Saturday, February 28, 2009

Saturday Review 2-28-09

Bulletin Board
** This week's announcement is actually me asking for a favor. **

The agenda for BlogHer'09 will include some member-programmed sessions under the umbrella "A Room of Your Own," and the session that I have proposed was one of three featured this week on BlogHer.com. I'd love to see a Room for the book-blogging community: "Book Bloggers: So Many Words, So Little Time."  There's no guarantee that it will get on to the agenda, though, so I'm asking for your help to make it happen!

Please click on that title link to go over and read the description, and if you think it sounds interesting, click the "I would attend this session" link at the top of the post. Voting is anonymous and does NOT commit you to attending, but I'm sure they are looking at interest and potential attendance to determine which sessions will make the cut. (You don't need to be registered for the conference to vote, but you do have to be a member of the BlogHer community.) Voting will close in mid-May, and 12 sessions will be selected at that time. Thanks for your help to get book bloggers on the agenda!

Also, if you're a book blogger who would be interested in playing a bigger role in this session - if it happens - please also click the "I would be interested in presenting on this topic" link. Again, you're not making a commitment at this point, but if this does happens, I'd really like NOT to do it alone!

Oh, and one more thing - if you would be also willing to mention this on your blog with a link to the session page, you would have my tremendous appreciation!

(I hadn't planned to mention this over here at this stage since I'm not sure how many of y'all are even thinking of going to BlogHerCon, but if Anna Lefler can lobby for her cause, so can I - and while you're over on BlogHer.com, vote for her session too!)

New to my Google Reader
Tome of the Unknown Blogger (via his wife, Anniegirl1138)
Jennsylvania, author Jen Lancaster's blog (again, not letting the fact I haven't read an author's books keep me away from her blog)

Across the Blogiverse
How do you balance the "it's all about me" aspects of blogging with making it interesting and relevant to someone who's not you?

Then again, is it "all about me," or all about marketing? It seems like the discussion topic of the week is the evolution of the blogger, particularly bloggers of the "mom" variety, into a marketing force

Sunday-morning rituals of the former churchgoer

Economic stress --> relationship stress: what about "for richer, for poorer"?

Taking her frustrations to the chair

A "spa music" channel on satellite radio? I'm not sure you should be that relaxed when you're driving...

Have you ever fed a teenager? If so, does this sound familiar? And someone's not a teenager any more - it's the big 4-0(h, boy!) (Happy birthday, Mike!)

I don't usually link to the biggest biggies in the blog world (they certainly don't need me!), but this Huffington Post item was the funniest Oscar recap I read on Monday. In vaguely related news: the Momcademy Awards are announced

Driving a hard bargain, via Not Always Right
Hot Dog Cart | Rochester, NY, USA
(It’s the end of the day on my mother’s hot dog cart, when I was about 17. We stop cooking and decide to hang up a sign selling the remaining cooked food 2-for-1. There’s an annoying guy that’s been badly playing the accordion next to our cart all day.)
Accordion guy: “Closing, eh? I’d like four Italian sausage, two cheeseburgers, and two hot dogs!”
(My mom happily packs up the order into a box as I ring up the total.)
Me: “That’ll be $10.50.”
Accordion guy: “What? No! It’s $4!”
Me: “Cheeseburgers are $3.50, sausage is $3, and hot dogs are $2. We’re having a special right now, but there’s still no way it adds up to only $4.”
Accordion guy: “NO! Your sign says two-for-one! Two things for one dollar! I got eight things, so it’s $4!”
Me: “That’s not at all what that sign means. It means you get two things for the price of one.”
Accordion guy: “Yes it does! That’s exactly what it means!”
Me: “Sir, I wrote the sign myself. Several customers have come up to the cart in the last few minutes, and haven’t had any trouble with this concept.”
Accordion guy: “It’s $4!”
Me: “You saying that doesn’t make it true.”
My mom, quietly, to me: “Whatever. If he’s eating, he can’t play the accordion!”
Me: “Sir, that will be $4, please!”

Bookmarks: Reading-related reading
From the "reading challenges I might join if I did challenges" files: The Try Something New Mini-Challenge, running through March, hosted by Nymeth of Things Mean a Lot

You know you want this: directories of book trade people and authors on Twitter (via Bookopolis) - now go out and follow!

Speaking of authors, take note of these 10 things to remember about them (most of which fall under the heading of "they're people, too" in one way or another)

The impossible, unanswerable question: "What's your favorite book?" (For me, it's tied with "What's your favorite song?" And I daresay that if you have just one of either, you might not be a very big reader or music listener...)

Books that caught my eye this week:
Laura Rider's Masterpiece: A Novel, by Jane Hamilton
The Break-Up Diet: A Memoir, by Annette Fix
Feminist Mothering, edited by Andrea O'Reilly

Friday, February 27, 2009

TBIF: Thank blog it's Friday! This week in memes and books, 2/27/08

Mailbox Monday, hosted at The Printed Page

I have it on good authority - that would be Marcia, founder of "Mailbox Monday" - that this meme is meant for mentioning any new arrivals on your bookshelves, whether they came through the mail or not.

I have two newbies from a trip to Borders last weekend. We were actually not there for the usual reason; we were looking for some reading glasses for Tall Paul, who doesn't need as strong magnification as I do, and the ones that Borders and B&N sell start at +1.00 (the lowest we found in the drugstore was +1.25). But of course, I had to check out the bookshelves too, and I came across two titles from my wishlist:

Love and Other Natural Disasters, by Holly Shumas; and
Helping Me Help Myself: One Skeptic, Ten Self-Help Gurus, and a Year on the Brink of the Comfort Zone, by Beth Lisick.

Good timing, too. Since we entered the season of Lent on Wednesday, I am making my usual attempt to give up buying books till Easter, so I won't be back in Borders for a while.

Acquired any good books - or books you hope will be good - lately?

Tuesday Thingers: Questions for LibraryThing users, hosted at Wendi's Book Corner

Today's question: Do you have a specialized blog where you only review a certain genre or type of book? If so, what is your favorite thing about that type of book? If not, what is/are your favorite genre(s)? What makes that genre(s) a favorite?

My Answer: As far as fiction goes, I'm not really a genre reader or reviewer. Most of what I read is general  fiction - it's not usually all that highbrow, so I hesitate to call it "literary" - but it may have elements from one or more genres. I like novels about relationships, but not if they're clearly identifiable as romances or "chick lit;" I like some suspense and action in the plot, but I don't read mysteries or crime fiction. Historical fiction is tricky for me; I prefer a writing style that doesn't feel historical itself, but anachronisms drive me crazy. I think that I'd sum up my preferences by saying that I prefer to read fiction that doesn't fall strictly within the conventions of a particular genre, but elements of genre can add to my experience reading general fiction, if that makes sense.

I'm more genre-specific with nonfiction. Other than the occasional book of essays or something with a sociological bent, I tend to stick with memoir and biography. But if the subject matter sounds interesting and the writing is engaging, I'm happy to branch out and try something different.

Are you a genre specialist, or more of a generalist?

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!

This week's Teaser comes from a book that is currently sitting on my husband's nightstand:

"'So, you lived through the night?' said Oswald.
"'Of course, why wouldn't I?' I asked." (page 198)
- Fool, by Christopher Moore

I haven't seen too many reviews of this one yet - one who loved it, one who didn't - but it's a must-read in our house regardless.

Booking Through Thursday: Collectibles
  • Hardcover? Or paperback?
  • Illustrations? Or just text?
  • First editions? Or you don’t care?
  • Signed by the author? Or not?
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!

I really don't view books in terms of collectibles. To me, a collectible is generally something that sits on a shelf or in a display case; you don't use it, because using it would take away from its value. There's no question that I enjoy acquiring books, but I acquire them to read them - although it might take me a few months, or even a few years, to get around to doing that. The books that I've kept after reading, for the most part, are those that I can foresee reading more than once. If I don't think that's going to happen, I'll usually try to find the book a new home - unless it's autographed. I've been fortunate enough to receivesome signed copies of books from authors since I entered the book-blogging world, and those will remain with me permanently, regardless of their format or read status.

Since I don't consider myself a book "collector," I prefer books in trade paperback format, because I find that the easiest to read. If someone else is giving a book to me, though, I won't turn it down if it's in hardcover. I generally prefer books without illustrations, with the exception of maps and diagrams if they're appropriate.

Since I've started book blogging, I've received a few books that are technically first editions, but time will tell if that's meaningful; they're not something I've ever sought out, and that's not a reason for me to get review books. (It brings up a question, though: is an ARC a "pre-first edition"?)

Are books collectibles to you, or are they something you use?

Friday Fill-ins #113

1. I'm rushed, I'm anxious, I really need to relax!

2. Why do I have small feet and not good eyesight?

3. How does this iPhone thing-a-ma-jig work, anyway?

4. Every morning, I put cinnamon sugar on my oatmeal.

5. I consider myself lucky because I am married to someone who makes me laugh every day.

6. One day we’ll see things we can't even imagine right now.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to TV catch-up time with my family, tomorrow my plans include my nephew's birthday party at the go-kart track and Sunday, I want to do some reading, some writing, and some de-stressing!

What's on deck for your weekend?

I know I'm asking y'all a lot of questions today, but that's the hazard of putting all of my memes in one post :-).

Thursday, February 26, 2009

And what did YOU do today, dear?

I karate-chopped a surfer under your bed because the voices told me to. (How both of us fit under your bed remains a mystery...)

And what did YOU do today? Find your answer by selecting the appropriate phrases below, and either leave it in comments or post about it - we want to know!

Pick the month you were born:
January-------I kicked
February------I loved
March--------I karate chopped
April----------I licked
May----------I jumped on
June----------I smelled
July-----------I did the Macarena with
August--------I had lunch with
September----I danced with
October-------I sang to
November-----I yelled at
December-----I ran over

Pick the date (number) you were born:
1-------a birdbath
2-------a monster
3-------a phone
4-------a fork
5-------a snowman
6-------a gangster
7-------my mobile phone
8-------my dog
9-------my best friend's boyfriend
10-------my neighbor
11-------my science teacher
12-------a banana
13-------a fireman
14-------a stuffed animal
15-------a goat
16-------a pickle
17-------your mom
18-------a spoon
19------ - a smurf
20-------a baseball bat
21-------a ninja
22-------Chuck Norris
23-------a noodle
24-------a squirrel
25-------a football player
26-------my sister
27-------my brother
28-------an iPod
29-------a surfer
30-------a homeless guy
31-------a llama  

What is the last number of the year you were born:
1--------- In my car
2 --------- On your car
3  ----------- In a hole
4 -----------  Under your bed  
5 ----------- Riding a Motorcycle  
6 --------- sliding down a hill  
7 --------- in an elevator  
8---------- at the dinner table  
9  -------- In line at the bank
0 -------- in your bathroom  

Pick the color of shirt you are wearing:
White---------because I'm cool like that.
Black---------because that's how I roll.
Pink-----------because I'm NOT crazy.
Red------------because the voices told me to.
Blue-----------because I'm sexy and I do what I want.
Green---------because I think I need some serious help.
Purple---------because I'm AWESOME!
Gray-----------because Big Bird said to and he's my leader.
Yellow---------because someone offered me $1,000,000.
Orange--------because my family thinks I'm stupid anyway.
Brown---------because I can.
Other----------because I'm a Ninja!
None-----------because I can't control myself!  

Thanks to my blogless friend Roxane for e-mailing this one. And thanks for letting me get away with this bit of silliness as a post; it's a crazy week, and not a lot of writing is getting done around here!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Book/movie, chicken/egg...the "which comes first?" quandary

Bookworms Carnival #23, "Books to Movies," is currently posted at The Bluestocking Society. In addition to links to posts about books into movies, movies into books, books about movies, etc., Jessica poses a question: Do you prefer to read the book first or see the movie first?

My short answer: I'm not a stickler either way. There are some cases where I planned to see the movie version but wasn't all that interested in the book, and the movie made me want to go back and read the book anyway. Sometimes I like the movie better - or in the case of The Lord of the Rings, the movies, despite the heresy of that position. Sometimes I still prefer the book, in part because of the parts that don't make it into the movie. Sometimes I will dread the movie adaptation of a book I loved and be won over despite myself, as happened with Wonder Boys. Sometimes seeing a favorite book turned into a movie actually helps me visualize parts of the story that I had trouble imagining on my own. Sometimes I didn't even realize a movie was based on a book, and if I liked the film, I've found something new I want to read.

I think one thing that factors into how one answers this question is one's feelings about "spoilers" - how adamant one is about not wanting to know about the story in advance. That used to bother me, but it hasn't for awhile, especially since we began recording TV shows on our DVR to watch later; I still read the online recaps even if I haven't seen the episode yet. I like seeing how it plays out even if I already know what happens, and since some of my favorite shows, like Lost and Life on Mars, have complicated plotlines, it actually helps me to have some advance intel.

For me, though, I think the bigger factor is seeing "the book" and "the movie" as related but different, and taking each on its own merits. In a Sunday Salon post earlier this week, Literary Feline talked about how reading, and falling in love with, the novel The Princess Bride made her appreciate the movie - which she had seen numerous times before she got around to reading the book, by the way - more. I saw the movie first too, and I'll always love it more than the book, but I appreciate them both as the separate works they are. Especially when the movie is "based on" or "inspired by" a book rather than "adapted for the screen," I think holding it apart from the source material probably causes a lot less frustration over what the movie "got wrong."

This is actually a topic that comes up pretty often around our house. My stepchildren's mother has a rule that the kids cannot see a movie based on a book unless they have read the book first, and it's a rule that has to be followed in both households. As a mother and a reader, I understand this thinking - the main concern is that the kids will feel like they already know the story and won't want to read the book, and we don't want to discourage reading - but I don't really agree, and their father agrees even less. The kids in this case are already readers, and we don't think they'll start ignoring books.

On the other hand, we wonder if making the book a prerequisite to seeing the movie has taken some of the fun out of reading, or pushed them to read books they weren't ready for just because they wanted to see the movie. Our nine-year-old has already read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on his own so that he'd be permitted to watch the movie - and not to take away from that accomplishment, but I don't think that the material in the later Harry Potter books or movies is really appropriate for kids that young. Still, "first the book, then the movie" will probably be a fact of life for him and his sister for a while longer, which means he's still got at least a year to read The Hobbit before that movie comes out.

As long as I get something enjoyable or interesting out of each, it doesn't really matter to me whether I read the book or see the movie first. What do you think - book first, movie first, or do you just want to be entertained?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Weekend Assignment #256: Taxing

One of the reasons I read Karen's blog faithfully is that she's another member of the ABA (Association of Blogging Accountants - which I just made up, but I think we need one!) - and in the current Weekend Assignment, she asks us to think about one facet of accounting that affects nearly everyone at this time of year:

Weekend Assignment #256: Tax time for individuals in this country starts in late January when the tax forms arrive, and runs through April 15th or so when the tax return is due. Do you file your taxes as soon as possible, at the last minute, or somewhere in between? Is there a particular reason for this?

Extra Credit:
Who actually does your taxes, and with what software or other resources, if any?

Just FYI: please do NOT come to this blogging accountant for tax advice! While I earned my bachelor's degree in the subject and have worked in the profession for over twenty years now, I am not a CPA and my work experience has been in nonprofit organizations, where taxes generally aren't an issue.

We had planned to get to work on our taxes this weekend, but as plans often do, it fell through, partly due to the somewhat more urgent matter of replacing Tall Paul's car. We're not usually in a real rush to get our taxes done anyway, since we are in the unfortunate subcategory of "have to pay" on our Federal taxes. And even if we don't owe the state of California any additional taxes, they'll owe us; they'll be issuing IOUs instead of refunds.

During my first marriage, I learned the hard way that the tax code is not friendly to dual-earner couples with decent incomes, less than two children, and no mortgage-interest deduction. For at least the last fifteen years, I have had taxes withheld from my pay as if I were single rather than married - at the very least, this prevented me from the shock of a decreased paycheck during the post-divorce years when I actually was single.

That fact is at the top of my list of reasons why we need tax reform, and leads to the only piece of tax advice I have. If both spouses can swing the higher withholding, you might get lucky and see a refund when you file your return. On the other hand, you can just accept that you will pay and won't get a refund, make your withholdings as high as you're comfortable with (ideally, at least one spouse should withhold as single with minimum exemptions), and either pay estimated tax on a quarterly basis or set aside the additional tax money in your own savings account instead of letting the government have it in advance. As long as you've pre-paid most of your taxes one way or the other, you will most likely not be subject to interest or penalties.

In any case, when you know there's no refund in your future, there's less incentive to file your taxes as soon as possible. However, we're the kind of people who don't like to push too close to deadlines either, so we normally have our returns filed by mid-March.

As I mentioned, I'm not a tax professional, but I've always done my own taxes. While my tax situation may cost me more, it does have the advantage of not being very complicated. I started e-filing several years ago, although I was still preparing my tax returns on paper at the time, but since Tall Paul and I have been together, we have used TurboTax and we swear by it.

So, are your taxes done yet?
And remember, if you get a nice big refund, it is nice, but it's your own money and not a gift from the government, so you might want to think about reducing your withholding a little.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Saturday Review 2-21-09

I feel like the linkage is a little sparse this week, folks. Between work and that little distraction we had on Monday, I've just about been keeping up - so it won't take you quite as long to catch up on the randomness here :-).

And just in case you were wondering - my pinky finger is almost recovered, and most of our aches and sore spots are about gone, but a few bruises linger. In related news, we have started car shopping.

New to my Google Reader
Wheels on the Bus (Emily has just joined the Los Angeles Moms Blog roster)

Across the Blogiverse
Valentine's Day was last Saturday, and her family was really ready for it; a Valentine to her parents, on their wedding anniversary

Superheroes we really need

Some homecomings make you want to head right back out on another vacation

Does your will need a Social Media Executor Clause?

Still on people's minds: "Octo-Mom" and how she reflects on reproductive technology. In related news...

The parable of the prodigal mortgage (I haven't discussed the housing-finance crisis much because, as a renter for most of the decade, I've personally sat it out, but I've been keeping up with the news anyway)

One special thing about the blogiverse is the way that one blogger's post inspires another - sometimes, we practically feed off each other. But where do we draw the lines on incorporating others' content into our own?

Have you ever been to Cityopolis? Oh well, it's too late now

Things you just might wish were actually on your to-do list

I think there may be some irony in blogging about making time for offline pursuits, but I can relate anyway (and I suspect it's not just me)

Blogthings Quiz of the Week:
You Are FAQ
For you, the internet is like your personal library. And you know more facts than fifty normal humans.
Your brain is basically lot a computer at this point. You have a lot of information stored up there.

You spend hours looking up obscure information and learning things. If you have question, you always Google it.
You can't help but be a bit of a know-it-all. You can answer everyone's frequently asked questions.

The confused "type," via Not Always Right
Sales | Burlington, Ontario, Canada
Customer: *on the phone* “I know you aren’t tech support, but I have an easy question.”
Me: “OK…”
Customer: “How do you make the @ symbol…you know, for the email?”
Me: “You hold the shift key and press 2.”
Customer: “Won’t that just make a capital 2?”
Me: “…”

Bookmarks: Reading-related reading
Bookworms Carnival #23, "Books to Movies," is now posted at The Bluestocking Society. In addition to links to posts about books into movies, movies into books, books about movies, etc., Jessica poses a question: Do you prefer to read the book first or see the movie first? (My short answer: I'm not a stickler either way. My longer answer will be posted here some time next week.) Check out the Carnival, and while you're there, find out the themes and submission info for the next few events!

Tips for the first-time author

People you know (or should know) talking to people you know (or should know): Beth Kephart interviews my favorite funny lady, Anna Lefler, while another Anna (of Diary of an Eccentric) chats with the rockin' Susan Helene Gottfried

Technically, this isn't about reading, but it would make your reading spot a lot cozier if you had one - Trish at Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'?  is holding a giveaway for TWO Slankets!

Books that caught my eye this week:
The Ungarnished Truth: A Cooking Contest Memoir, by Ellie Mathews (via DearReader.com)
I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence, by Amy Sedaris

Enjoy your weekend, and drive carefully!

Friday, February 20, 2009

TBIF: Thank blog it's Friday! This week in memes and books

Tuesday Thingers: questions for LibraryThing users, hosted at Wendi's Book Corner

This week, our question is inspired by all the group threads that are dedicated to finding the next great book to review.

In order review books on your blog - you've got to GET books!

Today's question: How do you get your books for reviewing? Do you track them somehow (excel, database, etc), or just put them in a TBR (To Be Read for anyone that doesn't know) pile?

My Answer: I started this blog to review the books I read. At the time, and for almost a year after, it barely occurred to me that I would get these books anywhere other than at the bookstore! I was chosen to participate in a few MotherTalk Blog Tours during that time, but other than that, any books I blogged about came from my own shelves - some recent additions, some long-term residents. I noticed some book bloggers mention that they received books for review from authors and publishers, but I didn't really know how they made that happen.

I've learned a bit about the system since then, and I keep the books I receive specifically "for review" in a separate stack. These usually come to me via e-mail offers from publicists and authors, and a few have been "luck of the draw" awards through LT's Early Reviewers Program. I have rarely initiated a direct request for a review book, and I don't see myself doing so unless I have an existing connection to the author - that's just my personality. However, the vast majority of the books in my house are still those I've bought myself, and I still review them, too.

I set up my books on LibraryThing with the intent of using that as my sole book tracker, and it was mostly to keep up with the books I owned but hadn't yet read. I immediately enter new books with a "TBR" tag, and add a "review copy" tag if the book was sent to me for that purpose.

Do you have any sort of TBR tracking system?

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!
This book actually precedes the one I reviewed here yesterday - I bought this copy a couple of weeks ago.

"Confronting hardship together didn't magically turn your relationship, or your life for that matter, into Casablanca. Struggle, it turned out, is about as romantic as leprosy." (page 191)
- Lipstick Jihad: A Memoir of Growing up Iranian in America and American in Iran, by Azadeh Moaveni

It's Tuesday, where are you? hosted at An adventure in reading

I have recently arrived in Oyster Shores, Washington, where I am getting to know the Grey sisters of True Colors, the latest novel by Kristin Hannah.

It's Friday - where are you?

Booking Through Thursday: Storage

This week’s question is suggested by Kat:
I recently got new bookshelves for my room, and I’m just loving them. Spent the afternoon putting up my books and sharing it on my blog . One of my friends asked a question and I thought it would be a great BTT question. So from Tina & myself, we’d like to know “How do you arrange your books on your shelves? Is it by author, by genre, or you just put it where it falls on?”
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 people have the impression that I'm an organized person. This is not entirely correct. I'm organized when I have to be. I put appointments on my calendar; I keep a to-do list for work projects; I make a grocery list for shopping. My books don't fall into the "have to be organized" category, but they're not in complete chaos, either.

One of the nicest things about our townhouse is the built-in cabinet in the upstairs hallway, which I quickly snapped up for book storage. Books that I've already read -"keepers" and "keep-for-now" books (those are books that I haven't gotten around to donating to Friends of the Library yet) - are on the upper shelves, and TBR books are on the lower ones, which are easier for me to reach. Most of the TBR books up there are fiction. The only problem with this storage area is that the cabinet doors are solid, so I can't easily see which books are in there.

My husband and I each have a bookcase downstairs as well, and nearly everything in mine is TBR - that's the official location of "TBR Purgatory." I usually set my bookcase up with alternating shelves of fiction and nonfiction, but I think they've gotten a little mixed up recently. Other than that, the books are in no particular order, although if I have multiple books by one author, I do try to keep those together (assuming I'm paying attention). Come to think of it, I think that's actually part of what's caused the fiction/nonfiction mix-ups on the shelves lately - I have both flavors from a few authors.

Books that I have received specifically for review are kept in a stack on one of the end tables so they don't get lost in the TBR shuffle.

I'd like to think that if I had more space for my books, they'd be more organized, but I'm probably kidding myself. However, since most of the time I'm browsing my shelves rather than searching for a specific title, the looseness of the system works for me. How about you - are your books in strict order, or literally piled up around you?

Friday Fill-ins #112

1-3 are courtesy of Mar this week.

1. Give me a good book and a cup of coffee and I'll spend a very pleasant morning.

2. Whenever my Internet connection gets spazzy, I get annoyed.

3. I wish my dog could actually tell me what she wants, instead of just staring at me like I'm supposed to know.

4. The tuxedo chocolate birthday cake we had at work on Thursday was the last thing I ate that was utterly delicious.

5. To live in this world takes peace, love, and understanding (and what's so funny 'bout that?)

6. Other than this one, Booking Through Thursday is the last blog I commented on (it's #4 of the 5 blogs where I need to leave links to this post - now, I'm done!).

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to doing as little as possible, tomorrow my plans include an appointment at the eye doctor and Sunday, I want to get started on our taxes! (And we plan to test-drive a couple of cars, since we will definitely be replacing Tall Paul's. The insurance verdict is in, and his car is officially history.)

Have a safe weekend!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Thursday Book Talk: "Honeymoon in Tehran," by Azadeh Moaveni

This review is based on an Advance Reader Copy (ARC) received through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers Program.

Honeymoon in Tehran: Two Years of Love and Danger in Iran by Azadeh Moaveni
Honeymoon in Tehran: Two Years of Love and Danger in Iran
Azadeh Moaveni
Random House, 2009 (hardcover) (ISBN 140006645X / 9781400066452)
Memoir, 352 pages

First sentence: In the late spring of 2005, I returned to Iran to report on the country's presidential election.

Book Description (summarized): In 2005, Azadeh Moaveni, longtime Middle East correspondent for Time magazine, returns to Iran to cover the rise of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Living and working in Tehran, she finds a nation that openly yearns for freedom and contact with the West, but whose economic grievances and nationalist spirit find a temporary outlet in Ahmadinejad’s strident pronouncements. Mingling with underground musicians, race car drivers, young radicals, and scholars, she explores the cultural identity crisis and class frustration that pits Iran’s next generation against the Islamic system.

And then the unexpected happens: Azadeh falls in love with a young Iranian man and decides to get married and start a family in Tehran. Suddenly, she finds herself navigating an altogether different side of Iranian life. Preparing to be wed by a mullah, she sits in on a government marriage prep class where young couples are instructed to enjoy sex. She visits Tehran’s bridal bazaar and finds that the Iranian wedding has become an outrageously lavish–though often still gender-segregated–production. When she becomes pregnant, she must prepare to give birth in an Iranian hospital, at the same time observing her friends’ struggles with their young children, who must learn to say one thing at home and another at school.

Despite her busy schedule as a wife and mother, Azadeh continues to report for Time on Iran’s nuclear standoff with the West and Iranians’ dissatisfaction with Ahmadinejad’s heavy-handed rule. But as women are arrested on the street for “immodest dress” and the authorities unleash a campaign of intimidation against journalists, the country’s dark side reemerges.

Comments: Not long after I began reading Honeymoon in Tehran, I ran across a copy of Azadeh Moaveni's earlier memoir, Lipstick Jihad, in a bookstore, and bought it with no hesitation - I already knew I was going to want more of her story.

Some of the memoirs by journalists that I've read have felt more like a reporter's work than someone's own story - there's almost too much detachment. Honeymoon in Tehran does not suffer from that sense of distance. While I thought that Moaveni documented the political and social climate in post-September 11 Iran well, it felt - appropriately - like context for her own experience; she strikes an excellent balance between the personal and the political here.

Moaveni's descriptions of an Iran that has become more socially conservative in recent years are informative, and especially enlightening when she sets them against a larger historical framework. While Westerners sometimes tend to lump the "Middle Eastern" countries together, Moaveni elaborates on the ways in which Iran, whose heritage is Persian rather than Arabic, is different from its neighbors. However, while she is in the position of being able to report on Iranian developments from the inside, her purpose in this writing is to show their effects on individual lives - particularly her own, as a ethnic Iranian raised in the United States and working for an American news magazine, returned to her family's homeland by work and her own choice.

Back in Iran to report on the 2005 elections for Time Magazine, Moaveni is introduced to the man who will become her live-in boyfriend, father of her child, and husband - in that order. In a changing political and social landscape where religious values and secular habits frequently conflict, she has to learn to navigate the peculiarities of Persian weddings, prenatal care, and other details of daily life that differ significantly from her Western expectations.

I found Moaveni's story engrossing and engaging. I learned a bit about Iranian life without feeling like I was being "educated," and I was able to relate to much of her story, even though the details of our lives are very different.

Rating: 4/5

Other bloggers' reviews:
The Printed Page
Devourer of Books

If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link in comments or e-mail me at 3.rsblog AT Gmail dot com, and I'll edit this review to include it!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Accidents will happen...

...especially on rainy roads in normally dry Southern California. Sometimes they involve a lot of cars. If you're truly unfortunate, one of those cars is yours.

Guess who was truly unfortunate on Monday afternoon?

My family spent the President's Day weekend at my mother-in-law's, and started the drive home after lunch on Monday. The weather was iffy, so we wanted to allow extra time for traffic tie-ups. Even so, we weren't doing too badly time-wise when we reached the San Fernando Valley. We drove through rainy patches, overcast areas, spots of sunshine, and some places that seemed to mix them all, like the stretch of the 101 Freeway through Calabasas.

Suddenly, cars were slowing down and switching lanes abruptly, and our attempt to take evasive action was unsuccessful. We rear-ended another car, the airbags deployed, and Tall Paul steered us off the road to the right-hand shoulder, where we came to a stop. The kids were scared and we were stunned, but none of us were seriously hurt - except for the car.

Tuesday was a recovery day at home. We are all nursing bruises. The Boy seems to have bounced back pretty well - it helps to be nine, I guess; Tall Paul, Tall Girl, and I are all still sore; and I seem to have injured my right-hand pinky finger, of all things.

We are expecting that the car will be given the last rites and we'll have to replace it under less-than-ideal circumstances, but it's in the insurance company's hands right now.

The accident closed down the north 101 Freeway for nearly an hour at what would have been the afternoon rush hour if it hadn't been President's Day, and at least a dozen cars were involved. As far as we can tell, our car was one of the last in the chain, and was able to get out of the main crush; there were at least six or seven cars piled into each other in the #2 lane, and the rest were dispersed along the right-hand shoulder and the center median. If this link still works, you can see the local news report:


Look closely and you'll see my husband on the shoulder, taking pictures of the damage to his car.

I'm glad we're all OK, and especially glad our dog didn't make this trip with us. With luck, in a few more days it won't hurt to move our shoulders, and I'm hoping for much less excitement this coming weekend.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ten on Tuesday: I am Music, or these are the songs of my life

This week's Ten on Tuesday prompt, "10 Songs That Describe You (and/)or Your Life," was especially fun for someone like me, who has always wanted a personal soundtrack. Coming up with songs was pretty easy, to be honest; cutting that list down to just ten was the challenge. Should I include some of my all-time favorites and try to make them fit the theme, just because I wouldn't want to leave them out, or seek out songs with the theme in mind?

I ended up with some of each, including several that were among the first that came to mind - is that a lesson in trusting your instincts?

Other than the fact that the list starts out with the "describes me" songs and moves into the "describes my life" ones, there's no particular order here.

"Brown-Eyed Girl" - Van Morrison
I have considered this "my" song for well onto thirty years now, but if you are also a brown-eyed girl, I'll be happy to share it with you.

"Don't Get Me Wrong" - The Pretenders
Aside from the fact that, since my teens, I have kind of wanted to be Chrissie Hynde, I'm always overly concerned with trying to communicate as clearly as I can, and I worry about being misunderstood. That is probably one reason why some of my posts here are so long - my need to explain things.

"If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out" - Cat Stevens
If you spend much time with me, you probably wish I didn't want to sing out quite so much. I sing with the radio, with my iPod, and at random points in conversation when someone says something to trigger it.

Well, if you want to sing out, sing out
And if you want to be free, be free
'Cause there's a million things to be
You know that there are...

This song's been around for awhile, but I have to thank my husband for introducing me to it - and to the movie that features it, the weirdly funny Harold and Maude.

And speaking of my husband, you may have guessed this one was coming up somewhere on this list:

"Tall Paul" - Annette Funicello
He was never the captain of the high-school football team, but "Tall Paul...he's my all."

"Love in the Library"
- Jimmy Buffett
Growing up in Florida in the late '70's and '80's, Jimmy Buffett was part of the landscape, but I hadn't met too many people without that background who were fans; the Parrotheads came along later. Tall Paul is one of them, though, and Jimmy is one of many things we bonded over. Even if we don't share all of the same favorite songs, we both appreciate Jimmy's way with storytelling.

I've mentioned before that I'm not really a library-goer, but I think readers might enjoy an excerpt from this story:

Love in the library
Quiet and cool
Love in the library
There are no rules
Surrounded by stories
Surreal and sublime
I fell in love in the library
Once upon a time

She gathered her books, walked while she read
Words never spoken, but so much was said
You can read all you want into this rendezvous
But it's safer than most things that lovers can do

"Once Upon a Time/Storybook Love"
- Mark Knopfler
This is instrumental main theme from my favorite movie, The Princess Bride, and was the bridal-processional music at Tall Paul's and my wedding.

"Mother and Child Reunion"
- Paul Simon
When you only see your son for a few days at a time, once or twice a year, this song seems to fit those occasions.

"Welcome to the Working Week"
- Elvis Costello
The story of every Monday morning of my life, and maybe yours too:

Welcome to the working week.
Oh I know it don't thrill you, I hope it don't kill you.
Welcome to the working week.
You gotta do it till you're through it so you better get to it.

(I didn't put "Everyday I Write the Book" on this list, because in my case it's more like "Everyday I Read the Book.")

"The Long and Winding Road"
- The Beatles
I'll be 45 next month, and figuratively speaking, that's what I've taken to get here - and I'm curious to see where it leads next. Life's a journey, after all. Besides, I couldn't post this list without including at least one Beatles song.

Literally, it also could apply to my 80-mile round-trip daily commute, but I think the last song I'm listing fits it even better:

"Traffic Jam" - James Taylor
This one's for you, Los Angeles:

Well, I left my office at 5 o'clock 15 minutes to go 3 blocks
Just in time to stand in line with the freeway looking like a parking lot

Damn, this traffic jam, how I hate to be late
Hurts my motor to go so slow
Damn, this traffic jam, time I get home my supper be cold
Damn, this traffic jam

Now when I die, don't want no coffin,
Thought about it all too often
Just slap me in behind the wheel and bury me in my automobile!

Damn, this traffic jam, how I hate to be late
Hurts my motor to go so slow
Damn, this traffic jam, time I get home my supper be cold
Damn, this traffic jam.
1mile 2mile 3mile 4mile 5mile 6mile 7miles 8miles...

Do you have some theme songs of your own? Mention them in the comments, or join in the Ten on Tuesday fun this week!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Weekend Assignment: Darwin and Lincoln and 200 years gone by

On February 13th, Karen came up with a Weekend Assignment based on February 12th:

Weekend Assignment #255: Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were born on the same day, two hundred years ago this week. Both went on to propound ideas that had a lasting effect on the world around us. Have either of them had a particular impact on you personally?

Extra Credit:
Where do you rank Lincoln on your personal list of greatest U.S. presidents?

EC first
: I would rank Lincoln up near the top of my list of great Presidents, if I had one, especially in the context of the times over which he presided. However, I can't say he's had much impact on me personally - my own forbears didn't even reach this country until about forty years after the Civil War was over. On his father's side, however, my son does have a family tree that reaches back that far and even earlier - First Husband's relations arrived from England in the mid-1600's - but by Lincoln's era, most of them were in Georgia. As citizens of the Confederate States of America, technically speaking, Lincoln wasn't even their President.

Main topic: For some reason, I don't recall that Darwin's theories of evolution were as controversial when I first learned of them in school as they seem to be today. Granted, I was in school in the 1970's, which was a very different social climate, but even so, they were presented pretty matter-of-factly as part of the curriculum - even in my biology classes in Catholic school.

Speaking of Catholic school, part of my freshman English course was a unit on "The Bible As/In Literature." Historically, Catholics have been less likely to take the Bible literally than some other denominations (perhaps because of generations of having it interpreted for an illiterate population by learned clerics?), and as I learned to see the Bible as story and metaphor rather than historical fact, I didn't think the creation account in Genesis - which isn't unlike those of other early civilizations - necessarily conflicted with the concepts of evolution. A "day" in Genesis was a unit of time that people could understand, but didn't have to mean a 24-hour period; couldn't it just as easily be thousands of years? And why couldn't God be what put it all in motion in the first place, and what's continuing to direct it?

The concept of evolution makes sense to me. In some ways, I find it comforting to know that the world hasn't been static in the past, and it won't be in the future, either. It goes along with my belief in the randomness of life in general, and not really believing in "fate" or "destiny." While opponents fight teaching evolution because it's "only theory" and not proven fact...well, I think the same argument applies to the other side, so let's just set that whole thing aside, why don't we? Besides, as I mentioned, I'm not really sure why there has to be a science/faith conflict here in the first place, although I know that's not a popular position.

But no, I don't believe that evolution means that humans came from monkeys, although I have encountered some people who seem to have a lot in common with chimps.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Saturday Review: Valentine's Day edition

Just to give y'all a heads-up: there may be a drop-off in the posting pace around here during the next few weeks. The Busy Season (audit time) is coming around at work, and considering that, my family, and other responsibilities, I may have to cut back my appearances here at The 3 R's from six days a week to three or four. This does NOT make me happy, but I do value my mental health (and I hope you do too!), so I'm trying to prepare and keep things manageable.

New arrivals in Google Reader
Sassymonkey Reads
She Reads and Reads
Anna Jarzab (you may know her from books she's publicized via Authors on the Web, but she's also a blogger and soon-to-be-published author herself)

Across the Blogiverse
Happy Valentine's Day! Well, maybe "happy" is a matter of perspective...but you can still have fun in bed (it's not what you think!), have fun if you're single, and maybe even get a little love from your kids. Also: the ghost of Valentine's Days past

Losses and life lessons, enforced by a bad cop; a four-year-old interprets home, love, and babies; a three-year-old interprets underwear

Some suggestions that might actually help car salesman sell cars in the current economy

The White House (yes, the one in D.C.) is hiring!

Blogging: it's about friends, and sometimes it's like Friends. But do you ever think it's like high school - and would that be a good thing or a bad thing?

Ways to avoid and address blogging burnout (so far, so good...); ways to change bad blogging habits; reflections on blogger insecurity (an all-too-relatable condition for me, I'm afraid); and not a blog item, but sort of related: 10 reasons why Facebook is for old people

A phishing expedition to be wary of - be attentive when shopping online, y'all!

"Middle class" might depend on the middle of where - but there's a whole task force looking at questions related to that very topic

Blogthings Quiz of the Week: Are we communicating here?
You Communicate Passionately

You speak from the heart. You can't separate your feelings from what you're saying, even in a professional context.
You tend to speak dramatically, with lots of passion and emotion. It's easy for you to get swept up in what you're saying.

You like to connect with people early on so that you can personalize what you are saying to them.
When you converse, you try to find common ground and harmony. Even if you disagree with someone, you try to emphasize where you agree.

I think this one is pretty true for me, even in writing - have you noticed my use of italics?

Bookmarks: Reading-related reading
I've been enjoying the new "Reader Spotlight" feature at Maw Books Blog - have you checked it out? Natasha selects one of her frequent blog visitors, shares some of her best comments, and gets to know the commenter - I think she's an excellent interviewer.

A discussion on book bloggers and overexposure - when every other blog is talking about the same book, is it a word-of-mouth phenomenon or marketing?

Because "book bloggers" don't have exclusive rights to blogging about books: YA fiction, public libraries, and Carrie Bradshaw; also, going "underground" with Neil Gaiman, and Popdose's books they love - do you share any of their favorites?

Whether you're on the lookout for it, or looking to avoid it: a quick guide to spotting Christian fiction

Books on (surveillance) tape, via Not Always Right:
Library | Allentown, PA, USA
Me: “**** Library, how can I help you?”
Caller: “Yes, I have some books that are due tomorrow, but I need to keep them longer.”
Me: “Okay, ma’am. I’ll need your name so I can renew the books.”
Caller: *scandalized* “You need my what?”
Me: “Your name, ma’am. So I can call up your account on my computer.”
Caller: “You have my account?! How did you get that? Do you have my Social Security number?”
Me: “No, ma’am. I mean your library account. When you came in to get your library card, you filled out a form with your name, address, phone number, and email, so that we can contact you if you ever have overdue books. We don’t have your social security number.”
Caller: “Well, I’m not giving out my name to a complete stranger over the phone!”
Me: “Okay, ma’am. Perhaps you could give me the titles of the books?”
Caller: “Why do you need to know what I’m reading?! The books are due tomorrow! Just renew them!”
Me: “I’m sorry, ma’am, but there’s no way I can look up books by the due date. Without your name or the titles of the books, I can’t help you.”
Caller: “You’re trying to steal my identity! I’m calling the cops.”
Me: *giving up* “You do that, ma’am.” *hangs up*
Co-worker: “You should have told her we put cameras in the books.”

Books that caught my eye this week:
The Only True Genius in the Family, by Jennie Nash

Happy Valentine's Day, and if you're lucky enough to have this as a three-day weekend, enjoy it!

Friday, February 13, 2009

TBIF: Thank blog it's Friday (the 13th)! This week in memes

Mailbox Monday, hosted at The Printed Page

I'm not sure whether I should really include these books in "Mailbox Monday," since I don't normally announce books that I buy in posts. Also, technically, these were left at my door by UPS and weren't in the mailbox. But they did come from Amazon.com, and were mostly paid for by gift certificate, so in a way someone else bought them (or at least two of them, anyway).

Enough with the rationalizing - here are the new arrivals:

American Wife, by Curtis Sittenfeld - I've been waiting for this one to come out in paperback for months, and I don't have to wait any longer.

Janeology, by Karen Harrington - I decided not to wait any longer, especially after I remembered that I had a gift-certificate balance on Amazon, and bought this one in hardcover. I love Karen's blog, and I have read so many good reviews of her novel; I'm looking forward to reading it for myself!

Fool, by Christopher Moore - Mr. Moore is on the very short list of authors whose books get purchased in hardcover every time, especially when I'm not lucky enough to score an ARC/review copy (like Sheri from Bookopolis did). Truthfully, my husband's going to read this one first anyway - Happy Valentine's Day, honey! (FYI - "the author guy" is in Santa Monica tonight and Northridge tomorrow for the book tour, and we can't make it to either appearance! If anyone goes, please tell me all about it!)

Have you gotten your hands on any new books this week?

Tuesday Thingers: Questions for LibraryThing users, hosted at Wendi's Book Corner

This week, our question surrounds the importance you place on starred (or other similar rating systems) reviews.

Today's question: Do you use a rating system on your blog? How do you feel about using the rating system provided on sites like Library Thing and Amazon? When looking up information on a book you are interested in, do you use the ratings provided by these sites (or similar sites) to help you make the decision on purchasing the book?

My Answer: When I first started blogging book reviews, I didn't have a rating scale, nor did I plan on using one. A member of my in-person book club (who seems to have retired from blogging, sadly) asked me about adding a rating to the reviews - she thought it would be helpful. It didn't mean much more work for me, so I started using ratings, and have stuck with it.

I use a five-point scale, but it's roughly analagous to a school grading system, with 3=C=Average, and I adjust up or down from there, with 5 being the highest. I'm not sure I've given any book that rating...yet, but it could happen. I also use quarter-points to fine-tune the rating; for example, 3.75 isn't an unusual score. But for me, the rating is an add-on - my goal in a review post is to convey my opinions in my discussion/comments, and I definitely emphasize that more.

I almost always use the star ratings on LibraryThing once I finish a book, since I can rate it before I get my review written up and linked there; I really appreciate that they allow for half-stars, since that more closely approximates my own scale. I do like to check out the average star ratings of the books I add to LT, but they don't really sway me much on Amazon - if I've gone there, I've probably already decided that I want the book. I use Amazon mostly for purchasing and not so much for book or product reviews and information, since there are so many other places to find that.

If you review, do you rate?

Teaser Tuesday, hosted at Should Be Reading

I received this book in ARC form a couple of weeks ago; it's being published this month, and it's next up in the TBR queue.

"And best of all, her neighbors had grown accustomed to taking her advice. She'd proven, over time, to be right about almost everything, and it was flattering to know that her calm, rational decision-making skills were recognized and admired." (page 242)

- True Colors, by Kristin Hannah

Booking Through Thursday: Authors Talking 

Suggested by Barbara H.:
A comment on someone else’s BTT question this week inspired this question:
Do you read any author’s blogs? If so, are you looking for information on their next project? On the author personally? Something else?

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!

The more I thought about this question, the more complicated it got. I read some blogs written by people who have published books, but I don't necessarily think of them as "author blogs." Pamela Ribon, author of Why Girls Are Weird and Why Moms Are Weird, is a veteran blogger at Pamie.com, and Linda Holmes, NPR's pop-culture blogger at Monkey See, co-wrote the uncoventional dating guide Why You’re Still Single. But I first encountered both of them when they were TV-show recappers at Television Without Pity, and I just keep following them around.

A couple of the bloggers I follow have written books but haven't found publishers (yet). With luck, someday I'll be able to call Karen Funk Blocher of Outpost Mâvarin and Susan Helene Gottfried at West of Mars: The Meet and Greet "authors I knew when" - assuming they're still blogging, of course. (And why wouldn't they be?)

But I'm pretty sure this question was meant to be a lot more straightforward, so in answer: yes, I do read several authors' blogs, although in a few cases, I haven't read any of their books. I found John Scalzi's blog Whatever via the aforementioned Pamie.com, and Beth Kephart came to my attention through other book bloggers. Lots of love for Neil Gaiman's Journal in this week's BTT responses made me jump on the bandwagon and add it to my Google Reader feeds, even though I haven't read any of his books either (although I saw Stardust and liked it a lot).

When I'm working on book reviews, I'll usually look for an author's website or blog so I can link to it, which is how I came across Michelle Richmond's blog, Sans Serif, Jancee Dunn's blog, and Susan Campbell's "Dating Jesus" blog (the book is in the review-copy TBR stack). All three of these authors share insights on the writing life, but they emphasize different things: Susan posts about religious topics with a skeptical twist; Jancee doesn't blog often, but she tends to make offbeat observations; and Michelle's blog includes topical commentary as well as the occasional book or movie review.

I don't read a lot of "chick lit," but I make an exception for Jennifer Weiner, whose blog A Moment of Jen isn't truly a "blog" in one important sense - no interactivity or space for comments, although you can e-mail her - but it's updated once a week with her chatty observations.

My favorite author blog is probably Karen Harrington's blog, Scobberlotch, which I mentioned in the "Mailbox Monday" section of this post. I love it partly for the content - some of which is writing-related, some of which is just funny and random - and partly because Karen is truly part of the blogging community. She even participates in memes like Wordless Wednesday and BTT (although I don't think she answered this particular question).

For the most part, I don't think what I look for in an author's blog is different from what I look for in anyone else's - I like good writing (not usually a problem) and varied content; a unique voice; and only as much self-promotion as is strictly necessary.

Do you have any favorite blogs that are authored by authors?

Friday Fill-ins #111

And...here we go!

1. It seems like February lasts a lot longer than 28 (and sometimes 29) days.

2. Clean up your dishes and put the leftovers away when you're done, please?

3. If I thought you would eat them I'd buy more vegetables!

4. The fun we have together is what I think of most when I think of you.

5. To me, Valentine's Day means restaurants will be crowded and roses will be overpriced.

6. A good breakfast and a cup of coffee gives me strength.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to getting ready to go out of town for the three-day weekend, tomorrow my plans include a family dinner at Benihana with my husband, kids, and mother-in-law (yes, I know tomorrow's Valentine's Day, why do you ask?) and Sunday, I want to do something fun that keeps us out of the rain!

Be careful out there, y'all - it IS Friday the 13th, you know...