glamorous and aloof mother who, after her husband’s suicide, travels the world in search of the perfect sea and ski tan, leaving her three children in the care of a chain- smoking Scottish nanny, Fifth Avenue grandparents, and an assorted cast of long-suffering household servants (who Wendy and her brothers love to terrorize). Rife with humor, heartbreak, family intrigue, and booze, Dead End Gene Pool offers a glimpse into the fascinating world of old money and gives truth to an old maxim: The rich are different.

SO READERS- let’s get the discussion started! These are just a few questions to get you thinking- you don’t have to answer them all. Please feel free to add your own questions, and respond to each others answers, too.

1. What was your overall view of the book? Was it what you expected?

2. Were there parts of this book that were difficult to read?

3. What aspect of the book did you enjoy most?

4. In the synopsis it says that Dead End Gene Pool gives truth to an old maxim: The rich are different. The rich ARE different, but in what ways are they different? How are they the same?

5. Wendy’s grandparents placed a higher importance on her brother’s education than on hers. Have you experienced that type of inequity in your own family? If so, was the sibling relationship damaged as a result?

6. Do you think Wendy’s mother was essentially ‘bought off’ by the grandparents, bullied into making her children available to them for long stretches of time, over holidays, etc? Or was she just a really neglectful parent?

7. Who do you think was the most influential adult in Wendy’s childhood? In what way?

She'll be here for our discussion-ask her anything!

8. Wendy almost seemed to raise herself. How did she cope?

9. Often you hear about people who have come into money either through inheritance or the lottery, and blow through it really quickly. They sometimes find the money doesn’t make them any happier. Why do you think unearned money can be so difficult for people to manage?

10. What adjectives would you use to describe this book?

We can’t wait to hear your thoughts on Dead End Gene Pool. Thanks for reading along with us. And don’t forget to join us on May 18th for our discussion with Wendy!

Do you have questions for Wendy? Leave them here in the comments or email me with them and I will pass them along, for her to consider before our discussion.

Days of Prey Tour and Giveaway! Night Prey by John Sandford

Prepare yourselves..the STORM is coming!

On May 18th, the highly anticipated 20th book in John Sandford’s bestselling Prey series, Storm Prey, will hit the shelves.  Leading up to this latest release, each blogger on the Days of Prey tour was asked to read one book in the series and fill in a questionnaire, creating a timeline.

If you’re not familiar with these books, you can follow the tour in order of the dates the books were published and get to know Lucas Davenport, the brilliant detective/ladies man who is the star of the Prey series.

I was not familiar with this author or these books (where have I been??)  Let me tell you.. John Sandford and his very smooth character, Lucas Davenport, have a brand new fan!!

The book I read is the sixth in the series, called Night Prey.

Year published: 1994

Tell us about Lucas Davenport:

Lucas is described as “a tall man with heavy shoulders, dark-complected, square-faced, with the beginnings of crow’s feet at the corners of his eyes.  His dark hair was just touched with gray; his eyes were a startling blue.  A thin white scar crossed his forehead and right eye socket, and trailed down to the corner of his mouth.  He looked like a veteran athlete, a catcher or a hockey defenseman, recently retired.”  He knows everybody, is liked by all kinds of people, both men and women, and all types of people from street people to politicians respect him.

  • What is Lucas doing when he first appears in the book? Set up the scene.

Lucas is pulling up to a crime scene in his Porsche.  There’d been a fire at a machine shop that turned out to be a front for an illegal gun running operation.  It fell outside of his Minneapolis jurisdiction, but because a cop had been killed, and it was one of his contacts, he was called in.

  • Give us a sense of time and place.

The story takes place in the present and is set in and around Minneapolis/St. Paul.

  • Lucas’s occupation or professional role?

Lucas has recently been appointed Deputy Chief of the Minneapolis PD.  He’d left the department two years earlier and had gone full time with his own company, designing games and writing simulations for police dispatch computers.  He’d been making a fortune (thus the Porsche) when the new chief asked him to come back, with two objectives: put away the most dangerous and active criminals, and cover the department on the odd crimes likely to attract media attention.  So he hired a full time administrator to run his company and took the chief’s offer.  When this book opens, he’s only been back on the street for a month.

  • Lucas’s personal status (single, dating, married):

Lucas is in love.  He has a live in girlfriend, Weather Karkinnen, a surgeon in her late thirties.  He thinks they’ll get married, but she has said to him, “Don’t ask yet.”  He’s never experienced this kind of closeness and passion with anyone.  She makes him happy and he thinks about her all the time.  And yet, he’s still a bit flirty with other women, particularly an on camera news reporter for TV3, Jan Reed.  Lucas really likes and appreciates women.

  • Lucas Davenport is a known clothes-horse; did you notice any special fashion references?

There are many.  Right away you notice his attention to detail.  When he enters his office, he hangs his suit jacket carefully on a wooden hanger.  He buys his suits in New York.  At a crime scene, he takes a plastic raincoat out from the trunk of his car and lays it on the edge of a dumpster before hoisting himself up to look inside, protecting his clothes.  Once during an investigation, a woman flipped his designer tie over to check the tag.. Hermes.

Let’s talk about the mystery:

  • Avoiding spoilers, what was the crime/case being solved?

A psychopathic serial killer is killing women in a ripper/slasher fashion and has started carving the initials S J into their bodies.  Meagan Connell, an investigator who has a personal interest in the case and has painstakingly documented every detail of several murders trying to find a connection, is anxious to see the case solved quickly, as she is dying.  She teams up with Lucas Davenport to catch the maniac.

  • Does the title of your book relate to the crime?

It does.  The killings are all committed at night.

Who was your favorite supporting character, good or evil?

I really liked Meagen.  She’s tough, carries a gun and knows how to use it.  She’s focused and won’t take no for an answer.  But she also has a mile-wide chip on her shoulder and is almost militantly feminist with Lucas at first, calling him a “macho asshole.”  She relaxes a bit later on but at first her guard is up (WAY up).  After a tense initial meeting, they shake hands, and then..

She’d opted for peace, Lucas thought; but her hand was cold.  “I read your file,” he said.  “That’s nice work.”

“The possession of a vagina doesn’t necessarily indicate stupidity,” Connell said.

What was your favorite scene or quote?

One favorite scene was when they’d just left a bookstore, where the owner had mentioned to Lucas that he’d been beefing up the poetry section.  Meagan asks Lucas about it and he tells her he reads poetry.  She doesn’t believe him, calls him a liar and demands he recite a poem.  So he does- Emily Dickinson, no less.

Another scene I liked is when Lucas observes Weather performing surgery and has all kinds of new insight into her personality.

But the best and most memorable scene came at the end, and I don’t want to spoil it for anyone.  Let’s just say it’s a satisfying conclusion to the story!

Finally, how do you envision Lucas Davenport? If he were to be portrayed in a movie, what celebrity would play him?

I think Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson would portray Lucas perfectly!  He’s got that rugged/sexy thing going and cleans up great.  You can picture him working a case in an alley, talking to drug dealers in a junkyard, or all dressed up for a night out.  Or in a towel after a shower.  He’s.. umm.. versatile in that way.

Night Prey is a wild thrill ride of a novel and John Sandford is hugely talented with this genre.  I wondered at first if I’d like it because you know the identity of the killer from the very first chapter, however as it turns out it wasn’t a problem.  The reader doesn’t know what the killer is going to do next or how it will all play out, which keeps you turning the pages.  This was my first time reading a series out of order and I worried about that too, but again it was no problem.  These books can stand alone.  Like I said earlier, I’ve become a brand new John Sandford fan, and can’t wait to read more of this series!

Be sure to check out the other stops on this tour:

Monday, May 3rd:

Rules of Prey:  Rundpinne

Shadow Prey:  Boarding in my Forties

Tuesday, May 4th:

Silent Prey:  Chick with Books

Wednesday, May 5th:

Winter Prey:  The Bluestocking Guide

Night Prey:  Books on the Brain

Thursday, May 6th:

Mind Prey:  Jen’s Book Thoughts

Sudden Prey:  Starting Fresh

Friday, May 7th:

Secret Prey:  Fantasy & SciFi Loving News & Reviews

Certain Prey:  My Two Blessings

Monday, May 10th:

Easy Prey:  Lesa’s Book Critiques

Chosen Prey:  Reading with Monie

Tuesday, May 11th:

Mortal Prey:  Musings of a Bookish Kitty

Naked Prey:  Dan’s Journal

Wednesday, May 12th

Hidden Prey:  Novel Whore

Broken Prey:  You’ve GOTTA read this!

Thursday, May 13th:

Invisible Prey:  Booktumbling.com

Friday, May 14th:

Phantom Prey:  The Novel Bookworm

Monday, May 17th:

Wicked Prey: A Bookworm’s World

Tuesday, May 18th:

Storm Prey:  Bermuda Onion

Follow The Days of Prey Tour and follow the Lucas Davenport timeline! While you’re checking out The Days of Prey Tour at the Penguin Group site, you can also read an excerpt from every single Prey novel there.  Read an excerpt of the latest release,  Storm Prey!  And here’s the direct link to read an excerpt of Night Prey.  Learn more about John Sandford at his website, JohnSandford.org

ENTER TO WIN a copy of Night Prey PLUS an ARC (Advanced Reading Copy) of the new book, Storm Prey, right here!  Just leave a comment and let me know what you think of my choice of Dwayne Johnson to play Lucas Davenport.  I personally think it’s genius :-)  Hollywood, are you listening??

Spring Reading Series Announcement! Dead End Gene Pool by Wendy Burden

Today I’m announcing our May Reading Series selection… drumroll please…

DEAD END GENE POOL by Wendy Burden!

It’s dark.  It’s funny.  And it’s all true!  Here’s a synopsis:

In the tradition of Sean Wilsey’s Oh The Glory of It All and Augusten Burrough’s Running With Scissors, the great-great-great-great granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt gives readers a grand tour of the world of wealth and WASPish peculiarity, in her irreverent and darkly humorous memoir.

For generations the Burdens were one of the wealthiest families in New York, thanks to the inherited fortune of Cornelius “The Commodore” Vanderbilt. By 1955, the year of Wendy’s birth, the Burden’s had become a clan of overfunded, quirky and brainy, steadfastly chauvinistic, and ultimately doomed bluebloods on the verge of financial and moral decline-and were rarely seen not holding a drink. In Dead End Gene Pool, Wendy invites readers to meet her tragically flawed family, including an uncle with a fondness for Hitler, a grandfather who believes you can never have enough household staff, and a remarkably flatulent grandmother.

At the heart of the story is Wendy’s glamorous and aloof mother who, after her husband’s suicide, travels the world in search of the perfect sea and ski tan, leaving her three children in the care of a chain- smoking Scottish nanny, Fifth Avenue grandparents, and an assorted cast of long-suffering household servants (who Wendy and her brothers love to terrorize). Rife with humor, heartbreak, family intrigue, and booze, Dead End Gene Pool offers a glimpse into the fascinating world of old money and gives truth to an old maxim: The rich are different.

And you thought YOUR family was weird!!

She'll be here for our discussion-ask her anything!

Ok, so here’s the deal.  I have 20 COPIES  of DEAD END GENE POOL available for our reading series, compliments of  Gotham Books, a division of Penguin Group!  We’ll get the books out to everyone who’s interested in participating. Then we’ll discuss it here, and Wendy will join in!  Think of it as a book club of sorts, except without the wine.  Well, you can have wine in front of your computer if you like.  Who’s gonna stop you?

E-mail me with your address (even if you think I have it!) to request a free copy of the book- first come, first served.  Put “DEAD END GENE POOL” in the subject line, but please only request the book if you are interested in coming back for the  discussion.  Be sure it sounds like a book you’d enjoy.  And I’m really sorry to our friends in other countries, but this is open to residents of US/Canada only.

Click here to read a full description of the book. Dead End Gene Pool will be in stores on April 1st, 2010, and the discussion will take place here on May 18th – with the author participating ‘live’ for an hour!  I will post details for the discussion about a week before along with an email reminder to those who’ve won the book.

I hope you’ll join us!


A little Reading Series history:

Why do we blog?  Why do we read blogs?  For me it’s because I love to read, and I love discussing the books I read with others.

So out of that “desire to discuss” was born the Reading Series idea.  Another blogger and I really liked the idea of a virtual book club.  20 of us would read the same book and come back to talk about it, with the author in attendance!  This was such a huge hit with the Summer Reading Series (Beach Trip, All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, and Two Years, No Rain) that we did a  Winter Reading Series (for the book Keeping the Feast).  Now it’s a ‘thing that we do’ with TLC Book Tours.

My TLC partner Trish from Hey, Lady! is having a Spring Reading Series discussion for The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott coming up in April.  Those books have already been claimed (and apparently, really quickly.  She claims she almost had her fingers bitten off by rabid book fans!)  SO, please be fast if you want to participate in this one.. and please don’t bare your teeth.. I like my fingers right where they are..

UPDATE: 3/23 at 2:30 pm PST-  I still have 7 books left, and all my fingers :-)

Review and Giveaway: Give Me, Get Me, Buy Me by Donna Corwin

Parenting is a process, and when we know more, we can do a better job.  Give Me, Get Me, Buy Me: Preventing or Reversing Entitlement in Your Child’s Attitude by Donna Corwin is a book I wish I’d had 10 years ago (for the preventing part) but thankfully, according to Corwin, it’s not too late for the reversing part.

Often I’ve wondered why my kids expect “stuff” without having to earn it.  Why they think they deserve to get every new thing that comes out and why they think it’s so unfair when their demands aren’t met immediately.  In short, we’ve created little monsters and contributed to their feelings of entitlement by offering too much praise (over inflating their little egos) rather than encouragement (contributing to more healthy self esteem) and by overindulging them instead of delaying their gratification.  The blame lies squarely on my shoulders (and my husband’s) and this book has opened my eyes.

Give Me, Get Me, Buy Me is all about setting limits and discovering your parenting goals and priorities.  It’s about teaching responsibility, about giving real attention, about showing our kids the true meaning of love (and that it can’t be bought).  It’s about supporting your kids but not rushing to fix everything for them, about letting them find their own solutions and solve their own problems.  It’s about taking back control and not allowing your children to suck in all the advertising and media images they are bombarded with on a regular basis, about teaching them about money and morals and manners and how to be charitable.  The book showed me the reasons why I’ve behaved a certain way (rebelling against my own parents’ parenting style) and how I can turn it around.  All in all, this was exactly the reality check I needed.

This book is full of really valuable information and useful advice.  If you are a parent with kids who feel like they are owed the world just because they live and breathe, please do everybody a favor and get this book!

I reviewed Give Me, Get Me, Buy Me as part of its TLC Book Tour.  I’ve got two copies to give away, courtesy of the publisher. Please leave a comment by midnight on March 15th for a chance to win!

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