Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Book Sleuthing Pays Off: Post-Christmas Shopping

For Christmas, my boss gave me an Amazon gift card with the note: Buy some fiction or non-fiction, on me. And I intend to do just that. I've already put two books in my cart, but I have room for one more and I'm having a hard time choosing. Please help me?

Currently in the cart: 

Can't choose between: 


Has anyone read any of these? Can you help me choose? 

Monday, December 19, 2011

I Propose - A Book Club

I read a total of 22 books this year. Which is good - but not great. It's a sad, small number compared to what I'm usually able to produce. But, my life also changed a lot this year. And it's a blessing I got any reading done at all.

Things have pretty much settled for me now and so I thought it was time to set myself a reading goal for 2012. My goal for 2012 is to double the number of books I read in 2011, for a grand total of 44.

My question for you is - does anyone want to join me in the effort to read more in this coming year or to maintain the number they currently have? I've been quite the inactive Shelfari member for quite a while now, but I could start a small group for us to share our goals and talk about the different books we're reading. Perhaps we could even read one or two together?

Happy Reading!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Top Ten Books for 2011

I wish I had read more this year. It's my goal for next year to read more. And get some quality non-fiction in. Not just celebrity memoirs. Surprising though, for the so few books that I've read, there are three books that I read this year that stand out as clear favorites. I'm going to have a hard time choosing which one is the ultimate favorite of 2011. And books 9 - 5 are also pretty equally seeded.  But, I'll give it a go:

10. The Elephant to Hollywood - Michael Caine
9.  The Invention of Hugo Cabret - Brian Selznick
8. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - Ransom Riggs
7. The Jane Austen Book Club - Karen Joy Fowler
6. Thirteen Reasons Why - Jay Asher
5. Life Among the Savages - Shirley Jackson
4. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society - Mary Ann Schaffer & Annie Barrows
3. Of Mice & Men - John Steinbeck
2. A Northern Light - Jennifer Donnelly
1. Geek Love - Katherine Dunn

It was so hard to choose between A Northern Light and Geek Love! I loved them both so much. But I think Geek Love was very clearly my favorite book of this year, especially with its tie-ins to last year's favorite book of the year.

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Friday, November 18, 2011

First Impressions

Before Pride & Prejudice was published as Pride & Prejudice, it was a manuscript known as First Impressions. And so I thought this excerpt from The Jane Austen Book Club was perfect:

Sylvia's first impression of Allegra was that no one had ever before had such a beautiful baby.
Jocelyn's first impression of Grigg was that he had nice eyelashes and a funny name, and didn't interest her in the slightest.
Prudie's first impression of Bernadette was that she was startling to look at and dull if you listened, which you hardly ever had to do.
Bernadette's first impression of Prudie was that, in all her long years, she had rarely seen such a frightened young woman.
Grigg's first impression of Jocelyn was that she appeared to think sharing an elevator with him for a few floors was some sort of punishment.
Allegra's first impression of Sylvia was blurred with her first impression of the larger world. For me? she'd asked herself back when she had no words and no way to even know she was asking. And then, when Sylvia, and then, when Daniel had first looked into her eyes -- More for me? 
Purchase Now from Amazon: The Jane Austen Book Club (movie tie-in)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Jane Austen Book Club - Karen Joy Fowler

Rating: 4 stars
Shelf: Reading Now

Incredibly, incredibly surprising. I really never count on the books that are the inspirations for chick flicks to be very good. The only one I can think of actually enjoying reading was Bridget Jones. Other than that, Under the Tuscan Sun was pretty disappointing and I preferred the movie. The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood was another one I couldn't get through. Yet, I love the movie so much.

So, when I saw this calling out to me at the bookstore, I carefully skimmed the first few pages just to make sure I liked the language. I could tell immediately that it was very unlike the movie (which I love). And I could tell that THAT fact was entirely to the novel's benefit. The story is gorgeous and well-told. We get a bigger picture of who each character is. Each is much better fleshed out.

In the movie, there are lines and situations which annoy me about some of the characters. These lines were often stolen straight from the book - but removed from the context so that instead of flowing as beautifully and having as much impact as it does in the book, it falls flat.

So, in essence, I don't know if I'll ever be satisfied with a movie I had once loved so much in the past.

At least both put you in the Austen state of mind!

Purchase Now from Amazon:  The Jane Austen Book Club (movie tie-in)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Life Among the Savages - Shirley Jackson

Rating: 4 stars
Shelf: Reading Now

In this memoir, Shirley Jackson writes beautifully and hilariously about the growth of her family, from two, to three, and finally four children. She captures their constantly changing and charming personalities by describing often ridiculous family conversations around the dinner table.

But, what I found most interesting about the memoir was the social aspect. Shirley Jackson - author of The Lottery, The Haunting of Hill House, We Have Always Lived in the Castle (and more) - is obviously a brilliant woman. But she's often caught up in feeling guilty over her lack of housewife ability.

One of my favorite scenes in the book is when Shirley describes going to the hospital to have her third child. The nurse asks her for her name and occupation. Shirley can't at first remember her name and tells her that she is a writer. The nurse insists that she "just put housewife." When the nurse asks for her husband's occupation, Shirley tells her to just put housewife.

Purchase Now from Amazon: Life Among the Savages

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

An Exercise (For Me)

I'm busy cranking away at NaNoWriMo. I fell a little behind over the weekend, but not so far behind that I couldn't easily catch up. The goal for today is 13,336. I'm currently at 10,759 - a difference of 2,577 words. Not too shabby, I think.

I got a little stuck on the chapters that I'd decided to get out of the way because I knew I was going to hate writing them. These chapters are located in the middle of the book and are the only three that are semi-based in reality. I always get tripped up on this. I think I've written about it before. I become so focused on getting it right, getting it exactly how it happened, that the narrative suffers for it. Greatly. I finally "finished" (I'm about 3,000 words short of where I wanted to be with each chapter) 2 of the 3 pseudo-reality chapters and decided to go back to the beginning, which is all make-believe. I'm much happier there.

Still, for all that I hate writing memoir, or memoir-ish chapters, I started thinking back to dear old Anabel & Paul - the novel I was working on for last year's NaNoWriMo and which I'm currently editing/polishing/finishing(?). I started taking a writing class Wednesday's after work and decided to use the class to aid in my editing, to try and get reactions from an actual audience about my characters. In re-reading Chapter One, I realized how much I use from my own life to flesh out the characters and the home.

So that's why this exercise is for me. I wanted to go through and see how much of myself I insert and, from there, try and determine how I can better work/edit the memory-based chapters I'm working on now.

- “Ana,” he grumbled.: Ana is a name I use for a lot of my characters. It has everything to do with my work with and study of eating disorders in college.

- The door had its knob in the center instead of to the side,: The door to my Grandfather's second house had the knob in the center. I loved it.

and a multicolored granny square blanket that her Nana had crocheted when she was a little girl.: I don't think my Nana ever actually crocheted me anything. But she did crochet and she was my Nana. Actually, she taught me crochet basics, so I guess that's something.

- but since he disliked being baited, he said nothing and continued fiddling with the part in his dark corner.: I HATE being baited and will often make situations extremely uncomfortable if that's what you're trying to do, just by simply not asking. I was working on a project with a girl in class once, someone I had only just met, and she kept hemming and hawing over something semi-tragic that had happened to her that weekend. But, she wasn't actually coming out and saying what it was. She definitely wanted me to ask. I didn't.

- She put down her copy of Little Women on the bench beside her: I read Little Women for the first time around this time last year and resolved to make it a yearly, Christmas time read. I already have the movie on constant rotation during the holidays.

- Anabel’s eyes were one blue, one brown. The pupil in her brown eye was shaped like a lima bean, disfigured from the time her younger brother loaded a snowball with a rock and aimed for her face.: Weird that I attributed this to a female character when it comes from a boy who I was in (puppy) love with in grade school. His eyes were the same and I believe it was because his brother threw a snowball at him that was loaded with a rock.

- and a bag of peppermint tea from the tea canister on the wooden shelf above the stove.: Peppermint tea is my favorite!

- she smiled, tilting her head in his direction: Not that this is personal, but I picture the way that Rachel McAdams looks at Mark Brendanawicz (who cares what his real name is?) at the end of The Family Stone, when they're hanging the last ornament on the tree.

What about you? How much of your own personality do you tend to insert in your writing? And if you don't, if you prefer to keep your writing solidly based in fiction, why? What's your process? 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

NaNoWriMo Launched!

It's that time of year again. When I resign myself to writing 50,000 words in a mere thirty days. When I actually take the time to write. Make excuses FOR my writing, instead of against it. Every year the process is horrifying, daunting - overwhelming. Yet somehow, by the time fall hits each year, I've forgotten the pain and can only look towards November and NaNoWriMo with anticipation.

My past two years were a... failure? Year One, I abandoned pretty early on. I didn't like what I was writing coupled with the fact that I was using someone else's personal experiences to write the story. It was all just wrong and devastating. Year Two, I plodded along full steam ahead until about 35,000 words. I only quit because of a different, more lucrative opportunity. Year Three? I've finished editing the gargantuan ms. I've moved to a new place - a happier place. A place more conducive to my creative exploits. I'm taking writing classes with women who foster my creativity. And - I have a decent idea. I think I'll make it.

Yesterday, East Line Books hosted a launch party. Launch party it shouldn't be called, actually. Because a few people showed up expecting a PARTY and were a little more than disappointed to find us all silently working at our tables. How is this fun? Seriously, though. How did I have so much fun?

For me, it's wonderful just to be in that environment. Surrounded by other writers who are silently working, silently struggling, silently hoping. It's universal. And not only that, to write in one of the most gorgeous  bookstores I've ever been in, surrounded floor to ceiling by books! The smell of them! How could that not be fun?

Excerpts from "A Kentucky Love Story"

One I love:

Tobacco mixed with saliva in his mouth. Instead of aiming for the rusty tin can which had been set next to his rocking chair for just such an occasion, Brent Engell chose to careen the sloggish brown mixture toward the bushes at the edge of his porch. The spit hung precariously from a barren branch before slowly stretching itself thin and falling to the ground with a satisfying plunk.  A lone fly, quicker on the uptake than its brothers who buzzed incessantly in Brent’s ear, alighted from the can and hovered over the freshest dropping. Brent grunted and continued to clean his rifle.
It was hunting season in Kentucky for the muzzleloaders.

And another not so much:

A hawk took off into the sky from somewhere deep within the woods. A smaller bird fretted around it, seeming to fight off the larger, more dangerous bird. Brent watched as the hawk soared high and away from its tiny prey. The smaller bird settled back into the treetops and the hawk began to circle, giving the area where the bird had disappeared an extremely wide berth at first, but gradually coming in, ready but willing to wait. To lull its prey into a false sense of security as it burrowed safely back into its warm nest amongst the already changing leaves.

Ugh... how do you even fix that? But that's what so freeing about NaNoWriMo. I stared at that for a while and started to try and edit it. But I thought, NO. I've written it. It counts for my NaNo count and that's that. When November's over and done, then I'll edit. Move on. Keep writing.

Are participating this year? What are some of your strategies for staying on task?

Visit my profile if you'd like to be writing buddies. I'd love to hear about what you're working on!

Monday, October 31, 2011

As An Editor

Last night, I finally finished my work on the three book manuscript I was hired to edit last November. Total manuscript length was 887 pages and well over 200,000 words. That's nearly 11 months of laboriously pouring   over all those words and all those pages. Countless hours and one extremely edit-filled Saturday as I raced to the finish line.

I have to say - I enjoyed the entire process immensely. The book is good and I really think he'll get picked up. The money was pretty good too. Helped to cover a few errant doctor's bills and the like.

There were a couple things I learned about myself as an editor while working on this project. I thought I'd share them:

- I'm controlling and I know it: This is actually a very good attribute. I think anyway. You can't just be controlling - you have to also know it. Controlling in the sense that - I'm OCD about grammar and consistency and 'show don't tell' and cutting unnecessary slog. And I know it in the sense that - I try not to go overboard. With each edit that I make, I agonize over whether or not it's the right decision for the manuscript. Or, do I just want to change it because I'm queen? I think the end result of this is relevant, well-thought-out edits.

- I'm a much better editor than I am a writer: I love to write. But I think that the only reason my writing has any strength at all is because I'm (see above). OCD about grammar and consistency and... blah blah blah. Yadda yadda yadda. Someone remarked on this in my writing class. That my writing is incredibly tight and well constructed, and how do I do that? The answer is, I don't. I don't do that while I'm writing. Unedited, my writing is full of garbage. There's a woman in my class who writes the most fantastic stuff. Her structure is horrific, but her words and her imagery. I can't do that! Edited, though. It's perfection. (Just... let me think it's perfection, okay?)

What about you? Are you a better editor, or better writer? Do you enjoy structure, or do you just need to get the story out of you?  

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Invention of Hugo Cabret - Brian Selznick

Rating: 4 stars
Shelf:  Reading Now 

Absolutely incredible. A mixture of mediums/genres - YA lit, graphic novel and historical fiction - Brian Selznick weaves a wonderful tale using everything he has at his disposal. The result is a fast paced novel that pays with all of the reader's senses, and draws us in more quickly than any traditional book could.

Hugo is an orphaned and abandoned young boy, living within the walls of a train station in France, and maintaining the station's clocks. He works diligently to bring an automaton to life - one that his father had been attempting to fix prior to his death. It isn't until the day that he meets an old toy-store clerk,  his goddaughter and a mystery drawing is unveiled that the wheels and cogs of Hugo's life start to click into place.

Purchase Now from Amazon: The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Scott Westerfeld Answered Me - and Why Twitter Brings People Closer Together

I'm a bit behind writing this post and I'm going to blame all the travel. Indiana (ugh) followed closely by Texas (awesome).

While I was bored out of my mind in Indiana and sad because my rental car had been towed the night before and then I got stood up for a professional lunch (which later turned out to just be a misunderstanding, but at THIS point, I thought I couldn't even complete my ONE GOAL in traveling to Indiana and so I was feeling pretty sorry for myself). So, I took to Twitter. I take to Twitter a lot while I'm traveling.

Scott Westerfeld had tweeted that he was doing a book signing in San Francisco.

Since I was feeling really sorry for myself, and wishing I was anywhere but Indiana, I decided to reply.

And then he answered me!

I was pretty excited. I've tweeted at several authors, Meg Cabot for one. I've even tweeted furiously at Levar Burton. But - Scott Westerfeld was the first to answer me. The Uglies series is one of my favorite YA/Teen series as evidenced by this photo:

Where I proudly rock my "I'm an Ugly" t-shirt and shock little old ladies into shouting - "Why would you wear a shirt like that!?" So you can imagine the sort of dance I did when I saw this wonderful author's response to sad and dejected tweet.

I know everyone is really terrified of everything digital these days. It's the death of the book, which I really don't think it is. It's the death of communication - which. I think I communicate MORE with people from all over than I ever did when there was just a telephone, or handwritten letters. Because I hate the phone and handwritten letters are awesome and romantic before they get tedious and boring. And what is better than the ability to connect and communicate with your favorite authors?

Looking at Mr. Westerfeld's account, I can see that he very often responds to fans. And I think that's pretty awesome of him to take the time to do that. I hope that he knows he's truly brightening people's days/evenings. And, by being so accessible, probably keeping all those social network junked up kids reading real books.

Do you use Twitter? Have you ever gotten a response from an author or an actor that really made your day?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Bossypants - Tina Fey

Rating: 3 stars
Shelf: Reading Now 

I can't believe I read ANOTHER celebrity bio this year. I think my brain is turning to mush. Anyway - this was okay. I had high expectations going into this and I don't think they were really met. Sure it was cute and there were moments when I chuckled and I'm glad she finally satisfied my insane need to KNOW about her scar... but - and I'm sure I'll get crucified for this - I'm sort of getting tired of the same old Liz Lemon/Tina Fey. 

Also, I need to read some non-fiction, stat. 

Purchase Now from Amazon: Bossypants

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Feast for Crows - George R. R. Martin

Rating: 3 stars
Shelf: Reading Now 

Very, very slow going and not the best out of the series. Still - it's George R.R. and it's Song of Ice and Fire and I read the whole thing. Luckily it picked up at the end and I was able to really enjoy it. I can't wait to read Dance with Dragons and I'll still love this series truly and completely, but ... someone should have edited this. 

Purchase Now from Amazon: A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 4)

Friday, September 23, 2011

The End of Something - The Start of Something New?

I've spent the better part of this past year editing a three book, 887 page, YA dystopic fantasy novel. The author had approached me during NaNoWriMo 2010 and, since it was a paid gig, I dropped working on my manuscript and started working on his.

We're nearing the end now and the author just wrote to ask if I thought it was feasible to finish the whole thing before the end of October so he could reach his goal of having the whole thing polished and done by the end of November.

Of course I can, I said.

It's actually perfect timing. With NaNoWriMo 2011 fast approaching, I'd begun to think about getting back to my own writing. I haven't even looked at the Ana & Paul manuscript since I abandoned it last year. I started getting back into it by bringing a portion of Chapter 1 to my writing class this past Wednesday, letting them know that there were many things I liked about it and many things I hated and that I was counting on their feedback to get the manuscript where it needs to be. I've also been reading through the rest of the chapters, now a year distant from the story - and I really like it. I'm glad.

I've also got an outline worked out for this year's NaNoWriMo based on a crazy incident that happened in Vegas. I can't stop thinking about it, speculating what went wrong, or what makes a person do the things they do. I'm really excited to start it.

So, it just so happened that - the author and I are on the same page. We're both ready to be done and we're both ready to move on. Isn't that scary? His project is the biggest project I've ever worked on - including anything I've ever written myself. I've become so close to it, to the story and to his characters. I've worked so hard and loved every minute of it.

Of course I can, I said. I feel so, so sad that I can.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

How To Really Lose Weight Without Dieting - Week Five

Weight: 154
Down: NO

A week with no guidance wasn't the greatest thing. And having no clue what my second portion size should really be had me wandering off the path more often, though I was still very aware of when I reached 'full'.

This next chapter is about letting yourself snack - and so, starting yesterday, I introduced small, healthy snacks throughout the day. We'll see how that goes and if it helps with the persistent hunger I was feeling last week.

I really need the next step to kick this up a notch so that I feel motivated again. Unless hovering around 153 is just where I'm supposed to be for my ideal body weight... but I kind of doubt it.

Can you tell I'm feeling discouraged?

Purchase Now from Amazon:  How To Really Lose Weight Without Dieting

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Writing Class & Memoir

I had my first writing class this week and it was really very interesting and fun. And AMAZING to be in a room with writers and readers again. I didn't realize how much I missed it until I was there, critiquing other's pieces and having my own critiqued.

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I'd worked on a memoir for this week. I was encouraged to write it by a co-worker who also attends the class with me.

I thought I'd share some of their favorite excerpts first:

It's amazing, really, what stays with you and what disappears over time. If I close my eyes and try to conjure your face or your voice - all I get are snippets, like overexposed slides. Brief. Fleeting. I can't quite grasp it. Can't make you stay no matter how hard I will myself to remember and to hold on. But sometimes - and it doesn't matter when. It isn't a 'when the moon is full,' sort of sometimes, or a 'when the rain falls on a summer's day' sometimes. Just sometimes, I can hear your laugh. High and clear. And happy. That laugh.
Six years now. Six years since you tried to die. Six years since that week we waited, hoping that seven minutes without oxygen wasn't actually seven minutes too long.
It was.

But suddenly, your mother was standing in front of us, looking nothing like the woman I’d known my entire life. She started to speak and her words hardly made any sense. How it couldn’t have been over something so silly, she always told you that you could talk to her. She didn’t know why you did it. How could you have done it? She wandered back into the family waiting room as abruptly as she had come, leaving those words echoing through my head.
Done it? Done it?
Done it. Done it with the rope from the tire swing we played on as kids. Done it over a girl you’d screwed over at least five times before. But when she was finally through with you, you decided you were through with life. Done it because you’d pushed us all away over the past year but was poisoned by your own depression into thinking that it was us who pushed you away.

Their constructive feedback:

- Describing why I was at the hospital that day: I go on for a little too long giving the background of why I was even at the hospital that day. (I had gone to be with my dad while he had a routine surgery.) I talk about my mom and about being home from school and it being the summer before my senior year. I talk about the kind of surgery he's getting. The feedback was that all this backstory really isn't necessary. I can mention my dad going in for routine surgery and my deciding to take him and move on. One sentence. Otherwise, this paragraph follows the "It was" from the excerpt above and so interrupts and takes away from the flow of the story.

- Clarity is sometimes a problem within the memoir. I've always had trouble writing memoir because I feel too attached and too close to the subject. I can't determine what's part of the greater story and what isn't, because I feel like ALL of it needs to be jammed in there. And then there's the problem of the things that I know that I think other people MUST know too. For instance, I use "she" when referring to the person that is the first to call me and alert me to the fact that my friend is in the hospital. My only description is that when she calls, I recognize her voice and I don't use a name. However, in the paragraph prior, I'm describing being confused by having seen my friend's mother crying. It's easy to think that maybe I'm referring to her and not a different person.

I heard a woman wail and my eyes moved to the door. She was blonde, her hair a curly mass, tied to the top of her head. The people she was with placed their hands gently on her arms and carefully led her out the door. I couldn’t be sure from just the back of her head – Mrs. Leh…?
My phone rang. This time, I recognized the voice.
“Did something happen to Dave?” she sounded worried. She was our director, our teacher – our good friend.

How do you guys feel about writing memoir? Is there anything about it you find difficult?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

How to Really Lose Weight Without Dieting - Week Five

Weight: 153
Down: 0

This is just a brief update as I don't start the next phase of the program until next week. I've gone to the lower portion, but I'm having a lot of trouble with it, which is why my weight is probably still remaining steady (though my pooch - excuse the term - seems to be considerably smaller than usual.). I do REALLY well all day, breakfast, lunch and dinner.

But I find that I'm still incredibly hungry after dinner. Like - stomach protesting loudly type hungry. I drink a lot of water and try to ignore it, but then end up snacking. Still hungry. So more snacking. Last night, after my pasta dinner (about a 1.5 cups of pasta with butter, garlic and thyme) I had a pudding cup and then 1/4 of Chef Boyardee Spaghetti & Meatballs - a leftover nonperishable courtesy of Irene. We are a little tight on cash right now, hence nothing better to eat. Luckily the Chef Boyardee was nasty, so I ended up putting most of it in the fridge for the boy to devour.

Anyway, I hope Week 5 introduces something to help me combat this need to eat everything in my kitchen right before bed so that my number can start to drop again.

Purchase Now from Amazon:  How To Really Lose Weight Without Dieting

Monday, September 12, 2011

Why Listening to Audio Books on Roadtrips is Awesome

The only audiobook I've owned up until a few weeks ago was Harry Potter Book 7, Deathly Hallows. I've listened to it 3-4 times already. My hometown is 3.5 hours from where I live now and instead of spending most of my drive time trying to find new radio stations to listen to (I lost my iPod, or it was stolen, a while back and I refuse to buy a new one), I like to spend my time with Harry & Co.

A friend of mine recently gifted me Book 6, Half Blood Prince on CD. I went home this weekend and brought it with me. 7 hours of Harry Potter = awesome.

Now, I've read each book in this series more times than I can count. But there's something about having it read to me that helps me to pick up on certain things that I may not have noticed just reading through.

Like when Slughorn tells Harry that he has his mother's aptitude for Potions and I realized one of two possible/likely things:

1) Snape tutored Lily in Potions (I mean, we knew that already, right - from the flashbacks in 7?)
2) Snape's notes in his book were written with Lily in mind (since he was older) and she also used the HBP's text in Potions class.

I travel to Long Island again this weekend for my cousin's 13th birthday and I plan on having Harry accompany me again. I hope to have many more awesome revelations.

Purchase Now from Amazon: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

How To Really Lose Weight Without Dieting - Week Three

Weight: 153
Down: stayed the same
Waist Size: 32 3/14
Difference: 1 1/4 inch

How have I done with each of the goals?

1) Portion Control: I've stuck true to cutting down my original serving to my Weeks 1-2 goal. Doing this has helped me pay more attention to my body's hunger signs. There's been times when I've realized I'm full BEFORE even finishing my new portion! That spells success to me. And the one day this week (Fantasy Football Draft Day) that I went overboard because we had a bit of a chili and beer party - I felt so gross after overdoing it (mind you - the NEW overdoing it, not the old, during which I probably would have scoffed down A LOT more) that I became more mindful of what I was eating for the remainder of the week. However, I've not yet eaten outside of the way I'd normally eat. I'm making/ingesting the same foods, perhaps bulking them up with veggies a bit - just controlling the portion size. At no point during this program did I ever feel like I was depriving myself of anything I wanted. Even icecream. You know, instead of eating the entire pint in one go, I made it last over 4-5 servings.

2) Light Exercise: I've been every [sunny] day with my friend at work. It's about a mile and it really gets our hearts pumping in the middle of the day. I've also been trying to get up off my butt more frequently, talking to people in person rather than calling or e-mailing. I also moved my car further out in the lot so that I have a longer walk in the mornings/afternoons.

3) Fruit: I've been trying to find ways to sneak it in and so far, so good - with fruit juices, pears eaten for breakfast, and dried fruits when I'm snacking. I would like to include smoothies, but they seem to be so calorie rich, no matter where you go to get them.

4) Water: I've always been a heavy water drinker, so no problem there. Chapter 4 involves methods for tricking your body into thinking it's already slightly full before you begin your meal. I've been doing that by drinking a couple full glasses of water to give my stomach that heavy feeling. Chapter 4 has other really awesome suggestions as well.

So, now. What does Chapter 5 and the kick off to Week 3 entail?

Not sure, really. This chapter got a little vague. It's really a pump it up chapter, don't get down on yourself for indulging. Don't decide to eat an entire package of cookies just because you slipped an had a couple. Indulging isn't failing. That sort of thing.

I'm also supposed to start my new, new portion size. Except the book doesn't go into detail on how exactly I find my new portion size. So I'm going to go ahead and make my own assumptions as to what it should be.


1) More water/tea.
2) Pump up the exercise a bit. I had started a pushup, curlup challenge a little while back that I sort of abandoned once a physical trainer gave me a routine to do to help my back pain. Guess what? I abandoned that too! So I think I'll just get going on all of that again. Requires 3 days a week.
3) Small portion size
4) Keep up with more fruits and veggies

I don't start Chapter 6 until Week 5, which is when the second part of the program begins. I honestly thought I'd have lost more weight by now, but I was really happy to see that my stomach changed an inch and a 1/4.

Purchase Now from Amazon:  How To Really Lose Weight Without Dieting

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Book Sleuth - Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition

Found via my boss, during our Labor Day reading discussion
Published by Scribner

My boss thought it was great, that he'd learned alot that he didn't know about that time period and thought I might like it a lot. Any other opinions out there?

Purchase Now from Amazon: Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition

Saturday, September 3, 2011

What I'm Reading Weekly Roundup

Thought it was time to bring this ol' gem back.

In Blogs

An Awesome Quote on Writing by Nabokov
Game of Thrones House Posters my favorites are House Stark, obviously. But I really like House Baratheon as well. There's something about that image and the words - ours is the fury - that gets me.
This is Major Tom to Ground Control having my kids grow up on Bowie is a must.
A Selection of Great Books to Read when you're BROKE which I am.

In Books

Drowned Sorrow Vanessa Morgan
Feast for Crows George R.R. Martin

In The Pile
Under the Tuscan Sun Frances Mayes
The Three Weissmanns of Westport Cathleen Schine

Friday, September 2, 2011

Book Sleuth - Legend of a Suicide

Found via The Millions
Published by Harper Perennial

Anyone who follows me via Google Reader may have caught the post I deleted sometime last June, regarding the five year anniversary of my good friend's suicide. I was pretty hammered when I wrote it, which is why I deleted it almost immediately after. We'd just all been out together sharing our memories of him and I got home and decided it might be a good idea to watch this videotape I'd made our last summer before college, in which he features prominently. It wasn't poorly written or anything, it was just... incredibly raw and heartfelt.

Luckily, the post still showed up on my feed and I was able to save it and turn it into a short story I'll be sharing with my writing class in a few weeks. Once I do, and once it's been critiqued and edited, I'll share it with you.

But anyway, I have thought a lot about writing a memoir of sorts, containing a series of short stories about my most vivid memories with this group of friends. It would just be snapshot after snapshot of our years together, all coming together to describe our different relationships with this passed friend and how we all handled the hurt and the anger. I don't know.

That's why this book caught my eye.

Purchase Now from Amazon: Legend of a Suicide: Stories (P.S.)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Book Sleuth - Ten Thousand Saints

Found via Baby Got Books
Published by Ecco

I'm anxiously awaiting the review on BGB - but has anyone else read it?

Purchase Now from Amazon: Ten Thousand Saints

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How to Really Lose Weight without Dieting - Week 2, Day 1

But first - a recap of the first week.

I've stopped taking photos of my food. Fell a little by the wayside when the hurricane hit. But I've definitely stuck to my new portion size. I've also only eaten off a plate and I've increased my water intake.

Last night, the boy brought home Chipotle, which is, surprisingly, not all that bad for you as they use fresh veggies and free range, veggie fed meat. Normally, I can eat an entire bowl. But - last night, I removed part of the dish as normal to get to my new portion size. And - what I think was most telling that this is working - I was able to tell when I was full. I ate less than 3/4 of what I normally scarf down like it ain't no thang.

Chapter 3 involves light exercise - basically working it into your daily routine. I've started by parking farther from the building and going for afternoon walks with a colleague.

It also involves upping fruit intake. Not doing great on that one. I'm not big on fruit and I don't usually keep a lot of it in the house. I do usually keep grapes, some sort of melon and blueberries in the house - but that's all gone and ... we're a little strapped for cash at the moment. Oh well. I'd still like to work a piece of fruit into every day if I can. I have a much easier time working in the veggies. But, I won't move on to Chapter 4 until I master Chapter 3, so I really need to take charge there.

It'll be another week before I measure myself again, but for now, here's my Week 2 weight:

Weight: 153
Down: 3

And aligned goals -

1. Continue light exercise
2. Drink more water
3. Eat at least a serving of fruit every day

Anyone have any tricks for getting in that serving of fruit for a picky eater?

Purchase Now from Amazon:  How To Really Lose Weight Without Dieting

Monday, August 29, 2011

Book Sleuth - The Postmortal

Found via GeekMom
Publishing by Penguin

Interesting because I absolutely love Drew Magary - he's one of my favorite bloggers to follow.

Purchase Now from Amazon: The Postmortal: A Novel

Saturday, August 27, 2011

How To Really Lose Weight Without Dieting: Week 1, Days 1-3

Weight: 156
Waist: 34 inches

I was supposed to take a picture of the measuring tape I used to measure, but I don't have one of those. So I decided to do it the ghetto way, with yarn that I cut and measured later using a straight ruler. Then I realized - what if I kept each piece of yarn throughout the weeks and could hold them up against each other? Suddenly, ghetto idea is ingenious! So, first piece of yarn is labeled Week 1 and you'll get a picture of it once I have the next measurement to hold it against. Next measurement is happens on Week 3, Day 1.

I am currently only following the steps in Chapter 2. Chapter 1 is a guide to how to work the program (or programme, since it's British, and we all know how much I LOVE that!) The first two weeks will consist of the steps in Chapters 2, 3 and 4. BUT - I'm not to move on to Chapter 3 until I've mastered Chapter 2. Since Chapter 2's step is really just basic portion control, I think I'll give myself a couple days before also incorporating Chapter 3. I'd like to master all three before the end of Week 1 so that by Week 2 I can be working on all three together.

Here's a photo of my Day 1, Week 1 flab: (yes, I use Dove. Soft underarms!)

And here's how I did with portion control for all of my meals. Side by side comparisons are my original portions and new portion as described in Chapter 2 of the book. Snacks were measured outright and I didn't take photos of those. But trust me - I stayed within the serving size and was still able to satisfy my craving without going overboard. I think these first few days were really about not denying myself while also changing my paradigm about how much and what I put into my body.

I guess you have to have a magnifying glass to read what I wrote there. Mostly just to do with the fact that something made me feel barfy at the wedding and so I didn't eat much. Some cheese cubes and a red potato and that was about it. The barfy feeling didn't keep me from DANCING, though!

Time for Chapter 3!

Purchase Now from Amazon:  How To Really Lose Weight Without Dieting

Friday, August 26, 2011

How to Really Lose Weight Without Dieting

I know I promised an update today, but I completely forgot I'm leaving work and heading directly to my friend's wedding. I won't be back until the wee hours of the morning.

So instead, I'll post my first 3 days early on Saturday. The post is pretty much completed, photos of my food (and me) my start weight, waist size and initial thoughts. I'll just need to add a photo of my wedding dinner plate and then...

... all sorts of TMI. In a good way.

See you tomorrow!

Purchase Now from Amazon:  How To Really Lose Weight Without Dieting

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Book Sleuth - Cults in Our Midst

Found via Celebitchy
Purchase here.

Another random find on a blog that you wouldn't expect. Has anyone read this? I think I'd be into it since I loved Raven so much.

Purchase Now from Amazon: Cults in Our Midst: The Continuing Fight Against Their Hidden Menace

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Somewhere Off the Coast of Maine - Ann Hood

Rating: 3 stars
Shelf: Reading Now

Beautifully written, even if it did leave me feeling a little disappointed, a little left out on a limb. I was so taken in, entranced by Claudia, Elizabeth, Suzanne and their families, following their hopes, dreams and tribulations from the 60's all the way through to the mid 80's. But then the book just seemed to end. And I suppose each of their stories was brought to a point of closure - Claudia leaves, Henry gets his girl, Rebekah realizes that her life is good, Elizabeth goes into remission, and Sparrow comes to understand all that her mother, Suzanne, has fought for. But I still wanted MORE. I was brought to what only felt like the middle of the story and then the characters just left me. Abandoned me.

I wanted more.

Purchase Now from Amazon: Somewhere Off the Coast of Maine: A Novel

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

How to Really Lose Weight Without Dieting - Anne Lyken-Garner

I'm going to do something a little different.

Recently, I started really caring about what I eat. Or, trying to care, anyway. I'm a bit of a compulsive eater, with good intentions that I throw to the wind as soon as I see pizza, icecream, chicken wings, cake. But, I went through food bootcamp with a friend who taught me about buying a lot of good types of food - kicking out the HFCs and opting for all natural, corn-fed - healthy.

Then, I met Anne via Blog-Jog Day and she asked if I would like to review one of her books. She blogs on A Blogger's Books and The Relationship Supermarket. I just recieved How to Really Lose Weight Without Dieting from her - it couldn't be more perfect timing.

The book is a program and so, in order to really review this book, I'm going to follow the program week by week and update you all on my progress. I'll give a brief review of the chapter(s), just enough to give you an idea of what I'm doing but not enough to give away the essentials of the program. I'll even update you on my weight and waist size, something a girl rarely ever does.

The first step is to start a journal. THIS will be my journal. I'll post the first round-up of journal entries this Friday.

It's going to get really real up in here.

Purchase Now from Amazon:  How To Really Lose Weight Without Dieting

Monday, August 22, 2011

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - Ransom Riggs

Rating: 4 stars
Shelf: Reading Now

A new and unique YA fantasy series that is incredibly well written and spellbinding.

Jacob, an American teenager, has only just stopped believing the fantastical stories his Grandpa Portman used to tell him about World War II - a lovely, sunny mansion in Wales, invisible boys, floating girls, and a bird who liked to smoke a pipe watching over them all. It isn't until tragedy strikes the Portman family that Jacob finds out the truth about his grandfather and himself.

The book is loaded with a dreamy, eerie sort of mystery - aided by real photographs brought together by the author through various peculiar photograph collectors. Even beyond the photographs, the details and beautiful storytelling make this book truly come to life.

Purchase Now from Amazon: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Rating: 5 stars
Shelf: Reading Now

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society is the story of a literary society borne from the Occupation on the Channel Islands during World War II. It is told in a series of letters to a London writer, Juliet, who then travels to Guernsey to meet and write a story of all of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society's colorful characters.

It is both funny and extremely heartfelt - I laughed out loud as often as I had to wipe the tears from my eyes. It was so beautifully written and so alive. The characters and the authors and writings that gave them hope in the darkest days of the war - Oscar Wilde, Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Anne Bronte.

I wish I could meet these fictious people of Guernsey and Juliet. I have fallen in love with this book.

Purchase Now from Amazon:  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

My Own Field Trip to Borders

Wasn't really even that great. I'm surprised, this late in the game, that the books are still so expensive. I was hoping for some real steals. Not so. 30% off is good, but not great.

For $20 bucks I ended up with two paperback novels:

World War Z
Pretty Little Liars

I feel like I should have been able to buy at least four paperbacks for that price, what with the situation. Don't you?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Blog Chicks Rule!

A friend of mine posted this link to his facebook page, stating - "Like I didn't already know this, thanks to:..." and listed a wonderful list of other social media ladies. Me included!

The article is about the power of women in social media. Check out the article and the lovely infographic here.

A Passage from The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

"Later, I came to see that Mr. Dickens and Mr. Wordsworth were thinkin gof men like me when they wrote their words. But most of all, I believe that William Shakespeare was. Mind you, I cannot always make sense of what he says, but it will come.

It seems to me the less he said, the more beauty he made. Do you know what sentence of his I admire the most? It is 'The bright day is done, and we are for the dark.'

I wish I'd known those words on the day I watched those German troops land, plane-load after plane-load of them - and come off ships down the in the harbor! All I could think of was damn them, damn them, over and over. If I could have though the words 'the bright day is done and we are for the dark,' I'd have been consoled somehow and ready to go out and contend with circumstance - instead of my heart sinking to my shoes."

Purchase Now from Amazon:   The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Monday, August 8, 2011

And the Winner Is...

Using random.org to generate the winner .....

Congratulations Vanessa Morgan!

Thanks to all of you who visited my blog and deemed me worthy enough to follow. I've said it about a million times - I'm a rabid blog follower. Nothing could have made me happier than sifting through all of your blogs this Sunday and adding them all to my Google Reader. I hope I find my next Book Sleuth book or next review on one of your sites.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Welcome to Blog Jog Day!

Hey you guys! Thanks for stopping by my blog on this blog jog day! Please peruse use the link cloud under the banner to hop around and enjoy my thoughts on reading, writing and publishing. A new feature you might enjoy is my Book Sleuth feature, where I find new and interesting books throughout the blogsphere and post them here.

Once you're finished enjoying my blog, then click over to The Wildcat's Victory to see what the next Blog has to offer!

Lost in the links? You can always go back to the main Blog Jog Day Blog and find a new link to jog from.

Follow my blog AND leave a comment on this post to let me know what you're favorite book is and why, OR what features you'd like to see here at Reading. Writing. Publishing. A Blog. Comments enter you for a chance to win a $10 gift card to Barnes & Noble. Winner will be chosen at random and posted tomorrow, August 8th.

Thank you for stopping by my blog!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Blog Jog Day

Definitely easier than a real jog on a hot day that you realize you were absolutely not prepared for about 1/4 mile in, a Blog Jog!

What is it, you ask? Blog Jog Day is a one-day event where Bloggers are joining together for a pyramid effect promotional rally. We all post on the same day with each post leading the visitor to the next Blog, and so on full circle. That’s it! Visitors explore your Blog, and then click on to the next one bringing potentially thousands of unique visitors to your site. Nearly 2,000 joggers showed up last November!

The jog this summer will be happening on August 7th. If you'd like to participate, the paragraph above will bring you right to all the information you need.

See you at the finish line!

Friday, July 22, 2011

New York, Phew York

I saw this first on the illustrator's, Tim Probert, blog. I always knew his art would lend itself well to a children's picture book and what could be more fun that a New York City Scratch & Sniff!? The Proberts are a family I've known since the first day of kindergarten, so you can understand my delight when I caught the book on Gothamist.

Congratulations, Tim!

Borders Officially Closing Its Doors

I feel like this has been going on forever and a day, but now it's official.

I've never shopped at Borders because 1) I worked for B&N for so long and, 2) I always thought it was kind of dirty. And I'm not really the best when it comes to figuring out what this means for economy.

But the fall of Borders seems an omen for the fall of the giant brick & mortar stores, including B&N. If you've walked into any Barnes lately, you'll notice the large, large amount of floor space NOT dedicated to books. Toys, Games, Gifts for Readers, and DVDs claim more room than those things made up of a lot of paper.

Digital is the way things are headed. Not just e-books, but stores like Amazon & bn.com have really great online offerings that require you not having to leave your home in this heat as well as super fast delivery. If you live in NYC, bn can get you your book SAME DAY. That's just crazy.

Still - I don't think this spells the death of the print book and of book stores in general. There will always be those people who crave the bookstore experience. I think the recent surge in new independents is a good sign of what's to come. And these new independents focus on an expanded consumer experience. One amazing store here near where I live offers book clubs, writing classes and even writing retreats - not to mention rows upon rows of books that smell like books and not toys & games.

Imagine that.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Harry Potter - The End

Thank goodness for Pottermore. Shit must be seriously saving lives. Because without the anticipation of what's in store for J.K.'s newest initiative, this Friday would have been the saddest day in all the days of Potter fanatics.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 premieres.

I wish I could go see it Thursday at midnight, but as I'll be in Pheonix and as I'll have a 7am flight home the next day, I don't think I'll be able to. We'll see. Who needs sleep anyway? NOT ME.

I've been preparing, though. Have you?

- Listened to Deathly Hallows audio book not once, but TWICE in the last six months. It's no easy feat, let me tell you. Especially when you're trying to drive and sobbing all at the same time.

- Hit up abcFamily's Harry Potter weekend marathon. It was a slow, boring weekend because the boy is on a cruise. So I literally watched every movie except Half Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows 1. I even watched Goblet of Fire TWICE (once on Saturday, then again for the full sweep on Sunday).

- I might bring Sorcerer's Stone with me on my flight to Pheonix. I've got my re-read of Song of Ice and Fire to get through prior to Dances with Dragons (um. That comes out TOMORROW), but it might be nice to revisit the first book in the HP series as a nostalgia factor prior viewing the final movie.

Purchase Now from Amazon:  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Skills USA

Last week, I attended a competition/conference known as Skills USA. If you know nothing about the organization, you should really go to their website and check them out. Skills USA events are annual and begin with state level championships in a multitude of vocational studies - from machining to cosmetology; masonry to crime scene investigation; welding to culinary. The state champions move on to compete in the national championship, which was held last week in Kansas City, MO.

It was, quite literally, one of the coolest things I've ever seen. The competition floor was upstairs in the conference hall and was pretty much just a three block long area of uninterrupted space - filled to the brim with vocational study after vocational study.

Photos of the event:

The convention hall is to the right. The competition took place on the top floor of that entire building.

A Diesel engine with the truck it came from in the background. Shit was huge.

Masonry competition. I stood and watched this kid for a good 20 minutes. I thought it was pretty amazing.

Culinary competition. I think this one gives you the best idea just how big each competition space was.


Collision Repair. Next to the this was Finishing - they had like 6 or 7 cars lined up. I couldn't get close enough to take a good picture, whatever they were using to finish the cars smelled too potent to get too close.

Machining. My machinists. Okay - well they aren't mine, per say, but most of them will be using the book I published next fall. Because of my relationship with the people running this competition, I was actually allowed inside this one. I have about a million pictures of these kids programming and of the CNC machines on the floor.

Next up: Pheonix for the HTEC conference. I'm a little nervous about this one because I won't know as many people as I did at Skills USA and I won't have anyone else from Cengage with me either. Also - it will be about 120 degrees and, apparently, if I forget eye drops my contacts are screwed.

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