Review: The Art of Racing in the Rain

The Art of Racing in the RainIf you ever wondered what your dog is really thinking.. if you ever wanted to get inside the head of the family pet.. this may be the book for you.  The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein is a tragic and touching family drama told through the eyes of the family dog. 

Enzo is an elderly lab nearing the end of his days looking back on his life with his master Denny, a semi-pro racecar driver.  He has been a faithful and loving companion to his people:  Denny, his wife Eve and daughter Zoe. 

Enzo, stuffed into a doggie shell but practically human, occasionally gets annoyed by his frustrating lack of speech.  Instead he relies on big gestures to communicate- barking, peeing on the floor, etc.  Denny usually knows what point he’s trying to get across.  He almost always guesses correctly.  

And Enzo’s voice isn’t very dog-like, but I guess that’s because he watches TV all day.  This makes him a pretty well educated pooch.  From watching a documentary about evolution he is convinced he will come back to this world as a human after he dies.  A human with speech!  And thumbs!!  He is ready.  Bring it on! 

The story is really more about Enzo’s people than it is about dogs.  Denny falls in love, marries, has a daughter.  The little family suffers through a huge medical drama and loss, and Enzo, the faithful companion, is there for all of it.

DSCN8784The only issue I had with The Art of Racing in the Rain is a small one- dogs are smart, but they can’t go everywhere, so how can a dog narrator know what goes on in a courtroom?  Or a hospital?   But I forgave that small problem, suspended reality, and enjoyed the story. 

This is a sweet book; at times comic but also sad.  Wonderful and very readable.  Unputdownable (I read the bulk of it in one sitting).   I enjoyed getting a dog’s perspective on human life, love and family.   I shed a couple of tears, and laughed out loud.  It’s like that- happy/sad, funny/serious.  It’s the most human dog book I’ve ever read, and I enjoyed every minute of it.  Highly recommended.

I reviewed this book as part of Jennifer’s Dog Days of Summer.

Now I think I’ll go hug my puppy.

Deeeeeeeeez are a Few of my Favorite Things

Trish had a fun post the other day about 10 things she loved that started with the letter O. It’s a meme and to play along, I had to leave a comment and wait for Trish to bestow me with my very own letter. She bestowed me with the letter D. At first I thought, could she have picked a harder letter?? Then I thought, yeah, I guess she could have given me X or Q or U and I’d be stuck talking about x-rays or Quantum Leap or underwear. So Trish, thanks for D. It’s not so bad.

Now I get to bestow others. I’m liking the word bestow.. it makes me feel royal and powerful. Bestow, bestow, bestow. Would you like me to bestow a letter on you, my dear? If so, leave a comment and I’ll bestow you with one (Oh, crap! My tiara just fell off!)

guy-fieri_med1. Diners, Drive-ins and Dives

I love this Food Network show and it’s host, Guy Fieri! He’s a blast! He’s a dude who loves good, real food and isn’t worried about calories and presentation so much as taste. Guy was the 2007 winner of The Next Food Network Star (kind of a foodie American Idol).

images-32. David Cook

Speaking of American Idol, I love last year’s winner, David Cook! I find his voice so raw and sexy- there, I said it! And I’m old enough to be his, er, um, older sister! Or aunt! (Yeah, that’s it!) Click HERE to watch his latest video for Light On, a song I’ve been enjoying a lot lately on my iPod (the embed feature is disabled or I’d show it here).

3. Diet Coke

I’ve been on and off the wagon many times over the years, but this magical elixir is what gets me moving in the morning and keeps me going all day. How many do I drink each day? Roughly a 6 pack. I know- it’s bad. I have read all the emails about how you can clean toilets with it and remove rust and etc. and yet, I still partake. My insides are probably all rotted- or perhaps iron-clad.

4. DUDE

This word has inserted itself into my everyday conversation. I blame her. And her. I realized it was bad when I caught myself oooing and ahhhing over a baby at my daughters’ school and found myself saying to his mother, “Aw, dude, he is so cute!” Last night I said to my daughter, “Dude, I can’t take anymore whining. Just finish your homework” and my daughter said, “Dude?” Ok, perhaps it’s time to remove this too-hip word from the vocabulary of my non-hip self. But dude, have you seen this T Mobile commercial? I love it.

images-15. Dunder Mifflin

I’m a HUGE fan of The Office!! HUGE! My husband is from Scranton, PA and we spend 3 weeks there every summer, so we chuckle over local references. But I watch because the writing is brilliant, and I find it hysterical. I have friends who don’t get it, but to them I say- Dude, don’t call me on Thursday nights! I completely clear my schedule to get my JimandPam fix!

6. Dawn

I like dawn- as in morning’s first light. It’s dark when I get up and I love to watch the sunrise. I do it almost every day from an east-facing upstairs window. It’s peaceful to spend that time alone before the rest of the family starts moving around. It calms me and makes me happy. I also like Dawn– as in awesome, well known book blogger.

Jasmine meets PorkChop the guineau pig

Jasmine meets PorkChop the guineau pig

7. Dogs

Ok, truth be told, I don’t love ALL dogs, but I do love MY dog. Jasmine is a sweet, loving golden retriever who sheds like crazy but wants nothing more out of life than to be near me. What’s not to love? Oh, and Sheri? I respect the leash laws!

8. Denim

I’m a girl who loves her jeans and can be found in them just about every day. They are so versatile. I wear them everywhere, and why not? You can dress them up or down. I’ve got my skinny jeans, my fat jeans, my baggy jeans, my dressy jeans. I’ve got jeans with a dark wash and jeans that are super faded. I’ve worn them all my life and will always and forever be on the search for the perfect pair.

9. Dark Chocolate

I have a bowl of Dove dark chocolate hearts sitting nearby, but not too close. I actually have to cross the room to get to them, otherwise they would be way too dangerous. I’d eat them all! I love all those studies that say dark chocolate is good for you. I’m sure they mean in very small doses, right? Not 10 or 12 pieces at a time?

images-210. Daisies

Of the Gerbera variety. They are my favorite.

Happy Birthday, Jazzy!

Our golden retriever Jasmine is 5 years old today, but here she is at 5 weeks old, on the day we met her. Happy birthday to our sweet puppy!

In Praise of Book Clubs, Volume 22

In this 22nd volume of In Praise of Book Clubs, CB James of the wonderful blog Ready When You Are, CB (where you can find out which book his basset hound, Dakota, has eaten lately) writes about his book club, which has the honor of being the oldest club we’ve heard about in this series!  Forgive me for not adding links to all 114 books they’ve read!

I’ve been a member of the same book club off-and-on since 1993. That’s fifteen years, with a hiatus for graduate school and a couple of breaks here and there. 15 years and 114 books read so far.

The original members all worked together at the same elementary school, but one who worked at the school in the next neighborhood over. We started off with Wallace Stegner’s Big Rock Candy Mountain, which we all enjoyed. For the first few years, our after school meetings begain with a “discussion session,” mostly complaints about various people we worked with and didn’t like. Then we’d move on to the book. Our reading taste in the early days was a bit more literary than it is now, but there have always been a dash of popular titles and young adult titles on our TBR list.
To choose books, anyone who had one they wanted to suggest brought it to the meeting and we all hashed it out, ultimately deciding the next book via consensus. We never picked a book that any of us had already read, which, in retrospect, may not be the best rule. Most of the time at least a few members enjoyed the book and there were many that we all loved, but there was Jeanette Wintersteen’s Written on the Body, which has become infamous among book club members as the book no one liked at all.

While the book club has been around for 15 years no single member has. I took a couple of years off for graduate school. Some members have moved away; some moved away and moved back. New members have joined. Currently there are nine active members, three former members and two members who stop in whenever they are in town, in one case in the country.
Our current book is Mutant Message Down Under by Marlo Morgan. We’ve changed the way we select books; now each member takes a turn choosing the book, which is working out well. After 13 years, we’d fallen into a pattern where two or three members selected almost all of the books. This was okay with me, since I was one of the selecting members, but became a problem for other people. Like everything that lasts a long time, the club has changed the way it works over the years. This year, for the first time, we established a set of ground rules that everyone agreed upon. Bring a book or two when it’s your turn to select, or pass to the next person if you don’t want to choose; make a serious attempt to read the book no matter how much you do or don’t like it; come to the meeting with something to say on way or another.
We’ve all become very good friends over the years. We’ve watched one member’s daughter grow up and head off to college, attended member’s weddings and major birthdays and mourned the loss of several boyfriends and a beloved cat. (The cat was the greater loss.) I fully expect the book club to be around for another 15 years in one form or another and to hit 250 books read before the end. Once something has been around for a long time, it tends to stay around for a long time.

Here’s a list of all the books the club has read over the past 15 years. Not a bad reading list, if you ask me. The books I recommend are in blue. The pictures are books various members voted as their all time favorites. They are listed in the order we read them.

  • Big Rock Candy Mountain, Wallace Stegner
  • A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley
  • How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent, Julia Alvarez
  • Becoming a Man, Paul Monette
  • The Ginger Tree, Oswald Wynd
  • Einstein’s Dreams, Alan Lightman

The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje

Call It Sleep, Henry Roth

Written on the Body, Jeanette Winterson

  • World’s End, T. Coraghessan Boyle
  • The Spectator Bird, Wallace Stegner
  • The Shipping News, Annie Proulx
  • Angels in America: Millennium Approaches and Peristroika, Tony Kushner
  • Nobody’s Fool, Richard Russo
  • The Giver, Lois Lowry
  • The Bingo Palace, Louise Erdrich
  • The Awakening, Kate Chopin
  • Two or Three Things I Know for Sure, Dorothy Allison
  • Dear Mem Fox, Mem Fox
  • Snow Falling on Cedars, David Gutterson
  • A Map of the World, Jane Hamilton
  • School Girls: Young Women, Self-Esteem and the Confidence Gap, P.E. Orenstein
  • Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
  • Jazz, Toni Morrison
  • Stones from the River, Ursula Hegi
  • A Civil Action, Jonathan Harr
  • A Parrot in the Oven, Victor Martinez
  • The Color of Water, James McBride
  • A Prayer for Owen Meaney, John Irving
  • She’s Come Undone, Wally Lamb
  • Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt
  • Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, John Brendt
  • The Beauty of the Lilies, John Updike
  • Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier
  • Alias Grace, Margaret Atwood
  • Here on Earth, Alice Hoffman
  • A Stranger in the Kingdom, Howard Frank Mosher
  • Lolita, Valdamir Nobokov
  • A Perfect Agreement, Michael Downing
  • A Pale View of the Hills, Kazuo Ishiguri
  • Emma, Jane Austen
  • Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterho od, Rebecca Wells
  • Where the Heart Is, Billy Letts
  • Charming Billly, Alice McDermott
  • Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden
  • The Reader, Bernard Schlink
  • I Know this Much is True, Wally Lamb
  • The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rawling
  • The Archivist, Martha Cooley
  • Dreams of My Russian Summer, Andrei Makine
  • The Sparrow, Mary Doria Russell
  • Goodnight Nebraska, Tom McNeal
  • For Kings and Planets, Ethan Canin
  • The Hours, Michael Cunningham
  • Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf
  • River Angel, A. Manette Ansay
  • Crossing to Safety, Wallace Stegner
  • Corelli’s Mandoline, Louis de Bernieres
  • Girl with Pearl Earring, Tracy Chevalier
  • Nervous Condidtions, Tsitsi Dangarembga
  • Wait ’til Next Year, Doris Kearns Goodwin
  • I Married a Communist, Philip Roth
  • The Last Life, Claire Messued
  • Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
  • House of Sand and Fog, Andre Dubus III
  • The Night Listener, Armistead Maupin
  • Motherless Brooklyn, Jonathan Letham
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Michael Chabon
  • Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Seabiscuit-An American Legend, Laura Hittenbrand
  • Anil’s Ghost, Michael Ondaatje
  • The Sea, The Sea, Iris Murdoch
  • The Life of Pi, Yann Martel
  • Atonement, Ian McEwan
  • Tears of the Giraffe, Alexander McCall Smith
  • Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides
  • Mystic River, Michael Lehane
  • Riven Rock, T.C. Boyle
  • The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers
  • Let’s Not Go to the Dogs Tonight, Alexandra Fuller
  • How to Make a Tart, Nina Killham
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, Mark Haddon
  • The Sixteen Pleasures, Robert Hellenga
  • The Kite Runner, Khaled Hossein
  • Back When We Were Orphans, Kazuo Ishiguru
  • The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
  • Don’t Think of an Elephant-know your values and frame the debate, George Lakoff
  • Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell
  • Mendocino, Ann Packer
  • A Million Little Pieces, James Frey
  • The Plot Against America, Philip Roth
  • My Antoni a, Willa Cather
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundara
  • The Devil in White City, Erik Larson
  • Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte
  • Songs in Ordinary Times, Mary McGarry Morris
  • Farewell my Lovely, Raymond Chandler
  • Hard Times, Charles Dickens
  • The Good German, Joseph Kanon
  • Julie and Julia, Julie Powell
  • Criss Cross, Lynne Rae Perkinds
  • Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut
  • Black Swan Green, David Mitchel
  • True History of the Kelly Gang, Peter Carey</li&g t;
  • Travels with Charley, John Steinbeck
  • Holidays on Ice, David Sedaris
  • Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen
  • The Reading Group, Elizabeth Noble
  • Small Island, Andrea Levy
  • Eat, Love, Pray, Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Losing Battles, Eudora Welty
  • The Echo Maker, Richard Powers
  • Mutant Message Down Under, Marlo Morgan
Blogger Bio:  C.B. James lives with his spouse and their many pets in Vallejo, CA.  He teaches 7th grade English and history in Marin County.  He has been in the same book club for over 15 years.  The book club is all teachers, most of them elementary school  teachers. When not teaching, reading or blogging, C.B. James can be found in his art studio where he makes mixed media art books or walking his Bassett Hound Dakota who would love to eat every book in the house if she could.
***Would you like to share about your book club here at Books on the Brain? If so, leave a comment and I will get in touch with you about a guest post!

For previous volumes of In Praise of Book Clubs, click HERE

For more info on starting your own book club, click HERE

For fun ways to make your book club better, click HERE

To win a copy of Matrimony by Joshua Henkin (who ADORES book clubs), click HERE

The Calliope Experiment #3: The Beach

This is for the fiction writing challenge called The Calliope Experiment.

Shivering as she made her way across the rocks, she wondered why she hadn’t thought to bring a sweater.  It always irritated her when Jack reminded her of things like that, but apparently she needed the reminding. 

She came to a place that required her to set the box down so that she could boost herself up and onto a large boulder.  The rock, smooth and flat, was table-like, and standing on it afforded her a clear view of the coast all the way north to Rocky Point and then south to the old lighthouse.  She could see someone near the water’s edge but from this distance couldn’t make out if it was a man or a woman.  She had hoped to be alone out here, so she sat down next to the box, thinking she would wait until the person moved on. 

Carefully lifting it to her lap, she thought again how surprisingly heavy the box was.  She hadn’t expected ashes to weigh so much, but of course there were bones in there too.  Jack had said it was silly to cremate a dog, but Bear wasn’t just any dog.  Bear was her friend, her companion, her confidante.  Bear was her substitute child.  When people asked if they had kids, her reply was always, “No, but I have Bear.” 

And now he was gone, and there was still no baby.  The months of tests and shots and sex on demand; all the hoping and waiting had taken their toll on her psyche.  Waiting-waiting for nothing as it turns out.  The crazy mood swings and everything else might have been more tolerable if the end result had been a baby. She felt so tired, so empty, so alone.  And now her pseudo-baby, Bear, was gone too. 

The person was moving down the beach slowly in her direction.  She could see now that it was a man.  He was tall, like Jack, and had a fishing hat on.  He was wearing a green sweater and jeans, rolled at the cuffs.   His gaze was focused on the ground and he bent down now and then to pick something up, presumably a shell or a rock, and put it in a bag.  “Move on, old man” she thought, ungraciously, but he was clearly in no hurry. 

She smiled, then, as she thought about how much Bear had loved the beach as a pup and a young dog.   How he’d pull on the leash and his entire body would wiggle with excitement as they approached the water.  How he’d race into the waves the second he was released.  He was definitely a water dog- a big chocolate lab.  It had been a couple years since they’d brought him down here.  His arthritis had gotten so bad that it was hard for him to walk over the rocks, and he’d tire himself out so much that he could barely make it back.  He was too big for them to carry.  Still, she wished she’d brought him back for one final visit, but they’d had a windy, cold spring and the time had never been right.  

She’d come down here without much of a plan, and it was freezing.  She thought she’d scatter his ashes over the surf, but now she could see how ridiculous that idea had been.  The wind wouldn’t gently scatter the ashes, it would just blow them back in her face.  She thought of the futility of it, of everything.  Bear was gone, he wasn’t coming back, there was no baby, and probably never would be.  

She put down the box and brought her knees up to her chest, resting her head on them and finally allowing herself cry.  So she wasn’t made of stone after all, as everyone suspected.  At first it was just a couple of tears but before long it was huge gushing sobs, smeared mascara, snot and all.  For several minutes she gave in to the despair of losing her precious pet, and along with it, her dreams of motherhood.  She startled at the feeling of an arm around her, and looked up to see green eyes matching the green of his sweater.  Jack.  “What are you doing here?” she asked.  “I brought you a sweater,” he said. 

 

Weekend Update-From Hamsters to Goldendoodles

On Friday afternoon, there was a mysterious odor in my house, near the bottom of the stairs. It was a smell I just could not identify. My first thought was, “What died?” I was desperate to find the source, opening closets, sniffing the garbage can and the garbage disposal, looking under the couch, going berserk trying to figure out what it was. Then I went upstairs, and wham! There it was again, only worse! The air was thick outside my daughter’s bedroom door. I peeked in, afraid of what I might find, and there, staring innocently back at me through the bars of his cage, was Teddy, L’s stinky new hamster.

L. turned 10 a couple of weeks ago (double digits!!) and Teddy was her birthday gift. I only agreed to Teddy after L. assured me she was responsible enough and old enough to completely care for him herself. The staff at Petco told us his cage would need to be cleaned once a week. Don’t believe it. Hamster cages, I’ve come to find out, reek after about 4 days. So our weekend started off on Friday after school with L. cleaning out the hamster cage. She took it out to the front porch and soon drew a crowd. Every kid in the neighborhood wanted to watch and help. What is so fascinating about cleaning out a hamster cage?

After cleaning the cage and airing out the house, the girls got on their bikes and cruised the neighborhood for a Girl Scout project: Scouting for Food. Boy and Girl Scouts collect canned goods for donation to the Second Harvest Food Bank. We have very generous neighbors, and the girls collected several bags. Dad worked late, but we hooked up with him later for dinner at Chili’s.

On Saturday, K’s Brownie troop came and kidnapped her at 6:45am for a Surprise Kidnap Breakfast at McDonald’s. Her troop leader and 3 of her Brownie friends crept into her room and woke her up. Her startled response was, “What the..??” They scooped her out of the house and took her away in her pajamas. L’s Girl Scout troop was up early too for a Veteran’s Day event. Together with local boy scouts, they went to the cemetery and placed flags on the graves of all the veterans. When they were done it was startling to see how many flags there were. SO many.

Later Saturday, the kids had tennis lessons, then we delivered the donated canned goods, and picked up our team’s soccer pictures. The group picture was good, but K. had her eyes shut in the individual picture. The package includes a big button that a proud soccer mom can wear to games, but it looked so silly with her eyes shut. K. said, “I can fix it!” She got out a Sharpie pen and put two little dots on the eyelids. Perfect!

K. was on FIRE at her soccer game-she had some really good plays, but alas, much to her frustration, she still has not scored a goal this year. There are still 2 more games to go before the regular season is over, unless they go to the playoffs. We’ll see what happens. In a way I hope they lose this week so they won’t go, because if they win it could be as much as an extra 6 weeks of soccer (two practices a week and games on the weekend). It would be nice to be done at the end of November instead of mid-January. And now I’ve probably jinxed it, too! After the game we went out to the local pizza place with my parents, where the guys could watch 6 different football games simultaneously. The kids and I couldn’t care less about football, so I gave them quarters for the game room, and off they went while I drank beer and laughed with my mom.

On Sunday morning we went to church. We try to go each week, but don’t always make it. We’ve been better lately. It’s strange how often the sermon is exactly what I need to hear on that particular day. This week it was on generosity and being rich. Funny, I don’t feel rich, but since I have fresh water pouring from my tap, a car to drive, and a roof over my head, I am rich compared to the majority of people in the world. It’s shocking, really, when you consider that Americans account for only 6% of the world’s population but consume 40% of the world’s resources. We are rich, and we need to share our wealth. A good and important message. Sunday afternoon was L.’s Girl Scout meeting, where the kids learned to make pumpkin bread for a cooking badge. Mmmmm, it made the house smell so good! Bring on Thanksgiving. L. had a friend sleep over that night. We made pasta and crusty bread for dinner. Friends stopped by to drop something off and stayed for an hour laughing and talking. The kids stayed up until midnight.

Monday: Veteran’s Day Holiday.. no school! Bob (my husband) is a veteran, but he had to work. L. wanted to spend her birthday money, so we went to Target, where she bought a really nice Polaroid digital camera on sale, along with a case, flash card, and extra batteries, and she still had money left over. She is so excited about her new camera, and I was glad she spent her money on one big thing, rather than waste it on a bunch of little things. The camera takes great pictures, clear and sharp, and also video clips, and you can play slide shows on the tv simply by plugging the camera in. Pretty cool. Then we were off to the mall to use our Too Bucks at Limited Too (I am such a sucker).

On the way out of the mall, we stopped at the pet store to peek at the puppies and saw THE most adorable animal I have ever laid eyes on. “What is that?” I asked. “That is a Goldendoodle”, the girl said. “Cute, huh?” Ummmmm, I thought, yes. Cute. The cutest dang dog I ever saw! “Are you familiar with this breed?” she asked. Nope. Not at all. “They don’t shed.” WHAT? That long haired furball doesn’t shed????? I must hold him! So we were off to the “getting to know you” room.. 3 little girls, me and a wiggly Goldendoodle, who we promptly named Noodle. My emotions were taking over as I imagined Noodle with our lonely golden retriever, Jasmine, playing and having fun all day long. My brain interfered.. “How much is he?” I asked as he licked my neck. “You can take him home today with a $50 deposit. We have a great payment plan.” My girls started frantically digging through their purses to see if they could come up with the deposit, as I asked again, “How much does he cost, all together?” “$1100.” Oh. I can explain away small impulsive purchases, like shoes. But an $1100. puppy? Buh-Bye Noodle!

Later we met up with friends from the soccer team to see “The Bee Movie”. The 10 and under crowd enjoyed it, but the moms fell asleep (all 3 of us).

How was your long weekend?

Booking Through Thursday-Volume

Volume November 8, 2007

Filed under: WordPress — –Deb @ 12:19 pm
btt button

Would you say that you read about the same amount now as when you were younger? More? Less?
Why?

That’s a great question from Deb at Booking Through Thursday.

When I was a kid (or, as my children like to say, in the “olden days”), I prefered reading to almost any other activity. I grew up in Michigan, where the winters were long and cold, and where it rained every few days in spring and summer. We didn’t have all the options kids have today when forced to stay inside.

Cartoons were for Saturday mornings only, not every day of the week. There was no cable, Dish Network or satellite, no Disney Channel, Nick Jr. or Cartoon Network, no internet, DS games, Wii Systems, DVDs or DVRs, no cell phones, or iPods. My kids would say, “How boring!” But I don’t remember being bored. If we wanted to amuse ourselves, we played board games, or made cookies, or built forts out of blankets and couch cushions, or put clothes on the dog. We made up games and played creatively. And we read books. Lots of books. We made weekly trips to the library and brought home armloads of books.

I read constantly until high school. With homework and a social life, I had less time to read. I stayed out late and got up early. I was on the phone for hours. I went away to college and didn’t have time to read for pleasure. Years went by. I started working, dating, going out with friends, and reading less and less.

As a young adult, I was on a cross country flight to visit my in-laws in Pennsylvania for the first time. I picked up a paperback copy of “The Firm” by John Grisham to read on the plane. That 5 hour flight went by soooo fast, and just like that, I was a reader again.

My daughters are a year apart. When they were babies, I barely had time to brush my teeth, let alone read. So for a few years when they were really small, the only reading I did was month-old magazines in the pediatrician’s waiting room.

It helps that my girls are a little older now and more self-sufficient. I read during my daughters’ soccer practices, band practice, tennis lessons. I read in the car while I wait for them to get out of school. I rarely watch tv in the evening, so instead I read at night after the kids are in bed.

Last year, I started a book club in an effort to combine my love of reading with my desire for a social life. Since the club began, I’ve been reading like a fiend, plus as a bonus I get out of the house once a month without my kids (or husband) and drink wine and talk books with friends. What could be better?


Review: Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod

After finishing up Into the Wild about a week ago, I found myself still thinking about Alaska and the pull of the Great White North. I remembered a book on my To-Be-Read pile that was set in Alaska, so I dusted it off and settled in for a WILD RIDE!!

Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod by Gary Paulsen is a humorous non-fiction account of the joy, beauty, terror, danger, thrills, and utter lunacy of running the 1180-mile dogsled race from Anchorage to Nome.

From moose attacks and dog bites to crackling sea ice and sheer cliffs, from suckholes (frozen whirlpools) and 90 mile winds to murderous mushers and bitter cold, the Iditarod is not for wimps. It takes a certain kind of crazy for a person to attempt such a formidable test of their physical, mental, and emotional limits.

The story begins in the woods of Minnesota, where Paulsen’s obsession with his dogs and the beauty of the woods becomes so alluring to him that he forsakes all else in order to run dogs. He bonds so thoroughly with them that he begins to live with them, eat, sleep, and be with them 24/7. The dogs are born to run; semi-wild creatures (some part wolf), snapping, snarling, and fighting with each other while slowly becoming a cohesive team.

Paulsen crashes and careens around Minnesota, running the dogs for hundreds of miles before the Iditarod starts to take shape and form as a real possibility in his mind. The community gets behind him and gives him donations of money and gear. One person donates a truck and actually drives him to Alaska for the race.

If this was fiction, you might be rolling your eyes thinking, “No way could all these things happen!” But against every possible obstacle, and with fierce determination, Paulsen gets to Anchorage, runs the race, and miraculously lives through it. What a treat to be along for this white-knuckle ride!

Dog Day Afternoon

What a gorgeous late September day we had here in Southern California. WAY too nice a day to spend inside, so instead we took the pooch, the kids, and the Chuck-it and headed over to Dog Beach, a 1 mile stretch of Huntington Beach dedicated to the pure pleasure of our 4 legged friends, and the only place in the OC where they can splash in the waves.

Wet Dog

Our pup went berserk as only a golden retriever can, sniffing the behinds of all her doggie friends, rolling in the sand, chasing the ball, shaking saltwater all over us. She was so ecstatically wiggly we couldn’t tell if the dog was wagging the tail or if the tail was wagging the dog. We all had a great time in the sunshine, and the pungent scent of Wet Dog filled our noses all the way home.

Wag the dog

I finished Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer today. I have a totally different impression now than I did at the outset of the book of Chris McCandless, the 24 yr. old college grad. who ventured into the Alaskan wilderness only to die of starvation 16 weeks later. I’ll write a review soon.