My Two Cents

From time to time, I have random thoughts spinning through my head, which I need to get out. Like today. These are my musings in a nutshell, which I’m happy to share, rather, unload, on you.

And They’re Off!  I don’t know about you, but I keep getting all stressed out by Black Friday, which is just days away. The anticipation, the frenzy, the mad rush to buy, buy, BUY! But, if you ask me, BF has become a holiday in and of itself. Our annual duty as Americans, to open our wallets and hand over our cashola, to the retail industry. Needless to say, Black Friday is as integral to our way of life as eating deep-fried Twinkies at country fairs, and voting for the next American Idol.

It seems to me, this holiday is buried next to Thanksgiving and is in danger of getting lost in its shadow. Indeed, we’re doing it a disservice by wedging it between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Throw in Hanukkah and Kwanza, and it’s a recipe for disaster, my friends.

Which is why I’m proposing we move Black Friday to sometime in the summer, away from all the holiday hysteria. Cyber Monday, too, for that matter.  Let’s move them both and spread out our national holidays, once and for all.  It’s time we let Congress know we won’t stand for anyone squishing our holidays together anymore, unless of course, we’re talking about the 12 Days of Christmas or the eight days of Hanukkah. Those, we can still keep together.  Incidentally, have you thought about what you’re getting me for Black Friday this year?

Queen of America — Adventures by the Book does it again!  Looking for something fun to do this holiday season?  Get lost in a book or two, with exciting opportunities to meet really cool authors. I always enjoy these events and the rare experience it gives you to get to know an author and the backstory of their book.

First up, on December 3rd, you can spend an intimate evening with renowned author and Pulitzer Prize-winner, Luis Alberto Urrea.  Enjoy a margarita and appetizers while learning about Urrea’s latest novel, Queen of America (and no, it’s not about me!). This sequel to The Hummingbird’s Daughter is, as Vanity Fair magazine puts it, “vibrant, larger-than-life fiction based on the ‘Saint of Cabora.’” Listen up, you folks in the Northwest:  Adventures by the Book is planning a similar event on December 7th in Portland, Oregon.

Silver Sparrow – On December 6th, Adventures is hosting a divine dinner with author Tayari Jones, who also happens to be a member of She Writes! I’m reading her book right now, Silver Sparrow, and it is wonderfully told from the perspective of a young girl whose father is a bigamist. He has two separate families and only one of them knows about the other. It is a story of deceit (a tangled web, if you ask me), and when the teenage daughters from both families finally meet, well, you just know something’s going to hit the fan.

After Happily Ever After  — Now that I’m blogging for the Huffington Post, including its Divorce section, I’m making all kinds of connections. Which is how I came to link up with Kate Schermerhorn. She has produced a fascinating documentary, After Happily Ever After, inspired by her own marriage and divorce—and subsequent second marriage. Kate asks, why do so many people marry when half those marriages will end in divorce?  Which reminds me of an observation I heard on the pilot episode of the struggling, NBC sitcom, Whitney. In it, Whitney observes, that 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. Yet, if we were told that 50 percent of planes  crash, would we still by as likely to fly? Hmm….Definitely something to ponder.

Kate talks to many couples, young and old, dressed and naked. (Yes, one of the couples believes in a nudist lifestyle, which is probably why their marriage is working.)  She also talks to psychologist John Gottman, who can predict divorce with 90% accuracy. Kate and her second husband are seen throughout the documentary, and as it progresses, you see their own marriage beginning to dissolve. It’s a candid film, with a humorous flair, and recommended viewing for anyone in a relationship or wanting to be in one. Visit the website for more info.

The End of an Era – Last Friday was the final taping of One Life to Live, a tearful day for the actors of my favorite soap opera. My heart goes out to the cast and crew who worked on the show for so many years, and then were unceremoniously kicked to the curb (Thank you, ABC).  Some of you may know I was planning to “retire” in Llanview, USA, where the fictitious soap was set. Now, who knows? I may have to work forever.

There are plans to move One Life to the web, but only time will tell how well that works. For now, I’ll just cry my eyes out, for the loss of so many juicy storylines and appealing characters.  I mean, where else could you see on TV, characters grow up, from infancy to adulthood, in about five years?

Art Meets Glass — Don’t forget! You still have until this Friday to enter my first giveaway! Read the post, Art Meets Glass and Then Some to find out how.

So, Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Happy Black Friday, too.  And if you’re looking for me on BF, I’ll be the one with the blithering, far off, uncaffeinated stare, waiting on a line about six blocks long, just to fulfill my civic duty as an American consumer.

And proud of it.

The Book Shopaholic

Be warned: Do not enter my home. Not if the thought of seeing stacks and stacks of books, piled three and four feet high, terrifies you.  You see I have a penchant for buying books. Every time I see or read about a book that piques my interest in any way, I have to have it. I think I have a deep down fear that, if I don’t purchase the book, by the time I am ready to read it, it’ll be out of publication.  So, I add it to my pile, because when push comes to shove, the pile’s the thing until I find the time to read.

Which is why, this year for my birthday, I’m putting 20 hours more each week, on my wish list. Yes, I want 20 more hours per week for my birthday!  Please note, that’s in addition to the 168 hours I already get each week. I need the extra 20, and preferably not all in one day.  But attached to the weekend would be perfect. Oh, and I’m not greedy. Heck, I’d take 10.  So, what would I do with this time?

Satisfy my addiction to books. I’d read the books on my to-do list.  Here it is, but again, be warned:  My taste in books runs the gamut.

Adventures By the Book Experience:  How to Be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway

My friend, Leah, was the first to recommend this book to me. Then my friend, Susan, who runs the remarkable Adventures By the Book, told me about her upcoming event with Margaret Dilloway, which is set to take place August 26th in San Diego’s Japanese Friendship Garden, complete with a Japanese lunch and intimate conversation with the author.  I, of course, adore the idea of an after-lunch constitutional through the historical Friendship Garden. It all sounds too divine, if you ask me. If you’re in the area, be sure to reserve your spot, by visiting the Adventures By the Book website.

As for the book? I’m already halfway through it, as I love learning about other cultures. Margaret Dilloway’s How to Be an American Housewife, which brings thoughtful insight into the Japanese way of life, is largely set in my neck of the woods, San Diego. It is about Shoko, a Japanese woman who marries an American GI and, as a result, struggles to be a proper, American housewife. It is also about Shoko and her relationship with her decidedly American daughter, Suiko.  Leah calls it “a wonderful story, especially if you like tales of mother-daughter relationships.” She also points out that People magazine gave the book four (out of four) stars! And that’s good enough for me!

Other books that have piqued my interest:

The Creepy:  Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

The rights for this book, which was released in June, have already been sold to 20th Century Fox to be made into a movie. It is a sinister, spine-chilling tale about a 16-year-old who witnesses his grandfather’s horrifying death and, in searching for the truth, finds himself in an orphanage populated by children with incredible powers, including levitation and invisibility. The book is sprinkled with photos of these children, adding to the realism.  I’m already shaking in my boots.

The New Generation of Nancy Drew’s:  The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag by Alan Bradley

Move over Nancy Drew! There’s a new girl-sleuth in town and her name is Flavia de Luce. I read the first book in this exciting series, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, and found Flavia to be quick-witted, clever and cunning, served up on a platter of genuine humor.  She’s a real kick and an empowering sort of girl.

Social History:  At Home by Bill Bryson

Bryson dissects what many of us take for granted, our homes, and sheds light on how our homes came to be how they are today, including the conveniences that seem routine today, but were once considered only for the very rich.  All in all, Bryson has developed a fascinating social history of the home.

The Dog Lovers’ Book:  Dog Sense by John Bradshaw

Now, when it comes to my relationship with my dog, Henry, I know we’re not perfect. There’s room for improvement—Henry tells me that everyday. Bradshaw’s book addresses just that, how we treat our dogs versus how we really should be treating them, showing us, as best he can, life from a dog’s perspective.

The Environment:  The Big Thirst, The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water by Charles Fishman

Our most precious resource can also be the most fascinating. Fishman pours through our strange and complex relationship to water and makes you appreciate just how precious it really is. Water, life’s elixir!

Romantic Fun:  The Inn at Lake Devine by Elinor Lipman

I actually read this book several summers ago and plan to read it again. It’s so entertaining, right from the very first page, reading like a frothy romantic comedy.  Set in the early sixties, it’s about young love, the Catskills and anti-Semitism.

I have many more books on my list, but I’ll save them for another time. Now, what’s on your reading list?

Adventures by the Book!

I love the written word! Some would even say, I swear by it. If you ask me,  it comes in handy when blogging. Yep, I’m passionate about the written word. Which is why I also love to read!

Only now that I’m whipping up tall stories for my blog, I have little time to do read, which is a real shame because there are so many books worth exploring these days.  If someone can figure out a way to give me back my teen years, when I could lounge in bed for hours on end and just read, read, READ, then I’d be forever grateful.

Until that happens, I simply do not want to lose touch with reading.  And thanks to two major events in my life, I don’t have to!

1:  I have discovered the world of audio books. Perfect for when I’m walking my dog. Makes me feel like a kid again, harking to a time when my mother would drop me off at the library for story time. How I loved listening to the librarian’s expressive voice as she read the story of the peddler and his dozens of caps and his run in with some mischievous monkeys, or the adventures of the amazing, self-reared, Pippi Longstocking.  Now, I’m reliving those times, but with books for the adult me!

2: My dear friend, Susan, has launched a very exciting venture, fittingly called, Adventures By the Book.

In this day and age of mass media meets social media, and the rush, rush of ever-changing technology, isn’t it nice to know you can have a cozy exchange with your favorite published writer? Well, that’s what Adventures by the Book is all about! If you ask me, Adventures is sure to turn the world of books—and publishing—on its proverbial head. It has taken the traditional author book signing, many of us have participated in at bookstores, to a whole new level, giving us ordinary readers extraordinary opportunities to network with some amazing writers.

So, instead of standing on long lines waiting for an author to sign your book, Susan’s events are a chance to spend quality time with the author, learn about their writing process and how they got published, ask questions, and have evocative conversations with them in a decidedly personal setting. Voila! It’s so brilliant that I don’t know why I didn’t think of it myself!  But—and don’t tell Susan—I’m happy to ride on her coattails and go along for the journey.

Adventures By the Book event, featuring author Eleanor Brown and her book, "The Weird Sisters." From left: Susan McBeth, me, Eleanor Brown & our friend, Valerie Breen.

I’m especially excited that Adventures by the Book is debuting a Friday lunch series with authors guaranteed to delight and open new worlds. A feast for your mind and soul—not to mention your appetite! First up, on May 20th, Zohreh (Zoe) Ghahremani, author of the acclaimed Sky of Red Poppies.  Set in Iran, circa 1960’s, during the rule of the Shah, it is the story of two girls who are best friends, the choices they make and how the different paths they take impact their relationship.

I remember hearing about the Shah when I was a kid, and how he was driven from his country, which came as a surprise to the US at the time, or so it was said, but beyond that I knew little of the impact of his decades-long reign on his people. This book gives a remarkable glimpse into life in an oppressive regime.

Future Adventures by the Book activities will range from spending an intimate evening with an author, to a weekend getaway, to a more extensive trip abroad where, well-loved authors will provide guided tours of their part of the world or whip up a tantalizing dish, evocative of the region.

If you ask me, this is the coolest idea for an undertaking and I’m so glad my friend, Susan, has made it all possible.  It’s the best of all worlds, combining reading with meaningful occasions to connect with authors. So much so that I’m inspired to start reading—all over again.  After all, happiness is wrapping yourself in a good book, one that transports you to another place and time. Happiness also is getting to meet the writer behind said book. It can’t get any better than that!