Category Archives: About me

100 Books!

I did it, with not even an hour left to spare!

Whew. I wasn’t sure I’d make it as I spent the entire day finishing up the half dozen books I had started.

For 2010, I’m going to try to read 50 books as the 100 books was a little too ambitious and it caused me to reconsider thicker books I really wanted to read.

Happy New Year!

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100 books in 2009 progress, etc.

Life has been insanely busy. I have barely had time to read because when I’m not busy writing, (meaning I have somehow been convinced or pulled by force away from the laptop), I am attending to household/family/life duties.

I did not “win” Nanowrimo this year, but that’s okay. I’ve got a good start on another novel so I’m content.

I don’t know if I’ll make it to 100 books this year. I am on book #86 right now, I believe. This is still the most books I’ve read in one year and it has been such a rewarding experience that I intend to do it again in 2010. I’ve already got quite a list going, (my 2009 list of books to read extends far beyond 100). Did you read any this year that you recommend to me for 2010? If you also took on this challenge, how are you doing?

Who is going to join me in challenging themselves to read more next year? It doesn’t have to be 100 books – it could be 75, 50, 25, or even 1 book a month. Whatever you like! Leave a comment if you’ll be joining me and if there’s enough interest, maybe I’ll do something special like create a cute graphic to post on your blog.

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Food in Fiction

The book that really hooked me on reading was The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Our second grade teacher sat in a rocking chair as we assembled ourselves on the rug at her feet, and she read it to us. I felt transported to Narnia and part of me wanted to believe in magic wardrobes, even though I was already old enough to have begun doubting in such things.

I didn’t learn of the religious symbolism until I was an adult, and had already read the book repeatedly many times without suspecting such a thing. I’m glad I didn’t know of it. It seems to me it would have spoiled the magic of the story.

Now I’m reading this book to my boys, one chapter each night. I tell them to lay in their beds and close their eyes as I read it. Imagination is so much better than Hollywood made movies, if you ask me.

When I got to the part where Edmund was stuffing his face with Turkish Delight, my boys were intrigued and it brought a smile to my face. This too, was one of my favorite parts. When my teacher read that book to me, I had no idea what Turkish Delight was, and I still haven’t had the opportunity to try it, but I’ll be darned if I didn’t feel my mouth fill with saliva at the mention of it.

To this day, I remain highly susceptible to craving foods mentioned in the books I read. If a character is enjoying a glass of red wine, even though I don’t often drink, I find myself wanting one, too. Sometimes, if I have the food on hand, I’ll interrupt my reading to go get it before continuing. If I don’t have it on hand, I’ll usually make it and eat it within a few days. One of my favorite books, Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel had me constantly craving, (and thankfully included recipes for the luscious meals described.)

Right now I’m reading a book called For Grace Received by Valeria Parrella, (translated from Italian by Antony Shugaar.) It contains four stories that take place in Naples. The writing is incredibly unique. Some lines are so alive with imagery, some are such clever metaphors, that I have to stop and re-read them a few times and really savor them. In one of the stories, the characters lunch on macaroni frittatas. I didn’t know what those were but it didn’t stop me from wanting one. Now you know what I’ll be making for dinner sometime this coming week.

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African-American History Month Book Giveaway

***CONTEST CLOSED. WINNERS SELECTED!***

Thanks to everyone who entered. I saw a lot of new names and appreciate all the beautiful things that were shared in comments. I hope you all will come back again for future giveaways. I wish I could say everyone wins, but I can choose only three. In the interests of keeping things totally fair, I used Random.org to select the winners. I enter everyone’s names in the order in which they commented. Random.org scrambles that list and the names it gives me in the #1, #2, and #3 slots are my winners.

Those winners are:

  1. Alyson
  2. Martha Lawsosn
  3. Alyce

contestwin

Congratulations! Winners will be contacted via E-mail for their shipping address so their prize can be sent. Thanks again to all who entered and to the ever generous Hachette Book Group for making this possible.

***

When I was a child, “African-American History Month” was called “Black History Month”… I guess they changed it to be politically correct.

Most of my classmates hated history class in the month of February. In February each year, we read the same stories we had read the year before about Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, George Washington Carver. The hallway bulletin boards were always a strange mix of Valentine hearts and African American heroes.

Our town was like many small, suburban towns, with very few minority families. We ignorantly wondered aloud, “Why do black people get their own month? White people don’t have a month!” … A brave black classmate named James once replied, “Sure you do. In fact, you got eleven of ’em.”

I’m sure at the time we didn’t appreciate the depth of what our classmate James had said, but years later I would remember it and realize that from that young age, he was already seeing the world differently than his white classmates. Now I think back on “Black History Month” and try to see it through James’ eyes, and the eyes of the other minority kids at our school. It must have felt good to finally turn to those hidden chapters in the History text book and hear the teacher speak with admiration of those more familiar faces.

And today, how far we’ve come. Children no longer have to wait for February’s history class. Today, they can pick up a newspaper or turn on the T.V., and see history writing itself before their very eyes.

In honor of “African-American History Month”, in honor of those past, present and future who will be read about in history books for years to come, Hachette Book Group, has asked if I would like to host a book giveaway.

giveaway

Here are the prizes:

Each winner will receive a copy of each of the following books:

1. The American Journey of Barack Obama By The Editors of Life Magazine
2. Fledgling By Octavia Butler
3. Stand the Storm By Breena Clarke
4. Red River By Lalita Tademy
5. Keep the Faith: A Memoir By Faith Evans
6. Say You’re One of Them By Uwem Akpan
7. The Shack By William Young
8. The Bishop’s Daughter By Tiffany Warren

That’s 8 books!

Here are the rules:

1. Leave your name and valid E-mail address in the comments. (You do not need to put your E-mail address in the actual comment – in the E-mail field is good enough. I just need to be able to contact you in case you are a winner.) One entry per household.

2. In your comment, tell me anything relevant to this topic. It can be a memory of Black History Month, (as I have shared), a personal story of race relations, your hopes for the future, etc.

3. I will choose 3 winners. Each winner will receive all 8 books.

4. United States and Canada only, please. You must be able to provide a shipping address for your prize when I contact you via E-mail. No P.O. Boxes allowed. You also grant me permission to share your address with Hachette Book Group – (they send the prize directly.) Your name, E-mail address and shipping address will not be used for anything else.

5. Contest ends Sunday, February 15th, 2009. Winners will be announced on this same blog post and contacted via E-mail Monday, February 16th, 2009.

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Old-School Ways to Remember Stuff

ibeforee There is so much to love about this book by Judy Parkinson. It’s called i before e (except after c) – old-school ways to remember stuff
. First let me say, I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but as a book lover, I love the design of this book. It has an old fashioned feel to it, and it looks gorgeous on the book shelf, (though you’ll constantly be pulling it down to read.)

As someone with a poor memory, I am a sucker for mnemonic devices. I love them and without them I would be lost. How can I remember the cardinal directions without my teacher’s voice echoing in my mind “Never, Eat, Shredded, Wheat.” (North, East, South, West.) … Or the order of the planets without, “My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas” (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto… except I learned this back in the 1980’s. I don’t know what Pluto’s status is these days.)

What about in music class? “Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge” helped me to memorize the notes. In 7th grade when I kept misspelling desert as dessert, a classmate told me, “Remember it this way – You would only want to walk through a desert once, so one ‘s’ – but dessert you would want to eat twice, so two ‘s’s.”

My father taught me how to use a screw driver when I was a kid, saying “Lefty Loose-y, Righty Tight-y”, (and I still say this to myself before I turn a screw.)

These little tricks were invaluable to me, and they still are. I often make them up for various things I want to remember. I do it with neigbbor’s names, mental lists of things I need to do, and I use them when I help my kids with their homework.

Needless to say – I absolutely love this book, and I learned a lot of new tricks. This book would make a great gift for anyone who loves words or facts, or needs help remembering things. It also makes a very nice gift for older kids all the way up to adults.

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A skeptic’s adventures in Narnia

I’m reading a book right now by Laura Miller called, The Magician’s Book: A skeptic’s adventures in Narnia. I’m not far into it but already I’m blown away by how much she and I have in common.

Like me, Miller read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis in second grade. Like me, she was unaware of the Christian symbolism until she was much older, but was instead drawn into the land of Narnia and has ever since been an avid reader.

As an adult, Miller returns to Narnia not only in search of how it shaped the person she has become but to take a critical look at the author, C.S. Lewis.

A great read for anyone who enjoys C.S. Lewis and desires to know more about him as a person and author, as well as anyone who has returned to a favorite childhood book to try to recapture the magic.

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Summer Reads

I’ve got a stack of books I’m reading this summer. Some I’ve started, some I’ve finished, and some are still untouched, but it’s not even July, so that’s okay.

God’s Middle Finger: Into the Lawless Heart of the Sierra Madre by Richard Grant.

I originally picked this book up for research purposes. I was writing a story about a man who gets lost in the desert between Mexico and California, and so I thought it would be interesting to read a first hand account of what that general region is like. Well, I got more than I bargained for because this book was fantastic.

The author, Richard Grant, a British journalist, developed what he calls an “unfortunate fascination” with this region. He traveled the Sierra Madre as an “outsider” and a “gringo”, ignoring the warnings of those who told him it was a death sentence. Some of the characters he meets up with include drug smugglers, Indians, murderers, marijuana and opium farmers, folk healers, corrupt policemen, pistol toting children, and surprisingly, a gay man who makes a good living planning quincea├▒eras.

This is a good book for those who like travel non-fiction, fantastic writing and hilarious dark humor.

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama.

You can say I’m being biased simply because I support this man for President, but I’m telling you in all honesty and from an objective point of view, this is one of the most engaging and well written books I’ve ever read.

Barack Obama is an incredibly gifted writer, finding the perfect balance between insight, intellect and the ability to weave together a story that is both poignant and perceptive.

One may wonder how a Caucasian reading this book can relate to the struggle and confusion of a bi-racial man, but the seeking of identity and desire to “belong” while staying true to oneself are universal rights of passage.

Reading this book that at times focuses heavily on race, only affirmed for me that human beings are more alike than different.

¡Caramba! A Tale Told in Turns of the Cards by Nina Maria Martinez.

This one I have yet to read but when I do crack it open, it’ll be while laying in the hammock with a margarita. Here’s the description:

Welcome to Lava Landing, population 27,454, a town just this side of Mexico, where Miss Magma reigns and rockabilly and mariachi music are king. Enter our protagonists, Natalie and Consuelo, self-described “like-minded individuals.” They spend their days at The Big Cheese Plant and their nights at The Big Five-Four, the hottest spot in town. But they have long-term projects, foremost among them to cure Consuelo of her unreasonable fear of public transportation and long car rides so they can finally take Natalie’s 1963 Cadillac convertible on the road trip it deserves.

Sounds kind of like a Spanglish Thelma and Louise. Weird? Maybe, but I like it. I have to admit the cover is what got me to pick this one up, but skimming through the the first few pages had me stifling laughter in the library.

Take this line of dialog for instance, “There was this little old guy trying to cross the street and he got himself runned over because some pervert was busy checkin out my nalgas. He was even usin the crosswalk.”

I can tell, this one is going to be good.

Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee.

I’ve just started reading this one. The plot is interesting but I’ve yet to feel connected to the characters, though they are already well established in the first chapter.

The book is Ms. Lee’s first novel and has gotten mixed reviews. From what I’ve seen, it seems you either really love it or really don’t. It’s worth the effort if it falls into that first category.

This national bestseller is the story of Casey Han, the American daughter of Korean immigrants. Casey has a degree from Princeton, a secret white boyfriend, an addiction to the finer things in life, but no job.

The overall themes of this novel include race, money, religion, love and overall, finding out what it is you want from life and not succumbing to the expectations of others.

The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani.

In 17th-century Persia, a 14-year-old woman believes she will be married within the year. But when her beloved father dies, she and her mother find themselves alone and without a dowry. With nowhere else to go, they are forced to sell the brilliant turquoise rug the young woman has woven to pay for their journey to Isfahan, where they will work as servants for her uncle, a rich rug designer in the court of the legendary Shah Abbas the Great.

Despite her lowly station, the young woman blossoms as a brilliant designer of carpets, a rarity in a craft dominated by men. But while her talent flourishes, her prospects for a happy marriage grow dim.

Forced into a secret marriage to a wealthy man, the young woman finds herself faced with a daunting decision: forsake her own dignity, or risk everything she has in an effort to create a new life.

I’ve read a few chapters of this one and it’s a beautiful story that pulled me right in. It’s written with rich detail, believable dialog, and plenty of emotion.

What is on your summer reading list?

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