Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Blogiversary Wrap-Up: prizes for some, and a survey for you all!

I hijacked this survey from the blog of one of my Silicon Valley Moms Group associates. Cecily contributes to the Philadelphia Moms Blog, but this was posted on her personal blog, Uppercase Woman, on the recent occasion of its fifth Blogiversary. As you know, I just celebrated a Blogiversary of my own, and I always want to know more about my readers. Got a few minutes to answer some (mostly) painless questions? Here goes!

1. What do we have in common? This is by no means limited to the following possibilities: Books? Kids? Dogs? Lost? Twitter? California? Tennessee? Chocolate? Coffee?
2. What DON’T we have in common? None of the above?
3. How did you find my blog? If you came by way of someone else's link or blogroll, please feel free to give them a mention/link here!
4. What do you enjoy about this blog, if anything? Hopefully there's something - I'd like to think you're not being force-fed reading this (unless you're my husband, that is...)
5. Do you comment? If so, awesome! If not, care to say why not? (Answering this survey counts as commenting, by the way.)
6. What do you wish I’d shut up about? My feelings won't be hurt if you tell me (sniffle, sniffle) - but there's no guarantee you'll get your wish :-).
7. What do you wish I’d talk more about? "Everything" and "nothing" are both reasonable answers, but it might help if you were more specific than that.
8. Where are you from? You can be as specific or general as you like.
9. What one question would you like me to answer? Anything's fair game here - but it's possible you may get an answer that's total B.S. Take your chances!
10. Do you have a blog? If so, plug it here!

Since Feedburner tells me that this blog has well over 200 subscribers, I hope that means there are at least a few of you who actually read this thing - thanks! I'd love to see at least one-fourth of you answer at least a few of these questions in the comments, and that includes you lurkers - come out and play, won't you?

And now...for those of you who entered my Blogiversary Giveaways, with the help of Random.org, here are the winners! The odds of winning some of the prizes were better than others. All of the winners have been contacted by e-mail. If I don't hear from them with mailing addresses, I may need to move down to the next person on the list and offer it to her.

Honeymoon in Tehran: Two Years of Love and Danger in Iran, by Azadeh Moaveni
 to Alyce of At Home with Books

Buffalo Gal, by Laura Pedersen
 to OlympianLady (Tiffany) of The Phantom's Lair

True Colors, by Kristin Hannah
 to Anita Yancey

Amazon.com E-gift card
 to Dawn of She Is Too Fond of Books

Congratulations to the winners, and thank you to everyone who entered!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Questions from the universe to keep you busy while I'm gone

Happy birthday to ME, and greetings to you all from Disneyland! (Not really - I scheduled this post ahead of time. Didn't I say I was taking my birthday off? And who blogs while at Disneyland, for goodness' sake? Even I have my limits.)

It's been a little while since I did an all-Blogthings post, so I thought I'd lob a couple of quizzes at you to keep you entertained until I return with a "real" post (probably on Tuesday). Please let me know your results in the comments!
This one leaves me with a question of my own: if this is true, why do I spend so much more time on Twitter? Answer to my own question: because it takes less time. I live in fear of the time-suck that Facebook can so easily become, so I try to limit my exposure.

You Are Facebook
You are social, outgoing, and excited to connect to your friends.
You are interested in your friends' lives, and you enjoy adding your opinion to the mix.

While you enjoy sharing online, you don't want everyone to know your business.
You value your privacy. Your life is an open book to those you know but not to strangers.

One more question: Since the link back to the original quiz is always in the form of the question, why does it show up at the end of the answer?

I guess this settles THAT question. Frankly, I'm a bit surprised. The first part of the answer is a bit of a crock (hence the strikeout), but I think the second part is pretty on-the-nose. I hope it's a while before I get near either alternative, though. Today, I'm going to Disneyland.

You Are Going to Heaven
You're so saintly you're practically an angel, and there's no other place for you than heaven.
You are always concerned with doing the right thing. You consider being a good person a joy... not a burden.

You're not perfect, and you don't expect anyone else to be. You are ethical without being sanctimonious about it.
You are happy with yourself and the decisions you've made. And that's what's important.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Saturday Review, birthday weekend edition - Travels in the Blogiverse

Bulletin Board
**** My Blogiversary Giveaway closes TOMORROW, folks - if you haven't entered yet, click on that link to see what your options are! Also: if you HAVE entered already, please make sure you have left me an e-mail address in the comments. If you're the randomly-chosen winner of the $20 Amazon.com e-gift card, I will need to provide your e-mail address in the recipient info when I order it - I'd hate to see you lose out because you forgot to give it to me! I'm planning to announce the winners on Tuesday, so stick around for that!

**** PSA of the week, once again via SoCal Mom (Donna): fighting hunger, with a virtual food drive to benefit the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank

Google Reader Newbies
Daily Mish Mash, via My Friend Amy

Across the Blogiverse
Sometimes I feel like I'm perpetually in the new-friend stage, even with friends who aren't so new

The recession may be a good thing for dating coaches

It's the bread that gets me every time, too

The real meat here is in the comments - a genuine discussion of whether blogging is about connection or community

Advice for wives and husbands

This week's parenting advice from a non-parent - a little bit blunt, perhaps, but it certainly clarifies who's in charge. Somewhat related: the things we learn from other people's children; Parent of the Week (part 1)

Parent of the Week (part 2), via Not Always Right:
Pharmacy | Hampton, SC, USA
(A man was picking up a prescription for his infant child.)
Customer: “How much did you say the prescription was?”
Me: “$49.99.”
Customer: “What’s the difference between this and what I can get over the counter?”
Me: “There’s no cough medicine you can give your 8 month old, sir, other than this.”
Customer: “Well, what’s in it?”
(He picks up the prescription papers and starts rustling through them.)
Customer: “If I can buy everything that’s in it over the counter, I’ll just make it myself.”
Me: “…excuse me?”

Also from NAR: I worked at a zoo for four years, and this happened all the time.

Defining a good bad movie

R U (& ur kids) not speling rite b/c of txt-speak?

Everyone talks about the weather... (link via Karen of Verbatim)

Bookmarks: Reading-related reading
I Tweeted this on Tuesday:
florinda_3rs: To my book-blogging followers: a friend's new career-advice book needs reviewers! DM me for details

I have not taken on book-publicity work - this is a favor for one of my favorite women. The book is The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use by Karen Burns, who has been blogging as Working Girl for a couple of years now. Please check out the links to the book and Karen's site, and if it sounds like a book that might interest you and your readers, please contact me off the blog (e-mail me at 3.rsblog AT Gmail dot com) and I'll put you in touch with Karen. My own review copy arrived in yesterday's mail, so you'll be reading about the book here soon!

This "beginner's guide" to book-review blogging is also a good "checklist" for the more experienced blogger. Bonus: the "stoplight guide"

Trish asks: How do we help encourage everyone in our lives - not just our kids - to read more? Also via Trish - hey, I won a Slanket!

"Chick lit" vs. "wit lit"

Getting paid to review might sound nice, but what about being required to write a favorable review and post it on assigned sites in order to earn that pay?

Enjoy your weekend - I'm certainly hoping to enjoy mine!

Friday, March 27, 2009

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

Mailbox Monday, hosted at The Printed Page


Thanks to Jessica Lee at Penguin Group USA, I received a review copy of What to Read When: The Books and Stories to Read With Your Child - and All The Best Times to Read Them by Pam Allyn. The book will be in stores in a couple of weeks, and I'm looking forward to checking out this guide to family reading; I suspect that it could have a lot of appeal to the readers and parents who visit here.

As you know, I gave up buying books for Lent, but I took advantage of the "Sunday loophole" last weekend in order to snap up a book from my wishlist for only $5! Thanks to someone (sorry I can't remember who!) for Tweeting that publisher Leapfrog Press - which puts two featured titles on sale for $5 every month, plus reduced shipping - had Losing Kei by Suzanne Kamata as one of the March specials. I ordered it last Sunday morning, and it arrived in this Tuesday's mail.

And for the record, I went to Borders this past Saturday to look for a couple of books for birthday gifts for my dad - and I left with only birthday gifts for my dad! (Buying books for other people during Lent is another loophole, but it's a self-created one.)

What's new on your bookshelf?

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

Questions (yes - there are a bunch - answer one or two . . . or all of them!): What is your favorite book (yes - this may be a hard one!!)? Is your favorite book listed in your LT library? If it is listed, do you have anything special in the tags or comments section? Have you looked to see if you can add any information to the Common Knowledge? AND a little off topic, do you find that your 5-starred books are consistent with your favorites, and is your favorite a 5-star rated book in your library? How have others rated your favorite book? :)

My Answer(s):
"What is your favorite book?" is such a hard question I refuse to answer it outright - there will always be a qualifier. I could tell you my favorite book of this year so far (The Uncommon Reader), or last (The Year of Fog). I could tell you my favorite book when I was ten (Little Women), or in college (East of Eden), or during my early thirties (Brightness Falls, by Jay McInerney). I could tell you my favorite Harry Potter book (Order of the Phoenix). I could even tell you my favorite book by a particular favorite author. My point is that I can break down my favorite books in all sorts of ways, but I can't tell you my "favorite book."

Since I've tended to hang on to most of my favorite books during adulthood, I can't think of any that aren't listed on LibraryThing, but I don't have a special tag that identifies them. Chances are that they have a 4-star or better rating, though. I've given all of the following books at least 4.5 stars - let's see how that compares with their average LT ratings.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by J.K. Rowling: My rating - 5; LT average - 4.24
East of Eden, by John Steinbeck: My rating - 5; LT average - 4.45
Middlesex: A Novel, by Jeffrey Eugenides: My rating - 4.5; LT average - 4.16
Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia, by Elizabeth Gilbert: My rating - 4.5; LT average - 3.85
Intuition, by Allegra Goodman: My rating - 4.5; LT average - 3.54
Seabiscuit: An American Legend, by Laura Hillenbrand: My rating - 4.5; LT average - 4.22
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott: My rating - 4.5; LT average - 4.2
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J.K. Rowling: My rating - 4.5; LT average - 4.34

The fourth book I've listed is known to be a "love it or hate it" read, and the fifth one isn't that well-known, period (popularity rank 6,410 and only 29 reviews); otherwise, it looks like my ratings aren't all that out of whack with the averages.

Answer if you dare - what's your favorite book?

Booking Through Thursday: Best "Bad" Book?

btt button

Suggested by Janet:
The opposite of last week’s question: “What’s the best ‘worst’ book you’ve ever read — the one you like despite some negative reviews or features?”

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!

What comes to mind when I think of "good 'bad' books" are the guilty pleasures - books that you know have questionable literary merit, but have such gripping plots and/or high levels of drama that once you start reading them, you just can't stop. You may regret the time you spent with them once it's over, but while it lasted, it sure was fun.

I don't partake in too much guilty-pleasure reading any more, now that I think about it, except for the occasional foray into chick-lit territory, and even then I'm picky. I did go through a legal-thriller phase for a while when I religiously read everything John Grisham wrote, but then he started branching out into other styles and I drifted away. (As an aside, though, I thought A Painted House was very good.) I'm still fond of several of his books from that period, though, especially The Firm and The Rainmaker, because of their Memphis connections.

However, the first book I thought of in response to this question was one that I also used in last week's answer - The Da Vinci Code. My annoyance begins with the title; I may be old-fashioned on this score, but I was taught that "Da Vinci" was NOT the man's last name. Very few Italians in that time had last names. "Vinci" is where he was from - he was called "Leonardo." The writing was pedestrian at best, and then there were times when the narrative just stopped dead so that characters could explain things to each other. But despite all that, I could not put the damn book down!

When it comes to books, what's your favorite guilty pleasure?

Friday Fill-ins #117

This week, Janet took the first sentence in 6 of her favorite books...you fill them in...with the right words or even better, ones of your own.

1. "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit a wascally wabbit named Bugs."

2. "You don't know about me, without you have read a book by the name of 'The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,' but that ain't no matter." (The name is Finn. Huck Finn.)

3. "After dark the rain began to fall again, and I was glad to stay inside by the fire, with the dog curled up at my feet."

4. "A hideous smell emanated from the hold of the Spanish galleon."

5. "There was a hand in the darkness and I couldn't see it - because of, you know, the darkness."

6. "Accidents ambush the unsuspecting, the careless, and the lazy."

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to getting the bags packed, tomorrow my plans include leaving early to start our weekend at Disneyland and Sunday, I want to celebrate my birthday with Tall Paul, Katie, Spencer, and Captain Jack Sparrow! (And I don't have to go back to work till Wednesday - now that's a gift right there!)

I have posts scheduled for tomorrow and Sunday, but Monday will probably be a day off around here. What do you have planned for the weekend?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thursday Book Talk: "Never Let Me Go," by Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Never Let Me Go: A Novel
Kazuo Ishiguro
Vintage, 2006 (paperback) (ISBN 1400078776 / 9781400078776)
Fiction, 304 pages

First sentence: My name is Kathy H. I'm thirty-one years old, and I've been a carer now for over eleven years.

Book description: As children Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were.

Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have reentered her life. And for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special–and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together.

Comments: Never Let Me Go tells a story that I found compelling and intellectually intriguing, but difficult to engage with emotionally. The premise is fascinating, but I can't really say too much about it without spoiling the primary concept of the novel, which is what exists to be spoiled here - this isn't a plot-driven novel by any means.

Kazuo Ishiguro has set Never Let Me Go in a place and time much like our own modern world, but in some areas is much more scientifically and medically advanced, thanks to the donors and their carers. His narrator, Kathy, is a carer - it's not exactly a medical profession, but it does involve being part of the recovery process as donors recuperate from one procedure and prepare for their next. Most donors will be called upon three or four times before they "complete."

When we meet Kathy, she is preparing to give up her work as a carer, and this has prompted her to reflect on her years growing up among the other "special" students at the secluded Hailsham school. Ruth and Tommy were among her closest friends there, and her work re-connected all of them as young adults.

Kathy's narration of the story is both conversational and almost overly thoughtful. She'll mention something that happened, then backtrack through what led up to it before returning to the original event in detail, but as she recounts it, she applies hindsight and attempts to discern the feelings and motives of everyone involved in the situation at the time it happened. This pattern also affected the way that the story's few major revelations were made with far less drama than one might expect. Ishiguro's style is very reserved here, as it also was in the very different The Remains of the Day, and while in many respects I can appreciate that, I feel that it may have blunted some of the emotional impact and my ability to connect with the characters.

This is a novel that many readers have loved, and quite a few others have found nearly unbearable. It's one that I'd probably find difficult to recommend - I think it has some fascinating and challenging concepts that would make for good discussion, but I also felt that, as a reader, it kept me at a distance. I'm not sorry that I read Never Let Me Go, but I wanted to like it more than I did; I ended up respecting it, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I had hoped for something else.

Rating: 3.25/5

Buy the book:

Other bloggers' reviews:
A Novel Menagerie
Becky's Book Reviews
Tuesday in silhouette
Books on the Brain
books i done read
Blue Archipelago
Bloody Hell, It's a Book Barrage!
A Life in Books
Book Addiction

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

*****Have you entered my Blogiversary Giveaway yet? It closes on Sunday, 3/29! *****

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Weekly Geeks 2009-11: Don't read much about history...

Ali proposed a "magical history tour" for Weekly Geeks this week, with a focus on Historical Fiction (contemporary novels with a historical setting), and offered four choices of topics to write about within that theme. I chose the second option (click on the link above to check out the others):

Do you have a favorite book that really pulled you back in time, or perhaps gave you a special interest in that period? Include a link to a review of it on another book blog if you can find one (doesn't have to be a Weekly Geek participant).

My fiction preferences tend to lean toward stories with a contemporary setting - as I mentioned in Weekly Geeks 2009-03, many of today's "classics" were once contemporary literature themselves, and in the same way, they become historical documents of their time if they stick around awhile and keep attracting readers. Therefore, a historical setting isn't in itself something that draws me to read a particular novel; the story has to pull me in on its own merits. And if the storytelling plays too loosely with actual history, is too heavy on anachronisms, or it just plain wrong on some historical facts or details, I'm going to lose patience with it, frankly. I don't necessarily look for novels that involve major historical events as plot points, but they may be important as background or context.

Then again, these days, given our short attention spans and the speed at which things change, "history" can mean two years ago. I take a longer view than that, but even so, I prefer my historical fiction to take place in the fairly recent past, and these books were enjoyable explorations of several eras of the twentieth century:

City of Light by Lauren Belfer

City of Light
, by Lauren Belfer, takes place in Buffalo, New York around the turn of the 20th century, a time when Buffalo was one of the most progressive cities in America, and leading the way in developing hydroelectric power thanks to its location alongside Niagara Falls. I read this about eight years ago and it's stuck with me, but I haven't come across anything else by the author.

World War I and the "Roaring '20's," the period notably chronicled in the fiction of F. Scott Fitzgerald, are the focus of the novel I most recently reviewed here, Gatsby's Girl, by Caroline Preston.

The Great Depression of the 1930's is the backdrop to a young veterinarian's adventures with a traveling circus in Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants.

Baker Towers: A Novel by Jennifer HaighJennifer Haigh's second novel, Baker Towers, follows the Novak family through the post-World War II years in the declining coal-mining town of Bakerton, Pennsylvania. This novel fascinated me as both a family saga and a story of the changing fortunes and economies of the heavy-industry towns of the Northeast and Midwest.

The Ruins of California, by Martha Sherrill, was one of my "4 out of 5"-rated books in 2008. This novel traces the complex relationships between young Inez Ruin, her father, and her half-brother. Inez' adolescent years were just a few ahead of mine, and my own memories of growing up during the 1970's became part of the context of the story for me.

As you can see, I'd rather not venture too far away in my historical time travels, but I do like to explore somewhat less-modern times than my own.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Three things on Tuesday morning

I have some scraps wandering around in my head that don't rate full posts of their own, so I've decided to inflict them on you en masse. This may become a recurring feature. You have been warned.

I tweeted this on Monday morning:
He's not on Twitter. He doesn't even have a computer. But would you wish my dad a happy 80th birthday today anyway ☺?

And a few of Twitterville's fine citizens actally did so:
trishheylady@florinda_3rs Happy Birthday @florinda_3rs dad! You're looking awfully young! I won't sing; that is my gift to you. ☺

average_jane@florinda_3rs Happy Birthday to your dad!

bermudaonion@florinda_3rs Happy Birthday to @florinda_3rs's dad!

Mjfrig@florinda_3rs Of Course! Happy birthday to your dad. He survived 80 years without a computer. He doesn't need one now! :)

whostheboss@florinda_3rs give your dad a big high-5 for me. 80 is quite an accomplishment

JenniferPerillo@florinda_3rs Happy birthday dad!

ET2U@florinda_3rs How sweet! Happy Birthday to him! ♫

TiBookChatter@florinda_3rs Happy Bday to Florinda's dad!!!

BethFishReads@florinda_3rs Happy Birthday to @florinda_3rs's dad!

Nicurnmama@florinda_3rs happy birthday to your dad! hope it is a great day!

The greetings were duly passed along to the birthday boy, who was very pleased to know that the blogiverse was celebrating along with him. Thank you all! If you'd like to hear all about his big birthday party, the story is at the LA Moms Blog today.

It bothered me a lot last year that blogging - including, ironically, book blogging - seemed to have taken a big bite out of my reading time, and although I don't make official New Year's resolutions, I started 2009 with some ambitions to focus more on reading and book reviewing. While I'm lagging far behind some folks, I'm posting my tenth review of the year on Thursday, and I'm currently reading my eleventh book. I'm pretty pleased with how it's going so far, and wouldn't feel too bad if I could stay pretty close to this pace - it's at least slightly less pathetic than last year.

On that note, here's something for "Teaser Tuesday" from book #11:

"I had seen this man around for a few weeks now. His handsome, intelligent face and dignified bearing reminded me of the actor Morgan Freeman, minus a few teeth." (page 133)
- Home Girl: Building a Dream House on a Lawless Block, by Judith Matloff

That "dream house" is in New York City, which might not be all that surprising - but it's in the West Harlem neighborhood, which is. I'm not too far into the book yet, and I'm curious to see how this all comes about.

"...all I want is a couple days off!"

It's a personal tradition of mine to take the day off from work on my birthday - and I don't let a little technicality like having it fall on the weekend get in the way! I'm having a birthday of my own this coming Sunday, and we're spending it - and the day before, and the day after - at Disneyland. (And then I'm taking Tuesday off to recover from Disneyland.)

This year, Disneyland is offering free admission on your birthday, which was what gave me the idea in the first place. Then we decided we would buy multi-day tickets and make a weekend out of it, since the kids have a school in-service day on Monday; we live just far enough away from Disneyland to make an overnight stay appealing. The catch is that with a multi-day ticket, your birthday is already paid for, so you can choose from several alternatives to the free admission;
  • A birthday FASTPASS® exchange card for a certain number of attractions at both Disneyland® Park and Disney's California Adventure® Park for birthday celebrant and up to 5 members of his/her party; or
  • A birthday fun card in an amount equal to the price of a 1-Day/1-Park ticket for certain purchases including select merchandise, tour experiences or for Disney's PhotoPass® on-site services at participating locations at Disneyland® Resort; or
  • A 1-Day/1-Park ticket for you to use any time until your next birthday.
I'll be showing up at the ticket booth first thing Sunday morning to stake a claim on Option #1.

I'm not planning to bring my MacBook, so I'll be taking a few days off from this place and Google Reader, too. I haven't decided whether I'm going to schedule posts for that time, though, so you may or may not even notice that I'm gone.

So...what are you thinking about this Tuesday?
***Have you entered my Blogiversary Giveaway yet? It closes on Sunday, 3/29! ***

Monday, March 23, 2009

He's turning 80 and that's no lie

My sister's writing is more creative than mine, and she enjoys crafting comic poetry. She always composes the invitations for her sons' birthday parties, and this year, she came up with one for their grandfather, who had a special party of his own yesterday:

Eddie’s birthday has arrived
How thrilled we are that he’s alive.
He’s turning eighty and that’s no lie.
He still likes to eat his cherry pie.
He wants you to come and celebrate.
It starts at two - so don’t be late!
He’s short in height, but long on charm.
Wish him well before he buys the farm.

While most of the family - including the guest of honor - found that last line pretty funny, it wasn't really appropriate for his neighbors in the senior apartments or his church friends, so a substitute line was devised ("His hands are cold, but his heart is warm"), some lines were shuffled, and the invitations went into the mail.

My dad was born on this day, eighty years ago, in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and given the name Norman Edward. He preferred to be addressed by his middle name, though, and when he converted from Judaism to Catholicism at twenty-one, he was baptized Edward Joseph, and that's how everyone knows him to this day. And everyone knows Dad - he is not the family introvert. (That was my mom, and I definitely take after her.)

My parents were married for 36 years, but Dad was on his own for the last seven, after Mom went into residential care with early-onset Alzheimer's - and Dad was really not built for living on his own. For one thing, like many men of his generation, he wasn't terribly strong in domestic skills - but besides that, he never had lived alone. He lived with his divorced (later widowed) mother until he got married at the age of 34 (to a 33-year-old woman - by 1963 standards, my parents were ancient), and I doubt he had ever given much thought to being on his own, ever. While he did pick up skills at cooking and doing his own laundry - he's never going to master cleaning, so he's lucky he can pay someone to do that - Dad is one of those people who need people, and he got lonely. Lonely infected his judgment at times, and at those times, he was living over 1000 miles from one daughter and a continent away from the other, so there wasn't much we could do about some of his predicaments except stress and argue over the phone. In late 2000, about a year after Mom passed away, my sister and her husband moved Dad out to Southern California and found him an apartment not far away from their home. By 2002, I had moved to the area too, and a few years later, all of us were actually living in the same town.

Dad's still able to live independently, but we take care of things for him when we need to; my sister does more of it than I do, bless her, but I usually see him once a week. He sees plenty of people besides us, though. He lives in a senior apartment complex where he has poker-playing buddies, social events to attend, and "lady friends" that he sees movies with or accompanies to dances at the Senior Center. He volunteers for Friends of the Library, and he participates in several groups at his church. He doesn't drive any more, but he's not shy about asking for rides, and since he's so sociable, he doesn't usually have trouble finding an agreeable driver (sometimes it's even one of his daughters). His collection of prescriptions is relatively small for a man his age. Lately, he'll doze off if he's not keeping busy, but he still hasn't fully retired from his bookkeeping business. Following cataract surgery and lens implants, his vision is excellent, and he's always reading something. What he's reading is often sports-related - he was never an athlete, but he's always been a very engaged spectator, and at this time of year, he faithfully attends his grandsons' Little League games.

Dad has now reached the age his own mother was when she died, but since he hasn't smoked for well over thirty years and does not have chronic emphysema, he's probably got a good shot at outliving her; after all, one of his grandmothers lived to be 92, and an aunt was just a few months short of her hundredth birthday when she passed away. He's still young enough to have wanted a karaoke machine at his birthday party (he didn't get it, but he did ask). He's still young enough that he doesn't always say the right thing, or really think about how things might affect anyone other than himself, but he almost always means well. In some ways, I think he'll always be young enough to want to be the center of attention.

That's what today is for - happy 80th birthday, Dad!

*****Have you entered my Blogiversary Giveaway yet?*****

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Saturday Review 3-21: This week around the blogiverse

Bulletin Board
****PSA of the week, via Donna (SoCal Mom), Los Angelista, and the LA Moms Blog: emergency preparedness (and the chance to get a free "disaster kit")

****Plans are moving forward for the Book Blogger Retreat. It's tentatively scheduled for July 18-19 in Portland, OR. Unfortunately for me, I'll have to miss it - that's the weekend before BlogHer'09 in Chicago - but it looks like Trish (Hey Lady!) and her team are making some good plans.

****The Spring edition of the 24-Hour Read-a-thon - renamed "Dewey's Read-a-Thon" in honor of its founder, and now hosted on its own blog - will take place April 18-19. (I always seem to have other plans during Read-a-thon weekends...but I'll be thinking of everyone who tries to go the distance!)

New to my Google Reader
A Piece of My Mind
At Home With Books
S. Krishna's Books
Café of Dreams
Shelf Life
Tip of the Iceberg
A host of new feeds from the personal blogs of members of the Silicon Valley Moms Group - thanks to Monica Brand for creating a feed file for easy uploading!

Across the Blogiverse
Author Phyllis Schieber's discussion of motherhood with a 25-year-old son truly resonated with me for obvious reasons. Other parental reflections: strong - and totally justified - feelings about deadbeat dads; positive feelings about grandparents; why the "new" Dora isn't necessarily an "improved" Dora; are kids' movies soap operas in disguise?

In this economy, people need to look out for each other; the underground Pokemon/Bakugan economy, where "free trade" may mean "trade for free" (a/k/a "just give me that one")

Margaret and Helen's dream

It's an east coast/west coast thing - Florida style (and I can vouch for that, having grown up in Tampa Bay...well, not in the water)

Do you have a geeky spouse - or are you the geeky spouse? Refer to this checklist (via The Park Bench) if you need to make sure. It actually describes life around my house pretty well - it's a bit scary. And if you're spouse-free, here are some tips for living the single life (#5 is my favorite).

Got too many Twitter followers? 10 easy ways to shed them. More numbers - 13 trivial annoyances (I agree with at least 10 of them).

Would you rather buy the clothes where the models are smiling?

>Parent of the week, via Not Always Right
Movie Theater | Massachusetts, USA
(A customer comes in with four very young kids.)
Customer: “Does [R-rated police drama] have any nudity in it?”
Me: “No, but it’s incredibly violent.”
Customer: “…but there’s no sex or nudity, right?”
Me: “No, it’s just really violent and bloody.”
Customer: “I’ll have one adult and four kids, please!”

>For the birds, via Not Always Right (nothing especially pointed about this one - it just made me laugh)
Call Center | Winchester, KY, USA
(I work at a call center for truck drivers.)
Me: “Thank you for calling the service center. My name is ***, are you experiencing a breakdown?”
Trucker: “Yeah, I need a new windshield.”
Me: “OK, sir. What happened to your current windshield?”
Trucker: “A bird went through it.”
Me: “Alright, a bird hit your windshield and cracked it, correct?”
Trucker: “No, the bird went THROUGH the windshield. It’s sitting in the passenger seat now and the windshield has a hole in it.”
Me: “So, what kind of bird is it?”
Trucker: “… a dead one.”

Blogthings Quiz of the Week:
The snippet in the feed reader for this quiz was "Are you more physical, mental, or spiritual?" Turns out I'm mental. Like that's a surprise to anyone...

You Are Mind

If you dream it, then you can do it. You are very mentally sharp and strong.
You enjoy challenging yourself both at work and with studies. You love mastering difficult tasks.

You thrive in new environments, even stressful ones. You are able to study everything objectively.
You have a upbeat attitude, and won't be deterred easily. You are open minded and optimistic about the future.

Bookmarks: Reading-related reading
Despite the fact it's better known for other forms of entertainment, SoCal does have a thriving bookish community, and My Friend Amy will be telling us more about it in her new recurring feature, "So Cal Lit Scene." As a fellow resident of said scene, I'm looking forward to this!

Question and answer: Is there an "unspoken code" to lending paperbacks?

The tendency to be distracted by books starts young

Public library=Ponzi scheme?

A current list of newly-defined Bookwords (to be updated as new ones are added); an interesting discussion of novel structure

Books that caught my eye this week:
Her Last Death, by Susanna Sonnenberg
It Will Come to Me, by Emily Fox Gordon
Safer, by Sean Doolittle

Have a great weekend, everyone!

*****Have you entered my Blogiversary Giveaway yet?*****

Friday, March 20, 2009

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

The questions at the end of each section are for you to answer in comments, should you choose to do so - I hope you will, at least for one or two!

"Mailbox Monday," hosted at The Printed Page

I've given up bookstore shopping for Lent (how many weeks till Easter?), but I'm still picking up new books here and there...

I mentioned in TBIF a couple of weeks ago that a LibraryThing Early Reviewers book that I won went missing in November. Author William Elliott Hazelgrove found out about that post and offered to send me a replacement copy of his recent novel, Rocket Man, which arrived in last Friday's mail.

Thanks to Shelby Sledge of Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists for offering a review copy of G.M. Weger's novel East Garrison, which arrived in Monday's mail. (As of Tuesday, my copy was the only one on LibraryThing.)

Speaking of LibraryThing, my February Early Reviewer catch, The Laws of Harmony by Judith Ryan Hendricks, arrived at my door on Tuesday thanks to HarperCollins and the UPS guy.

So, have you met any new books lately?

"Musing Monday," hosted at Just One More Page...

We were all warned as children to 'never talk to strangers', but how do you feel about book-talk with random people? When you see people reading, do you ask what it is? Do you talk to people in the book store or the library? Why or why not? What do you do if people talk to you? (question courtesy of Dena)

I'm not likely to strike up a book-related conversation with someone I don't know unless I've already read the book I see them reading, and even then I might not say anything unless the book is one that no one else I know (except for me) has read. In that case, I'd probably be excited to find someone else who shared my interest. But since I don't tend to get into conversations with strangers beyond the smallest of small talk ("Gee, this line is long. Hope it doesn't rain."), I'm not sure there's a high probability that this would even happen.

On the other hand, if someone sees me with a book and asks me about what I'm reading, I'll certainly answer them, and we can discuss the book if they're interested. However, I'm not much of a genre or best-seller reader, and most of the time I'm reading books that aren't familiar to random strangers I encounter in my travels, so I don't even get the questions very often.

Do you initiate, or participate in, random book-talk with random people?

Tuesday Thingers: Questions for LibraryThing users, hosted at Wendi's Book Corner
Wendi says: "When I first saw the memes section on LibraryThing, I thought of the memes many of us participate in: Mailbox Monday, Tuesday Thinger, Teaser Tuesday, etc., so I was expecting to see a list of weekly memes available for users to join in. I didn't know that a meme was simply something that is imitated (on a most basic level, per one of the definitions on Wikipedia), or in this case, a list of statistics that you can pull from the LT database that pertains to your particular book shelf."

Here are the current memes available on LT:

You and None Other. Books shared with exactly one member.
Dead or Alive? How many of your authors are dead?
Dead or Alive Comparison How do you stack up against others?
Male or Female? What gender are your authors?
Work Duplicates. Works you have more than one of.

Question: Do you visit the memes section often? Have you visited recently? Have you discovered anything that surprises you when you visit the memes for your library?

My Answer: I think this is the second time I've visited the Memes pages on LT, and the first time was also for Tuesday Thingers, back when Marie was doing it. Here are my results this time around:

You and None Other: None, but there are 6 books that I share with 5 or fewer people.

Dead or Alive?: 20 confirmed dead, 205 among the living, and 98 unknown (but I've skimmed over the list and I think most of them are alive, because they're almost all contemporary writers)

Dead or Alive Comparison: Not sure why this one matters, but with 91.11% living authors, I'm in the top 4% of LT'ers (and if we could verify the status of the 98 unknowns, my rank would probably rise!)

Male or Female?: 88 male (28.95%), 215 female - that sounds about right balance-wise, given my reading habits. 19 authors in my library are "not set," whatever that means, but none fall into the "other/contested/unknown" category.

Work Duplicates: Only two, and I already knew about both of them: Niagara Falls All Over Again, by Elizabeth McCracken, and Me Talk Pretty One Day, by David Sedaris. In both cases, I'd given away my original copy and bought another one later.

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!
Try to contain your shock - this Teaser is actually from the book I'm currently reading (yes, for once, I followed the rules)!

"According to Ruth, Chrissie and Rodney had been busy exploring this seaside town they'd gone to and had split up for awhile. When they met up again, Rodney was all excited and had told Chrissie how he'd been wondering the side streets off the High Street, and had gone past an office with a large glass front." (page 140)
- Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro

Tell me what you're reading right now!

Booking Through Thursday: The Worst "Best" Book You’ve Ever Read

btt button

Suggested by Janet:
How about, “What’s the worst ‘best’ book you’ve ever read — the one everyone says is so great, but you can’t figure out why?”

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 think there are a couple of different angles to this question, and I'll answer it from both of them. (I also have a feeling I've answered a variation on this question before...)

On the more literary side of the equation - where the books are generally acknowledged and accepted to be of good quality and critical merit - I've been lukewarm on quite a few works from the canon. I've mentioned my disdain for Wuthering Heights a few times here. The Grapes of Wrath didn't do too much for me either, although I love East of Eden, and they're both by Steinbeck. And I've read Jane Austen and liked Jane Austen, but I just don't get the widespread adoration for Jane Austen. (Sorry...ducking behind the couch now!)

I think I've had this experience more with very popular books - the ones that spend weeks on the bestseller lists and that everyone is reading, even people who don't tend to read much. The thing is, I've noticed that it's the people who don't tend to read much who are sometimes the most vocal about how great a book is - "if it got ME to read, it must be good!" Exhibit A: The Da Vinci Code. I actually got pretty caught up in the story, but that was mostly in spite of the writing.

My most memorable experience with this kind of thing was probably with The Bridges of Madison County. I'll never get those hours back - and fifteen or so years later, I still mourn them.

Then there are the two or three Anita Shreve books I've read for book club - they've all seriously annoyed me in one way or another, but I know some people (whose taste in books I respect) who really like her. I personally don't plan to read anything of hers again, even if that makes me a bad book-clubber.

What books have you read that everyone seems to love - except you?

Friday Fill-ins #116


1. Why do we have to clean up after ourselves? (Because maybe you won't make as big as mess if you know it will mean more work for yourself!)

2. Writing blog posts and reading blogs are now habits.

3. I have nine days to go until my birthday! (That was for my husband. He says I haven't mentioned it very much this year.)

4. I had never heard the phrase "that dog won't hunt" and it made me wonder who let the dogs out.

5. I met up with a waitress the way I always do.

6. How was I to know she was with the Russians too?*

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to an evening with my husband and the DVR, tomorrow my plans include some housecleaning, maybe some writing, and FINALLY getting to work on the taxes and Sunday, I want to help celebrate my dad's birthday (he turns 80 on Monday)!

* 5 and 6 are the first two lines of a song - bragging rights to the first person (other than Janet) who correctly identifies it in comments!

*****Have you entered my Blogiversary Giveaway yet?*****

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Thursday Book Talk: "Gatsby's Girl," by Caroline Preston

Gatsby's Girl by Caroline Preston
Gatsby's Girl: A Novel
Caroline Preston
Mariner Books, 2007 (paperback) (ISBN 0618872612 / 9780618872619)
Fiction, 336 pages

First sentence
: Scott Fitzgerald's daughter called long distance, out of the blue.

Book description: Before he wrote some of the twentieth century's greatest fiction, before he married Zelda, F. Scott Fitzgerald loved Ginevra, a fickle young Chicago socialite he met during the winter break from Princeton. But Ginevra threw over the soon-to-be-famous novelist, and the rest is literary history. Ginevra would be the model for many of Fitzgerald's coolly fascinating but unattainable heroines, including the elusive object of Jay Gatsby's unrequited love, Daisy Buchanan.

In this captivating and moving novel, Caroline Preston imagines what life might have been like for Fitzgerald's first love, following Ginevra from her gilded youth as the daughter of a tycoon through disillusioned marriage and motherhood. Gatsby's Girl deftly explores the relationship between a famous author and his muse.

Comments: I think that The Great Gatsby contains some of the most beautiful writing of the 20th century, and F. Scott Fitzgerald's portrayals of the overprivileged, aimless young adults of a society that didn't realize it was on the brink of major change have always appealed to me, as an outsider looking in. As it happens, Fitzgerald was a bit of an outsider in that world himself, and much of his early exposure to it came through his romance with a young Chicago pre-debutante named Ginevra King during his years at Princeton. In Gatsby's Girl, Caroline Preston has woven the known facts about their relationship into a novel exploring how it affected them both in the years after it was over.

Fitzgerald acknowledged on several occasions - including in conversation with his daughter - that several of his female characters were based on his memories and impressions of his first love, Ginevra, and what he imagined had become of her. Caroline Preston imagines Ginevra into a fictional character again here - re-christened Ginevra Perry, possibly in recognition of one of the characters she inspired, Josephine Perry, protagonist of several of Fitzgerald's short stories.

The real Ginevra King claimed not to have read any of Fitzgerald's writing or to have followed his career, but fictional Ginevra Perry couldn't say the same. One thing I might say about Ginevra Perry is that deep down, she's rather shallow. Her infatuation with Scott Fitzgerald wears off even as his feelings for her seem to grow, and when her father suggests he's not "suitable," she doesn't need much more encouragement to cast him off. By then, she's already got her eye on dashing would-be aviator Billy Granger, and at Scott's request, she discards all of the letters he wrote to her - although, thirty-odd years later, she learns that he did not do the same.

When she accidentally discovers that her former beau has become an acclaimed author - and the toast of the expatriate community in Paris, along with his wife Zelda, considered the original "flapper" of the Roaring '20's - Ginevra becomes caught up with "the one that got away," starting a clip file on Scott and catching up on all of his books. In several of his characters - Isabelle in This Side of Paradise, Josephine Perry, and The Great Gatsby's Daisy Buchanan - she recognizes herself, and this fuels both her renewed fascination with Scott and her unrest with her own life as wife to Billy and mother of two boys.

The premise of this novel intrigued me, and the early-20th-century time period interests me. I found Gatsby's Girl to be a fast and absorbing read, and even if it was difficult to like Ginevra sometimes, it wasn't hard to understand and feel empathy for her. It must be a curious experience to discover that you're a muse.

Rating: 3.5/5

Buy the book:

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

*****Have you entered my Blogiversary Giveaway yet?***** 

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Hobbies and Friends and catching up on Assignments

I missed last week's Weekend Assignment because I didn't get inspired with an answer for it until the week was nearly over, and by then I had the week's posts all scheduled out. Therefore, this week you're getting two Assignments for the price of one post (but I promise I'll try not to go on too long with either one!).

Weekend Assignment #257: It's just a hobby of mine..., via guest professor Laura

Weekend Assignment #257: Are there any hobby activities you've always wanted to try? What is their appeal? Also, what's stopping you from pursuing them?

(Since this assignment is overdue, it's not eligible for extra credit.)

I enjoy singing. Most of the time I am capable of carrying a tune in a bucket, so even if other people don't enjoy my singing as much as I do myself, I hope it's not too painful for them. For the most part, though, I sing a capella, unless you count whatever I'm singing with on the radio or iPod as a backing track. Other than my brief experience with the violin in elementary school, I've never learned to play a musical instrument, and I've always wished I knew how to play piano or guitar.

The piano would probably be my first instrument choice. My family had a piano when my sister and I were kids, and although we never got lessons, I taught myself to sight-read a little. The bigger appeal of the piano, though, is that it's easier to follow the melody line and match it to a vocal, since it's based on notes rather than chords, as the guitar is. The guitar definitely is cooler, though, and as long as you're not talking about the electrified variation of either instrument, it's certainly more portable than a piano.

I would hope that I'm not too old to learn to play an instrument, so what stops me from following up on this wishful thinking are the more prosaic obstacles of time and money. I'm thinking that maybe I should just give Guitar Hero a try instead, since we've already spent the money on that.

Is there a hobby you've always wanted to give a try?

Weekend Assignment #258: It's a Small Web (After All)

Weekend Assignment #258: In the online world, the word "friend" has become a verb. We "friend" or we "follow" people on social media sites and blogs, often forming casual connections with people we would be unlikely ever to meet face to face. Do you extend your arms wide to the online world, collecting lots of online acquaintances, or limit your web interactions mostly to "real" friends?

Extra Credit: Have you had much online interaction with people from other countries?

Like it or not, my online and offline social circles don't intersect all that much. Not many of my offline friends and family have become active on the Internet to the degree that I have. My husband and son both blog sporadically, and my sister is a fellow contributor to the Los Angeles Moms Blog. More and more of my "real" friends and family have joined Facebook, which is probably the social-media spot where I spend the smallest amount of time, so I don't see them online all that often. It's my loss, but unfortunately Facebook has gotten the short end of the stick in my Internet time-rationing, and that's partly because I actually like spending time on blogging.

I hesitate to say that my offline friends are the only "real" ones, though. My connections with some of the folks I've gotten to know online are just as "real" to me. I've met a few of them in person, but the fact that I'm unlikely to physically cross paths with most of them doesn't diminish those relationships. I enjoy meeting new people online and getting better acquainted with the ones I've already met via blogging and Twitter, which for the moment are meeting my social-media-interaction needs pretty well. I don't have enormous social circles in either place - I think I have somewhere around 300 Twitter "followers," and this blog's follower/subscriber numbers hover anywhere between 150 and 180 (but occasionally drop to around 75), depending on how Feedburner is behaving on any given day. Since I've never been the life-of-the-party type, that certainly feels like a pretty wide 'net to me!

As for the extra credit, I know that this blog has regular readers from Canada, England, Australia, Denmark, Japan, and India, and there may be more who haven't introduced themselves via a comment yet - please feel free to do so, any time! I'll be glad to return your visit. My online interactions with people from other countries are obviously somewhat limited by language, since I only speak, read, and write in English.

What are the boundaries of your online world - are they wide or narrow?

*****Have you entered my Blogiversary Giveaway yet?***** 

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Quick, change the station! Ten songs I can't stand

"Hate" is a strong word, but that's what this week's Ten on Tuesday asked for - "10 Songs You Hate." It was hard to narrow it down, to be honest. Tall Paul did some online searches for "worst songs," and they reminded us both about a lot of songs that we couldn't stand.

Since I'm in my mid-forties, I've been listening to pop music for long enough to have heard a lot of crap - and what makes it worse is that so much of it is memorable crap. Therefore, most of my list is made up of older songs that have been around for enough time to solidify my disdain for them. In no particular order, take these songs...please!

"Seasons in the Sun" by Terry Jacks
This one shows up on a lot of people's "worst songs of all time" lists, and if you've ever heard it, it's not hard to understand why. If you're not familiar with it, you probably weren't around in 1974 - lucky you!

"Love the One You're With" by Stephen Stills
My husband and I disagree about what this song is actually saying. I've always heard its message as "Hey, your girlfriend's not around, go ahead and cheat," which does NOT fly with me, and is why it's on this list.

"MacArthur Park"
I'm not sure song this made sense even in the acid-soaked late 1960's when it was originally recorded by Richard Harris (Dumbledore from the first two Harry Potter movies, to you youngsters). I can't stand Donna Summer's disco remake of it either, but at least the beat helps distract you from the lyrical insanity. This song actually has a long-standing reputation for its awfulness, as the winner(?) of Dave Barry's Bad Song Survey in 1993.

"American Woman" by The Guess Who? (No, really, that was their name!)
Songwriter Burton Cummings has said that he really meant this song to praise the women of his home country, Canada, but somehow "Canadian woman, come closer" turned into "American woman, stay away." I've tried to stay away from hearing this song at all, but especially from Lenny Kravitz's cover of it, which did not improve on the original.

"Achy Breaky Heart" by Billy Ray "Miley's Dad" Cyrus
The perfect recipe for a song to despise - incredibly stupid, yet annoyingly catchy, and when it was popular, it was everywhere.

"A Horse With No Name" by America
"There were plants and birds and rocks and things..." Since I do tend to pay attention to lyrics, the bunch of non-sequiturs that comprise this song just make me crazy (or wish I was in a state of consciousness altered enough to make it comprehensible, which is tough to imagine).

"Miss Independent" by Kelly Clarkson
I've liked a lot of what the original American Idol has done since this record, but this is just a bunch of yelling to me, and doesn't showcase her vocal talents at all.

"FM (No Static at All)" by Steely Dan
I actually like a lot of Steely Dan's music, and maybe I should give them a pass because this was written for a (not particularly distinguished or memorable) movie, but I won't. This song just makes me cringe, and it's probably because I otherwise like Steely Dan.

"Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" by Rod Stewart
It's going on thirty years of hating this song! And no, Rod, I don't, I never have, and I'm pretty sure I never will. No offense.

"Total Eclipse of the Heart" by Bonnie Tyler
Too bad the eclipse didn't snuff out this song, which has literally given me nightmares. The song was written by Jim Steinman, who is also to be blamed for the overwrought musical soap operas "Making Love Out of Nothing at All," by Air Supply, "It's All Coming Back to Me Now," by Celine Dion, and "I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)" by Meat Loaf (but since Mr. Loaf and Steinman also are responsible for the ever-awesome "Paradise by the Dashboard Light," I'll cut them a little bit of slack for that last song I mentioned. Celine Dion gets no slack whatsoever.).

One of the good things about being able to listen to your iPod in your car is that you've pre-selected all of your music, and therefore you're much less likely to have to lunge for the radio when something hideous comes on.

Your turn - in the comments, tell me one song that you would be perfectly happy if you never heard again in this lifetime!

*****Have you entered my Blogiversary Giveaway yet?*****

Monday, March 16, 2009

Blogiversary, part 2: Giving it away!

You have to love the blogiverse - I'm having the anniversary, but the gifts are for you! (It's kind of like hobbits and birthdays.)

I hope you'll join me in celebrating two years of blogging with a little giveaway. I have three slightly-used ARCs (Advance Reader's Copies, for you non-book-blogging folks) that need new homes, but if none of them appeals to you, perhaps you'd like a $20 Amazon.com e-gift certificate? You don't have to use that on books unless you really want to.

All of the ARCs were reviewed here during the past couple of months - the links will take you to the original review post.

Buffalo Gal, by Laura Pedersen (3.75/5)
...Pedersen is a fine observer, and her account of growing up as the only child of two loving, yet detached, parents in the suburbs of Buffalo is enjoyable from start to finish. She is inventive and resourceful, resilient and self-aware, and uses her well-developed sense of humor very effectively in telling her own story. That story is influenced by her parents, of course - and their long, drawn-out divorce during her teens - but also by her friends, including the girl next door and the gay theater teacher at her high school, and by her city itself...
True Colors, by Kristin Hannah (3.5/5)
...I enjoy stories about family relationships, and those among the Grey sisters are pretty complicated. Losing their mother when they were young both bonded them together and pulled them apart, and their father, a rancher and descendant of the founders of their town, never really bonds with anyone. But what really made things messy between them were the men; the one who chose one sister over the other, and especially the other one who came between the first man and the chosen sister...
Honeymoon in Tehran: Two Years of Love and Danger in Iran, by Azadeh Moaveni (4/5)
...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...
This one will be easy - to enter, just leave a comment and tell me which book you'd like, or if you'd prefer the gift certificate. Please be sure to include your e-mail address, and note that you may choose only one giveaway item. There are no "extra" entries this time, although if you'd like to post about the giveaway I certainly won't mind!  Entries will be open until Sunday, March 29 (my birthday!) - winners will be chosen using Random.org, and will be contacted by e-mail and announced here.

Thanks again for two fun-filled years, and I'm looking forward to more - I hope you are, too!

EDITED TO ADD: Thanks to Win A Book for posting this giveaway - and if that's how you found your way here, welcome!

"How My Blog Got Its Name," inspired by the My Blog's Name Carnival hosted by Rebecca at Ramblings by Reba

As the tagline notes, it's not just a title, it's a mission statement. It's also a play on the original "three R's" of education - "reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic." Since I started writing this blog to keep a record of the books I read, the first two parts of the name were pretty obvious. The "randomness" came from the need for a third R, but knowing myself, I figured it was a good bet that I wasn't going to stick to a limited range of topics here - things would probably get pretty darn random at times. That's how I like it - and I hope that you do too.