Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Remember This!

My husband and I were recently having a conversation with someone about something that happened a couple of years ago, and he was surprised by the details I still recalled about it. “I don’t know how you remember this stuff so well,” he said.

I think my memory has been better than his for as long as we’ve known each other, and since his seizure episode last spring, that seems to be even more true. It’s interesting, given that I’m the one who worries about Alzheimer’s... I have far from perfect recall of many everyday, ordinary things, but sometimes I’m just as surprised by the things that do stick in my head. (But if you really want to be amazed by what sticks in someone's head, read about this woman.)

During a recent Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast discussion about memoir, one of the panelists talked about the link between memory and emotion. We’re more likely to form strong memories around events associated with strong emotions, which makes them highly subjective. But even those memories may be lacking in strong details, and may be reconstructed into narrative using some of the devices of fiction. (For that reason, we may want to reconsider chastising some memoirists for inaccuracy.) I wonder if that’s one reason why memories of childhood sometimes seem so clear; it’s a time when our emotions are more primary and much closer to the surface.

It’s also a time when our brains are much less full of stuff, which is why adults need to rely on documentation--notes to self and to-do lists and smartphones and journals.

I started this blog in order to create a record of my reading--to remember what I read, when I read it, what it was about, and what I thought about it. Over the course of nearly five years and more than 1600 posts, it’s evolved into a record of many other pastimes and events and thoughts--a tangible, searchable memory. There are definite advantages to having a place where you can just look it up.

And when I know that I’m going to be documenting something, I find myself more attentive to it in the moment as well, so that I’ll be able to record those facts and feelings and impressions. It may be that actively creating memories is actually good exercise for the brain, and perhaps that will help me manage some of those Alzheimer’s worries. But I should work on exercising it even more; I’ve noticed that when I’ve decided not to blog about something, I’ll sometimes catch myself drifting through it, not fully tuned in. That's a problem--experiences that aren't blogged about are no less valid than experiences that are (although they may be less momentous).

Granted, we all can use some mental downtime now and then, but we need mental discipline too. My mother-in-law makes a point of doing several crossword puzzles every day as her mental exercise, and I respect that, but I think that just spending more of our time paying attention might be even more valuable. (That might even help with the super-short-term memory "Now what did I come in here for anyway?" thing...) There’s something to the whole “in the moment,” mindful-living thing; when I’ve focused more on the moment, I find I remember it better long after it’s over. And writing it down helps me remember it even more.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

(Audio)Book Talk: *Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?* by Mindy Kaling

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)
Mindy Kaling (Facebook) (Twitter) (Tumblr)
Crown Archetype (2011), Hardcover (ISBN 0307886263 / 9780307886262)
(audio edition ISBN 9780307939807)
Nonfiction/essays/memoir, 240 pages
Source: Purchased audiobook (Audible.com)
Reason for reading: Personal

Book description, from the publisher’s website: Mindy Kaling has lived many lives: the obedient child of immigrant professionals, a timid chubster afraid of her own bike, a Ben Affleck–impersonating Off-Broadway performer and playwright, and, finally, a comedy writer and actress prone to starting fights with her friends and coworkers with the sentence “Can I just say one last thing about this, and then I swear I’ll shut up about it?”

In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy invites readers on a tour of her life and her unscientific observations on romance, friendship, and Hollywood, with several conveniently placed stopping points for you to run errands and make phone calls. Mindy Kaling really is just a Girl Next Door—not so much literally anywhere in the continental United States, but definitely if you live in India or Sri Lanka.
Comments: If not for Tina Fey’s Bossypants, I’m not sure I’d have given much thought to reading Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, and I certainly wouldn’t have considered getting it as an audiobook. But celebrities--especially those known for comedy--reading their own work have provided some of my best audiobook experiences so far, so I went for it. It was a good call. That’s mostly thanks to Mindy Kaling, but I also have to thank Tina Fey for influencing the decision.

I’ve drifted away from regular viewing of The Office during the last couple of years, but even when it was Must See TV for me, Kaling’s character Kelly Kapoor was never one of my favorite parts of the show; I usually found her a bit irritating, to be honest. However, I knew Kaling was also a writer and producer on the series, which was one reason I didn’t roll my eyes and cringe when I heard she had a book coming out. Fortunately for us all, knowing Kelly is not the same as knowing Mindy.

Aside from the Thursday-night NBC-comedy connection, there are other common factors that will lead people to compare Kaling’s and Fey’s books. Both are more in the personal-essays vein than outright memoir; while they follow an autobiographical outline, both women make a lot of topical detours and digressions. As a single, childless woman who’s succeeded relatively young in a very tough business, Kaling’s digressions tend to be into more personal subjects like food, shopping, and guys. In addition, many of her observations and references are very current; in another couple of years, they will make it obvious that the book was written in the early 2010's (twenty-teens?), but right now, they're spot-on. (Given that books like this don't generally have a long shelf life--pun not intended!--that's probably not a problem, though.)

As I mentioned, I’m not a big fan of Kaling’s character on The Office...but I came away from this book quite impressed with Kaling herself, and I’d now say I’m a fan of hers. For one thing, It’s hard not to be amused by the fact that her first big career success was an award-winning Off-Broadway play she co-wrote with her best friend, Brenda Withers, called Matt and Ben, in which they played best friends Matt Damon (Brenda) and Ben Affleck (Mindy). She’s justifiably proud of her Ivy League education, but comes across as an interesting mix of flighty and grounded. She's quick-witted, open, strikingly good-natured, and regardless of her consuming (pun very intended) interest in shopping and fashion, deep down, she’s not shallow. And speaking of fashion: there is something deeply off-kilter in a world where a woman who looks like Mindy Kaling is considered “chubby.”

Another point of comparison between Kaling’s and Fey’s books is that, in the audio edition, Kaling also addresses the listener directly and makes reference to differences between the audio and print versions of the book. I’ve come to appreciate audiobooks that offer a little more than simply reading aloud, and I’m glad I decided to “read” Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? this way. I think the only potential drawback to it is that the book is made up of short pieces, and in audio, the transitions aren’t always clear. Despite that, I really enjoyed Mindy Kaling’s company for a few days during my commute; she engaged my interest, enlightened me a little, and made me laugh a lot.

Rating: 3.75/5 for the book, 4/5 for the audio presentation

Monday, November 28, 2011

At the movies Double Feature: *The Muppets* and *Hugo*

To be honest, sometimes I prefer seeing "family" films without the younger members of the family. Tall Paul's kids were with their mom this weekend (although they spent Thanksgiving Day with us), and he and I went to the movies on Saturday and Sunday. Partly for that reason, I didn't end up spending as much time reading as I expected to during my four days off, but one of the movies was based on a book...

The Muppets (PG)
Comedy/musical (rated PG)
Starring: Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Kermit T. Frog, Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, The Great Gonzo, and introducing...Walter
Director: James Bobin
Screenwriters: Jason Segel, Nicholas Stoller
Summary, via RottenTomatoes.com: On vacation in Los Angeles, Walter, the world's biggest Muppet fan, and his friends Gary (Jason Segel) and Mary (Amy Adams) from Smalltown, USA, discover the nefarious plan of oilman Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) to raze the Muppet Theater and drill for the oil recently discovered beneath the Muppets' former stomping grounds. To stage The Greatest Muppet Telethon Ever and raise the $10 million needed to save the theater, Walter, Mary and Gary help Kermit reunite the Muppets, who have all gone their separate ways: Fozzie now performs with a Reno casino tribute band called the Moopets, Miss Piggy is a plus-size fashion editor at Vogue Paris, Animal is in a Santa Barbara clinic for anger management, and Gonzo is a high-powered plumbing magnate.
As a nearly-lifelong Muppets fan--I watched the original Muppet Show when it was first-run TV, y'all!--I've missed them during the last several years, but I was highly skeptical about the news that they'd be making a "comeback" in a new film. I feared exploitation and misuse by a studio who didn't really get what made them so great (Disney's owned the Muppets for years, and at times it's seemed like an odd match), and I expected I'd be avoiding The Muppets when it came to theaters.

The fact that I found myself eager to see it within a few days of opening is a tribute to the power of good reviews, both from traditional media and word of mouth. Much of the credit goes to screenwriter and star Jason Segel, for whom this was a passion project--and it shows. The Muppets are in the trustworthy hands of someone who really does get what makes them so great, and makes appropriate references to their history and the show-within-a-show structure of The Muppet Show. The characters are properly in character, and the humor is their trademark combination of clever and cornball. This is a "fun for the whole family" movie, but it might be more fun for the older members, who'll appreciate more of the references. Kids of all ages will appreciate Fozzie's fart shoes, though.

Hugo (PG)
Starring: Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz
Director: Martin Scorcese
Screenwriter: John Logan, from a novel by Brian Selznick
Summary, via RottenTomatoes.com: Throughout his extraordinary career, Academy Award-wining director Martin Scorsese has brought his unique vision and dazzling gifts to life in a series of unforgettable films. This holiday season the legendary storyteller invites you to join him on a thrilling journey to a magical world with his first-ever 3-D film, based on Brian Selznick's award-winning, imaginative New York Times best-seller, "The Invention of Hugo Cabret." Hugo is the astonishing adventure of a wily and resourceful boy whose quest to unlock a secret left to him by his father will transform Hugo and all those around him, and reveal a safe and loving place he can call home.
I'd been intrigued by a couple of the recent trailers I'd seen for Hugo, but this is another film where the decision to see it was made very close to release date, and was highly influenced by positive reviews. This is a movie based on a children's book and marketed toward a young audience, but there are elements that could be a bit intense and confusing for little kids. 

For the slightly older moviegoer, however, Hugo is a wonderful experience. It's one of the most beautiful films I've seen in a long time, and the 3D effects are so well-integrated that they don't seem at all gimmicky. On the other hand, I'm not sure they're entirely necessary. The story of an orphaned boy who lives high in the rafters of the Paris train station and has a gift for fixing things is engaging and moving, and its "magic" isn't so much the stuff of fantasy as it is, truly, the magic of the movies. The film is a real work of art, and one I'd be glad to watch again--and now I want to know its source material, because I'm not a "read the book first" stickler. I've added Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret to my Christmas wish list.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

It's official: *The Holidays* Are Here!

Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica, CA
November 16, 2011
OK, maybe I should have waited till tomorrow to post this, but...y'know, why fight it? 'Tis the season. Who's putting up their Christmas tree this weekend?

And a Happy Thanksgiving to the USA! I hope you and yours enjoy and appreciate the day.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Full Disclosure: On blogging, books, and money

Bookkeepers (the "my day job" kind)
I’d be lying if I said that the possibility of making some money from writing wasn’t lurking somewhere in my mind when I started blogging here. I wasn’t sure it would happen from blogging, but I did hope that blogging would open some doors to paid writing opportunities in other venues (and it has, but it took four years to get there!). But I’ve also had some chances to make a little money with the blog itself, and I have selectively taken advantage of them. I belong to an ad network, I use affiliate links, I’ve been paid to have a few of my posts syndicated to wider readership, and I occasionally post (or re-post) a paid book review here. 

Blogger disclosures are taken pretty seriously, and not just by the FTC. In the book-blogging realm, we’ve gotten used to stating where we get the books we read and review. Openness and transparency about our sources are meant to defray any concerns our blog readers may have about our objectivity and honest opinions, and this sort of disclosure is standard ethical business practice--as an accounting major, I remember discussing it in my university auditing classes. As Amy notes in “Unsolicited Advice: When in Doubt, Disclose”:
“...(S)ome more high profile bloggers and bookish people have come under scrutiny for not disclosing all their sources of income. One blogger said they were honest and absolutely nothing had changed about the review policy or procedures. While this may be true, the problem remains that this is the internet. We don't all know each other. But even more than that, it's not that they are doing anything wrong, it's that the appearance of wrongdoing exists (emphasis added). It casts a shadow not only over individual bloggers but book blogging as a whole. “
One reason that disclosure seems to be of particular concern among book bloggers is that so many of us started doing this as a hobby that expanded out of another hobby--we loved reading and talking about books, and blogs were a new outlet for that. We’ve formed a sense of community around it. Those origins and connections may feed some conflicted feelings over taking a more “businesslike” approach to book blogging...and about bloggers who decide to do that. April addressed some of the reasons for her decision to monetize her blog, and some of the negative feedback she’s received about it:
“Sometimes blogging feels like a full time job. If you are a successful blogger and I’ll leave you to determine your metrics for that, you likely put in AT LEAST 14 hours per week blogging. You deserve to be compensated for that...Further I am sure SO MANY OF YOU can relate to spending out of pocket money on your own blog.
“I am recouping my costs and I will be damned if I hear another person complaining about other people monetizing. When you pay my blogging salary, then you can complain to me about my ads.”
The thing about ads on blogs is that it’s usually pretty obvious that’s what they are. It’s the less obvious paid promotions that generate more concerns about disclosure, and when book blogging begins to shift toward practices that may be customary in more traditional business environments but haven’t been part of this hobbyist culture, we should probably be even more aware of the need for transparency and clarification.

And with that said, you can read elsewhere about the big flap over revelations that the popular #FridayReads hashtag/meme has evolved from a weekly community “share what you’re reading” Twitter activity to a business that charges publishers several hundred dollars a pop to promote particular titles and/or conduct giveaways of featured books on Facebook during the event--and hadn’t mentioned that in those tweets and Facebook posts. I missed the Twitterstorm over this, but when I read about it later, it explained the e-mail that came from the BlogHer Book Club organizers last week (although the timing may have been merely coincidental):
“We've recently made a change to how #BHBC Twitter promotions should be done. Effective immediately we ask that all #BHBC social media promotions to BlogHer.com content also contain the #ad hashtag.”
(The BlogHer Book Club is a partnership with Penguin, and it pays participants to write reviews, discuss, and promote its selections on social media, so it’s pretty evident there’s publisher money involved. In my experience with BlogHer.com, it has been open about its partnerships and advocates and practices disclosure.)

The FridayReads principals have responded with their own discussions about disclosure, and Wendy is surveying book bloggers about their disclosure practices.

Teresa addressed the distinctions between paid and editorial content, which are well established in traditional media but still evolving in the online social-media world, and how this impacts disclosure:
“Many of you know that I work in magazine publishing. In my world, we try to make it abundantly clear what content in our magazine is advertising and what content is selected by the editors. The ads look like ads, and the editorial content looks like an article or column. If we ever get an ad that looks too much like editorial content, we require the advertiser to redesign it or we add the word 'Advertisement' at the top of the page. Readers do not have to hunt around to figure out what content is paid for and what content is not...
“In the new world of social media, the separation is less clear. On Friday, some of the Friday Reads defenders claimed that the paid content was clearly marked as sponsored content and that readers who followed Bethanne’s stream could see what was paid and what wasn’t. But the thing is, it wasn’t clear at all. It looks to me like the team was using a shorthand and a format that was clear and understandable to them but that wasn’t clear to those outside the circle. Never once did I see the word 'paid' or even 'sponsored' before Bethanne tweeted about how the program operated on Friday morning.
"So what material is paid for? According to the Friday Reads FAQ, publishers pay to offer weekly giveaways through Friday Reads. They also pay for Twitter interviews with Bethanne. This information is available on the Friday Reads website, so the team has not been hiding it. The trouble is that before Friday there was no reason for readers to go seek it out. For a lot of people, that means it might as well be hidden...
“...(What) about paid bookstore placements and Amazon suggestions and online ads and so on...? I don’t like those things either, and when I go to a big box bookstore, I tend to browse the stacks so I can be directed by my own interests. If I look at the tables, I keep in mind that the publishers paid to have their books there. Do I wish it were more clear? Sure. But a bookstore is more obviously a place of commerce than a Twitter stream is (emphasis added). If the publishers weren’t paying to be there, the bookstore might still be choosing the most sellable books.”
I don’t think I’ve been unclear about any of my own monetization activities on this blog, but if you have any questions about them, feel free to ask in comments or e-mail me. They basically cover my blogging costs and generate some personal mad money. Blogging is a hobby, and as much as I enjoy it, I will not be quitting my day job for it--let me be clear about disclosing that, too.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Book Talk: *The Heroine's Bookshelf*, by Erin Blakemore (TLC Book Tour)

The Heroine's Bookshelf: Life Lessons, from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder
Erin Blakemore (Facebook) (Twitter) (Blog)
Harper (2010), Hardcover (ISBN 006195876X / 9780061958762)
Nonfiction/literary criticism/biography, 224 pages
Source: personal copy
Reason for reading: Participation in TLC Book Tour to support the paperback release*

Opening lines (from the Introduction): “In times of struggle, there are as many reasons not to read as there are to breathe. Don’t you have better things to do? Reading, let alone REreading, is the terrain of milquetoasts and mopey spinsters. At life’s ugliest junctures, the very act of opening a book can smack of cowardly escapism. Who chooses to read when there’s work to be done?"
Book description, from the publisher’s website: Jo March, Scarlett O’Hara, Scout Finch—the literary canon is brimming with intelligent, feisty, never-say-die heroines and celebrated female authors. They placed a premium on personality, spirituality, career, sisterhood, and family, not unlike women of today. When they were up against the wall, authors like Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott fought back—sometimes with words, sometimes with gritty actions. 
Witty, informative, and inspiring—full of beloved heroines and the remarkable writers who created them—The Heroine’s Bookshelf explores how the pluck and dignity of literary characters such as Jane Eyre and Lizzy Bennet can encourage modern women, showing them how to tap into their inner strengths and live life with intelligence and grace. From Zora Neale Hurston to Colette, Laura Ingalls Wilder to Charlotte Brontë, Harper Lee to Alice Walker, here are authors whose spirited stories and characters are more inspiring today than ever.
Comments: Erin Blakemore has assembled The Heroine’s Bookshelf from some unlikely elements; literary criticism, biography, and some self-help psychology. Addressing the common habit of the bookworm to seek refuge in “comfort reading” during challenging personal times, she suggests that the books we turn to can provide more than just comfort; chosen carefully, they can help us develop the internal resources to get through and rise above those challenges.

Each of the dozen chapters in The Heroine’s Bookshelf focuses on a specific trait--self-awareness, happiness, dignity, compassion, fight, ambition, etc.--and features a classic fictional heroine who exemplifies it. Her premise assumes that these characters are already well-known to most readers, but merit consideration in light of the highlighted trait. Blakemore provides more than character analysis, however; she also talks about the author who created that character and her story. The authors she discusses are also women, and she explores how their own backgrounds and experiences informed the characters they created, although this did not necessarily mean the characters were based on them. Blakemore’s underlying theme is that we are the heroines of our own stories, and she returns to it in each chapter with specific examples of how both author and character exhibit the mindsets and behaviors of heroines. Each chapter concludes with a short list of the circumstances in which a reader might consider revisiting that particular heroine, and some suggested “literary sisters” who might also be worth knowing.

The heroines Blakemore highlights come from both older classics---Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice), Jane Eyre, Jo March (Little Women)---and more recent ones--Scout Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird), Celie (The Color Purple). Some are expected choices and others are more surprising, and sometimes Blakemore brings out an element we may not have considered before. However, I was at least as interested in the author biographies as I was in the characters--sometimes, particularly with books I haven’t read, even more so (Margaret Mitchell pretty much rocked). I didn’t expect there to be so much attention given to the creators of the characters featured in The Heroine’s Bookshelf, but I appreciate that there was, and I enjoyed the book more because of it.

One reason that classics are classics is that they continue to be meaningful to readers over time. Although many of the novels we call classics could be considered “historical fiction” now--and some actually do fall into that category--some were utterly contemporary at the time they were written. However, one thing they have in common is that they’re not dated--the themes that frame them are timeless, and perhaps more importantly, so are the characters that their stories are built around. The Heroine’s Bookshelf is a reminder of the continuing value and relevance of some of those characters, and made me want to visit with some of them again.

Rating: 4/5

Other stops on this TLC Book Tour:
Tuesday, November 15th: The Lost Entwife
Thursday, November 17th: Bookstack
Friday, November 18th: Books and Movies
Monday, November 21st: Books Like Breathing
Wednesday, November 23rd: Amusing Reviews
Tuesday, November 29th: Good Girl Gone Redneck
Wednesday, November 30th: Book Addiction
Thursday, December 1st: Reviews from the Heart
Monday, December 5th: Book Drunkard
Tuesday, December 6th: Book Hooked Blog
Thursday, December 8th: Melody & Words

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links (IndieBound.org)

*Additional disclosure: The publisher provided copies of this book to tour participants to facilitate their reviews. I already owned the book (received as a Christmas gift in 2010) and declined the review copy offered. I was not paid or otherwise compensated for this review.

Monday, November 21, 2011

(Audio)Book Talk: *Born Standing Up*, by Steve Martin

Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life
Steve Martin (Twitter)
read by the author
Scribner (2008), Paperback (ISBN 1416553657 / 9781416553656) (audio edition ISBN 0743569725 / 9780743569729)
Memoir, 208 pages
Source: purchased audiobook (Audible.com)
Reason for reading: Personal
Book description, from the publisher’s website: In the midseventies, Steve Martin exploded onto the comedy scene. By 1978 he was the biggest concert draw in the history of stand-up. In 1981 he quit forever. This book is, in his own words, the story of "why I did stand-up and why I walked away." 
Emmy and Grammy Award winner, author of the acclaimed New York Times bestsellers Shopgirl and The Pleasure of My Company, and a regular contributor to The New Yorker, Martin has always been a writer. His memoir of his years in stand-up is candid, spectacularly amusing, and beautifully written, illuminating the sacrifice, discipline, and originality that made him an icon and inform his work to this day. Martin also paints a portrait of his times -- the era of free love and protests against the war in Vietnam, the heady irreverence of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in the late sixties, and the transformative new voice of Saturday Night Live in the seventies.
Comments: Despite the popular catchphrase associated with him during the peak of his stand-up comedy career in the late ‘70s, it turns out that Steve Martin never was much of a “a wild and crazy guy” after all. He actually took being funny very seriously, although until he wrote this book, he hadn’t taken a serious look back at that part of his professional life since he stopped doing it on stage every night.

As the book description says, Martin “exploded” onto the comedy scene, but he hardly came out of nowhere. He’d been working toward it ever since he got his first job at Disneyland during junior high, collecting jokes and developing a magic act. By the time he started college (as a philosophy major, eventually), he’d moved on to the company at the Birdcage Theatre at Knott’s Berry Farm. After a few years, he left the theme parks and most of the magic tricks behind, taking his increasingly offbeat comedy to bars and clubs by night while writing sketches for popular comedy/variety shows during the day, until he quit the TV work at 28 and gave himself till the age of 30 to make a living as a stand-up comic. He made the deadline.

I was in high school during Steve Martin’s heyday...and I remember not finding him as funny I thought I was supposed to. After revisiting his comedy in Born Standing Up, I’m pretty sure I was just too young to get it at the time, because the bits he quotes in the book cracked me up. I was fascinated to see how it developed, and now able to appreciate just how groundbreaking it was--surreal and subversive and non-topical, fearless, simultaneously brilliant and stupid. Martin approached it with professionalism and craftsmanship, evolving as an artist; in his arc, I saw some broad similarities to Patti Smith’s artistic evolution as recounted in her memoir Just Kids (which I reviewed for Shelf Awareness, but haven’t posted here yet), although it’s possible that I inferred those similarities partly because I listened to both books on audio, read by their authors.

By his own admission, Steve Martin is a very private person, and it makes sense that he’d focus a memoir on his work--and just a portion of it. at that--than on the more personal stuff of his life. But he did some pretty interesting and memorable work, which I appreciate more now than I did before I read this--and I got the sense that, in writing about it, he may have come to appreciate it better himself. I enjoyed his narration of the audio, and the transitional banjo music between chapters that he wrote and performed himself (a replacement for the photos in the print edition); while he may never be as famous for his work subsequent to stand-up, he’s been pretty successful as a bluegrass musician and author. It turns out he makes an excellent subject for a book, too.

Rating: 4/5 for both book and audio performance

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sunday Salon: CHICK Lit Live! Or, An Evening with Anna Lefler

It's a rare treat to be present at an author's first book-signing event for her first book. Going to that event at her hometown bookstore, with a personal invitation from the author to join friends and family at that event, is even more rare. And when the author is as engaging and funny as Anna Lefler, everyone's in for a great evening. I was very excited to attend her signing event for The CHICKtionary at Barnes and Noble in Santa Monica last week.

This was Anna's first bookstore appearance, but as an experienced stand-up comedian, she's no stranger to talking and being funny in front of an audience. She told us about how the book came into being, shared some of her favorite definitions, and cheerfully signed as many books as people wanted with her collection of pink pens.

Anna has written two not-yet-published novels and really never saw herself writing nonfiction...and I don't think anyone ever sees herself writing a dictionary. But when her publisher approached her to write this one, after finding her through one of her blog posts (yes, it's the dream come true!), she took the challenge...even though they only gave her two months to get the whole thing done(!!).

Next, Anna set up a placard listing various categories that the terms defined in The CHICKtionary fall into and invited audience members to shout out a topic. In response, she would pull out a card for a word in that topic from the "leopard-skin bag of ladyhood" and read the definition. I've already read the book, and it's laugh-out-loud funny. Hearing Anna read from the book was laugh-even-louder funny.

Anna answered a few questions from the audience after the reading, including one from a man wondering if men should read The CHICKtionary. She thinks they should; it will definitely give them some insights into the way modern women talk and think--insider knowledge. However, she suggested that men might not necessarily want to let women know they'd read it. As she put it, "You don't want them to know you went to cooking school. You just want them to be impressed that you're a good cook." (And then there's that aggressively pink cover...)

Anna told us that writing The CHICKtionary really made her think about how women process their world and express themselves in response to it, and gave her a new appreciation of her gender. I think that shows in the book. It's certainly humorous, but it's also frank, insightful, and intelligent--it really gets its subject, and its likely readership. A book like this could easily be a fluffy throwaway, but The CHICKtionary isn't that. 

I picked up a couple of copies (signed, of course!) to give as holiday gifts this year, and I highly recommend that you do the same for some of your favorite women. The CHICKtionary is available now through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, and Books-A-Million. And if you want more than just my opinion, look for reviews at the stops on its virtual book tour via TLC Book Tours.

Anna's still got a few stops to make on her book tour, too: Portland (tomorrow!), Phoenix, back in SoCal (the new Mysterious Galaxy bookstore in Redondo Beach), up in NorCal (Oakland and Corte Madera), and New York (last stop, on December 12)--details are on her events page.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Shelf Awareness Book Talk: *The Daughter She Used to Be*, by Rosalind Noonan

The Daughter She Used to Be
Rosalind Noonan
Kensington (2011), Paperback original (ISBN 0758241682 / 9780758241689)
Fiction, 352 pages

Portions of this review were originally published in Shelf Awareness for Readers (11/4/11), which supplied an Advance Reader Copy (furnished by the publisher) and payment. All opinions expressed are my own.

The blood of the Sullivan family has run NYPD blue for two generations. Those who didn’t become cops married them or, in the case of youngest daughter Bernadette, went to law school. When patriarch James “Sully” Sullivan reached mandatory retirement age, he opened a coffee shop just across the street from his old precinct house, and the Sullivans’ Queens home continues to be filled with police officers and police talk.

That talk comes home in a very different way when an unfortunate encounter and a case of mistaken identity provoke a mentally fragile ex-convict - released from prison just days earlier - to a shooting spree in Sully’s coffee shop, killing three police officers. In the aftermath, Bernadette comes to realize that her ideas about justice may not be the same as those of the rest of her family, and that leads her to reconsider both her career and her relationship choices.

Rosalind Noonan’s The Daughter She Used to Be is an engrossing family saga and a suspenseful legal thriller. Noonan covers a lot of narrative ground, with a large cast of characters whose situations involve some morally complex issues - justice, racism, abortion, grief - as well as some knotty family dynamics. There’s so much going on that some threads aren’t really followed through, but Sully and Bernadette’s shifting father/daughter relationship remains at the core of the story. This novel would fuel some great book-club discussion, and facilitates that with a helpful readers’ guide.
From the publisher: The daughter of a career cop, Bernadette Sullivan grew up with blue uniforms hanging in the laundry room and cops laughing around the dinner table. Her brothers joined New York's finest, her sister married a cop, and Bernie is an assistant District Attorney. Collaring criminals, putting them away--it's what they do. And though lately Bernie feels a growing desire for a family of her own, she's never questioned her choices. Then a shooter targets a local coffee shop, and tragedy strikes the Sullivan family. 
Anger follows grief--and Bernie realizes that her father's idea of retribution is very different from her own. All her life, she's inhabited a clear-cut world of right and wrong, of morality and corruption. As Bernie struggles to protect the people she loves, she must also decide what it means to see justice served. And in her darkest hour, she will find out just what it means to be her father's daughter.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Few Favorite Things That Aren't Books

I don’t know if it’s due to the challenges of creating content for 30 consecutive days or simply a desire to mix things up a little, but lately I’ve been seeing posts crop up here and there in which bloggers share lists of their favorite things. And while I let plenty of blogging bandwagons pass right by me--and I'm not NaBloPoMo'ing this year--I think I’ll jump on this one.

Every now and then I’ve wanted to blog about some product I’ve tried but haven’t wanted to build an entire post around it, and I think an occasional “favorite things” list could be a way to handle that. It may become a recurring feature, or not. We’ll see whether making the list itself becomes a favorite thing.

A Few Favorite Things That Aren’t Books: Fall 2011 Edition

App (iPhone/iPad)

Downcast is a podcast catcher/player that Lifehacker raves about, and I usually pay attention to their tech recommendations. It’s not a free app, but it won’t set you back much at $1.99--and yes, you can listen to podcasts through iTunes, but this dedicated podcast app allows streaming for immediate listen as well as downloading, and won’t make you lose your place in your music playlist. In fact, Downcast doesn’t require iTunes sync. If you use the Audible app for books, you’ll find some similarities in the interface and operation, but you can add podcasts from any source, and the search function is very effective.

Speaking of...

Extra Hot Great is a pop-culture discussion (mostly TV and movies) from a few of the folks who originally brought you Television Without Pity (if you once knew Dave and Tara as Glark and Wing Chun, then you remember TWoP before it went corporate). They produce a weekly hour-length show and mini-casts (5 minutes or so) several days a week. (Thanks to Mike for originally pointing me to this one!)

“Hot” makes me think of …


Honeycrisp Apples. OK, that wasn’t the best segue; they’re best eaten cold or at room temperature rather than hot, and I’m not sure they’d bake very well, but Honeycrisps are the tastiest apples I’ve ever tried and one of the best things about autumn. They’re only available in stores for a few months, so I’m getting my fix while I can!

Speaking of...

Fruit-related products

(that you eat)
YoCrunch Fruit Parfait is lowfat vanilla yogurt with strawberry puree, packaged with about a tablespoon of granola and meant to be mixed together. I’ve been off yogurt for awhile, but this is bringing me back, partly because I like the texture that comes from adding in the granola (although the taste isn’t bad either). There are other parfait flavors that I haven’t tried yet; there are also YoCrunch varieties with Oreo and M&M mix-ins, but I at least want to pretend I’m eating this stuff because it’s supposed to be healthy.

(that you don’t eat)
The Body Shop Banana Conditioner is not for conditioning your banana (bad double-entendre alert!), so that must mean it’s made from bananas. My curly/wavy hair needs regular conditioning to keep it from going crazy. I tried, and loved, the Banana conditioner years ago--and then The Body Shop discontinued it (of course). Now it’s back, and I’ve discovered it works nicely on skin as well as hair. I mix a little in with body wash and can skip after-shower moisturizing--and whether it’s on hair or skin, a little goes a long way.

What are a couple of your favorite things right now?

Disclosure: None of the items mentioned in this post were offered to me for review purposes. All opinions are my own, and based on my own purchase/use experiences.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Stick Around, Reader: There's plenty to write about!

Last week, I featured some content from Sticky Readers: How to Attract a Loyal Blog Audience by Writing More Better by Margaret Andrews (and Thursday's post on my blogging mistakes kicked up some great Twitter discussion!). Today, I’m featuring Margaret herself in a guest post drawn from the chapter in which she busts the myths of Writer’s Block.

Hi Kids!

I would like to thank Florinda for giving me this opportunity to flap my gums about everyone’s favorite excuse for not blogging:

"I don't have anything to blog about."

Pshaw, I say.

You Do SO Have Something to Write About

Many people don't recognize a potential blog post when it's sitting right there, at the next table, having an argument. The woman is completely ripping into her boyfriend or husband, or father--you can't even tell! But she's dressed like a ho in her money-too-tight-to-mention patent leather skirt and stilettos.

She clicks her heels out of the café while everyone stares at the poor sap who is stuck with the bill and has an uncanny resemblance to the most recent reincarnation of Doctor Who. **

And there you sit, staring at a blank page, annoyed by the domestic disturbance.

(**An interruption from me: How “recent” a regeneration are we talking about here? If that poor sap has an “uncanny resemblance” to David Tennant, there’s no way I’m walking out of that café. Just sayin’. Sorry, Margaret! I'll give you back your post now.**)

My point is, there is always something about which to blog; you just have to learn to recognize it when it happens. And always keep a note-taking device on you for when it does.

Mind you, eavesdropping is not the only source of material. You have an arsenal of weapons to choose from. Here’s another:

Turn Comments into Blog Posts

If you comment on Joe Blow's blog and your words become a little story of its own because you want to comment on how the same thing that happened to Joe happened to you, that's a blog post. And don't feel like you are copying someone else's idea. This is actually encouraged.
If Joe Blow blogs about their pet elephant doing something silly and you find yourself thinking, "Hey I have a pet elephant and he did something silly the other day, too", then write about it. And link back to your inspiration. Joe Blow will like you for linking back and quite possibly be flattered that his work inspired you, rather than hate you for copying his idea.

Here's another source of realization while you comment on other blogs: if you find yourself talking about you instead of talking about the blogger on whose blog you are commenting, then you've got a potential story and potential blog post brewing.
People give you unintentional writing prompts all the time everywhere; you just have to recognize them when they happen. For example, a lot of bloggers encourage comments by asking questions at the end of their blog posts. Of course they do this to encourage comments, but you should take this as a writing prompt and write your own blog post instead of wasting it all in someone's comment section. I mean, go ahead and leave a comment if you want, but don't blow your literary wad on someone else's server.

However, if someone does inspire a blog post out of you in this fashion, say so in your post at the end. Something like: "This blog post was inspired by so and so at such and such blog" with a link back to that post.

Finding inspiration from another blog is not only a good writing prompt source; it's also a great way to get any needed blog reading in. It kills two birds with one stone.

So, kids, let's go out there and kill two birds! Who's with me?

Sticky Readers packs a lot of useful advice into its compact 76 pages. It won’t take you long to read, but if you care about improving your blog content, it’s worth every minute you spend on it. It’s available in paperback from CreateSpace,Amazon.com, and Barnes and Noble, and as a Kindle e-book.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sunday Salon: Some Words From My Reading of *The CHICKtionary*

It’s subtitled “From A-Line to Z-Snap, The Words Every Woman Should Know,” but if any guys make it past the bright pink cover, they’ll get some unexpected insights into the modern woman. (If you’re brave enough to go there, please use your new-found knowledge wisely, gentlemen.)

As for the women, you’ll find “over 450 words you can’t live without”--true, because you probably don’t, although you use some more frequently than others--in The CHICKtionary by Anna Lefler. Anna’s explanations of common everyday female-centric words and phrases are insightful, frank, pithy--and frequently hilarious. Reading the dictionary was never so much fun! I laughed out loud often, was impressed by the sharp observations and humor, and frequently wanted to read a definition out loud to someone.

In a way, that’s what I’m about to do here. I thought I’d give y’all a little taste of “chick(tionary) lit” today in the Salon.
Does This Make Me Look Fat? (phrase): A seemingly straightforward yet treacherous question that requires different responses depending on the gender of the person to whom it is addressed. When asked of a male, the response must be a swift and emphatic “No!” Ideally, this will be followed by glowing modifiers such as “You look hot!” and “Are you kidding? You need to gain a few pounds, hon!” When asked of a female, an honest response is acceptable, provided it is couched in camouflage comments that blame the unflattering appearance on the hateful designer, lousy dressing room lighting, and/or cheap construction of the offending garment. 
It’s Not You, It’s Me (phrase): This mammoth whopper is the bedrock of the entire breakup system as we know it. As ridiculous a notion as it is that someone would break up with a partner because of dissatisfaction with himself, this chestnut continues to be called up when the person doing the breaking is trying to spare the feelings of the person being broken--a noble intention, but COME ON. (Of course, if your boyfriend recently broke up with you and said “It’s not you, it’s me,” well, that’s an obvious exception to the above and we’re sure he totally meant it. You are much better off without him and we also really like your new perm.) Anyway, just so we’re clear, it is always you. It is never me. 
Pop Tart (noun): 1) A term used to describe a female pop star whose outrageous attire, partying, promiscuity, or antics gave eclipsed her singing career. The pop tart label is most often applied to those young women who are in the midst of this transition and about whom everyone is feigning shock that they are not turning out to be the role models everyone thought they were. The fully loaded pop tart comes complete with an assortment of aggressively dysfunctional, publicity-hungry relatives. 2) A delightful toaster pastry. 
Classic Pieces (noun): Apparently, we’re all supposed to be wearing these, but what are they? Often modified with the words “timeless” and “elegant,” the concept can also appear in conjunction with the ominous phrase “investment piece.” Is this some kind of code? Should we be downloading an Audrey Hepburn app or something? As usual, the fashion industry gives us no clear guidelines. We know, for instance, that a white T-shirt is considered a classic piece, but does it matter which band’s album cover is on the front? 
Girl Scout Cookies (noun): The SCUD missile of dessert items, Girl Scout cookies can blast through the most impenetrable of diets and make rubble of ironclad New Year’s resolutions faster than you can say “I’ll take four boxes of Samoas.” What is it about these things? You know if they were on the supermarket shelves, you’d walk right past without a second look, right? Is it their limited-time availability? The fact that you get hit up for them at the office when you’d rather do anything but finish writing that report? Is it the smiles of little girls whose hopes and dreams have not yet been crushed under the boulder of life’s realities? Most importantly, is anyone selling them here today, right now? We’ve got CASH, people!
You can sample more terms on Anna’s website and in the book trailer.

Anna and I met when we were among the first contributors to the now-defunct Los Angeles Moms Blog, and I have been a fan of her popular blog, Life Just Keeps Getting Weirder, since the beginning. (In fact, one of her early posts there was part of Bookworms Carnival #14, which I hosted here in August 2008.) We’ve kept in touch with each other, and I was thrilled to receive an advance copy of her first nonfiction book.

The CHICKtionary is available now through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, and Books-A-Million. Look for reviews at the stops on its virtual book tour via TLC Book Tours.

And if you’re on the West Coast or in New York City, you may get to see Anna somewhere near you at a book signing during the next month! Her first one is this Wednesday, November 16, at Barnes and Noble in Santa Monica, followed by an appearance on Friday, November 18 at Book Soup in West Hollywood. I’m planning to be at B&N on Wednesday night--and even though I already have a copy of The CHICKtionary, I think I’ll be buying a couple more for Christmas gifts. This is a book for all the smart chicks you know!

The CHICKtionary: From A-line to Z-snap, The Words Every Woman Should Know
by Anna Lefler
Adams Media (2011) Paperback (ISBN 1440529841 / 9781440529849)
Nonfiction/humor, 240 pages
Disclosure: I was given a signed copy of this book by the author with no obligation to blog about it. Quotes are used with permission. All opinions are my own. Buy links are provided for readers’ convenience. I am an IndieBound affiliate and will earn a small referral fee on sales made through that link; I have no affiliation with the other retailers listed.

**By the way...my Salon post from a couple of weeks ago, "How to Write a Book Review," is featured on BlogHer.com this weekend.**

The Sunday Salon.com

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Stick Around, Reader: My Favorite (Blogging) Mistakes

This post is inspired by Sticky Readers: How to Attract a Loyal Blog Audience by Writing More Better, by Margaret Andrews. I was given a signed copy of this book by the author with no obligation to blog about it. Quotes are used with permission. All opinions are my own. Buy links are provided for readers’ convenience; I have no affiliation with any of the retailers listed.

As I just said, I “was given” a copy of this book. That’s the passive voice. According to Chapter 7 of Sticky Readers, I should have stated that more actively: “The author gave me a copy of this book.”
“This is a topic that comes from Creative Writing 101, but totally applies to blog posts. Using the active voice over the passive voice makes your blog posts whiz by faster. The passive voice slows your story down and feels like a total drag, man.”
I’ve long struggled with the use of the passive voice. I know I’m supposed to avoid it, but I think that there are times when the nature of my writing makes it appropriate. I tend to approach my posts, no matter what their subject, as a journalist (although I have no training as one). Journalism is supposed to be presented objectively, and the passive voice is a handy device for taking the writer out of the story.

But having said that, what makes blogging unique is that the writer is part of the story. Even if we’re basically reporting, our opinions and reactions are accepted and expected.

In addition to the passive voice, my attempts at objective presentation often include qualifiers. Chapter 4 suggests that this is another mistake:
“Don’t get all wimpy and apologize at the start and throw out a hundred caveats and waivers. It weakens your writing, beats around the bush, and takes out all the oomph.”
I get this. On the other hand (qualifier alert!), I want to recognize that there’s almost always more than one side to the issue, whatever the issue is. By definition, opinions are neither right nor wrong (seriously, they're not, no matter what the pundits say). Of course, I’d like people to agree with my opinion--which makes me feel “right”--but I know not everyone will. I want to respect the potential for disagreement, but it’s challenging to do it without diluting my own stance.

Neither of these bad habits made it into Chapter 15, “The Top 10 Mistakes on Your Blog That Drive Readers Away,” but I have a few others that did:
  • Wasting introduction space (talking about what I’ll be talking about instead of just talking)
  • Posts that are too long
  • Posts that are part of a series (as this one is - uh-oh!)
Could you use some help with your own blogging mistakes, too? Not that I'm saying you make them, of course (qualifier alert!), but there's nothing wrong with making a good thing even better!

Sticky Readers packs a lot of useful advice into its compact 76 pages. It won’t take you long to read, but if you care about improving your blog content, it’s worth every minute you spend on it. It’s available in paperback from CreateSpace, Amazon.com, and Barnes and Noble, and as a Kindle e-book.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Stick Around, Reader: What Makes You Stay?

This post is inspired by Sticky Readers: How to Attract a Loyal Blog Audience by Writing More Better, by Margaret Andrews. I was given a signed copy of this book by the author with no obligation to blog about it. Quotes are used with permission. All opinions are my own. Buy links are provided for readers’ convenience; I have no affiliation with any of the retailers listed.

A blogger can find plenty of information about how to “build traffic.” A lot of the advice covers “tricks of the trade” like using SEO keywords, sharing links, joining groups, etc. But no matter how many tricks you use, if you don’t provide something worth reading, that traffic will come and go--it won’t develop into dedicated readers who stick around and keep coming back.

In this excerpt from Sticky Readers, Margaret defines the terms and the aim of her book.
“...(Y)ou can create sticky content with a well-written blog, too. If you write interesting and compelling blog posts that hold the readers’ attention, they will come back again. In other words, sticky content attracts 'sticky readers.' 
“If you improve your content, make it more compelling and interesting to read, here’s what will happen: 
1. Regular readers will perk up and take notice. You’ll hear about it. Probably in your comments section or via email. Boy, will that be good for your ego.
2. Brand new readers will stumble on your blog and stick around for more, hence the term, 'sticky readers.'
3. Your numbers will increase naturally. And when I say numbers, I mean all of them: Google followers, Twitter followers, comments, Feedburner subscribers. But don’t pay attention to that. Don’t think about it. I shouldn’t have said anything, actually. Just let it happen. It’s a Zen thing. 
"Who says 'content is king'? Actually, everybody says that, and they’re right, but it’s usually swept under the rug while they tell you all the social media tricks of increasing traffic to your blog. They don’t stop and tell you how to make your content more engaging, and there are so many ways to do it. 
"...I know this hurts to hear, and I don’t enjoy saying it, but your blog bores some people. My blog bores some people. There, I said it. That wasn’t so hard, was it? When you can be more objective about your writing, it’s easier to admit that it can always be better. 
"...This book does not tell you how to monetize your blog, or drive traffic to it through Search Engine Optimization (SEO). What this book does do, however, is show you how to write more engaging content and attract a loyal blog audience.”
Sticky Readers is primarily aimed at bloggers who use personal anecdotes and stories in their blog posts, but I think some of its suggestions can be adapted for the goals of topical bloggers...and that includes book bloggers. It packs a lot of useful advice into its compact 76 pages. It won’t take you long to read, but if you care about improving your blog content, it’s worth every minute you spend on it. It’s available in paperback from CreateSpace, Amazon.com, and Barnes and Noble, and as a Kindle e-book.

Monday, November 7, 2011

No NaNoWriMo--OR NaBloPoMo--for me!

Thousands of people around the world, including some of my blogging buddies, are taking a shot at writing fiction this month. November has been National Novel Writing Month - NaNoWriMo - for over a decade, and a multitude of eager writers have signed up and set themselves the goal of producing a 50,000-word novel by the end of the month, encouraging and giving feedback to one another along the way.

I'm not one of those writers. I suspect I never will be, but I do tend to revisit the question around this time every year.

I love to read, and I love to write. Also, I love to write about what I read, which is why my "primarily but not exclusively books" blog exists in the first place. I think there are some truths about life and humanity and why we are the way we are that are best explored through fiction. I think that fiction can help us identify themes in our own lives. I enjoy vicariously experiencing lives that are different from my own, and finding things that make them feel not so different. I respect the creativity and imagination that can invent characters and storylines and situations that capture my mind and my emotions.

One reason that I respect those talents is that I'm pretty sure I don't have them.

I love the novel, and I think it deserves to be considered as one of the highest creative endeavors, but my own creative impulses just don't go in that direction. Characters don't speak to me and urge me to tell their stories, and while I can imagine and craft a scene or two and some dialogue every now and then, I don't see them going anywhere or fitting into a larger story structure. (And I don't enjoy reading short stories enough to have much interest in trying to write them, in all honesty.)

I've learned over the last few years that the kind of writing I most enjoy doing - and that I seem to be pretty competent at - is not novel, but nonfiction. It's personal essays and news reports. It's the occasional topical op-ed piece, and the frequent cultural discussions (that would be the book and movie reviews). Despite my tendency toward long-windedness at times, it's short-form writing. It allows for creative expression, but it's rooted in my everyday life. It gives me enough maneuvering room to satisfy me, and I think it'll keep satisfying me for a while longer. While I love reading fiction, I just don't feel a yearning to produce it. On the other hand, discovering that I like writing nonfiction has inspired me to read more of it.

For those of us who prefer the shorter form and quicker gratification of blogging, there's NaBloPoMo--National Blog Posting Month--which was founded as a November event. It happens every month now, organized around a different theme, and only requires that participants post something every day during the month. I've done it before, and I've enjoyed the challenge. But considering that I've been lucky to manage posting three times a week lately, and that the conditions that caused that schedule change still exist, NaBloPoMo is a challenge I just can't meet this year.

But NaBloPoMo is a "maybe next year" challenge for me; NaNoWriMo is "maybe never." For me, anyway--what about for you? Is November a "Na-----Mo"?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sunday Salon: Reading-Related Randomness

The Sunday Salon.com

Good morning! I hope y'all remembered to set your clocks back and enjoyed your extra hour of sleep last night! Daylight Savings Time is over till March, and we're in for that early winter darkness now. For the lucky ones, that may mean some nice, long. cozy evenings of reading ahead.

It's been a few weeks since I've properly Saloned on a Sunday--although I did pop in a day late last week with some author-provided book-review guidelines--and even longer since I've done Bookkeeping, so a Reading Status Report is just a bit overdue!

My current reading doesn't lend itself to my usual review format, so I'll be blogging about it in a different way over the next couple of weeks. Since we're in the midst of NaBloPoMo, I'm looking forward to highlighting a few sections from Sticky Readers: How to Attract a Loyal Blog Audience by Writing More Better, a truly useful, content-focused blogging guide by humor blogger Margaret Andrews of Nanny Goats in Panties. I'm also very excited about featuring some choice clips from Anna Lefler's The CHICKtionary, currently on tour via TLC Book Tours. I met Anna a few years ago, even before she launched her humor blog Life Just Keeps Getting Weirder, and I love seeing the great reception her book is getting!

Speaking of great receptions...there's still time to give some of your choices for the best books of 2011 a great reception--and some recognition--with a nomination in the 2011 Indie Lit Awards! Nominations in the seven categories are open until December 31:

Eligible books must have been published in print for the first time in 2011 (e-book-only titles are, unfortunately, ineligible). 

Reviews posted since the last report