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!

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!
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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?

Brendan Fraser is HOT

Before the movie:

Mom, can we go to the movies?

What movie do you want to see?

Journey to the Center of the Earth in 3-D.

Sounds interesting.. who’s in it?

I don’t know, let me check (click click click).  Ok it says Brandon Fraser.

Do you mean Brendan Fraser?  

B-R-E-N..  ok, yeah.  I guess.

Sure, let’s go!  I love Brendan Fraser.  He’s hot.

EWWW Gross!  Mom!  He’s old!

Old?!?  He’s younger than I am!

Oh.  (giggle, giggle).  Well.  It’s still gross to say he’s hot.  Geez, Mom.

Whatever.

(more giggles)

After the movie:

Hey, Mom, you were right about that guy.

What guy?

The old guy in the movie.

Brendan Fraser?

Yeah.  He’s pretty cool and he’s got muscles and stuff.

Um hmm.

And he was nice and really smart.  I mean, he was a scientist and they’re smart.  And his eyes were..

Gorgeous?

NO!!  Geez, Mom.

Brown?

No.  

What then?

I don’t know the word.  But you knew what he was thinking just by looking at his eyes.

Expressive?

Maybe that’s it.  Anyway, you were right.

That Brendan Fraser is hot?

(giggles) Mom, he’s not hot like HOT, but he’s hot for an old guy.

Yeah, I think you’re right.

10 Ways to Spice Up Your Book Club Meetings

Are you doing everything you can to keep your book club meetings fun and interesting? Do your members look forward to each meeting with great anticipation, or is attendance lagging? Is your book club becoming more of a chore than a joy? Check out my suggestions to help put the spark back into your meetings.

1. Feed them and they will come! Our book club always enjoys good food together, typically pot luck. We meet in each other’s homes so it’s easy to bring a dish. Some books lend themselves to a food theme, which is fun and adds to the experience (for instance, Chinese food for Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Italian for Eat, Pray, Love). The format we like best is to eat and socialize first, talk books in the middle, then end with dessert. Even if the book is a dud, there is always chocolate!

2. Liquor them up and they will talk & laugh! In the past year, we’ve had only one meeting without wine (at a coffee house). The conversation did NOT flow. ‘Nuff said.

3. Give stuff away. I sign up for tons of contests and giveaways online and receive several free books each month from publishers, authors, other bloggers. I arrive at book club meetings loaded down with books to share, and they are much appreciated! We also pass along books we’ve read and enjoyed throughout the month.

4. Celebrate! Do a book exchange and talk about your favorite books of the previous year for an anniversary party. Distribute a member list with general info about each member, including their birthdays. Make a point to remember each of them with cards. Have a BBQ and invite spouses to read along one month (it could become an annual summer event). Make a club donation to the local library or put together a book basket for a daycare center at the holidays.

5. Consider a book that has been (or will be) made into a movie. Our group saw The Other Boleyn Girl together, and a couple of us went to see Into the Wild, The Kite Runner, and The Jane Austen Book Club. We just learned that Eat, Pray, Love will be made into a movie starring Julia Roberts. Seeing a movie together after reading the book can be great fun.

6. Don’t get into a rut with book selections. Suggest books that are slightly out of your comfort zone. Do your homework when it’s your turn to choose and look for books that are sure to spark conversation. Try different genres- fiction, non-fiction, memoirs, classics, historical fiction. There are so many to choose from. Use websites like bookmovement.com and readinggroupguides.com to get ideas. If every book you read is about women’s issues or if you only read chick lit, it won’t be long before your meetings are a snorefest. Branch out.

7. Diversity is good! Look around at your meetings. Are all your members about the same as far as age, gender, race, religion, socio-economic status, marital status? If so, you might want to invite a few more people who aren’t EXACTLY LIKE YOU! One of the best reasons to be in a book club is to get a different perspective on a shared reading experience.

8. Author chats are awesome.. and surprisingly easy to arrange. These chats can be the highlight of your book club year, adding depth and understanding to your club’s selections. And it’s fun-don’t be intimidated! Authors enjoy discussing their books and many are willing to attend book club meetings by speakerphone. Most have websites with contact info. Send an email and see what happens. Random House has a website full of information and authors who enjoy participating in author chats.

9. Discussion Questions are helpful.. but sometimes the best discussions morph from a single question-Which part of the book did you like most (or least) and why?

10. Try something new. Ask members to read their favorite passages aloud. Or speculate on a better ending to the book. Or “cast the movie”. Or critique the cover. Read a bit of dialogue and ask members to guess which character said it. I like to have fun, but I do have to draw the line at dressing up like the characters from a book. Nope. Not doing it. Although maybe other clubs are adventurous in that way. The point is..be creative, but most of all, have fun!

Don’t have a book club yet (what!!??)? Here are some ideas on how to get started: Be Trendy-Start a Book Club!

Exciting News for Wimpy Kid Fans

We heard the news first on Schu’s Blog of Lit and More and were so excited we had to share it here.  The hugely popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney, a favorite book series of my 9 and 10 year old girls, is being developed by Fox 2000 as a live-action family movie.  

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The books feature handwritten text and comic book illustrations, focusing on awkward middle school student Greg Heffley. The series started out as a Web book on Funbrain.com in 2004.  The first novel came out last spring, and the second book, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules, was released last month.   The third installment in the five book series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw is due to be released later this year.  3rd, 4th, and 5th graders everywhere are jumping for joy! 

Weekend Update: From Hamster Heaven to a Book Club Meeting

Our weekend started on a sad note.  My daughter’s beloved hamster, Bear, died in her hands Friday morning.  At 7am, when K. checked on Bear, she was lethargic and struggling to breathe.  K. picked her up, and she raised her little head, put it back down, closed her eyes and she was gone.  My daughter sobbed, “Mom, do something!  Call 911!” so I called the animal hospital, but the vet said it would cost $80. just for him to leave his home and unlock the office door before regular business hours.  Treatment, of course, would cost extra.  After hanging up, I assured K. the animal hospital would do everything they could.  I was pretty sure Bear was already dead, so I asked my husband, within earshot of the kids, to rush Bear to the animal hospital, but privately I asked him to drive around the block a couple times so that I could get the kids off to school.  After school, she came flying at me, asking, “Is Bear ok?”  I broke the news that poor Bear had gone to Hamster Heaven.  K. was heartbroken but matter of fact.  After we held Bear’s funeral, K. said, “She’s in a better place, right, Mom?” quickly followed by, “When can we go to the pet store to get another one?”  We went up to Petco right after the ceremony and brought home a hamster that seems very sweet and looks like a smaller younger version of Bear.  Bear, Jr.  Hopefully this one will live longer than 3 months.

On Saturday, my daughter L. and I hit Borders (she needed the next book in the Five Ancestors series, and I needed a paperback for a book exchange for my book club’s 1st anniversary), then the hospital to see my stepdad.  He had a quadruple bypass a couple weeks ago, came home, then had to go back to the hospital last week and have a second surgery for a massive infection.  He’s facing one more surgery and weeks in the hospital, but he’s got a great attitude and we believe he’s going to be ok.

After a quick visit with Grandpa, L. and I headed to Starbucks for a double chocolate chip frappucino (her) and a mocha (me), then off to our local Farmer’s Market for strawberries, honey and apples.  I’ve been thinking a lot about the food we eat lately, and where it comes from.. trying to buy food grown locally and in season as often as possible, and trying to cook more and buy less processed food.  It’s so easy and convenient to buy pre-made products, or out of season fruit shipped in from Guatemala or Brazil, but I’m at least thinking about things and making small changes.
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On Saturday evening our book club had it’s first field trip, stepping out t see The Other Boleyn Girlin the theater.  When a book is so amazing, it’s hard to be objective about the movie, but I think they did a pretty good job with it.  It was quite different than the book, however.  Of course with a 661 page book, a movie would need to be 4 hours long or more to get it all in, so I guess they did the best they could given the time constraints.  I wasn’t sure how Natalie Portman, who in past roles has seemed so wholesome, would pull off the fiery character of Anne Boleyn, but she brought a lot of passion and excitement to the role.  Scarlett Johannsen made a great Mary Boleyn, and Eric Bana was a HOT Henry VIII.  The costumes were nicely done and not over-the-top.  We enjoyed it, but it was hard not to pick the film apart afterward (THAT didn’t happen in the book, THIS was glossed over, etc.)

Sunday was an unseasonably warm day, near 90 degrees.  My flabby, lily-white legs and I are so not ready for shorts.  Maybe I’ll look into one of those spray-on tans before my legs make their annual appearance in the neighborhood.  Wouldn’t want to blind anybody with their brilliant whiteness.

On Sunday afternoon, my Girl Scout troop had their monthly meeting. One of the parents in the troop agreed to have the meeting at her house and teach the girls about skin care.  They made masks of yogurt and oatmeal and gave each other facials.  They had a great time, and now my daughter wants to give EVERYONE a facial.. me, her dad, her sister, the dog.  She also is scrutinizing my every move in front of the bathroom mirror.  “Mom, Mrs. R. says you should NEVER put your fingers into a jar of lotion.”  “Mom, Mrs. R. says you should rub lotion onto your face in a circular motion.  That’s not a circular motion, Mom!”  UGH, quit watching me, kid!!

Sunday night was Book Club time.  I look forward to these meetings so much.  Something about no kids, no men, good food, intelligent conversation, and a glass of wine makes me incredibly happy. We started with food (potluck) and a game, because I am truly a book club geek.  I listed the first sentence of all 12 books we’ve read together as a club and asked everyone to match the sentence to the correct book.  I thought it would be easy, but only two people got them all right.  I’ve won several online book giveaways recently, which made awesome prizes for my geeky little game.  Then we proceeded to discuss The Time Traveler’s Wife in great detail.  There was so much to say (three hours worth!)  Everyone enjoyed the book and found the writing style unique and fascinating.  I would highly recommend it for a book club discussion.

In April our book club will read Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and will vote on books for our summer reading.  My suggestions are:  Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, Loving Frank by Nancy Horan, and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne.  If you’ve read any of these, I’d love to know if you think they’d be good for a group discussion.

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend!   

Where Have You Been?

Several of my faithful readers have asked the question, ‘Where have you been?’  First, thank you for caring!  And thank you for coming back, even when there’s been almost no activity here for the past week.  I’m surprised that anyone notices what goes on (or, more accurately, doesn’t go on) here at my little blog.

 My stepdad had a quadruple bypass last Friday.  It was quite sudden and unexpected.  Thanks to the miracle of modern medicine, he is doing great. He came home yesterday and had his first good nights sleep in a week, without the air conditioning blasting on him, and with no one bugging him to take his blood pressure or give him medicine in the middle of the night.

Waiting around in hospitals is not fun, but it does provide ample time for reading.  I’m almost done with The Time Traveler’s Wife, my book club read this month.  I didn’t think I liked it at first, but now with just 100 pages to go, it is consuming me and I can hardly think of anything else.  I understand the movie is coming out in November, with Eric Bana as Henry DeTamble. Great casting choice, don’t ya think?  Eric Bana is currently in theaters playing Henry VIII in The Other Boleyn Girl.  My book club buddies and I will be seeing that next weekend.  How did this one actor end up in the movie version of two of my favorite books?
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Seems everything I read lately is being turned into a movie.  My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult was picked up by NewLine Cinema.  The Fanning sisters were set to play Anna and Kate, but they have since backed out because Dakota didn’t want to shave her head.  Can’t say as I blame her..   Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) has replaced the younger Fanning as Anna, and Sofia Vassilieva is in talks to play Kate. Maybe Eric Bana can play the dad! (Actually, I heard Alec Baldwin has been cast in the movie. Interesting..)
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What books would you like to see made into movies? 

The Kite Runner Movie

Tonite we were invited to the Monster Jam Monster Truck show in Anaheim. Someone my husband works with has a young son who races in a mini truck, so we got 5 pit passes. The kids went with my husband and each invited a friend to go along. As much as I might have enjoyed being in the cold, pouring rain and watching deafening trucks flip over in the mud (ha!), I opted for a “boring” night at the movies with my friend and fellow bookclubber, Valerie.

Val and I saw The Kite Runner, which we read with the book club last summer. As always, The Book Was Better (do I even need to say it?) It’s difficult to be objective about a movie after you’ve read the book.

The child actors that played young Amir and Hassan were very good, as was the actor who played Baba, and the flashback sequences in Kabul were done well. Amir is much more likeable in the book. He did all the same things in both the movie and the book, but at least in the book you understood his motivations.

The movie loses steam when Amir and Baba come to America. Amir has a hangdog appearance throughout, presumably because of the guilt he continues to feel over his treatment of Hassan. It all stays pretty true to the book until the last part, when Amir brings Sohrab home. It then goes very quickly and some key scenes in the book were omitted in the movie.

I was moved to tears during one scene, when Amir stands up to his father-in-law and defends Sohrab. I’m not sure how I would have felt about it if I hadn’t read the book first, because the movie just doesn’t give that much insight into why Amir might have been that upset.

Both English and Farsi were used, and I didn’t even mind the subtitles. The truth is I barely noticed. Sometimes in foreign films there is so much dialog to read that I miss the subtleties of the acting because I’m too busy reading. The dialog was pretty simple so that wasn’t a problem. Overall I thought the movie was pretty well done, but I would recommend reading the book before seeing it.