Booking Through Thursday: MAYDAY!

Mayday! May 1, 2008

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Quick! It’s an emergency! You just got an urgent call about a family emergency and had to rush to the airport with barely time to grab your wallet and your passport. But now, you’re stuck at the airport with nothing to read. What do you do??

And, no, you did NOT have time to grab your bookbag, or the book next to your bed. You were . . . grocery shopping when you got the call and have nothing with you but your wallet and your passport (which you fortuitously brought with you in case they asked for ID in the ethnic food aisle). This is hypothetical, remember….


If it was a true emergency, I’d probably be too distracted by it to enjoy a good book anyway.  More than likely I’d hit the gift shop and pick up People magazine or US Weekly- something mindless that I could flip through and look at the pictures would probably be enough if I was anxious about whatever was happening. Maybe I’d pick up a Sodoku or a crossword puzzle book.  Maybe I’d pick up USA Today.  I might also watch the in-flight movie, assuming there was one.

If it was a work emergency, or family drama that didn’t involve anyone being sick or hurt, I’d seek out a book.  Most airport gift shops and book stores are limited in their selection to the blockbusters, the mass market fiction, the stuff I typically pass over or have already read.  But I’m sure I could find something to read in a pinch.  And I’d be really pissed that I left my bookbag at home!  What would you do in this situation?

***NOTE*** If you haven’t already signed up for the giveaway for Matrimony by Joshua Henkin, click HERE and leave a comment by May 15.  *****The link works now!!

Booking Through Thursday: Springing

Springing April 24, 2008

Filed under: WordPress — –Deb @ 1:37 am 

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 What I want to know, is:

Do your reading habits change in the Spring? Do you read gardening books? Even if you don’t have a garden? More light fiction than during the Winter? Less? Travel books? Light paperbacks you can stick in a knapsack?

Or do you pretty much read the same kinds of things in the Spring as you do the rest of the year?


The change of seasons in Southern California is pretty subtle.  Winter brings some cold rainy days, but it’s not weeks of cold weather the way it is in other parts of the world.  It is a few random wet days interspersed with our normal mild and sunny “postcard” weather.  Spring is more of the same.  We have flowers blooming all year round.  I know… you’re jealous!  Talk to me during fire season in late summer/early fall, when you’re enjoying a lovely Indian Summer, picking out your pumpkins and wearing a light sweater, and we’re dealing with triple digit temps, devil winds and smoke and ash.  I’ll be jealous then!

Back to the question.  My reading habits don’t vary much with the season, except maybe in summer. Usually I’ll throw a magazine or something very light into the beach bag when I take the kids to the water park or the pool, since I know I’ll be distracted every few minutes by requests for drinks, ice cream, money, sunscreen, hot dogs, towels, etc.  Last year I was reading The Kite Runner in July at the water park and my 9 year old dumped her Icee all over it.  Luckily I’d just finished it, but I had to take it to book club that weekend all swollen and blue!  The next time we went I brought People magazine with me just in case there was another Icee mishap.

Do you vary your reading habits depending on the season?

Booking Through Thursday: Vocabulary

Vocabulary April 17, 2008


Filed under: Drafts — –Deb @ 1:11 am 

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Suggested by Nithin:

I’ve always wondered what other people do when they come across a word/phrase that they’ve never heard before. I mean, do they jot it down on paper so they can look it up later, or do they stop reading to look it up on the dictionary/google it or do they just continue reading and forget about the word?


Rarely will I stop to look up a word.  I can generally figure out what it means by the context.  I’m always a little surprised when I run across a word that is so unfamiliar that I can’t even guess what it means.  I get annoyed by an author who uses 5-star words in every other sentence.  Just say it already!!  Don’t try to impress me with your ginormous vocabulary!

A book I read last year was like that in certain places.  Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer was, for the most part, an easy read.  I read it for my book club.  One sentence that I marked to read aloud at our meeting had 3 words that, not only did I not know them, I HAD NEVER EVEN SEEM THEM BEFORE.  I’ll write it here and you can guess which words I’m referring to:

“He liked the community’s stasis, it’s plebeian virtues and unassuming mien.”  pg. 18

Alrighty, then!  Obviously, Krakauer was showing off his big brain.  But I’d rather just read and not have to stumble on words that are rarely used in everyday language, not once, twice, but THREE TIMES in one sentence.  

My 10 year old generally asks me when she comes across a word she doesn’t know.  I usually tell her, “Look it up!” when we’re home, but the other day she asked me the meaning of a word while in the waiting room at the doctor’s office.  We were both reading our books.  She’d just started The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patton, a Newberry Award winner, 5 minutes before, when she loudly asked, “Mom, what does ‘scrotum’ mean?” 6 sets of eyeballs whipped around to look at us as I stammered, “Ummm, why do you want to know?”  “Because it’s right here in my book.”  My response:  “Let me see that book!”  When I explained what it was, she said, “I don’t think I want to read this book anymore!”

How do you handle it when you come across an unfamiliar word?


Booking Through Thursday: Writing Challenge

Here’s today’s Booking Through Thursday challenge.

Pick up the nearest book. (I’m sure you must have one nearby.)
Turn to page 123.
What is the first sentence on the page?
The last sentence on the page?
Now . . . connect them together….
(And no, you may not transcribe the entire page of the book–that’s cheating!)


Oh, good. An easy one. My mind is on overload and if BTT were too thought provoking today I would have to skip it.

My first and last sentences from page 123 come from the book The Knitting Circle by Ann Hood. This is a book I started last week, got to page 19 and was sobbing like a moron, soaking my t-shirt in tears. It’s about how a mother copes the year after her 5 year old daughter suddenly dies. My own daughter is having some serious medical issues right now, so the grief, pain, and heartache of the mother was a bit too real for me; too raw, too scary. Reading it made my mind travel down some terrifying mental paths. I couldn’t hang, so I closed the book and will try it again some other time (maybe). But since it’s sitting here, I’ll use it for BTT. Here goes:

“We’ve got champagne and gorgeous hors d’oeuvres and tenderloin for dinner.” She walked in and everything, eight months later, was exactly the same.

Those two sentences don’t go together at all, but whatever.. I’m just following directions, and I’m grateful this didn’t take any real effort.


OOOPS.   I do believe I did this all wrong.  It’s a writing challenge.  You’re supposed to actually write something in between the first and last sentences on the page to connect them.  How did I not get that??  Oh, yeah.. my brain is full.  That’s right.  Anyway, I made an effort, so here goes.  Please don’t laugh.  I am well aware that I’m not a writer!!

“We’ve got champagne and gorgeous hors d’oeuvres and tenderloin for dinner,” said Rene as he kissed me on both cheeks, European style.  I attempted a smile, hoped it was convincing, and made my way into the kitchen, finding Rene’s sister, Grace, with an armful of appetizers.  “Can I help?” I asked, but she waved me away and kindly said, “Grab a drink and find me out back.”  She knows I hate this. 

If only I had an appetite. I’ve lost 18 pounds in 8 months, although I don’t recommend the diet plan.  What would we call it.. the Husband Caught Cheating Diet?  The Brad’s An Asshole Diet?  The Lose Your Marriage/Lose the Weight Diet?  

If Rene wasn’t so important to me, I’d be home on the couch, clicker in hand, but to miss his commitment ceremony would be unthinkable.  He’s my oldest friend, and he’s the one who introduced me to Brad all those years ago, although I don’t hold it against him.  

Earlier, I put on my makeup, fixed my hair, and picked out clothes, all on automatic pilot.  I actually used to enjoy these things, before.  Before it got so hard to leave the house.  Maybe this is what I need, even though I’m uncomfortable with it, I tell myself, trying to psych myself up for the evening.    Everyone says it’s good to get out, see people.  Friends, acquaintances – a room full of potential conversations and possible connections are here.  Rene’s friends are all so witty and fun.  Maybe they can shake me out of this funk, this black hole of self imposed isolation that I’ve descended into.  

I slide open the screen door, looking for Grace and actively avoiding Clark and Stephan, feeling their eyes boring into my back as I step outside.  They know her, of course.  Clark is Brad’s boss, and Jasmine is Clark’s assistant.  Jasmine.  Sexy, younger.  What a fucking cliché.  I’ve often wondered if Clark set them up, or at the very least did nothing to discourage it.  He’s never been that friendly to me.  Well, it doesn’t matter at this point.  Jasmine left the company when I found out about the affair and all hell broke loose.  Brad begged me to forgive him.  We saw a therapist.  We went on ‘dates’, made love, made plans.  He apologized profusely and said it was over between them.  He loved me, he loved our life together, he promised it would never happen again.  And then…she walked in and everything, eight months later, was exactly the same.  So much for promises. 


So, that’s it.  I have no idea where that came from in my overloaded brain, but there it is.  You should try it. It’s a good exercise.  Make something up and see where it goes.  Have fun.

Literature: Booking Through Thursday

Lit-Ra-Chur April 3, 2008

Filed under: WordPress — –Deb @ 1:21 am 

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  • When somebody mentions “literature,” what’s the first thing you think of? (Dickens? Tolstoy? Shakespeare?)
  • Do you read “literature” (however you define it) for pleasure? Or is it something that you read only when you must?
    The word LITERATURE sends shivers down my spine.  Mrs. Worsham and AP English Lit spring to mind.  I can almost see her pinched face and hear her trembly voice saying, “Class, read chapters 11-17 tonight, be ready to discuss the plot analysis flow map tomorrow and our quiz will be Friday.  Any questions?”  I think of dealing with clunky language and archaic turns of phrase, questioning every possible motivation for each character, discussing the merits and relevance of the work to modern times, and I shudder.  For me, this has nothing to do with reading for pleasure.  But it was also many years ago.  

    It occurs to me that I ought to give the dreaded LITERATURE another chance, reading it without deadlines and threat of a poor grade if I don’t quite understand the broader themes.  Our book club has talked about reading some classics, and that’s been met with some groans and a roll of the eyes from me, but maybe it’s time.  

    What about you?  Do you read LITERATURE, or fear it?


Booking Through Thursday: Cover-Up

Cover-Up March 27, 2008

Filed under: WordPress — –Deb @ 1:32 am 

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This week’s question comes from Julie, who asks:

While acknowledging that we can’t judge books by their covers, how much does the design of a book affect your reading enjoyment? Hardcover vs. softcover? Trade paperback vs. mass market paperback? Font? Illustrations? Etc.?

The design of a book doesn’t affect my reading enjoyment necessarily, but I do love a beautiful, well designed cover.  Unless I go to the book store with a specific book or author in mind, the cover art absolutely plays a role in which books I pick up and ultimately bring home. One of my favorite blogs, dedicated to the appreciation of book cover design, is Covers, maintained by Fwis, a design firm based out of Brooklyn, NY and Portland, OR.  It’s a place where people in the industry praise or trash covers.  Go there for some highly intelligent commentary from people in the ‘biz.  This is the cover that currently graces their home page.  What do you think? Would you buy this book?



The End: Booking Through Thursday

The End March 20, 2008

Filed under: WordPress — –Deb @ 1:55 am 

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You’ve just reached the end of a book . . . what do you do now? Savor and muse over the book? Dive right into the next one? Go take the dog for a walk, the kids to the park, before even thinking about the next book you’re going to read? What?

(Obviously, there can be more than one answer, here–a book with a cliff-hanger is going to engender different reactions than a serene, stand-alone, but you get the idea!)


Well, usually when I finish a book, I reach over and shut out the light, snuggle in next to my snoring husband, and go to sleep.  I do much of my reading at night after my kids are in bed, and if I’m pretty close to the end of a book, I’ll stay up to finish it. 

If I was reading something really intense, like THIS ONE, or thought provoking, like THIS ONE, or something beautifully written, like THIS ONE, or utterly unique, like THIS ONE, it might be a few days before I start another book, and I usually pick something entirely different.  I have a colossal “to be read” stack at the moment, so I have all this self-imposed pressure to get on with the next book, but sometimes I need to just sit with a book for awhile and let it sink in before moving on.  If it was a light, fun, easily forgettable read, I’ll start another one the very next day. 

What do you do when you’ve reached the end of a book? 


Booking Through Thursday: Playing Editor

Playing Editor March 13, 2008

Filed under: WordPress — –Deb @ 1:13 am 

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Suggested by John :

How about a chance to play editor-in-chief? Fill in the blanks:

__________ would have been a much better book if ______________________.



In order to answer this question, it’s important to understand what an editor actually does..  I thought I knew, but just to be sure I looked it up.  

Typically, an editor does a lot of reading, obviously.  Their job includes everything from looking for errors in spelling, punctuation, and grammar (copy editing), to character development, plot structure and clarity (substantive editing).  They also work at spotting cliched phrases, over-used words, and the overall organization of a story. Fine tuning phrases and removing redundant words can make a huge difference in the final product.

What an editor should NOT do is impose their own voice or point of view over the author’s. An editor should be like Switzerland – totally nuetral, allowing the author’s unique style to shine through, while enhancing and clarifying the text.

Ok, sounds like a tough job.  I guess I’ve been reading a lot of books lately that have benefitted from great editing because I can’t think of any that I would want to change in that way.  

The only exception would be some kids books I’ve been reading with my girls.  We make a game out of counting the number of times the characters in the Goosebumps series “murmur” something.  Seems every other page says, “Look at that!” she murmured.  We dissolve into giggles and get out the notebook that we use to keep track of how many murmurs there are per book.  It’s silly fun.

I remember reading Middlesex last summer and thinking that it would benefit from a liberal dose of editing, but I couldn’t give you specifics all these months later.  I just remember thinking the middle section was way too long and made the book much longer than it needed to be (544 pages-pushing the limits of my patience!). 

What books do you think would benefit from editing?



Perfect Library Format: Booking Through Thursday

Format February 21, 2008

Filed under: WordPress — –Deb @ 1:18 am 

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All other things (like price and storage space) being equal, given a choice in a perfect world, would you rather have paperbacks in your library? Or hardcovers? And why?


At one time I was only interested in buying hardcover books, because I was newly married and loved the way bookshelves looked (with books on them!)  Mine were basically empty so I needed to start filling them up, and let’s face it, hardcovers look better on the shelves.  But that was then.  Now I almost never buy hardcover books.  I prefer the feel of a paperback in my hands.  They are more portable, lighter, easier to hold, and definitely more affordable.  I can dogear or highlight without guilt.  I’m not worried about a kid with sticky fingers touching my books if they are paperbacks.  I want them to be accessible to the whole family.

It’s funny, though, I rarely keep my books anymore.  Once I’ve read them, I lend, share, send, donate, and leave behind all my best books.  People who know me will tell you that I am the type to constantly be pressing a book into their hands, no doubt annoying the heck out of them (at least I don’t drive them insane by asking them, “Did you read that book I gave you?”).  The only books I make a point to keep are the ones we read with my book club so that I can reference them later if I need to.  

But the question was about a library, so..  I’m thinking, is this a library I want to use all the time?  Or one I want to impress others?   If it’s purely about looks, then fill it with hardcovers.  If it’s about practicality and ease of use, bring on the paperbacks.  The exception would be my best loved, most cherished books.  I’d want them in hardcover, so that they’d last longer, but probably after I’ve read them in paperback.  Must I make a choice in this perfect world we’re talking about?  Can’t I have both? And can someone else please do the dusting in this perfect library?



Booking Through Thursday: But, Enough About Books

But, Enough About Books… February 7, 2008

Filed under: WordPress — –Deb @ 1:09 am 

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Okay, even I can’t read ALL the time, so I’m guessing that you folks might voluntarily shut the covers from time to time as well… What else do you do with your leisure to pass the time? Walk the dog? Knit? Run marathons? Construct grandfather clocks? Collect eggshells?


I do love to read and really never tire of it.  However, there are other things that compete for my time, mainly my two children. Their needs are varied and constant, and it seems I am always doing something for or with them, including volunteering at school, helping with homework, packing lunches and making dinner, driving them to school or band practice or soccer or Brownies or playdates or birthday parties, cleaning up their rooms, laundry, shopping, planning, playing games, etc. etc. The list goes on and on.

There are other things I like to do that are more about me..  I love photography and rarely go anywhere without my camera.  I love to go to photography exhibits at local museums.  I scrapbook in fits and starts but sometimes I don’t touch it for months on end.  I enjoy the computer and love blog-surfing.  I work out with a friend a few days a week.  I enjoy going out to dinner and to the movies. The beach is a place I can relax alone or with my dog.  It’s fun with the kids and Bob, too, but I really like going by myself. Sometimes on the weekends I’ll make a really good dinner and have a glass of Chardonnay.. I enjoy cooking when I take my time and don’t feel rushed, and when Bob’s home to appreciate it.  I love music and listen to a lot of it at home, but in the car I primarily listen to talk radio.  And I love spending time with a friend over a cafe mocha at Starbucks or browsing at Borders.

As a family we like to go camping over long weekends.  We spend a few weeks each summer in Pennsylvania with my husband’s side of the family and look forward to it all year.  We like to ride bikes together or go kayaking or just hang out watching the Discovery Channel.  We enjoy visiting with friends and family.

And, in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count.  It’s the life in your years.  ~Abraham Lincoln 

What do you do with your leisure time?