The Sunday Salon – January 10, 2009

Happy Sunday, everybody.  I’m sitting in my family room that is flooded with bright sunlight trying to wrap my head around the fact that this is January.  We’ve had blue skies and temps in the mid to upper 70s for over a week.  While it’s not unusual to have a day like that in January in Southern California, an entire week is weird, even for us.  We are enjoying it by getting out to ride bikes, visiting the beach, etc.  Typical January activities, right?  (I apologize to all you frozen-over mid-westerners for rubbing it in!)

This past week has been a whirlwind for us, trying to get back into a normal routine after the loosey-goosey schedule of winter break.  The Hub’s been in Vegas for a convention since Tuesday so the girls and I have been on our own.  I’ve gotten back to work and it’s a good thing because things had really piled up while I was off playing with the kids.  School mornings have been crazy (nobody wants to get up) and the homework battles have begun anew.  The kids have also taken to fighting over who gets to sleep with me each night while Dad’s away.  Tonight is the last night before he comes home and I think I’m going to demand that everyone sleep in their own bed.

The kids and I have been reading in the evenings.  My youngest and I are reading Fablehaven by Brandon Mull together for our mother/child book club and really enjoying it.  (My oldest is already on Book 4 of the series).  It’s the story of a brother and sister who go to their reclusive grandparents’ home for 2 weeks while their parents are on a cruise.  The home and property turn out to be a centuries-old refuge for mystical creatures (fairies, etc.) that can only be seen by drinking special milk.  Reading Fablehaven has been a great way for me to get my kids to drink their milk!!

I’m currently reading an old favorite author, Sue Grafton, and her latest, U is for Undertow.  I’d stopped reading this series a few years ago (the last one I read was M is for Malice) but I have no idea why… I LOVE Sue Grafton’s sense of humor, and this book is really fun.  My kids have caught me laughing out loud several times (it’s a mystery but her humor shines throughout).  Her sarcasm and wit just kill me and the way she intersects the various characters is really clever.  Now I’ll have to go back and read N, O, P, Q, R, S, and T to see what I’ve missed!

Tonight is book club night and it’s my turn to host our meeting.  I had my servants kids dusting and vacuuming in preparation yesterday.  The whining and complaining could be heard for miles around.  I decided to go super easy with the food and order out- Pizza Hut makes an awesome chicken fettucini alfredo so that’s what I’m serving.  No cooking!  Tonight we will discuss The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne.  We’re also going to watch the movie.  This is something new for us and I’m looking forward to discussing the book vs. movie.  It was such a powerful book and I can’t wait to see Hollywood’s interpretation of it.

Well I’m off to rouse the troops- the bathrooms need attention, the dog needs her pills, the front porch needs to be hosed off, the dishwasher needs emptying, clothes need to be  put away.. the list goes on.  It’s not easy being a taskmaster but someone has to do it!

Thanks for stopping by Books on the Brain.  Leave me a note and tell me what you’re up to this weekend.

Have a great week!

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A (Thankful) Sunday Salon

I don’t know about you but I hate those posts where the blogger apologizes for not blogging because they are _________ (fill in the blank) busy, lazy, distracted, sick, tired, *whatever*.  So, I won’t do that.  Because really, nobody cares.

But from looking around I see it is time to dust off the cobwebs in the corners, water the plants, throw open the windows to air the place out and try to get rid of that smell of neglect.

Whew!  That’s better.  (Thank you, BOTB readers, for understanding, and for checking in with me.  I’m fine!  Just uninspired!)

At some point in recent weeks I all but stopped writing reviews.  I have all the usual excuses (busy, etc.) but mostly I’ve just not had the writing mojo.  I would sit down to write a review and the words wouldn’t come.  Now I have so many to write I may never catch up.  I’m thinking of clearing the slate and starting fresh, with the exception of books I agreed to review for others (thank you, authors and publishers, for your patience).  Has anyone else done this?  Just wiped the slate clean and moved on rather than trying to write reviews for books you read weeks ago?  (Thank you, blogging friends, for your advice in this area).

What happened to me?  There was a time when I reviewed everything I read, immediately upon finishing.  It’s much easier to write a review that way.  If enough time passes, the details get fuzzy, and nobody likes a fuzzy reviewer, right?

My aim in the new year:  fuzz-free reviews in a timely manner.

We’re looking forward to some quality family time this week.  The kids are off from school and I do not have to bust my butt cleaning my house and gearing up for company (yay!  YAY!) because Thanksgiving dinner will be somewhere else this year (thank you, Mom, for making dinner!).  All I’m required to do is show up with clean, well behaved children (ha!), a bottle of wine, and a casserole dish full of sweet potatoes (thank you, Tara, for the most excellent recipe!).   My holiday responsibilities end there.

The girls have NO HOMEWORK over the break (thank you, teachers!  I was expecting the worst!)  So we will be out carousing this week.. shopping, seeing movies, going roller skating, and just generally hanging out.  With no school projects to attend to, it will be a real break for them.  We are dying to see New Moon (even Mom’s looking forward to seeing werewolf  Taylor HOTner-all three of us are TEAM JACOB) and Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant (thank you, Hollywood, for all the great movies this time of year!).  Daddy has to work (thank you, Dad, for being a great provider!), so it will be a whole lot of girl time. Hopefully there will be no drama and we will all get along.

I’m also looking forward to some reading time.  I’m reading How to Save Your Own Life by Michael Gates Gil, a super quick little guide to finding joy in unexpected places.  I need to finish Bold Spirit for a December book club discussion (thank you, book club friends, for enriching my life!).  And finally, I can’t wait to start Keeping the Feast by Paula Butturini this week (thank you, Penguin Group, for sending the book!)

What are your plans this Thanksgiving?  What are you reading?

I’m thankful for YOU.  HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Review: The Opposite of Love by Julie Buxbaum

cover-opposite-love-pb Julie Buxbaum’s terrific debut novel, The Opposite of Love,  is about 29 year old Manhattan attorney Emily Haxby.  The story begins as Emily breaks up with Andrew, her boyfriend of two years with whom she’s had a happy, comfortable, passionate relationship, just as he seems to be on the verge of proposing marriage.  

No one understands this; not her friends, not her family, and she can’t articulate it very well to anybody.  We soon learn it’s not about the awesome Andrew- it has everything to do with Emily; her fear of being left has forced her to push him away.  “You’re your own worst enemy,” her best friend Jess tells her.  “It’s like you get pleasure out of breaking your own heart.” 

Emily’s outwardly enviable life is a little messy just below the surface. Emily’s job for a high powered law firm is sucking the life out of her, and her married boss is harassing her.  She has trouble connecting with others-communication is not her special talent.  Losing her mother to cancer at 14, Emily and her dad grew apart and shut down emotionally.  Grandpa Jack stepped in to pick up the slack and became her sole support system, and now her beloved grandpa has been diagnosed with Alzhiemers. 

As her grandpa’s health declines and her career falls apart, Emily braces herself for more loss.  Her dad, the lieutenant governor of Connecticut, is too busy and too in denial to help care for her grandpa, so decisions about his care fall to her.  Motherless Emily needs guidance and she finds it in the form of Ruth, a wise retired judge and friend of her Grandpa Jack, who encourages her to live her life fully and take chances.  

Bottom Line:  I really liked The Opposite of Love!  I cared about Emily and related to her complicated mess of conflicted feelings.  The writing is solid and the story, while light in some ways, is not fluffy.  There are very funny parts, but it is the kind of humor I like best- wry and sarcastic and intelligent.  It has a lot to say about relationships, communication, love, and loss.  Book clubs would find a lot to talk about (discussion questions can be found HERE) and the author is available for Q & A’s via email or chats.

I can’t wait to see The Opposite of Love on the big screen next year starring Anne Hathaway as Emily (fantastic casting!).  It’ll make a really good movie, but read it first.  As they say, the book is always better.

Author Julie Buxbaum’s website can be found HERE and her new book, After You, comes out August 25th.

The Sunday Salon – May 31, 2009

TSSbadge3It’s quiet around here today- the hub’s out of town on business and daughter #2 went to a sleepover birthday party last night.  Daughter #1 is still in bed, so it’s just me and the dog, hanging out.  And of course, lots of book bloggers are out of town at BEA.  The silence is deafening!

images-1This has been a good week for reading.  I finished Truth & Beauty, read and reviewed The Virgin Suicides, got about 2/3rds of the way through Beach Trip for our Summer Reading Series, and read about 100 pages of The Local News for an upcoming TLC tour.   My youngest and I started reading The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan together for our newly formed mother/child book club, inspired by Julie at Booking Mama.  Our first meeting will be in July with 11 kids (boys and girls) and 9 adults- we’re excited.  It’s amazing how much reading you can do when you turn off the tv.

9780316025270_154X233A lot of books made their way into my hands this week.  I received The Art of Racing in the Rain from Harper Collins- it was a win from a book club website.  I also won The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society from Random House.  Both ‘Racing’ and ‘Guernsey’ are books I’ve been wanting to read since they first came out; I can’t wait!  Love Begins in Winter, a collection of short stories by Simon Van Booy, also came from Harper Collins.  I’m not sure about this one.  I love short stories, but in looking over the book I’m not in love with the author’s style.  I was going to use it for a Teaser Tuesday post, but the sentences are all super short and choppy, and not just in one area.  I looked at probably 20 sample pages.  So I don’t know.  The Skinny:  Adventures of America’s First Bulimic by Rayni Joan came from the author, and last but not least, Sheri from A Novel Menagerie let me borrow Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea.  I’m really looking forward to that one.

9781439102817And I still have to buy a couple of books!  Still Alice by Lisa Genova is my book club’s July pick, and Life of Pi by Yan Martell is our pick for August.  Must get my hands on those.  I will never have enough time to read all the books in my house- unless I stop working and ignore the house, the laundry, my friends and my family for a month or so and do nothing but read.  As tempting as that sounds, it ain’t gonna happen.

Last night, though, I took a break from reading and had a movie night with my 11 year old daughter.  We watched Mean Girls and Legally Blond 2 and pigged out on cookies & cream ice cream.  It was nice spending some one on one time with my oldest.  My kids can be a handful when they’re together, but separately they are angels (well, mostly..), and I think they crave and really need time alone with me and with their dad.  They get sick of being seen as a unit and don’t always want to vie for our attention.

After my girl fell asleep I watched Rachel Getting Married with Anne Hathaway and sobbed like a baby!  The tears were just streaming out of me like a faucet, soaking my face and neck, and I didn’t even try to stop them.  I totally get why she was nominated for Best Actress for this role. She’s come a long way from The Princess Diaries and Ella Enchanted (loved those, too, but in a different way).

Well I hope everyone has a great week.  June, already!  It’s hard to believe.  For us that means 6th grade graduation, 2 more weeks of school, and then a gaggle of kids in and out of the house every day for 12 weeks.  I’m not ready!!!!!

Leave me a note and tell me what you’re reading this week.  Happy Sunday!

Getting Sucked in by Twilight

images1Twilight is one of those books that, even if you haven’t read it, you know what it’s about.  It’s a phenomenon, a force, a sensation.  You’ve heard it’s amazing.  You don’t need me to tell you.

I resisted the lure of this book for months, but my preteen daughter begged and begged me to allow her to read it.  “Everyone is reading it!” she insisted.  After doing an informal survey of my daughter’s friends’ parents, it turns out “everyone” really means two.  But whatever.   She received it for Christmas, so I finally gave in, with the caveat that I would be reading it too.  

What was I expecting?  I’m not exactly sure.  I knew the story, but I didn’t think it would suck me in.  I’m a 40-something mom, after all.  I’m married.  I’m mature.  But I didn’t realize how charismatic Edward would be, how strong and powerful and gorgeous.  And Bella- so smart, so beautiful, so fragile, so klutzy.  I liked the characters right off the bat, and I had to know what would happen to them.  Would he give in to temptation?  Would she put herself in harm’s way to be with the boy she loved?

How well I remember being infatuated with a boy, when all it would take was a meaningful look to make my heart race (my husband of 20+ years has to work a bit harder than that for the same effect!)  Does he like me?  Does he think I’m pretty?  He said hello to me; what does it mean????  I remember a boy I had a HUGE crush on in the 9th grade.  If he noticed me at all it was enough to turn my insides into jello, and the “incident” would take up 3 pages in my diary.  So that is what Twilight was like for me- a trip down memory lane, except the boys I liked didn’t want to suck my blood.  At least, I don’t think so.  It was a fast, fun, absorbing, easy read.  It’s the kind of book I would have loved at age 14 or 15.  I probably would have read it several times.  I’d probably want to read the whole series.  I’d probably vow to name my firstborn son Edward.

On the other hand, as the mom of two preteen girls, I had some pretty big problems with it.  Edward’s behavior borders on stalking.  He’s totally unpredictable- nice one day and cruel the next.  He watches Bella at school.  He looks through her bedroom window and watches her sleep.  If he tells Bella to do something, she darn well better do it (for her own good, of course.  He is protecting her.)  He doesn’t like her friends and is suspicious of everyone she talks to.  He wants her all to himself.  He is frequently angry with her for no apparent reason.  He smirks when she tells him things.  He’s condescending.  He’s dangerous.  He’s fascinating.

And Bella.  She starts out as this smart, independent girl, but she ends up as the damsel in distress, many times over.  She ditches her friends, lies to her dad repeatedly, and lets her boyfriend sleep in her bed.  She deliberately puts herself in danger because she wants to be near Edward.  He warns her over and over again that she shouldn’t be with him, but she doesn’t care.  Her friend and his dad also warn her, but she ignores their advice.  She loves him.  He smells good.  It makes no difference that he’s not human.  The fact that he could kill her, and is in fact constantly fighting that very urge, isn’t a worry for her.  He is beautiful, so so so so so so so so beautiful (did I mention he is beautiful?), with his hot car, cold lips, intense eyes (golden when he’s sated, black when he’s thirsty), smooth voice, and alabaster skin.  Just the kind of guy you’d love your little girl to bring home, right?

So.  My daughter and I have both finished the book.  We both liked it, with reservations.  It opened up the floodgates of an ongoing conversation about growing up, and about boys, and respect, and how a boy should treat a girl, and what kind of relationship is healthy and what is not. Which of course is a good thing.  My daughter thought Bella acted “stupid” and said she’d never let a boy treat her like that.  Hallelujah.  But she’s just 11.  The hormones haven’t kicked in yet.  She also said something like, “Mom, it’s about vampires.  It’s not like anything like this would really happen.  It’s just a book to read for fun.”  What a smart girl I have.

Now to decide if we should see the movie..  thoughts?

Tuesday Teasers

 
tuesday-tMiz B and Teaser Tuesdays asks you to:

Grab your current read.  Let the book fall open to a random page.  Share with us two (2) sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.

You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
26318352My teaser comes from The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted And Other Small Acts of Liberation, a book of 13 stories by Elizabeth Berg.  I know the rules say to share 2 sentences, but I’m going to share 4.  This comes from page 10 and is from the first story, The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted.

“In the afternoon I rented two moves, Big Night and Tortilla Soup.  Which made me starving again even though I wasn’t.  How many people went running out for Italian food after Big Night?  Hands?”

This makes me laugh because Big Night really DID make me hungry!  I never saw Tortilla Soup but now I’ll have to rent it.

What are you reading this week?

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!