Thursday, March 31, 2011

This is Where I Leave You - Jonathan Tropper

This book and I have a little history. I had it on my must list ever since Entertainment Weekly rated it as one of the top reads of 2009. Then lo and behold, I won a SIGNED copy from Sheri at A Novel Menagerie! But then there the book sat for months and months and months, and I felt compelled to donate it to our Adult Literacy League silent auction last spring. Then I had donation regret and bought it back. (I'm one sick puppy I know.) And thanks to the delightful TBR Dare this year, I plucked it right of the shelf and finally gave it the attention it deserved. And of course I loved it. This seems to be the way it works.

Synopsis: Judd Foxman has just caught his beloved wife in the marriage bed with his boss, which ended with a destroyed marriage, a lost job and testicle flambe. (Don't ask.) The icing on the cake is a phone call from his mother, informing him that his atheist father has passed, and his dying wish was that the family sit Shiva for him. Or in other words, Judd has to spend a week with a family he cannot stand for even an hour.

Thus begins the ultimate experience in dysfunction...his elderly mother who has a curious relationship with the widow neighbor, a brother who holds a grudge over a childhood accident, the sister-in-law who is trying to conceive and can't, a sister with two loud children and a workaholic self-absorbed husband, and the deadbeat brother who brings along a much older girlfriend. There are Nosy Parker's trying to fix up Judd, the widower who tries to cop a feel from Judd's mom, the old girlfriends, the old high school buddies...all encroach to contribute to a living, breathing anxiety attack waiting to happen.

Charmingly though, as these exercises in chaos are wont to do, olive branches are extended, enlightenment occurs, and the book, for all its laugh-out-loud insanity, becomes heart-warming and good for what ails you. It is the kind of family dysfunction that seems almost a nice change of pace.

My thoughts: Despite all the hype and the potential for bloated expectations, this book was more fun than should be legal. I think I read 85% of it with a bit shit-eating grin on my face. I don't know what Tropper is like in person, but his prose is wicked sarcastic, self-deprecating, rapid-fire and raunchy, with a comedic flair that had me bust out laughing on nearly every page. But just to show that he is a multi-layered kinda guy with a heart, he also delves into complicated family dynamics, the pain of loss, and the importance of forgiveness.

And for once, I am ahead of the game, because I believe the movie is in the making as we speak, with Tropper penning the screenplay. IMDb lists it as a 2011 release, but it doesn't appear anyone has been cast, so hopefully it won't fall prey to budget cuts. I'm slightly optimistic with Tropper in charge of script, but I feel the movie could be trouble because...

...messed up family get-togethers have been the subject of countless books and movies, and frankly, most of them flop for me. I see them and inwardly groan "not another one". (Funny because I was reading this at the same time as The Weird Sisters, another messed up family get-together! I started to get them confused!) What makes this one any different from the throngs of the mediocre? Without a doubt, it is Tropper's writing. Books aren't normally so "on", but this one was, and propelled me through it in a couple of days. No easy feat.

So just read it. You won't be disappointed.

5 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Florida Keys #8

Our plentiful catch, transformed into three different flavors of heaven by a local restaurant. For more Wordless Wednesdays, click here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

You Know When the Men Are Gone - Siobhan Fallon (Audio)

My family is not one of military stock. None of my relatives are veterans, and none of them are in Iraq. But we have a close friend who fought in Vietnam, and I fully appreciate the level of commitment and sacrifice required of our brave men and women who fight for our country.

When I heard about this collection of short stories written by first-time novelist Siobhan Fallon, I knew it was something I had to experience. Not only were the reviews excellent across the board, I felt it was my duty as an American to better understand the prices paid by our soldiers, their wives and families. Because Fallon is one of these wives, I knew I'd be getting the goods directly from the source.

Synopsis: In a series of loosely connected stories, all taking place in Fort Hood Texas, we are powerfully immersed into the lives of families that have dedicated themselves to the Iraqi war. One wife, newly married and without children, watches with horror as her Serbian war bride neighbor battles loneliness to the detriment of her young twins. Another wife suspects her overseas husband of adultery, but struggles with how she should deal with it. A soldier, wounded with a Purple Heart, returns home to a young wife he no longer knows. Another wife must deal with the death of her hero husband. Battling breast cancer, a wife and mother must bridge the gap with her estranged and angry teenage daughter, knowing that her husband, preoccupied with war concerns, will provide no support.

My thoughts: While all of these stories may sound like doom and gloom, each story has shards of hope embedded within. A whisper of a promise that there is light at the end of the tunnel. As a result, the topics were grave but it never felt too much to bear. It was almost enlightening in a way.

Yet Fallon does not sugar-coat the issues that plague our military families. War kills, year-long separations are isolating, wives raise children on their own, and must rely on other wives for support. Doubts creep in, perspectives change, and the transition from the constant threat of death to civilian triviality is a difficult one.

This perspective was introduced to us in the Oscar-winning movie The Hurt Locker. These stories take it a step further, putting us not only in the heads of our soldiers, but the women who stay back home and wait for them.

Emotionally charged, heart-breaking and realistic with rich, fluid prose, this is one every American should read.

A word about the audio production: I nearly giggled out loud when I saw that this audio was narrated by the incredible Cassandra Campbell. She is one of the prominent narrators in the business, my favorites being The School of Essential Ingredients and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. If you see her name on an audio, you are assured an amazing listening experience.

4.5 out of 5 stars

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday Movie Meme - Movie Madness

Molly and Andy Bumble are nothing if not avid sports fans, and who can deny the insanity of March Madness? Especially this season, with all number one seeded teams out of the tournament, and seemingly sure winners fouling with one second on the clock. Sheesh, I've never seen anything quite like it. ANYWAY, in honor of March Madness, the Bumbles have decided to talk about madness in the movies. This could be anything ranging from stone cold psychotics to silly madcap stuff. Surprisingly (ha) I'm going for the hard cord folks. Might I just add that Molly already took my favorite movie in her examples, The Shining. Boo! 1. Batman: The Dark Knight - chills just ran down my spine when I saw Heath Ledger's rendition of The Joker. It just doesn't get any crazier than this, and it makes me sad to think of all this young man could have accomplished had he lived. 2. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - this is my answer to having The Shining stolen from me! You have not lived until you've seen this movie. It is Nicholson at his absolute best, but the whole cast is just pure fun (except for Nurse Rached, who you love to hate). 3. Repulsion - this movie is definitely getting some serious plugs from me lately. It is an older movie that was recently remastered, and is akin to watching a thirty-car pileup in slow motion. Catherine Deneuve plays one seriously messed up chick. 4. Pi - brought to you from the same fellow who messed with your head in Black Swan and Requiem for a Dream. Our protagonist (and unreliable narrator) thinks that everything in life can be linked to mathematics, and specifically pi. It is a head trip to live in this guy's head for an hour and a half. 5. Donnie Darko - this is one of those times when you have to love the psycho. I mean, how can you dislike a kid who is as cute as little Jake Gyllenhaal and has visions of a giant, walking talking (and slightly sinister) bunny rabbit? Either way, it is totally worth watching just to hear Mad World at the end. 6. Fatal Attraction - and today's lesson for all you ladies men? DON'T CHEAT, lest you bed someone like this. Lesson two...lock up your rabbits and your kids. This one was fun huh? I'm not sure what it says about my movie tastes when insanity is an easy one for me to discuss. So let's have it! Who are your favorite crazies?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sunday Salon: Rufus the Wonder Pig

Good morning all! Excellent news on the pig front. After nearly three weeks of medications and hand-feeding, and a few days away from making that fateful trip to the vet, the Miracle Pig meandered out of his igloo and began munching on hay and kibble. I nearly fell out of my chair. Now I realize that he could regress, but right now, he seems determined to live. This is the best news we could have ever had. Yay pig! My heart is happy.

But as a result from all the pig-nursing, I didn't venture too far from home. I cleaned the house, cleaned the pool, worked out, went to an ALL meeting, aaaand that was about it.

In my head, though, I am ramping up for a few big events coming in the next handful of weeks. First, the Adult Literacy League Reading Between the Wines silent auction (featuring Carl Hiaasen!) is coming April 6th. Hey ho! Come one, come all, there are still tickets left. Come see me at the book table! Right after that comes the Dewey 24-hour Readathon, which I am SO EXCITED about. I have a huge stack of books set aside for this, even though I know I'll be lucky to get through two or three. I'm not sure yet if my daughter will be participating with me or not...depends on homework, she tells me. A week later comes the UCF Book Festival, which looks like it is going to be loads of fun, will feature over 50 authors, and will have six author forums throughout the day. I've been invited to the author reception on the evening prior, as well. I'm going to be a blogging fool in the month of April!

As far as reading anything in print, I've been a big old slug. I did finish one book this week called "XVI", a young adult book that seems strangely like Lauren Oliver's Delirium (only not as good IMHO). I just started Lisa Black's "Trail of Blood", a book featured at the UCF Book Festival. I am also grotesquely behind in writing reviews. My goal is to be caught up with everything by the Readathon.

On audio, though, I sorta rocked. Something about spending four plus hours on the kitchen floor with a pig and a syringe! I got all the way through "Heart-Shaped Box" by Joe Hill, completed "Oogy" by Larry Levin, and am about 3/4 of the way through Joe Hill's "Horns". I'm very much enjoying what Hill has to offer. His brand of literature seems to be what I've been needing (sick and twisted stuff, in other words).

As of this past Friday, we are officially on spring break. Nothing planned really, but now that piggy is eating on his own we have a little more flexibility. Perhaps a day trip to the beach, a pop-in to Universal, school projects (thanks teachers), and maybe a movie or two. On the kids' wish list are Sucker Punch, Adjustment Bureau, Source Code, and Insidious (yes, they inherited my love of horror). And maybe maybe I will get some reading done! I'm thinking happy thoughts!

What are all of you up to today? Are any of you on your break? Reading anything compelling?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Spotlight on the UCF Book Festival: The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove - Susan Gregg Gilmore

The second book I'm highlighting for the UCF Book Festival is one that I originally picked up at SIBA, where I also was lucky enough to meet the author, Susan Gregg Gilmore. Susan was not only drop-dead gorgeous, but the epitome of graciousness and friendliness, and incredibly easy to talk to. I'm hoping we will get to cross paths at the Book Festival next month!


Rich and saddled with the baggage of an generations-old family name, Bezellia is not living the life that society would think. With a father who works at the hospital more than he is home, and a mother who cares more about her standing in society and her gin and tonics than her kids, Bezellia and her younger sister are raised by their black servants. They grow to fear their mother's drunken temper, and breathe a sigh of relief when she is ushered off for "vacations". As a result, Bezellia learns to fend for herself and is forced to accept adult responsibilities long before she should.

We follow Bezellia as she grows up in the South in the '60's, from her first kiss, to a summer love, to the love of her life who happens to have the wrong color skin. She encounters racism in her home, in the community, and throughout her young adulthood, which is confusing and frustrating since her servants are the closest family she has. In college, she is exposed to feminism and equal rights, and she grows to be a flawed but empowered woman that you can't help but love.

While this is a coming-of-age tale, Southern style, Gilmore gives it to us straight and unadorned. She not only captures the sticky, humid feel of the deep south, the euphoria and confusion of young love, but the hatred and turmoil of the era, and all characters, black and white, are flawed and human.

My thoughts: I really had no expectations going into this novel, except that it was Southern fiction. Imagine my surprise and delight when I read it in record Sandy-time, which was about two days. I couldn't put it down, the writing was so compelling. It swept me up in it's depth of emotion, it's serious historical value, and it's charm.

I've seen some criticism for the character of Bezellia, accusing her of being an unrelatable character. I really don't get this at all. I think Gilmore nailed her as a plucky, teenage girl who grew up wanting love, wanting to please her parents, wanting independence. She was no puritan either - she was curious about boys and she experimented. She made mistakes, her relationships were complicated, and she didn't necessarily ride off into the sunset to live happily ever after. All of this was refreshing as hell.

I also appreciated the historical references...Martin Luther King Jr., Vietnam, an impassioned speech by Gloria Steinem, and even Loretta Lynn singing out of a garage studio in her early years, all seen through Bezellia's eyes. It makes the story relevant and helps us better understand the environment that influenced our heroine.

Although this book could be considered Young Adult (although I'm not sure if it has been officially categorized as such), I would suggest some caution for young teens as there are some sex scenes, though not graphic.

Bottom line - read it. Now.

5 out of 5 stars

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Gods Behaving Badly - Marie Phillips (Audio)

Many bloggers have reviewed this little piece of work, and have claimed it to be a fun, bawdy romp. I've had it on my iPod for ages, and pulled it out when bawdy was what the doctor ordered, after plagues and parentless children.

But call it a mood, call it lost humor, call it just bitchiness, but I don't think this book accomplished its goals on me. I'll get into it in a minute, but first let me try to explain what we have going on here.

Synopsis: It is modern day, and the Gods of ye olde Greece are no longer considered viable. They have lost their power and prestige, and have sunk to all-time lows. Aphrodite works as a phone sex provider, Dionysus runs a bar, Artemis lives in sweat pants and walks her dogs all day, Zeus has dementia, and Apollo is just bored and wants nookie all the time (and when he is turned down, his victims are converted into trees and such). They are self-absorbed, they fight amongst themselves, and none are very likable.

Enter Alice, a beautiful but quiet housecleaner who is hired by the Gods to clean their pigsty of a house in London. Apollo wants her, she doesn't reciprocate, and, well, it just goes south from there, literally. Alice's boyfriend and Artemis conspire to one-up Apollo's power-hungry selfish actions by taking a journey to the underworld, and also at the same time, save the world from total destruction.

And if that doesn't make much sense to you, don't worry. I don't think there is any sense to be had in there anywhere. Trust me when I say that I've boiled it down the best I can.

My thoughts: You know the games that you play where you have a group of people, and one person starts a story with a sentence or two? Then the next person adds a sentence or two, and so on? Nobody really knows where the story is going to end up, and it goes in crazy, illogical directions? That is what we have here. It really felt like the author was taking plot suggestions from a group of her tipsy, fun-loving friends at a drink fest, and throwing it all in there for good measure. I daren't even call it a plot, but the THREAD was just a nose hair away from insane.

It was certainly bawdy. Lots of sex between these Gods, lots of drinking, lots of language...hedonism at its best. I did get a few chuckles at the absurdity.

And I'm sure the ultimate intent of this book WAS absurdity. But in the state of mind I was in (not bad really, just busy), it all came across to me as ridiculous. I nearly stopped listening after a couple of discs, but persevered and had an easier time with it the last half of the book. I did appreciate a few moments of levity where we witness selfless romantic love and grief, and I did learn a few (skewed) basics about the Greek Gods.

Let's put it this way...I have the same feeling about Nacho Libre when my family decides to watch that movie. A couple glasses of wine, and I can tolerate it - I might even laugh. Stone sober, it seems like a waste of my time, and I ponder the lows at which we stoop to find entertainment. (I promise, I really do have a good sense of humor usually.)

Many have loved this book in the way that it tickled their funny bone, but I feel compelled to be honest with you. If you are in a goofy mood, go for it. If not, you might want to pass.

A word about the audio production: Our narrator for this book was Rosalyn Landor, who has a rather impressive track record for audio books. Never Let Me Go, Madame Tussaud, The Historian, as well as a whole string of Lisa Kleypas novels. Her vocalization was just fine, but it wasn't enough to make me love this story.

2 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Florida Keys #7

A tribute to all that lost their lives in the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane. For more Wordless Wednesdays, click here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague - Geraldine Brooks (Audio)

Are you intrigued with plagues? I am and always have been. It seems a morbid interest, and it makes me question my moral compass, still I am just filled with so many questions. Is this the hand of God? Why does the plague strike down entire families, but ignore their neighbors? How awful would it be to tuck your little ones in bed at night, knowing there wasn't a darned thing you could do to protect them?

When author and journalist Geraldine Brooks was traveling through the English countryside, she came across the small Derbyshire village of Eyam that, in 1665, self-imposed a quarantine to prevent the spread of the Black Plague from its inhabitants to nearby communities. Brooks couldn't get the story out of her head, and decided to make it a work of fiction firmly grounded by substantial historical fact.

Synopsis: Through the eyes of Anna Frith, a poor young widow with two small children, we are introduced to the small English town of Eyam in the year 1665. Anna works for the town rectory as a housekeeper, and details the lives of the local miners, the town healer, the drunks, her close friends, and her love for her sons. When a traveler rents a room from Anna, it seems to be a blessing for the extra income and the male influence for her boys. When he suddenly becomes ill with a fever and blisters, and quickly dies, an evil is unleashed on the town. Soon the sickness spreads to many in the town, and the town rector asks the townspeople to willingly quarantine themselves to protect the disease from spreading beyond the town limits.

From there, and over the next 14 months, we witness the shocking effects of isolation and fear on it's inhabitants. The healers are blamed for witchcraft and a mob mentality takes over. There is thievery, drunkenness, self-flagellation, suicide, and madness. At the same time, others step up to selflessly care for the ailing, take in orphaned children and bury the dead, relying on their faith to pull them through.

Once the plague has run its course, however, Anna must undergo even further tests of her strength and determination to survive...tests she never imagined she would have to face, but ultimately she is left with that the year was not only nightmarish, but filled with blessings and wonder.

My thoughts: I've heard of this book before, but I sat up and took notice when Jackie (Farm Lane Books) raved about it. Jackie is not one to go on about just any book, and while she warned of its intensity, I felt pretty sure I would like it.

The book certainly grabbed me from the very beginning, it wrapped its hands around my heart and squeezed...hard. The fear and despair experienced by these people couldn't have been more real and more devastating to me personally. I felt I was there, afraid to open my eyes and witness the next death. I was exhausted from nursing the sick, and trying to keep up with the work that was performed by 3/4 of the townspeople who are no longer alive. The characters were flawed and real, the scenarios completely believable. It was a pure study of humanity at its worst and best.

The prose is written in a formal English (I'm sorry, there is probably a name for it) that sounds appropriate for that period, but it wasn't hard to understand. The fact that this was generally a true story makes this book a solid entry in the historical fiction genre.

Did I have any complaints? As Jackie stated in her review, the ending went slightly off-course and was tied up a little too neatly, and I would agree that this was somewhat disconcerting, after all that horridness. Still, it was a nice contrast and prevented the book from finishing me off and sending me into a total depression. It was a nice little ray of hope.

A word about the audio production: Our narrator for this book was Josephine Bailey, a new-to-me voice. She has got an impressive resume, such as Pride and Prejudice (not the one I listened to unfortunately!), The Woman in White, Atonement, and The Secret Garden. She has a beautiful, melodic British accent, reminding me of a smoother Davina Porter. She was a pleasure to listen to.

4.5 out of 5 stars

Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday Movie Meme - For the Foodies

Last week, the Bumbles asked us about books featured in movies, and despite the fact that I am a BOOK BLOG and READ UNTIL MY BRAINS COME out, I had a hard time coming up with clever ideas. Imagine my excitement when I saw that the topic for this week was food in movies, my other passion. Molly Bumble actually writes and edits restaurant reviews for an online publication, Uptake, so she is a professional foodie and has some great offers this week. I had no issues coming up with a bunch in just a few minutes. Here they are:

1. Babette's Feast - this movie is beginning to become a regular on here, in competition with Jaws and The Shining! If you love to cook, this is one you have to watch. It is a Danish film that won Best Foreign Language Film in 1987, about a refugee who seeks sanctuary by staying with two spinsters as their cook. When she wins the lottery, she uses her winnings to cook a feast for the small village's inhabitants, and effectively breaks down walls and inhibitions.

2. Waitress - totally precious movie about a pregnant waitress in a loveless relationship who bakes incredible pies for a diner with hopes of a better life. her pies all have clever names, crafted and inspired by the woman's mood (like "I don't want to have Earl's baby pie").

3. Julie and Julia - I'd be surprised if this movie doesn't end up on everyone's list. Julia Child is my hero.

4. Ratatouille - not a big fan of rats, but I'd have this one over any evening. Very cute film about a gourmet chef rat and a human protege who is trying to make it in the business.

5. Food Inc. - It simply isn't possible to watch this movie and look at your food the same. Explores agribusiness, the treatment of animals, and farming as a corporation. Fascinating (and scary) stuff.

6. Like Water for Chocolate - the story of a Mexican woman who uses her cooking skills to affect and control the people around her. This movie almost watches like a fairy tale, with lots of magical realism and humor.

So let me have it! Which foodie movies are your favorites??

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday Salon:

It's Sunday again, and I'm back! Barely! In past weeks, you know that I usually meet myself coming and going. Not so this week. I can boil it down to just a couple activities. Taking piggy to the vet, and feeding piggy. It became my mission this week to keep my sweet little pet alive, so I ran him to the vet to get fluids, and to get various tests and procedures. And I hand-fed him every four hours. We've explored every possible reason why he is not eating, and haven't gotten real positive answers. The vet recommended one more week on antibiotics, then she started blurting out phrases like "quality of life" and "should have bounced back by now". So I guess we will see. This whole scenario is not cool with me, but may need to make some tough calls. *gloom*

We did also have relatives in town, I did my normal yard/house/pool stuff, attended a fundraising luncheon for a community that houses adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, went to a friend's Pampered Chef party, and went to our last football game of the spring season! But all of this took a backseat to my piggy.

Because I have been spending most of my day pig-nursing, most of my blogging time has been consumed. I now am six reviews in arrears, and am behind on printed books I should be reading. And I was almost completely absent with my comments this week...I am sorry! I will be back someday I promise.

So what of reading? Well, on the bright side, I've been spending some serious time with my headphones in my ears, and was able to complete an 18-disc audio, "The Distant Hours" almost entirely in one week. I've now started Joe Hill's "Heart-Shaped Box", which is really seriously creepy!

I struggled with print however. I did just finish "Amaryillis in Blueberry", a book club pick that I THOUGHT was for April, but actually was for May. I'm so dense sometimes, I think my brain resides in my butt sometimes. This book was a real struggle for me. I think it was a really good book with great writing, but it failed to engage me. I was so relieved to finally finish it after two weeks of slogging. Now I am working on books for the UCF Book Festival and fearing that I might not finish them in time...perhaps I will just have to spotlight them with the publisher's synopsis. It's going to come down to the wire!

I am planning on participating in Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon on April 9th. This should help me a little I hope. Not only do I have books to read for the Book Festival, but I also have a pile of review copies and stuff that have been patiently waiting for April 1st to come and the TBR Dare to be over. I've decided that this time around, I'm going to leave my computer alone and focus on reading (last time I spent way too much time blogging.) I'm so excited about this event. Are any of you out there going to be participating?

Here is to a wonderful relaxing Sunday for all of you. What are you reading these days? Anything I can't live without?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Spotlight on the UCF Book Festival: Zora and Me - Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon

The first book I'd like to highlight for the UCF Book Festival is "Zora and Me" by Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon. I reviewed this book for the OKRA Challenge last November, so this is a re-post of my thoughts.


I don't think anyone would argue that Zora Neale Hurston is one of the most influential writers of the Harlem Renaissance, and maybe even of literature in general. Her book Their Eyes Were Watching God was pure magic. She is an icon down here where I live, as she spent her childhood years in the first all-black town in the US called Eatonville, just on the north side of Orlando.

I find it natural and expected that writers and best friends Bond and Simon decided that they needed to craft a book about Zora as a child - she was such a compelling personality. Instead of writing another biography, though, they gathered as much factual data about her as possible, observed pictures of where she lived, learned about her friends and mentors, read her short stories to capture her spirit, and wrote a fictional middle grade novel. Thus came the highly anticipated debut novel "Zora and Me".

Synopsis: Narrated by Zora's best friend Carrie, the girls, along with the third musketeer Teddy, have adventures in Eatonville in the early 1900's. The presence of a mythical alligator named Ghost, and it's maiming and killing of one of Eatonville's residents, fuels the children's imagination. Zora, an inquisitive, precocious little firecracker, is the ringleader of the trio. She is convinced that Ghost is really half man, half beast, and the kids play detective to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Unfortunately, they stumble into something that is bigger than all of them. Instead of catching the evil man-gator, they receive a harsh education on the chasm between blacks and whites.

My thoughts: Bond and Simon have created a precious novel on several counts. They have obviously done their homework, and have resurrected Zora as she must have been as a youth - vibrant, curious, and a great storyteller. They have also stayed true to her environment and recreated Eatonville as it was: the boisterous, gossipy men on the front porch of Joe Clark's store, the closeness of the community, the transient workers passing through town, the trips into Maitland for shopping, the wise guidance of Zora's white godfather. (By the way, all of these elements have been included in "Their Eyes Were Watching God" as well.) It is a loving tribute to a very talented lady.

It is also a coming-of-age story. Carrie begins to have confusing and warm feelings towards Teddy. The children also lose a bit of their innocence as a result of the tough life lessons they learn about race and class. It is tender and bittersweet.

Whether you are a fan of Zora Neale Hurston, a fan of Southern fiction, or a 10 to 12 year old looking for something interesting to read, this book is a must.

I normally don't like to burden reviews with a video, but this one gives you an excellent feel for the passion behind Zora and Me. Take a look:

4 out of 5 stars

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Made From Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life - Jenna Woginrich

Bear with me for a minute...I'm going to digress.

I have any number of crazy fantasies that will probably never happen in my lifetime, and they are not based on anything even close to reality, but on fluff and sunshine. One of them is to live on a farm and make sheep and goat cheese (I've seen this life in situ in Poland, and having visited this woman twice, I am hopelessly wooed by the idea). Never mind that I USED to live on a farm when I was young, and could have probably tried this if I had asked my dad, but didn't. I was too busy worrying about how to get off the farm.

So anyway, I was discussing this fantasy with a rep from Storey Publishing at SIBA last fall. I have no idea how we got on the topic. And the rep excitedly shoved this book in my hands and said I had to read it. That it would totally feed my fantasy, and maybe even expand my dreams to raising chickens, bees and rabbits.

Synopsis: Jenna Woginrich seems to have always had a little Mother Earth in her. She grew upItalic in Tennessee, and at a young age had an interest in spinning fabric into yarn, and playing old musical instruments. But after college, when she got a computer design job in northern Idaho, she decided she wanted to try homesteading. She found a mentor, rented a place with some land, and dove in head first.

Jenna is fearless. She got chickens first, then bees (STINGING ANGRY INSECTS!), then rabbits. She explains patiently, as a person who has started from square zero, how to approach these projects. She planted a garden. She uses her huskies as work dogs and also takes them sledding. She taught herself to play the banjo, the fiddle, and the dulcimer, and has jam sessions with other old time music lovers. She buys her kitchen gadgets at antique stores. She knits and sews her own clothes, sometimes from the sheared fur from her angora rabbits. She bakes bread, makes her own pasta, and cans her garden produce.

Her new lifestyle hasn't been without strife, and she is very forthright about it. Her dogs got into her baby chicks and killed them. She accidentally killed her bee queen. One of her rabbits injured itself and had to be put down:

"How simple was the simple life? Clearly, it's complex enough to make a Buddhist vegetarian kill a rabbit at point-blank range, then go buy a gun. Your lifestyle preferences are not considered when it comes to caring for the lives of others on a farm. Not everything can be as simple as we'd like."

At the back of the book, Jenna provides simple sewing projects, recipes, and resources for all of her endeavors. She makes even the most overwhelming projects achievable, whether you live in New York City or on 200 acres in Montana.

My thoughts: This book was a whole lot of fun to read, and it absolutely did expand my fantasies to chickens, rabbits and gardens (not bees). Realistically, with the pace of my life right now, and the nasty, scavenging varmints that think it is their right to eat anything on my property and poop in my pool, I probably won't be adopting vulnerable animals or planting greens anytime soon. But the seed has been planted (pun intended).

My ultimate goal, once my kids move away to college, is to move into a condo on the beach. So maybe the idea will stay a seedling forever, but you never know. And as Jenna states in her book, you can grow herbs on your windowsill, you can train your dog carry food home from the farmer's market, and you can bake your own bread and make your own pasta. I am completely open to this, and actually have been known to make my food from scratch. See! I can be green!

Throughout the book, several thoughts kept swirling in my mind, besides visions of my own fresh eggs. One was "there is nobody in my life that even comes close to being a personality like Jenna". As somebody who often makes her own tomato sauce with slow-roasted tomatoes and makes her own ricotta, I am already a lonely minority amongst my friends. Another thought was "this is definitely one lady I'd love to have dinner with. Just to see what makes her tick and listen to her stories". And actually you can listen to her stories, because she has a blog called Cold Antler Farm.

Hey, she now has sheep, and she loves goat cheese. On those topics alone, I could talk for hours.

4 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Florida Keys #6

Our hotel's mascot, roaming around like he owned the place. For more Wordless Wednesdays, click here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Visit From the Good Squad - Jennifer Egan (Audio)

About a month and a half ago, Books Babes and Bordeaux spent an evening talking with Tatjana Soli about her book "The Lotus Eaters". In this discussion, Tatjana mentioned several books that she has enjoyed recently, and this was one of them (she ranked it significantly higher than Freedom!). I'd already heard about the book in various reviews, and it consistently ended up on the "Best of" lists for 2010. I didn't need much arm-twisting, and I was thrilled when I saw that my library had it on audio.

I didn't start it without reservation though. Carrie (from Books and Movies) told me she had a hard time with the audio, I'd heard about its crazy, non-linear plot, and there was something about a PowerPoint presentation? I said to myself "THIS is going to be interesting. An experiment on the limits of my beloved audiobooks."

Synopsis: At the heart of this twisty-turny, meandering exploration of the music business and the six degrees of separation between us all *pause for a breath* lies Sasha, and her boss Bennie. Sasha is a once-runaway, now-kleptomaniac that works for a recording studio as an assistant to Bennie Salazar, who puts gold flakes in his coffee. She is on a date with a guy who she sorta likes, but has never gotten over an old flame. She has issues. She is working on them.

Flash sideways, and we learn about Bennie, recently and bitterly divorced and trying to connect with his son, and eventually does by sharing some of his gold flakes with him. Bennie thinks back to the glory days, when music was music, and when heaven was hanging with his band mates in high school.

Flash back to Bennie's youth, narrated by one of Bennie's band mates Rhea. We learn about the dynamics of the group, and about how another one of the band mates and Rhea's best friend just hooked up with a sleazy record producer three times her age.

Flash back to a safari trip that the sleazy record producer took with all of his kids and current girlfriend to Africa, narrated by the girlfriend. Flash forward to find out where everyone in the party ended up thirty years later.

And so it goes. Egan develops each character so thoroughly, with so much interesting detail (gold flakes? runaway? bitter divorce? rape charges? publicity for a dictator?) that you can't help but ask "I wonder what THAT story is all about?". From your lips to Egan's ears, my curious friends. And the world is such a small place that connections are everywhere. Connections that are too coincidental to be believed sometimes, but they are there, like little invisible threads, connecting us all to Kevin Bacon and each other.

The theme of each tale, in one form or another, is that "time is a goon". Time plays tricks on our memories, changes us physically and mentally, sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad. The key is how we deal with that goon. Will we adapt, or will we get left behind?

My thoughts: OK that synopsis was freaking hard to do. So in a industry, connections, time. Developed characters, tragic characters, characters that mature and ones that do not. Smart dialogue. Music references. Unique approaches to narration. A wackadoo timeline. And people, it was fun in fifty different ways.

I had NO IDEA at first what was going on. We kept skipping from character to character, flashing forward, backwards and sideways. But after a few chapters, I started to get into it. I started to listen to the current story, and had a ball guessing which minor character within it would be the next feature.

Often a book will have a unique hook. The story is told backwards. Or maybe the story is narrated by Death, a dead girl or a dog. This book had so many hooks I can't even count. First, just the non-linear structure was a wild ride. I felt like I was skipping around randomly on God's Great Gant Chart of Life. I had no idea where the story was taking me, and I treated each disc like a big surprise. Forest Gump's box of chocolates even.

Egan also occasionally gives us a fast-forward glimpse into certain character's futures. This boy will grow up unhappy and kill himself before he turns 30. That character will mellow out, marry her college sweetheart and have three kids. I've seen this trick before, but it never ceases to delight me to be at the receiving end of a fortune-teller's knowledge.

A story is told through a report written by a celebrity journalist. A story is written as a "PowerPoint slide diary" by a 12 year-old girl about her slightly confused family and her brother's struggle with autism, and his obsession with pauses within rock and roll songs. (They pulled it off incredibly in the audio. You have to hear it to believe it.)

It is clever. It is masterful. You've never read anything quite like it. It's going on my 2011 favorites list, right at the top.

A word about the audio production: Roxana Ortega is our narrator for this audiobook, someone I could have SWORN I'd heard before. But according to my search she is new to the industry. She does have an impressive resume that includes film, TV and theater, however, and it shows. She rocked this production, and I'd listen to her anytime.

5 out of 5 stars

Monday, March 14, 2011

Monday Movie Meme - Feeling Bookish

This week's Monday Movie Meme from the Bumbles should be my shining moment. They have asked us about movies that feature or spotlight books, libraries or other literary topics. (Not to be confused with movies adapted from books, mind you.) Of course, I should be able to rattle off a dozen from the top of my head, but my head has gone missing these days, so there is that. Here are my paltry few. Please feel free to jolt my memory:

1. The Outsiders, featuring "Gone With the Wind" - I love the story of The Outsiders, and I love Gone With the Wind. Add them together, and the idea of a street punk reading and obsessing over this chunkster is a beautiful thing.

2. Inkheart, where you can be "read" into a novel - don't let it's target audience of tweens and teens put you off. The book (and the series) as well as the movie is very clever.

3. Capote, where Truman Capote is collecting research for his book "In Cold Blood" - I actually watched this movie twice in a row, I was so taken with it. It may have something to do with the fact that ICB is one of the best true crime novels of all time, but also Phillip Seymour Hoffman was amazing to watch.

4. Twilight, featuring Bella's favorite book "Wuthering Heights" - I know I'm pushing it here. I remember WH being mentioned in the book, and I am assuming it is mentioned in the movie as well, but can't remember. I'm not willing to watch the movie to see for sure. But it figures that a girl who never smiles and her mouth is always hanging open that this would be her favorite book.

OK let me have it. I know I have missed some obvious ones, that I haven't listed here or were already used by the Bumbles.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sunday Salon: UCF Book Festival and Pig Care

Happy Sunday all my friends! I'd love to report that I had a better week than last week but that would be a lie. It started out fairly normal, and I actually got some productive walking done. But then we noticed that our sweet little guinea pig Rufus was not eating or drinking, and thus began Operation Piggy. Did you know that if you do not seek medical help for your pig when you notice a problem, they can slip into liver failure within 24 hours? Guinea pigs (and rabbits) cannot generally "snap out of it" and their bodies cannot self-correct without veterinary care. This googled fact freaked me out, and at a late hour Tuesday evening, I ran him to an emergency vet clinic, followed up by a regular vet appointment on Wednesday (and again on Friday). The result was me providing meds and a four-hour hand-feeding rotation for my favorite pet, praying that he would get his appetite back. As of today, that hasn't quite happened, and I'm not really sure what to do. How much money am I willing to pay to keep him alive? Can I really turn my back on a pet that has given us so much happiness over the years? I do realize there are bigger problems out there, but this has derailed me. I don't take well to the thought of losing my animals. Thus went my week.

There was alot of other stuff going on this week as well, but it all took a back seat. My daughter and I saw "Beastly" at the theater, having read the book awhile back, and it was pretty horrid. I got a chemical peel on Thursday, and now my entire facing is flaking off and I look like I am a leper. I had prayer group, I got my hair highlighted, I worked in the library, my daughter had a dermatologist appointment, and had a double-header football game on Saturday. I've got a cousin in town from Denver. So it goes.

Although I did quite a bit of sitting and waiting for various things, I didn't get much reading done...too preoccupied. I'm about halfway through "Amaryllis in Blueberry" for my Skype book club next month, and while I am enjoying it, it seems to be slow-going. On audio, I finished "The Weird Sisters" for Books, Babes and Bordeaux and loved it. I also listening to the highly entertaining Jocelyn Jackson narrate her own "Between, Georgia", and just started Kate Morton's "The Distant Hours".

Starting this week, every Friday between now and the UCF Book Festival on April 16th, I will be highlighting and reviewing one book that will be featured at the event. 2010 was the inaugural year for the UCF Book Festival, and the powers that be are really working hard to make it a notable occasion. Over the next five weeks, you will see that the authors and books featured are going to be a huge draw, and I'm thrilled to be a part of it. Stay tuned!

Hope everyone has a wonderful Sunday!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Housekeeping - Marilynne Robinson (Audio)

I'd frequently heard about Marilynne Robinson, the celebrated American novelist. She looks pretty good on paper. "Housekeeping" was a finalist for the 1982 Pulitzer. "Gilead", her second book, did win the Pulitzer in 2005, and "Home" received the 2009 Orange Prize for Fiction. While some bloggers have sung her praises, though, I also heard some fightin' words like "could not finish" and "like watching paint dry". Frankly, it scared me a little. I am a self-proclaimed Pulitzer Idiot, after all. But when Tatjana Soli mentioned "Housekeeping" as one of her favorite reads, Books Babes and Bordeaux signed up to give it a try for our February meeting.

Synopsis: Young Ruth narrates the story of her and her sister's life in Fingerbone, Idaho, after being abandoned there by their mother. Raised for a time by their grandmother, then for a short time by their child-adverse great-aunts, then by their dreamy, transient Aunt Sylvie, the girls have never known stability. The girls have never had a male presence in their lives, never been made to attend school, never been required to keep their hair combed or their clothes tidy.

At the heart of Fingerbone lies the railroad bridge, from which their grandfather plunged to his death long ago. It is this railroad that also offers the prospect of transience, and perhaps a symbol of a way out. The theme of housekeeping also recurs throughout the story, not only the dusting and sweeping kind, but of spiritual housekeeping within one's family to keep it whole. In the case of Ruth and her sister, there is very little of either.

My thoughts: I think after reading this book, it has been officially determined that I need to stay away from prize-winners. I've read my share, and have very little luck with them. What is wrong with me? Am I not smart enough? People! Time magazine listed this book to be one of the 100 best English language novels between the years of 1923 and 2005! Yet all I wanted to do is stab myself in the eye with a sharp stick. If I hadn't been listening to an audio, which is akin to force-feeding, I would not have finished it.

Why you ask? The story is very subtle, with very little action within the plot. There is a flood, a fire, staying out all night on the lake and such, but everything happens very passively, as if being observed by an uninterested bystander. I'm not an adrenaline junkie, mind you. I can appreciate gentleness, but this particular brand of prose left me feeling dead.

I found the characters themselves to be two-dimensional. We were given little history of the players, and almost no emotion was one cried, screamed or laughed. I was slightly annoyed with Sylvie, who came across as flighty, irresponsible and unprepared to care for children. Would it have been better for the girls to be cared for by a foster family, or was it healthier to stay with blood kin?

Robinson would occasionally wander off the path and deliver little mini-sermons on certain topics. I couldn't name one, as I didn't really understand what they were about. She also often used big fancy-sounding words that I didn't know, and that felt pretentious.

As I read through my words, they sound harsh and very unprofessional. It is just my expression of frustration that I was unable to "get" something so decorated and considered such a classic. What did I miss?

Thoughts from the members of Books, Babes and Bordeaux: Out of the nine or ten of us gathered to discuss this book, only two of us actually finished it. For the most part, the group looked at me with blank stares, asking me for my synopsis, analysis, insight, anything...and I did my best but you see what my opinion was. One member, who ALMOST finished it, said she didn't hate the book, and actually could relate some of the dysfunctional characters to people in her family. There was a kitchen full of gaping mouths when I announced that this book was an award finalist, and we sought to understand the appeal. Unanimously, we declared this read a hearty thumbs down.

Then we spent the rest of the meeting talking about popular music, pets, the disconnect between today's youth and "us", and we drank wine. And summoned hope for next month, when we discuss "The Weird Sisters".

A word about the audio production: Our narrator was Becket Royce, a new voice for me. This is definitely one book that could have used a lively personality at the microphone, but we didn't get it with Royce. Her voice was pleasant enough but had the effect of putting me to sleep.

2 out of 5 stars

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Appointment in Samarra - John O' Hara

The first four selections for our Heathrow Literary Society were haphazard selections that the group voted on as being interesting. After that, we decided to try to make more deliberate choices spanning various genres...classics, memoirs, thrillers, etc. "Appointment in Samarra" was our attempt at a classic, unknown to all of us but our leader, who read it in a previous book club. We were all game, primarily because we'd been reading chunksters and this little guy was only 270 pages long.

Published in 1934, this was O' Hara's first novel. It has been included in various "Top 100 books lists" over the years, and O' Hara has been described as everything from "the real F. Scott Fitzgerald" to "a well-known lout".

The title of the book requires a little explanation, as it is never actually mentioned within the story. "Appointment in Samarra" is a reference to W. Somerset Maugham's retelling of an old story (from Wikipedia):

A merchant in Baghdad sends his servant to the marketplace for provisions. Shortly, the servant comes home white and trembling and tells him that in the marketplace he was jostled by a woman, whom he recognized as Death, and she made a threatening gesture. Borrowing the merchant's horse, he flees at top speed to Samarra, a distance of about 75 miles (125 km), where he believes Death will not find him. The merchant then goes to the marketplace and finds Death, and asks why she made the threatening gesture. She replies, "That was not a threatening gesture, it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra."

Or, in other words, Death is going to find you, it's inevitable. A little foreshadowing action, then?

Synopsis: So in this case, whose death is inevitable? Within a handful of pages, we know that would be Julian English, a member of the upper middle class in Gibbsville, Pennsylvania in the 1930's. This society consists of decadent country clubbers who attend multiple parties and dances a week, who drink heavily, who come from some type of money, and who are quietly but threateningly governed by a local mobster.

Julian is the only child of a local doctor, now runs his own Cadillac dealership, and is married to the lovely Caroline, who has yet to conceive a child. Julian is a self-absorbed chap who thinks that the world revolves around him, and fancies himself the life and light of his social circle. One night, in a drunken fit of annoyance, Julian throws his drink in the face of a man who is a pillar in the financial and Catholic community. Thus begins Julian's three day spiral into utter ruin, making one bad decision after another, committing impulsive, embarrassing public acts, and ultimately keeping that appointment in Samarra.

My thoughts: O' Hara boldly depicts social status, class conflict, sexuality, and small-town politics in a way that must have shocking in his day. In many ways, it reminded me of "Peyton Place" (written in 1956), with its scandal, tragedy, class issues and quirky characters. I was impressed with "Peyton Place" for its decent writing, despite its reputation for being a trash novel. My expectation of "Samarra" was that of a classic piece of literature, worthy of book club discussion, but to me was underwhelming.

I suppose I never really felt invested in any of the characters. Julian was completely obnoxious...a spoiled brat who had no self-control and overreacted when things don't go his way. All of his problems could have been resolved, but I doubt he'd ever encountered such conflict and chose instead to avoid it by committing suicide. And I'm thinking that was the intended image the author wanted to portray. The supporting characters were entertaining, but lacked depth and seemed only to stand as symbols for society at the time.

In doing some research in an attempt to better "get" the story, I read that O' Hara was known for being quite adept at literary dialogue, which caused me to do a double-take. In fact, the dialogue was one facet of the prose that really bothered me. It felt stilted, uncomfortable and false, and even between a man and wife in the heat of an argument, way too sharp and cold and unemotional. Not very realistic, in my opinion. Was this intentional as well?

Lastly, and most importantly I think, is my opinion that O' Hara mistitled his book. By using the title "Appointment in Samarra", the implication is that Julian has a predetermined date with Death. In reading the story, this is far from the truth though. Death was not inevitable here, and could have been avoided if Julian hadn't been so dense. Hell, the guy that got a drink in his face actually LIKED Julian, and sent flowers to his funeral. Is there something I'm not getting?
My takeaway from this heralded wonder of a literary work is confusion, feeling like I'm not understanding a point, and general apathy. I don't feel like it was a waste of my time, yet I was not moved either.

Viewpoints of the Heathrow Literary Society: The book was received well overall. Most people agreed it was dark, and wasn't their favorite book, but enjoyed watching the hot mess Julian created for himself. Myself excluded, there was appreciation for the tight plot, the characterization, and the unique view of society during this era. One gentleman did come forward and state that he did not like the book, period. I believe my opinions were closer to his than the rest of the group.

In fact, most of the group thought the title of the book was completely appropriate...that Julian was headed for his date with death from the very beginning. I respectively (but emphatically) disagreed. There was some consent at the end of the meeting that perhaps O' Hara might be better suited to short stories (which he is known for) than a full length novel. The book, for its pros and cons, did inspire great discussion and differing opinions, which is our ultimate goal.

3 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Florida Keys #5

Tropical atmosphere during dinner. For more Wordless Wednesdays, click here.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show - Frank Delaney (Audio)

This audio had been sitting on the dusty virtual shelf of my iPod for at least a year when I impulsively decided to read it because I thought it was short and sweet. Well, I was wrong on both accounts. It wasn't necessarily short...11 discs. And for a coming-of-age tale, it wasn't very sweet either. What it was was entertaining, sometimes charming, and an interesting peek at Irish theater and politics in the 1930's.

Synopsis: The story is narrated by an adult Ben McCarthy, a man with a specific tale to tell. When Ben was 18, living a protected and relatively solitary life on a farm with his parents, his father became obsessed with Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show (and particularly the beautiful young Venetia herself) and impulsively leaves his family to join the troupe. Ben's mother, in fear for her family's financial and mental health, sends Ben out to retrieve him.

But nothing is ever quite that easy, is it? Ben's father avoids him, and refuses to come home. Ben himself falls under the spell of Venetia, and in a very short time, enrolls in the school of adulthood, learning about love, friendship, political bamboozlement, liars, bribery, greed and loss. Lessons that will affect the rest of his life, and ones that offer more questions than answers.

My thoughts: Don't ask my why, but I came into this book with the idea that it was going to be all rosy cheeks and puppy dog tails and first kisses and maybe a broken heart or two. I guess that is the image I have of a book that is "coming of age". In truth, it was a little more bitter and harsher than that. Definitely more tragic. At first, this left me on unsure footing. Whoa! This isn't all fun and games! I wasn't mentally prepared for that.

The book is not without its charm, though. The narrator's voice has a very conversational tone, that is often filled with dry humor and wit. Delaney is a masterful story-teller, spinning a yarn that captivates and begs for the reader to stick around to see what happens next. He goes on tangents (and properly apologizes for them in advance) to explain how Irish politics work, the legends built around Venetia's birth, or the proficiency of one woman's butt-scratching binges.

While you may engage in a chuckle or two, however, the overall plot has grave undertones and events that rob a young man of his youth and innocence. I found myself experiencing violent emotions of anger towards Ben's weak and slightly manipulative mother, his idiotic self-absorbed father, and the slimy, scheming cast of characters that seem bent on bringing Ben down to their level and ruining him.

A word about the audio production: Often, it is a very bad idea for authors to narrate their own books. In this case, Frank Delaney was an absolute DELIGHT to listen to. In fact, he could do this full time and I for one would seek him out. This was narrating at its absolute best, and was a highlight of the book.

4 out of 5 stars

Monday, March 7, 2011

Monday Movie Meme - Trimming the Fat

Happy Monday morning! For this Monday Movie Meme, Molly Bumble was inspired to discuss weight issues today, based on her cookie rampage at her niece's birthday this weekend. What kind of weight topics do we see in the movies? Certainly we know that actors are willing to gain and lose tremendous amounts of weight for the sake of their role, and often they are recognized with an Oscar nod. The first and most memorable for most people is the 60 pounds that Robert De Niro gained for his leading role in Raging Bull. There is also notable weight loss as about the 50 pounds Tom Hanks lost for his role in Castaway? Makes my desire to lose 20 pounds a little wimpish!

But I digress. Here are some movies where weight, either too much or too little, is at the heart of the plot:

1. The Machinist - Christian Bale is one of the masters of weight management, but he went way over the line in this disturbing movie about the deteriorating world of a man who hasn't slept in a year. With the 60 pound weight-loss, Bale looked like a victim of a concentration camp, and inspired much controversy over the extremes at which an actor will go for the sake of a role.

2. Super Size Me - the documentary that put Morgan Spurlock on the map, he not only ponders the negative influences of fast food on our society, but also explores the physical consequences of eating McDonalds for an entire month. Makes you give that Whopper a second thought.

3. Bridget Jones Diary - let it be known that I really can't stand Renee Zellweger...she always looks like she smells something bad. But I will admit to being charmed by this British chick flick about a single woman trying to spruce herself up and battling her weight while looking for love (Colin Firth adds to the charm I might add). Side note: Never mind that I would take that fatness anyday...what is she, a whopping size 4?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sunday Salon: Thirteen Reasons Why...

My week in list form:

1. Two hour mammogram. All is well, albeit flatter.

2. Credit card fraud. Must deal with repercussions.

3. Heathrow Literary Society meeting on Appointment in Samarra. Good discussion.

4. Daughter gets period and informs me she "can't do this anymore". I inform her she will do it for another fifty years.

5. Daughter misses two days of school because of said period.

6. Daughter turns 13. I cry.

7. School-wide field day. I get middle school volleyball duty, and have fun watching hormones in action.

8. Son is accused of calling a female classmate "Chewbacca" and is summoned to Principal's office. Threatened expulsion. I am called. Case of mistaken identity. Crisis averted.

9. Desktop computer infected with 24 viruses. Internet denied. Have to input five audiobooks into iTunes library manually before sending in computer to Zen- Master-Dude-Most-Awesome-Will-Marry-Him-If-Something-Happens-To-Robert computer guy at my husband's work for fixing. Priorities.

10. Agree to take five 13-year-olds to Disney for daughter's birthday. My husband wonders if I have truly lost my sense. I bring a book and an audio.

11. Upon awaking on Disney day, daughter claims to have bursting appendix, and demands a trip to hospital. I tell her to go to bathroom and get dressed, she will feel better.

12. After 14 hours at Disney, girls are still up in the middle of the night playing Foosball, eating Red Velvet ice cream cake, and screaming at ghost in our attic. Appendix seems to be fine.

13. Annual Mardi Gras party involving crawfish boil and hurricanes. (My description of the men, once a fresh pot of crawfish is dumped on table: Like a pride of lions, or maybe hyenas, hunched over a particularly tasty wildebeest.) A nice way to end the week.