Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Last-Minute BEA Packing & Planning Post

Book Expo America logo
My Book Expo America vacation week starts tomorrow, because my nearly six-hour flight from Burbank, California to New York City departs at 7 AM on Saturday and I'll need more than a few hours between work and bedtime to get ready for it--although, to be honest, I've been in various stages of "getting-ready-ness" for weeks. That's mostly involved shopping--clothes (but no new shoes this year!), personal items, gadgets, and apps for said gadgets. Now I just need to remember to pack it all...but not to pack too much. It's a delicate balance.

Having said that, here are A Few Things I MUST Bring to BEA (and would recommend that you bring, too):

Smartphone. Seriously. I'm an iPhone gal, but despite what my husband believes, there are other viable options. But whatever kind you have, make sure you have a good texting plan and a Twitter app, because they will probably be your main means of communication during BEA week. Other apps worth having: EvernoteBEA Mobile, a good map of the NYC subway system, and AppZilla (which contains dozens of apps in itself--you never know what will turn out to be useful with this one!).

Mophie Juice Pack Air for iPhone 4/4S at Mophie.com
Charger and extra/backup battery for smartphone. Seriously. If your smartphone is your lifeline, you must keep it alive. If you have an iPhone, I cannot recommend the Mophie Juice Pack highly enough--it's an external battery/charger and good-looking protective phone case all in one. Not cheap--the base model Juice Pack Air runs about $80--but worth the money, and probably in stock right now at a nearby electronics retailer or Apple Store, so go get one.
"Rabat" Anti-Gravity shoe at EasySpirit.comComfortable multitasking shoes. Comfortable is a must when it comes to your shoes for BEA; cute is a plus. Having said that, you may not have much time to go back to your hotel to change between that last autographing session at the convention center and that evening publisher's party, so I'd recommend something that won't look out of place anywhere. These were my go-to shoes in NYC last year, and they're going back again this year.

Multitasking clothes, too. Even if you're taking vacation time to attend BEA, it's a business event, and your clothing choices each day you're there should reflect that. You'll want to strike a balance between professional and comfortable. For me, that will most likely mean simple dresses--again, because there may not always be time to change clothes between events, and my personal style is a little old-school, frankly. Having said that, comfort is key, but I think you'll feel more appropriate if you're dressed a little less casually--this really isn't a jeans-and-T-shirts deal, y'all.

Contigo Autoseal BPA-free insulated water bottle
Baggallini Crinkle Hampton Bagg, via The Container StoreReusable, insulated water bottle. It won't take up that much room in your suitcase, and it will help you stay cool and hydrated during a long day on the convention-center floor. It's a plus if it easily clips to a tote bag, because you'll probably be carting one of those around with you all day too. I'll have this one--it'll be my carry-on bag for the airplane, and my carry-around bag in the city. At 20" wide by 12" tall by 7" deep, I think it should hold galleys rather nicely, don't you--especially if the water bottle is outside it?

A light jacket or cardigan. I'm a mom and contractually required to say that. But it might rain and you'll need it outside--or you may be someplace where the A/C is cranked down so low you'll want it inside. Spring weather is an unpredictable thing (back east. Here in Southern California, it's dry and warm and will be like this for months...)

I've found that bloggers are usually pretty generous about sharing their advice and insights about attending conferences like BEA, so I thought I'd highlight excerpts from a few of the posts I've run across this week.

Alexia's Books and Such: Dreaming of BEA
How much or how little you plan is entirely up to you. The first year I attended, I didn't really have a plan. There were a few authors I made sure I hit, but spent the rest of the time wandering around. I stumbled across several really awesome signings, but was upset with myself that I missed one of my favorite authors because I didn't even know she was there. Last year I was determined that I wouldn't miss out again, so came up with a schedule. I made up an excel spreadsheet for every day, complete with the author's name, book title, time, and location for every book that looked interesting. This way, if I couldn't see Author A because there weren't enough copies available, I could get in line for Author B! It was a wonderful plan! Too bad I lost it on Day 2. :( This year I'm not going to be as anal, but will still make up a spreadsheet...I am going to try and schedule downtime as well.

Book Journey: A Guide to BEA--What to bring, wear, do, see, money, etc.
Stretching the dollars!
That first time I was going to BEA a friend of mine here in Brainerd told me “Food is expensive there, you can easily spend $50+ on a meal."  That freaked me out a bit. Well, I can honestly tell you that yes, if you want to go out and have a great New York experience, you certainly can and find high price and meals worth taking pictures of (uhhh…. I have), however I found prices to be not that different from where I live here. Your going out to a nice dinner (without drinks) will cost between $8 and $20. You can also stop and pick up a slice of pizza or a burger for a few bucks… 
In the hotels I stayed in the past two years they had continental breakfast so I would eat there and grab an extra banana or apple for my bag I carried to the Javits Center. The Javits has food available but it is a bit pricey! I would recommend bringing a bottle of water with you and maybe an energy bar or granola. Outside the Javits and not too far walking distance are many restaurants that are nice too for a lunch break and a chance to sit down.

Also – coffee drinkers like me, grab your joe on the way to the Javits… the line that wraps around Starbucks in the early start up hours has been known to be up to a 40 minute wait. Been there.. done that….

Cindy's Love of Books: Going to BEA (Tips)
The displays, booths or other peoples' boxes in shipping. This one might get me into trouble but just because you're at BEA that doesn't entitle you to just take something from a display or box (either a fellow attendees or in a booth or conference room) without permission. Always ask someone before you take something from a booth. Those boxes are sealed for a reason.  
Keep the flow of traffic going. Don't stop in the middle of the aisle to chit chat with friends and start pulling out your books to show what you got. Move to the side if you want to do that. I don't know how many people I bumped into because of that. The aisles aren't that big and you have to remember that there is a lot of people walking around with bags full of books!

Confessions of an IT Girl: 2012 Guide to BookExpo America for BlogWorld Expo Attendees
Use this opportunity to ENGAGE. If you find a book you want, ask to get a card from the publicist or marketer for the house and make sure he or she knows you are a blogger. Generally, authors are accompanied by someone from the publishing company – look for the person opening books to the title page to be signed. Make connections so you can get access to more great content. Believe me, they’ll be happy to meet you. Consider blogging about the books you get – authors are always happy for the support.

From Left to Write Book Club: BEA 2012 Countdown--Tips for Attendees
Bring a tote bag. You’re going to receive a lot of galleys. My first hour at BEA last year, I received over 10 books. Without asking for them. Some of the publishers will giveaway tote bags but they might not be very big or comfortable. No rolling bags are allowed on the expo hall. 
Or bring a rolling suitcase and check it in the luggage check. It costs around $3 a day per bag and you can revisit your bag as often as you want during the day. Stop by periodically and drop your books off in your suitcase. Your back and shoulders will thank you. At the end of the day, just wheel your bag home or to your hotel room. Empty and repeat for the next day. 
Or start a box in the shipping room. The shipping area is basically a huge full of empty boxes. You can claim a box by writing your name on it. Fill it up throughout the week. When it’s full, you fill out the paperwork and pay for shipping. Boxes will be unsupervised, so if you got (a sought-after) signed galley, keep it on your person. Last year the carrier was UPS. Just note that it won’t be cheap because of union rules. Last year there was a surcharge for $25 per box on top of shipping costs. You won’t be allowed to remove the box from the shipping room. Alternately, there is a FedEx location in the Javits as well, but they won’t hold your books for you.

Sassymonkey Reads: My BEA Essentials: What to Pack (and I swear I did NOT read her post before I wrote mine--we just happen to think alike!)
Bandaids - Either you or someone you know will need a bandaid. I come armed with regular bandaids and blister bandaids. I have always needed one, if not both, of them. I have to use bandaids for sensitive skin because I have a sensitivity to some adhesives (fun!) so carrying my own is really a must for me. I also use one of those blister block sticks. They help. A lot. 
An extra duffle bag - Look, whether you are picking up a books at BEA (I picked up more last year than I really intended to) or taking advantage of NYC shopping opportunities (so! many! shoes!), it’s better to not do what I had to do last year. I ended up buying another bag in NYC. I was surprised because I had left room in my luggage but it wasn’t enough. So I’ll do what I did on that trip to San Francisco several years ago grab an extra duffle bag, pack it in my suitcase and hope that I don’t have to use it. (I have had to use it every time I’ve packed it. And that’s ok.) I won’t get caught without enough room this time. (Note: I’m an international traveller so the whole ship your books/purchases back to yourself thing? Doesn’t really work so well for me.)
If you have a favorite piece of BEA-related advice--what to pack, what to wear, what to do when you're there--please drop it in the comments!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Mostly Wordless Wednesday: Congratulations, Class of 2012!

Family portrait, HS@MC Commencement 2012

Graduation night for the High School @ Moorpark College, May 24

Having had dual high-school and college enrollment for the last two years, our Kate is more than ready to continue as a full-time real college students. Congrats and best wishes to her cohort in the Class of 2012, everywhere!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Sunday Salon on Monday: BEA Might NOT Be All About Books...

(Yes, I know, it’s another “Sunday Salon on Monday,” but this is a long holiday weekend in the USA. It’s also the unofficial kick-off of summer. Why are you sitting there reading blog posts?)
The Sunday Salon

At this time next week, many of us will be in New York City carrying out our various agendas for Book Expo America week. For some of us, the biggest attraction is the abundance of galleys and backlist books that publishers can’t wait to share. There will be books on the expo floor, books at conference sessions, books at publisher events on- and off-site--it’s easy to get carried away by the sheer volume of riches, and ship home box upon box of books. 

(On that note, please don't forget this: BEA is a trade show. Those books aren't there just for your review consideration; the main reason they're being promoted is to attract the attention of potential wholesale buyers like bookstores and libraries. Please be considerate of this, and don't be greedy!)

I know I went a little crazy last year at my first BEA--and as I prepare for my second, I’m sobered when I see the books I sent home so enthusiastically in May 2011 that I haven’t yet cracked open in May 2012. Some of those hot new 2011 releases are now coming out in their paperback editions.

That realization is one thing that’s tempered my galley-collecting eagerness for this year’s trip. Knowledge of the book swag that’s likely to be doled out at many of the events surrounding BEA is another factor that will make me less inclined to scoop up galleys on the expo floor.

But honestly? I’ve skimmed the Kirkus Big BEA Book Guide and the Books @ BEA online catalog, and...there aren’t all that many books I want. Too many of the descriptions sound too familiar, and I’m starting to feel like I’ve read a lot of these before, in one form or another; and if I don’t get that feeling, it may be because I didn’t really want to read them in the first place. As a result, my shortlist really IS short. And on the flip side, I haven’t been able to confirm that there will be advance copies available of the one book I know I do want--Michael Chabon’s upcoming Telegraph Avenue, the reason I bought a ticket for the Thursday morning Book & Author Breakfast.

Having said that, chances are I’ll come back with more books than I’m planning to. I’m open to being surprised (hopefully pleasantly).

BEA Bloggers Conference, June 4

Speaking of surprises, one of the plans I thought I had last week has already changed...back to what it was in the first place. I’ll be at the BEA Bloggers Conference all day next Monday instead of splitting the day between it and the Book Blog UNCON. Thanks to the partnership between Armchair BEA and BEA that was announced just a few days ago, I’ll have things to do as part of the Armchair BEA on-site team--which means I’d better be on-site, I suppose!

Whether on-site or off, though, my main agenda for BEA this year really isn’t book-collecting; it’s seeing the friends that I only get to see at this time of year, and getting to meet new friends in person for the first time. I’m arriving in NYC on Saturday afternoon and leaving late in the day on Thursday. There are plans already afoot, but there’s room for more. If you are a schedule-obsessed planner like I am and prefer having things lined up ahead of time, e-mail me this week at 3.rsblog AT Gmail DOT com and let’s discuss a time and place to see each other!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Funny Business: The Shirley-You-Jest Book Awards!

Something funny is going on--the Shirley You Jest! Book Awards are coming! And yes, that name was inspired by just the exchange that you think it was:
AIRPLANE!  (1980)
Rumack: Can you fly this plane, and land it?
Ted Striker: Surely you can't be serious.
Rumack: I am serious... and don't call me Shirley.

The SYJ! Awards will honor books that “bring the funny.” Between June 1 and August 1, authors are invited to submit their works of comedy and humorous fiction and nonfiction for consideration by a panel of independent judges. Four finalists in each category (fiction and nonfiction) will be selected by the end of August, and the four winners (first and second place, fiction and nonfiction) will be announced on November 1, National Authors’ Day. More information about eligibility, submissions, the judging process, and the prizes is in “The Contest” section of the SYJ! website. Please check it out, and feel free to encourage your favorite funny writers to submit to judgment!

They may be submitting to my judgment, actually. I’m excited to share that I’m one of the first-round judges for Nonfiction, and I’m looking forward to some fun and funny reading coming my way this summer...hich I will do my best to review in an appropriately amusing manner.

The Shirley You Jest! Book Awards are presented by Liz D Publicity and Promotions, and I appreciate being invited to participate in them.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Book Talk: *I Am Forbidden*, by Anouk Markovits

cover of I AM FORBIDDEN by Anouk Markovits I Am Forbidden: A Novel
Anouk Markovits
Hogarth (2012), Hardcover (ISBN 0307984737 / 9780307984739)
Fiction, 320 pages
Source: Publisher
Reason for reading: TLC Book Tour

Opening lines: “Light, fast, Zalman’s heels rapped the ground as he ran, naked, down the center aisle of the House of Prayer. His hands reached toward the Torah scroll raised above the altar, but the embroidered mantle slid up and out of sight. The scroll spread open, revealing a passage he had not memorized. There, supine on the black Ashurite script, her long braids undone, was Rachel Landau, the bride of his study partner.”
Book description, from the publisher’s website:I Am Forbidden is a beautifully crafted, emotionally gripping story of what happens when unwavering love, unyielding law, and centuries of tradition collide, and brings to life four generations of one Satmar family.
Opening in 1939 Transylvania, five-year-old Josef witnesses the murder of his family by the Romanian Iron Guard and is rescued by a Gentile maid to be raised as her own son. Five years later, Josef rescues a young girl, Mila, after her parents are killed while running to meet the Rebbe they hoped would save them. Josef helps Mila reach Zalman Stern, a leader in the Satmar community, in whose home Mila is raised as a sister to Zalman’s daughter, Atara. As the two girls mature, Mila’s faith intensifies, while her beloved sister Atara discovers a world of books and learning that she cannot ignore. With the rise of communism in central Europe, the family moves to Paris, to the Marais, where Zalman tries to raise his children apart from the city in which they live.
When the two girls come of age, Mila marries within the faith, while Atara continues to question fundamentalist doctrine. The different choices the two sisters makes force them apart until a dangerous secret threatens to banish them from the only community they’ve ever known.
Comments: Crown/Random House's new Hogarth imprint is the namesake of The Hogarth Press, a publishing company founded in 1917 by Virginia and Leonard Woolf at their home, Hogarth House. Like its predecessor, Hogarth's mission is introducing readers to exciting new voices in literary fiction. Anouk Markovits' first English-language novel, I Am Forbidden, is one of its first four titles.

As eastern Europe is fractured during World War II, the Satmar Rebbe of Transylvania makes a miraculous escape to America and begins building a new community in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York; meanwhile, those of his Transylvanian followers who survive the war are dispersed throughout Europe. Zalman Stern, his wife Hannah, and their growing family end up in Paris, where they are eventually joined by two young orphans. Josef was the only survivor of the brutal murder of his family, rescued and raised as her son by their Christian maid; several years later, Josef rescues Mila after her parents are killed chasing after a train--the very train on which the Satmar Rebbe is leaving. When both children end up in the care of the Sterns, Mila remains with them to be raised as a sister to their eldest daughter, Atara, while Josef is dispatched to Williamsburg to study with the Rebbe himself. Josef and Mila will be reunited a few years later when their marriage is arranged. The Sterns' daughter Atara will find herself on a different path; her curiosity about the secular world surrounding her family in Paris raises questions she is emphatically discouraged from pursuing--but she can't ignore them. While Mila and Josef become more deeply entrenched in the Satmar way of life, Atara will become estranged from it...and ultimately from her family.

The title of I Am Forbidden can be interpreted several ways within the context of the novel. Women in the Satmar sect are forbidden from furthering their educations or working; they have no role outside the family. Their most important job is producing children, and one of their greatest responsibilities related to that job is the preservation of "family purity"--the rules that govern sexual relations between husbands and wives. Sex is for procreation only, and a wife must carefully track her cycles. There are several days each month when her husband is forbidden to touch her; at the end of that time, she partakes in a ritual bath and returns home to give her husband a sign that he is now "permitted" to be with her. This "permitted" time should coincide with her most fertile days, and if all goes well, she won't have "unclean" days again for months; however, pregnancy will make her "forbidden" again. A wife who does not produce children has failed at her job, and after ten years, her husband may divorce her.

It can be hard for a modern woman to understand how any woman in this day and age could accept living like this...which is why it's key to understand that living like this is a deliberate rejection of anything "modern," and can only be perpetuated within a community that chooses to close itself off from the world. Exposure to unsanctioned ideas from the outside can raise questions; questioning can undermine an individual's belief, and individual questioners may ultimately break down a community of believers. Questioning is why Atara Stern had to leave her family behind.

Markovits has Atara leave the story behind along with her family, as the remainder of the novel focuses on Mila. Her story is probably more interesting from the outside because her life is so unfamiliar, but at the same time, the narrowness of Mila's life makes her story more challenging to tell. While Markovits rises to that challenge for the most part, when she tries to take Mila out of her life's confines, the novel takes a turn that I thought was unfortunately soap-operatic. Although I continued to be pulled along by the story, my appreciation for it diminshed a bit over the last third of the book.

Anouk Markovits' writing is lovely, and she has attempted some ambitious storytelling in I Am Forbidden. The novel spans decades and explores a way of life that seems to exist alongside our own time rather than of it. It touches on matters historical, political, and religious while focusing on one family's story. I don't think all of it worked, but I appreciate it when an author reaches the way this one does; and while I didn't find the novel entirely satisfying, I did find it consistently engaging, interesting, and emotionally resonant.

(I should note that my response to the novel is more muted than that of many other readers, who have been praising it highly, so please check out some other opinions on I Am Forbidden.)

Rating: 3.5/5

Other stops on this TLC Book Tour:

TLC Book Tours logo
Monday, May 7th: Unabridged Chick
Tuesday, May 8th: Dolce Bellezza
Wednesday, May 9th: nomadreader
Thursday, May 10th: Life in Review
Friday, May 11th: Peeking Between the Pages
Monday, May 14th: Diary of an Eccentric
Tuesday, May 15th: The Literate Housewife Review
Wednesday, May 16th: Jenn’s Bookshelves
Thursday, May 17th: A Bookish Affair
Monday, May 21st: Raging Bibliomania
Tuesday, May 22nd: Stiletto Storytime
Tuesday, May 29th: Luxury Reading
Monday, June 4th: Suko’s Notebook
Date TBD: Melody & Words
Date TBD: She is Too Fond of Books - guest post

Monday, May 21, 2012

Sunday Salon on Monday: Various Updates Without a Clever Subtitle

I'm writing this post on Sunday, so technically it's not late, but it's not posting until Monday because, as of right now, I've only got one other post scheduled for this week and nothing in draft, so I'm spacing my meager contributions out just a bit.

The Sunday Salon

Most of you know the Book Bloggers' Conundrum well: if you're reading a lot, you're probably not blogging, and vice versa. I've been reading...and I'm current on reviews for blog tours and Shelf Awareness, so that's been worthwhile. My next few reads are books just for myself, which will also be worthwhile. I'm digging into the galleys I brought back from BEA 2011...some of those books are coming out in paperback now, so posts about them will appear sort of timely.

Speaking of BEA...it's just two weeks away! If you're going, you're probably getting psyched and planning your week--I know that's what I'm doing. (And if you're not going, I hope you'll be participating in Armchair BEA!) And thanks to an unexpected resolution to my "Con/Uncon" dilemma, I now know for sure I will be splitting my day on Monday, June 4. I'll start off at the Book Blog UNCON, but I'll be heading over to the Javits Convention Center around noon--and I'll be part of a panel at the BEA Bloggers Conference at 1:45 PM.

BEA Bloggers Conference, June 4

The session title is Critical Reviews: Fine Tuning Your Craft. I'm not really acquainted with the other panel members, but I'm hoping for an enlightening discussion on review-writing that's worth everyone's time. If you're more interested in writing than in monetizing your blog (the other session being offered at the same time), I hope you'll stop by!

But getting back to the Book Bloggers' Conundrum: it's sad to admit this so shortly before I'll be meeting up with lots of fellow bloggers, but reading more books means I've been slacking on blog-reading. I'm hoping that since I'm in deadline-free reading/reviewing zone for the next few weeks, I'll be able to reconnect--and since I've just done some long-overdue culling of my feed reader, I hope that helps too!

Bottlenose.com, a new social-media webapp
Having said that, I need to curtail something that doesn't help: Twitter. Thanks to Klout, I got a beta-invite for a new social-media app called Bottlenose that allows you to follow and post to your Twitter and Facebook streams, in various configurations, all in one place. It's currently a browser-based webapp, but desktop and mobile versions are in the works--and it's reinvigorated my Twitter usage, for better and for worse. (You know both sides too, I'm sure; great interaction, great time suckage.) If you'd like to give it a try, I have 10 invites to share--e-mail me at 3.rsblog AT Gmail dot com if you're interested!

Anyway, I'll be reading a lot and blogging less than a lot for the next couple of weeks. What have you got planned?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday Foto: Cuts Like a Knife

Tall Paul and I made our very first sojourn to the annual Renaissance Pleasure Faire this past weekend, and while we were there, I did something else for the first time. You might think that being one-quarter Sicilian would give me an affinity for handling knives (outside the kitchen). You would be wrong.

Preparing to throw a knife at the Ren Faire
Not the sharpest knife in the drawer, seriously. And I mean the actual knife. Go sit down.

I enhanced the focus on the flying knife to help you see it. I decided not to post the picture where it landed on the ground, along with all the other ones I threw. I totally throw like a girl, but I'll try again next year!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Book Talk: *Domestic Violets*, by Matthew Norman

cover of DOMESTIC VIOLETS by Matthew Norman Domestic Violets: A Novel
Matthew Norman (Twitter)
Harper Perennial (September 2011), Trade paperback original (ISBN 0062065114 / 9780062065117)
Fiction, 352 pages
Source: ARC from publisher, won in a giveaway
Reason for reading: personal

Opening lines:
“I splash cold water on my face.
“This is what men in movies do when they’re about to fly off the handle, when shit is getting out of control. I do this sometimes. I react to things based on what characters in movies would do. That’s kind of ironic, considering I’ve always thought of myself as a book person.
“At least I think it’s ironic. That word gets misused a lot.”
Book description, from the publisher’s website:
Tom Violet always thought that by the time he turned thirty-five, he’d have everything going for him. Fame. Fortune. A beautiful wife. A satisfying career as a successful novelist. A happy dog to greet him at the end of the day. 
The reality, though, is far different. He’s got a wife, but their problems are bigger than he can even imagine. And he’s written a novel, but the manuscript he’s slaved over for years is currently hidden in his desk drawer while his father, an actual famous writer, just won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. His career, such that it is, involves mind-numbing corporate buzzwords, his pretentious archnemesis Gregory, and a hopeless, completely inappropriate crush on his favorite coworker. Oh . . . and his dog, according to the vet, is suffering from acute anxiety. 
Tom’s life is crushing his soul, but he’s decided to do something about it. (Really.)
Comments: One of the characters in Domestic Violets remarks that most first novels are autobiographical. Whether or not they’re autobiographical, it seems to me that a lot of first novels tend to be reminiscent of other people’s novels. That’s not meant to be a knock or to say that they can be derivative; it’s more likely due to the fact that a new author doesn’t have an established record yet, so he or she really can’t be easily evaluated against his own catalog. This can work either for or against first-timers, depending on the connections a reader makes between the new author’s work and other fiction that seems similar--and with Domestic Violets, just about all of my associations were favorable.

I think it’s an interesting comment on how quickly we process current events in the 21st century that Domestic Violets was published in the early autumn of 2011, and its events very specifically take place in the early autumn of 2008. The presidential election and the spread of the Great Recession both influence what’s happening to Tom Violet. Having said that, Domestic Violets isn’t about either of those events; as its rather punny title implies, this novel is firmly located in the domestic-fiction sphere. Its concerns--marital strains, friction between parents and adult children, career dissatisfaction--are everyday and entirely relatable, although in most everyday lives they’re not as funny.

The humor runs high in Domestic Violets, as narrator/protagonist Tom Violet relies on it as a coping mechanism for the chaos of his life. He’s just worked up the nerve to show people the novel he’s been working on secretly for five years, while his world-famous novelist father has finally won the Pulitzer Prize--and moved into his spare bedroom. He and his wife Anna are in what’s best described as a “rough patch,” and his attraction to his young coworker isn’t helping smooth that out. The attractive coworker, and the amusement of an ongoing feud with a much less attractive coworker, may be his primary reasons for going to the office each day, because the work holds almost no attraction at all. Things are pretty clearly on the verge of falling apart...and they do, quite entertainingly. Seeing how Tom picks up the pieces is quite entertaining as well.

As I mentioned earlier, Domestic Violets reminded me of several other novels and novelists--all favorably. Matthew Norman’s style is his own, but his approach to some aspects of the novel reminded me of Jonathan Tropper and Greg Olear, while some of the work-oriented sections brought to mind Joshua Ferris’ Then We Came to the End. But Norman’s depictions of the domestic misadventures of literary people, particularly in the later portions of the novel, most made me think of Michael Chabon’s second novel, Wonder Boys. Chabon’s one of my very favorite authors, and Wonder Boys is my favorite of his books, so my connecting Domestic Violets with it is a very good thing for Matthew Norman and the future of our reading relationship.

Rating: 4 of 5

Other reviews, via the Book Blogs Search Engine

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"Are You Mom Enough?" Yes. No, Maybe. (Graded on a curve?)

(I rescheduled a book review from today to Thursday because I wanted to put on my mom-blogger hat before last week's news literally becomes "last week's news.")

I really wasn’t sure if I’d make a response to last week’s sensational TIME magazine cover for its feature on attachment parenting, but the more I read other people’s responses to it, the more I realized I did have some thoughts of my own to add to the many thousands of words already spilled over it.

For those who might somehow have missed this, here’s the cover:

TIME Magazine cover re: attachment-parenting feature

The people on the cover are LA mom blogger Jamie Lynne Grumet and her almost-4-year-old son...who does, in fact, still breastfeed. I haven’t met Jamie Lynne in person, but she is one of my fellow contributors at Moms LA and has done some very thoughtful, articulate writing on attachment parenting (including extended breastfeeding) and adoption on her blog I Am Not the Babysitter.

I’ve been a mother for almost my entire adult life (and now approaching 60% of my entire life, period)--my son is a year or so older than Jamie Lynne. I’ve seen a lot of child-raising practices come and go, and I’ve heard some of the same debates go on for decades, believe it or not. There were “lactivists” back in the ‘80s. There were “family bed” advocates and baby-wearers. There probably weren’t as many of them, but I’ve come across them throughout my years as a parent. And the further I get from raising young children, the more of them there seem to be.

One of the things that’s impressed me about Jamie Lynne is that she firmly believes in what she’s doing as a mother, but she also consistently expresses support and lack of judgment for those who don’t do the same. She hasn't struck me as the combative know-it-all "mommier-than-thou" sort who would pose a question like the one TIME uses on its cover

I understand that TIME chose that particular photo and designed that cover for provocation (and Jamie Lynne had to be aware that there was a chance they’d use that photo as they did when she and her son posed for it). I think they knew what buttons it would push, and I’m sure they knew that mothers ask themselves that question over and over...no matter how old their kids are.

I didn’t nurse my son. His father and I almost never let him into bed with us, although we took him plenty of other places. He was frequently with his grandparents while his father and I finished our college degrees, and I’ve worked full-time outside the home since he was three years old. I let him cry. By attachment-parenting standards, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t even close to being “mom enough.” Having said that, if I started all over again tomorrow, I probably still wouldn’t be “mom enough,” because I’d do--and not do--a lot of the same things. My focus wasn’t really on my son’s experience of childhood...or on my own experience of parenthood. I was always aware that he wouldn’t stay a child, and considered my job to be raising him to be a functional, contributing member of adult society.

By most objective standards, he’s there--a college graduate with a solid career, a thriving side job, and a variety of interests who lives independently. By more subjective standards, I think he’s there too--he’s smart and funny and caring and principled, and I genuinely like the person he’s become. (And most of the time, I’m pretty sure he likes me.)

I think the ultimate verdict on whether a parent is “enough” isn’t rendered until years down the road, but I think I may have been. In any case, I was mom "enough" to refill my empty nest and take some of the nitty-gritty of motherhood on again when my son was 21...and I became stepmother to my new husband's daughter and son, then 12 and 7. There's a whole different calibration of "enough" that goes with that job.

There’s more to this story than a provocative question on a magazine cover (a question which, for the record, is fairly loosely related to the content within), so I wanted to highlight a few of the responses from within Jamie Lynne’s Moms LA community; they’ve ranged from deeply personal reactions and impassioned defenses to considered questioning of blogger motivations and concerns about the photo’s future effects on her young son.

At MomsLA:
Dear TIME Magazine: Working Moms Can Attachment Parent Too
Attachment Parenting: How I Made It Work For Me

Ciaran @ Momfluential: Are Mommy Bloggers a Bunch of Boobs?
“...If lactivist wasn’t her brand yesterday, I sure as hell hope it will be her brand tomorrow. Because she has been made the face of this controversy, along with her 3 yr old son. The world will move along to the next willing 'model' without her if she doesn’t use her words well. They probably will even if she does. Models are ultimately interchangeable...
"This is just my opinion, but Brand and Media 'ops' like this and so many more are starting to feel like bad boyfriends. More and more bloggers are being motivated by the scraps of addictive fame that these pimps are peddling. This addiction to attention is dangerous. It runs the risk of undermining all the wonderful other things they do. And for what? 40 dubious comments about how pretty we are?
"Five minutes of fame and fluffing is not enough!”
Shannon @ The Woman Formerly Known As Beautiful: In Defense of My Friend Jamie Lynne Grumet: TIME Magazine's Breastfeeding Cover Girl
I think TIME did Jamie a disservice by photographing her in an unnatural position in a calculatedly provocative pose in order to sell magazines. The woman on the cover – while as stunningly beautiful as the real Jamie – doesn’t reflect the inclusive, intelligent, wise-beyond-her-years, loving, nurturing, non-judgmental woman I know who would never have authored the headline 'Are You Mom Enough?'"
Kristen @ Rage Against the Minivan: where is the mommy-war for the motherless child?
"I don’t much care if you breastfed your kid until they started kindergarten, or if you fed them formula from day one. I don’t really care if you turned your infant car-seat forward-facing prior to age 2, or if you homeschool, or if you send your kids to daycare while you go to work. Do you cosleep? Did you circumcise your son? I DON’T CARE.  Do you babywear? Push your kid around in a stroller? Use a leash for your kid at Disneyland?  Whatever.  Good for you. 
"When it comes to issues of motherhood, there is one issue I care about: some kids don’t have one. All of these petty wars about the choices of capable, loving mothers is just a lot of white noise to me, Quite honestly, I’m often astonished at the non-essential parenting issues I see moms getting their panties in a wad about. Particularly when there are so many kids in this world not being parented at all."
Deborah @ BetweenParents.org: TIME and time again...
"A school administrator who’s a friend of mine talks regularly about appreciating diversity in our culture and on the school yard. She’s referring to parents who have gossiped relentlessly about the way other people raise their children. The gossip and name-calling damaged our small community. People were put in the position of picking sides on issue after issue. A lot of bad feelings went back and forth. We see this over and over with the media-manufactured 'Mommy Wars.' I know a lot of us who write and blog are trying not to enter the mudslinging fray."
Morgan @ The818.com: “Mommy Wars”: An argument around us, about us, but not between us
"I read a LOT about parenting and motherhood. I read books, and articles, and research papers, and blog posts. I read the views of mothers and children and MD’s and Ph.D.’s, and the only common thread I see is the one where this argument, this battle…these MOMMY WARS? Nobody is fighting them. When it comes to Mothers, WE ARE ALL ON THE SAME SIDE."

Cheryl MommypantsAre we mom enough?

Sunshine Wonderland: I am mom enough, Time.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sunday Salon: A Books Report

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the American moms! If your wish for the day is some quality time alone with a book and your preferred beverage, I hope your family gifts you with that.

The Sunday Salon

Since my March NaBloPoMo adventure ended, my posting frequency here has dropped to about three times a week, and I’ve gotten surprisingly comfortable with that. However, I’ve just realized it’s been about six weeks since I last did a Reading Status Report...and so, a Sunday Salon post is born!

"Bookkeeping" feature logo by www.3rsblog.com

Reviews posted since the last report:
cover of THE GOOD FATHER by Noah Hawleycover of LET'S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED by Jenny Lawsoncover of LITTLE PRINCES by Conor Grennancover of BATTLE HYMN OF THE TIGER MOTHER by Amy Chua

Upcoming reviews:
Domestic Violets, by Matthew Norman
I Am Forbidden: A Novel, by Anouk Markovits (TLC Book Tour)
The Chaperone, by Laura Moriarty (TLC Book Tour)
Drowned, by Therese Bohman (originally for Shelf Awareness)

Posts about bookish events:

New arrivals in TBR Purgatory: 
Note: my last Bookkeeping post went up while I was still on my Lenten book-buying ban, so you’ll see I’ve made up for some lost time!

Undone, by Melissa Coleman  (which I will try to read before I see Kim at BEA in three weeks! Also: just three weeks till BEA!)

For review consideration:
An Uncommon Education: A Novel, by Elizabeth Percer
I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag: A Memoir of a Life Through Events--the Ones You Plan and the Ones You Don't, by Jennifer Gilbert

This bookish bounty is partly responsible for my reduced blogging activity, although it will eventually give me plenty to blog about! What are you reading, or blogging about, today?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

At the movies: *The Avengers*

Avengers movie teaser poster/wallpaper download

Marvel’s The Avengers
Action/adventure, SF/fantasy (2012)
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, and Mark Ruffalo
Written by Joss Whedon and Zak Penn
Directed by Joss Whedon

Synopsis, via RottenTomatoes.com:
Marvel Studios presents Marvel's The Avengers-the Super Hero team up of a lifetime, featuring iconic Marvel Super Heroes Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye and Black Widow. When an unexpected enemy emerges that threatens global safety and security, Nick Fury, Director of the international peacekeeping agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D., finds himself in need of a team to pull the world back from the brink of disaster. Spanning the globe, a daring recruitment effort begins. -- (C) Marvel
When The Avengers ended, I told Tall Paul “I could watch this movie two or three more times!” And that’s a good thing, because I probably will. I saw it the day after it opened, and there’s an excellent chance I’ll be seeing it again next weekend. You may have heard that this movie broke all sorts of opening-weekend records, and if you had any interest at all in seeing it, you may already have (at least once). And if you haven’t--well, don’t wait for this to come out on DVD or Netflix to see it for the first time. It’s one of those big-ticket, big-budget movies that warrants a big-screen experience.

The build-up to The Avengers has gone on for years, as most of its central characters were introduced in movies of their own. We’ve already seen the origins of Iron Man (two movies, one great, one...not as great), the Hulk (two movies, neither good), Thor (one movie, OK but unremarkable), and Captain America (one movie, surprisingly good), so not much time is lost on explaining them here. Then again, we don’t get a lot of backstory on Black Widow and Hawkeye, the two characters who haven’t had their own features, either.

Having said that, a newbie still shouldn’t have too much trouble making sense of who’s who and who does what--these characters have to get to know each other, which provides a means for the viewer to get to know them as well. And even if you do already know them, you’ll see them from different perspectives here, and for me, that was one of the most interesting aspects of the movie. Tony Stark is still more interesting than his alter ego Iron Man and gets many of the best lines, but in this context, his--well, let’s call them his less-socially-acceptable personality traits--seem more pronounced. The personality contrast is strongest between him and Captain America, Steve Rogers; “Cap” isn’t just a “super soldier,” he’s a really decent guy (and I understand even better now why he’s my husband’s favorite superhero). The Hulk really doesn’t have a personality--he’s a giant two-year-old tantrum--and that may be part of why his movies didn’t turn out so well, but Dr. Bruce Banner’s struggles with that inner green monster helped give him a pretty interesting one. Thor doesn’t have a ton of personality either--being a god doesn’t necessarily allow for inner complexity, I suppose--but he’s not hard to look at. However, Thor does have a rather problematic brother, Loki, and as the villainous catalyst for bringing this team together, he does an excellent job (I wanted to punch him almost every time he showed up).

It take a while to bring the team that would become the Avengers together, and they don’t exactly bond right away; the scenes where they hash things out with one another, verbally and physically, are some of the most entertaining in the movie. Once they do figure out how to work together, they do make a very effective team, but I get a sense that’s what they are: a team, not a family. These are not the Super Friends. (Yeah. I know, the Super Friends are DC characters, not Marvel--just trying to make a point. Go sit down, Comic Book Guy.)

The character development works, the story held my interest (although I really feel like the movie could be about fifteen minutes shorter) and the dialogue is sharp--Tony Stark gets many of the best lines, but not all of them. The Avengers doesn’t transcend the comic-book-movie genre, but it does show how well it can be done, thanks to co-writer and director Joss Whedon. Seeing what the creator of Buffy, Angel, Firefly, and Dr. Horrible would do with some of Marvel’s most prominent characters may have been at least as big a draw for some of those opening-weekend moviegoers as the characters themselves. He did well. I’m excited about seeing just how well a couple more times.

Disclosure: My family and I purchased our own tickets to see Marvel's The Avengers at the ArcLight Cinema.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

So Christopher Moore wrote a book about the color blue...

...and this is its very artistic cover. (It's actually just part of the cover--it's wrapped in a half-jacket that the author calls a "censor band.*")

cover of SACRE BLEU: A COMEDY D'ART by Christopher Moore

I haven't read it yet, but Tall Paul and I went to Vroman's Bookstore a couple of weeks ago to listen to him talk about it.

Christopher Moore at Vroman's Bookstore, 4/28/2012

He didn't read from it--Christopher Moore never reads at a "reading"--but he had plenty to say about the book and the research that went into it. This is his first work of serious historical fiction; although Moore has wandered in that direction before, with Lamb and Fool, he's dealt with topics that are short on documented history and has been able to make up a lot of the details around a pre-existing framework. His preparations for writing Sacre Bleu turned up so much information that his "novel about the color blue" morphed into an art-history novel about the French Impressionist movement. Since he couldn't possibly work everything he'd learned into the novel, he's put much of his nearly four years of research about painting and painters into an online chapter guide.

What makes Sacre Bleu "serious" historical fiction is the fact that Christopher Moore seriously researched it--Christopher Moore does not write "serious fiction." The novel is subtitled (in a very bad pun) "A Comedy d'Art," and I expect a good amount of comedy from it. And having been to one of his author events before, I expected a good amount of comedy at his appearance at Vroman's too. He did not disappoint.

Christopher Moore at Vroman's Bookstore, 4/28/2012

Vroman's was one of the last events on Moore's book tour, so he had some stories from earlier stops to share with the standing-room-only crowd in addition to anecdotes about the research for, writing of, and arguments over the cover for Sacre Bleu, and he kept us laughing for forty-five minutes before he went on to sign books for at least that long afterwards. Vroman's has adopted the policy that attendees at their signings must purchase at least one copy of the featured book on-site, but Moore was willing to sign as many additional books as people wanted. Since we got our copy of Lamb signed the last time we saw him, we just brought up the new one.

Christopher Moore at Vroman's Bookstore, 4/28/2012

author inscription on SACRE BLEU title page, 4/28/12

*Cover revealed--no pun intended--for those who wonder why it needs a "censor band":

Uncovered cover of SACRE BLEU by Christopher Moore

I was a little disappointed by the last book of Christopher Moore's that I read, to be honest, but now that I know he wrote the entire thing while researching this one, I'm a bit more understanding. I get the impression (no pun intended) that he was very engrossed with Sacre Bleu, and I hope that I will be too!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Sunday Salon: A sneak peek at Armchair BEA 2012!

ArmchairBEA.comThe Sunday Salon.com

(Updated to correct a major grammar error in the post title, which will unfortunately live on in the permalink--color my face red, y'all!)

When we started Armchair BEA in 2010, we had such a great time with it that all of us on the organizing team vowed that even if we had the opportunity to go to the real BEA, we'd still want to Armchair. This year, four of us--Danielle, Emily, Pam, and I--will be in New York City during that first week of June, but that doesn't mean we're any less committed to making Armchair BEA the best it's ever been! Meanwhile, Chris, Michelle, and Tif will be keeping everything rolling along from their respective armchairs computers throughout the week--those Twitter parties don't host themselves, you know!

Speaking of Twitter parties: there will be three of them this year, on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday! Details will be announced next week...and sign-ups for this year's event open tomorrow at Armchair BEA Central, so make sure you're there! Besides the Twitter parties, there will be themes to fuel your blogging every day of the week, with link-ups to make it easy to visit other Armchair-ers; guest posts; on-site updates from our team members in NYC; giveaways; and more. Here's a quick peek at the plans, which are posted in advance so you can prep and schedule your posts. That'll give you more time to visit other players during the big event!

Monday, June 4: Introductions First!
The interview swaps have been one of most popular features of Armchair BEA, but there's just not enough time to visit all the participants. This year we're changing it up with self-interviews; we'll ask you to post your answers to five questions we'll be providing, and then to visit as many participant blogs as you can.

Tuesday, June 5: "Best of" Giveaways Everywhere!
Tuesday is Armchair BEA's big Giveaway Day! If you're hosting a giveaway for Armchair BEA-goers on your own site, this is the day to post about it and link it up! And if you're not hosting a giveaway, share some of your favorite books so far this year, and/or the the books being promoted at BEA that you hope will end up among your favorites for the year!

Wednesday, June 6: Networking...In Real Life?!
On Wednesday, Armchair BEA-goers will be invited to share a positive "real life" experience with books and other people who love them: your own partnership with a bookstore or library in your community, a book signing you went to, or a get-together with fellow book bloggers. Armchair BEA Central will host guest posts from our team members Emily of Emily's Reading Room, Tif from Tif Talks Books and Pam from Bookalicious about how they've worked with their local bookish communities.

Thursday, June 7: Beyond the Blog
Blogging's not an end in itself for some folks.Thursday's topic is "getting beyond your blog" --writing for other sites, making your blog pay, and making online connections outside the book-blog community. I'll be the day's guest blogger at Armchair BEA Central, talking about freelance writing (you know, that thing that's caused me not to post here so frequently...).
Friday, June 8: The Future of Book Blogging
On the final day of Armchair BEA, we'll be sharing tips on keeping book blogging exciting and unique to your vision for your blog. The theme is "Ask the Experts"--post your burning questions and/or best advice for your fellow book bloggers, link up, and visit other Armchairers! Armchair BEA Central will feature a guest post from Pam at Bookalicious with her views on the future of blogging.

Will you be joining us for Armchair BEA 2012? Come on, say yes! And since you're signing up, maybe you could "like" Armchair BEA on Facebook, too?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

At the Festival of Books: A Conversation with John Green

The organizers of 2012 LA Times Festival of Books knew exactly what they were doing when they teamed John Green and Lev Grossman “in conversation.” The two authors had a bit of a mutual-admiration-society thing going on. Grossman’s Time Magazine review of Green’s latest young-adult novel, The Fault in Our Stars (my “book of the year-so-far”), described it as “damn near genius,” and he really nailed it with this observation:
“One doesn’t like to throw around phrases like ‘instant classic’ lightly, but I can see The Fault in Our Stars taking its place alongside Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret in the young-adult canon. Green’s book is also a good example of why so many adult readers are turning to young-adult literature for the pleasures and consolations they used to get from conventional literary fiction.”
Although the YA section is overrun with paranormal activity these days, writers like John Green are preserving a place for realistic, contemporary fiction for and about teens--and building it into a place where adult readers also want to be. Having said that, the audience for this session definitely skewed toward the 25-and-under demographic, as Green was greeted by the eager screams of the fangirls and -boys who call themselves “Nerdfighters.” I had a first-row seat for this panel (thanks to the early arrival of Amy and Danielle, who saved one for me), so I had an excellent view of the proceedings, but I may have been less deserving of it than many others in the auditorium.

Most of the discussion, unsurprisingly, centered on The Fault in Our Stars. The original inspiration for the novel was Green’s post-college stint as a student chaplain at a children’s hospital, where he was usually on call for trauma patients and their families. When he wasn’t actively ministering, he wandered around the floors, talking to patients and joining them playing video games. The chaplaincy ended after a few months, and Green’s time in divinity school didn’t last much longer either, but he knew he wanted to write about the kids he’d met in the hospital...eventually. The catalyst that took him from “eventually” to “write now” was the friendship he developed with Esther, a young cancer patient he met at a Harry Potter convention in 2008.

A significant part of The Fault in Our Stars revolves around another book. Green’s narrator Hazel is obsessed with a novel called An Imperial Affliction; at one point, he considered having his book be Hazel’s own sequel to it, which would be called The Sequel. Although he ultimately went in another direction, he kept the book-within-a-book structure; there’s a tradition of that as a device in the “star-crossed-romance-with-disease-as-an-obstacle” that he knew he wanted to write.

There’s less of a tradition of video games within that type of story, but they’re a big part of Green’s story too. This led into a discussion about narrative structures in video games, and the authors’ observation that conflicts between high culture (books) and low (games) seem less pronounced when writing for teens, who may be more open to story conveyed in multiple forms because they move between them more readily than adult readers do.

Although Grossman was listed as the “interviewer” in the Festival of Books program, this really was a “conversation” between him and Green--and the audience was part of it too, beyond the official Q&A portion. John Green told us that he hasn’t found writing YA at all limiting and has no real interest in writing outside the niche he’s currently in, and over a thousand readers in the theater--not all young adults, but all appreciative of great realistic fiction--were very happy to hear that.

Also: Fellow Moms LA contributor Deborah Stambler was at this panel too, and shares her impressions of the conversation and her crush on John Green

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Shelf Awareness Book Talk: *Let's Pretend This Never Happened*, by Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess)

A version of this review was previously published in Shelf Awareness for Readers (4/27/2012).

book cover LET'S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED by Jenny Lawson
Let's Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir)
Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess) (Twitter) (Facebook)
Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam (2012) Hardcover (ISBN 0399159010 / 9780399159015)
Nonfiction/memoir, 336 pages
Source: ARC from publisher
Reason for reading: compensated review

Opening lines (from the Introduction): "This book is totally true, except for the parts that aren’t. It’s basically like Little House on the Prairie but with more cursing. And you’re thinking ‘But Little House on the Prairie was totally true!' And no, I’m sorry, but it wasn’t. Laura Ingalls was a compulsive liar with no fact-checker, and if she were still alive today, her mom would be saying, ‘I don’t know how Laura came up with this “I’m-a-small-girl-from-the-prairie” story.’” 

When Jenny Lawson was little, all she ever wanted was to fit in. That dream was cut short by her fantastically unbalanced father (a professional taxidermist who created dead-animal hand puppets) and a childhood of wearing winter shoes made out of used bread sacks. It did, however, open up an opportunity for Lawson to find the humor in the strange shame spiral that is her life, and we are all the better for it.Lawson’s long-suffering husband and sweet daughter are the perfect comedic foils to her absurdities, and help her to uncover the surprising discovery that the most terribly human moments-the ones we want to pretend never happened-are the very same moments that make us the people we are today.
CommentsJenny Lawson has inhabited the upper reaches of Internet fame as The Bloggess for some time. With her first book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir), she draws and expands on the persona she’s honed on her very popular blog while crafting a narrative that’s entirely accessible to those getting to know her for the first time in print. Lawson is gifted at exaggeration for comic effect, and her stories will induce laughing and cringing in equal measure.

While some of the material in the book may be familiar to Lawson’s online readers--such as “And That’s Why You Should Learn to Pick Your Battles,” the story of her purchase of a giant sheet-metal chicken that she christens Beyonce--much of it is stories she hasn’t shared before. Readers will learn about Lawson’s rural West Texas childhood, with her dad’s taxidermy shop in the back yard; how she met and married the famously long-suffering Victor; her rather unlikely career in human resources with a faith-based organization; and her ultimate decision that her daughter deserved a crazy country childhood, too...complete with taxidermied animals.

Lawson has written openly and honestly on her blog about her nearly-crippling social anxiety and sense of inappropriateness. In Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, she elaborates on the ways that the Internet has helped her deal with that; the chapter “Making Friends With Girls” is certain to connect with her core audience, but will resonate with anyone who’s struggled with fitting in (which means just about everyone). This condition probably means that Lawson would never have had a career in stand-up comedy, but the stage’s loss is the literary world’s gain, and the Internet will need to share this seriously funny writer with everyone else now.

Rating: 4/5