Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday Salon: A twist on book clubs that I don't really buy into

Here’s an idea: Via Shelf Awareness, I read about an online book club that would charge members $15-$30 for such privileges as being supplied with ARCs four to six months in advance of publication and participating in author chats - and supposedly, publishers are receptive to it. This endeavor is being launched on a pilot basis by the women’s website wowOwow.com and was the subject of a Forbes.com story last week.

I couldn’t really find any information about the “Book Look” group on wowOwow’s own site, but the Forbes.com post quotes wowOwow’s Joni Evans, a former publishing executive. She says that publishers like the idea that in addition to creating buzz, book-club members could double as a focus group for pre-publication marketing concepts. The club’s first selection is Jodi Picoult’s next novel, scheduled for March 2011 publication.

I’m still sorting out my reactions to this concept, but
  • My first response was “How is this different from selling ARCs?” (I’m not clear whether the cost to members would be per book or for a set period of time.)
  • My second thought was “Hey, don’t book bloggers essentially do this already (even if no one’s making money on it)?”
  • That led to my third thought: “Who IS making money on this, anyway - the website, the publisher, or both? And what will the author get out of it?”
  • Fourth thought: “They need to ‘create buzz’ for a Jodi Picoult novel?” Regardless of whether she gets enough attention from the New York Times, the woman sells books.
  • Fifth though: “Clearly, no book bloggers were involved in this conversation...”
What do y’all think of this? I see potential for stirring up quite a bit of unrest among readers and booksellers, as well as between publishers and book bloggers. Honestly, though, I don’t think book bloggers are the constituency for this effort - for one thing, I’m pretty sure we are not about to start paying for galleys! Then again, how might it affect what we do if there are people who are willing to buy ARCs, along with other less tangible “member benefits”? Am I reading this all wrong?

And speaking of reading:
Recent Reviews
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart

Upcoming Reviews

New arrivals in TBR Purgatory
For review:
Unstoppable in Stilettos: A Girl’s Guide to Living Tall in a Small World, by Lauren Ruotolo (from publisher, via TLC Book Tours)
How to Raise Your Adult Children (Because Big Kids Have Even Bigger Problems), by Gail Parent and Susan Ende (via publicist, BlueDot Literary)

For me. relocated from the Wishlist:
Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women, by Harriet Reisen
A Friend of the Family, by Lauren Grodstein 
Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays, by Zadie Smith

For me, for no particular reason:

Currently Reading:
Outside the Ordinary World by Dori Ostermiller (TLC Book Tour)
An Election for the Ages: Rossi Vs. Gregoire, 2004 by Trova Heffernan (Eco-Libris Green Books Day)

It’s Halloween - treat yourself to some reading time today!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Week-End Review: Links & Whatnot

Who’s ready for Election Day?  I have an election-related post scheduled for Monday, but couldn’t wait till then to get on topic. For starters, which side of the red/blue divide do you fall on?

You Are 35% Conservative, 65% Liberal

Social Issues: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal

Personal Responsibility: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal

Fiscal Issues: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal

Ethics: 0% Conservative, 100% Liberal

Defense and Crime: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal


For the most part, I agree with the way this came out, but I do wish I knew exactly which questions factored into which scores. I have an uncomfortable feeling that “Ethics: 100% Liberal” could be interpreted as “fast and loose,” and I do NOT think that’s true about my sense of ethics, thank you very much. On the other hand, if making an effort to see more than one side of an issue is “liberal”...well, OK then. Come to think of it, that may explain those 50/50 areas too. 

And while my interest in politics waxes and wanes, I don’t think I’ll ever be interested in actually running for office. With more and more women going for it, though, PunditMom wonders if motherhood is this season’s definitive political qualification. Also: Do differences in personal politics dictate your friendships

But just to prove it’s not all politics as (un)usual around here:

Observations of a would-be WOW (Wise Older Woman) on the changes that come with aging - of your kids; “You might be a helicopter parent if...”  any of these “10 Signs” sound (uncomfortably?) familiar (phrasing totally stolen from Jeff Foxworthy)

Penelope Trunk reflects on the limits created by self-imposed book snobbery; I’ve found that participating in the book-blogging community has broken down some of my own reading limits. Having said that, sometimes being a selective “snob” isn’t such a bad thing: Suebob’s variation on the Life List concept - “Stuff I Never Want to Do Again” - catalogues some “once-in-a-lifetime” experiences that should stay that way.

Speaking of “lifetimes”...what do “reading logs” have to do with fostering a life-long love of reading? (My answer: Nothing good. Probably the opposite, in fact.) Something that would be much more helpful: a new reader’s proposal of "a day to celebrate all authors"!

Even veterans can benefit from a blogging tips refresher every now and then (I’m following one of them right now!)

We’ve had some crazy weather in Southern California lately - days of rain, then a late-October heat wave with Santa Ana winds, and now more cool temperatures and rain forecast again for the weekend. While we’re talking about the weather, who else thought that The Weather Channel was already “reality television”?

And I hope you have lovely weather for your Halloween festivities this weekend!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Book Talk: *The Chosen One*, by Carol Lynch Williams

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams
The Chosen One: A Novel
Carol Lynch Williams
St. Martin's Griffin (2010), Paperback (ISBN 0312627750 / 9780312627751)
Fiction (YA), 240 pages
Source: Personal/purchased copy
Reason for Reading: Fall 2010 Readathon

Opening Lines: "'If I was going to kill the Prophet,' I say, not even keeping my voice low, 'I'd do it in Africa.'
"I look into Mariah's light green eyes.
"She stares back at me and smiles, like she knows what I mean and agrees. Like she's saying, 'Go on, Kyra, tell me more.'"

Book Description: Thirteen-year-old Kyra has grown up in an isolated community without questioning the fact that her father has three wives and she has twenty brothers and sisters. That is, without questioning it much—if you don’t count her visits to the Ironton County Mobile Library on Wheels to read forbidden books, or her secret meetings with Joshua, the boy she hopes to choose for herself instead of having a man chosen for her. But when the Prophet decrees that Kyra must marry her sixty-year-old uncle—who already has six wives—she must make a desperate choice in the face of violence and her own fears of losing her family forever.

Comments: For me, polygamy never fails to be an interesting subject for fiction. My last polygamy-related read was from the viewpoint of a husband. Carol Lynch Williams' The Chosen One takes the perspective of a child (and wife-to-be): thirteen-year-old Kyra Carlson has been chosen by the Prophet of her family's isolated religious community to become the seventh wife of a sixty-year-old man. That would be bad enough, but the man also happens to be her father's brother. To further complicate matters, Kyra wants to make her own choice - Joshua, a boy her own age who would like to choose her as well.

Kyra's sect, the Chosen Ones, is small and tightly controlled by its Prophet - outside influences come from Satan, and no reading aside from the Bible is permitted. Kyra has been breaking the reading prohibition with her secret trips to the Bookmobile, but her relationship with Joshua is an even greater transgression; yet in a community where the young girls are reserved for the elders and adolescent boys are driven out, marrying a thirteen-year-old to her own uncle per a leader's decree is following God's directives. Even so, Kyra's father attempts to get the Prophet to change his decision, while Kyra makes her own plans in case he's unsuccessful; she's getting out, one way or another.

Written for a younger target audience, The Chosen One doesn't take a particularly nuanced approach, but in doing so, Williams has crafted one of the scariest stories of a polygamous society that I've read yet. The potentially unhealthy, and even dangerous, effects of this lifestyle - which, one should note, is a practice based on a sincere religious belief - come across clearly. There's a sense of paranoia resulting from the power and control a small group exerts over an self-contained community, and in the face of that, Kyra's actions seem particularly brave. The novel is more plot- than character-driven, and I was quickly pulled in.

The Chosen One's portrayal of one polygamous society, and one girl who tries to defy it, isn't the best novel I've read on the subject, but it definitely makes an impact.

Rating: 3.5/5

This book counts for the RYOB 2010 Challenge (14/20)

Find more reviews via the Book Blogs Search Engine

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Your 15 Minutes Are Up! (Weekend Assignment #341)

Whose “15 minutes of fame” do you think needs to be over, right about...NOW? That was Karen’s question this week:

Weekend Assignment # 341: Overexposed
Some things (or people) explode into the culture, are really big for a while and then overstay their welcome. Who or what are you really tired of seeing, hearing or reading about these days?

Extra Credit: What discarded bit of pop culture do you remember fondly?

I couldn’t limit myself to just one response to this, and I suspect I’m not the only one who has a list of people they wish would just go away. There are some I hope will go away by November 3rd, but that’s not really what this question is addressing, so I’ll stay away from the politics today.

And having said that, these are some of the people that I wish would stay away from my pop-cultural radar:

Lindsay Lohan: At one time she was considered a promising young actor with the potential for a strong career. Now the local news - granted, my local news is out of Los Angeles - fixates on whether she’ll do jail time for her latest drug-related offense. It’s a sad and all-too-familiar story, but unfortunately it’s not news, and I just don’t want to hear about it any more. And when Lindsay goes, she needs to take her parents - who, by all accounts, are just horrible - right along with her.

Jersey Shore: I shouldn’t know as much as I do about a show I absolutely refuse to watch, and it’s made me feel bad for my husband’s Aunt Rosemary, who’s been “Snookie” to her family for decades.

Twilight: Now that they’re in production on the final movie based on the last book in the series, this may actually have an expiration date in sight. I suspect that its effects on the image of vampires, adolescent girls’ perception of romantic relationships, and trends in young-adult literature are likely to linger for quite a while after Edward and Bella fade to black, though.

And while I’ve been pretty successful at knowing as little about him as possible, I’m putting Justin Bieber on this list just on general principles.

As far as the “extra credit” question is concerned, my house is a monument to far too many fondly-remembered discarded bits of pop culture to choose just one, and that list would be longer than my answer to the main Assignment topic, so I’m opting out.

It’s not too late to respond to this Weekend Assignment, but time is running out! You basically have the rest of the day today to post a response on your own blog or reply in the comments on the lead post, where you can also find the other WA guidelines. And even if you don’t officially participate, I’d still love to know your answer in the comments here!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

(Birthday) Picture Day! October 26, 196?

I'm not telling you exactly which birthday this one is, but Tall Paul is just a couple years shy of the Big 5-0 as of today, and I thought I'd share some of my favorite pictures of my smart, funny, caring, and opinionated husband with y'all! Since I doubt he'll consider this post much of a birthday present, I do have a real gift to give him later today - but if you'd like to wish him a happy day, follow him on Twitter (or check out his "ridiculous" wish list for other ideas). 
(All photos by me - he's usually the one behind the camera!)
Point Fermin, Palos Verdes Peninsula, California - April 2006
On the bridge at Star Trek: The Tour, Long Beach, California - January 2008

Sun Studios, Memphis, Tennessee - May 2007

With the General Lee outside Cooter's, Nashville, Tennessee - May 2007
Outside the Kwik-E-Mart (a 7-11 temporarily converted as a promo for The Simpsons Movie), Burbank, California - June 2007
On the transporter pad, also at Star Trek: The Tour
Jackson Hole, Wyoming - June 2008

Near Lower Twin Lake in the Eastern Sierras - June 2006 (one of his mom's favorite pictures)

Grand Canyon, Arizona - June 2008 (one of my favorite pictures)
~ 26, Happy Birthday! Love you, 28 ~
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Monday, October 25, 2010

A Turning Point: Maria Shriver and a Woman's Nation take on Alzheimer's

(photo credit)
This weekend, as we do around this time every year, my family and I walked for the Alzheimer's Association in our local Memory Walk. I've shared my mom's Alzheimer's story and the reasons why I do this, and I want to thank everyone who donated in support of our team's fundraising efforts. But there's so much more to be done to fight this disease.

Last week, I was invited to participate in a blogger/media conference call with Maria Shriver, California's First Lady, and Angela Geiger, Chief Strategy Officer for the Alzheimer's Association. We were there to discuss the just-released Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Takes on Alzheimer's, based on a study conducted jointly by the Shriver Report team and the Alzheimer's Association.

While her tenure in Sacramento is ending in just a few weeks, Ms. Shriver is also a journalist and author, and as founder of the California Women's Conference, her focus is on women's issues. She considers Alzheimer's a women's issue because women comprise 2/3 of Alzheimer's patients and nearly 60% of the caregivers to those patients; 1/3 of those caregivers are providing 24/7 care to a family member with the disease. But it's also a personal issue for her - her father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2003.

You can read excerpts and order a copy of the full report on the Shriver Report website. Here's something that jumped out at me:
"Then almost out of nowhere came what I call The Alzheimer’s Turning Point. That was March 21, 2007, when The New York Times reported new Alzheimer’s Association statistics showing the number of people with Alzheimer’s was ballooning—rising by 10 percent in just the previous five years.2 They reported that fully 13 percent of Americans had Alzheimer’s—which meant one in eight people over the age of 65—and unless a cure was found, there would be more than 13 million people with Alzheimer’s by 2050, the best guess back then.

"That was the wakeup call the baby boomers heard. After all, we were the generation that believed ourselves to be so smart and savvy, that we were very sure our brainspan would match our lifespan. But now, just as the oldest boomers were entering their 60s, these new numbers meant we were at the leading edge of a tsunami—and it was happening not to some nameless old 'them' out there. The surge was headed for us, too. And that, I believe, scared a lot of people right out of denial."
 - Maria Shriver on her realization that baby boomers - particularly baby-boomer women - would propel the Alzheimer's agenda
(The emphasis on "one in eight people" is mine - that's also the often-cited statistic on the likelihood of women developing breast cancer.)

Ms. Shriver hopes that this report will trigger another Alzheimer's Turning Point, as it publicizes statistics and personal stories about the effects that this disease is having on patients and families right now - and projects the spread of these effects over the next decades if there aren't institutional changes to address them. As people live longer and the incidence of Alzheimer's becomes more widespread, we're on the verge of a true crisis with a disease that currently has no effective treatment or cure.

Another quote:
"This Woman’s Nation has truly become a Caregiver Nation as well, and Alzheimer’s is putting the pedal to the metal. To be specific:
  • This year it’s estimated there are 11.2 million Alzheimer and other dementia caregivers, and 6.7 million of them are—you guessed it—women.
"So with women shouldering the biggest brunt of the burden of all this caregiving, I find it ironic that we’re still seeing articles like, 'Why Aren’t Women Happy?' They wonder why women aren’t satisfied with their advanced degrees and new corner offices. They ask..'What’s Wrong With American Women?' Excuse me?

"What’s right with American women is that they’re rearing and providing for the next generation of Americans, while at the same time caring and providing for the last generation of Americans. What’s right with American women is that they’re doing it, even though studies show that caregivers pay a steep price in terms of their own health—increased stress, depression, lost sleep, chronic anxiety, immunesystem deficiency. They’re paying a financial price as well, because full-time workers who are also caregiving at home have lower earning power.

"American women are stressed out and maxed out. There’s nothing wrong with them! They just need support. What has to get right is our institutions. They need to respond to the changing dynamic in the American home. People with Alzheimer’s cannot live alone, and the family members who live with them and take care of them need help. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius lays out for us in this report many provisions in the 2010 healthcare reform legislation, The Affordable Care Act, that provide relief for Alzheimer’s caregivers. It’s a start."
The report's suggestion about what needs to come next: an expansion of "family-friendly" benefits and community resources beyond those related to child care - which has been a tough enough battle on its own - to include elder care as well.

But in addition to talking about policies and practices to address the needs of patients and caregivers, the report also recognizes that the real hope for progress is in medical research. Research has discovered that Alzheimer's may start much earlier and take longer to develop than previously believed; it may take up to twenty years for Alzheimer's symptoms to develop, and at present, the disease cannot be diagnosed before symptoms are present. The federal government currently spends $500 million per year on Alzheimer's research; compare that to $6 billion for cancer research and $4 billion for cardiovascular diseases. We've got a lot of catching up to do.

(Wondering about those symptoms? The Alzheimer's Association wants you to know the 10 Warning Signs, and tells you how they differ from normal age-related changes.)

In response to a question during the call about what actions people can take right now to fight Alzheimer's, Ms. Shriver advised "Exercise, mind-challenging games, a heart-healthy diet - anything that's healthy for the heart will be healthy for the brain." She and Ms. Geiger also emphasized family discussions about long-term-care plans.

Ms. Shriver told us that fear of Alzheimer's is what's driven her to become an activist and advocate. As a fellow "child of Alzheimer's," I understand that. That's one of the main reasons I participate in Memory Walk. But as I said earlier, and as this report will convey, there's so much more that needs to be done - and because of that, I've signed on as an Alzheimer's Advocate to help change the conversation and push for the policies we need to fight this disease head on.

More reading: Maria Shriver on Alzheimer's and Women at BlogHer.com

Friday, October 22, 2010

#FridayNonsense: The Meme Thief returns with 4 Things!

The Meme Thief stole this from persons unknown - could be anybody, since this has become pretty popular lately - and thanks them for the inspiration. In return, you are welcome to steal it from me and run with it!

4 Things That Are In My Purse:
  1. A backup pair of contact lenses
  2. Advil
  3. A Starbucks card, always loaded
  4. The book I'm currently reading (unless I'm at home, and then it's out in the house somewhere)

4 Favorite Things In My Bedroom:
  1. My bed
  2. A clothing trunk that doubles as a seating area
  3. The books on the nightstand
  4. My husband :-)

4 Things On My Desk:
(this would be my desk at work, since I don't really have one at home)
  1. 10-key calculator
  2. Computer keyboard and monitor (the CPU is on the floor)
  3. Too many stacks of paper
  4. Pens and mechanical pencils (I think - it's hard to find them under all the paper sometimes!)

4 Things I've Always Wanted To Do (but haven't yet):

  1. Go to Hawaii
  2. Sail a boat
  3. Dance in public with someone who knows how (and makes me look good)
  4. Be two places at once (OK, nobody's done that yet...)

4 Things I Enjoy Very Much At the Moment:
  1. Slow weekends
  2. Autumn - sweaters and boots, hot chocolate and soup, my wedding anniversary, family birthdays, and Thanksgiving!
  3. Modern Family
  4. Having a iPod hook-up in my car

4 Things You Don't Know About Me:
(or maybe you do - I can't remember whether I've told these before or not!)
  1. I graduated high school ranked third in my class - tied with seven other people (one of whom was my first husband...well, he wasn't then; that was a couple of years later).
  2. I spent almost half my childhood in a liquor store. (It's not what you think. My parents owned the place.)
  3. I almost never drink liquor. (Possibly related to thing #2...)
  4. I'm my family's official go-to person for questions of "What's that song called?" and "Who does that song?" (Got one of those questions? Leave it in the comments!)

Full disclosure: I skipped one item on this list - 
4 Songs Stuck in My Head - because nothing is stuck in my head these days. (X-rays of my head revealed...nothing! Thanks folks, I'm here all week!) If you steal, feel free to add that back to your own post. I've also added one item:

4 Things I'm (Probably) Doing This Weekend:
  1. The Alzheimer's Memory Walk in Thousand Oaks
  2. Seeing The Social Network with my sister after the walk is over
  3. Baking a German Chocolate cake for Tall Paul's birthday (the 26th)
  4. With luck, doing a bit of reading and some writing!
Do you have any fun plans for the next few days?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

(Wedding) Picture Day! October 21, 2006

Today is the fourth anniversary of the day Tall Paul and I got married. I've written about the wedding before, and it's not like I really have anything new to say about it, so I thought I'd try to find some photos from the day that I don't think I've posted before and share those with you instead. I hope you enjoy them (although, honestly, you probably won't enjoy them as much as I do!)

Click to enlarge any image