Sunday Salon- at night

Rockin' around the Christmas tree

Rockin' around the Christmas tree

Ok, I do realize that one should never drink and blog, but here I am, post-book club meeting, a tiny tad buzzed with no one in the house.  It seems like a good time to type up a Sunday Salon post.

Tonight our club discussed Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishi-something-or-other (my review can be found here).  The reviews were mixed but the discussion was terrific.  One thing I so enjoy about being in a book club (aside from the tremendous food!) is hearing other points of view about a book you thought you knew and were smart enough to understand- HA!  One club member brought something up that I never thought of and I’m so glad she made the point because I totally missed it.  The book is essentially about cloning and about a ‘school’ that treated one group of clones humanely- something like students but still less than human.  The point that I missed was how throughout history, groups of people were dehumanized as an attempt to justify the poor treatment they received- she cited slavery, the Holocaust, etc.  Seems obvious but I didn’t see it.  I viewed the book as a much more straightforward commentary on modern medical practices and politics and missed the bigger picture.  I have such a better appreciation of the book now.

I haven’t done much reading this week.  I’ve been dealing with some weighty family issues and that’s taken up a lot of my energy.  Plus the holidays are looming, and in my family I am the Christmas Holiday Organizer (aka the Christmas HO), which includes everything from decorating, planning, shopping, cleaning, baking, tree trimming, sending cards, etc. etc.  Ah, the responsibilities of a HO in December are endless.  I’m sure all you other HOs understand.

I did read about half of Chez Moi by Agnes Desarthe and am enjoying it.  It’s a short book and I’d love to sit and just polish it off, but I haven’t been able to devote a good chunk of time to it.  Maybe this coming week.  I’m not sure what I’ll read after that, but don’t worry about me- I have a huge stack of books to choose from.

What are you reading this week?

Review: One Perfect Day by Lauraine Snelling

51sk2b7tptl_sl500_aa240_ One Perfect Day by Lauraine Snelling 

Two mothers are preparing for what could be the last Christmas with their families intact.  Nora’s teenage twins will be heading off to college next year, while Jenna’s daughter, Heather, is on a transplant list waiting for a new heart.  

Nora, the ultimate Christian mom, gets up each day to do her devotions and write in her journal.  Everything in her home is just so.  The decorations, the gifts, the food- she is preparing for the perfect Christmas.  The only thing out of place is that her husband is away on a business trip. 

Jenna, a single Christian mom who lost her husband in Desert Storm when Heather was a baby, works nights in the ER.  She tries to make everything perfect for what could be Heather’s last Christmas, hiding her tears behind closed doors.  Heather, a young adult who has been treated like a much younger child due to her infirmaries, is a great kid but would like her mom to talk honestly with her about her fears and her future. 

Things abruptly change as a tragedy on a stormy night brings these two families together, though they never actually meet.  God is with both families as one deals with heartbreak and the other cautiously begins to hope and plan for a future. Nora slides into depression as her family and friends attempt to pull her out of it.  Jenna, always thinking of the other mother, feels some guilt over their good fortune.  She is publicly optimistic but privately terrified that Heather’s body will reject her new heart. 

There is joy, though, for Jenna, as she watches Heather become stronger, do things for herself, meet a boy, make new friends, plan ahead.  And there is a budding relationship for her too, as she moves from the caretaker role in a child centered home to a time when she can think about having a life of her own.  

Nora initially rejects the support of family and friends and the comfort of her church, retreating to her bed and sleeping the days away.  She is unable to help her family through their grief and heartache because her pain is too raw.  But she has the unfailing love and devotion of the family dog, who needs her to get up out of bed to let her out and feed her, and who just wants to be near her without demanding anything in return.  The dog was my favorite character in the book!

Each year I try to read one seasonal book during the holidays, although Christian fiction isn’t something I normally read as I generally find it too preachy and sappy. One Perfect Day isn’t either of those things.  The way the family members react to their circumstances is realistic and emotional.  I found the book to be very positive and inspirational and would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good family story.  

Big thanks to Miriam at Hachette Book Group for sending me this novel to review.

Review and Giveaway: The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

With the success of HBO’s Big Love and the recent raid on the polygamist compound in Texas, there is a lot of interest in the subject of polygamy.  The idea of a harem:  one husband married to multiple wives, underage girls marrying much older men, huge households filled with children, a community cut off from the outside world, women in prairie dresses and braided hair, husbands keeping “marriage manager notebooks” to keep track of how often they visit their wives’ beds- it’s fascinating and titillating subject matter.

David Ebershoff takes on this sweeping topic in his book, The 19th Wife, giving the reader both a contemporary murder mystery and a historical view of plural marriage.   The stories are parallel and not totally interconnected, allowing the reader to get the big picture- the history and it’s effect on current times- without confusion. 

There is the historical story of Ann Eliza Young, one of Brigham Young’s wives, who divorced him after 5 years and went on to help end polygamy by speaking out about it.   Told with depth and clarity, from many viewpoints and with various fictionalized documents, letters, and research papers (even a wikipedia entry!), we get a good sense of the history of the Mormon religion, the early days of the church and its Prophets Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, and the divine revelation of celestial marriage that nearly caused it’s downfall. 

There is also the modern day story of Jordan Scott, a gay 20 year old who was turned out of an FLDS polygamist household, ordered by his father to be dumped along the side of a highway by his mother at age 14 because he was caught holding the hand of his step sister.  Jordan, living in California, sees a news story on the internet about his mother, also a 19th wife, being arrested for killing his father.  He travels back to Utah to see his mother in prison to find out what happened.  He becomes convinced of her innocence and proceeds to investigate, with the help of his mother’s attorney, his secretary, Johnny (a street smart 12 year old, also turned out by the sect), and Tom-also gay and estranged from the Mormon Church because of it. 

I liked both stories very much and think that together they make for an intricate and well rounded portrayal of the complex issue of polygamy; the reasons it existed in the past and why it is still around on the fringes of society today.  While reading The 19th Wife, I wasn’t clear on what was fact and what was fiction, but that didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book.  It wasn’t until I read the Author’s Note and Acknowledgements at the end that I understood that the documents were entirely fictionalized, which was fine except I wished I’d known that from the beginning.  It was all very realistic and believable.  

The 19thWife is a great book.  It drew me in and put me into the minds of people struggling with their faith, questioning their beliefs and their leaders, and wrestling with difficult decisions, something we all do.  And isn’t that what excellent historical fiction should do-present differing viewpoints and make you think?  This book is wildly successful in that area! 

You can visit David’s website for all kinds of fascinating info at The19thWife.com.  It’s interesting to note that in 1875, Ann Eliza Young really did write a bestselling and controversial memoir, Wife No. 19, and you can download and read the original memoir from David’s site. 

So, have I piqued your interest?  Want to read the book yourself?  If you’d like a chance to win a hardcover First Edition copy of The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff, leave a comment here by Friday, November 7th.   So sorry- this is only open to residents of the US and Canada due to shipping expenses. 

I received this book as part of David’s TLC Book Tour, and he also generously sent me a 2nd signed and personalized copy to keep (thanks, David!) but what’s up with that date?  My calendar says 2008! 

David Ebershoff has been all around the blogosphere doing interviews and guest posts.  Here’s his schedule if you’d like to follow his tour:

David Ebershoff’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Wednesday, Oct. 15th:  Maw Books (Natasha got to meet David at a book signing!)

Thursday, Oct. 16th:  Maw Books (review)

Friday, Oct. 17th: Reading, ‘Riting, and Retirement (guest post and review)

Monday, Oct. 20th:  She Is Too Fond Of Books (will have another post soon with David answering questions from readers)

**Check out this post at She Is Too Fond Of Books about a book signing with David

Tuesday, Oct. 21st:  Age 30 – A Year in Books

Thursday, Oct. 23rd:  A High and Hidden Place

Monday, Oct. 27th:  It’s All About Books (guest post) and review

Tuesday, Oct. 28th:  Musings of a Bookish Kitty (review and author interview)

Thursday, Oct. 30th:  Books on the Brain (giveaway)

Monday, Nov. 3rd:  The Cottage Nest

Tuesday, Nov. 4th:  B&B ex libris

Wednesday, Nov. 5th:  Anniegirl1138

Thursday, Nov. 6th:  The Tome Traveller

Friday, Nov. 7th:  Educating Petunia

Monday, Nov. 10th:  The Literate Housewife

Wednesday,  Nov. 12th:  Diary of an Eccentric

Friday, Nov. 14th:  Book Chase

Bloghopping Challenge

As I was trying to catch up on some favorite blogs, I ran into this post at Presenting Lenore, about a Bloghopping Challenge.  The idea is to visit 10 blogs you’ve never visited before and leave comments on posts that interest you.  This is a carryover from BBAW (one of the many things I never had time for, because there are only so many hours in a day, and I have kids and a house and work and responsibilities- oh, and books to read- lots ‘o books).  Click here for the full list of instructions. 

I don’t have time to do 10 today, so this will be a “Part 1” post.  I have been visiting tons of blogs lately that are new to me for my recruiting efforts to find tour hosts for TLC.  I’m coordinating a tour for Abigail Carter, author of The Alchemy of Loss, and checking out all different types of blogs. 

First, I’d like to talk about Abby’s blog, The Alchemy of Loss.  Abby lost her husband Arron in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11/2001.  Abby writes in such a clear, straightforward manner.  I really enjoy her posts, because they give me a lot to think about, and I love the fact that she’s discovered all of us “blog people”.  Her latest post, titled The Quick Rip, has her wondering about death, and which type is worse: “The quick “no goodbye” death, or the slow decline of one’s body? Is it like Band Aids? The quick rip, preferable to the slow pull?”  Read more here.  

Have you seen People Reading?  The author posts pictures of people reading all around San Francisco and then asks them a question about what they’re reading.  Garbage men, business women, soccer moms, college students, homeless people; everyone in the whole city seems to be reading!  It gives a unique portrait of the city and gives me hope that there really are tons of readers out there.  This blog really appeals to the voyeur in me, and since I’ve just purchased a brand new camera, it’s given me some ideas! 

Another really cool blog is Sassymonkey Reads (where she claims reading is better in bed- I’d agree).  She recently moved her blog and this is the new location.  She’s got tons of great reviews, and she’s also a contributing editor at BlogHer.  

Ok, blogging time has run out for me, and I only got through 3 blogs!  I’m coordinating the Scholastic Book Fair next month for my daughters’ school and I’ve got about a zillion copies to make and details to take care of.  Ah, the life of a chronic volunteer.  The important thing is for me to get it all done today so that tonight I can do something I’ve been waiting to do for 4 months- veg out in front of the tv and find out what’s going on with my friends at Dunder Mifflin on the 1 hour season premiere of my favorite show, The Office!  I heart Jim and Pam.  (“Kiss her, kiss her good.”)

To be continued…  

Sunday Salon

It’s finally SUNDAY!  I think a lot of us bloggers have a BBAW hangover this weekend.  So many posts to read, so many giveaways, so many awards and so much excitement!  It was a great week, put on by the tireless My Friend Amy, who did a phenomenal job putting it all together and keeping track of everything.  A round of applause for AMY!  (clap, clap, clap)

My BBAW giveaways will be ending this week too;  this one on Monday, and this one on Tuesday.  Hurry and enter if you haven’t already!

Fall has arrived here in Southern California. I used to love this time of year growing up in Michigan- back to school, sweater weather, fall colors, apple picking.  The change of seasons is more subtle in So. Cal. but when you’ve lived her awhile you start to notice small things.  We go from hot to warm, green to brown, and dry to not quite as dry, over the course of several months.  It’s still blazing hot right now, but it cools off in the evenings, and it’s chilly in the early morning.  The kids are back in school (and already have tons of homework), and by next weekend we’ll start to see pumpkins and scarecrows on porches to remind us that it’s fall, since the weather doesn’t offer much of a clue.

I’ve got so much reading lined up but it’s a challenge to find time.  My husband is in China on business, so I’ve been a “single mom” for the past week.  Things I’ve had to do without him include:

* going to Back to School night alone

* taking the girls on an overnight campout at their school (I  made the kids put the tent up, so it wasn’t that bad- it was just the carting things back and forth and the sleeping on the ground that sucked!)

* dealing with the emotions (“I miss daddy” sniff sniff)

* hauling the garbage cans to the curb and back (his job)

* feeding the dog and picking up poop (also his job)

* taking my youngest to her golf lesson (always a daddy/daughter thing)  

On the plus side, I’ve only cooked dinner once all week.  A couple nights we had leftovers, a couple nights we went out, and one night we had “breakfast for dinner”.  Oh, and I haven’t shaved my legs.  Ha!

Right now I’m reading Peony in Love by Lisa See.  I’ve wanted to read this since it came out, but was waiting for my book club to vote it in.  So far I LOVE it.  I was already a big fan after reading Snow Flower, now I’m a bigger fan.  Her writing is so lush and evocative- you get such a sense of the surroundings, you can almost smell the jasmine on the breeze.  Lisa is going to join our book club meeting in October by speaker phone and we could not be more excited!  

Next on the TBR pile is Immortal by Traci Slatton for Jennifer’s online book club at Literate Housewives (not to be confused with her regular blog, Literate Housewife). This one is somehow a cross between historical fiction and time travel.  It’s set in Florence in the 14th century, and the back cover says something about a golden boy having to make a choice between immortality and his only chance to find his true love (I’m paraphrasing wildly).  

After that, it’s on to The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff for a TLC Book Tour stop here on October 30th.  It’s about Ann Eliza Young, 19th wife of Brigham Young, prophet and leader of the Mormon church.  There’s also a parallel story about a present day murder in a polygamist family.  I can’t wait to start it.  

And last, but hopefully not least, I’ll be reading Run by Ann Patchett.  The only Patchett I’ve read is Bel Canto, which I intensely disliked, but because my friend Jill at Fizzy Thoughts liked Run so much, and then offered to send me her copy, I’m going to give it a try.  I’m also interested in Patchett’s Truth and Beauty, about her friendship with Lucy Grealy (Autobiography of a Face), so I’m going to give her a second chance, and then possibly a third.  

I’m curious- If you’ve read a book that you didn’t like at all, do you give an author another chance and read more of their work?  Or do you “fire them” forever?  

Happy Sunday!

Sunday Salon

This is the last Sunday of summer vacation. My brats kids go back to school on Tuesday, and we are all excited (mostly me!) This summer felt about two weeks too long- you know it’s time to get back to the routine when everyone is fighting and whining and just generally not getting along. Sadly we have reached that point. My kids and I have been riding an emotional rollercoaster with huge peaks and terrifying valleys and all I can do is hang on and hope I don’t puke. I’ll be doing the happy dance in the school parking lot after dropping them off in 48 hours.

We crammed as much fun into this last week of vacation as we could stand. We visited Universal Studios Hollywood for the first time (The Simpsons virtual reality ride alone is worth the price of admission!). We made one last run to the water park before our passes expire. We had 10 giggly Girl Scouts camp out in a tent in the backyard. We went swimming at Grandma’s and cooked marshmallows over a fire. It’s been a fun overload. Too much fun. A fun frenzy. I feel a little dizzy and sick. You know how you can feel sick from eating too much candy? It’s like that.

School shopping took up a lot of our time this week, too. After checking out the class lists yesterday (which brought tears to my 9 year olds eyes because she and her best friend were separated) we went shopping for school supplies. School clothes and shoes and haircuts and backpacks and lunchboxes have wreaked havoc on an already tight budget, and the supplies busted it entirely. It made me crazy to pay full price for school supplies knowing full well it would all be 60% off in a week or two. But what are you gonna do? Schools have no money and kids need all this stuff.

I did do a little reading this week, but not much. I’m still reading Sweetsmoke (click HERE to enter my giveaway)- the book is great and it’s not the book’s fault that it’s taking me so long to read it. It’s just my vida loca and my forgetfulness- I would have had a couple extra hours with it if I hadn’t forgotten to grab it on our way out the door to Universal. Luckily for me I had my new book club selection in the trunk, so I started reading that. 3 Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson isn’t exactly a page-turner, but it’s good in it’s way. You should read it- it’s important, this book, but not enthralling. Like healthy food vs. junk food. Or like One a Day multiple vitamins. It’s good for you.

After 115 pages, I can also report that 3 Cups of Tea has one of the ickiest scenes I’ve come across in recent memory. After Greg witnesses a yak take a “huge, steaming” dump in the snow, a 10 year old girl races over and starts making yak dung patties- yes, that’s right, while it’s still oozing and steaming, she’s got her little hands in there, and pat, pat, pat, she’s making patties. Why? Because when it dries, it becomes precious fuel for their homes. Say it with me- Ewwwwwww. I kept thinking, how will she wash her hands? They have no running water, no hand sanitizers or anti bacterial soap. They’d have to melt snow over a (yak dung) fire, I suppose, so that she could wash up. And what do you want to bet she’s not sick a day in her life? Do you know how many times a day I say “Wash your hands”? My kids still get sick 3 or 4 times a year! Maybe I should send them to the back yard to make Golden Retriever dung patties.

We will be attending a wedding this afternoon. Our neighbor’s lovely 23 year old daughter is marrying her high school sweetheart. We’ve been neighbors since she was 5 years old so we’ve watched her grow up. It’s almost like one of my own kids getting married. She babysat our children from the time she was 14 until she went away to college and they adore her too. I’ve already stuffed my purse with tissues because there will be tears.

Labor Day Monday will be a day of relaxing and resting and getting ready for school. And then on Tuesday, yippee! The 1st day of school! Woo Hoo! Partaaaaaay!

Tuesday is also the beginning of our first TLC Book Tours!! We will have Kathyrn Maughan and Did I Expect Angels on tour (click here to see where she will be) along with Kathleen McCleary and House and Home (click here). We’ve also signed several new tours for October and November. Check it out!

What are you up to this weekend? And what are you reading?

A Dazzling Opening

The eyes of the world are watching the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics in Beijing today.  In a  breathtaking display of beauty, art, symbolism, and technology, the Chinese really put on a show.  

Am I the only weirdo who cried a little bit?

Our family is most looking forward to the gymnastics, swimming, diving, and track and field events.  

What are you looking forward to?

A Shaky Fish Story

Today some friends and I took our kids (4 moms, 16 kids under the age of 10) to our local movie theater, where there are free movies every Tuesday all summer.  The theater was jammed- there was not even one empty seat.  Today’s movie was Fred Claus starring Vince Vaughan.  We laughed throughout and enjoyed the chilly wintery scenes, which were effective in cooling us off on this hot July morning.  Everything was just fine, until 11:42am, when the theater started to roll.

Yes, roll!  We live in Southern California, where the earth moves regularly.  My friend and I recognized immediately that we were experiencing an earthquake, but this was a first for my 9 and 10 year old kids. As the rolling turned to jolting and the movement got a little more intense, people gasped and stood up and started to go for the aisles.  My friend Angela shouted out, “Remain calm!  Don’t panic!” several times… who wants to get trampled, right??- and for the most part people were calm.  My legs turned to jello and I was shaking because you can’t know if the quake will stop or gather strength.  Having lived through 2 major earthquakes (with major aftershocks each time), I was a little jumpy.

Everyone exited the theater safely, with no trampling and lots of nervous laughter, and immediately got on their cell phones.  I was able to get ahold of my husband right away but my friend, who’s mother lives just a few miles from the epicenter, could not get her mom on the phone.  We heard later that the cell lines collapsed pretty quickly with the overload on the system from everyone trying to make calls all at once.

My kids have told and re-told their “survivor” story to friends and relatives several times now, and the earthquake gets bigger and bigger with each retelling, like a fish story (it was THIIIISSSS BIG!)  It was a moderate quake, 5.4 on the Richter scale, but it was their first, so to them it was a whale!

Now THAT’S old!

Q:  What do Alaska, margaritas, area codes, nylon and The Golden Gate Bridge all have in common?  

A:  They are all younger than Republican presidential hopeful, John McCain!   

Is he older than dirt and God, too??? Read the book and find out!  (The book comes out in August, but can be pre-ordered).

The Human Statue of Liberty

In July of 1918, more than 18,000 officers and soldiers posed as Lady Liberty on the parade grounds at Camp Dodge in Des Moines, Iowa.  Many men fainted- they were dressed in woolen uniforms- as the temperature neared 105 degrees.  The photo was taken from the top of a specially constructed tower by a Chicago photography studio and was intended to help promote the sale of war bonds, but was never used.

Check out this website to see more patriotic photos taken during WWI.  They are amazing!!  The flag and the Liberty Bell are especially fascinating.

Happy 4th of July from the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave!