Sunday, June 6, 2010

Finished the Percy Jackson Series


Today I finally finished the 5th book in the Percy Jackson series. It was an interesting group of books. Not quite as captivating as Harry Potter, but I liked all the accurate references to Greek mythology. It brought back to mind the time in 2nd grade when I dressed up as Pandora for our mythology project. However, as I learned from these books...wasn't Pandora a Titan? (Titans came before the Greek Gods.)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Books vs. Netflix


Books vs. Netflix...there-in lies the age old question. Do we stick with an older "technology" (books) or do we let the new technology (Netflix) pervade our lives so much that the older medium becomes less utilized as a means of storytelling? And do we use new media tools (Kindle or ipad) to read books?

Let's start with the second question. Changing the medium. I know that lots of people love the kindle and ipad. In fact, as an author who one day might publish an e-book, I'm all in favor of that technology. However, for me personally, I still love turning the pages and wearing down a real, live book. There's just something about dog-earing those smooth pages that is comforting. I also wouldn't want to take my expensive Kindle to the beach because I'd be worried about ruining it. But take a $2 paperback that I got from paperbackswap.com? Sure!

Ok, so back to the first question. I am a bit of a sellout when it comes to Netflix and watching TV series through that service. Right now we're immersed in Battlestar Gallactica. (I love that the series is a mix of politics, religion, and science fiction. Kind of like Lost, actually.) So since we've been watching so much Netflix, I haven't read books as fast as usual. For instance, I just finished the first Percy Jackson book yesterday.

I read just one book at a time, so the only book I have read for the last week or two was this one. It's not that the book took me so long because of the writing. No, it was a great read! It was truly Netflix that decreased my book reading.

Is that bad? No, not really. Does it make me "dumber" to be watching TV instead of reading a book? No, because the TV series is probably just (if not more so) thought-provoking than the Percy Jackson series.

But it does make me a little sad that I didn't have more books to write about on my blog. The blog...yet another technical wonder that's taken my time away from reading. Oh the irony! :)

Goodnight to all, and to all a good read!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Percy Jackson Vs. Harry Potter

So I finished the True Blood book the day of my husband's surgery, and I moved onto reading the first book in the Percy Jackson series. I really like it--it's a fast read, and I can't put it down. However, just knowing this series came after Harry Potter makes me think Percy's author took quite a few ideas straight from J.K. Rowlings.

1. Percy Jackson is a boy who doesn't fit in. His Mom dies trying to save him, and she's this pure, lovely woman (just like Harry's mom Lily). Percy's step dad, Gabe, whom Percy's had to live with for awhile, doesn't like Percy. He treats him like garbage, making him sleep in bad accommodations when Percy comes back home from boarding school. (The Dursleys are written all over this.)

2. Percy is a half-blood (mudblood). While Harry wasn't actually a mudblood (that was Hermione), the concept is the same in both books. One parent who has special powers and one parent who's plain human.

3. There's a wise man watching out for Percy. (Dumbledore in HP).

4. There's a prophesy about Percy's fate. (same as in HP with those crystal balls). The prophesies in both tales have double meanings and can't be taken at face value.

I'm not saying one book is better than the other, and I actually enjoy reading something that reminds me of HP. But I will say that I know what the author and publisher were doing, riding off the coattails of a loved HP series about a mishap boy who is destined for something big. I'd like to say I'm smart enough not to fall for this clear marketing tactic....but...I've fallen...and I plan to read all the Percy Jackson books.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Sookie Stackhouse Book Passed Time Well

My husband had a successful, easy knee surgery, and we were in and out in five hours. I was only waiting in the visitor's area for about an hour and 1/2 by myself. The other hours I was with my husband in pre or post surgery. During the hour and 1/2, I finished the next to last Sookie Stackhouse novel, "From Dead to Worse". It helped pass the time well and wasn't too hard on the brain.

Thanks everyone for your well wishes on the surgery! :)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What to read while waiting for news?

Good evening,

It's the eve of my husband's knee surgery, and as a follow-up to my blog from February "what do you read when you're sitting around with a bum leg"...what are you supposed to read when you're sitting in the hospital, waiting to hear how your loved one's surgery went? I might be waiting anywhere from 1-6 hours, and anyone who knows me will agree that I'm not good at waiting for news on such subjects. My fears get the best of me. But...I hear that knee surgeries (he's getting a cadaver's ACL) are routine. It's an out-patient surgery, so I'm sure everything will be fine. In fact, my husband is looking forward to coming through the surgery 110% better and more agile than before his snowboarding accident. (He's thinking his new ACL will make him bionic!) :)

I don't want to move from the waiting room because I want to be there when the doctor comes out with news. This means I'll need something to read as I wait. The book contenders are: the latest Sookie Stackhouse (TrueBlood) novel, Beach House by Jane Green, Dirty Job by Christopher Moore, Saturday Wife by Naomi Ragen, or the Percy Jackson series (thanks Julie for letting me borrow the whole set).

Here's hoping for a fast, easy operation!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Update on writings

So....I didn't win the Golden Heart award from Romance Writers of America (cause 3 of the 5 judges who rated it said it wasn't exactly romance). Maybe that's actually a good thing.

And I didn't win the Bethesda writing contest for the 4,000 word short story contest where I submitted the adoption piece.

But I did get an agent to ask for my full manuscript and synopsis.

And I am speaking at GWU to about 15 ladies about writing. They even created a facebook invite for it, so I felt special.

And I'm still writing the 2nd book. I think this one might even be better than the first. I read the first 26 pages to Jason and he was actually enthralled. If a boy is enthralled hearing a read-aloud of chick-lit, you know you have something or other good.

Oh, and while we were cleaning out our upstairs to get ready for a house renovation, I found a bunch of other short stories I wrote in college. I hadn't even remembered it, but I wrote another horror stort story called "Bump in the Night". And I had started a novelette horror story called "Notes". There was even a start to a young adult series called "The Castle Chronicles". I remember that one. It was about a middle school girl whose parents were historians or archeologists or something. And she would travel with them being home-schooled. But she'd end up solving these big mysteries having to do with all the castles her parents worked in. I thought that one would be pretty cool. Maybe one day.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Update on book publishing

So bad news first and then the good news. I didn't win the Bethesda Magazine literary fiction contest. I submitted my 4,000 word story, Silence, about an adopted son. There were 86 entries.

But...one of the agents to whom I sent Girl: Classified asked to see my entire manuscript. So I'm hoping she'll want to represent me. Wish me luck! Has anyone ever heard of Cheryl Ferguson?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Latest info on Girl: Treasure Seeker

I wrote some more of Girl: Treasure Seeker today. I'm up to page 26, and I finished the outline for the book. In this one Rachel and Justin are nabbed by terrorists and forced to give state secrets and build a biological weapon. And this one details Rachel's adventures traveling the world in her new job at the auction house while she's awaiting the trial for the van Gogh prints she sold.

Other news on my writing:
I'm speaking about the books and writing in general on April 14th to the GWU Hillel and some other women's groups. I also entered the Bethesda Literary contest with a short story called, "Silence". I think the results of that should be in May. And the results of the Romance Writer's of America Golden Heart Awards should be coming sometime in May as well. So here's hoping something will come through.

Meanwhile, I'll just keep writing the Girl series and sending out a couple of query letters to agents.

You might have noticed that I'm not writing in the blog every day like I used to. That's so I have more time for writing the novel. But I'll still post in the blog as much as possible. Stay tuned!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Christopher Moore


Has anyone read any of his books? He wrote the novel, Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal. That's the first book of his that I've read, and it was really good. What were other good ones that he wrote, which I might want to read next?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Paperbackswap.com

If you're an avid reader, this website is the place for you. It's a book trading depot where you earn credits by mailing your books to others across the country. Every time you mail a book, you get a credit that enables you to "buy" a book from someone else. I've been on the site for about 2 years, and I've only had a couple of problems in all that time. One was that someone sent me the wrong book and then never credited me back for it. And the other was that the site administrator did not like me "advertising" my blog at the bottom of my posts on their blog. Oh well. I've saved a lot of money in book-buying, though, and that's the main benefit! Enjoy your swapping!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Percy Jackson - Guest Blog from Kim C.


Guest blog written by Kim C.

"Percy Jackson and the Olympians" (Lightning Theif).

Being a huge Harry Potter Fan, I was instantly intrigued to hear about another kids series with a similar scenario. Boy-hero, misunderstood by everyone, enters a secret world of kids just like him, makes friends, saves the day. I tried to hold off reading it, but I couldn't hold out for long. The similarities to Harry Potter are very clear (Protagonist even has dark hair and green eyes) but if you ignore that, it's another thrilling story of good versus evil, just pasted on a backdrop of Greek mythology in lieu of Wizards and Witches. I'm not sure if I will go on to the rest of the series, but it was a quick read that satisfied my old Harry Potter pangs.

Friday, March 12, 2010

2nd Speaking Engagement - GWU Hillel

I am speaking about Girl: Classified and the process of writing a novel again--this time at the George Washington University Hillel on Wednesday April 14th at 7:30 pm. If you would like to come on out, please just let me know. I can forward the address and any other information to you upon request.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Recommendation for Kelly


I asked audience members from the GWU Women's Literature discussion to tell me the kinds of books they like to read, and I promised to give them personalized book recommendations on my blog.

This one is for Kelly. She said she likes biographies/suspence/drama/Jodi Piccoult). I like Jodi Piccoult too, Kelly. I would recommend one of her books to you, but I bet you've already read a bunch of them. As soon as I saw what kind of books you like, I thought of a recommendation straight-away.

Philippa Gregory is one of my favorite authors who writes historical fiction. I think I've read all of her books. My favorites are the ones centered around the English monarchs--just because their real life stories are so sensational/dramatic. I'm specifically recommending The Virgin's Lover. It's about Queen Elizabeth's suspected long-time lover, Sir Robert Dudley. All of Gregory's books take historical info and fill in the blanks that history is missing.

The year is 1558, an especially dangerous time for England: no bishop will coronate Henry VIII's Protestant daughter, the treasury is bankrupt, the army is unpaid and demoralized. Meanwhile, the French are occupying Scotland and threatening to install Mary, Queen of Scots—on the throne. Ignoring the matrimonial advice of pragmatic Secretary of State William Cecil, the 25-year-old Elizabeth persists in stringing along Europe's most eligible bachelors, including King Philip of Spain and the Hapsburg archduke Ferdinand. It's no secret why: she's fallen for her "dark, saturnine" master of horse, Sir Robert Dudley, whose traitorous family history and marriage to the privately Catholic Amy make him an unsuitable consort. Gregory deftly depicts this love triangle as both larger than life and all too familiar; all three characters are sympathetic without being likable, particularly the arch-mistress Elizabeth, who pouts, throws tantrums, connives and betrays.

Kelly, feel free to have your friends contact me for book recommendations. You/they can contact me through my website www.girlclassified.com.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Recommendation for Jamie


I asked audience members from the GWU Women's Literature discussion to tell me the kinds of books they like to read, and I promised to give them personalized book recommendations on my blog.

This one is for Jamie. She said she likes women's literature & chick-lit (Time Traveler's Wife); some non-ficton (3 Cups of Tea). So...for you I'm recommending Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert. I read this book last year and enjoyed it. I typically go for fiction, and this is non-fiction. So it's a little out of my regular genre, but I found the story's abandon and adventure fascinating.

At the age of thirty-one, Gilbert moved with her husband to the suburbs of New York and began trying to get pregnant, only to realize that she wanted neither a child nor a husband. Three years later, after a protracted divorce, she embarked on a yearlong trip of recovery, with three main stops: Rome, for pleasure (mostly food-wise, with a special emphasis on gelato); an ashram outside of Mumbai, for spiritual searching; and Bali, for "balancing."

I also love traveling, so reading this book made me feel like I was in these three destinations.

Jamie, will you let me know what you think of this recommendation? Have you already read it? Did you like it? They're making a movie out of it, I hear, so I'm looking forward to that. I always like to read a book first and then watch the movie to see how other people portray the characters that I'd pictured in my imagination.

Please feel free to have your friends contact me for recommendations too. You can contact me through my website: www.girlclassified.com

Thanks for coming out on Monday!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Recommendation for Stephanie


I asked audience members from the GWU Women's Literature discussion to tell me the kinds of books they like to read, and I promised to give them personalized book recommendations on my blog.

This first one is for Stephanie. She said she likes chicklit but with more of an "edge"...funny, but also dealing with serious issues (family, depression, divorce), recognizable characters, even if a bit over the top.

Stephanie, I just started reading the book, Beach House, by Jane Green. I'm only in a few pages, but I thought this might be up your alley. It's about a sixty-five-year-old Nan Powell who has lived comfortably and happily in Nantucket since the suicide of her husband, Everett, so she is thrown for a loop when she learns that she is in danger of losing her beloved house. After weighing her options, Nan decides to turn her home into a bed-and-breakfast. The guests she gets for the summer are all at a crossroads in their lives in one way or another. Daniel has just separated from his wife and is facing something he has denied for years; Daff is recovering from the heartbreak of a divorce and getting a much-needed break from her anger-filled 13-year-old daughter; and Nan’s son Michael is on the run from a disastrous affair. Nan finds herself opening up to her guests and enjoying their company, but she is shocked when she discovers a person close to one of them has a startling connection to her.

Stephanie, will you let me know what you think? Also, feel free to have any of your friends tell me the kinds of books they like, and I'll do a recommendation for them too. You can contact me through my website www.girlclassified.com

Monday, March 8, 2010

GWU Speaking Engagement

Today I was a speaker at George Washington University on a panel discussing women's literature and chicklit. It was a great experience! Published authors always talk about the importance of networking and marketing yourself. I saw it first hand today. I met some great people who had ideas on how I could move forward with my writing projects.

The other speaker on the panel was a GWU teacher who did her dissertation at Delaware on Chicklit (although, her professor wouldn't let her use the specific term in her dissertation's title...) She is introducing me to her friend who's a published author and who is starting a writer's circle. A writer's circle is a group of writers who give each other constructive critism and tips on writing/publishing. I've been looking for a circle that includes authors focusing on women's fiction.

An audience member also gave me a great tip. She's the Director of Engagement at GWU's Hillel. She would like me to speak again with her specific contingent. I'm looking forward to that! She also said that Lilith Magazine is looking to do a story on Washington DC writers, so she is planning to give them my name. Lilith magazine features award-winning investigative reports, new rituals and celebrations, first-person accounts both contemporary and historical, entertainment reviews, fiction and poetry, art and photography--all with a focus on Jewish women.

Third, another audience member talked to me about Book Expo America. The next conference is in NYC on May 26th. Many authors, publishers, and agents congregate at the BEA to trade ideas and network. I hadn't heard of the conference before, but I'm looking into new avenues for networking, so it was a great tidbit of info.

All in all, the speaking engagement today was a fulfilling use of time...and fun! It was interesting to discuss favorite authors with other women. We also had an intellectual conversation about why the term chicklit is a bit dirty in the publishing world--why the genre went downhill after an influx of poorly written books in the beginning 2000's--an how chicklit writers are reinventing themselves under the term "women's fiction" or just plain "literary fiction" instead.

Thank you again to Erica for setting this up and inviting me!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

There's No Place Like Here


I just finished reading a classic, great chic-lit. It's written by Cecilia Ahern, the author of P.S. I Love You. She's also the Irish Prime Minister's daughter. (I've always thought that was cool tidbit of her biography.)

There's No Place Like Here is classic chicklit because it's written in the first person by a female protagonist. The narrator is discovering something about herself in the book, and a background (yet important) plot element is the acknowledging of the main character's true love. It's about a thirty-something woman, Sandy Shortt, whose job it is to find missing people until she herself goes missing. What I like best about Cecilia Ahern's books is that most of them include an element of Irish folklore/magic. I know that sounds strange for chicklit, but it's what makes Ahern's books different and special.

Five stars for this novel, Ahern's latest, which was published in 2009.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Help


The Help by Kathryn Stockett was discussed on NPR yesterday as I drove in to work. It's about the desegregation of America from a young caucasian girl's perspective as she talks to African-American maids. I had seen this book on the bestseller list and not thought much of it. It sounded an awful lot like the Secret Life of Bees. However, the NPR show made the book sound very thought-provoking. I'm looking forward to reading this novel now. Has anyone else read it yet?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Dan Brown's "The Lost Symbol"


Right now I'm reading Dan Brown's "The Lost Symbol". It's the third book in the Robert Langdon saga, and this one takes place in the Washington DC area. That's pretty cool because I can recognize all of the sites discussed in the novel. (Although, I will say that some of the info is wrong...There are certain government agencies sited in the book that far reach their real-life authorities.)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

LOST

I know this is a blog about chicklit and books in general, but I'd like to deviate for just a few postings to talk about theories on the tv show LOST.

What do you think of the following?

1. The man in black and Jacob are like yin and yang. One has faith in the human race to evolve and get better. The man in black believes that the human race will always be inherently evil and will use violence to solve situation. Remember when Jacob and the man in black were sitting on the beach watching the ship Black Rock come in. Man in black says, "why are you calling them in again. You know it'll always be the same. More violence. They never learn." Jacob says, "each time it gets better."
2. I think that the very last scene of the series will be that scene again. I think that it goes over and over in a circle.
3. MIB is being kept at bay on the island. If he escapes, humanity will get worse.
4. The MIB was the one trapped inside the hut. When they thought it was Jacob saying, "help me", it was actually the MIB.
5. Juliet was dying and said to Sawyer, "let's have coffee. We can go dutch." He thought she was just hallucinating as she was dying. But...she was seeing the alternate life. That's how she knew, "it worked".

Monday, February 22, 2010

Girlfriends' Guide


This book is dedicated to all of my friends who are pregnant right now! I just found out that a good friend of mine is 3 and 1/2 months pregnant, so this posting is dedicated to her. I won't out her name now, just in case there are others she'd like to tell.

The book is Girlfriends' Guide to Pregnancy by Vicki Iovine. Supposedly, this book tells you info that the doctors don't necessarily have time to impart, the non-clinical types of things you might want to know.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

True Blood


I'm currently reading the 4th book in the True Blood Sookie Stackhouse vampire series on which the HBO television show is based. The series is by Charlaine Harris who must be writing like mad because I believe her 10th book in the series just came out. I don't love these books, but right now it's what I wanted to read. I feel like the writing isn't very good, so I get tired of the book and put it down a lot. It's taking me awhile to go through this 4th book, which I started a couple of weeks ago.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pretty Good for a Girl


This posting is dedicated to all the women out there who are looking at the snowboarders on the Olympics and seeing lots of tough men doing jumps, spins, and tricks. Pretty Good for a Girl: The Autobiography of a Snowboarding Pioneer, written by Tina Basich, is about a girl who heard comments like, "you're pretty good for a girl" and pushed harder to be the best.

When Tina Basich grabbed her rented snowboard and headed to the mountains in Lake Tahoe, snowboarding wasn't even considered a sport ... yet. It was the beginning, and could have easily gone the way of many other sports and become dominated by male-driven competition.

Representing for women everywhere, she became a snowboarding all-star, started her own signature board and clothing lines for women, founded Boarding for Breast Cancer, and followed her heart.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Vancouver Winter Olympics


Since we're smack in the middle of the winter olympics, I thought it only fitting to recommend a book on the subject. The Winter Olympics: An Insider's Guide to the Legends, Lore and Events of the Games--Vancouver Edition written by Ron Judd is Amazon.com's most popular book when you type in a search of "Winter Olympics". I haven't read this book, but it looks interesting.

Here's some info about it:
From alpine skiing and figure skating to luge and curling, Judd devotes a chapter to each competitive sport, examining its history, key competitors in past Olympics, the newest athlete contenders, how the sport is played and judged, and more. Anecdotes and fun facts about the Winter Olympics give the reader a true sense of being at the games. And for readers who want to hit the slopes or rinks of British Columbia, Judd includes a round-up on outfitters and access to the Olympic venues. The Winter Olympics also includes a chapter on the Paralympic Winter Games.

This recommendation is dedicated to Tyler W. who's at the Olympics with my friend Kristi right now! Hope you guys are having a fantastic time!

Monday, February 15, 2010

What to read when you're in a cast...


That is the question of the day. My husband had a snowboarding accident this weekend...thus, my lack of blogs on Sat and Sunday. He broke his leg in three places, tore his meniscus, and stretched his ACL out of whack. So even though he's going to be watching a lot of Olympics, I also recommended a very long book for him to read...Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Book 7 of J.K. Rowling's masterpiece.

Friday, February 12, 2010

How to Survive a Robot Uprising


Guest recommendation from Leif J:

This is the book I talked to you about for your blog: How to Survive a Robot Uprising by Daniel H. Wilson.

You can learn a lot from this book, like warning signs to watch out for from your robot servant. As Roomba owners, I thought this would be especially pertinent for you:

Sudden lack of interest in menial labor.
Unexplained disappearances.
Unwillingness to be shut down.
Repetitive 'stabbing' movements.
Constant talk of human killing.

I think it would make a great addition to your blog, as a classic example of chick lit.

http://www.robotuprising.com

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Lack of Fiction Coming out in the Spring of 2010

I perused Amazon.com's list of fiction books coming out in the Spring of 2010. There's a sorry lack of books by our favorite authors, and there weren't very many books coming out at all. I wonder if that's due to a bad economy. Good, established authors aren't putting out books right now because they don't think their books will sell as well as usual. And new authors aren't getting picked up by agents and publishers because in a bad economy no one is willing to take a chance on new writers. The only fiction book coming out that I'm mildly looking forward to is one by Jodi Piccoult. But nothing from Stephanie Meyers, Sophie Kinsella, Philippa Gregory, etc. I will say that James Patterson is putting out at least one new book this spring, but I'm not into that genre. For those of you who are, though, happy reading!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Revolting Rhymes


This is a book recommendation for Jeanette and Jeff, our friends who have a young son. I chose this book for you because I think Will will be thrilled by the grossness of these twisted tales. Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes cleverly turns Cinderella, Snow White, Jack & The Beanstalk, and Little Red Riding Hood upside down and reverses the way we view the "villains" and the "heros". If you read these stories with different voices for the ogres and wolves, etc., Will is sure to love these bedtime stories.

I read one of these stories in forensics (public speaking) competitions throughout high school, and I always made it into the finals with this pick. I was 6th in the state of NJ for reading Jack and the Beanstalk.

I also read these tales to some of the homeless children in VA through the Reading Connection (a non-profit started by VA teachers). These rambunctious kids, who no doubt had some emotional and learning disabilities, actually sat still to listen to these tales. If that's not a recommendation for this book, I don't know what is!!! :)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Model Student? Model or Student...she had to pick one.


Model Student...a tale of coeds and cover models...by Robin Hazelwood is my book recommendation for my high school friend Lisa L. It's just a fun book about a girl who has the smarts to attend Columbia University and the looks for modeling. It's her quest to pursue both at the same time, even with the immense pressures on the modeling industry to eat nothing, take cocaine to stop being hungry, and add a couple cup sizes to her bust. In the end she realizes she has to pick one, and the reader is kept in suspense until the very end. I thought it would be an easy decision, but Robin Hazelwood keeps the attraction between both model and coed equally compelling.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Geography of Bliss


Guest Recommendation by Julie P.

The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner is a man's search around the world to define happiness and discover the cause. He visits some "happy" countries (Netherlands, Bhutan, Qatar, Thailand) and an absolutely miserable country, Moldova.

Having worked for years as an NPR foreign correspondent, he'd gone to many obscure spots, but usually to report bad news or terrible tragedies. Now he'd travel to countries like Iceland, Bhutan, Qatar, Holland, Switzerland, Thailand and India to try to figure out why residents tell positive psychology researchers that they're actually quite happy. At his first stop, Rotterdam's World Database of Happiness, Weiner is confronted with a few inconvenient truths. Contrary to expectations, neither greater social equality nor greater cultural diversity is associated with greater happiness. Iceland and Denmark are very homogeneous, but very happy; Qatar is extremely wealthy, but Weiner, at least, found it rather depressing. He wasn't too fond of the Swiss, either, uncomfortable with their quiet satisfaction, tinged with just a trace of smugness. In the end, he realized happiness isn't about economics or geography. Maybe it's not even personal so much as relational. In the end, Weiner's travel tales—eating rotten shark meat in Iceland, smoking hashish in Rotterdam, trying to meditate at an Indian ashram—provide great happiness for his readers.

My question is how does he pick the countries in the first place? Obviously, right now at least, the U.S. isn't one of the happiest countries because of jobloss and the economy. And we work ourselves into the ground anyway. But why Iceland, etc? If I were picking countries, I'd pick the Netherlands (cause they're having sex and smoking pot there legally) and New Zealand (cause it's off by itself, not in any wars, and has big grassy hills for movies like the Lord of the Rings).

What countries would you pick as being "happy countries"?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Birthdays


When I was turning 30, I turned to my husband and said, "I can't believe my 20s are gone. I'll never get them back."

He looked at me hard and said, "Yes, that's true. But think of all the great things your 30s have in store. These are the years when you might publish your first novel. It'll probably be in your 30s when we have our first kids too."

I thank him now as I'm turning 32. Instead of fretting unneccessarily about my birthday, now on each Feb 7th, I'm excited about all that's to come.

I also wanted to publish the funny and senitmental note my parents wrote to me in this year's birthday card. For anyone who knows my parents, see if you can guess which one is from my dad and which one is my mom's words.

Birthday Wishes
1. Iron Chef Chocolate Kitchen
2. Stephanie Meyers signs on as blog follower
3. 2nd bathroom installed
4. Nice new neighbors
5. Early spring
6. Delicious, lactose free ice cream
7. Snow and skiing in Bermuda (best of both worlds)
8. Gerry and Misch bonding
9. Jason's furniture arrives
10. My company raises all salaries 10%

You are:
-A good chef of memorable meals (delicious) eg. pizza cassarole, egg and cheese buns in orange sauce, various salads, cran-apple crisp
-an excellent author (move over, Ms. Meyers)
-a perfect party installer
-a nice neighor eg. helping Bob with food
-able to create the light and easy feeling of spring in your home all year
-to me, what ice cream is to a cone
-capable of planning complicated world-wide trips
-a responsible, caring pet owner
-married to a great guy
-worth some combined salaries (heehee, I won't write this whole one out)
Most of all, you are my beautiful, sweet, wonderful daughter!

Thanks, Mom and Dad for all your kind words!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Ode to Snow (Guest Blog from my Dad)

"I was going to read a book tonight but we have 18 plus inches of snow and my wife has been out shovelling for close to 3 hours; I can't see her anymore in the high drifts.

I sent our black lab out to find her about 2 hours ago, but he has not returned.

I sent our cat out to find them both about an hour ago but he also has not returned.

Maybe I will go and read that book now that the house is so quiet."

Witty, Dad. Very witty.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

It's SNOWING...what do you read during a snowpocolypse?

Snow days are some of the best times to cuddle up by a fire, make some hot chocolate, and get comfy with a good book. I'm planning to finish Nanny Returns. I sort of cheated a bit by speedreading the last 30 pages, so I know what happens, but now I want to go back and read them luxuriously.

In the northeast, we're supposed to be getting 1-2 FEET of snow! People interviewed on the news said that even though they had a fully stocked fridge, they were still going out to the grocery store this afternoon. Crazy.

It's my bday this weekend, and my parents were going to send me chocolate covered strawberries in the mail. Sadly, the delivery crew said they couldn't do any deliveries to Washington DC this weekend because of the storm.

And...my husband just presented me with snowshoes for my bday!

This is supposed to be the largest snowfall that the DC area has ever seen. This should be interesting...

What am I reading right now?


People have asked me what I'm currently reading. I'm about half-way through Nanny Returns. It's the sequel to the bestseller The Nanny Diaries. For me, it's really hit or miss with the authors' books. I loved Dedication, but I didn't like Citizen Girl. Nanny Returns is great. It picks up about ten years after the first book, with Nan having married Harvard Hottie, moving with him all around the world, and then settling back in Harlem, NY to buy a house. Through strange events, Nan is once again reunited with Grayer X.

I never understood why the last name was X. I know it's a stand-in--supposed to be respresenting all crazy, rich parents who treat their kids like trophies to be taken out of the cabinet for polishing once in awhile. However, why couldn't the authors have just picked a fictional last name? Same as in Citizen Girl. The main character's name is Girl. I could never get into that. Anyway, not a big deal, though. I'm still loving the book and definitely recommend it.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Food of Love-another recommendation for a possible Iron Chef


Mike and Meredith, my book recommendation for both of you is the Food of Love by Anthony Capella. Since you're also going to participants in our Iron Chef cook-off in a few months, this is a food related book. It inspires some delicious Italian cooking. Or...at the very least, it makes you want to go out for a really great Italian meal!!! Enjoy!

(You know what else? It makes me think of Epcot's Italy...and of course when I think of Epcot, I think of you guys!)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Something Borrowed--a wedding book for Denise.


Denise, since you're a gal who's about to be married, I picked a wedding related book for you! Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin.

Ok, so here's a disclaimer about this book. At first I didn't want to read it because the protagonist is a girl who steals her best friend's fiance. I didn't think I'd be able to relate to the main character. And I wouldn't root for the stealer and the fiance to stay together. But I took a chance and read the book. It was a surprise, but there are reasons why the reader can end up seeing the narrator's perspective and feeling empathy.

Have you read this one already? I'd be interested in your perspective on the book, especially since you're getting married this year.

Monday, February 1, 2010

J.D. Salinger Passes Away 1/26/10


This post is dedicated to J.D. Salinger, the author of Catcher in the Rye who passed away at age 91 this past Wednesday.

I remember that I was first introduced to the book in 9th grade English class. Our teacher, Mrs. Wiggin (who was also the school newspaper faculty lead), gave us a choice between reading Pride and Prejudice and the Catcher in the Rye. Of a class of about twenty-five students, only six people chose P&P, me being one of them. The rest of the class read Catcher. Why? Because when you're in 9th grade with eight classes, tons of homework to do, and a new set of boys and girls to notice for the first time, you choose the book with less pages. I, however, was not thinking along the same lines of my classmates. I chose P&P because Mrs. Wiggin said it involved a love story. A month later everyone in the class discussed their two books, and I heard how much everyone liked Catcher. So later, on my own, I read the book too.

Tell everyone when/how you first read Catcher in the Rye.

There's also a blog that I'd like to link to: http://bookpage.wordpress.com
They're also running this kind of post about J.D. Salinger. They also review books and post recommendations.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Chocolate-the cure for all that ails-and...it's a book.


Divya, a book recommendation for you is Chocolate, which is a book that was also made into a movie. I specifically picked this book for you because you and Vivek will be doing an Iron Chef with us in a few weeks/months. Not that chocolate will be the secret ingredient, necessarily, or that your names will be pulled out of the hat in April to be the cooks, but...in this book, they talk about how chocolate can be used as an ingredient in all types of dishes, not just desserts. I was so inspired to cook decadently after watching this movie and reading this book. You're such a good cook that you might like this particular book too!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Want to know what to get your guy for Valentine's Day? Boudoir Photos!!!



That's right, ladies! The latest trend in professional photography?

Boudoir!

Our wedding photographer, whom we loved, Lisa Boggs, is now branching out into boudoir photography. Want to see more? Feel free to visit her website at http://www.lisaboggsphotography.com/blog

She told us that brides are asking for boudoir pictures on top of engagement and wedding photos. It's the latest trend for 20-30 something women and a trend that I'm sure the guys dig. Wedding photos aside...what to get for your husband, sig other, or boyfriend for Valentine's Day? Boudoir photos of yourself!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Secret Society Girl--that's my Shilpa!


Shilps, this book recommendation is for you. Secret Society Girl is such a fun book! It's about a girl in college who is picked for membership into the most infamous secret society on campus. The author, Diana Peterfreund, went to Yale, so the society is modeled after the real Skull and Bones. Diana is also from Washington DC, so I'm proud to support her.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Remember Me? Recommendation for Ginger


Ginger,

Thanks for always asking how my book is going. I really appreciate your encouragement. You are the most fabulous recruiter at work!

So this posting is dedicated to you with a book recommendation that I really love. Remember Me is quintessential chick lit written by Sophie Kinsella. It's about an average woman who wakes up from a coma one day---with expensive possessions, a vice president position in her company, and a glamorous new look. She doesn't remember how she got any of these things. Last she remembers she was an average Jane with no boyfriend, a lousy job, and no money. Now she's married to a gorgeous millionaire. The book goes on to explain how she got her current persona but what she had to give up to rise that high.

I see this book becoming a movie! Hope you like it!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bethesda Magazine Fiction Submission

An update on my writing: I am submitting a short story called Silence to Bethesda Magazine for their annual literary festival. This is a story I wrote in senior year of high school for a fictional literature class. It's about a 68 year old man who is thinking back on the regrets of his life, the biggest one being how stubborn he was with his adopted son. It's a story of a family and the lies that drive them apart. Submission deadline is February, and if I win, the story will appear in their magazine in April.

Shout out to Wendy E. for telling me about the contest! Thanks, Wend!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Freaks? Economics? No! Freakonomics!


Scott S., this one's for you! Freakonomics is a book about cool statistics that help explain human nature. Jason loved it, so I thought that you as a businessman in change management would appreciate it too. (p.s. You know if I had found a book about going on cruises, I would have recommended that for you!) Happy Reading!

Monday, January 25, 2010

What Should I Read Next?

There's a really cool website where you type in a book you like, and then the site will spit out a few other books it thinks you'll like.

http://www.whatshouldireadnext.com/search

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Guest Recommendation from Kim W. - Girl with a Pearl Earring


Guest Recommendation From Kim W.

I'm not an avid chick-lit reader, but I found myself elbow-deep into 'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Tracy Chevalier. The book really brought Vermeer's painting to life, and it included a few tid bits of 17th Century Dutch culture without sounding like a history lesson. I could really empathize with the main character, a girl house-servant for Vermeer's family who cleans his art studio. She pines for her old life with her family, has some love interest with the master of her house, and accepts advances from the local butcher's son where she buys her master's meat. A quick read - definately recommend it.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Can Parents Make Their Kids Give up an Organ?


I haven't seen the movie My Sister's Keeper yet, but I've read the book, and I liked it a lot. I wouldn't say it's my favorite book (probably because I already knew how it would end and that tainted the experience for me), but it was pretty powerful. The concept is pretty interesting--a little girl who's born just so that her sister can have a genetic match for bone marrow (or some other bodily fluid/tissue...I can't remember now). But she grows up completely at the beck and call of her sick sister who constantly needs blood, etc. from her. The straw that breaks the camel's back is when this girl's mother asks her to give up a kidney for her sister. The girl files for emancipation from her parents so they won't be able to make her go through the procedure.

Someone who'd already read the book asked me if I'd give up a kidney for a family member. I don't have any sibling so I can't say for sure, but I sure know I'd give up a kidney for my parents if they needed one. I might feel differently though if I was specifically born to save someone else. I think I'd start feeling like my life wasn't my own.

Teesha, since you're one of my friends who's most dedicated to her family, this book recommendation is for you. You're also one of my most compassionate friends.

Does anyone have any thoughts on the moral implications of this theme? Can parents really make their kids give up an organ? Is that even legal???

Friday, January 22, 2010

This Book Will Change Your Life


Truly! Leif, this book recommendation is for you. It is decidedly NOT chicklit! Super funny, though!!!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

First Glimpse of Girl: Treasureseeker

Excerpt from Girl: Treasureseeker

Being a hostage never really factored into my set of everyday worries. True, I had worked in the realm of spies, but I was never one myself. I didn’t know how to use a gun or dance the tango at an international gala. I didn’t know how to write secret messages in code or deceive anyone with a foreign accent. I certainly didn’t know how to remain calm while two men strapped my arms behind my back and threw a burlap sack over my head. And I definitely didn’t expect to sit scrunched for days in a damp, miniscule enclosure anxiously waiting for my captors to decide what to do with me.

I guess everyone has a few life experiences they don’t expect, but I was certainly way over my quota.

Sitting with my legs pulled up against my chest, I cradled my head in both hands.

“How could they possibly think you’re a spy?” groaned my boyfriend Justin, who lay on his side in the dirt next to me.

“At least they haven’t separated us yet,” I responded, completely ignoring his question.

“Yeah, at least we’re still coherent too. I swear they drugged me last night during their interrogation session. You know, they don’t teach this stuff in college.

I laughed, even though my stomach still hurt from the kick our captors had delivered three days ago.

“So what do we do since we don’t know any state secrets?” I asked.

“Lie? I don’t know. Make stuff up?” Justin answered.

“This is so unfair. It’s exactly why I left Cutter & Jamison, that government agency….all that stuff.” I trailed off. I propped myself with one arm against the stone wall and shivered. “What do you think they’re going to do with us?”

Justin looked up at me from his horizontal position on the floor. He just stared at me for a few seconds, our eyes giving away all the fears we couldn't bear to verbalize.

After a minute, Justin sat up, cracking his back with the effort. “I have to…you know…go to the bathroom.”

We’d long ago given up on the human dignities of a toilet or privacy. He leaned an arm against the far wall, his head just slightly touching the low ceiling. I could hear him unzip his now filthy, three day old jeans.

He muttered, “I’d say don’t watch, but who the fuck cares anymore.”

I laughed uneasily—anything to stop myself from crying. We had done enough of that during our first two days in this shit-hole.

I whispered what I feared the most--the thing that would suck all the hope out of our situation, “Do you think anyone even knows where we are?”

Justin finished his business, and looked over his left shoulder at me. “I don’t even know where we are. I don’t even know what nationality our captors are.”

“Do you think the American government is looking for us?” I asked, picking at a ripped toenail.

“Probably.” Justin reached for the piece of white printer paper that lay on the floor. “Have you memorized your lines yet?”

He was referring to the script our masked captors had given us a few hours ago. We were to memorize our lines, and we surely knew that meant they’d be videotaping us.

“Yeah. Have you?”

“No, not yet. What worse could they do to us if I screw up a few words? Kill us?”

Justin’s words hung in the air between us. I looked down so that he couldn’t see my eyes as I responded. “Yeah.” I choked out the word, giving away the tell tale signs of fresh panic.

Justin immediately crouched down on the floor facing me. “I’m sorry, Rach. I’m sorry. They won’t do that. Don’t worry.” He reached out with one hand on my shoulder and the other resting in my palm. “It’ll be ok. We’re too valuable to them. You have, goodness knows what other, state secrets to tell them…and I…well…you know from the script. I have a biological weapon to build them.”

I looked up at Justin, eyes awash in unshed tears, head shaking back and forth. “What are we going to do, Justin? What are we going to do?”

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Wickedly Good Book


To my lovely actress friend, Amy--of course I have to recommend a book that was made into a Broadway musical. Wicked by Gregory Maguire. I thought this book was pretty creative. Very different from the original Wizard of Oz movie. I like when people take original stories and tell a new story from the perspective of the villain.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Guest Recommenders


That could be you! Just send me the paragraph you want to post, and it'll serve as my posting for the day. You save me a day of posting, you get to tell the world what book you recommend, it's all good.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Chicklit and Shopping! 50% off sale on EVERYTHING at Ann Taylor Loft

A friend Kat and I were talking about my blog the other day, and I told her I was worried about making my goal of 1 posting a day for 365 days. The reason is not that I can't write in the blog once a day, but I made a goal for myself to do one book recommendation per day. Thing is...yes, I've read 365 books, but I didn't like all of them. Maybe at most I have 200 books that I would want to recommend. So what would I do with the other posts?

My friend reminded me that I can still post discussions of books, guest recommendations, discussions on topics related to chicklit, etc.

Thus, today's posting is about shopping. Come on, you know that most chicklit books have shopping in there somewhere. (Although, I didn't include any shopping in my novel Girl: Classified....)

I read an article about shopping in one of those airplane magazines over the holidays, and I found it rather upsetting. It talked about ten non-fashion-forward stores that used to be cool but aren't anymore. So the store where I get most of my work clothes was on there, and I was so sad. I thought I was hip and cool getting suits there. Are you ready for the store name? Ann Taylor and Ann Taylor Loft!

The article went on to talk about how the store is trying to change its clothing line to be more fashion-forward. Apparently Ann Taylor is moving away from conservate but cute suits to the "I'm going for a jaunt on a sailboat" look. I have been noticing that their clothes are getting more causual.

Nevertheless...they are having a 50% off sale on EVERYTHING in the store. Don't know how long it lasts, but it was on yesterday. Even if the item is already on sale, you buy one item at regular price, and a second item is 50% off.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

I'm speaking at George Washington University March 8th



George Washington University is having a symposium on chicklit-Monday March 8th-for faculty and other employees. The symposium consists of a book swap, a lecture by one of the GWU professors, and a discussion about writing chicklit with me! Erica set it up and asked if I'd speak; thank you, Erica!

I'm planning to talk about this blog www.girlclassified.blogspot.com , my website www.girlclassified.com, how I wrote Girl: Classified, the Golden Heart Awards, and the process of getting published.

As part of the discussion on how I wrote Girl: Classified, I'm going to touch on the advantages of keeping a detailed outline of the novel as you're writing. I never got writer's blog while crafting Girl: Classified because anytime I had an idea about the storyline, I'd add it into my outline. Then anytime I sat down to write, I'd just work off the outline.

I can't wait to speak about this topic. This is the first time that I've been asked to talk as an "authority" on chicklit, and it's pretty exciting!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Nathan Bransford's Blog

http://blog.nathanbransford.com/

Nathan Bransford is a literary agent who writes a blog about publishing and agents. It's quite informative. He says that marketing is a key to getting published, and that part of marketing is making sure you have a "googleable presence on the web".

Well, sir, that's what I now have! If you google "girl classified", "girlclassified", "Marlena Amkraut", "chick lit book recommendations blog" you'll find my website or blog as one of the first suggested links.

What I need now, though, are followers on this blog. So this is me imploring you to sign up to follow this blog.

We Love Roald Dahl!


Amanda,

Since you had already read Lovely Bones, the other book I recommended for you, I'm giving you another recommendation. You and I both love Roald Dahl. Did you say he's your favorite author?

Boy is Roald Dahl's autobiography. It's non-fiction, but it's so hilarious that it reads like fiction. You can also tell where he got some of the zany, creative ideas for his children's books.

Friday, January 15, 2010

More Brilliance by Stephanie Meyer


Shannon, you are, of course, next up for a book recommendation. How could I not give a book recommendation to the girl who chose the title for my novel, Girl: Classified? Does everyone know that? Yes, Shannon, my lovely coworker, came up with that nuanced title that references the fact that my novel's main character sells furniture through the classifieds and also worked in a spy/classified environment.

For you, Shannon, I recommend The Host by Stephanie Meyer. I know you love the Twilight series, so you might have already read Stephanie's next book. It's a brilliant story, and I love how Stephanie (look how I write like I know her personally) says that any story should contain the element of love to be great. So this is a sci-fi book, but it's totally chicklit because of its heavy devotion to the theme of love.

Have you already read it? Has anyone else read this one? Do you think it's better or worse than the Twilight books?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Happy Birthday Mom!


Mom, since today is your birthday, my posting is dedicated to you. Thank you so much for always having confidence in my writing and for encouraging me to pursue the things I love. Thank you for writing down the strange stories I dictated to you as a little kid and for typing up the stories I wrote in elementary through high school. Thank you for reading me Beatrix Potter when I was young so that I'd develop a vocabulary from the get-go. Thank you for reading me a story each night so that I'd grow up thinking of books, reading, and writing as the most luxurious comfort. And thank you for always being so positive and good-hearted. Your whole attitude is an inspiration.

For you, I wanted to recommend one of my favorite books. I know you liked the Harry Potter series, so I'm recommending another series for you--Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. This series is about a high schooler who falls in love with a vampire who refuses to drink human blood even though he is utterly tempted by it. And wouldn't you know...the main characters live in Washington State. :)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

First Love at Its Best - Pure Chicklit Yuminess!


Jen, it's high time I did a book recommendation for you since you usually like the exact same books as me. You're a true chicklit connoisseur. So I'm recommending a pure, true chicklit book for you. I loved this one, and have read/listened to it on audio book multiple times.

The book is Dedication by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus. They're the same authors who wrote the Nanny Diaries.

So Dedication is about a girl whose first love went on to later become a Justin Timberlake-esque music superstar. All of his songs contain veiled lyrics about their relationship. He abandoned her and his band on prom night, never to be heard from again--until they heard his first song on the radio. The main character vows to take revenge on him, make him regret leaving her, and make him pay royalties to the old band who he left in the lurch and whose songs he stole. This book is about the girl finally facing him after ten years.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

American Wife


Colleen, since you'd already read Water for Elephants, I have another book recommendation for you. It's called American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld. It's the fictional story of Laura Bush. It never says her name, and they've changed the facts just a little bit, so they can't be sued. But it's the story of her growing up, how she killed her boyfriend, and how she ended up married the future president. Then it goes into her life as the perfect wife--only once disagreeing publicly about her husband's international politics. I thought this book was utterly fascinating. I didn't like Sittenfeld's first book, but I loved this one.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Would you take the heart of a criminal?


Kim, today you told me that you like books such as The Time Traveller's Wife. Based on that fact, my book recommendation for you is Change of Heart by Jodi Piccoult. It's literary fiction with deeper thoughts than just everyday chick lit. Usually Jodi Piccoult's books deal with moral, complicated conflicts, and I particularly like the one showcased in Change of Heart.

In this novel, a woman's husband is killed in a car accident. She ends up re-marrying--with the police officer that helped her. She had a child by the first man, though. Then she has a second child with the police officer, but that child grows up having a very weak heart. The woman and the policeman hire a construction worker off the street to build a room in their house. However, the woman drives home from the grocery store one day to find that her street is blocked off, and police are everywhere. Her husband and first daughter have been killed by the construction worker. The worker is caught with the daughter's underwear in his pocket, convicted, and sentenced to death. Upon his execution, though, he wants to donate his heart to the woman's second child.

Thus, the question: would you take the heart of a criminal, specifically one who killed your family members? My answer is yes, hands down. If it was a match, then I'd take it...no matter who it came from.

However, can heart transplants also transplant the personality of the donor? Some say yes, including a prominent professor at the University of Arizona. Check out the below info:

Gary Schwartz, professor of Psychology at the University of Arizona, who first carried out a series of studies called the After Life Experiments - which validated the idea that consciousness lives on after we die - will present fascinating new research intotransplant memory which suggests that some people who have received organ transplants seem to undergo major personality transformations, and even develop new abilities which the donor possessed.

Professor Schwartz has detailed over 70 cases which demonstrate this phenomenon.

In one such case, a young dancer received a heart-and-lung transplant. Before the operation, she had been very health-conscious; yet, the very first thing she did on leaving the hospital was to head for a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet, and wolf down an order of chicken nuggets‹something she would never have done before. Her personality changed, too: she became aggressive and impetuous whereas, before, she had been calm and conservative.

She decided to investigate and, after much battling against the medical bureaucracy, she discovered that her heart­lung donor was an 18-year-old man who had died in a motorcycle accident. He had been an aggressive and impetuous lad who had a passion for Kentucky Fried Chicken--in fact, uneaten KFC nuggets had been found in his motorcycle jacket on the very day of his death.

Another notable case is that of an eight-year-old girl who had received the heart of a 10-year-old girl who had been brutally murdered. After the transplant, the recipient began to experience horrifying nightmares. Her dreams were consistently about being murdered, and they were so traumatic that a psychiatrist was called in to help. What he heard convinced him that the girl was describing the actual circumstances of her donor's murder. When the details were given to the police, these proved to be so accurate that the killer was easily identified and apprehended.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

To Kill a Mockingbird Banned in Some Schools


Suzanne, you may have already read this book, but my recommendation for you is: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. It was one of my favorite novels that we were instructed to read in 9th grade. You said you like historical fiction, and I think this book fits into that category easily.

To Kill a Mockingbird is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel published in 1960. The plot and characters are loosely based on the author's observations of her family and neighbors, as well as on an event that occurred near her hometown in 1936, when she was 10 years old. To date, it is Lee's only published novel, and although she continues to respond to the book's impact, she has refused any personal publicity for herself or the novel since 1964.

The book delves into the themes of racism in America as well as addressing issues of class, courage, compassion, and gender roles.

I've heard that this book is banned from some schools because of its use of racial epithats. What do you think of banning books from schools? Are there some books that shouldn't be taught? Is this one of them? Does this book draw put too much light on the topic of racial prejudice or is it shining needed light on a still-relevant subject?

Can You Figure out the Murderer?


Colleen, my book recommendation for you is Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.

See if you can figure out who the murderer is. I think the book tricks you into thinking it's one person the entire time because it starts with the murder scene. Only until the very end do you find out who got vengence and really committed the crime. But...I bet you won't think it's such a big crime by the end of the book. In fact, you'll root for the murder to happen.

I think this book is also good commentary on animal cruelty and how animals are truly at the mercy of human beings in still so many ways. It made me sad but I was so glad to have read the book anyway.

The War of the Roses Was a Historical Event


Did you know that the War of the Roses was an actual historical event? It occurred in England around Edward IV's time. The house of Lancaster (red rose) and the house of York (white rose) caused a massive civil war in England by pitting two sons against each other for the throne and creating a real-life Romeo and Juliet. Those people who favored Edward and the Yorks wore a white rose on their collars and those who favored the Lancasters wrote a red rose. Elizabeth Woodville, of the House of Lancaster, married reigning King Edward IV of the House of York in secret. They married for love, but they hoped to bring peace between the warring families at the same time. Instead, they could not bring the families to agree on a rightful king, and Edward is driven into excile. Elizabeth hides in the Tower of London.

During this time, one of England's greatest mysteries occurred as well. Elizabeth and Edward had two sons, one of them destined to be the next king. They are cared for by their uncle, at Elizabeth and Edward's dismay, and end up "missing". To this day historians know that the boys went with their uncle into the Tower of London, but they do not know what happened next. Neither of the boys were able to take the crown.

On a trip to England this year, we visited York, and wouldn't you know...their bridges and buildings still had white roses etched and painted in their sides. It seems the story lives even to this day...

Kat, you said that you were interested in historical fiction, and do I have a book for you! My recommendation is The White Queen by Philippa Gregory. It's the story of the War of the Roses and Elizabeth Woodville.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Is it ok to lie to your children?

The theme of this posting is in reference to the Kite Runner, the book that was recommended to Jason S. yesterday.

Is it ok to lie to your children? Is it ok to lie to your children if you have a good reason? Like protecting someone or saving the family honor? The reason I bring this up is because that question plays a major role in the Kite Runner. Also, my husband and I happened to be watching an episode of The Sopranos this week that also featured the "lying to your children" theme.

In the Sopranos, Paulie, a major character, and one who is part of the Soprano mafia crew, is told by his dying aunt, "Mildred" that she's his biological mother. Mildred has been a nun for as long as Paulie can remember, but she got pregnant as an unmarried women back in her twenties. Paulie's aunt, "Gemma" pretended that Paulie was her son to protect Paulie's Mildred from the dishonor of unmarried pregnancy and the scrutiny of society. As you can imagine, Paulie was extremely upset upon hearing the revelation.

Would you be upset if you were the child of such a ruse? Would you forgive your biological and non-biological mothers? Which one would you feel was your real mother? I'm sure many adopted children would say that the parents who raised them were their true parents-their real mothers and fathers.

The Kite Runner also carries the theme of paternal/maternal disception. Please do not read further if you don't appreciate spoilers.

In the Kite Runner, the main character, "Khalid" is raised by his father, a wealthy man in Afghanistan. There are two servants living in the wealthy man's house-a father and son named "Rashid". They are treated well--like part of the family--but they are still servants. Rashid waits hand-and-foot on Khalid. We find out toward the end of the book that the servant father was once married to a beautiful, promiscuous woman. A long time ago, she had relations with the wealthy man while married to the servant. When she became pregnant, it was agreed that the baby would be considered the son of the servant man and his promiscous wife. All three parties involved agreed to engage in the elaborate lie. Rashid would be known as the servant's son, even though the real father was the wealthy man. The wife ended up running away, and the servant and Rashid stayed in the wealthy man's house for most of their lives. A few years later, the wealthy man ended up having another son, Khalid, the main character. Khalid, who so yearned for his father's love and approval, was so jealous that his father gave any attention, whatsoever, to Rashid, that he plotted to have the servant and Rashid thrown out of the house.

Upon leaving the safety of the house, the servant father and Rashid were subjected to the harsh realities of the Taliban, and misfortune befalls them in astonishingly harsh ways.

Toward the end of the book, Khalid finds out that Rashid, whom he mistreated so unfairly, was actually his brother.

The maternal/paternal lie not only affected the servant boy, but it also changed the life of the main character, Khalid.

Would honesty have changed the lives of all characters in the book? Probably. Would it have changed their lives for the better? What do you think?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Recommendation for Jason S. Kite Runner


Jason, I know this is a chicklit blog, but I thought you'd like this book recommendation. I wouldn't count this book, Kite Runner by Khalid Hosseini, as chick lit. It's literary fiction with some very heartachingly sad parts. It's about two boys who grow up together, but because of circumstances in Afghanistan the their lives diverge. The book not only outlines the adventures of their lives and how much both boys yearned for their fathers' love, but it also details the conflict in the country and the rise of the Taliban. You have to have a thick skin to read this book, but it's a powerful story.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Tales of Beedle the Bard for Lisa A.


Hi Leese,

I chose a fun book for your recommendation--Tales of Beedle the Bard by JK Rowling. Everyone knows she's written this follow-up book for the Harry Potter series, right? This is the actual children's fairytale book that she references in the last Harry Potter novel. It's kind of cool that we can read the fables that Dumbledore gave to Hermione. Some of these fairytales are a little odd-but that's to be expected, I guess.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Constant Princess for Debbie T.


Hi Debbie! Debbie is my childhood friend who used to live across the street from me, starting in kindergarten when my parents moved to the area. We used to create mudpies in my backyard, stage waterfights, and braid bracelets out of multi-colored thread. Facebook, the social networking site of the 00's, brought us back into contact. Debbie, thanks so much for promoting the website for my book.

You told me you like non-fiction and romance novels. So my recommendation for you is the Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory. I love all of her books, but the ones she writes about Henry the 8th's reign in England are my favorite. The Constant Princess is a love story, but it's also about girl power, and is has a bunch of accurate historical facts. All of Philippa Gregory's historical fiction are based very much on facts. She just adds insight where there are holes in the history.

I hope you enjoy it!

Blowing My Cover book recommendation for Kristi Z.


Kristi, I chose Blowing My Cover...My Life as a CIA Spy for you because of your obsession with alias. This book is non-fiction about a young CIA recruit who goes through the training camp and then moves abroad to practice her trade. She eventually leaves the CIA, though, to write this expose. Who knows what's really true or not in her book, but it's interesting.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Lovely Bones for Amanda T.


Hi Amanda! You are so well-read that you may have already read this book. But I thought that since you liked the literary qualities of The Red Tent, you would also enjoy the gorgeous words of this moving book, The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. It's a sad book, but it's beautiful. It's from the point of view of a little girl who is murdered and watches what transpires down on earth from her new location in heaven. Sometimes it's devastatingly frustrating for her, as she can only watch but not influence anyone to realize who her killer was. She watches as her family breaks apart with the stress of her murder infultratrating their every move.

What I found most moving about this book was the depiction of "heaven". There was a time in my life (and even now) when I was fascinated with how different authors/people/religious scholars viewed the afterlife. Was there one? How would heaven look? Could the deceased still see us on earth? I thought this depiction was a very viable one. The deceased see a heaven atmosphere that comforts and appeals specifically to them. And they watch earth for however many years it takes for them to accept that they're not on earth anymore. That acceptance could take ten years of more. After that they transcend somewhere else. I found it to be a heartwarming, inspiring novel. Hope you enjoy it too!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Carrie's recommendation "Chesapeake" by James Michener


Happy New Year!

The New Year's book recommendation today is in honor of Carrie T., who spent part of New Year's Eve with us. We hung out at her and Matt's house, drinking nutty coffee, laughing about Jennifer Lopez' one piece on Dick's Rockin New Year's Eve (I hope skintight one pieces don't become a fashion trend now), and eating homemade caramel popcorn that Amanda concocted. As always strangely happens at parties, the guys and girls segregated to different rooms. I have no idea what the boys talked about (cards? poker? girls?), but one of the things the girls discussed was books.

Carrie said that she was interested in books on the Chesapeake Bay, and she asked for two for the holidays. Little Swimmers and another title that I can't remember. So my recommendation for her is "Chesapeake" by James A. Michener. It's fiction, and waaaaayyyy long, but Carrie, I think you'll like it. I read it for a class in college, and I thought it would be boring--but it wasn't at all. It weaves together a bunch of stories over time and ends up giving the history of the bay.

So Happy New Year, Carrie. And let me know if you've already read this book. If so, what did you think?