Saturday, August 30, 2008

Saturday Review - Holiday Weekend edition

Bulletin Board
******Have YOU entered the Second Chance at Summer [Reading] Re-Gifting Giveaway yet? Click on that link to get the details. You've got until this coming Friday, September 5, to leave a comment on that post to enter (US residents only, please)!

*******And in related news, my friend Karen is having a back-to-school giveaway on her blog, Nouvelle Blogger, inspired by this past week's Ten on Tuesday topic - but you only have to tell her FIVE things you disliked about school - so head on over there and do that, why don't you? (After you're done reading here, of course.)

*******TOMORROW is the final day to nominate your favorite book blogs (and maybe even this one, if you like) for the Book Blogger Appreciation Week awards! You don't have to nominate in all categories, you may nominate up to two blogs in any category. You do NOT have to have a book blog - or any blog at all - to make nominations; just e-mail them to BBAWAwards AT gmail DOT com. The categories are listed here, plus the following late additions: Most Altruistic Blog, Funniest/Most Humorous Blog, Best Sci-fi/fantasy/horror/spec-fic blog, and Best Commenter/Commentator.

New in Google Reader
- all for the Books blogroll this week
Presenting Lenore
Bloody Hell, It's a Book Barrage!
She Is Too Fond of Books
Maw Books Blog
Saturday Silliness (tales from the library and the bookstore)

Random reading
Last Monday night in Denver with the MOMocrats, and related thoughts on passing the feminist torch from ShortWoman; the "fierce urgency" of now, in the context of this week's events

Yes, it's that time of year again... Labor Day, that is!

Identifying, and dealing with, the 5-year-olds you work with

Thanks to Heather for pointing out this perspective from another mother of an "only"

Fellow TAR-flies: The new season of The Amazing Race starts on September 28 - meet the racers! But you can probably skip going to the movies for the next couple of months.

For my own "I just don't get people" file

Selections from some of the LA Moms Blog's sister sites:
> The blogging/marketing intersection, particularly as it involves the blogging-moms niche, as viewed from the inside
> Three years after Katrina, and still at home on the Gulf Coast - resilience or defiance?
> One take on the Tropic Thunder controversy, and I pretty much agree with it (For the record: Saw the movie last weekend, and it had some funny scenes, but overall, it was just too much. Me to Tall Paul on the way back to the car: "A not-so-bright person once said, 'There's a fine line between stupid and clever.' [We recently watched Spinal Tap again, too] This movie spent too much time on the wrong side of that line." There's my review, folks.)

Spam subject line of the week:
How to become men from Mars - what?!? Are they the Aliens (that) deny impregnating Paris Hilton?

Book wishlist
The Summer of Naked Swim Parties, by Jessica Anya Blau
Rabbit in the Moon, by Deborah and Joel Shilan
Welcome to Shirley: A Memoir From an Atomic Town, by Kelly McMasters
American Wife, by Curtis Sittenfeld (but I'll be waiting for the paperback release, unless I can win the hardcover or score a review copy!)
She Was by Janis Hallowell
The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner (one of this week's DearReader.com selections)

Happy Labor Day weekend, y'all - is it weird that we don't work that day?

Friday, August 29, 2008

TBIF - Thank blog it's Friday #4!

>>> Don't forget to enter the Second Chance at (Summer) Reading Re-Gifting Giveaway - details are here, and the deadline is Friday, September 5! <<<

Tuesday Thingers 8/26 (hosted by The Boston Bibliophile)

Today's topic: LibraryThing authors. Who are your LibraryThing authors? What books of theirs do you have? Do you ever comment on an author's LT page? Have you received any comments from an author on your LT account?

My small, fairly pathetic collection of LibraryThing authors currently numbers just three. They are Laura Fitzgerald, author of Veil of Roses; Michelle Richmond, author of The Year of Fog and No One You Know; and Doreen Orion, author of Queen of the Road, recently added to the TBR Purgatory list. As Just a (Reading) Fool suggested in his response to this question, ARCs via LT's Early Reviewers Program probably play a part in someone's author connections on LT; while I'm a member of that group, I'm pretty selective about the requests I submit, and I have only won two ARCs so far, neither of which was by an LT author.

I've never commented on an author's LT profile page, but that doesn't mean I never will. I'm not particularly "sociable" on LT, so I really don't do much commenting on anyone's pages there, nor do I receive many comments on mine. Most of my online social contacts happen on blogs or Twitter, really. In fact, Michelle Richmond actually looked up my blog when I posted a review of The Year of Fog; we've exchanged e-mails, and she even gave me a guest post back in June. She's also a blogger herself, and I subscribe to her blog, Sans Serif, in my Google Reader feeds.

Do you have any good author-interaction stories to share?

Teaser Tuesdays (Aug.26) (hosted at Should Be Reading)

Teaser Tuesdays asks you to:
Grab your current read. Let the book fall open to a random page. Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12. You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given! Please avoid spoilers!
My Teaser for this week is actually going to come from Page 123 of the selected book, since Tanabata tagged me for the 123 Meme last week, and I've been intending to alternate that with Teaser Tuesday anyway.

I'm currently reading My Husband's Sweethearts by Bridget Asher, and I've already given a Teaser from that, so I'm not going to do Page 123 from the same book. Instead, I'll use the book that's next on the stack, a review copy of Don't You Forget About Me by Jancee Dunn.
Vi had a "girl" in midtown who had maintained her trademark coif for the past three decades. Once I joined Vi on her weekly trip to "Ilsa of New York" and met Ilsa herself - a "girl" of fifty-two. I inquired about Ilsa's additional salons - the "of New York" implied that there were others - in Gstaad, perhaps, or Monte Carlo.

Stories - Booking Through Thursday

If you’re anything like me, one of your favorite reasons to read is for the story. Not for the character development and interaction. Not because of the descriptive, emotive powers of the writer. Not because of deep, literary meaning hidden beneath layers of metaphor. (Even though those are all good things.) No … it’s because you want to know what happens next?
Or, um, is it just me?
Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!
To be honest, I'm not sure I really get this question, but that won't stop me from having something to say about it anyway.

If I recall correctly, the major elements of fiction are plot, character, theme, and setting. I've mentioned in numerous reviews here that character is the element that usually seems to make the most difference in whether or not I enjoy a story - but next to that, I find that it's most important to have a story. It's not just that I want to know what happens next; I want to know what happens to those characters.

It's the interplay of those elements that makes a book work for me. The other elements, as well as the quality of the writing, may enhance or detract from the telling of the story, but the characters need a narrative arc. A convincingly-written character whom nothing happens to - one who just observes, who doesn't reflect or grow, who has no real experiences - is just a sketch, and a story that pulls me forward without making a character connection is a pleasant, but forgettable, diversion. I'm perfectly happy to experience that in a movie or TV show, but I want more from a book.

For me, one of the most appealing things about reading is the insight it can offer into how people think, feel, and approach the world - it lets you right into people's heads and hearts. My interest in learning about that is what draws me to character-driven fiction, as well as to memoir, history, and personal essays. But I find it more meaningful to get to know these things within a context, and for that reason, story matters. If there's not something going on - it doesn't have to be dangerous or dramatic, but it does have to hold my attention - there's not much incentive for me to get to know and spend time with these characters.

So...yes, I want to know what happens next, but in the end I'll probably be more likely to remember who it happened to than what happened.

Friday Fill-Ins #87 (hosted by Janet of Fond of Snape)

This week Michelle provided most of the questions; thank you, Michelle! And...here we go!

1. When I'm sick I'm one of those annoying people who (usually) goes to work anyway.

2. When I take a walk, I think about making sure I keep my dog from getting into things that she shouldn't.

3. Money can't buy happiness but it can buy a lot of things to distract you from your unhappiness.

4. Cotton makes me think of lightweight summer dresses and leather makes me feel sorry for cows (I eat meat, but I try not to wear it).

5. The strangest person/character I've had lewd thoughts about was ...I'm not about to tell you THAT!.

6. My favorite color these days is purple because it looks good on me (and it's my husband's favorite color besides).

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to either a quiet evening at home with the family or a trip to Target, tomorrow my plans include a trip to CityWalk and dinner with friends at Benihana and Sunday, I want to score higher than a 75 when we go bowling with my sister's family!

I'm not sure what we'll be doing on Monday. What are your plans for the big summer-sendoff three-day weekend?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Book talk: "Matrimony," by Joshua Henkin

Disclaimer: I received a personally autographed copy of the hardcover edition of this book for review directly from the author. He'd like to send you a copy of the newly-released paperback edition, too - stay tuned for more info!

Matrimony: A Novel by Joshua Henkin
Matrimony: A Novel
Joshua Henkin (author's website)
Pantheon, 2007 (hardcover) (ISBN 0375424350 / 9780375424359)
Fiction, 304 pages

First Sentence:
"Out! Out! Out!" The first words Julian Wainwright ever spoke, according to his father, Richard Wainwright III, graduate of Yale and grand lubricator of the economic machinery, and Julian's mother, Constance Wainwright, Wellesley graduate and descendant of a long line of Pennsylvania Republicans.

Book Description (summarized): The son of a Yale-educated investment banker, Julian Wainwright grew up in a huge apartment on Sutton Place, high above the East River, and attended a tony Manhattan private school. Yet, more than anything, he wants to get out–out from under his parents’ influence, off to Graymont College in western Massachusetts, where he hopes to become a writer.

When he arrives, in the fall of 1986, Julian meets Carter Heinz, a scholarship student from California with whom he develops a strong but ambivalent friendship. Carter’s mother, desperate to save money for his college education, used to buy him reversible clothing, figuring she was getting two items for the price of one. Now, spending time with Julian, Carter seethes with resentment. He swears he will grow up to be wealthy–wealthier, even, than Julian himself.

Then, one day, flipping through the college facebook, Julian and Carter see a photo of Mia Mendelsohn. Mia from Montreal, they call her. Beautiful, Jewish, the daughter of a physics professor at McGill, Mia is–Julian and Carter agree–dreamy, urbane, stylish, refined.

But Julian gets to Mia first, meeting her by chance in the college laundry room. Soon they begin a love affair that–spurred on by family tragedy–will carry them to graduation and beyond, taking them through several college towns, over the next ten years. Then Carter reappears, working for an Internet company in California, and he throws everyone’s life into turmoil: Julian’s, Mia’s, his own.

Comments: When I first started seeing reviews of Matrimony last fall, I was intrigued but ambivalent. My personal history has made me sometimes reluctant to tackle novels about troubled marriages, and this one looked like it might hit just a bit too close to home. Julian and Mia married before they were out of college (check), moved away for one spouse to attend grad school while the other worked (check), and separated as a result of one partner's infidelity (check) - these were some of my own plot points, and I feared the story might dig too far under my skin. But when the author contacted me to offer a review copy, I didn't want to wimp out, so I accepted the book.

I didn't have much too fear from Matrimony, as it turned out. I've got some distance from that part of my own story now, and despite some similar plot points, Julian and Mia's story is theirs, not mine.

We're not necessarily the same people at thirty-five that we are at eighteen, and for couples who meet and marry young, this can be an unanticipated challenge. Some work their way through it, and some find themselves too far apart to bridge the gap. I think that Henkin's novel portrayed the growth and change of both the individuals, and the relationship, quite well.

It struck me that some of the dramatic personal events that the characters went through were actually written without a lot of "drama," and I actually think it works. I would describe the writing itself as "reserved;" I think it's true to the WASP reserve of a character like Julian, which tends to be associated with not much discussion of feelings, and it doesn't manipulate the reader's feelings either.

But despite my earlier mention of plot points, this is a character-driven novel, and it's mostly balanced between Julian and Mia, with very smooth transitions in perspective. However, having said that, I found Mia to be the more interesting, better-developed character, although I found all of the characters to be real and sympathetic. I can't say I'm anxious for a sequel, but I would be interested in re-visiting these characters and their lives at some point in the future.

The book is a fairly quick read and an engaging story, and one that I think will stick with me for awhile. I appreciate Joshua Henkin's offering me the opportunity to read and review it.

Rating: 3.75/5

Aside: In my - limited, I admit - experience of dealing with authors directly, I have to say I've been very impressed with this author's level of interaction with readers and bloggers. Joshua Henkin has actively made contact with book bloggers to promote Matrimony; the list below is a sampling of the bloggers to whom he has personally offered review copies of the novel. He has also engaged with book clubs, offering to participate in book discussion via telephone - or in person, if your club is within driving distance (NY/NJ/Philadelphia) - and providing a reading group guide. Henkin has also contributed guest posts for the online book club Planet Books and about book clubs at Books on the Brain. I'm sure this has not only helped his current novel, but it's also building goodwill and a potential reader base for whatever he writes next. This is an author who really gets it.

Other bloggers' reviews of this book:
Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'?
Blue Archipelago
In Spring It Is the Dawn
Age 30 - A Year of Books
My Own Little Reading Room
My Friend Amy
The Boston Bibliophile
Everyday I Write the Book Blog
Books on the Brain
Bookfoolery and Babble
Bloody Hell, It's a Book Barrage
Booking Mama
Literary License
She Is Too Fond of Books
The Inside Cover
The Book Lady's Blog
Book Club Classics
B&b ex libris
The Literate Housewife
Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Savvy Verse & Wit 
The Bluestocking Society 
Maw Books Blog
If you have reviewed this book (and you're not already linked in this post), please leave the link in a comment or e-mail it to me at 3.rsblog AT gmail DOT com, and I'll edit this review to include it!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Appreciate your local Book Blogger!

I mentioned in a recent Saturday Review that the first Book Blogger Appreciation Week is taking place from September 15-19. Here are some more details, via its founder, My Friend Amy:
Book Bloggers: You work hard. You read books, you write reviews, you maintain relationships with your readers, publicists, and authors. You are constantly running to the post office to mail your giveaways and participating in carnivals to help boost traffic. You sometimes want to faint when you see the size of your TBR pile, but faithfully you read. And you do it because you love it. Book blogging is for most a hobby. But it's a hobby that takes a lot of work and time. It's a labor of love.

I've been blogging for three years but only really got into book blogging in the last year. I have found, without a doubt, that book bloggers are the kindest, most open minded, and supportive group of bloggers on the internet. With book blogging, it's about community and a love for the written word.

The Readers: We love you! You don't have a blog, but you read our reviews and share your thoughts with us. You enter our giveaways and click on our Amazon associates link. We do this for you and appreciate your readership. We hope you'll join in the fun and festivities of BBAW! (We'll have a special contest just for you!)

Book Blogger Appreciation Week: Acknowledging the hard work of book bloggers and their growing impact on book marketing and their essential contribution to book buzz in general, I am excited to announce the first Book Blogger Appreciation Week. Think of it as a retreat for book bloggers and a chance for us to totally nerd out over books together. And of course, shower each other with love and appreciation.

Register: In order to experience the maximum impact of the week, I invite you to register your participation (just like a retreat)!
To register, just send an email to bookbloggerappreciationweekATgmailDOTcom with your blog url and what you consider your niche...i.e, general book blog, classics blog, personal blog with a healthy dose of books, YA books blog, etc. Then, add one of the two buttons at the bottom of this post to your sidebar. If you are a reader (no blog) just send an email announcing your plans to follow along.

Why bother? If you register, you will be added to a book blog directory which will exist long after this week is over. Additionally, you will receive one raffle entry into the daily giveaways during BBAW here at My Friend Amy.

Awards: Oh yes, there will be awards. The Oscars of Book Blogging. :) (See below!)
Spread the Word: If you are excited about this idea like I am and the other book bloggers who are helping, please consider writing a post on your blog announcing this event and inviting other book bloggers and readers to join.
And as promised, here are the Award Categories and nomination rules. Nominations are open until next Sunday, August 31 - which is why I didn't save this for another Saturday Review Bulletin Board - so get yours in soon!
It's time to open nominations for Book Blogger Appreciation Week Awards 2008!

Listed below are the categories of awards. There are many. You may not have a nomination for each award. It doesn't matter. Nominate up to two blogs per category and send an email to BbawawardsATgmailDOTcom with your choices. You DO NOT have to have a blog to make nominations. Comments left on this post will NOT be accepted as nominations. Each category will be narrowed to the top five blogs by number of nominations received, so don't be shy!!! Support your favorite blogs and bloggers! Nominations will close on August 31st.

And the categories for the Book Blogger Appreciation Week Awards 2008 are:

Best General Book Blog
Best Kidlit Blog
Best Christian/Inspirational Fiction Blog
Best Literary Fiction Blog
Best Book Club Blog
Best Romance Blog
Best Thrillers/Mystery/Suspense Blog
Best Non-fiction Blog
Best Young Adult Lit Blog
Best Book/Publishing Industry Blog
Best Challenge Host
Best Community Builder
Best Cookbook Blog
Best History/Historical Fiction Blog
Best Design
Most Chatty
Most Concise
Most Eclectic Taste
Best Name for a Blog
Best Published Author Blog
Best Book published in 2008
Best Meme/Carnival/Event
Most Extravagant Giveaways
Best Book Community site
Write In--think we missed something? Write in your category and nomination and if there are enough other write-ins of the same category it will be added!
>>> Don't forget to enter the Second Chance at (Summer) Reading Re-Gifting Giveaway - details are here, and the deadline is Friday, September 5! <<<

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

School days Ten on Tuesday, by The Bride of BLOGENSTEIN

*** For the first time in a few weeks, I am posting a Ten on Tuesday list I came up with myself. As I've mentioned a couple of times lately, my favorite guest blogger has been gearing up to go out on his own, and he's got his Ten on Tuesday list posted at his brand-new online home. Please check out Tall Paul's list at Blogenstein! (How did he come up with that title? Find out here.) Bookmark the site or subscribe to his feed, leave him a comment, and tell him you're a friend of his wife's. ***

For the most part, I liked school. I was pretty good at the academic part, and I'm sure that's the main reason I liked it - it certainly wasn't because of my high social standing. However, this week's Ten on Tuesday asked for "10 Things You Didn't Like About School," and I was a little surprised by how quickly I put a list together. They're in no particular order, but the first item is definitely my least favorite.
  1. Gym class. I have no athletic ability at all. I was always picked last for teams, and I was always afraid of breaking my glasses. My high school only required two years of P.E.; the last day of tenth-grade classes, which was my last day of gym ever, was one of the happiest days of my life.
  2. Picture day. They took one shot, and you had to order before you even saw the pictures. When they finally came in, weeks later, they were an inevitable disappointment.
  3. Cafeteria food - probably the reason I still pack my own lunch.
  4. Selling stuff for school fund-raisers - although, to be honest, I hate this even more as a parent than I did as a student.
  5. Not having enough time to get to my locker. Why did it always seem that your locker, no matter where it was, wasn't conveniently located relative to any of your classes?
  6. No arts classes. This only applied to high school, where the only for-credit class that was arts-related at all was band (which was also extracurricular), unless you count Humanities, which was an elective. Choral group and drama were after-school only, and we had no fine-arts classes at all. However, since it was a Catholic school, we did have religion classes.
  7. Cliques. I think this is a "didn't like about school" item you may only find on the lists of people who weren't part of the cliques. Unfortunately, they exist in almost every organization, but they're rarely more obvious or more insidious than they are in middle and high school.
  8. Classes disrupted by kids' bad behavior. It wasted everyone's time, especially when no one would confess to being the perpetrator and the teacher took it out on the whole class.
  9. Having to cross teacher picket lines. This happened almost every year when I was in grade school in Connecticut; it seemed like the teachers regularly went out on strike, and my parents sent us to school anyway. After we moved to Florida (and no longer went to public school), I don't think I remember any more teachers' strikes.
  10. Classes that were a waste of time (you could have just read the book and stayed home). Sadly, this seemed to be the case most often in university. Then again, if your professor didn't count attendance, you could stay home and just show up for tests. But when you're paying for your education, it's nice if the classroom experience actually adds some value for your money.
So, what were some of your least favorite things about school? "Everything" is a cop-out, and don't try to tell me you loved it all, either :-).

>>> Don't forget to enter the Second Chance at (Summer) Reading Re-Gifting Giveaway - details are here, and the deadline is Friday, September 5!<<<

Monday, August 25, 2008

Weekend Assignment #230: Olympic ceremony

As the closing ceremonies of the 2008 Olympic Games approached this weekend, Karen asked:
Weekend Assignment #230: Have you been watching the Olympics? If so, what have you particularly enjoyed? If not, then what, if anything, would entice you to watch?

Extra Credit: Is there a sport not in the Olympics that ought to be there?
I think this is the first time in several (leap) years I've watched very little of the Olympics on TV, nor have I made much of an effort to follow the news reports from it (not that it's required much effort, really).

As far as TV viewing is concerned, I've usually found the events in the Winter Games more interesting to watch. Ice skating (not ice dancing), ski jumping, speed skating, bobsledding - those sports are just more fun for me. But I'm not that interested in gymnastics, don't really enjoy watching people run, and really can't see much happening in the swimming matches (due to that whole bodies-immersed-in-water thing), so the Summer Games are not as compelling as a spectator event for me.

Even if the sports had more appeal to me, I feel that the way the TV coverage is done detracts from the games themselves. I don't really enjoy the "USA vs. the world" angle; isn't it "every country in the world vs. each other," really? The soft-focus human-interest stories about the favored athletes have become joke fodder rather than interesting background. There's also the manufactured drama of saving certain events for prime-time evening viewing when the results have already been all over the news. And by the end of the Games, I had lost patience with reporters saying that an athlete had "settled for a silver (medal)." Granted, maybe that does feel like "settling" in our everything-or-nothing, winning-is-everything culture, but a silver means you're second best in the entire world. Why is that a bad thing?

However, my lack of involvement in this year's Olympics surprised me a little, because I've been to the Olympics - the Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta, in 1996. After that, I thought I would be an Olympics fan for life.

We were living a day's drive from Atlanta at the time, and we had family there we could stay with. We also had a good friend from Los Angeles who had been at the 1984 Games there, and he swore that they were a don't-miss opportunity; he was planning to come across the country to Atlanta so that he could actually have this once-in-a-lifetime experience twice. We spent four days at the Games during their first week, and attended four indoor-volleyball matches and one water-polo match. First Husband picked the events, and he's a volleyball fan. (His second wife is an ex-volleyball player, as a matter of trivia...) It was a good choice of sport, though - the venue was small enough to have a good view of the action, and it was more fun to watch in person than it would have been on TV.

Earlier that same year, we had the chance to see the US Olympic baseball team in one of their exhibition games; their training facility was located just north of Memphis, and since we wouldn't be seeing them play in Atlanta, we wanted to take advantage of the chance to see them locally. Baseball and softball will both be off the roster for the 2012 Games, as Karen mentioned in her response to this Assignment, and I agree with her that this is a disappointment (I've heard they could be back in 2016, though). There have been long-fought campaigns to make ballroom dancing and contract bridge Olympic sports (yes, I'm serious about bridge; I used to work for an organization that was lobbying for its inclusion, among its other activities), but I don't really think either belongs there. A few weeks ago, my husband made a strong case for some additions to the Games, particularly Mario Kart for the Nintendo Wii, miniature golf, and cat bathing.

Did you have Olympic fever this year, or did it pass you by?
>>>Don't forget to enter the Second Chance at (Summer) Reading Re-Gifting Giveaway - details are here, and the deadline is Friday, September 5!<<<

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Second Chance at Summer [Reading] Re-Gifting Giveaway!

PLEASE NOTE: This giveaway ended on September 5, and winners were announced on September 7. Comments have been closed.

I've been blogging here for nearly a year and a half, and have never officially done a giveaway, so I guess I'll make up for that oversight now. (I'll also be hosting another one in a few weeks - details to come!)

As I mentioned here, I was a lucky winner of the Hachette Book Group's Summer Reads Giveaway via Literary Feline, who was one of quite a few book bloggers hosting it this summer. Getting books for free is always lucky, isn't it? Now I'd like to share some of that luck.

Did you enter the giveaway on someone's blog and not win? Were you hosting the giveaway, and couldn't enter? Did you miss it entirely, because you just don't visit enough book blogs? Well, if you have no objection to re-gifting, here's your second chance at some summer reading, which of course can be done at any time of the year.

There were 14 books in the giveaway. After looking them all over, a couple will be given to family members, I'll keep a few for my own reading, and I'm offering the rest of them right here. I'm grouping them by similarity in theme, genre, or author, so when you enter the giveaway, you'll have to specify which package(s) you want. (Click on the link for info about each book.)

Book Bag #1
The Monster of Florence, by Douglas Preston (nf, hc)
Miscarriage of Justice, by Justice "Kip" Gayden (f, hc)

Book Bag #2
A Rose by the Door, by Deborah Bedford (f, pb)
Remember Me, by Deborah Bedford (f, pb)
He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, by Trish Ryan (nf, hc)

Book Bag #3
Child 44, by Tom Rob Smith (f, hc)
Close, by Martina Cole (f, hc)

Book Bag #4
Made in the U.S.A., by Billie Letts (f, hc)
Off Season, by Anne Rivers Siddons (f, hc)

(f=fiction, nf=nonfiction, hc=hardcover, pb=paperback)
And I'll throw in the "book bag," too, although it may really be a re-usable grocery bag.

Here's how to enter. You DO NOT have to have a blog of your own to enter, but you DO have to be a US resident (sorry, but since I'm paying the shipping costs I need to restrict that).
  • Leave a comment on this post AND state which book bag(s) you're interested in. You may enter for more than one bag, but can't win more than one. Please include your e-mail if it's not readily available on your blog or profile. Even if you don't have your own blog, you must leave a comment - no e-mail entries will be accepted!
  • For TWO additional entries, mention the giveaway in a post on your blog and link back here. (Be sure to let me know you've done so!)
  • The deadline for entry is Friday, September 5. Winners will be chosen at random, one for each book bag. Winners will be announced here and contacted by e-mail.
  • If there are no takers for a book bag, its contents will be donated to the Friends of the Library bookstore.
Well, what are you waiting for? Now's your (second) chance!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Saturday Review 8-23-08

Bulletin Board
****** SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT here TOMORROW, so be sure to check back!

******Blog Action Day 2008 will be held on October 15 - this year's issue topic is "Poverty." Find out more here. (I haven't signed up yet as a participant myself, but I think it's good to have plenty of lead time for these things, so I wanted to help get the word out now.)

New in Google Reader

The Big Piece of Cake, via AllMediocre
Citizen Reader, via Savvy Working Gal
Unfinished Rambling(s), yet another blog by the Unfinished Person who brings you Just A (Reading) Fool and a few other blogs besides (this guy is EVERYWHERE!)

Random reading
My most recent post at the LA Moms Blog, a twist on this post from a few weeks ago

Learning to love a job you don't love any more (even if you don't need to read this one, I did), or finding a way to work in the job you truly DO love

A quick overview of the good news and bad news re: blogging and copyrights

Will blogs save books? Who says they're in trouble? That's probably news to all of my book-blogging buddies, as Trish argues quite well.

Some bloggers are total meme fiends - they love to do them, they're more than happy to be invited (tagged) to do them, and they're quick to tag others to play too. But would you rather be left alone to participate in only the memes you choose for yourself, and not be tagged? Here you go: via the aforementioned (Reading) Fool, this badge is the blog equivalent of a "No Solicitation" sign to ward off tagging.

I fail the "Twitter cool" test - I follow more people than I have followers (especially since I try to weed out the spammers). But I like the way Amy spins that.

Take a trip to the Iowa State Fair with Sunshine (and hopefully, the weather will be nice too)!

I know a lot of people who utterly love this song, including me: the complete lyrics to "Hallelujah."

Spam subject lines of the week
I won't quote directly because I'm afraid of the weird searches that might end up here, but to sum up: Poor Britney - she's in the hot seat again for auctioning her children on eBay. And not only does she have Alzheimer's, but her "girl parts" have escaped from rehab and she wants a divorce from them (and really, who could blame her? They've definitely caused her some trouble).

Book wishlist

Inglorious, by Joanna Kavenna
The Book of Animal Ignorance: Everything You Think You Know is Wrong, by John Mitchinson and John Lloyd (for my stepdaughter, the would-be zookeeper)

Enjoy your weekend!

Friday, August 22, 2008

TBIF - Thank blog it's Friday! #3

Tuesday Thingers  (hosted at The Boston Bibliophile)

Today's question: LT and RL (real life)- do you have friends in real life that you met through LibraryThing? Have you attended any LT meet-ups in your area? Would you be open to attending meet-ups or is LT strictly an online thing for you?

Interesting question, given that the online/RL intersection has been a bit of a theme around here this week!

So far, I haven't met anyone through LibraryThing; all of my LT connections are people that I've met elsewhere online, and connected with after learning they were on LT too. However, they are all friends from the online portion of my life. Most of my RL friends that are keeping their books online are using GoodReads. I have a shelf there too, and my friends there are a mix of online and off-line.

I'm not active in the forums or otherwise very involved with the social side of LT, so I'm lukewarm at best about the idea of attending local meet-ups. My interest in face-to-face meetings with people I've met online doesn't tend to develop until we've had a fair amount of one-to-one communication, and for me, that's happening much more through blogging.

If you haven't yet weighed in on your experiences with RL/online overlap on one of the related posts earlier this week, please go ahead now!

Teaser Tuesdays (Aug.19) (hosted at Should Be Reading)

Teaser Tuesdays asks you to:
  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!
My teasers don't usually come from what I'm currently reading, since I tend to get a little ahead of myself. (I'm currently reading Matrimony by Joshua Henkin, and I gave a teaser from that book three weeks ago.) Instead, I like to pique my own curiosity - and maybe yours too - about a newly-acquired book or two, or some random selection from TBR Purgatory.

This week's Teasers come from a couple of the books I got in the Hachette Book Group's Summer Reads Giveaway, both by author Elin Hilderbrand.

Blaine hadn't given Josh a single bit of trouble since the first night of babysitting; he was resolutely well-behaved, as though he were afraid that if he did something wrong, Josh would leave and never come back. Most days, Josh took the kids to the town beach right there in 'Sconset and sat in the shadow of the lifeguard stand (at Vicki's insistence).
 - from Barefoot: A Novel (paperback)

Claire was shaking from anger, frustration, guilt, nerves. "Forget it," she said. "I won't go. Give me the baby."
from A Summer Affair: A Novel (hardcover)

Your turn - give us a taste of what you're currently reading, or planning to read soon.

Libraries - Booking Through Thursday (hosted by Deb)

Inspired by Booksplease:

Whether you usually read off of your own book pile or from the library shelves NOW, chances are you started off with trips to the library. (There’s no way my parents could otherwise have kept up with my book habit when I was 10.) So … What is your earliest memory of a library? Who took you? Do you have you any funny/odd memories of the library?

Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!

Some of my best childhood memories involve trips to the library, although since I really don't remember much before I started kindergarten, I'm not sure whether I discovered my elementary school's library or the public library first. I do recall liking the public library much better, though, because it had so much more than our school library did. By the time I was about halfway through my years at Broad River School, I was often disappointed by its relatively small collection, and there were times I would voluntarily leave empty-handed, because I just couldn't find anything appealing. On the other hand, my mother took my sister and me to one of the two branches of the Norwalk Public Library nearly every week, and those trips were always something I looked forward to.

In those years, both branches were located in historic Carnegie library buildings, and they've shaped my perception of what a library should look like, both inside and out. While working on this post, I read a little about the library's history on its website, and learned that the children's rooms of both branches had been the result of basement remodeling during the 1960's - what luck, just a few years before I would arrive on the scene to use them!

My earliest library memories involve its summer reading program; you received a sticker to put on a paper chart (designed like a "bookworm") for each book you finished. I don't recall it taking very long to complete the chart. I also remember being pretty pleased with myself because I usually got my books from the shelves designated for readers a couple of grade levels ahead of me. I don't remember doing much reading at the library, but my mom never rushed us through picking out books to take home.

Trips to the library were regular family outings for many years. Even in my teens, I remember spending many Saturday afternoons there (although by then it was a different city, and a different library), both for school assignments and just for fun. While I've mentioned elsewhere that I'm not much of a library user any more, and haven't been for quite a few years, those summer-reading programs clearly made an impression on my sister; her boys participate in them at our local library.

Is the library a part of your childhood memories too?

Friday Fill-Ins #86 (hosted by Janet)

This week Amy provided the questions; thank you, Amy! And...here we go!

1. Dancing to the music on the radio while driving makes me think I probably look pretty silly to the other drivers (but they're supposed to be watching the road and not me anyway!).

2. The last time I went to the bookstore I nearly walked out empty-handed (but I found a couple of books for my husband, so crisis averted!).

3. When I drive I prefer to be alone in the car (even though I really should be more enthusiastic about carpooling).

4. I saw her standing there (and so did he - so how could he dance with another?).

5. Give me money, give me time, give me some more money.

6. Next week I am looking forward to the three-day weekend that starts at the end of it!

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to relaxing with my husband at home, tomorrow my plans include not much other than grocery shopping and Sunday, I want to read, write, and relax some more! (We actually don't have much planned this weekend, and that's just fine with me - the last couple have been pretty busy.)

I'm sure your weekend plans must be more exciting than mine! Have a good one.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

From 'riting to reality, part two

When I first started blogging, I really didn't have much of a grasp of its social aspects, but as I started to make my way around to other blogs - and to be found by them as well - I discovered how much I liked that part of it. People whose blogs I commented on regularly, and those who often left comments for me, started to feel like friends - and if I happened to learn that they lived in my vicinity, I might start thinking it would be nice to meet and talk with them in person one day. I had thought that (another) Wendy, Literary Feline, might be the first blog-friend I'd meet off-line, but an e-mail snafu prevented our arranging to find each other at last spring's Festival of Books - I'm hoping for better luck with that next year! But by then,the line between online and off-line friends may have become pretty blurred already, thanks to my becoming part of the Los Angeles Moms Blog.

Janssen, who blogs at Everyday Reading, recently reflected on that blurring:
Some people are, I think, very similar online and in person, while others are very different. I think I'm pretty different. I'm definitely quieter in real life, since it can often take me a while to warm up to strangers enough to feel comfortable telling stories and making jokes, and I certainly am too reserved to tell you how deeply I hate your partial feed or that your private blog makes me crazy because it cannot go into Google Reader.My voice is probably lower than you expect. My "at ease" face makes me look confused (I know this because one of my professors my first semester at (college) asked me daily if I was getting everything because I looked so perplexed throughout the lecture)...It's just such a weird thing,putting yourself out there online, because people can know a lot about you, enough to draw major conclusions about what you are really like.
SoCal Mom Donna, the first member of the LA Moms Blog, enjoys having the opportunity to blur those lines:
I have mentioned in the past how envious I am of the mom bloggers who live up in Northern California, because they seem to have turned their online community into real world friendships. That's why I jumped at the opportunity to contribute to the brand-new Los Angeles Moms Blog.And (last weekend) we took a major step in creating our OWN real world community...And I remembered why I keep on doing this: I love hanging out with smart, funny, articulate women. And when they are all women who blog,there's never a lull in the conversation.
The LA Moms Blog is still in soft-launch, growth mode, but those of us who have joined in early really wanted to get acquainted as soon as possible.Some of the women had the chance to meet during BlogHerCon, and a few others did know each other before through one thing or another, but most of us were in-person strangers - although not literally virtual ones. We were eagerly seeking out one another's posts on the Moms Blog and finding each other's personal blogs, leaving comments, e-mailing each other, and following each other on Twitter. Through a Yahoo Groups message board, we planned an informal Sunday-afternoon potluck, and while not all of the current roster was able to make it, we had a great turnout. Because I'd had the chance to read up on almost everyone beforehand, and the group wasn't going to be intimidatingly large, I felt pretty well-prepared for the face-to-face, which is the way I like it.

Aside from the preparation angle, it's also a little easier if I don't have to walk into these things alone.The get-together was held at the home of Jessica Gottlieb, which is in a nicely central location for a group whose members are geographically dispersed throughout Greater Los Angeles, but seem to be concentrated in West L.A. and the San Fernando Valley. On my way there, I'd be passing Donna's freeway exit, so SoCal Mom and I carpooled. That means Donna is officially the very first blog-friend I've met in person, and since we've known each other online for nearly a year now, I'm really glad it worked out that way. Two of the Moms Bloggers, Karen of Nouvelle Blogger and Anna from Life Just Keeps Getting Weirder (she does standup comedy - she ought to know), contributed terrific posts for the Bookworms Carnival, and I was looking forward to thanking them in person. I'm in a mutual-Twitter-following relationship with Mar Vista Mom Sarah and Kim from House of Prince, and was glad to know I'd be seeing them too. I've created a special sub-blogroll through Google Reader for my co-contributors' personal blogs, and have recently added Nina (Charlie and Nina), Marsha (Sweatpantsmom), Liz (Los Angelista), Elizabeth (Traded My BMW for a Minivan), and Jennifer (SmugDadCrankyMom) there. Amy doesn't have her own blog (yet), but she does have a website.

It was an amazing experience to walk into a house full of strangers where no one truly wasa stranger. We're hoping to have these gatherings as often as crazy schedules and spread-out geography will allow, and I look forward to that. I'm interested to see how these relationships develop from their online beginnings, and how an offline community grows from its virtual roots. Have you had that experience yourself? Tell about it in the comments!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

1984 - There and back again: A Hump Day Hmm

Julie recently reflected on some ways in which the climate of the USA today isn't all that different from the way it was 24 years ago, and ended by posing some related questions for this week's Hump Day Hmm:
For those of you who don't recall (or weren't born yet) in 1984 Democrats Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro challenged Republican incumbents President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George Bush. It was unprecedented: a ticket with a woman. The nation was sort of flummoxed, and everyone was talking about it, a lot...

Once Mondale secured the nomination, he selected Ferraro as his running mate, and the Woman Question took center stage, despite repeated efforts to make it about experience and qualifications...

Reagan retained his office in a landslide win. It wasn't even close.

What happened?

That's a long story, but since you asked me, I'll tell you I think it was the Woman Question and the Economics Question.

Again, you may not remember (or have been born yet) but I recall the 70s in vivid technicolor. I remember both energy crises (oh yes, we had the same energy crises back then, and what did we do? DRILL HERE DRILL NOW and release reserves---now how's that working as a long-term plan, my friends??). Who here remembers being assigned days you could get gas at gas stations because supply was so low? By license plate number. Who remembers that being a half a day to a day errand, sitting in the long lines, waiting for your turn at the pump, praying they didn't run out before you got there? Oh yeah, those were the days. 1979. Loads of fun.

And then what happened? Big recession. Terrible recession.

So Reagan came in and applied Reaganomics. Then the US recovered and gained a robust economy. (Note: Just because those two sentences followed one another doesn't mean I buy that the first resulted in the second.) So in 1984 we were fat, happy, and feeling a little cocky with our strong economy...

What we weren't feeling was kindly disposed to Mondale, his female running mate, and his liberal economic, diplomatic, and equality policies.

So he lost. By a lot. So back to the woman and money questions.

I think Mondale lost because he chose a female running mate. A lot of people pressured Ferraro to step aside, and in my memory she understandably got a little belligerent about it. That I respected. In my memory, one day, she said she would, if it helped the party. That crushed me. I had no idea what she went through but I could imagine, but I so wanted her to pave that way.

Also, I think he lost because he told the truth. He said taxes would have to go up. He said we'd have to make friends with the Russians. He said we had to reduce the deficit. He did not sing sunshine up voters' asses. He did not say what they wanted to hear (exclusively). He did say what he thought. He said what needed to be said. And it cost him the election.
(A lot of quoting there, but I love Julie. I can't help it.)

And then she asked:

So what can we take from the election of 1984 and what has come since then? Weigh in. Do you think we've made much progress--enough progress? How do you think the racial and gender factors in 1984 replayed out in 2008?

At least tell me where you were in 1984 (even if it was "twinkle in Mom and Dad's eyes"). (Or) choose a time that was an awakening for you, select a year or an event that year, that you invested in, although you might not have been quite old enough to understand it fully, and that affected you down the line. Or write about 1984, the election or your life then.

I have some pretty vivid technicolor memories of the 1970's myself, and they're not just about feathered hair and disco. I was in high school from 1978 to 1982, and as my friends were starting to get driver's licenses and cars, finding affordable gas for those cars was a big concern. Of course, back then "affordable" meant under $1.00 per gallon - but considering that just a few years earlier it had meant less than fifty cents, this was a major change. (Now? Woohoo, my husband bought gas for $3.99 a gallon today!) People had started to care about the fuel efficiency of the cars they drove, but they weren't terribly impressed with the "econo-boxes" coming on the market, and buying a "foreign" car was still viewed with suspicion. (That was before nearly every Japanese automaker had a plant in the US.)

The Equal Rights Amendment hadn't been ratified by enough states to become law yet, and this befuddled me. Why should anyone object to eliminating sex-based discrimination, as stated in the proposed law?

bulletSection 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
bulletSection 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
bulletSection 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

That was it. Nothing about unisex bathrooms or any of the other scare tactics that the amendment's opponents loved to bring up. But either those scare tactics worked, or not enough people saw why the amendment mattered; after all, women apparently were making a lot of social and political advances without it, weren't they? And it's still not law today.

During a speech-communications class I took in college that year, one of our assignments was a panel discussion on a controversial subject, and my panel's topic was abortion. Several students took an anti-abortion stance; my opinion was that the option of abortion needed to remain legal, so that it could be safe,  regulated, and accessible. I was asked if I was in favor of abortion. (I had just had a baby; when in the position to have chosen it, I didn't.) I said that regardless of value judgments, it was legal now - it had been so for a little over ten years - and taking away legal rights previously granted was never advisable, so why were we still talking about it?

When Ronald Reagan was elected to his first term in 1980, he took on a country that was still sorting out the many social changes of the 1960's and '70's, and was experiencing economic and technological changes as well. Reagan conveyed a sense of certainty and confidence in his beliefs about what was right for the country, and had a personal charisma that influenced many Americans to trust his direction and leadership. By the time he ran for a second term in 1984, the country actually had recovered a lot of ground - but on a shaky foundation. Taxes had long been considered evil, and the government turned heavily to borrowing the money to pay for its programs; this indirect form of financing made the cost of government less painful to individuals and, in my opinion, set the tone for the expansion of the debt-fueled, instant-gratification lifestyle that seems to be the norm now. If the government can live beyond its means, why can't we? Why think about how it's going to be paid for?

1984 was the first year I was old enough to vote in a Presidential election, and I didn't want to "throw away" my vote. Enough said. But I really think it's a shame that 24 years later, our country is still struggling with some of the same issues. In many ways it not only hasn't moved forward much, it's backtracked in a number of directions. Civil rights once granted have been threatened or taken back entirely, class divisions have grown (even though we still officially consider ourselves a "classless" society), and community consciousness has become less important that individual privilege. I think that attitude of concern for self over other is a big part of what's keeping us stuck - "yeah, nice idea, just don't inconvenience me/regulate me/expect me to pay for it." Sometimes being an adult means seeing past your own nose. And sometimes ignoring or neglecting what came before means you find yourself back in the same mess, and you're not sure how you got there or how to make sure you get out of it and stay out.

It's been a long day since that "morning" dawned in America in 1984. But whether it really was "morning in America" or not, it was a time when I was definitely thinking in "beginnings" mode myself. At the age of twenty, in the middle of that year, I became a mom. Every day with a baby is a day of firsts, and a new parent is filled with anticipation, awe, and anxiety. My world contracted during the latter half of that year as I focused on the new life I was responsible for, and my concerns became "domestic" in the most narrow definition of the word for some time to come. I went into the cocoon that many parents of young children find themselves in, and was out of touch with the world at large for awhile.

I've been back for awhile now, though, and sometimes I marvel at how far we've come. At other times, I marvel at how far we've gone in directions I wouldn't have anticipated back then - some good, others most definitely not - and at the ways in which it seems like we've barely moved at all.

1984 has a particular resonance for a few reasons, but if it doesn't for you, is there a year that does, and why - personally, and/or in the context of the world at large?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

From 'riting to reality, part one

The idea of "meeting" someone I already feel like I know has a lot of appeal to me. It lets you skip over a lot of the in-person small-talk get-acquainted awkwardness (well, it lets me skip it - maybe you don't have that problem, you fortunate socially-adept person, you) and get straight into conversation, and I suspect that my being a reader is a big factor in that. After all, when you're getting to know characters in a book, it's nearly all laid out there for you, so learning about a new person via the written word feels like a natural extension of that.

Back when I was in high school, I sent in my name and address for a pen-pal swap that a teen magazine I subscribed to was having with a British magazine for teen girls, and through that, I was introduced to Wendy from Nottingham. We wrote back and forth every month or two over the years, sharing news of marriages (both of us), children (first mine, later hers), divorces (hers), houses, and health...but we fell out of touch several years ago, and it was my fault. If you noticed, I didn't mention my own divorce back there. By the time my first marriage was into its long, slow death spiral, it just felt too complicated to explain to anyone who wasn't around to bear witness, and it really felt like too much to write in a letter (or more than one), back in those pre-blog, pre-MacBook days - so I just didn't do it. I let it fade away. But I thought of Wendy often, and I guess she reciprocated, because a couple of months ago, I had an e-mail from her saying she'd found me...through the blog! We've exchanged the requisite catch-up e-mails, and I hope we'll pick our correspondence back up this way, although blogging has sadly taken a toll on my keep-in-touch e-mail habit (I write so much here that I tend to want to keep it simple and just ask people to read it here too) - so once again, I'll be at fault if it fades away. And that reminds me - Wendy sent the last e-mail, so I owe her one in return.

I've never expected that Wendy and I will ever meet in person, but if that should ever come to pass, I think I would feel pretty well-prepared for it. We wouldn't be strangers at all. Since I'm not the most outgoing person, I really do like being prepared when I meet someone new, and I'm most comfortable when that preparation happens through writing. I think I present myself better - more self-confident, and definitely better-spoken. I usually even finish my sentences...

I know I've mentioned that Tall Paul and I met via an online-dating site, and I love the fact that we corresponded through the site for a week and a half before we met in person for a lunch date. In that case, it was fully intended as preparation for a face-to-face meeting, and when it happened, we already knew so much about each other that the conversation just kept going easily - for five hours. And it hasn't slowed down much in almost three and a half years - we still love talking together. (I suspect some of the people who know us wish we'd shut up sometimes.) And even though we live in the same house, we still enjoy communicating with each other in writing; we'll e-mail each other during the day, he reads my blog (although he makes any comments he has in person), and he's occasionally written for it too. 

I realize that not all instances of meeting someone via writing evolve quite the way mine and Tall Paul's has. My pen-pal relationship with Wendy was never going to evolve that way. But having had some good luck with it, I'm all in favor of friendships that develop without a face-to-face meeting; if and when one happens, you've already got a personal history together.

Have you had the chance to meet in person with someone you've gotten to know through letters or online, and did you feel like you were old friends when you did, even though you'd never spoken before? Where have things gone from there?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Weekend Assignment #229: What's in a (nick)name?

This week's question from Karen:
Weekend Assignment #229: Tell us about a nickname - yours, or someone else's. Did you come up with it, or was it bestowed by someone else? Is it still in use? And most of all, has it benefited the nicknamed person, or caused them grief, or both?
Extra Credit: Have you ever tried for a nickname that just didn't take off?

Karen notes in her own Assignment that "(I came to the conclusion that) nicknames are bestowed, not self-assigned," and I think she's right. I haven't been terribly fond of some of the nicknames bestowed on me during my lifetime, though, to be honest.

My parents gave me a very long name, particularly when you consider what a small child I was (even by small-child standards), and they always called me by that name in full. (You knew you were in trouble with my mom when she yelled out your first, middle, and last name.) The only one in my immediate family that was regularly called by a shortened name or nickname was my dad.

But outside the house, the smallest kid in the class was frequently addressed as "Midge" or "Munchkin," and let's not forget "Four-Eyes." None of these are names one really wants to embrace.

When my family moved from Connecticut to Florida when I was in middle school, it seemed that I met more people who were stumped by how to pronounce my name. I'm not sure why, given its similarity to the name of the state we lived in, but I was frequently asked by people if they could call me "Flo" instead. For the first two years of high school, I gave in...and then I took a stand.

Do you happen to remember the TV sitcom Alice? It was fairly popular during my middle- and high-school years, and you may also remember another character from the show...Flo.

I decided I didn't want to be associated with a mouthy, gum-chewing, brassy redhead best known for telling people to "kiss (her) grits," and so I put the kibosh on "Flo." She and I just had nothing in common. There's a handful of people from the brief period when I did not object to the nickname whom I've never been able to re-train, but no one new has addressed me as "Flo" for at least 25 years - unless it was an inadvertent mistake, and I will politely but firmly set them straight. (It happened in the comments on one of my blog posts here last week, actually, but the person was nice enough to apologize for it on Twitter later that day.)

During my college years, after I'd put "Flo" to rest, someone in my family decided I needed a nickname after all, and my sister christened me "Nina." It derived from her pronunciation of my name as "Ninna" and then "For-ninna" when she was learning to talk, and so we've built family legend around it, but it honestly never was a childhood nickname. However, it is one diminutive that I actually do like, even though no one but my sister has ever really made much use of it. Her sons do call me "Aunt Nina," though, and I hope they will for many more years to come. My boss, who is a pretty nice guy but has a frat-boy tendency to nickname almost everyone, occasionally calls me "Flor;" I don't mind that one, but I don't like the fact that it sounds like the what we call the surface we walk on.

I've never really been one to assign nicknames myself - except to my dog. She has at least a dozen of them.

I once tried to get "Effie" going as a nickname for myself - based on my initials F.E. - but I didn't really get any takers. I'd still be open to that one, but I'm just not going to go with the Flo.

Do you have a nickname, or are you the one who gives out nicknames to everyone else? What's your favorite nickname, and has anyone ever tried to give you one you just can't stand? (Nothing unprintable, please!)