Friday, March 31, 2006

Girls Night In by Various Authors

Title: Girls Night In

Author: Various

Genre: Chick Lit

Summary: Various women authors donate their short stories for the charity War Child.

The Take-Away: Short stories are not novels and some authors understand this better than others. Of the 20+ stories, I thought 7 or 8 were fantastic and an equal number that were horrid. But short story is something of an lost art form. This collection is great to see what works and what doesn't.

Recommendation: Buy it. All of the royalities are going to charity.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Undomestic Goddes by Sophie Kinsella

Title: The Undomestic Goddess

Author: Sophie Kinsella

Genre: Chick Lit

Summary: A financial lawyer becomes a domestic servant after misplacing $50 million of her client's money.

The Take-Away: Actually, Samatha Sweeting falls into the housekeeper thing. Everything about her screams "Corporate Bigwig" yet she is convincing enough to fool her new employees. After, it was only for one night.

Until the phone call the next day spirals the mockery into a fulltime job. The fall from corporate bigwig to housekeeper is completely believable. Ever since Confessions of a Shopoholic I've been a fan of Kinsella. Her writing is fun, quirky and upbeat. I know that the book's going to be an easy, entertaining read.

And I was thrilled to find her face on the back cover of this title. Previously she has always presented herself as a charming, but indistinguishable figure burdened with shopping bags.

Recommendation: Buy it, so that you have instant access the next time you need a laugh. It will look great on your shelf next to Confessions of a Shopoholic and her other titles.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Email Quiz, Part III

I never answer these things. They promptly go into the trash can of my email program. But when this one arrived in my inbox, I figured I owed it to the sender to fill it out. After all, Kelli saved my ass when I needed one for developing my current WIP.

Then she promptly sent me an email saying that she knew I would answer the last question for the afore mentioned reasons.


And I mean that in the kindest possible way just as I did during college. Except, of course, those times when I actually meant it, only I should have been calling myself that and not you.

Anyway. Confession aside, here's another email quiz that reveals wonderful things about yourself or the character who refuses to do what you want.

  • 1. First name?
  • 2. Were you named after anyone?
  • 3. When did you last cry?
  • 4. What car would you drive if you had the choice?
  • 5. What is your favorite lunchmeat?
  • 6. Kids?
  • 7. If you were another person would you be friends with you?
  • 8. Do you have a journal?
  • 9. Do you use sarcasm a lot?
  • 10. Do you still have your tonsils?
  • 11. Would you bungee jump?
  • 12. What is your favorite cereal?
  • 13. Do you untie your shoes?
  • 14. Do you think you are strong minded
  • 15. What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
  • 16. Shoe size?
  • 17. Red or pink?
  • 18. What is the least favorite thing about yourself?
  • 19. Who do you miss the most?
  • 20. If you had one more child what would you name him/her?
  • 21. What is your favorite song?
  • 22. Last thing you ate?
  • 23. What are you listening to right now?
  • 24. If you were a crayon, what color would you be?
  • 25. Favorite smell?
  • 26. Who was the last person you talked to on the phone?
  • 27. The first thing you notice about people you're attracted to?
  • 28. Do you like the person who sent this to you?
  • 29. Favorite drink?
  • 30. Favorite sport?
  • 31. What are you wearing?
  • 32. Eye color?
  • 33. Contacts?
  • 34. Favorite food?
  • 35. Scary movies or happy ending?
  • 36. Last movie you watched?
  • 37. What color shirt are you wearing?
  • 38. Summer or winter?
  • 39. Hugs or kisses?
  • 40. Favorite dessert?
  • 41. Who is most likely to respond?
  • 42. Least likely to respond?
  • 43. What books are you reading?
  • 44. What's on your mouse pad?
  • 45. What did you watch last night on tv?
  • 46. Favorite sounds?
  • 47. Rolling Stones or Beatles?
  • 48. The furthest you've been from home?
  • 49. Do you have a special talent?
  • 50. When and where were you born?
  • 51. What made you answer this survey?

Part One was completely from Kelli.

Part Two was from a reader who answered my request.

Off Main Street by Michael Perry

Title: Off Main Street

Author: Michael Perry

Genre: Non-Fiction

Summary: A collection of articles and essays.

The Take-Away: Most of the writings are re-prints from pieces published in magzines. Still good writing, but they lack the connecting arch that was great about Population: 485.

Recommendation: Good, but might be best borrowed from the library.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Shattered Dreams

Michael Idov opened a neighborhood coffee shop such as I've frequented and entertained as being fun to open.

You know that charming little cafe on New York's Lower East Side that just closed after a mere six months in business—where coffee was served on silver trays with a glass of water and a little chocolate cookie? The one that, as you calmly and correctly observed, was doomed from its inception because it was too precious and too offbeat? The one you still kind of fell for, the way one falls for a tubercular maiden? Yeah, that one was mine.

After reading the article I realize that I'd never be able to handle the mathematics of it.

via J-Walk

Friday, March 24, 2006

Mary, Mary

Title: Mary, Mary

Author: James Patterson

Genre: Mystery

Summary: Alex Cross is drawn into a serial killer's onslaught against Hollywood and mothers.

The Take-Away: Another excellent installment in the Alex Cross series. Even though Alex has a ton of history, Patterson handles it well and only reveals what is essential to the current novel instead of trying to recap every mystery solved by the detective. Nor does he rely on the jacket flap.

Patterson uses different points of view in his novel effectively. Every time he does, it serves a purpose, and not to make his job easier. I point this out, so that Word Nerd feels challenged to take a chance on this novel and see its effectivity.

The clues to finding the killer are planted and clever, but the ending doesn't come out of nowhere. Patterson's expertise leaving clues and closing loops holes is my favorite part of his writing.

Recommendation: If you haven't started reading these, reading this one won't ruin any mysteries of the first ones. Check it out at the library.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Finding a Partner

As it turns out, finding a writing partner is every bit as important as finding a marriage partner. Only more important.

The vital importance of finding and retaining the right critique partner cannot be overstated. Therefore, as a public service, I have jotted down a few simple rules of critique partner harmony.

1. A work schedule must be strictly adhered to. As an example, my critique partner, Jade Lee, and I meet every day, except for weekends, holidays, days when children are sick, and days when Jade needs to watch the Rome episode she taped the night before. We write at a nearby coffee shop non-stop from 9:00 a.m. to nearly 9:14 a.m. when I usually discover my coffee needs just a little more cream. Thereafter, we slave away with absolutely no break until Jade rises to purchase her second chocolate croissant at shortly before 9:45 a.m. Naturally, by 10:30 a.m. we are ready for a well-deserved rest. Jade usually takes this time to discover if she has gotten to the next level of Tumble Bugs whilst I delve into the comics section of the local newspaper for inspiration.

Thanks, Elizabeth Hoyt, for the tips!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Point of Honour by Madeline Robins

Title: Point of Honour

Author: Madeline Robins

Genre: Mystery

Summary: Sarah Tolerance is hired to find a fan so that a promise made to dying mother could be heeded.

The Take-Away: I'm a fan of historical literature, whether written by a contemporary author or a contemporary of the time period. I was predisposed to enjoy this particular novel. It did however, take an unusual subject and add a new twist to it.

Sarah represents the many women forced into prostitution because a man took advantage of them. Except Sarah went willingly and wasn't forced into prostitution. Instead she ran away with her Catholic lover; she was Protestant and the requirements of the respective Churches were never overcome.

After the death of her lover, Sarah returns to England and rents a cottage from her aunt, who operates a bordello. Rather than earning her living by becoming part of her aunt's business (either as one of the girls or a bookkeeper), Sarah becomes an agent of inquiry. Because she used to be a member of gentry, she knows the proper social niceties, but is able to visit the seedy side of town when her investigations take her there.

The introduction of Sarah's personal history is awkward. I thought that this title was the second in the series, when in fact it is the first. The bulk of what I've explained was found in the jacket flap, not in the book itself. What was in the book was vague and relayed through half dreams or memories. Relying on the jacket to explain a basic premise of the book is lazy. Outside of that, the writing is good. I like Sarah's persistence and ethics. She faced one situation that illustrated her commitment to justice that surprised me greatly. It was an unusual twist.

Recommendation: Read it. The language isn't as inaccessible as Jane Austen or Wilkie Collins but reminiscent of each.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Cheet by Anna Davis

Title: Cheet

Author: Anna Davis

Genre: Chick Lit

Summary: A cab driver balances each love interested with a color-coded phone system and a carefully updated calendar until one man breaks all the unwritten rules.

The Take-Away: Normally, I like to have an ending when I read a book. This one didn't wrap up the details, but enough of them were concluded to leave the impression and direction of the characters without stating it directly.

The setting is London, which makes certain details not sit right in my mind, but easily chalked off to national differences. I do wonder, though, if it comes from an attempt to "Americanize" the novel; I've had this feeling with other British books.

Recommendation: If it's still on the discount table at Barnes and Noble, check it out.

Seriously, You Should Read This

A Peek Inside an Agent's Mind as she works through her query slush pile

I cannot believe the quality information that she is giving away. It's FREE people.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Danger, Will Roger!

If only it were that simple. Anne Fraiser has been thrown into the spotlight in a very bad way.

I always have the urge to just spit it all out. I started this blog partially as a place to vent, but quickly realized people were actually reading it and I had to be careful about what I said. So I started another blog where I could vent. But I was condemned and attacked for speaking up. someone sent the link to my publisher.

I'd love to know what her publisher has said. Katherine Patterson loves writing controversial novels because that means people are reading them. Anne, exploit the controversy and encourage people to think for themselves.

Friday, March 17, 2006


When I write, I outline. Okay, so I've only done it with two stories, but I finished the one and am 1/5 of the way through the other. I never used to outline and often found myself hung up with "What Comes Next" staring at me. I'd make something up and cross my fingers that the whole thing made sense. (It didn't.)

I changed my mind about outlines for two reasons. First and most importantly, I wanted to get rid of What Comes Next. I hated how that sucker would stare down at the empty space under my text. He'd do some really funky things and I'd give up for 2 or 3 months at a shot. Once it even went on for a year. Second, when I sell a book, the next one will require an outline.

JA Konrath uses an outline and tells writers to do so in his post Outlines, Writer's Block and Motivation. He also includes the outline of Bloody Mary.

The post is worth while. The outline will be interesting as I have read Bloody Mary. I'm interested in the sketch.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Bubbles Unbound by Sarah Strohmeyer

Title: Bubbles Unbound

Author: Sarah Strohmeyer

Genre: Chick Lit

Summary: Hair stylist Bubbles wants something better in life - to be someone her daughter can admire. After taking and failing every course offered by the community college, she finds one that suits her perfectly - journalism. After all, digging out gossip is what hair stylists do best.

The Take-Away: It was fun to learn that Strohmeyer had help writing her book from Janet Evanovich. It wasn't fun learning that Bubbles had no idea that Althea was a goddess. It was fun to see why Bubbles is determined to better herself. It wasn't fun to see novice mistakes like long sections of exposition and awkwardly introduced characters.

Having read the third in the series Bubbles A Broad, however, I know that she gets better.

Recommendation: Borrow it from the library and catch-up while waiting for the next Stephanie Plum book.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Bubbles A Broad by Sarah Strohmeyer

Title: Bubbles A Broad

Author: Sarah Strohmeyer

Genre: Chick Lit

Summary: A wannabe journalist investigates on behalf of an escaped convict/socialite surburan housewife. The mystery points directly to the town's biggest employer who is known for covering up problems.

The Take-Away: Books like this one and Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum make classification hard. A death is investigated, but no cars are blown up. A dangerousily sexy man waits in the wings, but only one, not two. If you like Evanovich, I'd give Bubbles, a try. This title, however, is third in the series and plot details occurs in Books 1 and 2.

I liked Bubbles, but could tell that I missed out on certain details by starting here. For instance, why is the former stylist so determined to become a journalist? How did she start solving crimes? What's prevented her and Steve Stiletto from sleeping together before this?

Serial characters are my favorite to read when I really like them and have vested interest in getting to know them better. I picked this one up in a good spot too; I'm only behind by two books.

Recommendation: Read it for the entertainment value and the great hair and skin care tips at the end.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Hordes of Ambition, Anyone?

If I were single, I'd have the ambition to do this. Instead, I have kids who absorb that ambition.

Library Thing is a way to catalogue your books. According to the website...

LibraryThing is an online service to help people catalog their books easily. Because everyone catalogs together, you can also use LibraryThing to find people with similar libraries, get suggestions from people with your tastes and so forth.

via J-walk

Monday, March 13, 2006

Bloody Mary by J.A. Konrath

Title: Bloody Mary

Author: JA Konrath

Genre: Mystery

Summary: During a sweltering Chicago summer, a pair of arms are discovered at the morgue and the rest of the body is missing.

The Take-Away: Mr. Konrath has a way of planting clues that made me guess and second guess myself. For instance, early on, the killer has headaches and takes several aspirin for them. In the very next scene, a cop, Barry Fuller, has a headache and takes several aspirin for him. But the killer can't be a cop, can he? Most of the authors that I read in this genre either leave out a portion of the clue that prevents me from solving it or the clues are so subtle that I miss them. Generally, I need the kind you can trip over. That's what makes me second guess myself when reading this book.

Jack's love of fashion bothers me. In the first book, Whiskey Sour, I dismissed the references to Armani suits with the facts that Jack had no kids and her mom lived in a condo in Florida. I thought it plausible that with some good money management she would be able to afford such things on a cop's salary. But in this book I found out that Jack also is paying a hefty portion of the condo payment for her mother. And Jack has a really bad informercial shopping habit. The $550 Ferragamo sandals don't sound too plausible when Jack lusts over them while following a lead.

The series lacks the umph of James Patterson, but is entertaining in a very straight forward, no nonsense detecting sort of way.

Recommendation: I'm intriqued enough to read the third title, Rusty Nail, but I'd like to know how Jack can afford such expensive tastes, so I can fulfill a few of my fashion fantasies. Word Nerd has her own thoughts on this author.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Messenger by Lois Lowry

Title: Messenger

Author: Lois Lowry

Genre: Fantasy

Summary: Matty leaves the village in turmoil to bring Kira to her father. He races against Kira's defective leg and those who want to close the borders of the village.

The Take-Away: Finally, I know what happened to Jonas (The Giver). And Kira, who I read about earlier this month. The world Lowry created is wonderful. She's left enough clues throughout this book that I want to see the changes that have been made, but know that it won't be revisited.

Recommendation: Buy the triology for yourself and another set for your kids.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry

Title: Gathering Blue

Author: Lois Lowry

Genre: Fantasy

Summary: Kira's life is in jeopardy after her mother's death. Kira's birth defect prevents her from being a contributing member of society until the Council discovers her talents.

The Take-Away: I was thrilled to receive a newsletter that said The Giver triology was being released. I was equally disappointed to discover that Gathering Blue was a companion novel, not a sequel. But wait! The third, Messenger pulls the two together. YES!

Without having read the book I was determined to like it. The worst part was the ending. I turned the page and honestly thought that there would be another chapter. Then I re-read the last paragraphs, thought about it, and realized that the ending fit the book beautifully. But I still wanted to know what happened to the characters from The Giver.

The community that Kira lives in requires that all people contribute. Instead of being dominated by a spirit of giving, the community is run with fear and strength. Kira is able to find her place in the world and an alternative. It is her decision that resolves the novel.

Recommendation: Get all three and plan for a weekend read.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Post #601, baby!

I feel like I should throw a party, except my house isn't very large. Or clean. But I have lots of books.

Instead I'm going to welcome persistent ambivalence to the world of blogging. Already his great sense of humor is shiny and squeaking clean.

No pressure, T. Cannon!

I'm a sucker for Book Lists

The Guardian's headline reads "Harper Lee Tops Librarians' must-read list

My have reads are in bold

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  2. The Bible
  3. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by JRR Tolkien
  4. 1984 by George Orwell
  5. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  6. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  7. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  8. All Quite on the Western Front by E M Remarque
  9. His Dark Materials Trilogy by Phillip Pullman
  10. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
  11. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  12. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  13. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
  14. Tess of the D'urbevilles by Thomas Hardy
  15. Winnie the Pooh by AA Milne
  16. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  17. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham
  18. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  19. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  20. The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  21. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
  22. The Prophet by Khalil Gibran
  23. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  24. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  25. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
  26. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  27. Middlemarch by George Eliot
  28. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
  29. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  30. A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzenhitsyn

via J-Walk

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Cost of a New Author

The title is a total rip-off from Nadia Cornier's column at Romancing the Blog only because it's fantastic. The article, I mean. Seriously. The local is deceptive because it's any author, not just a romance author. It just might explain that last rejection.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

Title: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Author: John Berendt

Genre: Memoir

Summary: A murder in Savannah goes to trial three times while a local writer learns about the city from both sides of the tracks.

The Take-Away: The book was orinally published in 1994. One of the blurbs on the back called it a non-fiction novel. Given some of the hype about other current, widely publized novels memoirs, I first wonder what a non-fiction novel is. Then I wonder how much of it is true.

Like all things southern (or so I've been told) the pace is slow. The actual story could have been told in a fraction of the space, but it would have suffered from the loss of several characters, most likely the Lady Chablis. She was my favorite in the book and I kept wondering what she would do next. The writer doubles as the narrator. He meets Chablis (yes, named after the wine) outside of a doctor's office. Chablis recruits him as her chauffer and he willingly goes along. That was the tamest part of her role.

I picked this copy up at a rummage sale last summer. It was worth the $0.50 I paid for it.

Recommendation: If your desire is a leisurely walk through someone else's life, this will satisfy that desire.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Less of Me

Food is a vital part of our lives. Not only does it keep us alive, it is used to supplement celebrations. Birthday cake, Christmas treats, Halloween candy - is there any celebration that doesn't mean food?

Wisconsin is known for its love of beer, brats and cheese. The combination of frigid winters and the football season equals a battle of the waistlines, with few winners. We also are a leader in the country for alcohol consumption.

I've struggled with weight and image issues my entire life. Over the last five years the image issues are more or less gone away. The weight issue has not. While I don't mind the way my face looks, I do mind the way I look naked. Since moving to Wisconsin, I've gained thirty pounds and two clothing sizes.

I've tried various things like joining the local YMCA, biking to work (in the summer only), walking outdoors, etc. But to no effect. Those thirty pounds refuse to move. Even though my activity levels have increased, food continues to keep me in my plus size clothes.

A college friend and I have had some discussion lately has to our desire to have less of ourselves around. The problem stems from different areas for both of us even though the outcome is the same. Making matters worse are stores like Torrid who cater to plus size women - starting at size 12. I'm conflicted about the store. Their fashions do consider the differences in making clothes for a size 4 versus a size 18, but plus sizes don't start at 12. Contrary to what the fashion world would like people to believe, size 0 through 4 is a tiny person, not a normal sized person.

I know of one person who has sucessfully lost and maintained a significant weight loss. He is a very approachable, friendly, accepting sort of guy, so I asked Jason for help. I want to lose the 30 lbs I've put on since moving here.

He's excited, eager even, to help. He loves weight loss, exercising and nutrition the way I love books. I've hired him to help me. I'm already exercising 3 times a week for 30 minutes a shot. I run on an elliptical runner at the YMCA during my lunch break. I'd like to make it four times a week, but life keeps conspiring against me.

Because I'm a record keeping freak, I have all sorts of data harvested from the machine's stats concerning my distances, times and calorie burns. I'm doing good there, he says. Then he asked about my food and water intake.


It's bad and I know it. I love cookies. Brownies. Diet Pepsi. My list of sins is too embarrassing to recount; let's just agree that it's what's keeping those 30 lbs around.

Because he has done it, Jason knows how difficult it is. Because he knows me and my zealous nature for record keeping, he suggested that I write down everything I eat in a day, along with the calories. Even if it is a stick of gum or a piece of hard candy, count it. The only change right now is to increase my water intake from haphazard to 1 gallon a day. No Diet Pepsi.

Do you know how much you pee when you drink a gallon of water a day? I also added four pounds after doing it for one day. The next day I lost five.

I'm confident that if I listen to Jason, I will achieve my goals. He says he can help me get to what the doctor office chart consider a healthy weight for my height. I have nothing to lose. Except some extra pounds.

Less of Me
Month Change To Go
Jan - 30
Feb +1.03 31.58
Mar - -
Apr - -
May - -
Jun - -
Jul - -
Aug - -
Sep - -
Oct - -
Nov - -
Dec - -

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Sites of Noveling Interest

J-Walk is always great for useless information but he recently had two posts that were interesting to my noveling habits.

The first was a link to and their latest experiment - Height / Weight chart with Photographs. They are looking for reader submissions. Since different people wear their weight differently, as it were, it won't be 100% accurate. But it will be better than romance novels who like their overweight step-sisters to be 5 ft 4 inches and 145 lbs. (Get a clue!).

The second was a link to Cliff Pickover's "How to Create an Instant Bestselling Novel". Most of the suggestions are known to anyone who as been writing for any length of time. It's a great summary for someone just getting started as it contains both examples and references.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Bookworm Report, February 2006

Another frigid month has come and gone. We're that much closer to warm weather and long bike rides. Sanity will return.

The List, if you please.

Bookworm Review
Year Pages Books
2001 3,049 11
2002 3,409 8
2003 1,911 5
2004 2,597 8
2005 923 3
2006 3,730 12

For the year, I've read 23 books, or 7,164 pages, which averages to 12 books a month, or 3,582 pages per month, and an average book length of 311 pages.

I should start a FAQ section as I get this question all the time: "How do you read so much in one month?" I'll tell you my secrets, but no judgements can be passed. I read fast and I don't clean except for what will kill us. My kids watch television while I read. The reading fast is the biggest trick. When I was single, I averaged 18 books a month. I didn't have television at the time. It's all about priorities.

And while I love my kids to death, I can only watch Blue's Clues and Thomas the Tank Engine so many times before my head explodes. Yes, I do play with them, but during a 30 minute video, I can read 50-60 pages. See, it's the reading fast that does it.