Thursday, September 30, 2010

Coffee and Fate - R.J. Erbacher

To start this review, I'll play the game my son loves to play. What had visions of future events, knowing that you were supposed to stop them from happening? You could see the long-term effect of the event, and how it impacted the world as we know it. Would you try to step in and change fate?

What had the unique gift of being able to move objects. You could prevent someone from jumping to their death, prevent someone from being shot, or just move that box of truffles within arm's reach so you didn't have to get up. Would you use that power to step in and change fate?

Heavy questions, these. Ones that I'm not sure I could answer. If you've watched enough movies and read enough books, you just know that messing with fate is dangerous.

The two characters in the book Coffee and Fate can't avoid these questions though. An elderly white widower (Bud) and a young black college girl (Val) have these "powers". Bud has a vision involving Val, and intervenes before she takes one small action that could ruin the rest of her life (and possibly change the course of humanity). Wayward, misunderstood souls, they forge an immediate and strong friendship. Together they face a number of mind-screwing choices that have impacts on their own lives and the lives of others. And yes, these two do love a good cuppa, hence the title.

I'm not sure if I can adequately summarize my thoughts on this novel, I have such mixed emotions. How could a book with just a little over a hundred pages render ME speechless? Anyway, a few words come to mind, so let me try that. Intriguing. Page-turning. Controversial. Outlandish. Sick. Creepy. Theological.

The prose flowed and was very easy to read. The characters were likable, and the unlikely friendship was...sweet. For awhile. Then it started to creep me out just a little bit. Then it creeped me out alot. I admired Erbacher's lack of predictability and convention (it is always good when I find myself screaming "WHAT?" at the top of my lungs). And he certainly made me sit and ponder the implications of fate. But can I say with a high degree of assurance that you would like it? No - there are landmines in there that could blow your leg off, or at least alienate you. If you make it through the mine field without losing a limb, you may just laugh nervously and say "Wow, that was different. Kind of a rush. I'm glad I did that. I think."

This book is not for everyone, but if you are looking for something a little off the beaten path, and can allow believability to slide for a few hours, you need to read this book.

I would like to thank the author for sending me a copy of his book.

4 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: San Francisco #3

Coit Tower, San Francisco. For more Wordless Wednesdays, click here.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A SIBA Recap: Literary Hedonism

As some of you know, I attended the SIBA (Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance) conference this past weekend. This was my very first literary event, so bear with me if I seem like a loopy, giddy teenager. Before I forget all of the details (as my brain is wont to do these days) I want to share with you some of the highlights.

Because of family obligations (football game!), I was not able to attend the entire convention, which ran from Friday to Sunday. Instead, I drove up to Daytona on late Saturday afternoon and stayed through until Sunday afternoon. The exhibits were just closing down when I arrived, so I chased down my buddies Heather (Raging Bibliomania) and Kathy (Bermudaonion) for some drinks and dinner. Heather lives in Orlando, and I had met her before (you can't find a nicer, sweeter person), but I'd never met Kathy before. This was a huge highlight for me, because she and I have been online friends for a long time, and I think very highly of her. We didn't miss a was like we had known each other in real life for years. By the way, she is just as special in reality as you would imagine her to be. We met up with Natalie (Coffee and a Book Chick) and her husband for drinks before they headed back to their home in Jacksonville, then headed out for a chatty dinner.

On our way to dinner, we ran into Rebecca (Book Lady's Blog), Susan Gregg Gilmore (author of "The Improper Life of Bezillia Grove"), Jim Minick (author of "The Blueberry Years") and Lisa Patton (author of "Whistlin' Dixie in a Nor'easter"). They were on the way out for putt-putt and hot dogs, and were definitely a group ready for fun. A flurry of hugs and business cards and pictures were exchanged.

Left to right: Me (with football game hair), Kathy, Susan, Lisa, Heather and Jim. Rebecca is taking the picture.

The next morning, we met early and headed off to the exhibits. I've never been to BEA, but based on what I've heard, that event is HUGE and pretty crowded. This was not really the case with SIBA. There were about a hundred exhibitors, which is plenty but not overwhelming, and included big guys like Hachette, HarperCollins, Random House and Penguin. There were also small publishers and vendors selling bookmarks, reading glasses, and jewelry. There were several authors present for book signings as well. I was easily able to make my way through most of the tables and talk to anyone I wished. There were very few lines and you could literally chat up a kindred soul for 20 minutes if you wanted to.

In three hours, I accumulated over 60 books (see my top picture). I had to make multiple trips to my car, and I think I threw my back out of joint. It was being like a kid in a candy store!!! I was trying hard not to be a pig, but everything sounded appealing. I'd love to tell you absolutely everything I got, but that would get tedious I'm afraid. But a few highlights were: Hachette's one and only copy of the newest Cornelia Funke novel "Reckless", Algonquin's one and only copy of "The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating" by Elisabeth Tova Bailey, and a copy of "The Knife of Never Letting Go" that I found hiding behind other books. (I felt like I'd found a buried treasure.) But that was before lunch...more excitement was in store there.

The big hoorah of the conference was "The Moveable Feast", a lunch event that you had to purchase a ticket to attend (Kathy my hero got me one before they sold out). One of twenty authors sat at each table, and while we were all eating, they would have about 15 minutes to talk about their newest book and answer questions, then they would move on to the next table. Each table was able to visit with six authors. After that, we all moved to a different room for a book signing of any of the featured authors' newest releases. Just about more than a little blogger can handle, right?

Heather and I were at the same table and had a great group of authors. We heard from A. Manette Ansay (Vinegar Hill, Good Things I Wish), Lou Dischler (My Only Sunshine), Mark Mustian (The Gendarme), J.S. Chancellor (Guardians of Legend Trilogy), Jim Minick (The Blueberry Years) and T. Marie Benchley (Once Wicked Always Dead). Folks, this was fascinating stuff! These wonderful authors poured out their hearts, thought processes, frustrations, muses and inspirations, plans for the future, and personal lives for us, despite the fact that they had to be exhausted and sick of talking. I fell in love a little bit with each one of them - it was very intimate. Can I just say that I found Mark Mustian one of the most humble, endearing men I have ever met? I wanted to pack him up in my trunk and take him home. I would have loved to have heard from Michael Koryta (author of So Cold the River, who now has a new book coming out called The Cypress House) and Karen White (author of a million books, including On Folly Beach). But never fear, I got signed books!

At the end of the day, I got a huge number of signed books. In my top picture, my "signed" stack is on the left. Once I have gently read these and reviewed them, they will be donated for auction for our annual Adult Literacy League silent auction next year. I fear they will regret ever asking me to help them!!!

So that was my 24 hours worth of SIBA. A whirlwind for me, that left me high as a kite, dazed and exhausted. And determined, NO MATTER WHAT, to attend next year in Charleston. Heather and I are road-trippin' baby. I want to give a shout out, from the bottom of my heart, the organizer and general diva of this conference, Wanda Jewell, who makes it all happen. If you are even remotely interested in attending, please contact me and I will convince you this is where you need to be! You can go with Heather, Kathy and I, and participate in the literary hedonism with us!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Monday Movie Meme - Stolen Goods

A few weeks ago, we covered all the great prison movies. This week on the Monday Movie Meme, the Bumbles have asked us about our favorite movies that cover the other side of the coin...the heists and caper flicks that have you rooting for the bad guys. This one took a bit of thinking for me, but once I started unearthing them, I found a gold mine!

1. Fantastic Mr. Fox - the biggest mistake you can make would be to discount this movie as something for the kiddies. Yes, kids will love the film, but there is so much cleverness and wit here you will lose yourself in it and will want to watch it multiple times. Although Mr. Fox is attempting to live a clean life, he cannot deny his instincts, and begins to steal chickens from the ruthless, big-money neighboring farms. It takes a whole village of varmints to get Mr. Fox out of hot water. Good for more than a few belly laughs.

2. Dog Day Afternoon - I am cheating because the Bumbles listed this one, but I'm not physically capable of leaving this movie off the list. There is something so endearing about a young Al Pacino robbing a bank in order to raise money for his boyfriend's sex change. This is some of Al's best work I think.

3. Sexy Beast - Not sure if I have ever had the opportunity to talk about this movie before, but it resides in the permanent Nawrot collection and is pulled out at least annually. A retired mobster is convinced to perform "one last job" by a particularly violent and sadistic Ben Kingsley, and it all goes to hell really really fast. Sound unrealistic to root for a miscreant to rip off a major bank in London? Believe it or not, but this guy is actually the best of the bunch, and you really just hope he can get out of this alive. The film is deliciously dark and disturbing...guaranteed to reside in your subconscious for a few days after you've watched it.

4. Run Lola Run - you will need a seatbelt to watch this one. It is fast and crazy and fun. Lola is required to raise a large sum of money in a short amount of time in order to save her boyfriend from a nasty fate. The twist is that the film explores the role of fate and all the "what ifs" depending on the decisions that she makes. You will be rooting for Lola to succeed, despite the fact that her boyfriend is an idiot. You'll also love her red hair!

5. Reservoir Dogs - A diamond heist and a loaded cast of characters? What's not to love? I can't guarantee that you will wish any of these guys well...they are all pretty loathsome. What I can guarantee is that you will never be able to listen to Steeler's Wheel "Stuck in the Middle With You" and not think of one of the most violent scenes I've ever witnessed on screen. It is something you have to watch at least once.

I know you guys have some good ones for this category. What are your favorites?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday Salon: Bookish Overload

A late Saturday night hello to you all! I'm going to be a bustling little blogger tomorrow morning, so I am going to share my week with you a little early. You know my week isn't complete if I don't do the download of all the excitement and drudgery of my life.

My first bit of news is that I met with my newly-created Heathrow Literary Society on Tuesday. The first person to walk into the meeting was my dear friend, golfing buddy and biggest fan Jean. This was a good start! The second person to walk in was a frowning, curt and slightly bossy woman who was very demanding of information and your basic nightmare. Luckily, what we had to offer did not suit her needs (!?) thank the Lord. In all, we had seven very eager people, all passionate about reading (there was an iPad, a Kindle, and lots of lists!), jump in and make quick decisions about our next few months. I was shocked at how easy it was. Everyone went around the room and offered suggestions for reading selections, and we then voted on what would be our first three reads. The first selection will be Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving, the second will be Ape House by Sara Gruen, and the third will be The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. I'm VERY excited about this group's potential.

Things then took a back seat for a few days because my daughter had a pre-cancerous mole removed from her back. The scar was fairly large and it caused her alot of pain, so I was in high-maintenance mommy mode. My daughter doesn't "do" pain very well.

After Saturday sports, I jumped in my car and raced up to Daytona, where this year's SIBA (Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance) conference. This is my first "event" and I was so excited to meet other book bloggers, authors and publicists. I was not able to see any of the exhibits because I arrived fairly late in the day, but I did have drinks with Natalie from Coffee and a Book Chick (and her adorable husband), Kathy from Bermudaonion and Heather from Raging Bibliomania. Here we are in our chatty glory...sorry for the dim lighting.

We also ran into Rebecca (Book Lady's Blog) with several authors, who were all on their way out to play some putt putt at one of Florida's finest displays of tourist attractions. It sounded like fun, but Kathy, Heather and I decided to grab a meal at a restaurant down the street and yack our heads off. I swear, my jaw was hurting afterwards. Tomorrow I will hit the exhibition and see how many books I can load into my car and bring back to my insufficient and collapsing bookshelves. I will provide you with a proper update later!

On the reading end of my life, there sadly was very little. I think the kids and I managed to listen to one disc of Mockingjay this week (oh, if we could ever just finish this thing). I finished The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks on audio, and was stunned into awed silence. I can't wait to talk about this book next week at book club. I also listened to China Mieville's The City and the City, which was incredibly clever. Really, how is it possible that a human mind could come up with such a thing??? I have started Jon Stewart's America, and let me just say that if you listen to this audio, please be sure you don't do it with a full bladder because you will pee from laughing.

As for printed books, I am still reading Peyton Place. I think I'm going on two weeks with this book. I love it, it is highly entertaining. I just have had no time to sit down and enjoy it. Maybe this week I can finish it...

So now I'm off to bed, with visions of books and authors and publicists dancing in my head. Hope you all have a wonderful Sunday!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Magical Dining and Pig Tails

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.


September is an exciting month in the town of Orlando for foodies. For a couple of years now, our fair city has boosted the local economy by celebrating Magical Dining Month. (Yes, everything in this town is "magical" thanks to Disney.) Diners may choose from a list of over 60 upscale restaurants and order from a three-course menu for $30 per person. Now I'm not talking Applebee's here. Some of these restaurants are ones we only frequent when we are on a business tab, so this is a fantastic deal.

Last weekend my husband and I dined Magically with friends at a restaurant called Oceannaire, known obviously for their seafood. In the past, we have walked out of this place with a tab somewhere around $100 per person (or more with wine). This time, we brought our own wine, schmoozed our server by offering him samples of our juice, and did not get charged a corkage fee. The courses were full-sized, and we had to be rolled out at the end of the evening.

Last night we decided to be Magical again, and went to one of the most popular joints in town, The Ravenous Pig. We brought wine with us this time too, but unfortunately our butt-kissing didn't work with the server...we were charged $15 for corkage. We both had salads, Gruyere biscuits, I had a flatiron steak with truffle fries, my husband had a ragu, and the best part of the meal? Pig tails!

Basically, this is fried dough coated with sugar, with chocolate dipping sauce. Life is good.

Friday, September 24, 2010

In the Woods - Tana French

Tana French is a goddess. Not just any goddess, but the Goddess of Mystery. That fact became clear to me early in my audio experience with The Likeness, which redefined the meaning of the clever mystery, deep characterization, and living a story. Never mind that I read The Likeness out of order. Normally that would annoy me, but French writes her sequels so that you can easily pick up any of her three novels without worrying you missed out on something. This is what it is all about people...a mystery that sets your mind afire.

Twelve year-old Adam Ryan and his two best friends wander out in the woods near their neighborhood to play, but only Adam comes back, catatonic and covered in blood. The other two children are never found, and Adam has never remembered what happened. Twenty years later, Adam has changed his name to Rob, and has become a police officer. With the assistance of Cassie Maddox (our protagonist from The Likeness), Rob is assigned to a case involving a twelve-year-old girl murdered in the same woods from his youth. Who would wish harm on the innocent ballet prodigy, and does it have any connection to the disappearance of Ryan's friends?

I can give you some assurances when it comes to French's stories. They are seriously multi-dimensional. Like every proper mystery, this one has a tragic murder surrounded by suspicious characters. There are the archaeologists that discovered the dead girl within their dig. There is the girl's family who are all slightly "off". A stranger in a track suit seen lurking around the neighborhood. The politicians who want to build a highway through the woods and are willing to destroy (kill?) anyone who gets in their way. All have a complicated story, all have dirty secrets.

But you are getting a whole lot more for your literary dollar here. French also deftly builds the delightful relationship between Ryan and Maddox. The chemistry was incredible...two people who knew each other's demons, sparred like brother and sister, and finished each other's sentences. I can't recall too many other duos that clicked into place quite as well as these two. Of course, my dirty-minded friends, we can guess exactly what path all of this is going to travel.

Another facet of the story is Ryan's debilitating journey into the past. As he pokes around in the shadows of his mind, looking at evidence two decades old, and having chilling flashbacks, the trauma of his youth threatens to destroy him and his career. In so many ways, French's characters are in the woods. It is a perfect analogy.

This mystery is riveting from the beginning to the end. My mind never once strayed, the pacing was spot on, I did not want it to end. I've read many reviews that have been less than favorable about the ending of the book, however. (My mom and a friend of mine share this attitude.) If you want a neat resolution, with answers to every question, you will not find it here. The answers you do receive may be unsettling. I have no issue with this. Life is messy, and when I read a mystery that ignores this fact, and wraps it all up like a Scooby Doo installment, I get testy.

Instead, I turned the last page of this book wanting more. So I turned to the audio of Faithful Place. Stay tuned for more drooling.

5 out of 5 stars

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand - Helen Simonson (Audio)

Major Pettigrew is a 68 year-old widower living in a small village in England who just lost his younger brother to an unexpected demise, making him take stock in his life. He is a proper, distinguished man who is set in his ways, loves his routine golf game, and is just a tad bit lonely. He finds himself attracted to the 58 year-old widow Mrs. Ali, a Pakistani woman who runs the local shop. In the past, he may have restrained from a relationship not deemed "proper" by the townsfolk because of Mrs. Ali's social status and the color of her skin, but the Major is beginning to see the merit of seizing the day.

The trouble is that the Major is surrounded by the prejudiced, judgemental, greedy, self-absorbed, materialistic members of his community. Ones that whisper behind his back about his relationship with Mrs. Ali. Ones that thrive on waving around the prestige of a country club membership, or an annual gala. His family isn't any better. His adult son is a spoiled, immature brat, and his brother's widow just wants to get her hands on the family guns to sell to the highest bidder. Throughout the story, one has to wonder when the mild-mannered Major is going to blow.

It is refreshing to read a story about finding love in the golden years of life, all the while gently nudging the conscience about issues of religion, class and race and the hypocrisy in a small town. The message could have come across as preachy, but instead was subtle and sweet, with a dose of endearing British wit. As a result, just about every review I've read has showered love and kisses on the book.

My experience was not so grand. For some reason, while I recognized the dearness of the story, I wanted to cry from boredom. The narrator, Peter Altschuler, had a wonderful voice with a lilting British accent. So it really wasn't his problem. Perhaps there wasn't enough action, maybe too much dialogue, or I was distracted, but I was PRAYING for it all to end. Would it translate better in print? Maybe, although Jen loved the audio. Chalk it up to misaligned moons I suppose.

2.5 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: San Francisco #2

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco. For more Wordless Wednesdays, click here.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Prince of Mist - Carlos Ruiz Zafon (Audio)

Recently, I loaned my review of "Shadow of the Wind" by Carlos Ruiz Zafon to Trisha at Eclectic/Eccentric as a filler while she was on vacation. I giggled when she titled the post "Carlos and Sandy Sitting in a Tree". Well, yeah, who wouldn't want to sit in a tree and kiss the man who birthed the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, the evil Fumero, creates tangible atmosphere at the wave of his pen, and who writes and performs the music on his audio books?

So in keeping with my love affair with Zafon, my heart went pitter-pat when I saw that he was launching a new YA book called The Prince of Mist early this summer. I got it on audio, squeaked a little bit more when I saw the narrator was the dreamy Jonathan Davis (narrator for Shadow of the Wind) and decided it would be a good story to listen to with the kids.

The premise has Zafon written all over it. A boy on the edge of adulthood, Max, moves to the seaside with his family to escape the effects of WWII. He and his older sister Alicia befriend a local boy, and the three of them dip their toe into adulthood while exploring decades-old secrets that surround the town. A clock that moves backwards. A cat with a bad attitude. An overgrown garden full of menacing statues that seem to move when you turn your head. A lighthouse. A sunken ship. And a legend of a sinister character by the name of Doctor Cain who appears in the form of a demented clown, and makes deals that you can't refuse but come at a high price.

Yeah, right? I can almost hear what you are thinking. I think Zafon had his checklist of all spooky things in life EVER, and with this story, crossed them all off in the process of writing it. This story should have worked, but to an adult listener, it just didn't. To me, it seemed like a caricature, like a scary story I would make up off-the-cuff around the campfire to creep out my kids. It seemed contrived.

The plot also seemed very underdeveloped. I know it is Young Adult, but that is no excuse in my mind. There were traces of the writer that created Shadow of the Wind and The Angel's Game, but I was left wishing there had been more substance. Only after we'd finished the audio did I find out that this was actually Zafon's FIRST novel, and has been re-released by a new publisher. Obviously Zafon's writing has come a long way.

A word about the audio production. I have mentioned before that Jonathan Davis is a fine narrator, and he was up to par with The Prince of Mist. He displayed none of his acumen at accents, but he was still very easy on the ears. The audio had an enormous amount of sound effects...the crashing sea, a film projector, eerie music. There were sounds accompanying the narration at least half the time, maybe more. I found this to be distracting. The kids LOVED it.

In fact, the kids loved everything about this book. They would probably be very upset if they read this review. The story does contain some kissing, and someone does die, but at 10 and 12, my kids didn't find anything disturbing. Just deliciously spooky. There seems to be a small opening for a sequel at the end. The kids and I agreed this story would be better left alone.

My rating: 3 out of 5
My kids' rating: 4.5 out of 5

Monday, September 20, 2010

Monday Movie Meme - They've Fallen and They Can't Get Up!!!

Within the last three weeks, both of our beloved Bumbles have turned 40 (Happy Birthday Molly and Andy!). Welcome to middle age! As they face the second half of their lives, they thought it might be fun to talk about movies that focus on aging or being elderly this week. Make sure you check out their post...they have listed some goodies...On Golden Pond, Grumpy Old Men, Driving Miss Daisy. Here are a few that I enjoy:

1. The Bucket List - this movie was a topic of discussion just last week between me and my BFF, and it has one of the best lines ever. "Never trust a fart". Truer words have never been spoken!

2. Cocoon - officially Cocoon isn't about aging, but cheating the aging process, but once you've seen this movie, it is hard to forget the image of a group of guys in their 70's and 80's frolicking around like teenagers. 117 minutes of pure delight!

3. Ikiru - I've mentioned this one before because it is an undiscovered treasure. An grumpy, elderly man discovers he has terminal cancer and decides to take stock in his life, change his ways and leave a legacy. I didn't expect to be so moved.

4. The Straight Story - I talk about this one now and again as well, because it is just so darned wonderful. A determined elderly man decides he isn't getting any younger and wants to make amends with his brother. So he rigs up his John Deere mower and travels across several states, making friends and making a difference in people's lives along the way.

5. A Christmas Carol - To me, this is just another way to tell the same story told in Ikiru: Change your curmudgeonish ways before it is too late!

6. Orphan - I'm not going to explain this one, because it would be a spoiler. But this terrifying movie does have something to do with the aging process, and scares the pee out of you along the way.

So what are your favorite old-person movies? Funny, when I was a kid, I thought 44 was ancient. The definition of old keeps changing, doesn't it?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday Salon: The Longest Week of the Year?

Best of times, worst of times. That seems to sum up the past week. One one hand, it was BBAW week, and it is always a blast and a half. Interviews, book recommendations, awards, and a general love fest is what makes this week so memorable. I think it is just what the doctor ordered for anyone who needs a little boost, including myself. I predictably fall into a vat of malaise right after school starts, as I leave behind my days of sleeping in and a slower pace. BBAW gives me a little kick in the tuckus and reminds me why I love blogging.

We wrapped up the week with a special "That's How I Blog" on BlogTalk Radio with Nicole, Amy and several bloggers, including moi. This was the first time I'd ever been on Nicole's show and was just a wee bit nervous. The glass of Pinot my husband poured for me helped a little. My daughter was having a sleepover, so to avoid the squealing and giggling and bad music and chatter, I had to hide outside in the backyard to talk.

So that was all good. On the downside, my mom's first surgery on her detached retina didn't work, so she had to have a more invasive procedure that brings more pain and a longer convalescence. She's hanging out at home now, bored out of her mind, and waiting to see how much of her vision she will recover. I also caught some wicked ugly bacterial infection on Monday, and was praying for death for a day or two. People, I don't have time to be sick! But glass half full...I kicked it to the curb and by Thursday I was enjoying my first golf outing of the season with my league.

Yesterday was one of the crazier Saturdays in recent history. A basketball game (a win!), a football game (a win!), last minute purchase of gift cards for (count them) three birthday parties in the next week, church, drop a kid off at a birthday party, and....ahhh! A dinner out with adult friends with lots of wine. A nice way to end the day.

On the reading front? Pretty pathetic. I wasn't moving around much for a few days, so I got nothing done. I did finally finish "Innocent Until Interrogated", which was actually pretty mind-blowing after a slow start, in a true-story, head-shaking kind of way. I then picked up "Peyton Place", which is my next special project with James of Ready When You Are, C.B.. I haven't gotten too far though, and pray my dear reading buddy doesn't get bored with his sluggish friend.

As for audios, the kids and I SLOWLY make our way through "Mockingjay"...we're at disc 6 out of 10. It is still feeling slow plotwise. Is it me? I also am pretty deep into the audio of "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" for book club this month, and I am LOVING it. What a fascinating story, and one that really makes my blood boil!

I'm totally jacked for next week. I have my first Literary Society meeting on Tuesday, where we will select our first book and sort of figure things out. Then on Saturday, after the kids' sports are finished, I'm motoring on over to Daytona Beach for the last half of Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) trade show where I will join Heather from Raging Bibliomania and Kathy from Bermudaonion and who knows who else. This will be my first official book event, and I'm buzzing like a 3-year-old on Christmas Eve. If any of you are attending SIBA as well, let me know!

What are you all doing today? Right now, I've got plans to do some walking, to catch up on last week's sloth, and maybe meandering over the nail place to get a pedi. And make a dent on Peyton Place. Hope you all have a wonderful, relaxing day!

Friday, September 17, 2010

BBAW Friday Topic - Future Treasures

After all the hours of planning our BBAW team spent for 2010, it is amazing how quickly it all goes by. And it has been so much fun. I want to express my heartfelt appreciation for all those that worked behind the scenes to make all of this happen. BBAW is an amazing community builder.

So what were the highlights? I think top highlight HAS to be meeting new bloggers. Even through the interview swap, I met Gayle, whose reputation as a first-class blogger preceded itself. I added more new blogs to my reader. I added more books to my TBR list, some of which I want to read NOW, but realistically might get to in a year or two.

I was pleased to be awarded the Best Audiobook Blog. I will proudly display my badge, even though I had no competition this year. I know a few of you out there that publish excellent audio reviews, and my wish is that you would please give me some company on those longlists next year. The best news of all is that audio books are beginning to make an impact on the literary scene, and more people are trying them and loving them. (For an excellent audio book primer, you definitely need to read Beth Fish's post on the BBAW website yesterday!)

And what of the upcoming year? What are my goals? Call me an underachiever, but I think my biggest goal is just to maintain my pace. I have been fighting something...writer's block? Burnout? And I need to make sure that I don't let it get the best of me. I love blogging and I love reading. The key is to find balance.

Another key for me will be challenge management. I get excited at the beginning of the calendar year and sign up for things that sound fun, then find myself feeling resentful because I can't read what I want. Which is ridiculous, but I like finishing what I start, even if it is just a personal commitment. Many bloggers declared 2010 a year of reading deliberately, which I think is a fine idea, and may adopt this mantra for 2011.

Of course, I will continue to adore my audio books, I will continue to nurture my new interest in graphic novels, and I would like to dip my toe into historical fiction. Just a toe. I will be soliciting recommendations when that time comes!

So until next year! It's been great!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Jenners and Sandy cook up a great American novel

Hello and welcome to the "Cooking the Books" show, where you, too, can learn to create amazing literary works of art! Today, your hosts Jenners and Sandy will be demonstrating their culinary prowess by preparing a most complicated dish, but one well worth the effort, and is sure to impress your friends.

Recipe for Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

1 cup of Greece
2 cups of Detroit
1/2 cup of San Francisco
1/4 cup of Berlin

Mix thoroughly in a bowl and set aside.

Obtain a new copy of Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews. Carefully remove the evil grandmother and spooky old house and delicately extract the incest story line. Place the story line on a greased 13x9 baking pan.

In a food processor, grind one U.S. history textbook, one genetics textbooks, and The Greek-Turkish War by Stravos T. Stravidis into fine powder. Sprinkle over the incest story line removed from Flowers in Attic.

Using a mandolin, slice the chrome from vintage Cadillacs into small cubes and mix with the hair of Howard Stern and three silkworms. Drizzle with the sweat gathered from the locker room of a girl's boarding school and the tears of immigrants. Then blend in a dollop of your choice (depending on your tastes) of tragedies of the ancient Greeks and 3 ounces of moonshine delivered by rum runners during the Prohibition. Fold gently into the bowl containing Greece, Detroit, San Francisco and Berlin.

Let the bowl sit for three generations. It will rise into a dough that has the scent of crocuses and the glimmering fish scales of a mermaid. Roll out the dough on a floured work surface and place the textbook-covered incest story line into the center of the dough. Roll the dough into an architectural shape that is pleasing to the eye but unfit for everyday life.

Melt the family scenes from My Big Fat Greek Wedding and brush onto the outside of the dough.

Bake for for as long as it takes you to listen to "Dude Looks Like A Lady" by Aerosmith, "The Immigrant Song" by Led Zeppelin, and "Pink Cadillac" by Aretha Franklin or until golden brown. Garnish with a Pulitzer Prize.

Yields: 544 pages or 17 discs of pure literary delight!

Notes from Chef Jenners: This wasn't my first recipe by Eugenides; I sampled his Virgin Suicides Family Platter a few years ago and found it not to be to my taste. But this recipe!!!! Mamma Mia ... what a wonderful glorious meal it is. Never before have I tasted a Prefetal Omniscient Narrator ... such a delight! And the Let's Progress Time Through A Series of Snapshot Phrases was succulent and tender. I'll definitely be sampling more of what Eugenides cooks up for us to enjoy. Bon Appétit!

Notes from Chef Sandy: If you would like to prepare the audio version of this recipe, you mustn't be intimidated. Simply add a new pair of tennis shoes, an MP3 player, and the voice of Kristoffer Tabori (who I believe was put on this earth solely for the purpose of this recipe variation) to the initial Greece/Detroit/San Francisco/Berlin mixture and blend well. Serve with a bottle of vintage 2003 Audie Award. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

BBAW Wednesday Topic - Unexpected Treasure

Welcome to Day 3 of BBAW 2010. Today's topic relates to Unexpected Treasures. We have been invited to share a book or genre we tried due to the influence of another blogger. What made us cave in a try something new and what was the experience like?

This one is easy for me. This year was the year of the Graphic Novel. Now first, let me clarify that I am aware this is not a genre per se, but was a type of book I'd never tried before in my life. Why was that? I guess I may have been intimidated, or thought it would be like those comic books I read as a kid, I don't know. But then I witnessed several of my favorite bloggers (Nymeth, Jackie, Gavin, Beth) review some incredible-looking graphic novels throughout 2009, and I became determined that I was going to join a 2010 challenge and DO IT.

I signed up to read three books for the challenge, but I didn't stop there. I just kept going, reading a total of 7 so far, and I will continue to do so. It makes me wonder what else I am missing!

Wordless Wednesday: San Francisco #1

Lombard Street, San Francisco. For more Wordless Wednesdays, click here.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

BBAW Interview Swap with Gayle @ Everyday I Write the Book

Welcome to Day 2 of BBAW, the Interview Swap! I was lucky enough to draw the name of Gayle from Everyday I Write the Book. Gayle has been blogging since 2006. She lives in Washington DC with her husband and twin six-year old girls. She's a DC native (one of the few and proud) and loves living in such a beautiful and livable city. She was a lawyer in a former life, but now serves as the Vice President of Social Media Communications for Discovery Communications in Silver Spring, where she oversees social media communications and strategy for Discovery's networks. In addition to reading, she loves her dog, watching TV, pop culture in general, and social media.

1. My first question is a silly one, but one I have to get off my chest. So are you a fan of Elvis Costello? Because each time I log onto your blog, the song pops into my head and won’t leave. (I happen to be a big fan of Elvis.)

I am a fervent 80s music fan. When I was trying to settle on a name for my blog back in 2006, I wanted to incorporate my love for 80s music, and Everyday I Write The Book seemed to fit the bill. It doesn't make any sense, of course, since I don't write books, but it's memorable. I do love the song as well. It reminds me of college, and it's a very intelligent and witty song. I love that it gets into people's heads when they read my blog. The only downside is that if you Google my blog name, you get a lot of results that have nothing to do with me. Also, it's a little long, which was fine before Twitter came along.

2. I see that you have been blogging for four years, which is like 30 years in regular life, isn’t it? That is amazing. It seems like these days, everyone has a blog, but four years ago, it was still a fairly novel idea. What originally inspired you to start a book blog?

Yes, I know - I am a blog veteran. There weren't that many book blogs around back in 2006. The community has really exploded in the last two years. I started working in social media back in 2006, and as I started reading more blogs, I knew I wanted to write one. Books was a natural topic, as I'd been an active reader and had collected book reviews for years. Once I got into my head that I wanted to start the blog, I was hooked. I also write a daily blog about my kids, and I co-write the Discovery corporate blog. Blogging is a natural fit for me - I love it.

3. I’ve only been blogging a little under two years, but I can feel myself having some internal issues that might be writer’s block, or maybe burnout. With four years under your belt, can you offer the rest of us some words of wisdom? How you do find the balance, and keep the spirit of blogging fresh and new?

Burnout is tough. I don't blog every day - I just don't have the time - so I haven't made that daily commitment that is often so hard to keep up. I have two thoughts on this. First, blogging should be fun, and the minute it isn't, it turns into a chore. If you aren't having fun, take a few days off. Don't feel pressure to post every day, or to stick to a schedule or a weekly meme. If you need to take a break, take a break. Your readers won't go anywhere. And second, don't feel that you have write about a particular topic, or participate in challenges or memes. Only do so if it''s what you actually want to be writing about. Sometimes, when I have writer's block, I just ask myself, "What is on my mind? What's the biggest challenge I am facing today?" and then I write about that. When I find myself staring at a blank screen or procrastinating, then I know that I am writing the wrong post.

4. What are some of your passions outside of blogging?

My kids. Social media in general - I have been Internet-obsessed for years, and I run social media communications for Discovery, so I am immersed in it all the time. Reading (duh). Pop culture and television.

5. What is the best book you’ve read this year? OK, you can list two or three if you must!

The best book I've read this year wasn't published this year - it's Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri. I suspect that So Much For That by Lionel Shriver, which I just finished last night, will rank pretty high on my list of best books of 2010.

6. OK, here is my last question, and is one that I always like to end interviews with. If I could ask you to tell us one surprising fact about yourself, what would it be?

I am so not surprised by myself anymore. Hmm - would have to go with - I love to gamble, and I love Las Vegas, and go there at least once every year or two.

Thanks so much Gayle! Each and every one of us has a story, and that is the beauty of the interview swap...we get to meet the person behind the blog. Hop on over to Every Day I Write the Book to see the other side of the Gayle/Sandy swap!

Monday, September 13, 2010

BBAW Monday Topic - First Treasure

Welcome everyone to the start of the 2010 Book Blogger Appreciation Week! Each day this week, we will be given a topic to discuss, all dealing with various treasures we have discovered in our lives as book bloggers.

Today, we have been asked to talk about a great new book blog we have discovered since (or because of) BBAW last year.

I doubt that any of you will be shocked when I say that after BBAW last year (my first year), the number of blogs in my blogroll EXPLODED. I went from a handful of favorite blogs to well over a hundred, and created a bit of an issue with time management in my life! There are two blogs that I started following, though, that have become highlights in my day:

Find Your Next Book Here - I'm probably not telling you anything new here, but Jenners is one of a kind. As far as her reading tastes, she is all over the place...children's literature, non-fiction, literary fiction, mystery, you name it. And she is FUNNY has hell. Killer sense of humor. I was pretty excited to collaborate with her on a little project that we shall publish this Thursday. You won't want to miss that.

Books I Done Read - Raych is another one of those bloggers that I was probably the last to discover. I first got a taste of her crazy, manic, pee-your-pants insanity when she wrote a recap of the year for BBAW 2009. I thought to myself "who IS this girl?". I checked out her blog and I saw that this was not a one-time deal. She always has this level of energy and wit. It almost makes me dizzy reading her posts, but I always come back for more.

OK, I know I was only supposed to list one blog, but this is my house, and I make up the rules.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday Salon: A Slight Bit of Chaos

Well, there is always just a little bit of chaos in the Nawrot household, granted. That is what keeps us young and energized. But this week contained maybe just a little too much, and left me wanting to curl up in the fetal position under a piece of furniture and sleep. Some weeks are like this, and it is just best to move on.

We had a busy Labor Day weekend. My husband and I went golfing on Sunday afternoon and left the kids with my parents. We were gone for what? Four hours? Enough time for all hell to break loose at home with my daughter, The Hormonal One That Is Getting Too Big For Her Britches. I won't go into the details, but I've been told I won't get her back until she is 25. Give me some Red Bull, I'm going to need some extra energy I think. And some Prozac. We did manage to have a nice barbecue on Monday without tears or fights.

Alot of running around on Tuesday...both kids had dentist appointments, practices, and homework until 9:30pm. But hey! There was a light at the end of the tunnel, because my husband and I were headed for Chicago on Wednesday morning for 3 days. Woo hoo! Eating and drinking and book shopping! We had a great room with a beautiful view of the Magnificent Mile and the lake, weather in the '60's, and life was grand!

My husband had some meetings on Wednesday afternoon, so opened the door to the balcony, and had myself a little bloggiesta. I wrote three reviews, and did some posts for BBAW next week. (Next week!? How did that happen?)

The next day, while my husband was at meetings, I had made plans to meet Jen (Devourer of Books) at a small indie bookshop named The Book Cellar in Lincoln Square. I am still intimidated with the transit system in Chicago, so I took a cab, and Jen drove into the city with Daniel. The plan was some vigorous book shopping then lunch.

About 2 minutes before Jen arrived, I got a phone call from my mom that she had just been to the eye doctor, and had been diagnosed with a detached retina. She needed to go back to Indiana for surgery immediately and we needed to come back home NOW. (There was also some controversy as to whether she could even stand to wait until she got to IN before she went blind, as she had had some symptoms for a couple of weeks. Lots of angst and frantic texting.) Obviously I was completely rattled. I called my husband and told him to work on flights. In the meantime, I was going to try to make the most of my time with Jen and Daniel. I ended up having to leave before lunch in order to make our plane in time, but it was so nice to meet another blogger, and what might possibly be the sweetest little boy on earth.

Daniel displayed his prowess at "if you're happy and you know it clap your hands", and navigating the stroller through the aisles of books. I really just wanted to eat him up.

Jen walked away with one book, and of course I couldn't decide so I bought four:

"Human Bobby" - Gabe Rotter (cause Michele @ Reader's Respite said I had to)
"Manhood for Amateurs" - Michael Chabon
"The Slap" - Christos Tsiolkas
"Elegy for April" - Benjamin Black

I felt bad that Jen had come all that way to turn around and leave, but I had to high-tail it back to the hotel to pack and run to the airport.

(Update: My mom and dad are back home and mom will be having surgery tomorrow.)

The remainder of my week was filled with kids' sports, birthday parties, wrapping up a few odds and ends for my parents. And alot of wine.

And some reading. Ahhhhh! I'm still working through "Innocent Until Interrogated", a true crime book that I won from Jen. It took me three days to read 35 pages, but on my trip I was able to put a dent in it, and should be finishing it in a couple of days. The kids and I are on Disc 4 of Mockingjay, and I just wrapped up "Faithful Place" by Tana French on audio. Are we allowed to throw panties at narrators? Because if we are, then this Tim Gerard Reynolds is going to get it. I don't think he has narrated many audios, but he is rocking my world big time.

And next week is BBAW! Let the fun begin, and watch my Google Reader explode. We've been provided with topics for daily posts, there will be giveaways, and awards. Interview swaps are on Tuesday, and I will be talking with Gayle @ Everyday I Write the Book and vice versa. On Thursday, Jenners and I will be sharing a tasty little treat with you as well.

On that note, I will sign off for now. I wish you all a nice relaxing Sunday filled with peace and serenity!