Friday, December 31, 2010

To I Pad or Not, That is the Question.

I've been miserable that past week listening to everyone talk about their new Kindles, Nooks and Ipads.  I'm so jealous I've turned green with envy. I want one so badly.

I made a vow to read all those books and I've read alot of them. Forty to be exact out of a list that now has 103 entries.  Do I still have trouble resisting new titles when I visit the bookstore? Yes!  That's one of the reasons the list has grown during the year.  When I read about new novels in the newspaper or magazines, I want to rush out and buy them.  Partly because I love reading and partly because I'm a writer searching for insight into the reading public.

My sister, Martha says it's time for me to start pitching so I can move on to more current things.  It's really difficult for me to throw out a book or not finish one even if I don't like it.  But I making progress in that regard.  Recently I stopped reading two books midstream.  I found them both to be real slogs.  The real breakthrough however was with my copy of "Uncle Tom's Cabin".  I adore reading the classics and thought I should get ready for my appearance on Jeopardy by reading this.  Those contestants are always so well read.  Every time it came up on my list, I skipped over it for something else.

A few weeks ago I logged on to Paperback Swap.  It's a site for swapping books and if you've never heard of it, please check it out.  Low and behold someone had Uncle Tom's Cabin on their wishlist.  Without a moment's hesitation I offered up my copy and the reader accepted it.  So off it went in the mail to someone who really wanted to read it.  I made someone happy and my list is shorter.  Progress is good.

I'm yearning to be in and have an e-reader though.  I know I could very easily download any book on my shelf in an electronic version.  If I could carry it with me, I might read through the list faster.  I hesitate not only because of the cost of the reader, ( I really want the ipad but at $500 it's even harder to justify when I'm making $10 hour) but because of the cost of paying a second time for books I already own.

I've learned so much about myself doing this exercise this year, I see no reason to stop. And if the only dilemma I take into the new year is whether or not I can splurge on some new electronic device, then I'm a lucky person indeed.

Here's wishing all of you a healthy, happy and prosperous year in 2011.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Why is Santa Claus Fat?

The question of Santa's girth was posed to me the other day by a woman who was born and raised in India.   She's a lovely woman who has lived in this country for many years, raising her own children here.  We were working together at the tax office,  chatting and joking between clients.

"Linda, why is Santa Claus fat?" Sawsan asked during a lull in the business.  "When my children were little I had to give my husband a pillow to wear under his Santa outfit.  Why is that?"

I thought for a minute.  "I really don't know."

Questions like this one, fascinate me.  If any of you have read my book reviews, you may have noticed a pattern of my selections.  Learning about foreign cultures is my passion.  I love to travel and experience language, food and people that I don't have at home.  I read alot of books especially about Asia, a place I've always felt a strong connection to.

American children are raised on Santa, therefore as adults we take him for granted.  We never think twice about why he has a beard, wears a red suit and lives at the North Pole where is is so beastly cold the fire in the fireplace burns year round twenty four hours a day.  In other words we assume Santa never gets sick or runs out of gifts and on Christmas morning our stockings will be filled with lots of goodies.  So I set out on a mission to answer Sawsan's question.  I bet even Santa doesn't like to be taken for granted.

Santa, it seems became fat with the poem, The Night Before Christmas by C. Clement Moore.  The classic line is 'He had a little round belly, that shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly'.  Santa didn't have reindeer either until Mr. Moore added them.  The Coca Cola people capitalized on the poem by creating a a round, jolly Santa for their advertising.   The image stuck. I found one more interesting tidbit on Wikipedia, that mentioned, L. Frank Baum, of Wizard of Oz fame.  He wrote a Christmas story about a Santa who lived in the Laughing Valley of the Hohaho.  I couldn't pin this down, but it seems this may be where the 'Ho Ho Ho' came from. Santa doesn't say 'ho ho ho' in The Night Before Christmas.

I called my sister, Martha today.  She's an expert on all things Santa with three grandchildren who are over the top excited waiting for Christmas Day. I asked her this same Santa question and she rattled off C. Clement Moore and Coca Cola with precision.  She didn't know about L. Frank Baum but I figured two out of three was a passing with flying colors, grade.

"You passed the test." I congratulated her.

"I didn't know I was taking a test," she grumbled.  "So here's yours. What's the story behind the candy cane?"

Back to the drawing board I go.  I bought a box of 88 cent candy canes at Walmart yesterday.  I love peppermint so much I really should know why we shape it like a cane.  Martha arrives on Christmas Day so I still have a few days to find the answer. I'm sending a big Merry Christmas thank you to Sawsan for helping me to see that Christmas is a magical time  filled with many blessings and I will never ever take it for granted again. More Christmas questions anyone???

Friday, December 17, 2010

Have You Had Your Laugh For the Day?

It's still early in the morning and I've already had my laugh for the day.  Nothing will be able to get me down from here on out.  Guaranteed.

Yesterday morning I received a Facebook post from a colleague at the company I worked at for 15 years.

"I downloaded the Kindle version of One Clown Short to my ipad and iphone," he wrote. "Remember me when you get your royalty check."

"Close the door to your office when you're reading at work.  You'll be laughing out loud." I replied.

My first Kindle sale.  I was ecstatic!  Looking back it seems like I spent most of the summer getting the One Clown Short print version into an electronic version.  Not having an electronic reader of my own, since I'm still plowing through the growing pile of unread books I own, I had no idea what I was getting into when I started down that road.  But I made it and am so proud of what I learned along the way.

As any new author would, today I checked my Amazon sales ranking specifically for the Kindle version of One Clown Short.  Overall in the Kindle store One Clown Short is at 59,000 and change.  Respectable.  I read on and here is where the laugh of the day occurred.

One Clown Short is ranked #73 on the Kindle Store list of top sellers in business ethics.  Business ethics.  I had to let that digest for a moment.  One Clown Short is the story of a bunch of clowns with too much money and too much time on their hands trying to run a business.  Ethics are the furthest things from their minds.

I must admit One Clown Short is a hoot from start to finish.   And I'm sure I added that ethics tag to the title somewhere along the line.   To find it on a list of high powered, sensible, nonfiction business volumes is hysterical to me. One Clown Short is not any of those things.  It's a funny, and often over the top tale of what really goes on in the business world.  Maybe all those serious authors that are on the ethics list with me, could learn a thing or two by reading One Clown Short.  

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Leave It To Cleavage by Wendy Wax

The other day, While having a conversation with my writer friend, Judy, she hauled this book off her own shelf.

"Read this one.  I think Wendy has a similar voice to yours.  You know.  Light and funny," she said.

"I don't usually read books in this genre, but I seem to write in it.  I'll give it a shot." I answered.

A few days ago I couldn't find the to make through two very deep literary books, I figured something light would be just the ticket.  Leave It To Cleavage was all that.  Miranda is wealthy beauty queen who allowed her husband to run the family lingerie business.  When she uncovered pictures of him wearing a bra and panties she knew something was amiss.

Leave It To Cleavage is a quick easy read, good for a day at the beach or a soak in the tub.  For a reader, it is a great escape.  For me as a writer I thought it lacked in plot and character development.  The story is full of romance and the author did build a fair amount of sexual tension but then closed the door too soon.  I don't care to read the really hot romance and this story had just enough but then left me hanging. The ending became too predictable.

I'm torn in my rating on this one.  For a reader, light and funny.  For a writer, lacking.  So I'm going to split the difference and give the rating of 3 out of 5.  Enjoy!!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My Journey

I started a journey through my self created world of unread books  a year ago.  My list that started out at 76 grew to 102 since I still haven't learned to resist the draw of the written word wrapped inside a lovely 4-color cover.  I've read a grand total of 40 books.  Some I loved, some were only OK.  But that means there are 62 left on my shelf and a whole big bookstore where new books are calling my name.

A couple months ago I started reading Anya by Susan Fromberg Schaeffer.  First off the text is formatted with very few paragraphs and the dialogue all runs together.  Any one that knows me well, knows that I like things to be a bit more precise.  With so many words crammed on the page, I found it difficult to read.  I'm sure it's a really wonderful story.  Anya and her family were interesting and smart characters.  I like that.  They were Jews in Poland so I knew the Holocaust was coming.  I would read some, set it back on my nightstand, read a different book and then come back to it.  After 134 pages I've finally decided I don't need to go on.

The second book I have to put down for good is The Dollmaker by Harriette Arnow.  This is a classic and again I know it will be a touching and heartwarming story but the dialect slowed me down to a crawl.  The author captures the language of Gertie and her family perfectly.  They live in the back hills of Kentucky and speak with an Appalachian twang. I personally found myself reading the text several times to understand what was happening.  The experience of reading the story was no longer enjoyable.  But I did make it to page 98.

As with all the books on my bookcase I've learned something about myself in each one.  In this case I learned why I have difficulty in my own writing with speech patterns of different characters.  I don't hear the differences therefore I don't write them differently. Damn! Maybe I need to study how these authors portrayed their characters so beautifully.  Then again, I bet there are more books waiting to teach me that same lesson.

Two more down.  Sixty to go.  Or until I succumb to a new book once again. Rest assured the price of a Kindle will be under $50 by the time I cross the last title off my list.  It's a long, long road ahead.


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji

What a wonderful insight into the life and culture of Iran under the Shah.  As Americans this is a part of world that is a mystery to us. And guess what?  We are a mystery to them too.

This story is narrated by a teenage Pasha, struggling to find himself as a man during the early 1970's in Tehran.  He is coming of age, learning how to shave, playing soccer in the alley and falling in love all under the stars on the roof of his family's home. When he unwittingly leads the secret police toward his friend and mentor, Doctor, Pasha's life is shattered.  

Rooftops of Tehran is beautifully written and emotionally charged. I loved the comparisons of the middle eastern and western cultures.  I was heartbroken by the oppressive political environment Pasha and his family were forced to live under.  All in all this novel is a well rounded and interesting story about a time and place I find fascinating and mysterious.  I rate Rooftops of Tehran a 4 out of 5.  Well worth the time to expand your heart and open your mind.  

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin

A few days ago while sitting in my office when I spied this book out of the corner of my eye on the shelf.  I'm very funny about the books on my shelf.  I know them all personally and intimately even though I haven't read them.  This book was strangely unfamiliar.  I came back to it the next day when I was searching for a new book to read.

I slipped it off the shelf and leafed through the pages. I knew I hadn't bought it but I had no idea where it had come from.  So I figured I might as well read it and maybe that might jog my memory.

A Slight Trick of the Mind is a charming tale of an aging Sherlock Holmes.  Always having been sharp of mind, he finds himself struggling with answers to mysteries that in younger days would have come easily.  Woven quite nicely through the novel are Holmes' relationship with the housekeeper's son, Roger, his love of beekeeping and a trip to Japan only a few years after World War II.  In between are the pages of his manuscript of a case from years ago that continues to haunt him.

Sherlock Holmes had to dig deep within his aging mind and body to find the answers he was looking for but eventually the pieces of the puzzle came together.  A Slight Trick of the Mind is beautifully written and a pleasure to read.  I rate it 4 out of 5 even though Holmes was unable to solve my own mystery of how this book had landed in my collection.  I may never know.      

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Fetch by Laura Whitcomb

I have to admit I was a bit disappointed in The Fetch.  I've met Laura Whitcomb and I consider her sister, Cynthia one of my mentors.  I adored A Certain Slant of Light and thought I would do the same for The Fetch.

I love Calder's story and the path he leads newly arriving souls on toward the gates of heaven.  The setting is beautiful and charming.  Ms. Whitcomb's prose is lovely and creative painting a sparkling picture in the reader's mind.  Calder had a warm heart but made a poor choice based on the human emotion of love.

I got bogged down however, in the long and exhaustive trip the three characters took around the world. They were sleeping all the time and when they woke, they were in a completely different part of the world. I know they were sleeping but as a reader I felt like I'd missed something.  It just bogged down the middle of what was a charming tale.

I still rate The Fetch as 4 out of 5 stars.  And I will read everything Laura Whitcomb publishes since I love how she weaves and writes beautiful paranormal stories of love.

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

A Reliable Wife is the book I absolutely had to have the last time Richard and I visited the bookstore. I'm not sorry I broke my vow even though it was about the thousandth time I had.

This is a wonderfully rich story full of twists, turns and surprises.  Catherine Land is calm, cool and collected as she attempts to execute her plan; the plan she and her lover have devised.  As in any good plan after it is all said and done they will be able to live happily ever after together.

Ralph Truitt also has a plan.  All he really needs is a reliable wife to set his life in motion.  When the two minds collide someone will have to give up their dream.

Goolrick writes beautifully crafted prose.  He kept me wanting to turn the page.  This book was intriguing and interesting.  If I told you any more, I'd spoil the story.  I rate this book a 5 and it's so good I just may have to keep it on my shelf just a while longer.


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Super Saturday!

Today was Super Saturday!  What is that you ask?  My local writing group, the Spacecoast Authors of Romance or Star for short, puts on a seminar.  We invite an agent and a speaker.  Lunch is served and we meet new people, learn tricks of the trade and share war stories.

But the best part is the raffle.  I purchased 12 tickets for ten dollars.  The money raised goes to the chapter's motivational fund.  And all you writers out there know how much we need motivating.  That muse is lazy. I paid my money and dropped a ticket into the bucket in front of each prize.  The prizes were gorgeously wrapped baskets and tote bags filled with all kinds of goodies.  Mostly books because it's a writing group after all.

By the end of the day, I was spent, my mind spinning with new ideas.  When it was time for the drawings, I laid out my tickets across the table.

"472040," Sandy called out.  Cheers rang out from someone at the next table.  "472233," she called.  Another person at that same table jumped for joy.


I checked my numbers.  "Yeah!" I screamed hopping out of my seat.  I never win anything so I happily accepted my prize.

"472129," she called out.

"Yeah!" I yelled out jumping up to add another oversized basket to my stash.

Having won two prizes and feeling exceptionally lucky, I prepared myself to ask her to draw another number when for the third time they drew one of mine.  That didn't happen thank goodness.

At home I searched through my treasures.  I must have forty new books.  Now four or five are young adult novels which will go to the grandkids for Christmas.   I'll send some to my sisters but I'll still have quite a bit of reading material left.  Do I have to add them to my list? I've read 36 out of my list that now totals 100.  The list grows when I can't behave myself at the bookstore.

I started this project last December believing I'd have read them all and be shopping for my e-reader right about now.  If I add my lucky new books to the list, it'll be three years before I move to digital.  I love the feel of touching, caressing and being surrounded by books.  So maybe that's a good thing,

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I Can't Resist!

Richard wanted to go to the bookstore.  I haven't been there in a while.  I'm living by the out of sight out of mind rule.  Actually I've been satisfying my cravings with free books from the clubhouse library.  Those free books also come home and sit on the shelf. So free or not a book always needs to rest awhile before I choose to read it.  But Richard likes to go and read the real estate and interior design magazines.  My arm didn't need much twisting.  I got the car keys

"I want to stay here for a while.  Don't rush me out of here," he said as we got out of the car.

"Not a problem," I answered.  After twenty three years of marriage I thought he understood my love of the bookstore.

Richard headed to the back of the store and I grabbed a book from the shelf that had been calling to me for months.  'The Reliable Wife'.  Ever since I heard Donald Maass mention this book at the RWA-WF conference I've been wanting to read it.  Mr. Maass discussed the use of backstory in writing. The rule is not to add it in too soon, layer it in slowly so it moves the story forward.  And only tell the reader what they need to know.  He used the example of 'The Reliable Wife' where the first twelve pages are backstory yet the reader becomes fully invested in the character.  His message was that rules are good but can be broken.

I sat down and started to read.  I was hooked.  So when Richard announced he was ready to go, I didn't want to leave this book behind.

"Get it," he told me.

"But it's fifteen dollars.  I have to work and hour and a half for that." I held the book tightly to my chest.

"Just get it."

Again the arm twisting was brief. 

My review will come as soon as I finish reading it.  It's a page turner, that much I will tell you.  I know I broke my own rule and I hope you'll forgive me just this once.  Or is it twice?  Or maybe three times? I've lost count. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Short Girls by Bich Minh Nguyen

This book slipped in.  Sometimes that happens.  I don't necessarily have to be in a bookstore where I fight the urge to actually buy a book.  This time I made a quick stop at the free library at the clubhouse.  It works on the take a book, leave a book premise.  I found Short Girls in the drop off bin.

I've had the pleasure of traveling to Vietnam and I have some very good Vietnamese friends.  I love their food, their culture, their stories.  This book sounded interesting.  I'm also bogged down in an epic novel of a Jewish family in Poland just prior to World War II so I figured Short Girls would give me some relief from that.

Van and Linny are sisters, children of Vietnam refugees.  They were born in America, and only know of growing up as Americans in Michigan.  The sisters are not close and brush it off as being very different from each other when in fact they are alike, making the same mistakes in life.  They both fall for the same insensitive, arrogant kind of guy with predictable results.

The characters of Van and Linny are flat to say the least.  Since the title is Short Girls, I thought that being short would be an integral part of their makeup.  It wasn't.  Not to say that the author didn't make references to it, it's just that I never really pictured either of them as painfully short.  Not tall, just of ordinary height.  There wasn't anything else about them that endeared me to them.

Excuse the pun but Short Girls came up short.  I rate it a 2 and I'm taking it back to the clubhouse.  I'll dig back into the other novel and resist the urge to pick up another free book while I'm there.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Blue Clay People by William Powers

I have no idea why I have this book.  When I opened it up, I found a receipt from when I attended the Willamette Writer's Conference last year.  I like to buy books of the speakers I hear but I don't remember Mr. Powers.  I wonder what the thinking was by the bookstore manager why he brought this book along.

In any event, Blue Clay People is a really cool title. The cover is a wonderful photograph of smiling children frolicking in the ocean.  My readers know by now that those two things are surefire hooks for me.

Blue Clay People is Powers' story of his time as a relief worker in Liberia.  He struggles with the local dialect of English, the proper handshake, having servants in his home.  Deep in his heart he wrestles with creating more dependency as he sets out to break the cycle of poverty.  

This is a deeply moving account of life in Liberia where malaria, AIDS, deforestation, under the control of a money hungry dictator is considered the norm.  Mr. Powers came to this country believing he could change all that.  He didn't leave Liberia as the new land he dreamed it could be.  But he left it better in small individual ways.  I think he learned alot about himself along the way.

Blue Clay People isn't a particularly well written or well edited for that matter.  As a writer that drove me nuts.  Getting past that, Blue Clay People taught me that my existence is connected to a place on the other side of the world.  Even small acts of compassion will make a difference in our world.  I rate this book 3 out of 5, an average when I combine writing skill with a memorable story.  

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Wine and Baseball

It's Sunday morning.  A time for lounging around reading the newspaper and sipping coffee while watching the morning news programs.  I love Sunday mornings.

Richard, Ginger and I cuddled up on the loveseat in the den and turned on an HBO news show.  The feature story was about Josh Hamilton, Texas Ranger, a baseball player.  And a very good one.  I am a Tampa Bay Rays fan and with today being the last day of the regular season, chances are my beloved Rays will face the Rangers in the playoffs.

The past few weeks have been really tough for me for some reason in the wine department.  I have been craving a drink.  It's not that anything earth shattering has been happening in my life, no stress, no disasters.  The desire for just one glass of wine to relax has been overwhelming for me.  I've resisted but it sure hasn't been easy.

I took a sip of coffee and settled in to hear about Josh.  He's a troubled soul with a devastating addiction to drugs and alcohol.  It sidelined his marriage and his career.  Even after he found AA it was a long, long road back to the ball field.  He said something in the interview that stuck with me. 'One drink leads to twenty'.

That's the power of the addiction.  Like a Lay's potato chip, you can't eat just one.  Those were exactly the words I needed to hear.

That's also the power of God.  I pray every day for His guidance.  He will always guide us to the right place when we need it the most.  There is no bottle of wine chilling in my refrigerator because I've always known that one would lead to twenty.  I just needed to be reminded.  When my Tampa Bay Rays beat the pants off Josh Hamilton and the Texas Rangers I'll celebrate by eating a lime popsicle.  And I'll say a little prayer for Josh.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Hitching Rides With Buddha by Will Ferguson

Hitching Rides With Buddha is a delightful travelogue through Japan.  While living and working in Japan, the author decided to hitchhike from one end of the country to the other following the cherry blossoms as he traveled.  He made a solemn pledge to only hitchhike except of course, when he needed to take the ferry from one island to the next.  Every now and then however, two gorgeous Japanese girls in short, tight leather skirts driving a red corvette would stop to pick him up when rides were slim.

This book is a hilarious ride across Japan.  It is also wonderful insight into its people and culture.  I love all things Asian which is surely why I was drawn to this title originally.  I have no real recollection of when I came to own this title only that it must have been years ago when I was still freely spending my money on books I would never read.  Tucked inside I found a handout from a class on meditation that I took at least 5 years ago.  Several Buddhist mantras were written on it so obviously I put the list in what I thought was a safe and very appropriate place.  Getting back to yoga and meditation has been on my mind lately.

Anyway Mr. Ferguson was more into drinking good Japanese beer and vodka than yoga, but he did spend time in the many temples, communing with the sea and taking in the beauty of the cherry blossoms.   And he had a helluva lot of fun along the way.

Hitching Rides With Buddha is laugh out loud funny, fresh and culturally enlightening.  I give it a 4 out of 5.  If you have interests in Japan or traveling in general, give this one a try.  

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Classic versus Modern

I get many comments about how I come up with my ratings.  It's not really very scientific and as I've said before I wobble between my reader's mind and my writer's mind when I try to determine what the rating should be for a particular title.

I was posed a question after I posted my review of Mark Twain's The Innocents Abroad.   If I was reading Shakespeare would I feel comfortable giving him a rating of less than five?  The answer is, 'of course'.   I don't read Shakespeare because I find it slow and uninteresting.  Just because I don't like it doesn't mean Shakespeare wasn't brilliant in his own right.  I'm learning not to spend my time reading what I don't enjoy.  There are too many choices and not enough time to read everything.

In the 19th century while Mark Twain was writing, there was no television or radio or big box bookstores with tens of thousands of titles to choose from.  A book entertained, passing the time between dinner and bed.  Each word savored by the reader, shared with the rest of the family by being read aloud, and read over and over until the pages were worn.  Mark Twain used lengthy descriptions to describe people and places unknown allowing readers to transport themselves to a faraway land.  Today we call that watching television.

John Steinbeck is another one of my favorites.  He wrote in the mid-twentieth century in a world with radio but not television.  Steinbeck tells poignant tales of the life during the depression, again in a time when books were cherished. His style is long and lingering but has a faster pace in step with our evolving and more complicated lives.

Today we have become used a life of instant gratification.  Books are everywhere.  If we don't feel like lugging around 500 pages, we can simply download it and read it on the computer.  Huge bookstore chains along with Amazon indulge our each and every whim.  We read a story and then discard it  before moving on the the next latest and greatest new idea.  Our society doesn't linger over anything anymore.

Shakespeare, Twain, Steinbeck are all wonderful storytellers and in the end are all writing about the human condition.  We want to discover ourselves in a book, what makes us tick, why we do the things we do.  Modern writers are all out to write the story that discovers who we are in a modern society just as the classic writers wrote about life that was relevant to their time.   Can we learn from these classic authors?  Absolutely.  I learned plenty as both a reader and a writer.  Are they worth investing my time in?  Absolutely!  Do I feel guilty I didn't rate them all as a five?  No.  My goal is to give my own readers a fair and balanced picture of what they are investing time and energy in.  Sometimes my personal bias creeps in.  I'm only human.

If we take the time to look at life as a learning experience, then the books we choose will enrich our lives and entice our palates. Will we read some dogs along the way?  Yes.  But we will have been made a more interesting human being because of it.   And we just might unlock the secret to our own lives.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain

Several years ago my family took a summer vacation to Bermuda.  During a day of sightseeing we ended up at the Maritime museum.  On display was, as I recall it, a fairly sizable display of the Quaker City and Mark Twain's visit to the pink sand beaches of Bermuda.  I rushed home and got myself my very own copy of the book, The Innocents Abroad or, the New Pilgrims' Progress.

This book is a hoot!   The tale that is woven of Americans traveling in foreign countries in the mid-1800's is hysterical.  Every tour guide is called Ferguson since the foreign names are too difficult for them to pronounce.  The men are convinced that they will have the most marvelous shave of their lives while in Paris.  They are sadly disappointed when their faces are butchered.  In Athens they sneak ashore in the dead of night for a look at the Parthenon.  I laughed out loud at each new adventure.

I loved The Innocents Abroad especially since I have a few unbelievable travel stories of my own.  But this was written by Mark Twain almost 150 years ago in a different style than the modern reader might find appealing.  It's very long and  I found myself skipping over some parts where I felt he was running on.  I really wanted to get to the stop in Bermuda only to find it was only a few paragraphs.

I rate The innocents Abroad as a 4 out of 5 and I plan to keep it on the shelf.  It's a classic that's always good for a laugh.  

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Zero Game by Brad Meltzer

I came by The Zero Game several years ago at a writing conference I attended in Ft. Lauderdale.  Brad Meltzer spoke.  He was quite the funny and entertaining speaker as I recall.  I took that as a good sign and a good excuse to buy an autographed copy of his book.  Well, I'm learning.

The Zero Game is fair in my mind.  It's full of mystery and intrigue set in Washington, DC amid the political world.  Harris and Viv are very complex yet likeable characters.  Yet I constantly found myself rereading in order to follow what was happening.  It's full of action and I had trouble keeping track of who threw the punches and where they landed.  Maybe that's just me wanting a story that was more subdued.  The tension stayed at a fever pitch through the entire 400 plus pages.  Stories with that much pressure wear me out.  I try not to let my own personal preferences skew my reviews but it's not always possible.  Brad Meltzer is a highly successful author, but his writing just doesn't appeal to me.

So even though this is an autographed copy, I'm going to pass it along.  I rate it a 2 out of 5 so there's no reason for me not to find it another good home.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The List

After writing each book review, I take a look at my list.  My list is an excel spreadsheet of all the books I set out to read as part of this project.  In alphabetical order.

As I read each book I carefully log the date and the rating and who I sent the book to by highlighting the row in a bright blue.  I chose blue because blue is the color of the throat chakra for communication. I'm a writer, a reader, and I have to open myself up to communication in all possible ways.

My method of book selection up until now has been to draw the titles out of a hat.  That way all the books have a fair shake at being read and are not subject to my mood of the moment.  I've learned that many of the books on my shelf appealed to me for a nanosecond when I absolutely had to have them, and that feeling faded quite quickly the minute I took them home.

There is another interesting side to me.  I'm a Certified Public Accountant.  I like order.  Looking at my spreadsheet with a mumbo jumbo of white rows mixed with blue is making me nuts.  Five white rows, one blue, two white, three blue.  Instead of the luck of the draw, I'm now setting out to fill in the blocks of white rows sandwiched in between two blue rows.  I want to visualize larger chunks of blue so that I'll feel like I'm accomplishing more.  Right now I'm reading The Zero Game by Brad Meltzer.  It landed in between The Tenth Circle and Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Oh crap!  While looking more closely at my list, I see that I've written 'There' instead of 'Their'.  Now I'll have to re-sort the list, creating new blocks for me to deal with.  That's OK I guess.  I just had my head all wrapped around the other way.

So much for all that order I wanted out of my orderly accountant mind.   I messed up.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Write Like Hemingway by R. Andrew Wilson, PhD

Richard is always telling me that I need to get on a schedule like Hemingway.  Get up early, write, go fishing and then drink all night.  The drinking part is now out, and drinking anything liquid after 6 pm is also out of the question ever since I passed the big 5- 0.  Hemingway would pop out of bed  every morning and do it all over again.  He won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature with that kind of discipline.  How did Richard, who never reads a book, know this about Hemingway?  I have no clue, but according to this book, he's right.  That's exactly what Hemingway did every day.

So in a moment of weakness, I had to buy this book when I spotted it in the bookstore.  I'm glad I did.  I'm not a big Hemingway fan as a reader, but he is certainly a master of the craft.  The author explains in great detail how Hemingway as a minimalist pared down his sentences to the essentials.  He could brilliantly set the scene and create strong, real characters within it.  He was an expert at dialogue, often foregoing the tags that the rest of us cling to in our storytelling.

As a writer, this book is pure gold.  I even got out the highlighter and noted passages that I want to remember when I'm working on my own pieces.  And trust me, marking up a book goes against everything I know and feel when it comes to a book.  Books need to be cherished and left in a pure and pristine condition by one reader for the next.  Bent corners annoy me as do notes in the margin.  Write Like Hemingway however, compelled me to go against the grain. It is a reference book I will treasure all of my writing life.  I learned so much and I know there is so much more for me inside this gem of a book.

It's a five!  It's a keeper!  It's a treasure!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Middlesex sat on my shelf for years mainly because I knew that the story revolved around a hermaphrodite.  I thought it would be full of kinky sex and I really didn't think I'd be into that too much.  Middlesex was an easy book to ignore since its cover is missing.  It came to me that way from my sister.  Her dog must have  picked it off the shelf and done the damage.  I couldn't blame a coverless book on Ginger this time.  So it remained on the shelf incognito for a very long time.

I loved this book!  I loved everything about it.  The characters are rich, the story comedic, set against a backdrop of Detroit in the 20th century.   Desdemona and Lefty come to America on a dream and a prayer.  Their lives as immigrants making a life in the Motor City is full of ups and downs.  The lives of their children Milton and Zoe emulate those of second generation Americans who are bound and determined to be only American and leave the old country ways behind. 

And then there's Calliope who narrates.  We learn the family's story through her or is it his eyes? When Callie tells the story her voice is distinctly different from when the male voice Cal is narrating.  The author did a masterful job writing this character's voice.  Callie, as a teenager, tells us of Desdemona taking to her bed, permanently.  Then Callie and Cal's story really gets interesting.  I thought the author had forgotten to resolve Desdemona.  I kept flipping back thinking I'd missed something.  But I couldn't have.  Long gone are my days of drinking, reading a book before bed and then having to reread the same part again the next day because I couldn't remember what had happened.

I was ready to reduced my rating to a four from a five all because of Desdemona.  And then, suddenly and without warning, the author explains where she's been and why.  Desdemona, the keeper of the family secret kept it no more.  It was a wonderful ending to a brilliant story.  Middlesex won my reading heart and my writing mind, earning a rating of five out of five.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Better Than a Sleeping Pill

I'm at this very moment sitting in a big cozy chair at the bookstore.  I came here to try to write my memoir.  Sitting at home where the story contained in my memoir has unfolded, was just not doing it for me today.  I thought if I surrounded myself with words, I'd find some inspiration.  Not much luck in that regard, but I am writing a blog post.  So at least I'm writing.

There are other people here, curled up in the gray leather chairs doing what else, but reading a book.  Bookstores have turned into personal libraries and coffee houses.  If people feel right at home, it stands to reason they would not only read books while here but take a little nap while they're at it.

Across from me sits a middle aged woman with three pink children's books in her lap.  She holds one open resting it on her stomach, the pop up of Cinderella's castle less than an inch from her nose. Soon the book begins to float up and down along with her breathing. Then it snaps down only to be caught and returned to eye level.  This happens over and over again.  Her eyes remain closed through the entire routine.  A man comes over, sitting down next to her and touches her on the arm.  It must be her husband.  Her eyes never open.  He wedges himself in the seat resting his reading material on the arm of the chair.  He sits upright.  I look at him closely.  He too, is sound asleep within seconds of arriving.

I moved to this seating area earlier because the snoring man next to me really wasn't helping me to write.  At least these two weren't making any noise.

No matter what time of day or night, no matter where you may find yourself, there's nothing like reading a good book to calm the nerves and relax the body.  Ooops.  I dozed off for a minute myself.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Dear Writer's Digest

In yesterday's mail the Writer's Digest Big Ten issue arrived.  I immediately sat down to read it.  And I am still on cloud nine!

I'm feeling so connected as a writer.  Not because I've just returned from the amazing Willamette Writers Conference in Portland, Oregon but because I'm reading a magazine and I 'know' people in it.

Let's first look at the panel of Ten Writing  Experts.  Steve Almond's Candyfreak is sitting on my shelf.  I bought if as research for a book I'm writing set in a candy factory.  Earlier this summer I had a wonderful experience at the Florida Institute of Technology's Creative Writing Seminar.  John Dufresne was my teacher.  I crossed paths with N.M.Kelby at the Miami Book Fair in 2007.  My friend, Georgia has an autographed copy of Whale Season when they both discovered a connection to Boston University.  And Donald Maass gave a wonderful talk at the first meeting of the women's fiction chapter of Romance Writers of America at their recent conference.  I was lucky enough to be a part of it.

I intently soaked up all their comments.  Turning the page I see Chuck Palahniuk.  I saw him in Portland.   Then appears I topic I really need help with, productivity.  It's written by Sage Cohen.  Reinforcement is powerful.  I took Sage's class while I was in Portland too.

Now I haven't met Mary Higgins Clark or Sherman Alexie yet but I'm positive my writing circles are growing at a fast pace.  I'm on my way.  I'm connected.  I'm a writer.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Perfect Book

After my last book review, my sister, Martha sent me an email asking what it would take for a book to receive five stars.  I had to think about that for a few minutes.

In my attempt to find a good book, I admit my vision is becoming blurred.  You see, I'm also attempting to write a good book.  In order to become a great writer, a person also has to become a great reader. I've always been interested in a variety of novelists and stories, never sticking to one or two specific genres and authors.  I think you all know by now that those book covers call to me.  Since covers come in an array of shapes, sizes and colors, reading a single genres is never going to happen for me.  Variety is my spice of life.

When a reader becomes a writer, reading takes on a life of its own.  It's not that I no longer enjoy  the pure and simple enjoyment of curling up with a good book, I do.  It's my passion. It's simply that I read with a different eye.   I examine the layout, the sentence structure and the characters with a fine tooth comb.  If I love a scene I'll read it again.  If I don't understand a character's speech pattern, I'll read it until I do.  Let's just say I dissect the story down to its bare bones.

What do I need to find to rate it a perfect five stars?  A story and characters that I can fall in love with, that make me laugh, cry and get angry.  A story that grabs my heart so much that I can't let it go.  A book that finds a permanent place on my bookshelf.  It's not to say that four stars is not a book worth reading.  A four star is a really great and wonderful book.  Three stars means it's really not my taste, a good story just not my cup of tea.  Any book that receives two stars was plain and simple too much of a slog for me.   I don't think I've given anything only one star.  I'm too nice a person.

As a writer I understand all the hard work that goes into writing a novel, even what I consider a bad one.    The books I think are good you might detest.  So don't put too much stock in my rating system.  As hard as I try to give you an unbiased view, it's impossible.  We are all on our own personal quest for the perfect book.  I'll keep reading and reviewing until I find mine. 

I think I'll be able to keep blogging for a very long time indeed.        

Friday, August 13, 2010

There's No Place Like Here by Cecelia Ahern

My sister, Martha recommended this title for me.  She knows I like those magical, mystical, heart warming tales.  There's No Place Like Here is loosely based on the Wizard of Oz, my all time favorite.  There is even a pair of ruby slippers on the cover.

Sandy Shortt is a tall, slender, brunette who can't stand it when things go missing.  As a child she drove her parents crazy when so much as a sock became lost in the laundry.  When her childhood rival Jenny-May Butler disappears Sandy starts down the path to find all things missing.

There's No Place Like Here is full of rich characters and imaginative settings, expertly woven together.  Sandy had an extraordinary journey after falling and hitting her head.  While Jack, who begins a search for Sandy after she misses their appointment, finds his own missing brother along the way.  I loved this story of finding what's really important in life.

I rate There's No Place Like Here a 4 out of 5. I'll probably read Cecelia Ahern again.  She writes with a magical gift.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Power of Love

I'm in Portland, Oregon, sitting in the living room of my dear friend, Samantha typing this posting.  I've spent the past three days at the Willamette Writers Conference having the time of my life.  Why do I come all the way to Oregon, you might ask.  Aside from the fact that Portland is as opposite as Florida, as is possible, the answer is quite simple.

Over a year ago, I set down a new path in my life.  I'd heard about a transatlantic writing cruise and signed on.  I spent two wonderful weeks at sea learning, writing and traveling on the ocean blue.  A perfect combination.

I, being the lone Floridian in the writing class easily became fast friends with all the Oregonians.  It was as if we'd known each other all our lives.  Now once a year I travel 3000 miles to recharge, refresh and energize.  My good friend and mentor, Samantha opened her guest room to me.   My teacher, Cynthia smiled from ear to ear as she reached out to hug me.  Each time I ran into another 'waver' as we call ourselves, Inez, or Billie or Nan and the mother daughter team of Valleta and Kristy, we'd tremble with excitement in anticipation of the big warm hug we each wrapped around the other.

People I'd met by chance, by fate, by design.  The power of their love, their strength and encouragement will stay with me, warming my heart, lifting me up when I feel down, patting me on the back for a whole year until I can hear their voices, give them a hug and feel their love once again.  

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Spring Tides by Jacques Poulin

Sometimes I have to actually read a book to understand why it is even on my shelf to begin with.  I bought Spring Tides in 2007 at the Miami Book Fair.  My friend Angie and I rode the Tri Rail train from Delray Beach to Miami just to go to the book fair.  We spent the afternoon touching all different kinds of books from small presses to best sellers to children's titles to antique wonders.

Spring Tides has the most beautiful cover which to me gives absolutely no insight to the story within.  It is the story of a comic strip translator whose boss sends him to a small, secluded island to work and be happy.  The boss comes every Saturday in his helicopter to pick up the translator's work and drop off provisions and groceries.

First the boss literally drops Marie on the island to make the translator happy.  Then the boss's wife who is called Featherhead because she appears hungover wearing a feather boa arrives on the island with her chihuahua in tow.  Later the Author and the Professor take up residence.  The boss brings another cat, The Ordinary Man and the Organizer all in the name of being happy.  Each new character arrives with the next spring tide.  All the translator really needs to be happy however, is The Prince.  The Prince is the tennis ball machine who challenges him to a match on a regular basis.

Jacques Poulin is a Canadian novelist.  I tell people I'm half Canadian.  My grandmother was born in Canada.  I have several Canadian friends and I love reading Canadian novelists.  I'm sure I didn't know who Mr. Poulin was at the time I purchased this book.  Spring Tides called to me, eh?  It's a funny tale that made me laugh.  I don't want to ruin it, but when I got to the end, I just didn't get it.  Just because I'm half Canadian doesn't mean I understand Canadian humor.  It's kind of like the 'eh'.  My friends use the 'eh' often and it sounds so charming coming from a Canadian.  Coming from my stiff American tongue, 'eh' loses all its appeal.

I'm going to give Spring Tides to my friend Inez.  She's Canadian, loves cats and making up nicknames for people.  The entire time I was reading this book I was thinking about her.  So it's meant for Nezzie.  I rate this book 4 out of 5.  Spring Tides is fun, quirky light reading that helped me to learn something new  about my roots.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas by James Patterson

James Patterson is another very well known author who I've never read.  Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas is probably not representative of most of Mr. Patterson's works but was written from his heart.

If you're in the mood for a touching love story, this is just the ticket.  Matt is the guy every woman dreams of falling in love with, kind, caring, calm and cute.  Suzanne was the doctor on the fast track when her health forced her to find a simpler life.  That's how she found Matt.  And then came Nicholas.  Dear, sweet, Nicholas.

Katie also falls head over heals for Matt not knowing anything about his past.  Matt leaves Suzanne's diary on her doorstep when he's unable to tell her himself.

This story also contains heartbreak that will bring tears to your eyes.  But the power of a new love can heal all wounds.

I rate Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas a 3 out of 5.  It's a nice, sweet, fast summer read perfect for beach or to relax with.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Distant Memory?

I think I've told you that Richard and I have been on diets.  I've lost fifteen pounds.  Another ten to go and those will be the hardest.  Actually about seven of those pounds fell off quite rapidly when I stopped drinking.  Those were the easiest.

Monday I had a regular appointment at the primary doctor.

"Pay close attention to that number," I said to the nurse as I stepped on the scale.
"Wow.  That's a good number," she replied.

The doctor came into the exam room and we chatted.
"Take a look at my weight,"  I told her.
"Wow.  How'd you do that?  So many women have trouble losing weight.  I always like to know."
"I eat alot more salads and I stopped buying chips and pretzels." I told her. "Plus I'm walking three to four miles every day."
"Keep it up.  You're doing great," the doctor told me.

I went on my merry way feeling healthy.  Tuesday I went to see the endocrinologist.  She was also impressed by my weight loss and asked the same question.  I gave the same answer.

When I recounted these conversations to Richard later, it was then and only then that it dawned on me.  I hadn't told either doctor that I'd stopped drinking.  I'm sure I never told then that I drank in the first place.  I'm a very private person.  I'm sure I never told anyone that I thought I had a drinking problem.

I thought for awhile.  Did it not enter my mind because subconsciously I wanted to hide it?  Or has the need for alcohol left me once and for all?  Believe me there are days I'd love to sit down and relax with a big glass of wine.  In three months has wine become a distant memory?  Probably not.  But I'm working on it.  And that's a good thing.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Empress by Shan Sa

Empress is a true story of a woman who ruled in China.  She had to be pretty special to achieve that title.  Women were meant to follow behind the man and serve his sexual needs.  When they weren't needed for that purpose, they sat around learning how to embroider.  Empress is full of ancient Chinese politics of slaves and concubines, and people all trying to make their way to the top inside the Forbidden City.  Each child born is given a name with special meaning to guide his or her life.  The color and style of clothing is carefully chosen for each event.  The jewels in the Empress' topknot send a message to her subjects.  It also has its fair share of attempted poisonings, banishments and beheadings.  I loved every minute of it but it's not for the faint of heart.

Somewhere in a past life I experienced all these things first hand.  I love the Chinese culture and love reading about it.  Empress is translated from Mandarin so again this book is not for everyone.  I've read many novels based in China over the years.  In fact Amy Tan and Lisa See are two of my favorite authors. Titles from both are waiting in the wings to be chosen from my list.  If you're looking for something different and exotic Empress may be it.  But be aware it takes deep concentration to make it through this story.

I rate Empress 4 out of 5.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Thousand Days in Tuscany by Marlena De Blasi

A Thousand Days in Tuscany was a very tough book to read.  Now I want to go to Tuscany, rent a villa and live among the locals.  I'm under employed therefore my ability to travel to wonderful and interesting places is out of the question.  The stories of cooking and baking and gathering chestnuts and olives from the field made me hungry.  My mouth drooled while reading the author's descriptions of each meal.  I'm on a diet.  It was torture.

And then there's the whole wine thing.  All her wondrous cooking was washed down with chilled bottles of white wine or warm, bold reds.  I wanted to be in Tuscany eating and drinking to my heart's content.  Someday I'll be in Tuscany, eating freshly baked Tuscan bread, savoring each and every bite.  I'll be skipping the wine part, which may be difficult but I won't enjoy myself any less and probably more.

This is a wonderful, sense filled story of a simpler life full of love, friendship and the fine art of breaking bread together.  If you love to travel, eat, drink, A Thousand Days in Tuscany will satisfy your cravings leaving you full and satisfied.

I rate this book 4 out of 5.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen

This is one of those books that I stared at in the bookstore for months.  I had to have it.  It'll be for research I told myself since I'm writing my own memoir at the moment.  One trip to the store with Richard when he told me to buy what I wanted.
"You deserve it," he said.
My willpower had ebbed to a low point where I couldn't push his kind and loving words to the back of my mind.  I bought the book.  He wanted me to have it.  I gave myself permission to blame my impulsiveness on Richard.

To the book itself.  In the beginning we learn of Rhoda's surgery and tragic car accident.  Then we learn of her failed marriage to the bipolar and really wacko Nick, who dumps her for Bob from  Supposedly she goes home to her Mennonite roots to convalesce.  Only the problem with the whole thing is that I never had a clear sense of where Rhoda actually was during this time.

Were there some absolutely belly laugh funny moments.  Yes!!  Her stoic parents and stories about lunch pails and long skirts were delightful.  They seemed to move back and forth through time and place so that I never really knew where exactly they happened or what prompted her memory of them.  She's cooking in her mother's kitchen and then she's back to work teaching living in her Michigan lake house.  All in all the story was very disjointed and lacked any kind of transition. 

I rate this story a 2 out of 5, not because the story didn't show some promise.  It did.  It lacked flow and transition and left me feeling out of sorts.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

I've Got a Best Seller

Today was book review day in the USA Today.  I love to read their book review.  Today was especially interesting about the 50th anniversary of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird.  It's a novel that's transcended time.  It's also a movie that's done the same.

I found it interesting that Harper Lee never wrote another novel.  Never.  And she's even turned down Oprah for an interview.  The rest of us writers can't wait to be invited by Oprah.  I would never dream of turning her down!  I had a fascinating time on the book page.

And then something else caught my eye.  Something odd, handwritten on the New York Times Bestseller list.  #11 - One Clown Short by Linda C. Wright.

You see Richard gets up much earlier than I.  He gets the paper around four in the morning.  Ginger, also being sound asleep much prefers that she be able to get the paper from the driveway each morning, a habit she learned as a puppy, but Richard enjoys reading without teeth marks.  He reads it and then leaves it in the living room for me.  He snuck me on the list when no one else was looking.

I'm saving the paper from the day I made it onto the bestseller list as all proud writers would.  Maybe 50 years from now one of my novels will be celebrating an anniversary.  Maybe Oprah will be calling me soon after all.   No matter what, in Richard's eyes I'll always be a best seller.

The Emperor of Ocean Park by Stephen L. Carter

I know a few of my friends will scream and shout for joy when they read this blog post.  I skimmed most of this book.  There.  I said it.  I didn't actually read the entire book.  I gave up.  It was just too much for me.

Talcott or Tal or Misha or whatever his name was, bored me.  As a law professor he seemed so stupid.  As a father, a son, a husband he was also clueless.  And he talked on incessantly about why he was the way he was.  If he called his wife, Kimmer, mercurial, one more time, I thought I was going to die.

The Emperor of Ocean Park is over 600 pages long.  Each page is jam packed with big vocabulary describing the characters, the locations and the back story.  At first I thought I'd stick it out because the story itself intrigued me.  I did begin to tire early on of characters being described as either from the 'paler nation' or the 'darker nation'.  I really began to lose interest when I discovered that the last line of each chapter was a clue to solving the mystery.   I only needed to read the first paragraph of the next chapter to see where the clue was headed.

I read the book until about page 300, so halfway.  I was ready to put the book down and turn the bedside light out when I thought I should flip to the last chapter.  All the pieces to the puzzle were answered in about 3 pages.  It would be a waste of my time and energy to suffer through the endless pages since I now knew how it ended.

I rate this book 2 out of 5.   The author's style is repetitive and predictable.  I found my step-mother's signature on the front page with the year 2002.  I have a feeling she couldn't make it through this novel either that's why the book's been sitting on my shelf all these years.  I'm sending it back to her to be polite.  She'll give it away again, I'm sure of it.  

Monday, July 5, 2010

Lead Me Not Into Temptation

My local Walmart is in the process of being remodeled.  I'm happy about that.  It's shaping up nicely.  Since I'm there just about everyday I check on its progress often.

I browse the aisles with my new shopping cart, peer through the clear glass of the new freezer cases, and tap my shoes on the new faux wood floors.  I make my way to the back of the store to find Ginger some treats in the new pet section.  Out of the corner of my eye I spot a section I've always been able to avoid while in Walmart.  The books.

I must say I'm impressed.  I gaze through a rather large section of trade paperbacks the likes of which I've never seen other than in a big box book store.  I didn't check any prices since at the moment I was only interested in the selection.  I moved to the left to see an even larger section of romance mass market paperbacks.  Again it looked like a fine collection to suit a variety of tastes and pocketbooks.

A twinge of anxiety flows through my body.  I no longer need to talk Richard into making a trip to the mall.  I can hide new books in with the groceries.  Will I adore them as much if the pages smell like broccoli or have a splotch of red strawberry juice dribbled across them?  I don't think that will bother me.  I just have to be sure to keep the books away from the dog treats.  Ginger, I'm sure won't be able to tell the difference.  

Thursday, July 1, 2010

I'm Having a Rough Day

Yesterday was a really rough day.  I set up an appointment with the district manager at HR Block to discuss my possibilities for next season's employment.  Not bothering to ask what office she was working out of that day, I drove to the wrong one.  When I finally arrived at the right place, I was an hour late.

The meeting went well however.  When I got home Richard and I worked out on paper roughly what I would be able to earn doing taxes next year.  I then freshened my makeup and headed out to my next interview.  It was for a position at a new retail store opening down the street.  Only problem is they hire people temporarily to open the store.  They want to check  you out before they offer any permanent positions.  Normally that would be OK but in this case I'd have to quit my part time gig handing out samples at the local warehouse club.

My dilemma is exasperated by the fact that my medical insurance premiums are going up to $400 a month and won't cover some pre-exisiting conditions at all. So should I quit a sure thing part time job for a maybe full time job with insurance and if that doesn't work out wait to start doing taxes in January.  Or should I just pray for the Congress to extend my unemployment benefits?  Or should I pray that the space program doesn't layoff 7000 workers so my part time sure thing may still exist if I need to get it back?

I think I need a drink.

Don't panic.  I haven't had one.  But boy I really want one.  I sent Richard out to bring me back some mint chocolate chip ice cream.  That ought to cure what ails me.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

First You Run by Roxanne St. Claire

This title has an interesting history.  I know Roxanne St. Claire.  She's a member of the SpacecoasT Authors of Romance or STARS for short, as am I.  Rocki is fun, intelligent, welcoming and has a way of making all new group members feel at home.  I admire her.  My copy of her book is autographed.  I have a special shelf just for my signed copies, I think they're so special.  First You Run has also been designated as a Ginger pick.

Being a Ginger pick means that one corner of the book is completely gone.  The photo of Rocki on the back cover is torn in half.  Little doggie teethmarks adorn each page.  But that doesn't stop my ability to read a good book.

Romantic suspense novels are not really my thing.  And the story had one too many erections to suit my taste.  But that doesn't mean that the story itself wasn't well crafted.  It was.  And well researched.  Adrien and Miranda are highly believable characters.  St. Claire builds the tension to a fever pitch.  If you like a sexually charged novel with lots of intrigue, you'll love First You Run.

I'm giving it a 4 out of 5 only because it's not my usual cup of tea.  I'm torn however what to do with this.  I keep the all my signed books but Ginger's really done a number on this one.  Not many people are willing to wrap their fingers and their mind around a chewed up book with its pages stuck together.  I just might have to relegate it to the trash.  Sorry Rocki!!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Widow For One Year by John Irving

I loved it.  Irving tells a complex, quirky, fascinating story in a complex, quirky, fascinating way.  You have to wrap your head around it.  Thinking is required when reading John Irving.  He's a master at his craft.

This story is about all the things in life we'd rather not talk about.  A mother deserting her 4 year old daughter when she was unable to deal with her grief concerning the loss of two teenage sons gripped me.  Eddie, a teenage boy developing a life long desire for this grieving mother never lets Marion be far from his thoughts.  Ted, a womanizer with a penchant for younger women is left to raise Ruth.  Ruth grows up to become a best selling author never able to let go of her anger toward her absent mother. Throw in a cop and a prostitute in the red light district in Amsterdam and the pages of this novel never stop turning.

I rated this novel 5 out of 5.  It is a masterful display of the power of the written word.  For me as an author, Irving is to be studied and disected.  This one's a keeper.

Monday, June 14, 2010

In The Here and Now

I'm freaking out!!  I went to the computer to log in my most recent book review.  It brings me alot of pleasure to see one more title crossed of that list.  Usually.  This time I clicked on the file and got a message.

"Excel cannot open this file.  It may have been damaged."

What?  I tried to open it again.  Same message.  I tried to open it from the back up.  At first I couldn't find it and when I did, same message.  My hands started to shake and I thought I would be sick.

I'd put my heart and soul in that list.  I put all 76 unread books along with the authors on that list.  As I read a book, I'd log the date, the number of stars I gave it and who I sent the book to.  When I found more books around the house, I add them.  When I lost my willpower buying new books I'd add them.  The list kept me honest.  It was my sanctuary where I could see how far I'd come and how far I had yet to go.  And now it was gone.

I searched and scoured the computer trying to revive the file.  I'm pretty savvy when it comes to computers and the loss of my precious file is a mystery.  I clicked and scrolled until my fingers turned blue.  Nothing I did made it come back to life.  I slapped the keyboard.  Now I was mad as a hornet.

A thought came to my mind.  A thought I had a lot lately.  I need a glass of wine.  That will calm my nerves and I'll find the lost file easily.  It took all my energy to push that thought aside.  You see, I've been sober, alcohol free for the past six weeks.

Wine had taken over my life.  I didn't do anything without thinking about when I could pour myself a glass and then another and another.  Learning to exercise restraint over my piles of unread books helped me to see another addiction in my life.  For this I'm grateful.

So I took a deep breath, did a few deep knee bends and created a new list.  I didn't say to myself, 'I'll worry about that tomorrow'.  I didn't put it off so I could get drunk instead.  I dealt with it in the here and now.

I've recreated the list as best I could.  It got much longer I fear so I haven't been as steadfast as I thought I'd been.  Right now I'm at 83 and I just remembered another shelf I didn't log yet.  Yikes!!  And I'm still looking for those 2 books that have been missing for over a year.  I really want to read those.  I always look at them while in the bookstore but I'm able to resist buying them because I really believe they'll show up sometime soon.  I think I'll put them on the list this time.  Now that I'm finally in the here and now, I bet they are too.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Swan House by Elizabeth Musser

The Swan House has a title and a cover that drew me in.  I imagined this story to be about an old, possibly deserted mansion with secrets to hide.  This book has plenty of secrets but none were about the house.  In fact the house really didn't have much to do with the story.  I felt the title was out of place.

The Swan House is a Christian fiction novel.  If I had known that I might never have bought it.  Not that I'm not a Christian, I am but it's not the kind of fiction I typically care to read.  And I'm not adverse to the message of the love of Jesus.  I love Jesus and have a deep and rewarding relationship with God.  The message doesn't appeal to me when delivered as fiction.  I have plenty of religious and spiritual books on my list that I want to read to learn and grow on my own personal path.

Mary Swan is a charming and talented 16 year old in the 1960's.  She loses her mother in a plane crash and finds herself as she searches to uncover her mother's secrets.  This novel is steeped in the racial discord of the era.  The author paints a picture of poverty, hate and the power of love.

The Swan House is well written.  It was too long however.  At least 100 pages could have been edited out.  I did finish it.  I'm not a quitter.  I might have skimmed a little bit toward the end.  I listened to the message and felt a little bit closer to God.  I rate this book a 3 out of 5.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Library without a Library Card

Richard smiled as he left the bookstore carrying a big bag of books.  He's planning a road trip so he wanted some guide books to study.

"I like going to the bookstore with you, Linda." He wrapped his arm around my waist.  "It's like having my own personal library."

"But when you check out the books you have to give them money instead of a library card."  I patted his bag as it swung by his side.  I made it out without a single new title that day.  My pride in my new found willpower overflowed.

"I think I'm turning into an addict like you." Richard announced.
Richard is not a book reader.  He has a very short attention span so magazines are more his style.  He loves having all my books around but he doesn't read any of them.  And he has a very compulsive personality.  Once he finds something he likes, it's all he can think about.  If he's turning into a book addict we might really be in trouble.

When we got home, he spent the rest of the afternoon pouring through his new books.

The next morning he announced, "I need you to go to the bookstore today and return my books."

"I'm not returning your books.  You bent the covers."  I was appalled at the thought of taking a book back to the store.

"But I'm done with them," he whined.

"But you used them.  You can't return them."  I've never returned a book in my life.  Once it's paid for it's for keeps.  I could probably have taken my dream trip around the world, first class if I'd returned all seventy six titles I have laying around.  It's one of those unwritten rules about books.  Once they're home, they stay home.

He backed down.  "I'll return them.  You drive me there."

"If I have to..." I responded.

At the store, Richard headed toward the cashier and I made a beeline to as far away from him as possible.  I didn't want anyone to associate me with a man who would return books.  I was certain the clerk would be able to see that the books had been used. I felt like I was in that Seinfeld episode when George took the book into the bathroom and the store wouldn't take it back.  They could tell where it had been.  I kept one ear listening in his direction just in case there was a scuffle.
I looked up to see Richard standing by my side.

"She didn't even question me.  Here's the receipt for the credit."  He handed me a crumpled up piece of paper.
I stuffed it in my purse.  "She just took them back?"

"See Linda, it is just like at the library. But without the library card."

Monday, May 31, 2010

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

To all my fellow wanna be writers.  Listen up.  You need to read this book.

At one time a few years ago when I was feeling especially down in the dumps about my writing career, my dear friend April suggested this book.  April does not happen to be a writer so I couldn't even begin to guess how this book appeared on her own personal radar screen.  I bought it and it sat on the shelf waiting for the perfect time to enter my life. 

Anne Lamott is funny, witty and boy, can she put the writing life into perspective!  And in a way I can understand.  She relates the trials and tribulations of being a writer to ordinary life.  She talks about her son and how to dig deep into your soul to capture the innocence of a child.  She wrote about the death of her father and how some people thought there was too much joy and laughter in her writing about that time in her life.  She wrote about her students and how young writers all believe publishing will lead them to a life of fame and fortune.   

Anne Lamott hit the nail on the head for me over and over and over again.  I know I'm not alone in my struggle to publish.  In her own silly and sarcastic voice she lays out a wonderful plan for a writing life.  I feel more energetic and on track than I have in ages, because Anne made me laugh and cry and feel life deep down in my soul.  Bird By Bird is a fun and entertaining read. 

I rate this book 5 out of 5 and it's staying on the shelf.  While reading it I often felt the need to highlight some of it.  Highlighting seriously goes against the grain of my rules on how to treat a book.  Just like bending page corners.  But Bird By Bird is going to be a wonderful reference book for me so I just might break down and put removable tabs on the important pages.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Hot Time at the Ol' Bookstore Tonight

"Hey, Linda.  Wanna go to the bookstore with me?"  Richard asked.
"You're asking me?  That's a switch." I answered.

Richard is not much of a book reader.  Magazines are more his style.  Short. Sweet. And to the point.  He knows how I love my books and I think he likes being around them too.  He just doesn't read them.
I love to have company on my treks to the store.  It keeps me from buying anything.  I'm a closet addict.  I don't want anyone to know.  I can act like it's no big deal while my insides are being ripped apart.  I can look and drool and look some more and never pick up a new title as long as I'm not alone.

"Show me that Chicken Soup book while we're there, OK?"

Not being a reader, Richard wasn't familiar with the Chicken Soup series.  One of my stories had recently been accepted by Chicken Soup for the Soul.  I was on cloud nine and Richard would be too once he held it in his hands for real.

Once in the store I went to the Chicken Soup section and picked a few titles that I thought would interest Richard.  I took them over to where he was sitting reading some interior design magazines.
"Wow.  I'm impressed," as he flipped through one of the books.  "Show me where these are."

We walked across the bookstore.  Chicken Soup titles had an entire shelf all to themselves.  Now he was really impressed.
"I'm proud of you," he said as he patted me on the back.  "Are you ready to go?"

We headed toward the front door.  "Whoa.  Wait a minute.  What's this?"  Richard made a sudden stop in a section labeled 'Sexuality'.  He pulled a book off the shelf titled 'How to Give Great Oral Sex'.
"You never told me they sold stuff like this here," his eyes glued to the pages of the book. It was a picture book.

"They have ten different versions of the Karma Sutra.  Which one do you want?" I asked.
"Karma Sutra.  That's old," he replied still never lifting his gaze from the page.

Finally he put the exotic book back in it's place.  "I'm done reading magazines.  I'm going to hang out here more often." He paused to see what else looked interesting.

"Good.  Now I don't have to be tempted by coming here alone."  I gave him a hug since my arms were empty.  "Let's go home."

"What are we going to do when we get there?" he asked with a wink and a twinkle in his eye.  "Read a book?"

"Let's go home and find out." I answered.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Sometimes a love story has the ability to touch my heart in a very special way.  Henry and Keiko did just that.

After Pearl Harbor, Henry who is Chinese meets Keiko of Japanese heritage while both are on scholarshipping (as Henry's father calls it) at an all white school.  Japanese families were being rounded up and set to internment camps.  Henry's father forced him to wear a button, 'I am Chinese' for protection.  Keiko's family accepts Henry for his kindness in their time of need.  Henry's father refuses to even speak to Henry after he discovers Henry is associating with a Japanese girl.  He is Chinese and hates what the Japanese have done to his beloved country.

The author does an excellent job of moving the story from 1942 to 1986 and back again.  Henry's wife has died and he struggles to find his place in life.  He can't let go of the thought of Keiko and a long lost record of their song.  Henry is guy who has lived in the same neighborhood all his life.  His friend Sheldon, has been his guide through life since Henry was ten.  Sheldon is able to die peacefully once Henry finds the long lost record that leads him to Keiko.

I love stories the evoke emotion.  Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is full of love, hate, and prejudice.  Henry and Keiko had a love that was able to stand the test of time against all odds.  What a wonderful story that left me with a warm and fuzzy feeling.

I rate this story 5 out of 5.  I loved it.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult is a very popular writer.  My niece will read only her novels.  I'd never read any of them and I figured I should give her a try.  Not knowing anything about her writing, I simply picked one.  The Tenth Circle.

I was surprised when I saw comic book pages scattered throughout.  What did I get myself into here?  Daniel Stone was the stay at home Dad slash comic book illustrator while Laura taught Dante at the local university.  Trixie, their daughter was a typical teenager experimenting with sex and alcohol.  I fully understand how a family can get caught up in a situation like this.  But the author took this family far beyond the extreme.  I could feel each characters pain and rage.  These were intelligent, educated  people.  Some of their actions were not believable.

The story was well written, interesting to read, a real page turner.  For me there were a few missing links.  We didn't know what Seth wanted to tell Laura until one sentence sneaked in the last ten pages.  I never got the connection of why Trixie went to Alaska and how her parents knew to follow her.  The whole premise of Daniel's upbringing in Alaska and why it changed him was vague.

I rate this book 3 out of 5.  I got it from Paperback Swap and fully intended to list it again until I realized this is an autographed copy.  I have a special section on my shelf for those volumes.  There The Tenth Circle will find its home.

The Bottom of the Barrel

Richard wanted to go to the bookstore yesterday.  He likes to sit and read the magazines.  Today however he wanted to look at travel books on Florida to plan a trip to see his favorite baseball team, the Tampa Bay Rays.  It took all of a nano second for me to say "Let's go.  I'll drive."

I know that I'm an easy target for marketers.  I want to buy every get rich quick system and amazing time saving cooker I see on television.  I have over time learned to show some restraint.  Same is true for the bookstore.  I'm learning how to show some restraint.

I decided that I should look at the books on the bottom shelf.  I never seem to browse below eye level for my reading treasures.  I know I'm the marketers dream.  There must be something down there worth reading that I've missed.  I crouched down.  No covers here grab me.  I moved to another shelf.

John Steinbeck.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  He's my favorite.  The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden, Of Mice and Men.  All favorites.  All classics.  I didn't need to buy them though.  I have them already.  His son did write a book recently.  That might be worth reading but it wasn't on the shelf.  I moved along.

Carl Hiassen.  His titles filled an entire shelf.  He's the master of character development.  His stories are funny and quirky and I love to write in a similar sarcastic fashion.  But I'm not much of a serial reader.  I've read a few.  That's enough for me for now.

What did I learn about the bottom shelf?  Unless you're an author who's been around the block a few times, it's a curse.  If you're established with a following, readers will come looking for you regardless of where you are.  But I think I'll spend more time at the bottom shelf.  As a writer I should aspire to be on the bottom shelf.  There's alot of good company down there.  And for the record.  I left the store empty handed.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

My heart be still.  Oh, Edgar.  When I first opened this book, I had no idea where this story would take me.  Yes, I'd heard about the dogs and a mute boy.  I looked at the 560 page novel and wondered how far an author could go with that as his premise.  He can go practically to the moon and back again and never once lose his grip on the reader.

This is a beautifully written, emotional tale full of love, evil and a splash of fantasy.  I love books that tap into my emotions, that make me think and feel.  I smelled the barn and felt the lick of the dogs on my face.  Edgar's pain as he tried to save his father tore at my heart.  I hiked through the woods beside him with wet clothes clinging to my body.  I was hungry when Edgar broke into cabins to find food after days without anything to eat.

The one very big unanswered question for me in the book was Claude.  Why did he feel the need to have this poison?  Why did he have to kill Gar?  The only insight we had into that was Trudy saying she never knew what came between her husband and his brother.  Claude went halfway around the world to get the poison but he didn't use it for close to thirty years.

I rate The Story of Edgar Sawtelle a 4 out of 5.  It's a wonderfully written story that grabs a reader by the heart and never lets go.  I was left with a broken heart, but I felt unsatisfied at the end.  That's the only thing keeping this book from my perfect rating.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Breakthrough of Sorts

To my followers it may appear that I've been reading at a frenetic pace lately.  Well maybe I have.  That list seems oh so long and frankly I'm a person who likes to finish things.  Lately I've discovered too many unfinished projects on my desk.  I feel buried when that happens.  I don't like feeling buried.

I've had several breakthroughs of sorts in the past couple weeks.  A friend mentioned that she kept a list of books she wanted to read in her purse.  When she was ready to get a new book, she knew exactly what to buy.  I've now done the same.  I started a list of books that call to me while I'm in the bookstore.  They'll still be there the next time I visit and might even be in paperback by then.  This method seems to have taken the urgency out of buying a book when I see it.  I've been to several bookstores since I started doing this and have been able to resist by just by jotting down a note.

I've also been looking for new avenues to recycle the books that I want to pass along.  I love to give books to people who don't have the resources to have new books.  Sure there is always the library but there is something about reading a book that has been read with love and comes with a built in recommendation.  And sometimes it's about having something to read be accessible, within reach like already being on the living room shelf.  I send books to my niece, my step-daughter, a high school teacher who keeps a library in her classroom.  Now I'm adding our troops to my list.  There are several organizations online that need volunteers to send books and supplies to soldiers overseas.  I'm signing up.

The real breakthrough is that when I find a good book, I fall in love with it.  As a writer I want to write like that.  As a reader I want to laugh, cry, get mad and feel emotion.  That's what makes a good book.  It will be something totally different for you.  What you love, I may think is tasteless.  What I love, you may think is boring.  No matter what, it made both of us think.  That's the beauty of the written word.  

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Your Life is Your Message by Eknath Easwaran

I purchased this book several years ago after my yoga teacher began reading passages from it.  I left it on the shelf too long.

The knowledge of how to live a more peaceful and fulfilling life is jam packed into this little book.  The author tells many anecdotes about his own experiences and shows us how to live with love, peace and harmony.  He also shows us how to leave the world a better place than when we found it.  We are all one.

You may think that this book is slanted to one particular religion.  It is not.  The author encompasses many practices and religions throughout the book.  I learned so much about my own spiritual path as I read this.  Your life truly is your message.

I rate this book 5 out of 5 for all of you that are searching for meaning in your life.  This is a wonderful place to find peace, love and guidance.  It's a reference book I will go back to again and again. A special place on my bookshelf has already been reserved for it.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Art of Racing In The Rain by Garth Stein

Dog lovers!  Listen up!  Move over Marley.  Here comes Enzo.  Enzo melted my heart on page one.

The Art of Racing in the Rain is told through the eyes of Enzo, the mixed breed mutt loved by Denny Swift.  He was loved by Eve, Denny's wife and again by Zoe their daughter when she arrived on the scene.  Denny loved cars and racing.  He and Enzo would watch races on TV.  Enzo had quite the repertoire of television shows since Denny left the TV on for him during the day.  He observed and made notes of all his human's actions and emotions.

He tries to comfort Eve through her illness and play gently with Zoe.  He hates Eve's parents, the Evil Twins.  Enzo knew exactly how to get under their skin at just the right moment.  The night he ate a pepper just to aggravate Maxwell was priceless.  They tried to rip Denny's family apart.

I cried the night Eve dressed up in a ball gown to celebrate her final day of life.  I felt joy for Enzo and Denny as they raced at full speed around an empty track.  I hated Trish and Maxwell for their selfish acts against Denny.  Whatever Enzo felt, I felt.

This is a wonderful story and expertly written through the eyes of a dog.  For all of us with dogs who wonder what they're thinking, this book explains it.  I rate this book 5 out of 5.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

This book has been sitting peacefully on the shelf for a couple years.  I really wasn't aware of its importance as a literary classic.  Florida, hurricane and love story was all I needed to take it home.  Lately it's been sitting on the coffee table as decoration.  That's how pretty the cover is.  I kept thinking it had been there long enough but never picked it up.  About a week ago Ginger decided she wasn't getting enough attention.  She climbed on the table and nabbed the book.   I guess she thought it had been there long enough too.  The beautiful cover now has more than a few teeth marks but I retrieved it before she started ripping out pages.

The dialect in The Help was flat and not real.  I felt the dialect in Same Kind of Different As Me was very good and believable.  It was only used in the chapters that were written in Denver's voice so it worked well.  In Their Eyes Were Watching God the dialect is perfection.  It's written so that I can hear the characters talking to me.  The only problem is there is so much dialog the book is very difficult to read.  It bogs down the story line.

As for the story line, there wasn't much of one.  Life in Florida in the early twentieth century was rough.  Janie's life in Eatonville was comfortable compared to others.  She was looking for love.  I don't believe she ever found it.  Tea Cake was no prize, always playing tricks on her and gambling with her money.  Nothing really unexpected or exciting happened until the last 40 pages.  Up until then she combed her hair and worked in her husband's store.  Then they were uprooted by a hurricane, Tea Cake was bitten by a rabid dog, they walked to Palm Beach and back again, and moved back into a cabin that miraculously hadn't washed away.  Janie killed Tea Cake, was put on trial, acquitted and moved back to Orlando to her home she'd left behind years ago.  All in the blink of an eye.

At the end was some information on the life of Zora Neale Hurston.  What I read in those few paragraphs made for far more interesting reading about her life that all of Their Eyes Were Watching God.  I rate this book 2 out of 5.  I'll pass it along to someone who won't mind the teeth marks.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

How Can I Dig Out from Under?

I keep a log of the unread books, carefully highlighting and logging in review dates of those I finally got around to reading.   I've read twelve books since the beginning of the year.  Only twelve!

The list is still long and daunting.  Yes, I can do the math. Seventy-six minus twelve leaves sixty-four.  It's really more than that though.  Remember when I did all that purging of stuff?  I found more books to read.  I know you're all sick of hearing about the trips I make to bookstores.  Sometimes I leave empty handed.  Sometimes I don't.  And then there's those two books that I'd really like to read yet they've been missing since the move to our new home more than a year ago.   I have been able to resist the temptation to purchase them again, confident they'll soon turn up.  

I know I have some heavy duty, long and fat books coming up such as World Without End, David Copperfield, The Tenth Circle and Honolulu.  Plus I'm intermittently reading a book on how to deal with headaches which may be related to my vertigo.  I beginning to wonder if I will ever dig out from under and get a new Kindle.

I tried to think of ways to speed things up.  First is giving up when the book doesn't hook me right off the bat.  I can't do that. At least not yet.  I might miss something, like the key to my finding my own writing success.  Second, I can outright stop visiting any store that sells books.  That would rule out Walmart.  How would I eat?   Wait!  I've got the answer.  Cliff Notes!!  Do you think I can buy Cliff Notes for The Street Lawyer by John Grisham?  Doubtful.  But maybe I've found my niche.  I'll write the slimmed down version of all those New York Times Bestsellers that we can never find the time to finish.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Belong To Me by Marisa de los Santos

I picked this book from the shelf since it had been sitting there for quite some time.  I'd bought it more that a year ago during a buying spree at the book store.  Those cute rubber boots on the cover drew me in.  Early on I began to enjoy Cornelia and Teo and their move from the city to suburbia.  Once I reached about page 200, I began to wonder what all the characters had to do with one another.  I thought that halfway through the book I should have a few more missing links.  The characters were all so different from the perky Cornelia and her gorgeous doctor husband, Teo.  The precise and proper Piper is not likeable at all even as she cares for her dying friend, Elizabeth.  And Dev.  Dev is a charming and intelligent fourteen year old who melted the hearts of all who met him because of his wit and wisdom far beyond his years.  His mother, Lake holds the biggest secret of all.

The author dropped the bomb so to speak at precisely the right moment to hook me for good.  I gasped when I read it.  I cried when Cornelia and Teo at the same exact moment came to the same conclusion.  I decided that Piper wasn't a bad person after all when she became true to herself and her family for the first time in her life.  And Dev.  Dev found a family who loved him and he loved back.  They all discovered they did belong to each other.

As a writer I believe that Belong To Me is a shining example of 'show don't tell' every writer's manta.  The pacing and timing was perfect.  It's a wonderfully crafted story that will make you laugh, cry and beg for more.  I rate this book 5 out of 5 and I'm going to keep this book on the shelf for a little while as a reference.  I loved Belong To Me.  You will too.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Confessions Abound

I have to say the 12 step program just isn't working for me.  It has prompted me to do some soul searching however.  What am I really searching for in my life?  Do I want to rid myself of books?  No.  I love books. Do I want to be able to resist them?  Yes.  Am I searching for an answer to other addictions in my life?  Probably.

I ended up in the bookstore last week.  I added four new books to my list.  My shelves never seem to get any lighter even though I'm reading and reviewing at a fast pace.  I bought a book on addiction cures for atheists.  I want to see if that can shed any additional light on my dilemma.    

My sister wants me to take all my unread books to the library without reading them and be done with them.  I could start fresh.  Tempting.  I'm afraid at this point in time I may not be able to check them out of the library.  I'll go back to the bookstore and hand over the credit card for a whole new set of unread books.

A good friend wants me to stop suffering through all these bad books for the sake of reading something good and worthwhile.  How will I know it's good by looking at the cover?  So far I haven't been very successful at that.  Something that I like, the next guy may detest and vice versa.  What are the qualities of a good book?  What skills do I need to learn to pick the 'good' book out of the crowd every time?

Maybe that's what I'm looking for, a good book so that I can write my own good book and people will be dying to buy it.  Maybe all this is being driven by my dream to be a successful writer.  It's a dream so vivid that I can't shake it off.  I'm going to find the answer.  I know I am.  It's in my dreams.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

The Waverleys are a curious family in a small town.  They all have special gifts and a special garden with a magical apple tree.  Claire and Sydney are different yet so alike as sisters, but only after Sydney returns home to escape a violent relationship do they finally get to understand one another.

Garden Spells is full of the smells, tastes and emotions of their lives.  The author's ability to make the senses come alive to the reader is superb.  Her prose is special.  But I did find myself wanting the story to end.  It was inevitable that Claire and Sydney would find true love, and that Sydney's violent past would return to try and ruin it.  I kept waiting for it to happen.  When it did it lasted for about 3 pages and the highly descriptive prose fell by the wayside.  I had to reread it to understand what really happened.  Claire and Sydney's love lives where firmly in place so the violent boyfriend scene had no impact to the story.

I am a huge fan of Ms. Allen's second novel, The Sugar Queen.  It sits on my shelf since I dream of writing a magical, mystical story someday.  Garden Spells started out as a keeper but ended in disappointment.  I rate it 4 out of 5.  I'm going to post it on Paperback Swap for someone else to enjoy.

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