Thursday, April 30, 2009

Please excuse Florinda from blogging today

I just don't have anything prepared for today! I'm scrambling to get the TBIF memes done for tomorrow. It's been a crazy couple of weeks, and I've really had trouble making time for writing. It's been tough keeping up with my blog reading as well, so this week's Saturday Review may be on the lightweight side again.

I am brewing a few posts for the near future, including some themed entries for next week (leading up to Mother's Day), and I think I'll have some time to work on them over the weekend. I have jury duty next Monday - and I won't know till then if it will last any longer - so I expect to be able to get some reading and writing done then, too.

Meanwhile, please accept my apologies for this place holder, and know that I'll be back soon!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Weekly Geeks 2009-15: Critters in Literature (and film, too!)

This Weekly Geeks theme comes from animal lover Wendy of Caribousmom:

How many of us remember a favorite pet from our childhood? Or have enjoyed visiting the zoo? Or relish in walking in the woods and hearing birdsong, or seeing a deer leap away through the brush? How many of us have been thrilled by a soaring eagle? How often have we sought the comfort of a dog or cat, or wept tears of loss when forced to say good-bye to a furred friend?

We are surrounded by our fellow creatures and often our lives are enriched by their presence, whether it be sharing our homes with them or simply being blessed to see them in passing.

This week you are asked to share books (fiction or nonfiction) and/or movies which center around an animal or animals.

  • Which are your favorites?
  • Which touched your heart the most?
  • Which have found their way onto your wish lists or TBR stacks?
  • Is there a childhood favorite?
  • Have you ever named a pet after an animal from a book or movie?

As an adjunct to this post, consider sharing photos of animals (domestic or wild) which have inspired or thrilled you, or graced your life with their presence.

I've had pets for most of my life. As a young child, I was scared of dogs; I was a particularly small child, and most dogs were just so big, or noisy, or sometimes both - and since my family had cats, dogs seemed especially daunting. But perhaps as an outgrowth of the fact that I never seemed to like guys who liked cats, I tried warming up to dogs as I got older, and now I don't hesitate to call myself a "dog person." Cats fall way behind dogs on my preferences list these days.
in any case, though, I usually prefer being around animals in real life to reading stories about them, and that's become even more pronounced in adulthood. I've found that books about animals all too frequently get sentimental, and I don't particularly enjoy sappiness or emotional manipulation. There are exceptions, of course, but animals haven't really played a big role in my reading.

Unlike many I've known, I was never a girl who was into horses - scared of them for similar reasons to dogs - but I read Black Beauty several times during childhood. As an adult, however, I find that I prefer reading about real-life animals - and real-life humans' relationships with them - over fictional ones.  While I'm still not into horses, and I'm definitely not a fan of racing them, one of the most riveting books I've read in the last decade was Seabiscuit: An American Legend, by Laura Hillenbrand. That horse was far from a perfect specimen, and yet he dominated his game and his story, although he was never anthropomorphized or sentimentalized in the telling.

My fear of sentimentality and sappiness made me shy away from reading the hugely popular Marley & Me: Life and Love With the World's Worst Dog, by John Grogan, despite rave personal recommendations about the book from a couple of unsentimental fellow dog fans (my stepdaughter and her mom), as well as from someone who has more patience with sentiment and far less patience with dogs than I do (my sister). I still haven't read it - but I did buy a copy of it after seeing the movie at Christmastime, and...well, I loved it. One of the reasons I did is that, like Seabiscuit, Marley was never anthropomorphized - he was always unquestionably and genuinely a DOG. The movie's authentic portrayal of dog ownership was praised by Entertainment Weekly and on NPR.com, and it certainly rang true to this dog owner.

For twenty years, I've had a name picked out that I still want to use for a pet, and I found it in a movie:

Dr. Jones, to his father: Don't call me Junior!
Dr. Jones senior: But that's your name. Henry Jones, Junior.
Dr. Jones junior: I like Indiana.
Dr. Jones senior: We named the dog Indiana.
 - from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

My ex-husband (who eventually decided that the critters were tolerable after all) named his cat Indiana - and he knew I was saving it for a dog! I'm more likely to name a pet after a human character from a book or movie, really, as opposed to an animal; I guess if I do ever get to use Indiana, it will count for both.

I didn't get to name this dog; she was already used to "Gypsy" when I adopted her ten and a half years ago.

Do you have a favorite animal story, or story about an animal, to share in the comments? Please do!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Who won "What to Read When"?

What to Read When: The Books and Stories to Read with Your Child--and All the Best Times to Read Them by Pam Allyn
I opened a giveaway for my slightly-copy of Pam Allyn's What to Read When: The Books and Stories to Read with Your Child - and All the Best Times to Read Them on April 13, when I posted my review. It's taken me a few days to get around to choosing the winner, but thanks to our friends as Random.org, the verdict is in!

There were 16 items in your list. Here they are in random order:
  1. Claudia
  2. Gwendolyn B.
  3. Amy M,
  4. Shelley Burns
  5. TaterTot374
  6. Ramya
  7. Callista
  8. Shelley Burns
  9. Heather J.
  10. 2KoP
  11. Rhapsody in Books
  12. Michelle
  13. Betty & Boo's Mommy
  14. Rhapsody in Books
  15. Betty & Boo's Mommy
  16. Callista
Congratulations to Freshhell (Claudia) of Life in Scribbletown! I hope this book helps make your reading time with your daughter even better, and leads you to discover new books you can share. (I've already e-mailed to request your mailing address.)

Tuesday Book Talk: The Festival!

The last weekend in April is always a great time for Southern California book lovers, as we make our way to the UCLA campus to party with the books! I don't usually go for the entire weekend, but this year I made a full day of it on Saturday - and it was a full day.

Several book bloggers had been planning to meet up and experience the Festival together, but no thanks to a lost e-mail (yes, they get lost in the mail, too), I missed the finalizing of the details on Friday evening. I was almost late to the first of three panels I was attending, but fortunately I had not missed the messages regarding coordinating everyone's sessions, and the group was expecting me and saving a seat! Official introductions were rushed under the circumstances, but almost weren't necessary, and we settled in for the discussion about "New Media and Social Networking," which is what brought us all there together in the first place.

The panel included Wil Wheaton, whose online history goes back to almost the beginning of online history itself and who is now one of the most-followed people on Twitter, and Otis Chandler, founder of Goodreads (the latest of several online-community ventures for him). The emphasis of the panel was on conversation and community, and the variety of forms they take online. I'm not sure I really learned anything new, but it was a good session, and Wil in particular was knowledgeable and funny. (Gentle Reader has a much better recap of this panel in her FoB post on Shelf Life.)

No one was heading directly to another panel after that, so we all went to grab some lunch together, and that was when I actually got to talk to people a bit. No one was an outright stranger to me, but I've known some of these women and their book blogs longer than others. Tracy (Gentle Reader) from Shelf Life is one of my newest blog acquaintances, and we had a little time to talk over our salads. She was one of the folks leaving for another panel at 12:30, though, so we couldn't chat for long. Ti from Book Chatter and Other Stuff arrived around the time several people were leaving - she had been at a different panel. I ended up hanging out with her and Jill (Softdrink) from Fizzy Thoughts for most of the afternoon; we were all going to the same panels, so we wandered around the vendor booths together as we made our way from one auditorium to another.

The afternoon was all about fiction. The 1:30 panel, "Window on the World," included Lisa See, Jonathan Rabb, Vanina Marsot, and Muriel Barbery. Ms. Barbery was accompanied by a translator, since her native tongue is French and she felt less confident of her spoken English. The general theme of the panel - fiction as a means of viewing the world - arose from the fact that each author's novel was set in a foreign place or time (or, in Rabb's case, both). I left the panel looking to purchase copies of Ms. Barbery's The Elegance of the Hedgehog (done, at the Vroman's booth later in the afternoon) and Ms. Marsot's Foreign Tongue (not found at the festival or on a Sunday visit to Borders, so that one may be getting ordered online soon), and planning to read Ms. See's Shanghai Girls once it comes out in paperback - it will be out in hardcover next month, so I'll be waiting a while.

Jill, Ti, and I all agreed that we really enjoyed our last panel of the day, another fiction session titled "Intimate Strangers." The theme wasn't entirely clear, even to the participants, but this one included genuine discussion among the participating authors, Gina Nahai, Jean Hanff Korelitz, Andew Sean Greer, and Janet Fitch, which was certainly more enjoyable for the audience, and I would assume for them as well. (Ms. Nahai and Ms. Fitch both teach in the graduate writing program at USC, so they've probably had discussions before.) I've read Ms. Nahai and Ms. Fitch before - both of them have books currently in TBR Purgatory, and Ms. Nahai's newest, Caspian Rain, may be joining them there soon. Ms. Korelitz' novel Admission has been on my wish list for a couple of weeks already. And when we left the session, all three of us bought copies of Greer's The Story of a Marriage (autographed by the author at Vroman's booth just before the panel met), because we'd found him such an engaging panelist.

Everyone's panels were done by 5:00, and we met up in front of the UCLA Bookstore to carpool to dinner at Jerry's Deli in Westwood, leaving once we were joined by Trish from Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'?, who got involved in a post-panel discussion of her own and then got stuck in line at one of the book-signing booths.

The great thing about our dinner together - besides the good food - was that the conversation around the table was just a continuation of the same things we talk about online all the time, like blogger/publisher relations, review ethics and practices, and the ever-growing TBR stacks. Outside of the full-table conversation, I was sitting at the end of the table with Wendy (Literary Feline) from Musings of a Bookish Kitty, her husband Anjin, and My Friend Amy (who learned a few things at the Festival), and it was great to have the opportunity to talk with them. I've probably known Wendy the longest of all of my book-blogging friends and have hoped to meet her in person for ages - we had attempted to arrange it at last year's FoB, but it didn't work out (again, a lost e-mail was to blame). I'm glad it finally happened.

Gentle Reader couldn't stay for dinner, but here's a post-dinner photo of the rest of the group (taken by Anjin and borrowed from Ti's Festival of Books post):

back row: Jill, Ti, Lisa, Trish, Amy
front row: Natasha, me, Wendy

With Amy, Trish, and Natasha from Maw Books Blog, we had half of the book-blogger panel at next month's Book Expo America in New York City in one room on Saturday night! They left dinner together to do some brainstorming about that (and to work on a vlog...).

This was the first time I've gone to the Festival without my husband, and I missed him - people-watching without him just isn't nearly as much fun. But I don't think he would have enjoyed the talks as much as I did, and I couldn't have had better company for those. I'm glad that Lisa from Books on the Brain was willing to take the lead in organizing our book-blogger get-together, and I hope we'll do it again for next year's Festival - and if we don't have to wait that long to meet up again, that would be even better!

(I'm also talking about the Festival, from a slightly different angle, on the LA Moms Blog.)

Monday, April 27, 2009

A poor citizen of Planet Earth (Weekend Assignment #264)

Inspired by last week's observation of Earth Day, Karen asks:
Weekend Assignment #264: A lot has changed since 1970, when the first Earth Day took place and had an unexpectedly large impact. In the current, uh, climate of global warming, eco-friendly marketing and recent attempts to gut environmental protections, how much of an effort do you make in your daily routine to help protect the environment?

Extra Credit: Do you observe Earth Day in any way? If so, how?

"How much of an effort do you make in your daily routine to help protect the environment?" I wish I could say something different, but in all honesty, I probably have to answer this one with "not nearly enough."

I drive a small, fuel-efficient, low-emissions car that gets great gas mileage; I remember the "energy crisis" of the 1970's - and maybe it's never really ended, if we are where we are now - and the importance of not gas-guzzling has stuck with me ever since. I actually like small, fuel-efficient cars, and I may be lucky that my size means that I'm comfortable in them. But that car is nine years old now, and although I try to keep up with the maintenance, age does take its toll on everything, so it's less efficient than it once was - and I drive that car eighty miles every weekday, round-trip, by myself, on some of the most congested highways in this country.

Our homeowners' association has chosen not to provide recycling bins in addition to trash dumpsters, so we sort out recyclables. We would do it if it were convenient, but it's not, so unless the HOA changes its policy (and most likely the fees along with it) we're not making the extra effort to do it. We do use our trash compactor, though, so the garbage takes up a little less space. My office doesn't have a recycling program either, but we are making the effort to reduce paper usage - yes, even in the accounting department! - by sharing more of our work in electronic formats.

I have purchased a few reusable shopping bags, but I am not good at remembering to take them to the store with me, so I come home with more plastic and paper ones. We have switched some of our lighting to CFL bulbs, and I've always tried to keep tabs on turning lights and faucets off and being attentive to the thermostat settings. My motivation for those things has always been more about saving money, but they do have the side benefit of helping to conserve resources too. I'm not sure if this saves much money, but I've tried some of the new environmentally-friendly cleaning products, and they seem to do a perfectly good job, so I don't mind making that change.

I certainly recognize why it's important to do more to protect and preserve our natural environment, but I've never done anything special to recognize Earth Day, and I know that doing small things every day is probably even more important. I'm pretty sure I can do more without complicating my routine all that much. I need to make more of an effort to be a good citizen of Planet Earth. What about you?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Saturday Review 4-25: This week around the blogiverse

The links are a little sparse this week, folks - my apologies. It has been Hell Week at work, and it's probably going to last longer than just a week; we're in the midst of two separate audits, which has made for some long days and led to the use of the "mark all as read" button in Google Reader a few times.

I've gone to UCLA for the Festival of Books today - I'll tell you all about it next week! But I may not get to tell you about much else...I have no posts prepped right now and am unsure how much writing time I'll have this weekend. Yes, I know I've suggested before that things might slow down a bit around here for a little while, but this time I really mean it!

Dispatches from Across the Blogiverse
Reflecting on guilt - or, more accurately, the lack of it; do you think the blogger who was caught in acts of plagiarism felt guilty about it?

Sometimes it seems like one of the hardest parts of motherhood is...realizing that your family actually does manage just fine when you're not there, even if they don't do things exactly like you would

Perspective: Facebook, high school, and when whether or not they liked you doesn't matter

Did you know that you can get kicked off Twitter for tweeting too many times in a hour? More Twitterese: who you follow makes the difference, not who (or how many) follows you; five things wrong with Twitter (none of which I can really dispute, to be honest)

More blogger introspection

Breaking the chain, and telling the tale

A helpful introduction to one of my favorite musical genres (although I don't know that anyone besides me is actually going to be interested in that link, I'm tossing it into the mix anyway!)

Genius of the week, via Not Always Right:
Government Forensics Department | South Australia
(I work for forensics and often a lot of phone calls about DNA results and what they mean.)
Me: “Good morning, DNA Management Section, *** speaking.”
Customer: “Hi, I got this DNA notification thing. I don’t know what it means.”
Me: “Those are the results for the buccal swab you had done. It’s just for your records to show that you had a buccal swab taken and your DNA was analysed from it.”
Customer: “What do all these letters and numbers mean?”
Me: “That is the sequence for your DNA. The scientists at forensics will use those numbers to match your DNA profile to other samples on the DNA database.”
Customer: “But what do they mean?”
Me: “Unfortunately, I am not qualified to explain this to you. I can however forward your call to Forensics SA, and they will be able to answer your query. All I can say is that the first part is your sex. XX means female and XY means male.”
Customer: “It says XY… so that means I’m male, right?”

Bookmarks: Reading-related Reading
Book-Blog Community Discussion of the Week: Reviewing. What makes for a "good" book review - composition, not content? And as for content, even if you dislike a book, does meanness have a place in book reviews, and do negative reviews ever go too far?

Did you know that, as a book blogger, you can become a non-voting associate member of the National Book Critics Circle? Thanks to Dawn (@toofondofbooks) for mentioning it on Twitter - I joined this week, for whatever that's worth.

Books that caught my eye this week:
The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, by Rebecca Miller (via DearReader.com)

Have a great weekend!

Friday, April 24, 2009

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

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

Musing Mondays (BIG)Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about 2009 favourites…
Coming towards the end of April, we’re a third of the way through the way through the year. What’s the favourite book you’ve read so far in 2009? What about your least favourite? (question courtesy of MizB)
It's been a decent reading year so far. My pace hasn't been too bad - 13 reviews posted to date, which is doing pretty well by my standards - and none of them have been real clunkers. Almost half of them were rated at least 4 out of 5, so either I've been on a very good run or I need to be a bit more critical...but seriously, I think it's been a good run.
My favorite book so far this year is undoubtedly The Uncommon Reader. I loved this novella, and won't hesitate to say that it will be on my "books of the year" list in December. I'm planning to hold on to my copy, and I don't keep that many books after reading them these days. I think that for the first time in a while, I've found a new addition to my "all-time favorites" list.
My least favorite book was Never Let Me Go - which is by no means a bad book, objectively speaking. It's built around some very provocative ideas, and it's a compelling story. Despite all that, though, I really wasn't able to warm up to it and connect with it as much as I wanted to, which was disappointing.
What books have you particularly loved - or not - so far this year?

Mailbox Monday, hosted at The Printed Page


Technically, I've got three books that truly qualify as "mailbox" this week. I was recently contacted by British author Rosy Thornton and offered a copy of her most recent novel, Crossed Wires, for review. I took her up on it, and the book arrived from England in record time! I received Sarah's Key, by Tatiana de Rosnay, from Sarah Goldstein at St. Martin's Press; this novel was very popular on the book blogs last year, and it's just come out in paperback. Just under the wire to be mentioned here, I received an ARC of The Last Bridge by Teri Coyne, thanks to LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program.

I did bring a couple of other books into the house, though. Still Alice by Lisa Genova has been on my radar for a couple of months, and despite some trepidation about the subject matter, the good word among book bloggers has prompted me to give it a shot. (The plot concerns a woman with early-onset Alzheimer's, like my mother did, and I think that may make reading it a bit of a challenge.) And it's been awhile since I've read anything by Alice Hoffman, but she was one of my favorite authors for a long time, so I thought I'd check out her most recent novel, The Third Angel, just out in paperback. Maybe I'll get the old magic back...

Tuesday Thingers, hosted at Wendi's Book Corner

This week's topic: Helper Badges (started on Library Thing Nov. 22, 2008). You can see your badges by clicking on the tab for your Profile, then scrolling down. The badges will be displayed on the right hand side of the screen just under the RSS Feed options, and they look like this: (this is a bronze helper badge, there are also silver and gold)

If you click on the badges, they will take you to your Helper Badges, which will show you what you have received them for.  The WikiThing link you will go to a wonderful page that explains the possible Helper Badges and how to get them.

Questions: Did you know about Helper Badges? Do you have any badges? If so, what is your highest medal/number? What is your lowest? Do the badges give you any incentive to help add to the areas of LT that they cover (Common Knowledge, Venues, etc)?

My Answer:  Here's my LT profile: http://www.librarything.com/profile/Florinda. Not a Helper Badge to be seen, and I'm sad to say that I don't think that will change any time soon. I'd love to be able to contribute more to LT as both a book database and a community, but I just don't spend much time there other than cataloging and editing my own books, so I'm not really helping out all that much. Maybe one of these days...

Booking Through Thursday: "Symbolic?"

btt button

Question suggested by Barbara H:
My husband is not an avid reader, and he used to get very frustrated in college when teachers would insist discussing symbolism in a literary work when there didn’t seem to him to be any. He felt that writers often just wrote the story for the story’s sake and other people read symbolism into it.

It does seem like modern fiction just “tells the story” without much symbolism. Is symbolism an older literary device, like excessive description, that is not used much any more? Do you think there was as much symbolism as English teachers seemed to think? What are some examples of symbolism from your reading?
Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!

To some extent, I think that symbolism is in the eye of the beholder - or the critic, or the English teacher. We all bring our own perspective and experience to what we read, and our interpretation is filtered through them; that filtering may influence us to perceive certain elements in a story as representing other things or ideas. If those perceptions are shared by enough people, they may become formalized as the sort of symbolism that gets discussed in literature classes.

On the other hand, we may be encouraged to identify symbolism in our reading by writers who make a specific choice to use it - here's one writer's perspective. Sometimes we get it, and sometimes we don't.

I think symbolism is still very much used in literature, as are its cousins metaphor and subtext - they all bring additional layers and nuance to story. However, once we're out of a school setting, I'm not sure we notice it much unless it's too obvious to be ignored (which, ideally, it shouldn't be; a skilled writer will employ it with with some subtlety).

Combing through my library listings, I spotted a couple of novels that symbolize use of symbolism for me:
Classic: East of Eden, by John Steinbeck - Biblical references, such as two sets of brothers whose names begin with C and A (Charles and Adam, and Caleb and Aron); the Biblical symbolism in The Grapes of Wrath was discussed in my lit classes, but I think there's even more of it in this novel
Modern: The Post-Birthday World, by Lionel Shriver - Consideration of "the road not taken" in one woman's life takes the form of parallel narratives, and the road she actually did take remains ambiguous

Some genre fiction, particularly fantasy, is practically built on symbolism. (This occurred to me as I scrolled past the His Dark Materials trilogy in my LT catalog.)

What do you think about symbolism - or have you tried not to think about it since your last literature class?

Friday Fill-ins #121

1. Apparently there's some sort of disturbance in the Force today.

2. I enjoy a cool breeze and some shade on a warm, sunny day.

3. 2009 has raced right by so far.

4. When I ate the last of the Oreos in the package, that was it (so I opened another one!).

5. For too long I've been adding to the TBR stack much faster than I can subtract from it (and I expect to keep doing it, too!)

6. I am not obsessed with getting at least a week's worth of blog posts drafted and scheduled in advance; I am not! (That's a lie. I actually am obsessed with it.)

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to the end of one crazy week at work, tomorrow my plans include the Festival of Books(!) and Sunday, I want to catch up on some things at home (like family time and reading)!

Tell me about your exciting plans for the weekend!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Book Festivals and zombie chickens!

One of the highlights of my year is happening this weekend: it's time again for the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at UCLA, and not even a Zombie Chicken attack can stop it!

(Celebrating the 40th anniversary of The Very Hungry Caterpillar)

My trip to the Festival is going to be a bit different this year. I first attended in 2006, accompanied by my then-fiancé Tall Paul. The highlights that year were the giant audience-participation crossword puzzles, the discovery of the Pennyworth Books booth (where all of the books were $5, and many of them were pretty recent), and the performance of the Rock Bottom Remainders, featuring founding members Dave Barry and Amy Tan among the group redefining the idea of "singer-writer." (Sadly, there doesn't seem to be much remaining of the Remainders - the website hasn't been updated since their last performance, in June 2007.)

This year, I'm going on my own...sort of. I plan to spend the whole day on Saturday, and for the first time I'll be attending a few of the panel discussions. I'll need to arrive in time to make the 10:30 AM panel on "Social Networking & New Media" (because how could I consider myself a book blogger and NOT go to that one?), but since I'm usually an early bird anyway, I don't think that will be a problem. There are a couple of intriguing fiction panels in the afternoon, "Window on the World" at 1:30 and "Intimate Strangers" at 3 PM. There will be literally hundreds of authors present during the weekend, speaking at sessions, signing their books, and possibly just wandering around with the book-obsessed hordes. There's always a large area dedicated to children's books, featuring activities and shows for kids and parents. But despite the fact that I plan to partake of more of the Festival programming this year, I'll still be sure to reserve time for my favorite activity - browsing the exhibitor booths! There are always so many booksellers, publishers, and book-related merchandise booths to check out, and I've been saving up some "mad money" for this very special occasion.

I always look forward to the Festival, and this year there's one more reason - it's going to be a social event too, which is where the Zombie Chickens come in. The Festival will be the site of a Book Blogger Meet-up - plans have been brewing for a couple of months, and this week has been the time of last-minute coordination of plans and exchanging of contact information. Most of the group comes from the general region, but we have a couple of bloggers coming from Central and Northern California, and one's even joining us from Utah. I'm eagerly looking forward to meeting them all in person - I know all of them online, some for longer than others - and hoping not to make a complete idiot of myself in the process!

As I mentioned previously, this blog was recently granted a very special award:
The Zombie Chicken Award, from Becky of Becky's Book Reviews ~

The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken - excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all...

The Zombie Chickens have decreed that this award be shared with the book bloggers whom I'll be meeting at the Festival, and they've granted a special dispensation to those who may have been awarded it before - if you've passed it on once already, you don't have to do it again. The Chickens go out to:

Musings of a Bookish Kitty (Wendy)
Books on the Brain (Lisa)
Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'? (Trish)
My Friend Amy (Amy, of course)
Fizzy Thoughts (Jill)
Book Chatter and Other Stuff (Ti)
A Novel Menagerie (Sheri)
Shelf Life (Gentle Reader/Tracy)
Maw Books Blog (Natasha, flying out to LA to join us for the weekend!)

If you're an LA-area book blogger who's planning to be at the Festival and I missed your link, please let me know in the comments, and consider yourself awarded a Zombie Chicken!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A minor league gal in a Major League town

Baseball's back, baby! Play ball!

I was raised on baseball. It's a sport I can actually follow. Everyone takes his turn, and everyone has a specific job responsibility on the field. I can make sense out of it.

I was raised on New York Yankees baseball, actually. My dad spent many hours of his youth and young adulthood in Yankee Stadium, where he saw many of the legends play with his own eyes, and at 80 years young and more than 40 years after moving out of "the city," they're still his home team.

Later generations of our family have defected, though. My sister's seven years living in San Francisco made her a Giants fan, which is one of the few points of contention she and her husband have. He's an L.A. native who backs his own home team, but his true devotion - and that of their elder son - is to hockey, by way of his Canadian parents. As for my son - an avid reader of the sports pages since he was eight years old, fantasy-baseball player and sports blogger - he bought an official "Yankee Hater" baseball cap a few years ago, and in ultimate betrayal of his roots, he doesn't despise the Boston Red Sox. But he has remained loyal to the team he still swears would have won "everything" in 1994 (when he was ten years old) if not for "the strike-shortened season" - they were the Montreal Expos then, and they have been the Washington Nationals for the last few years. I suspect that they were a factor is his decision to move to D.C. after he graduated from university two years ago. Eventually, as a Nats fan, he may come to understand the concept of "long-suffering" the way Chicago Cubs fans do.

I have a soft spot for the Cubs myself, even though I've never visited Chicago (not yet, anyway - wait until this July, though!). My own rejection of my Yankees upbringing has taken the form of becoming a general National League watcher, where my interest in particular teams has shifted over the years, and I'm now supporting my own home town team, which is the team my husband grew up with - Go Dodgers!

That support doesn't extend to a compelling desire to go and see them play in person, though - watching their games on TV is fine with me. Major-league games belong on TV. If I'm going to see a game in person, take me out to the minor-league park and not the big-city stadium.

I was raised on Major League baseball, but most of the games I've attended in my life have been in the minors. During my first few years living in Memphis, the city was home to a AA franchise, and in 1998, the Memphis Redbirds began playing in AutoZone Park as the AAA affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. My son has a July birthday which usually falls somewhere around the All-Star break, and even if we couldn't do it on the day itself, his preferred place to celebrate while he was growing up was always the ballpark, and we were always glad to take him.

For my money - which I can spend much more slowly in the minors, by the way - the baseball experience in a minor-league ballpark can't be beat. For one thing, they really are ballparks, not stadiums; the largest don't usually hold more than 10,000 spectators, and the smallest Single-A parks may only have bleacher seating. That size makes it so much easier to see what happens on the field - there's no JumboTron, and it's not needed or missed. Because the fans are literally closer to the game, they can follow the action more closely and get more involved. Players can interact more with the fans - and yes, go ahead and get those autographs. You never know where someone's career might take him. There's more interaction between innings, too, with mascots, and silly games and contests. (You may find those in big-league stadiums too, but they just don't have the same feel. It's not their natural turf, no pun intended.)

My most memorable baseball moment occurred in the minors. My family had the opportunity to see Michael Jordan come to town with the Class AA Birmingham Barons during his brief fling with baseball in between his basketball retirements. He wasn't much of a hitter, but if he got on base, he could definitely run. It's probably just as well that he went back to basketball, though.

We live within range of three major-league teams here in SoCal - the Dodgers, the Angels, and the San Diego Padres - but there's really no opportunity to go down to the minors. I miss it. One of the things I've come to accept about myself is that I'm really not the big-city person I always thought I was, and really wanted to be; I haven't spent enough of my life living in big cities, and at this point there are certain aspects of city life that I just am not comfortable with (most of which concern driving: parallel parking, valets, unexpected one-way streets, and public transportation). It surprises me a little to realize that big-city baseball might be one of those things...but I'm beginning to feel like it is.

I was raised on baseball. I can't imagine it not being part of my life. But when you take me out to the ball game, do you mind if we go to the minor-league park?

***TODAY is the last day to enter! Have you checked out my review and giveaway for What to Read When?*** 

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Not-Entirely-Fearless Predictions! (Weekend Assignment #263)

Karen has issued a challenge this week, rather than given a mere assignment - predict the future!

Weekend Assignment #263 : Predict one, two or three things you expect to happen (or so you claim!) before 2009 is over. It can be a logical extrapolation from current conditions, wish fulfillment, an attempt to show off your psychic ability, if any, or random silliness, or some combination thereof.

Extra Credit: Have you ever predicted something unlikely, and turned out to be right?

EC first, because it's the short-answer question: Not that I can remember, but I'm pretty sure that if I did, it was about something not terribly important.

I try not to make predictions about much of anything in my life. There are far too many factors that are out of my control, and plenty of others that just can't be anticipated. Heck, if you would have asked me five years ago, I would have predicted I would be alone for the rest of my life, and I am VERY grateful that life has proved me wrong on that one! (By the way, that prediction would have fallen under "logical extrapolation from current conditions" at the time.) Besides, I generally prefer to keep my cards close to the vest, and I prefer being right to being wrong.

However, since Karen has asked us to prognosticate, I'll crawl out onto that limb...but I'm a bit afraid of heights, so I'm picking one that's only a few feet off the ground, and hoping that it won't hurt as badly if I fall off. But I'm hedging my bets - no tree-related pun intended - by not predicting anything that's likely to have a dramatic impact on my own day-to-day life.

Prediction #1, still staying close to the trunk of the tree:
The Dodgers will finish the season somewhere between first and fifth place in the NL West.

Prediction #2, stepping out:
A clever, quirky TV show that Tall Paul and I enjoy will be cancelled too quickly. Since it's happened once already this year, we're particularly pessimistic, and the show we're worried about this time is the new, weirdly funny workplace comedy Better Off Ted. We're getting as much fun out of it as we can now, since we have a feeling it won't be with us for too much longer.

Prediction #3, hanging off the end:
Southern California will have an unusually cool and damp summer, leading to a short and uneventful fire season, but which will also be responsible for a record number of fender-benders on the local freeways. (I have as much of a chance of being right about that as the Weather Channel people do, no disrespect to any meteorologists who might read this!).

Your turn, if you dare - make a prediction, and leave it in the comments!

***This prediction is a sure thing: someone's going to win a book from me this week! Have you checked out my review and giveaway for What to Read When? Entries are open until Wednesday, April 22 - that's TOMORROW, so don't miss your chance!***  

Monday, April 20, 2009

Monday Book Talk: "The Mighty Queens of Freeville," by Amy Dickinson

Thanks to Nicole Bruce at The Book Report Network for offering a copy of this book for review!

The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter, and the Town That Raised Them by Amy Dickinson
The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, A Daughter, and the Town That Raised Them
Amy Dickinson
Hyperion, 2009 (hardcover) (ISBN 1401322859 / 9781401322854)
Memoir, 240 pages

First sentence: One December day in the mid-1980's, I looked out the front window of my mother's house and watched my soon-to-be husband walking up the road.

Book description: Millions of Americans know Amy Dickinson from reading her syndicated advice column “Ask Amy” and from hearing her wit and wisdom weekly on National Public Radio. Amy’s audience loves her for her honesty, her small-town values, and the fact that her motto is “I make the mistakes so you don’t have to.” In The Mighty Queens of Freeville, Amy Dickinson shares those mistakes and her remarkable story. This is the tale of Amy and her daughter and the people who helped raise them after Amy found herself a reluctant single parent.

Though divorce runs through her family like an aggressive chromosome, the women in her life taught her what family is about. They helped her to pick up the pieces when her life fell apart and to reassemble them into something new. It is a story of frequent failures and surprising successes, as Amy starts and loses careers, bumbles through blind dates and adult education classes, travels across the country with her daughter and their giant tabby cat, and tries to come to terms with the family’s aptitude for “dorkitude.”

They have lived in London, D.C., and Chicago, but all roads lead them back to Amy’s hometown of Freeville (pop. 458), a tiny village where Amy’s family has tilled and cultivated the land, tended chickens and Holsteins, and built houses and backyard sheds for more than 200 years. Most important, though, her family members all still live within a ten-house radius of each other. With kindness and razor-sharp wit, they welcome Amy and her daughter back weekend after weekend, summer after summer, offering a moving testament to the many women who have led small lives of great consequence in a tiny place.
Comments: When a friend at the Chicago Tribune told Amy Dickinson that the paper was going to launch a new advice column after the death of Ann Landers, and invited her to audition for the job, she was unsure of her qualifications for telling people how to solve their problems. However, when she thought about it more, she realized that her years of receiving advice of all kinds, asked for or not, from the women of her family gave her a vast repository of knowledge and experience to tap, and more than adequate preparation for the task at hand. Dickinson got the job, and has authored the nationally syndicated advice column "Ask Amy" since 2003. The job took her and her teenage daughter to Chicago, but their home - in heart, and in physical location every summer and as often as possible during the rest of the year - has remained the village of Freeville, New York, where they return each year to be surrounded by mother, sisters, aunts, and female cousins. Dickinson's family is one where the men have tended not to stay in the picture, but the women, and the small town where most of them have remained, have been each other's constants.

Dickinson's not sharing advice in The Mighty Queens of Freeville; she's just telling her own story - one of divorce and single parenthood, financial struggle and success, homes and pets and attempts at relationships. As a storyteller, she's honest, engaging, and often very funny - she comes across as easy to relate to and like. There were quite a few lines in the book that made me chuckle, but the chapters about her various adventures in dating and her daughter's developing comfort level with her "dorkitude" made me laugh out loud in several places. The book is relatively short in the first place, and Dickinson's style makes it a quick read.

Ever since I first read about this book, it's nagged at me that I should know where Freeville, N.Y. is - and it turns out that I do! Dickinson's mentions of nearby Fall Creek reinforced that feeling, but it was her mention of her hometown paper, the Ithaca Journal, that confirmed it. Freeville is located in the Finger Lakes region of New York, not far from Cornell University in Ithaca; I worked at the university while my first husband was in graduate school there, and one of my co-workers lived in Freeville. Even by small-town standards, it's a small town - but it's Dickinson's town, and her family's. Speaking of her family, one other thing has nagged at me: Dickinson never refers to her ex-husband by name, but I hope that his last name is her daughter's name too - or that she's using a pseudonym for her daughter in the book. Otherwise, her daughter's name is "Emily Dickinson."

I don't read the newspaper on a daily basis these days, and one of the things I miss about it is "Ask Amy." I like her column, and that's what interested me in this book. I feel that I know her better since reading it, and I liked learning about how her life experience shaped an advice columnist.

Rating: 3.75/5

Buy the book:

Other bloggers' reviews:
Bloggin 'bout Books
Books on the Brain
B&b ex libris
Random Wonder
Booking Mama
S. Krishna's Books
Word Lily
Chefdruck Musings

If you have reviewed this book and your link isn't listed here, please leave it in the comments or e-mail it to me at 3.rsblog AT Gmail DOT com, and I'll edit this post to include it!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Saturday Review 4/18 - This week around the blogiverse

Bulletin Board - Announcements, with a side of self-promotion this week!

**** You still have a few days - until Wednesday, April 22 - to enter my giveaway for Pam Allyn's What to Read When: The Books and Stories to Read with Your Child--and All the Best Times to Read Them. This book's all about making reading with our kids a better experience. So while you're doing that, why not keep a record of your time reading together and join this year's RIF (Reading is Fundamental) Read With Kids Challenge? This organization has set a goal of collectively logging 5 million minutes of reading with kids between April 1 and June 30. Sign up, join in, and you could win some great prizes in addition to the rewards of spending time reading with your children!

**** A few awards have recently come my way, and have been added to the shelf:

The Premio Dardos, from Nicole at Linus's Blanket ~


Premio Dardos means “Darts Prize” in Spanish. It is given for recognition of cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values transmitted in the form of creative and original writing.

The Splash Award, from Avisannchild at She Reads and Reads ~

This award is bestowed on blogs that "allure, amuse, bewitch, impress or inspire." It was given in specific recognition of this post.

The Zombie Chicken Award, from Becky of Becky's Book Reviews ~

The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken - excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all...

This blog has been awarded - and shared - the Premio Dardos award in the past; thank you for honoring it this time, Nicole!

As for the Splash Award, I would like to thank Avisannchild and extend it to the many blogs I read every day that meet the criteria - check my blogrolls for just a few examples!

I will not risk the wrath of the Zombie Chickens by not passing on their award, but I'll do that in a follow-up post. Thanks, Becky! This is the only blog award which I have ever truly coveted.

Dispatches from Across the Blogiverse
Those first few months may feel like forever, but they're just a blip on your timeline (as usual, it's hard to sum up one of Julie's posts in a single line...just go read it!)

Then again, some blips on the timeline are made in permanent marker - Kathy remembers Virginia Tech

Why example is such an important factor in leadership, and why sometimes the "obvious" isn't

How to raise a geek (for parents to whom it does NOT come naturally, unlike my husband and me)

Relax - judging other people's beliefs really is not your responsibility

One grand plan to save the world (because as much as you might want to sometimes, you can't run away from it)

An approach to recycling you might not have considered

A Hollywood perspective on Twitter

Puppy-training tips (the Obama family just might need these soon too!), because you can't be sure you can always count on your dog!

Customer of the week, via Not Always Right:
Bookstore | Virginia, USA
Customer: “I’m looking for a book on Ronald Reagan.”
Me: “OK, well, that would be right here in the American history section.”
Customer: “It’s a particular book, one with transcripts of all his speeches. I’ve seen it here before.”
(I spend at least 15 minutes exhaustively searching the shelves to find the book, with no luck.)
Me: “It seems we don’t have it. If you’d like, I can write it down and call you if we get another copy in.”
Customer: “That’s impossible. You always had it right here.”
Me: “I’m sorry, someone must have bought it.”
Customer: *exasperated* “I know. I’m the one who bought it.”

Quote of the week, from Wednesday night's episode of Lost:
''That was Luke's attitude, too. In 'Empire', when he found out Vader was his father, instead of putting away his light saber and talking about it, he overreacted and got his hand cut off. I mean, they worked it out eventually. But at what cost? The Death Star was destroyed, Boba Fett got eaten by the Sarlacc, and everyone got The Ewoks. It all could have been avoided if they had just, you know, communicated. Because let's face it: Ewoks suck, dude.'' — Hurley

(And once again, Hurley represents for the nerd contingent! Hurley rocks, y'all.)

Bookmarks: Reading-related reading
Reassurance of the week: 12 grammar "errors" that really aren't (thanks to @PaulaatAME for Tweeting that link!)

A few tips for authors making "the pitch" to book bloggers

Discussion of the week: Is there an "in-crowd" - and therefore, an "out crowd" - within the book-blogging community? And does it ever remind you of high school ? (As an aside - when people say something "reminds them of high school," doesn't it usually seem like they don't mean "in a good way"?) Book bloggers have turned introspective this week...(and just by way of warning, I have a feeling that my turn may be coming in the next week or so)

Lamenting being a "slow reader" - I know how that feels! (Book bloggers are some pretty fast company!) I suspect many of us know how this feels, too: books to move!

Books that caught my eye this week:
First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria: How a Peace Corps Poster Boy Won My Heart and a Third World Adventure Changed My Life, by Eve Brown-Waite

Enjoy your weekend!

Friday, April 17, 2009

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

Mailbox Monday, hosted at The Printed Page


Yes, there have been a few new arrivals on my bookshelves this week!

I received for review:
Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption, by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton (with Erin Torneo), via Anna Jarzab at The Book Report Network
The Cellist of Sarajevo, by Steven Galloway, via LibraryThing's Early Reviewers Program

I received from a friend:
The Brightest Moon of the Century, by Christopher Meeks - after posting her review, Literary Feline kindly offered to send me her ARC. Thanks so much for granting one of my book wishes, Wendy!

And now that Lent is over and I can BUY books again, I treated myself to Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner, just out in paperback from one of the small number of "chick-lit" authors on my must-read list!

What's new on your bookshelves lately?

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

This week we are going to take a peek at the styles of Your Library and how you can customize them. To see what I'm talking about, go to Library Thing, and click on the Your Library tab. Just under the tabs, you will find a section that says Styles, A, B, C, D, E, and then a symbol that looks like a pencil. If you click on the pencil, you can edit your styles, or the formatting of the pages that show your books' information.

I believe the standard information is the Title, Author, Date, Tags, and Comments. You then have the option to add ISBN, Common Knowledge fields, etc. . . there are 44 different options you can select from! Of the 5 styles (A,B,C,D,E), you can have up to 12 options per style.

You can also use this screen to change the number of books shown per screen, the style visitors will see when they view your library, and you can choose to show the book-swap column.

Questions: Have you explored the different styles? Have you customized any of the styles? If so, what are your favorite customized items (isbn, Dewey Decimal, Reviews, Book-Swap, etc)?

My Answer: I have played around with the styles before, but it's been awhile since I've looked at the options closely - there are more than I remembered! Thanks to Wendi's own answer to this week's Thinger, I discovered I could display my reviews in one of the columns, and there are all sorts of Common Knowledge fields and library-classification data you could choose to show.

My preferred display is also the style that LT recommends for my library visitors, Style C. I edited one column to display my reviews instead of the publication date. Unfortunately, "review" doesn't allow sorting, but it's a field I'm more likely to refer to often than the pub date - and if for some reason I do need to search/sort by that date, it's still one of my fields in styles A and B, so I can easily switch styles to access it. It makes sense to me to style my library to show the fields I'm most likely to work with. What's nice is that with five different styles available and so many choices of the data you can show, you could create several different displays to meet various needs. I follow LT's recommendation not to specify more than 7 columns - even though they give you options for up to 12 - because your display might get too wide for your screen; I think it's probably better to customize more than one style with different data options instead of building one over-stuffed one.

I'll probably go back in and tweak my styles every now and then - who knows how many more options there might be the next time I do it?

Booking Through Thursday: "Windfall

btt button

Wednesday, April 15th, was Tax Day here in the U.S., which means lots of lucky people will get refunds of over-paid taxes. Whether you’re one of them or not, what would you spend an unexpected windfall on? Say … $50? How about $500?
(And, this is a reading meme, so by rights the answer should be book-related, but hey, feel free to go wild and splurge on anything you like.)

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!

We actually did get a refund, which shocked the heck out of us! As a two-income couple with limited deductions (one child and no mortgage), we get nuked on taxes, but for various reasons we choose not to have the maximum tax withheld - which would mean withholding as if we were both single. We do set aside money every month to cover the estimated shortfall, though, and we were fine on that score this year. However, we use the same withholding instructions for our Federal and State taxes, and as far as the State was concerned, we had way overpaid our taxes! The refund helped offset what we owed the Feds, but given California's financial state these days, I'm surprised they didn't just keep the money - but we got the check this week and took it straight to the bank!

What I'd do with a windfall depends on the size of the windfall, to be honest. A smallish one - say, $50 or so - is probably going to be spent pretty quickly on something fun, and chances are pretty good that it could fund a bookstore splurge. A few hundred dollars or so would probably end up with part of it going into the bank, and the rest coming out as "mad money." (My husband and I are both big believers in each of us having some discretionary, guilt-free dollars to spend.) That money might go toward something I've been waiting to buy - a nice outfit, or something for the house - or we might treat ourselves to a fine dinner at the overpriced steakhouse we'd like to try. But if there was still a bit left over, it would probably end up going to the bookstore - as indulgences go, books are among the less expensive ones you could have (and for the hours of entertainment and engagement they offer, a relative bargain too!). I should get serious about organizing my wish list, just in case...

As for our real windfall, we did something very boring with it: paid some bills. Sometimes you have to be a realist.

You've got a windfall - what do you plan to do with it? (Gautami's response is one of my favorites.)

Friday Fill-ins #120

1. Join me in Los Angeles next weekend for the LA Times Festival of Books at UCLA! (Besides all the great panels and vendors to check out, a dozen or so book bloggers are planning to meet up with each other there!)

2. Put a little sunshine in your day (unless it's raining - that would make it difficult)!

3. Happiness is sometimes intangible, but sometimes it's as simple as a good book and a comfortable place to read it.

4. The last time I asked her to explain it, I ended up even more puzzled and confused.

5. I'm waiting for inspiration to strike (but I think it may be ON strike).

6. When I'm having a chocolate craving, the office candy jar is hard to resist.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to a peaceful evening at home, tomorrow my plans include celebrating the fourth anniversary of Tall Paul's and my first date (which is actually today, but we have more time tomorrow!) and Sunday, I want to do some writing, including a book review (so I hope I finish the book by then)!

Happy Friday, y'all! Anything exciting on your weekend calendar?

***For parents and others who want to nurture book lovers: Have you checked out my review and giveaway for What to Read When? Entries are open until Wednesday, April 22!***

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thursday Book Talk: Taking the lazy way out

This "Book Meme" has been making the rounds, but I stole it from The Boston Bibliophile. Feel free to steal it from me!

1. Hardback, trade paperback or mass market paperback? Trade paperback. I try to make sure any purse I buy is big enough to hold one.

2. Barnes & Noble or Borders? Borders, although I will not turn up my nose at B&N if they're what's around. I find Borders to be a more enjoyable browsing experience most of the time.

3. Bookmark or dog-ear? Bookmark. My favorite bookmarks wrap around the book to make sure the place-holder doesn't fall out if I drop the book. I'll dog-ear in a pinch, though. Also, I have been known to go ballistic over books left open face-down on tables or chairs - I will seize them and insert a bookmark immediately.

4. Amazon or brick and mortar? If I know the specific title I want and am not sure how soon I'll be in a bookstore to get it, I have no problem ordering it from Amazon. As far as browsing goes, though, it's got to be a brick-and-mortar bookstore - I want to pick up the book, hold it, flip through the pages.

5. Alphabetize by author or alphabetize by title or random?
You must be talking about "organization." My books aren't very familiar with that. I try to keep them separated between fiction and nonfiction on the shelves, but other than that, it's pretty random. Finding my next read is always an adventure at my house.

6. Keep, throw away, or sell?
Keep or give away, although they might be given to a thrift shop that will sell them. "Throw away?" Are you kidding?

7. Keep dust jacket or toss it? Keep it, unless it's gotten too beat up.

8. Read with dust jacket or remove it?
If I'm keeping it, it's staying on the book, period.

9. Short story or novel? Short answer: novels.

10. Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket? Harry Potter. Not even a contest.

11. Stop reading when tired or at chapter breaks? Ideally, I'll make it to the end of the section or chapter, but sometimes my eyes have other ideas.

12. "It was a dark and stormy night" or "Once upon a time"? It depends on my mood, really. There's a right time for either one.

13. Buy or borrow? Buy, unless I'm borrowing from someone I know. I love that the library exists, but I hardly ever use it.

14. New or used? New, unless the used copy comes from someone I know. I find used bookstores exhausting.

15. Buying choice: book reviews, recommendations, or browse? Book reviews will bring books to my attention, but I love browsing and sometimes have my best shopping trips when I wasn't looking for any book in particular. Not many people are comfortable making specific book recommendations for me.

16. Tidy ending or cliffhanger? It depends on what fits the story. Sometimes "tidy" endings feel contrived, and I don't mind a bit of ambiguity - it helps keep the book in my mind longer.

17. Morning reading, afternoon reading, or nighttime reading? Any or all, but reading before sleep is ritual.

18. Stand-alone or series?
I'm not a stickler either way. If I like the character, I'll look forward to seeing him or her in multiple books.

19. Favorite series? Harry Potter

20. Favorite children's book? Favorite book when I was a child: Little Women. Favorite book to read to children: The Cat in the Hat. Favorite book to recommend for children: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. And Harry Potter.

21. Favorite YA book? A Wrinkle in Time

22. Favorite book of which nobody else has heard? Brightness Falls, by Jay McInerney

23. Favorite books read last year?

The Year of Fog, by Michelle Richmond
No One You Know, also by Michelle Richmond
The Ruins of California, by Martha Sherrill
The Post-Birthday World, by Lionel Shriver
But Enough About Me: How a Small-Town Girl Went From Shag Carpet to the Red Carpet, by Jancee Dunn
So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading, by Sara Nelson
Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon -- and the Journey of a Generation, by Sheila Weller

24. Favorite books of all time?
I almost never answer this question because it's too hard, but I'll give up a few this time:
East of Eden, by John Steinbeck
The Great Gatsby,
by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life,
by Anne Lamott
Wonder Boys, by Michael Chabon
The Bean Trees, by Barbara Kingsolver

25. What are you reading right now? As of the time I drafted this post, I'm reading a  review copy of The Mighty Queens of Freeville, by Amy Dickinson.

26. What are you reading next?
I'm not sure, but I know that I'm up to my neck in review books right now! Only one is an ARC (Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace, by Ayelet Waldman), but a couple are newly published (Mojo Mom: Nurturing Your Self While Raising a Family, by Amy Tiemann, Ph.D., and The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use by Karen Burns), and I'm not sure whether to go for timeliness or dig something older out of the stack. If I do that, I think I'll pick Dating Jesus: A Story of Fundamentalism, Feminism, and the American Girl, by Susan Campbell. But at some point, I'll rebel against the review pile and read a couple of books of my own; my husband keeps asking me if I've read Fool, by Christopher Moore, yet.

27. Favorite book to recommend to an eleven-year-old? Once again, A Wrinkle in Time

28. Favorite book to reread? I don't do much re-reading any more - too much new stuff to read! The only books I've re-read in the last few years are the Harry Potter books. There was a period when I read the Tales of the City series every year or so, but it's been a while.

29. Do you ever smell books? Only if they smell weird...

30. Do you ever read Primary source documents, like diaries or letters?
Not often. I'm not sure I've read a diary since Anne Frank's.

***For parents and others who want to nurture book lovers: Have you checked out my review and giveaway for What to Read When? Entries are open until Wednesday, April 22!***