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.  

City of Thieves by David Benioff

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