Sunday, November 30, 2008

TLC Book Tour Book Talk: "Somebody Else's Daughter," by Elizabeth Brundage

(Disclaimer: Thanks to Trish Collins of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review this book, and to the author for providing a signed copy!)

Somebody Else's Daughter by Elizabeth Brundage
Somebody Else's Daughter
Elizabeth Brundage
Viking, 2008 (Hardcover) (ISBN 0670019003 / 9780670019007)
Fiction, 352 pages

First Sentence: We left San Francisco that morning even though your mother was sick. (Read an excerpt from the book's prologue.)

Book Description (summary): In the Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts a group of families is connected through the prestigious Pioneer prep school. Into this community enters Nate Gallagher, a teacher and struggling writer haunted by the daughter he gave up for adoption years ago. The girl, Willa—now a teenager and one of Nate's students—lives with her adoptive parents, Joe and Candace, who have nurtured her with their affection and prosperity. When Willa wins a community service internship and begins working at a local women's shelter, her friendship with Petra, a troubled young prostitute, raises questions about her own biological past. Despite her parents' love and care, Willa can't shake her feelings of confusion and abandonment, and Joe and Candace are too preoccupied with their crumbling marriage to realize her unhappiness.

Somebody Else's Daughter is filled with doppelgangers. Pairs of characters mirror each other forcing each one to confront the darker side of his or her psyche and question their own identity. Nate and Joe (Willa's biological and adoptive fathers) both fall in love with Claire, a feminist artist who recently returned to the area. Pioneer's headmaster Jack Heath and Joe are both fathers of teenage girls, each with his own secrets to keep. Willa and Petra (Pearl) are both orphaned girls, yet one has been given a caring home and the other turns to prostitution.

The characters become more entwined as first scandal and then tragedy strikes. As the story draws to its gripping conclusion, each character must make a decision that defines who they are. Somebody Else's Daughter is a suspenseful tale and a tightly woven psychological drama that examines, as Joe Golding observes, how "in a matter of seconds, based on the fickle inclinations of fate, your life could change forever."

Comments:  I wish I hadn't been reading this book in the midst of my recent packing-and-moving adventure; I would have liked to be able to read it in a few sessions rather than in small chunks over several weeks. Somebody Else's Daughter is an engrossing book, but there are quite a few characters and subplots, and having to take so many breaks while reading it threw off my momentum and sometimes made it difficult to re-orient myself to the story. I think if you have the time, this would be a pretty fast read.

Elizabeth Brundage's second novel covers a relatively short chronology - less than a year - but a lot of psychological and relationship territory in this story of the community around a small prep school in the Berkshires. She introduces a lot of characters, and it takes a while to see how their stories will intersect, but have faith that eventually they will.

At first glance, the "somebody else's daughter" of the title seems to be Willa Golding, who came to her parents, Joe and Candace, via a private adoption as a baby. Her birth parents were drug addicts, and her natural mother died of AIDS on the day of the adoption. Willa's biological father, Nate Gallagher, has cleaned up and become a writer and teacher; when a position at the Pioneer School, which she attends, opens up, he takes it as an opportunity to get to know the girl without revealing their relationship.

However, "somebody else's daughter" could be Candace, Willa's adoptive mother, who was raised in foster homes herself. It could be Maggie Heath, who has always felt out of place with her husband Jack's family, and who seems to share an eating disorder with her own daughter Ada. It could be Claire Squire, feminist artist and single mom, recently returned from Los Angeles and living in her father's old house after his death. It could be Petra - also called Pearl (although I think I missed the point in the book where her name changed) - a young, drug-addicted prostitute who centralizes several of the novel's story arcs. I like the fact that the title could refer to any or all of the characters.

I think Brundage balances character and plot development pretty well overall in this novel, and nearly every element she introduces does end up connecting to the larger story at some point. As a reader, I usually do have confidence that authors will tie things together eventually, and I appreciate having that rewarded. I thought that nearly all of the major characters had complexity and depth, and given the number of characters and storylines that Brundage is juggling here, that appeals to me.

There were some elements of the writing that distracted me from the story at times - minor things that seem like they could have been fixed with more (careful? thoughtful? anal-retentive?) editing - but they weren't a serious impediment to my reading, since there was plenty of story to keep me interested. Brundage does use the "f-word" quite a bit, but in a character-appropriate manner. In the interest of full disclosure, I should also mention that she has included some disturbing scenes that may seem gratuitous at first, but really are relevant to the story, including several graphic descriptions of pornography and a scene at a dogfight (which I found more unsettling than the porn).

Book Club Discussion Guide questions for Somebody Else's Daughter

This was my first time reading any of Elizabeth Brundage's fiction, but I think I will be checking out her first novel, The Doctor's Wife. She has a way with character and story, and I thank TLC Book Tours for introducing me to her!

Rating: 3.75/5

This review is cross-posted at Books on the Brain.

** Buy Somebody Else's Daughter online at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, IndieBound.org, or BooksAMillion.com

** Other stops on the TLC Book Tour for Somebody Else's Daugher:

Monday, November 3rd: It's All Fun & Games
Wednesday, November 5th: S. Krishna's Books
Friday, November 7th: Mabel's House
Wednesday, November 12th: Devourer of Books
Thursday, November 13th: All Thumbs Reviews
Friday, November 14th: Welcome to My Brain
Monday, November 17th: 1 More Chapter
Wednesday, November 19th: My New Reality
Friday, November 21st: Bloggin' 'Bout Books
Tuesday, November 25th: The Friendly Book Nook
Tuesday, December 2nd: Bookroom Reviews
Thursday, December 4th: Pieces of Me

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Saturday Review 11-29-08

Bulletin Board
Nothing to report here this week, and no new blogs added to Google Reader, either. I've started using Blogger's new "follow" feature to keep up with some new-to-me blogs on that platform, and I did pick up a couple of newbies there - if you're a Blogger blogger, are you using that too? You can see the full list of blogs I'm following on my profile, if you're curious.

From around the blogiverse:
Coming together as equals in the chemotherapy room

"Doorbusters" went much too far at a Long Island Wal-Mart on "Black Friday" - one blogger's response

A former SAG member suggests that this is NOT a good time for an actors' strike

Five good things to teach your children, two parenting tools, and the latest in potty-training aids. Also, you don't have to be a mom to read "mom blogs"!

I'm in favor of adopting shelter/rescue dogs myself, but aside from that, I agree with a lot of the considerations in getting a dog mentioned in this post.

Just because you want it doesn't mean you should get it. But she's getting what I want - her very own library.

A very inauspicious start to a week's vacation, and the holidays are made bittersweet by a breakup (of the "friendly" kind). Speaking of the holidays - one family's new Thanksgiving tradtion

Ah, someone else who wears nail polish on her toes but not on her fingers.

Top 10 Pickup Lines used by chefs

If you like popular music and quibbling over lists, find some time to peruse The Popdose 100: (Their) Favorite Singles of the Last 50 Years. I think they make pretty good cases for just about every song they included, although I might not agree with the rankings. Also, happy 20th anniversary to MST3K! More entertainment: I'll bet you can beat my 50% score in The Movie Blurb Game.

E-mail of the week

Thanks to my sister (now a resident of the blogiverse herself as a fellow LA Moms Blog contributor):
Just in case you don't understand some of the terms you have been reading in the news lately:
CEO --Chief Embezzlement Officer.
CFO-- Corporate Fraud Officer.
BULL MARKET -- A random market movement causing an investor to mistake himself for a financial genius.
BEAR MARKET -- A 6 to 18 month period when the kids get no allowance, the wife gets no jewelry, and the husband gets no sex.
VALUE INVESTING -- The art of buying low and selling lower.
P/E RATIO -- The percentage of investors wetting their pants as the market keeps crashing.
BROKER -- What my broker has made me.
STANDARD & POOR -- Your life in a nutshell.
STOCK ANALYST -- Idiot who just downgraded your stock.
STOCK SPLIT -- When your ex-wife and her lawyer split your assets equally between themselves.
FINANCIAL PLANNER -- A guy whose phone has been disconnected.
MARKET CORRECTION -- The day after you buy stocks.
CASH FLOW-- The movement your money makes as it disappears down the toilet.
YAHOO -- What you yell after selling it to some poor sucker for $240 per share.
WINDOWS -- What you jump out of when you're the sucker who bought Yahoo @ $240 per share.
INSTITUTIONAL INVESTOR -- Past year investor who's now locked up in a nuthouse.
PROFIT -- An archaic word no longer in use.
If you had purchased $1,000 of Delta Air Lines stock one year ago, you would have $49 left.
With Fannie Mae, you would have $2.50 left of the original $1,000.
With AIG, you would have less than $15 left.
But, if you had purchased $1,000 worth of beer one year ago, drunk all of the beer, then turned in the cans for the aluminum recycling REFUND, you would have $214 cash.
Based on the above, the best current investment advice is to drink heavily and recycle.

Book wish list/notes
What Happened to Anna K., by Irina Reyn
Grit for the Oyster: 250 Pearls of Wisdom for Aspiring Writers, by Suzanne Woods Fisher, Debora M. Coty, Faith Tibbetts McDonald, and Joanna Bloss
Off the Menu, by Christine Son
Riding Lessons, by Sara Gruen
The Mighty Queens of Freeville, by Amy Dickinson

Hope you're enjoying your weekend! Still making your way through the Thanksgiving leftovers?

Friday, November 28, 2008

TBIF - Thank blog it's Friday! 11-28-08

Tuesday Thingers (Questions for LibraryThing users from The Boston Bibliophile)

Today's question: Blog Widgets. Do you use them? Do you have them on your blog? Do you know what I'm talking about? :-) A blog widget is that list of books "From my LibraryThing" and such, that you'll sometimes see on someone's sidebar. If you use it, do all of your books show up or do you have it set to only show certain books? Do you have a search widget, which would allow your blog readers to search your library? Have you ever made a photomosaic of your book covers? You can find widgets and photomosaic information on the "Tools" tab in LibraryThing.

I use the "Random Books from my library" widget in my sidebar. (If you normally read my posts in a feed reader and don't visit the blog itself, come by and check it out!) I play around with the settings on it every now and then. Since there are quite a few books in my LibraryThing collection that I read in the past but don't have any more - they've been given away, donated, or somehow disappeared - I've added an "on my shelves" tag to designate the books that are actually in my possession, and those are the ones that the widget shows now. I've never installed the search widget, and I don't know that I would. I think anyone who wants to search my LT library would probably just do it from there - the regular widget would take them there anyway.

I really hadn't explored the photomosaics until this question came up. It looks like it could be fun to make one, but I've never done it and I'm not sure how I would use one.

I enjoy seeing the widgets on people's blogs - they let me know the person is on LT, and give me a glimpse of the books that interest them.

Teaser Tuesday (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!

After a brief dry spell, I finally have some new books to tease you with!

"'Except if they say that, Madam roots in her handbag, fishes out some volume she's just finished and makes them a present of it.'
"'Which they promptly sell on eBay.'" (page 41)
 - The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennett

"'We don't claim to understand this doubled kingship that you live under,' Zelikman said. 'It strikes us as overelaborate.'" (page 156)
 - Gentlemen of the Road: A Tale of Adventure, by Michael Chabon

"'My life hasn't been so goddamned interesting,' Clara interrupts.
"Ruth shifts her weight on the bed, sinks lower into her pillows." (page 81)
- Black & White, by Dani Shapiro

"'Maybe if they didn't speak like they'd been slipped a roofie we'd understand what they were saying.'
Madeline had followed more gently." (page 103)
 - Schooled, by Anisha Lakhani  (won a copy in a raffle from J. Kaye of J. Kaye's Book Blog)

"But then - so what the hell. Better the kid pees on the shaggy old hulk than he tries to run away and put the finger on me." (page 24)
A Jolly Good Fellow, by Stephen V. Masse
 (This is for an upcoming blog tour - thanks to Tracee Gleichner at Pump Up Your Book Promotion)

What's new on your bookshelf these days?

Thankful - Booking Through Thursday

Today is Thanksgiving here in the U.S.
Now, you may have noticed that the global economy isn’t exactly doing well. There’s war. Starvation. All sorts of bad, scary things going on.
So–just for today–how about sharing 7 things that you’re thankful for?
This can be about books, sure–authors you appreciate, books you love, an ode to your public library–but also, how about other things, too? Because in times like these, with bills piling up and disaster seemingly lurking around every corner, it’s more important than ever to stop and take stock of the things we’re grateful for. Family. Friends. Good health (I hope). Coffee and tea. Turkey. Sunshine. Wagging tails. Curling up with a good book.
So, how about it? Spread a little positive thinking and tell the world what there is to be thankful for.

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.

Since I did a "thankful" list for Ten on Tuesday last week, I could just send you back to that, but as I write this on Thanksgiving evening, I think I should give today's question its own answer. In no particular order, I am thankful for:
  • My husband - the second time around is even better
  • My kids - the one I've had for 24 years who flew cross-country to spend Thanksgiving weekend with us, and the two who came as part of a package deal with their dad two years ago
  • Our extended family, including the dog
  • Our continued employment and a little bit of money in the bank
  • Our new home
  • Literacy and education
  • The people and ideas I've come to know as a member of the blogiverse - thank you all for being the most important part of that!
Even if you did a whole post about it yesterday, what's one thing you're thankful for?

Friday Fill-ins #100

1. My stomach is happily full of dessert (chocolate trifle!) right now.
2. Lasagna is what I ate the most of on Thursday (I did put turkey in it, though).
3. The yard is still a little muddy from the rain we had earlier this week.
4. At home, with a book and my laptop, is where I'd rather be at any given time.
5. The smell of tomato sauce simmering on the stove reminds me of Sunday dinners at my great-aunts' house when I was a child.
6. Another day off is what I need right now! (Good thing I'm getting one, then - my office is open tomorrow, but I won't be there!)
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to visiting with the extended family at our new place (their first time here), tomorrow my plans include my mother-in-law's tree-trimming party and Sunday, I want to have time for a little Christmas shopping!

Hope you and yours had a great Thanksgiving Day (if you celebrated it yesterday)! What's planned for your weekend?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A LOT more than Ten on Tuesday (er, make that Thursday): Compiling my book wish list

Back in the summer, I started including a "book wish list" section in my Saturday Review posts. I had never really kept up a wish list before, but one thing about book blogging is that it's hard to avoid finding out about lots of great stuff you might want to read, and I wanted to start making note of books that intrigued me. While I was at is, I decided to add some linky love to the exercise by listing and linking to the review post that interested me in the book rather than to the book itself.

This week's prompt for Ten on Tuesday was "10 Things You Want for Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa," and since I am having a lot of trouble coming up with things to ask for this year, I had decided I would leave that to my husband and skip it myself. (Seriously, y'all HAVE to click that link and read his list. Tall Paul is the King of Christmas-list-making.) But when Bookish Ruth posted her book wish list in response to a prompt by Ali of Worducopia on Buy Books for the Holidays, it dawned on me that if I pull all my own book-wish-list links together into one place, I've probably got a lot more than ten items to work with.

Here's my summary of book-wish-list links since July of this year. The ones with a strike-through are books that I'm no longer wishing for, because I've already obtained them (one way or another), but I decided to include them anyway, just for the (complete) record. And in the spirit of the day, here's a huge THANK YOU to my book-blogging cohorts for telling me about all of these exciting new books!

Loose Girl, by Kerry Cohen
Keeping the House, by Ellen Baker
Lady of the Snakes, by Rachel Pastan
Up for Renewal by Cathy Alter
Schooled, by Anisha Lakhani (won a copy from J. Kaye of J. Kaye's Book Blog!)
Flower Children, by Maxine Swann
How to Be a Canadian, by Will Ferguson and Ian Ferguson
Rules for Saying Goodbye, by Katherine Taylor
Aberrations, by Penelope Przekop
Loving Frank, by Nancy Horan
Inglorious, by Joanna Kavenna
The Book of Animal Ignorance: Everything You Think You Know is Wrong, by John Mitchinson and John Lloyd (received for Christmas from my husband)
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
She Was by Janis Hallowell
The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner
Life Without Water, by Nancy Peacock
Hurry Down Sunshine, by Michael Greenberg
Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter, by Phoebe Damrosch (received for Christmas from my husband)
The Anteater of Death (A Gunn Zoo Mystery), by Betty Webb
Janeology, by Karen Harrington
Home Girl: Building a Dream House on a Lawless Block, by Judith Matloff (I have a review copy now, awaiting reading)
Novel About My Wife, by Emily Perkins
Dear John, by Norma L. Betz
The Pages In Between: A Holocaust Legacy of Two Families, One Home, by Erin Einhorn (I have a review copy now, awaiting reading)
Out, by Natsuo Kirino
Anatomy of a Boyfriend, by Daria Snadowsky
Who By Fire, by Diana Spechler
Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited, by Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein
The Best Place to Be: A Novel in Stories, by Lesley Dormen
The Pools, by Bethan Roberts
Losing Kei, by Suzanne Kamata
Capote in Kansas: A Ghost Story, by Kim Powers
Another Way Home, by Christa Parrish
The 19th Wife, by David Ebershoff
The Likeness, by Tana French
My Seven Years in Captivity: Tails and Misadventures in the San Diego Zoo, by Bill Seaton
 (received a review copy)
An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, by Elizabeth McCracken
The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennett
The Almost Archer Sisters, by Lisa Gabrielle
Most Likely You'll Go Your Way and I'll o Mine, by Ben Tanzer (received a review copy from the author)

The Kept Man, by Jami Attenberg
Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe, by Jennie Shortridge
Dumbfounded, by Matthew Rothschild
Broken, by Daniel Clay
What Happened to Anna K., by Irina Reyn
Grit for the Oyster: 250 Pearls of Wisdom for Aspiring Writers, by Suzanne Woods Fisher, Debora M. Coty, Faith Tibbetts McDonald, and Joanna Bloss

Yikes. Clearly a LOT of books have caught my eye in just the last few months! I guess if anyone's looking for ideas, I should just send them here.

How's your holiday wish list - for books, or anything else you'd like - coming along?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Feels like home - for a while, maybe longer

I think I may have mentioned a few times that we moved to a new place at the beginning of November. We're mostly unpacked now, so I have some time to catch my breath and think about what we've done.

We only moved across town, but it feels like a very different place. For three years, we lived in an apartment complex that was literally built around the train station. Each building had 18 to 24 units, and some of the largest ones - three-bedroom units like ours - were occupied by families of four or more. Most of the residents had more than one car, too, and all of the parking was in outdoor lots. We were on the second floor, so we had neighbors both above and below, but since we were in an end unit, there was a neighboring apartment on only one side. The point of all this is that it was rarely quiet around there.

We're now living in a gated townhome community that's a small part of a major subdivision. We're still in an end unit, with a neighbor on one side, but there are only four units in the building. More importantly, since each unit has two stories, there are no up-or-down neighbors. Each unit has a garage, so there's no busy parking lot outside. But there is a park just on the other side of the fence behind us. And the train tracks are a couple of miles away. Sometimes it's unnervingly quiet here.

We hadn't been actively looking to move, but the chance to rent this house came up through a woman in my book club. Her family had decided to move east of Los Angeles for various reasons, and she and her husband had decided to rent out their house here rather than try to sell it, and it all came together so well it made Tall Paul and me a little nervous. We're committed to an 18-month lease, and our landlords have told us that they have "no plans to sell," period. We're already hoping they won't change their minds - not only would we really prefer NOT to move again in a year and a half, we already know we like it here a lot and would be happy to stay as long as we can.

We have more space - the same number of bedrooms, but more living space and all of the rooms are larger. Tall Paul is very happy that he has a garage, and we can actually get both cars into it and store stuff out there! There's enough storage space in the kitchen that we can actually put things away and clear off the counters, and a built-in cabinet in the upstairs hallway has already been put to use for much-needed book storage. (And it's not full - yet. That will change, especially if we're here longer than the current lease term.) The house are big windows and lots of light. There are also lots of trees around, but no yard to speak of, and the homeowner's association is responsible for all the groundskeeping. The whole neighborhood is great for walking, and the park is well-lit at night - and since it's a park with no playing fields, it's pretty quiet there too. Our dog Gypsy seems to appreciate both the change of scenery and the quiet - she's even quieted down a bit herself since we moved in here. And of course, there are so many new things to sniff while out walking - the rabbits and squirrels are a fine bonus, too.

Real-estate agents know what they're doing when they talk about helping people buy "homes" - it's an emotional term. They deal with buying and selling houses. As far as I'm concerned, any place I've lived was the place I called "home" - as long as I could make it comfortable and welcoming, it didn't matter to me whether it was owned or rented, spacious or small, house or apartment. Those details still don't make a lot of difference to me. We haven't been in this new place long, and since we don't own it, some might say it isn't truly "ours," but we're already making it feel like home, and we'll treat it like it's ours for as long as we're here. We just hope that will turn out to be for a good long time.

Since we're starting to feel "at home" in our new place, I HAD to take this Blogthings quiz:

What Your Home Says About You

You come across as very intellectual. People take your wisdom seriously.

You have amazing hygiene, and it shows. You are sparkling clean!

You are a very domestic person. You enjoy decorating, cooking, and making things homey.

You are not a nurturing person by nature, but you can easily take care of someone you truly love.

You feel settled in your life. You have enough time to focus on little details.

You are a very self sufficient person. You can get along well without much help.

Your friends see you as honest, humble, and responsible.

So, are you a "homebody"? What does "home" mean to you?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"...You might be a mother" of a meme

The following was originally published on the LA Moms Blog by my friend, the very funny Anna Lefler. I thought it might make a good meme, and she has graciously allowed me to turn it into one - thanks, Anna!

Here's how it will work:

Copy and paste this whole thing into your blog (or an e-mail, if that's how you roll), and add one or two of your own "you might be a mother" thoughts at the end. Please identify your additions! Then post or e-mail, encouraging your readers to make their own additions and keep it circulating.

No tagging unless you really want to - this meme is free for the taking, but a link back to the blog where you found it would be very welcome!

Anna's original musings on how to tell that you might be a mother:
If you've ever lusted in your heart after another woman's European umbrella stroller...you might be a mother.
If you've ever excused yourself from an adult gathering to go "winkle,"...you might be a mother.
If you've ever gone on a date night and spent the whole evening talking about your children...you might be a mother.
If you've ever given a fifth of scotch and your therapist's business card as a baby-shower gift...you might be a mother.
If you've ever snuggled with one of your child's stuffed animals in a hotel room when you had to travel alone...you might be a mother.
If you've ever driven past McDonald's and told your children that they're "out" of hamburgers and fries...again...you might be a mother.
If you've ever changed a squirming toddler's diaper in midair rather than touch anything in a nasty roadside bathroom...you might be a mother.
If you've ever spent your lunchtime explaining to your friend how you would handle the bratty kid at the next table...you might be a mother.
If you've ever seen a creepy stranger hovering around a public playground and known, in that moment, that you could kill a man with your bare hands...you might be a mother.
If it takes you three hours to prepare for a two-hour trip to the beach...you might be a mother.
If you are the only person in your home who knows the location of swim goggles, hydrogen peroxide and piano recital music...you might be a mother.
If you've ever secretly gloated when your frightened child ran to you for comfort rather than to his father...you might be a mother.
If you've ever stayed up at night when you could barely keep your eyes open to write a note from the Tooth Fairy in secret fairy code...you might be a mother.
If silence in your home fills you with happiness - followed immediately by dread...you might be a mother.
If you've ever been so desperate to get your child to stop crying on a long car trip that you've offered her all the cash in your wallet...you might be a mother.
If you've ever had your child blow his nose into a tissue, then found yourself using the same tissue on your nose five minutes later...you might be a mother.
If you've ever reached across the table without thinking and wiped your husband's mouth with your napkin...you might be a mother.
If you think your man is at his sexiest when he takes the children on a bike ride so you can have a couple of hours for yourself...you might be a mother.
If you've ever been startled from a deep sleep and exclaimed, "Goodnight, moon!"...you might be a mother.
If you've ever grudgingly admitted that your mother knew a few things after all...you might be a mother.
[With apologies - and much admiration and respect - to Mr. Jeff Foxworthy.]
Florinda's additions:
If you find yourself picking up after people you don't even know...you might be a mother.

If you dole out cold medicine and tissues at the first sound of someone's sniffle...you might be a mother. (Bonus points if you check for a fever via the hand-on-forehead method.)

If you make your family members change their clothes because YOU'RE too hot or too cold...you might be a mother.

Your turn! Copy, paste, add your own, and pass it on via blog or e-mail - and please leave me a comment if you decide to play!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Weekend Assignment #243: It's Breakfast Time

(...not to be confused with "Business Time," although you could use the same melody to sing it)

Karen had to get up early in the morning for a job interview, and that got her thinking about how to start the day:

Weekend Assignment #243: The founder of the Weekend Assignment, John Scalzi, is infamously fond of bacon, not necessarily attached to a cat. Setting aside the whole cat thing, what do you like to eat for breakfast?

Extra Credit: How often do you actually eat breakfast?

Extra credit answer first: Every. Single. Day. On some days, I'll eat it more than once; I had cereal and fruit for lunch on Saturday. I don't function well if I don't eat fairly soon (within an hour or two) of when I get up in the morning, and I tend to regret it if I drink coffee on an empty stomach. Plus, I actually like most traditional breakfast foods (except for eggs in any form other than scrambled or omelets).

My breakfast habits have changed a bit since I started doing Weight Watchers five years ago, but my basic weekday breakfast routine rarely varies. Shortly after I wake up, I get a nonfat yogurt that I'll eat as I'm getting ready for the day. After I return from taking the dog for her morning walk, I'll have my cereal and a small glass of pineapple juice. Within the last year, I've become a regular oatmeal eater despite my undying affection for cold cereal; it stays with me longer, which is desirable since I eat breakfast around 6:15 AM and I try not to break for lunch before 1:00 (a later lunch leaves less of the workday to get through after it), and those packets provide built-in portion control. I do mix some cold cereal - and fruit, when strawberries are available - into my oatmeal to make it a little less boring, though. I'll start on my coffee during breakfast, but it comes with me on the way to work, and I've usually finished it by the time I get there.

Most Saturdays, my sister and I try to get together for a Starbucks outing, and that's my indulgent breakfast - a nonfat latte, a breakfast sandwich (turkey bacon, egg, and fat-free cheese on a whole-wheat English muffin - kind of an upscale Egg McMuffin, really), and a blueberry scone or other pastry.

While it's hazardous to my weight to do it very often, I do enjoy the occasional weekend breakfast outing to places other than Starbucks. Our favorite local breakfast spot is called Eggs N Things. Their specialty is the Swedish pancake they serve as an "appetizer" with every breakfast - it's a thin crepe filled with lingonberry jam and dusted with powdered sugar, and even though I really don't care for jam generally, I really like these. Their pancakes and ham-and-cheese omelets are also very good, but my very favorite is the ridiculously decadent cinnamon-roll French toast. (I'll get a side of scrambled egg with that so I'm not completely over-indulging in carbs.)

And on some evenings, I'll do the breakfast-for-dinner thing. I like making a ham-and-cheese sandwich with waffles instead of bread, and I like potatoes with eggs occasionally. My husband has pointed out that my spaghetti carbonara is essentially bacon and eggs with pasta instead of bread, but I wouldn't count it as breakfast for dinner myself, although my stepdaughter has been known to have the dinner leftovers as breakfast the next morning. And on particularly lazy or stressful evenings, a bowl of cereal may just hit the spot at dinner time.

Are you a breakfast eater? If you are, what foods do you prefer to start your day? Feel free to answer the question in your own Weekend Assignment post; leave a link to it in the comments at the post quoted at the top of this one, and Karen will link back to it when she posts her answer roundup at the end of this week.

And here's a side note from Karen:

I'm running low on ideas, so I need your input. What would you like to see as a Weekend Assignment topic? Email me your suggestions (mavarin at aol.com). If I use your topic you'll get full credit and my undying thanks.
I'm trying to think of some ideas for her myself - if you have any suggestions, send 'em on!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Saturday Review 11-22

Bulletin Board
**** The 18th edition of the Bookworms Carnival will be hosted at Bookopolis. The theme is "Memoirs," and submissions are due by November 28 - e-mail your links to preferred.stock AT gmail DOT com.

**** I read about The Mother Letter Project on BlogHer. The idea is simple: a husband and father is collecting "letters from mothers to mothers" to make into a book as a gift for his wife (and letter-writers can get a copy too). Read all about it at the MLP blog, and if you're a mom with a story to share, submit is as a comment on this post or send it to motherletter AT gmail DOT com.

**** As you may have seen, I'm a regular participant in the Weekend Assignment writing exercises hosted by Karen Funk Blocher at Outpost Mâvarin every Friday, and she's looking for topic ideas. Got one? Don't tell me - email her at mavarin at aol.com (but you can tell her I sent you). And join us one of these weeks, won't you?

New in Google Reader
Encourage Silly
The Bluestocking Guide, added to the Books Blogroll listing
Pillowbook, added to the LA Moms Bloggers listing

From around the blogiverse:
The Silicon Valley Moms Group blogs had a "topic day" this week on the subject of "diversity" - my contribution to the effort is on the Los Angeles Moms Blog.

Little-known facts (or is it "facts"?) about our next President; and some ideas for the future of a former VP candidate (this is actually from about two weeks ago - still playing catch-up with Google Reader!)

Did you think I was done linking to marriage/Prop 8 posts? I did too, but then I read Madame Meow's perspective, which includes an etymology lesson.

Why suburban moms are annoying (as told by one of them) - and commuting is even MORE annoying.

It's getting scary out there, and it's "trickle-down" stress (thanks to April for inspiring that terminology). Somewhat related - what's so bad about a foreclosure? There's a good discussion in the comments here that looks at various angles - those caught in "creative financing," the impact of a slipping economy, and the emotional and community effects. Also, this year's holiday season: the Season of Need?

Some signs that you might be a mother (and I will be turning this into a meme, since Anna has OK'd it - look for it next week!); when your child notices there are other mothers besides you - and you wonder how you measure up

A lot can happen in thirty years...

So, why don't we put up Thanksgiving decorations? A five-year-old wants to know

Three things to be thankful for, and that can be very easy to give: compliments, good handshakes, and hugs

I love the semi-obscure stuff that Gael comes across and posts at Pop Culture Junk Mail. This post reminded me about some older YA series I read during junior high - there's a company that's republishing a lot of girls' fiction from the 1930's-1960's. Does anyone else remember reading series about Katie Rose Belford, Penny Parrish, and the Jordon family? (Even if you don't, at least I have some validation that the books actually existed...)

I talked about the LA Moms Blog launch party the other day, and thought I'd share one of my "red-carpet" photos with you (although you can't see the carpet, our sponsor is very clear).

Photo credit: Laura Joyce/Goofyfoot Photography for LAMomsBlog.com

Book wish list/notes

The Almost Archer Sisters, by Lisa Gabrielle
Most Likely You'll Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine, by Ben Tanzer
The Kept Man, by Jami Attenberg
Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe, by Jennie Shortridge
Dumbfounded, by Matthew Rothschild
Broken, by Daniel Clay

Have a great weekend - get in shape for Turkey Day!

Friday, November 21, 2008

TBIF: Thank blog it's Friday! (Blogger-ethics-discussion edition)

Word of warning: this is a pretty lengthy TBIF post, and it's all Booking Through Thursday's fault. Read on...

Tuesday Thingers (hosted by The Boston Bibliophile)

Popular this month on LT: Do you look at this list? Do you get ideas on what to read from it?
Have you read any of the books on the list right now? Feel free to link to any reviews you've done as well.

1. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
2. Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron
3. Nation by Terry Pratchett
4. Brisingr by Christopher Paolini
5. Anathem by Neal Stephenson
6. American Wife: A Novel by Curtis Sittenfeld
7. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
8. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: A Novel by David Wroblewski
9. Eclipse (The Twilight Saga, Book 3) by Stephenie Meyer
10.Any Given Doomsday by Lori Handeland

Short question this week, and I think my answer will be short too:

I do check out this list every now and then when I sign on to my LibraryThing homepage, but since it only changes once a month sometimes I forget to take a look at it! One thing I usually do notice is whether some of the titles look familiar because book bloggers have been talking about them - it's funny how that works sometimes. (I know I saw quite a few posts about the Gaiman book in the weeks around Halloween).

I haven't read any of the books on the list...yet. I will definitely be reading American Wife once it's out in paperback, though; I like Curtis Sittenfeld a lot, even though I wasn't so crazy about her second novel. Eclipse is in TBR Purgatory with Twilight and New Moon. The Guernsey Literary... has been talked about a lot of the book blogs, and most of it's been positive, but it really hasn't grabbed me. I might consider reading Dewey if it was about a dog instead of a cat, which reminds me - I think I'm on the verge of caving in and reading Marley and Me.

If you've read any of the books on the list, what do you recommend?

Honesty - Booking Through Thursday

Suggested by JM:

I receive a lot of review books, but I have never once told lies about the book just because I got a free copy of it. However, some authors seem to feel that if they send you a copy of their book for free, you should give it a positive review.

Do you think reviewers are obligated to put up a good review of a book, even if they don’t like it? Have we come to a point where reviewers *need* to put up disclaimers to (hopefully) save themselves from being harassed by unhappy authors who get negative reviews?
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!

Ah, last week's "controversy of the week" has come to BTT. I'm glad I was already working on a response to this issue, having joined a group on Book Blogs that's trying to address the questions of posting review policies and developing a "code of ethics" for book bloggers.

When I first started book blogging, it was to keep a record of - and remember details about - the books I read, which, at that time, were my books. The reviews I posted were for me, and I didn't really expect many people would read them, let alone come to value my opinion on books. (Even now, my book reviews tend to get fewer comments than other types of posts here, so maybe my opinion isn't that valued after all...)

I'd been blogging nearly a year when I was first offered a book for review. The book came via a publicist and not directly from the author, but even so, I remember feeling some anxiety over it, since there was at least a slight chance that the author might actually read my review. I wanted to be fair, I wanted to be honest, and I didn't want to be offensive in expressing my opinion. I think I found a good balance, and I hope I've maintained it. (Luckily, I didn't hate the book.)

I don't feel that reviewers are obligated to post positive reviews of books they disliked, no matter where the books came from. I think we're obligated to post honest reviews. Also, if we accept a book with the understanding that we'll write about it, I think we are obligated to follow through and do so, no matter what we think of the book; that is, in such cases, we're obligated to post reviews, period.

Having said that, I do find that when I'm reading review books, I do look harder for positive things I can say honestly, especially when the book has come through a direct contact with an author or publicist. That's a relationship, and if we want to nurture it beyond this specific book, a savage review isn't in anyone's best interests. Then again, I tend to stack the deck by limiting the books I accept for review to those I would normally read for myself anyway, so that makes it easier. It also makes it easier if I don't happen to like a review book in a genre or subject area that I rarely read, because I can say that although I thought I'd give it a try, this type of book is unusual for me and I might not be the ideal audience for it.

However, as far as an author's expectation of positive reviews from book bloggers goes, it occurs to me that when any of us put our words out there - in a book, in the newspaper, on a blog - we can hope they are well-received, but we can't control anyone's reaction to them. Not everyone's going to like what we have to say, but it's easier to accept that when they let us know that in a diplomatic manner; and if we disagree with their opinions, they are just that - opinions, not verdicts - and we should be expressing that disagreement diplomatically as well.

Trish posed some follow-up questions related to accepting books for review:

How has receiving ARCs affected your reading? Have you considered stemming the flow of incoming books so you have more freedom to read what you want? Has receiving free books become more of a burden than a blessing?

I responded in comments:
I don’t actively solicit books for review. When I first started blogging, my purpose was to have a record of what I’d read and remember something about it, and I assumed I’d be blogging about books I owned and chose on my own. I didn’t even KNOW that book bloggers got recruited to do reviews.
Most of the review books I received during my first months of blogging were for blog tours that I signed up for. I’d been blogging almost a year before I was offered my first review book, and I’ve gotten more review copies through publicists than I have from authors directly.
But yes, ARCs and review copies have definitely affected my reading patterns. I think there’s a responsibility to read and post about those books in a timely manner, so I put them ahead of my own books even if they’re not what I feel like reading at a given time.
I think I’m pretty selective. I try not to solicit, or accept on offer, any books that I wouldn’t be interested in reading on general principles, and I try not to have too many review books in at once. But I may cut it back even more next year. It’s hard, though; turn down too many, and you hurt your relationships, which means you could potentially lose out on a great review opportunity down the road!
I suspect everyone who has an opinion on this controversy will be posting it at her/his own blog if they haven't already done so. I've read other responses to this week's BTT topic; this author's take and this blogger's perspective are among the best I've seen.

I think this book-blog-review issue has broader considerations for product reviewing in general, and I know a lot of bloggers who do that. Where do you stand regarding a reviewer's responsibility to be positive vs. honest - or is there really a conflict? In any case, I'm interested in your thoughts on this (including links to your posts).

Friday Fill-ins #99

1. The last band I saw live was The Brian Setzer Orchestra, December 2005 (no, I don't get out much, why do you ask? And I'm not counting the Rock Bottom Remainders at the 2006 L.A. Times Festival of Books).
2. What I look forward to most on this Thanksgiving is seeing my son for the first time since last Christmas!
3. My Christmas/holiday shopping is a chore I've barely thought about yet, let alone started.
4. Thoughts of things I should be doing instead of what I'm doing now fill my head.
5. I wish I could wear a size seven shoe (there are a LOT more options than there are in size five).
6. Bagpipes just don't sound very musical to me.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to being done with the work week, tomorrow my plans include coffee with my sister and shopping for a birthday gift and Sunday, I want to not have very much to do, besides attend a 7-year-old's birthday party!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

How do you Dew(ey), Bookworm?

I found this little bit of library-classification fun via Kylee.

I'm hard to classify, it appears - although I prefer to see it as being "multi-faceted." This quiz gives you up to three results, and I think there's something to every one of them, so I'm posting them all.

Florinda's Dewey Decimal Section:
560 Paleontology; paleozoology
Florinda = 62589441 = 625+894+41 = 1560

500 Science

Math, astronomy, prehistoric life, plants and animals.

What it says about you:
You are fascinated by the world around you, and see it as a puzzle worth exploring. You try to understand how things work and how you can make them better. You might be a nerd.
Find your Dewey Decimal Section at Spacefem.com

I MIGHT be a nerd?!? That's charitable. Obviously these folks have never met me, or they would understand that there's no doubt about it.

Florinda's Dewey Decimal Section:
293 Germanic religion
Florinda's birthday: 3/29/1964 = 329+1964 = 2293

200 Religion

The Bible and other religious texts, books about the general philosophy and theory of religion.

What it says about you:
You don't mind thinking about the unknown or other very big ideas. You will never feel like your work is finished. The 200-series is dominated by Christian topics, so you may feel like you're constantly surrounded by Christians.
Find your Dewey Decimal Section at Spacefem.com

Actually, since I work for an organization with historical ties to the Jewish Federation, that last sentence isn't quite true. On the other hand, I'm a former churchgoer from a family of pretty active Catholics and a former resident of the Bible Belt, so maybe it's not totally off-base, either.

Florinda's Dewey Decimal Section:
042 [Unassigned]

000 Computer Science, Information & General Works

Encyclopedias, magazines, journals and books with quotations.

What it says about you:
You are very informative and up to date. You're working on living in the here and now, not the past. You go through a lot of changes. When you make a decision you can be very sure of yourself, maybe even stubborn, but your friends appreciate your honesty and resolve.
Find your Dewey Decimal Section at Spacefem.com

Well, I hope they appreciate it. And it depends on the decision - where to live is a bigger, but somehow easier, choice to make than what to have for dinner.

What section(s) of the library do you belong in? Please share!
Kylee has also presented me with the Bookworm Award - and so has Gautami! Thank you both very much!

 The award has certain conditions:

Open the closest book to you, not your favorite or most intellectual book, but the book closest to you at the moment, to page 56.
Write out the fifth sentence, as well as two to five sentences following there.
Pass this on to five blogging friends.

 Weird. The book actually opened to Page 56 when I picked it up!

This excerpt is from Thursday Next: First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde.
"...Speedy Muffler is a bit of a megalomaniac, and both Feminist and Ecclesiastical thought containment was better than out-and-out conflict. The problem is, Racy Novel claims that this is worse than a slow attritional war, as these sanctions deny it the potential of literary advancement beyond the limited scope of its work."
"I can't say I'm very sympathetic to that cause."
"It's not important that you are - your role in Jurisfiction is only to defend the status - "
OK, I have NO idea what's going on there...I just started the book and am only in chapter 2. My husband has already read it, but he is firmly anti-spoiler and won't tell me anything, so I guess I'll just stay confused a little longer!

I'm not going to pass this on, since from what I've seen, a lot of people already have done the meme part - but if you haven't yet and want to, I hereby nominate you Bookworm and wish you well! (Just throw me a link back, please!)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

But sometimes I play one in real life

This weekend, I had another of those special opportunities to break the fourth wall and meet some of those folks I've gotten to know via blogging Live and In Person. The Los Angeles Moms Blog, where I've been a contributor for several months now, had its official launch party, and an excellent time was had by all!

This collaborative is actually my first experience with a "moms group" of any kind, after over 24 years of motherhood. I've long been one of those people who did not see herself as a "joiner," but my online life has changed that, as I've formally entered the realm of the "mom bloggers," and am happy to be counted as part of the wonderful community of "book bloggers" as well. I've posted before about my fairly high comfort level in getting to know people through reading/writing exchanges, and I'm finding that this comfort level may be giving people an impression of me that doesn't match my own self-image; among other things, they seem to think I'm "organized" and "outgoing."

As I mentioned in those previous posts, "outgoing" is a lot easier for me when I feel like I know you already. (I've rarely considered myself unfriendly, but socially awkward and timid with strangers. If I don't consider you a stranger, I am far less timid.) As for "organized," I have long considered organizational skills a necessary coping mechanism for the daily chaos of family, work, pets, keeping household clutter under control, and all the rest, since chaos is NOT my friend, so I do cop to that. But specific to this blogging thing, it's also a matter of wanting to maintain and cultivate the relationships I've formed. To do that, I consider it a priority to keep up with people's blog posts and be a frequent commenter (although our recent move has caused a slump in that which I hope to rebound from soon!), and I sort my Google Reader feeds into folders to make that easier. I also compose and schedule my posts in advance as much as possible, so I can maintain my daily presence here without pulling regular all-nighters. It works for me, mostly, and that's the main thing.

To get to the point: keeping up with my fellow LA Moms Bloggers online made our in-person meeting a lot more comfortable and fun for me.

The launch party was sponsored by GM, who offered three of their new Chevy Traverse crossover vehicles, with drivers, to convey the mom-bloggers to the event from various parts of the LA area. I always find it more relaxing to arrive at events like these accompanied, and I had a travel companion all the way; one of the newest contributors to the Moms Blog lives ten minutes from me, so we drove together. (You've met her here as a guest blogger: it's my sister Teresa.) We met up with Kim and Dariela, and our Traverse and its driver Russ, in the San Fernando Valley, and headed to Hollywood for the party!

West End LA girls

We were among the earliest arrivals at M Bar, preceded by the West LA contingent of Karen, Sarah, and Elise. Beth Blecherman directed us to step onto the red carpet so we could all have our movie-star moment. As more bloggers arrived, I tried to keep my eye out for those that I'd met before, and was very pleased to see April again (we met about six weeks ago to see 9 to 5: The Musical), but before too long the crowd grew, and it got difficult to keep up with everyone. The darkness of the club made it hard to see people, so I missed some people I would have liked to speak with, like Liz, and only said brief hellos to others, like Marsha. I was pleased to meet Fran and Cynematic (whose MOMocrats posts I have followed for months), but was sorry that two of the women I'd most looked forward to seeing, Donna and Lucia, weren't able to make it after all (for similar, but different, reasons).

After we entered the club, Teresa, April, and I were joined at our table by Nina Moon. While the four of us are all at different places in our trip through parenthood, we found no shortage of things to talk about over appetizers and chicken marsala. After dinner, we were entertained by some mom-centric stand-up comedy in a showcase organized by, and featuring, Moms Blogger Amy Anderson. After the show, we reluctantly broke up the party and tossed out ideas for our next get-together as we collected our overflowing swag bags, coordinated by Elizabeth with some help from Jessica Gottlieb.

Speaking of those bags, some of their contents may show up here as giveaways soon, once I have another chance to sort through it all. I'm keeping most of the more personal stuff (the pearl earrings were my favorites - glad I got my ears pierced last month!), but there were a few items I can't use - such as nursing-mother supplies (not gonna happen), and a PC-tuneup disc (not necessary in my multi-Mac household) - so they will need to find new homes. Marketing to the mom-bloggers is definitely "in" right now, but our kids' ages are all over the place, so it's a lot harder to target that when striving for a mass-appeal gift bag. I did eat the cupcake at breakfast on Monday morning; I'm still not sure what flavor it was (maple-pecan, maybe?), but it was very tasty!

At some point during the evening, I heard someone say "Sometimes I feel like I'm pretending to be a mom, because I have no idea what I'm doing." Sometimes I feel like I'm pretending to be a mom blogger, especially since "mom" isn't a full-time job for me these days, given my one grown-and-gone child and my two part-time-custody stepchildren. But for the most part, I think I'm being pretty convincing - including to myself - and I'm glad to have found a "moms group" for myself, even this late in the game.

If you've met anyone in person whom you knew online first, were they "the same in real life," or different from what you'd expected based on prior knowledge? And...do you know if they thought the same about you?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ten on Tuesday: Thanks!

Thanksgiving, or as it's popularly known, "Turkey Day," - unless you're my son, and you call it "Gorgefest" - is next Thursday (unless you're Canadian and you celebrated it last month). It seems like the right time for Ten on Tuesday to broach the topic of "10 Things You're Thankful For This Year."

The big things - my husband and family, my health, a roof over our heads, continued employment - are the things I try to appreciate every day, and that I'm thankful for every year. Therefore, I think I'm going to devote this list to some of my smaller, although no less significant and meaningful, appreciations. In no particular order, as you will probably be able to tell:
  1. The people who make me laugh - my husband and my sister are on the top of that list
  2. Our new house - home for the next eighteen months, and hopefully longer
  3. Literacy. I cannot imagine my life without the ability and opportunity to read and write.
  4. My tenth anniversary with my dog! She still doesn't look, or really act, close to her age, either.
  5. The opportunity to expand my writing outlets, and get to know some terrific women, through the Los Angeles Moms Blog
  6. My new favorite radio station
  7. Everyone who reads here, whether a subscriber or a sometime visitor, and especially those of you who take the time to comment!
  8. The change that has come to America - while it might not turn out to be to everyone's liking, it will be different, and hopefully will move us in a more positive direction
  9. Even though there were times when I really wanted to, I didn't give up on myself when I turned 40 - almost halfway through that decade, it's shaping up as one of my very best!
  10. While I'm NOT thankful that he won't be with us for Christmas, I am very glad my son made the almost-last-minute decision to come to California for Thanksgiving! (I'm also thankful he has a good job and can afford the plane tickets :-D.) It will be a short visit, but better than not seeing him at all this year!
Are you working on your own "thankful" list? I'd love to have you share some of the things on it in the comments!