Saturday Snapshot(s)

My youngest daughter, Kelly, and her BFF have the kind of effortless friendship that I always wished I would find as a kid, but never quite did.  They’ve known each other since they were babies and their time together is filled with laughter, inside jokes, imaginative ideas, and non stop conversation.  They make their own fun and don’t need to be entertained.  I love listening to them talk and laugh- they are hilarious. Last Saturday, as they played on the beach, I read Joy for Beginners by Erica Bauermeister in between watching my daughter’s joy at being with her friend.

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce of At Home With Books.  It’s easy to participate – just post a picture that was taken by you, a friend, or a family member and add your link on Alyce’s site.


The Sunday Salon: January 17, 2010

Good morning!  I hope it’s bright and sunny where you are!

In  Southern California we are bracing ourselves for a MAJOR WINTER STORM!  Take cover!  There may be some rain!  I might not be laughing about this a week from now, but when the weather forecasters cry wolf a few times, and the major storm ends up being a few sprinkles.. well, let’s say I’m a bit unimpressed with the warnings.  We’ll see.  Right now it’s sunny, the sky is a brilliant blue, and the only clouds I see are high and fluffy.  But they are moving pretty fast, so.. hmmm.

Today was supposed to be our parent/child book club meeting day, hosted by me, but my oldest has strep throat.  I almost made her go to school on Friday (another one who’s always crying wolf) but she seemed a little warm and listless and had a miserable attitude so I let her stay home.  Later I saw that her throat was inflamed so we went to the doctor.. he said it was viral and to go home and give her Motrin.  But then last night she spiked a high fever and her throat was bright red, so we ended up in the ER for several hours, and she got a shot of penicillin.  Now my husband has a sore throat.  Good times!

I’ve spent some time this morning going through our pictures for Sheri from A Novel Menagerie’s Beautiful Baby pet photo contest.  We have so many that it’s hard to decide what to submit.  She’s having consolation prizes for most humorous and best personality so I’m thinking of entering one of these, rather than the standard “beauty” shot.. tell me what you think:

Where is everybody? Who wants to play with me?

What's THIS? A new pet in the house?

Well, she smells pretty good. Maybe we can be friends.

As for reading, I’m about 2/3rds of the way through both U is for Undertow and American Rust.  I’m usually a one book at a time woman, but I’d left “U” in my car one night and didn’t feel like going out to get it, so I started American Rust and haven’t put it down since. Wish I had a team of people to raise my children, make my meals, do my laundry, clean my house, and shop for me so I could just read read read in my free time.  Wait..I need another me!  I need a wife!! Ha Ha.

What are you reading this weekend?  I hope you all have a wonderful day and a great week!  Thanks for stopping by Books On The Brain.

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!

If You Feed Them, They Will Come

Put three kids in a dinghy in Newport Harbor with a couple of stale hot dog buns, and every pelican, seagull, and duck within a 2 mile radius shows up!  Pretty soon the seals arrive too. 





The Sunday Salon

This week I read The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister. Usually when I finish a book, I really enjoy the sense of completion from striking another title off my TBR list and moving on to the next. But turning the last page on this one was similar to having dinner at a beautiful restaurant with your closest friends and being forced to leave the warm happy atmosphere too soon.  I wasn’t ready.  I wanted to linger. 

Then, starting the next book- The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao– was like walking away from that beautiful restaurant in a contented little fog and distractedly stepping off the curb to cross the street, only to be hit by a car careening wildly- wait! make that a van, one that’s full of Spanish speaking illegals.  Where am I?  Who are these strangers and what are they talking about?  “Jarring” is the best way to describe it.  

Some English words on the first three pages of Oscar Wao that I probably should look up to be certain of the meaning: 







 And some Spanish words on those same pages that I don’t know or can’t guess the meaning of from the context: 


Anciano sanmacorisano




I’ve never read a book with a dictionary on my lap, much less an English-Spanish dictionary, but maybe I should use one this time.  Although now that I’m three or four chapters into it, the unfamiliar words are bothering me less and less.  I’m growing accustomed to the rhythm of the book.

What about you?  Do you look up words as you read, or do you skip over them?  Do a multitude of foreign words and place names bother you or do you get used to it?

Happy Sunday!  Enjoy the long weekend!  

Friday Fill-ins 1-9-09


1. It’s January; hot chocolate time!

2. A night out is what I crave most right now.

3. Cork and wine go together like feet and fuzzy socks.

4. Time with friends is so nourishing.

5. Let us dare to be more spontaneous.

6. All are welcome in my home.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to an evening with my sister and nephew, tomorrow my plans include cleaning the house and Sunday, I want to host my book club meeting- without any drama, hopefully!

The Sunday Salon

If a Sunday Salon is written when it’s still Saturday, is it a Saturday Salon?  Hmmm.

If you’re reading this on Sunday morning, my family and I are en route to Catalina Island, 26 miles across the sea, off the coast of Southern California, where we’ll take a golf cart around Avalon, swim and snorkel, eat, rent bikes, and relax for the day.  The last time we went, when my 10 year old was just a baby, we saw a huge pod of dolphins just off the coast- it was crazy.  There were hundreds of them, leaping and playing and pirouetting into the air.  I hope we see some wildlife on this trip, too. 

So this was an interesting week, but not the best week for reading.  I read The Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer, which was spectacular!  I finished it just last night, which unfortunately was several days late for the online book club at Every Day I Write the Book, but there are tons of comments over there about it, so many in fact that I don’t really have anything new to add to the discussion.  I’ve read so many opinions of the book now I’m not sure how to review it, aside from saying I loved it.  Have you ever read so many reviews of a book that you feel like you can’t come up with something fresh to say about it?  I think that’s what happened. 

I noticed that Dewey’s Weekly Geeks were doing something interesting last week.  If I understand correctly, the Geeks were to list books that they’d read but had not reviewed yet, and ask their readers to post questions about the books for them to answer.  So I’m going to borrow the Geeky idea and give you my list.  If anyone wants to ask me a question, go for it! 

The Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer

Queen of the Road by Doreen Orion

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

The Safety of Secrets by DeLaune Michel

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

I started two other books this week- The Last Queen by CW Gortner- which just came out July 29th and is fascinating historical fiction, and Shrink Rap by Robin Altman- which is filled with short, hysterical essays on parenting and child psychiatry (it’s a hoot!).  I’ve got the hysterical one in my car for “waiting” times (swim class, gymnastics) and the historical one on my nightstand for evening reading.  

Oh, I forgot to say that CARE from Care’s Online Book Club was the winner of my Queen of the Road giveaway!  Your book is on it’s way, my dear!  Enjoy!  Everyone still has time to enter the The Safety of Secrets giveaway, which will run until August 8th.  

I hope you all have a beautiful summer Sunday!

Books to Take on a Trip to the Lake


My daughter comes home today from Girl Scout camp, no doubt smelling of horses and sunshine and full of stories and songs, with a bag of reeking stinky clothes and shoes. I can’t wait to see her but will have to fire up the washing machine the minute she walks through the door, because we leave tomorrow to fly across country for 2 weeks at the lake with the cousins!

So I have some big decisions to make.. which books from the teetering TBR pile will I stuff into the suitcase? I’m currently reading The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti. It may just be the best book I’ve read all year, although I’m saying that prematurely since I’ve read just 150 pages. Who knows, maybe it will take some horrible unforeseen turn and I will throw it against the wall, but I doubt it. It is absolutely engrossing. I’m also going to take Loving Frank by Nancy Horan, my book club’s August selection. I want something a bit lighter for the beach, so I’m thinking of either Names My Sisters Call Me by Megan Crane or How The Other Half Hamptons by Jasmin Rosemberg for that. Between cooking hot dogs, swatting mosquitoes, and chasing down kids, that’s probably all I’ll be able to get to, but I’ll throw The White Mary by Kira Salak into the bag just in case I have more time.

My internet access will be severely limited while I’m gone, but I have several posts in the wings that will publish during my vacation. I will be back “live” after July 15th. If you send an email before then, I won’t be able to respond until I get back.

Don’t forget about my contests!  I have two running right now.  One is with Hatchette to give away two books by Elin Hilderbrand (click HERE) and one is for a copy of JANEOLOGY by Karen Harrington (click HERE).  Leave a comment by July 15th for a chance to win.

Hope you all have a wonderful 4th of July weekend!

Grace and the 2nd Degree Burns

I’ve never been very coordinated.  From childhood my family nickname was “Grace” said with a heavy dose of sarcasm.  My mother used to joke that I wouldn’t simply fall down the stairs, I would fall up them too.  I had two left feet and would trip over nothing.  If we went out to dinner, it wouldn’t be long before I tipped over my glass of milk.  Almost every photo of me from age 2 until about age 12 featured me with a skinned knee (sometimes two!)  I broke my arm 3 times, I broke my foot.  I had stitches in my hand, my finger, and my lip.  Trips to the emergency room were commonplace in my younger years.  Accident prone, clutzy- that was me.

Then I grew up.  Accidents got bigger (I totaled two cars before age 18 and a 3rd in my 30s) but I was less clutzy.  I was able to walk up and down stairs without bruising my shins. I was able to pour a glass of milk and eat out without embarrassment.  The only time I spilled things was when my mother was around, as if to prove to her that I was still “Grace”.

Until yesterday.  I decided I wanted to make my famous homemade lasagna.  As the sauce cooked, I boiled water for the noodles, but had to turn the oven off to take my daughter to a birthday party.  I left everything on the stove and hustled the kids out the door.  When I came back 30 minutes later, my younger daughter and her friend went down the street to see another friend, so I was alone in the house to finish making lasagna. Finally the noodles were done, so I put on oven mitts and carried the huge stockpot of boiling water to the sink, where it slipped from my hands, tipped toward me and poured it’s entire contents over my thighs and splashed onto the tops of my feet.  

I screamed as the pot fell.  I pulled the fabric of my pants away from the skin and made my way to the bathroom.  I carefully took off the pants (loose drawstring capri style knit pants that I wear to the gym) and grabbed a robe.  My legs were an angry shade of bright red and starting to blister. I went back to the kitchen for ice and the phone to call my husband, who was with my dad watching the Laker game.  As he raced home I tried to mop the water off the wood floor in the kitchen while holding rapidly melting ice cubes to my legs.

I found the one loose flowing skirt I own and put that on, called my neighbor to watch my daughter and her friend, and then we were off to the emergency room.  They gave me a Vicodin tablet almost as soon as I arrived.  An intern applied a cooling cream with a wooden spatula and wrapped it in wet gauze.  I literally wanted to jump out of my skin as he applied the cream.  He was careful and kind and very slow, but it was excruciating.  

3 hours later I was home armed with gel ice packs, an Rx for Vicodin and some antibiotic cream.  My little girl was my nurse and was so sweet with me, making sure I was comfortable.  My husband ran to the all night pharmacy for bandages and gauze and to fill the prescriptions.  I tried to sleep sitting up on the couch because lying down on my side wasn’t possible.  The pain was indescribable even with the Vicodin, but I did finally sleep, and this morning it’s a lot better.  Gross yellow blisters the size of golfballs have bubbled up on both legs.  My legs are all wrapped up now thanks to the expertise of my husband, who reminded me he is a former boy scout, and I’ll be lying down all day with the ice packs. Not exactly the fun Memorial Day I had planned, but on a positive note I will get some reading done!

Are you accident prone too?  Have you ever done anything this “graceful”?  If so, leave me a note and tell me about it.

Sunday Salon: This and That

My, my, my, what a week! Books on the Brain had it’s best day ever stat-wise on Friday (it totally blew away the last best day ever!) When my numbers had reached their all-time high by 10am, I knew something was up. Turns out Matrimony author Joshua Henkin had been interviewed about his efforts to market his novel to book clubs by Shelf Awareness, an extremely popular site in the publishing world, and included a link to his guest post on my site (Thanks, Josh!!). Not only did I see a big bump in hits, I got flooded with offers of books for review by publishers and authors. How cool is that???  I actually had to turn down a few that were not the kind of books I normally read.  Me, turning down books!!  That just never happens!  But any book with the word “pussy” in the title isn’t one I’m going to feature at my little PG rated book blog.  And I’m not much into self help stuff or mysteries, so better to have someone who IS into that sort of thing review those books, right?

We’re having another heat wave here so it’s a good day to stay inside with a fan blowing on my sweaty skin and read. Oh, I’ll probably have to take the kids down to swim at the neighbors’ house for an hour, and we have a Girl Scout meeting this afternoon too, but then I’ll hurry back into the air conditioning and get back to my book.  Currently I’m reading Songs for the Missing by Stewart O’Nan, the Barnes and Noble First Look book for June.  Just a couple weeks ago I read O’Nan’s Last Night at the Lobster in preparation for this book (loved it!), but I must say that was kind of pointless- the two books are nothing alike in style, tone, rhythm, subject, themes, etc.  If I didn’t know I would never have guessed they were by the same author.  Not that I’m not enjoying Songs for the Missing- I am- a lot.  It’s just completely different.

I’m not the type of reader who can have 4 different books going at once.  I. just. can’t.  I’m a monogamous reader with very few exceptions (I am soooo not a book slut!)  And, unlike Booking Mama, I can’t spend 4 hours a day reading.  So when I received Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe by Jennie Shortridge this week, I passed it to a friend in my book club who was all too happy to read it before me.  She said so far she really likes it, and I’m not at all surprised.  Jennie Shortridge was the first author our book club ever did an author chat with, when we discussed her novel Eating Heaven last year (an excellent choice for a book club, by the way!) She is so warm and fun and we had a great time with her.  I’m excited to read Love and Biology after my book club bud finishes it.

With my TBR pile teetering and listing to one side, and commitments to review books piling up, I decided to pass along a few other books to another member of my book club, who agreed to review them for Books on the Brain .  They include Freestyle by Linda Nieves-Powell, A Curious Earth by Gerard Woodward, and The Space Between Before and After by Jean Reynolds-Page.  I look forward to reading them when she’s done.

I’ve been getting slightly more sucked in to Library Thing’s Early Reviewers message boards. They have a Tuesday Thingers group that I may start participating in which, if I understand it correctly, is just an excuse to post book blather on Tuesdays and then go visit all the other Thingers and read their book blather.  At least I think that’s how it works.

What else?  Hmmm.  Well my daughter finished a big 5th grade project yesterday that’s due on Wednesday. For once I convinced her she didn’t have to wait until the VERY LAST MINUTE to get her homework done (shock!)  Her written report and display on “Richard Nixon: A Man of Many Firsts” turned out great and we she better get an A on it!  I’m kidding.  She did it all by herself, which is completely apparent.  I resisted my perfectionist tendencies to “fix” things that were glued on slightly crooked.  I bit my critical tongue when I saw that she wanted to use the picture of Nixon and Elvis as the largest picture and the centerpiece of her display.  It’s her work and she did a great job.  The kids’ school has their Open House on Thursday so there’s been a big push to do projects and artsy stuff in the last couple of weeks.  They do very few projects and very little art during the year (damn budget cuts!) and then BAM it hits us all at once.  It’s not my thing but I do my best to help my kids.  It’s just sad when you go to Open House and it’s obvious there’s no way in HELL the 10 year old with the beaming engineer dad made the to-scale model of the White House and the Pentagon out of sugar cubes and toothpicks, or the 9 year old whose mom is a scientist was able to make a working model of a geothermal power plant with real steam all by his wittle self.  Well, L.’s project is nowhere near professionally done, but it’s her work.  She’s proud of it and I hope her teacher will see the effort that was put into it.

So.. what are you reading today?  Leave a note and let me know!

Happy Sunday!