Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Book Review: Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford

"Evelyn" like "EEV-lin" in the UK or "Evelyn" like "EH-vah-lin", my Mississippi born, plumber's daughter grandmother? Intentionally or not Stephanie Clifford plays on a class tension among the upwardly mobile in America from the get go through the naming of the protagonist in her novel, Everybody Rise. I never felt on sure footing while reading this book. I was curious about Evelyn and the voyeurism that tempts me with Real Housewives of Everywhere and other reality shows about one percenters kept me reading.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Book Review: How Fiction Ruined My Family

[Note: Due to a website migration at my day job, some content that I wrote for a local bookstore chain was unpublished, so I'm republishing it here. I wrote reviews to sell books, so I may have sugar coated some things, but my basic feelings are represented.]

In Fiction Ruined My Family, Jeanne Darst isn't posing, bragging or begging. She fully experiences the life of an artist and plies her wares in private homes or working barns or legitimate theater. She tells her story without embellishment, though she admits that perhaps not all the details are entirely true either. She doesn't need our approval, though she has it (or at least the book does).

Friday, January 9, 2015

Book Review: How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

I wrote this review for in the summer of 2012. When Bookmans did a website redesign and migrated their website database, we unpublished all but 30 posts. I tweaked this review to park it here for now.

Put down 50 Shades of Gray. I've got something equally smutty but infinitely smarter to recommend. How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran is a feminist manifesto like none you've read. Most of us don't go around reading feminist manifestos but in any case this one is definitely for everyone -- even if you are a dude and maybe even especially so.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Book Review: The Island of Dr. Moreau

I wrote this review for in the summer of 2012 after reading The Island of Doctor Moreau aloud with my then 12-year-old son. When Bookmans did a website redesign earlier this year and migrated their website database, we unpublished all but 30 posts. I tweaked this post to park it here for now.

According to The Literature Network, The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896) by H.G. Wells, deals with themes of eugenics, the ethics of scientific experimentation, Darwin's theories and religion. But it's summer and who cares about vivisecting literature? We care about enjoying a good book, so we're providing our own guide to The Island of Doctor Moreau.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Stayin' Alive

I went to the doctor yesterday for a routine check up. I had some concerns that amount to, "you're getting older and all you do is sit in front of a computer." Those may have been the doc's exact words, but he's sending me for tests and gave me a referral to a cardiologist anyway. I figured this was the ideal excuse to get the family to do what I want them to do for a change.

First, I told my son that the doctor said I will have a heart attack if he doesn't play his guitar. I told my brother that it's his fault if I die because he sings White Christmas in my ear. The doctor definitely told me that Hubster has to do everything my way or start planing a funeral. My brother said I overplayed my hand with my son and that's why the guitar never came out of the case. He also said that White Christmas only has powers of joy and healing. Hubster said he'd get to planning my funeral.

This is why I have a daughter. I didn't have to tell her anything. She played her drums and piano for me, rather than torture me by singing in my ear, she stroked my hair, and so I'm giving her VIP passes to my funeral. My funeral is going to be an SRO disco party and very difficult to get in. Let me know if you'd like for me to add you to the list.

Darling Daughter mentioned to her drum teacher this evening that she learned in Girl Scouts that Stayin' Alive has the perfect beat for administering CPR and so they practiced it in case I did have a coronary. On the way home from lessons, the kids and I stopped at Sonic for a bite and then drove around with the windows down listening to Technotronic.

When we were done pumping up the jams, I explained to the kids that people used to drive up and down busy "strips" looking for friends. "In those days, you couldn't just text your whereabouts to everyone," I said. "It's called 'cruising'."

"We call it wasting gas," said Sarcastic Son. He had a point, so I turned toward home. As I did so, what song do you imagine came on the radio? I took it as proof that I am stayin' alive forever like my great grandmothers did.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Book Review: Legend by Marie Lu

* with input from ParrishB, 6th grade, Mansfeld Middle School, Tucson

When we first mentioned Legend by Marie Lu in our social media feeds, we had to represent its dystopian goodness succinctly. We said, "If Katniss and Gale were Romeo and Juliet: Legend by Lu." We got that slightly wrong. Lu does love the Hunger Games (so do we) so the feel fits, but it's Les Miserables not Romeo and Juliet that inspired the relationship between Legend's power couple. Whatever the case, we highly recommend buying your teen, your library, yourself this first book of a trilogy.

In Legend the lives of an infamous 15-year-old boy gone rogue and a revered 15-year-old girl tapped for military service collide. They live in what was once the western United States and is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war. Criminal Day and prodigy June have no reason to meet until June's brother is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. As Day races for his family's survival, June seeks to avenge her brother's death. The two uncover the truth of what brought them together and the lengths the Republic will go to keep its secrets.

Lu states in her FAQs that initially June started out as a boy. She based the Day/June relationship off ValJean/Javert in Les Miserables. Her boyfriend convinced her to reconsider saying, "You know, it'd be so much more interesting if the teen detective was a girl." Lu agreed and so do we. Lu believes a romance between Day and June could have worked if they were both male with the same action and the same emotional arc but that a female June "helped round out the girls present in the story, because her personality was pretty unique among the female cast I had already lined up."

We had to think on this. The other female characters are likewise strong, capable and intelligent -- an army commander, a rebel street fighter, a skilled but vulnerable street urchin and a struggling single mother. It's not just the romance or the supporting female cast. June's gender enriches the book in other intangible ways that even 12-year old boys can appreciate.

CBS Films has secured the movie rights for Legend and they along with the production company Temple Hill (Twilight) will determine what any film adaptation will look like. We have our own opinion on how that might translate to the big screen. Elements of this story could be reflected with live action but Day seems animated, particularly the treatment of his hair. We asked Lu for insight into how she visualizes Legend. Her reply was quick and made us long to be her friend.

"Haha--I had way too much fun with Day's hair, I think!" she writes. Before she became a full-time writer she was an artist for video game companies. She starts each story by first sketching out the characters and a few concepts of the world. "I'm an extremely visual person, so I tend to write that way as well. I do see the book playing out as a film in my head as I work on it, and then I write down what I see."

We look forward to the movie so CBS and Temple Hill had better get it right. Also, we look forward to the second book in the series due out Fall 2012.

Legend by Marie Lu
G.P. Putnam's Sons, A division of Penguin Young Readers Group
ISBN: 978-0-399-25675-2

[First published on March 07, 2012 at]

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

My Writing Job Killed My Writing Hobby

The Hubster and I had a weblog-like thing before that's what they were called. We posted pictures and wrote captions describing our activities. He posted graphs of his weight loss versus my pregnancy gain. No one read blogs, so we sent e-newsletter-ish messages updating everyone we know that we've updated our webpage.

It didn't take long for blogging platforms to become all the rage and I was on it. I even dabbled with vlogging. Turns out that takes a certain moxie I don't have. I started this blog and dreamed of getting the call all indie bloggers hoped for at that time -- the "blog for me" job offer. I got that in 2010 and my writing changed.

My life changed too. Many bloggers who didn't go the job route but the entrepreneurial route instead, hustled up advertisers and contributors and built communities around their own interests. That's all great and I'm so totally envious, but I didn't think that's what I wanted to do. I wanted to keep my quiet little life with my own thoughts, my environmental micro-movement and a focus on my kiddos. I need to take inventory to see if I managed that.

My writing is geared for promotion now, not insight. My mind is on how to engage, not to create community but to improve metrics. Documenting the little experiments and quiet moments at home is all but over. I cling to shared reading (right now The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn). We still do projects, sometimes. I even share through social media, though it doesn't give me the same satisfaction as telling the story behind the moments.

I have a plan to scrape some of the better content that I've written for my employer and cross posting it here. It's almost true to my voice. Maybe just that little effort will reignite the desire to make my own accounting and refocus my attention on the heart of my home and not just the functioning of it. Maybe... if I actually do it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

I want Chris Hardwick to invite Handsome Cpt. Dr. Sir Husband and me over to bowl. Chris would love us same way that if John Stamos could just meet the 6th grade me he'd fall in love like Elvis did Priscilla. In retrospect that would have been creepy, but try to tell that to the little girl who stared at his poster.

I seem to waste an equal amount of time watching Chris (we'd be on a first name basis) and his pals bowling. Jesse could be the Jon Hamm and I could be the (not) Felicia Day. We could play for our favorite charity -- Sonic Happy Hour. I mean the poor kids. Of course. Poor kids. Definitely them. Though... Hubster did say he'd prefer to play for the John Stamotopoulos Foundation for Name Preservation.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Ideal Mother's Day

Is it possible for a mother to shave her legs, clip her toenails and floss her teeth all in the same 24 hour period?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

My Friend Should Be the Next Top Self-help Author

In fifth grade I started hanging out with a boy-crazed, fiery and hilarious girl. By the sixth grade, I was devoted to her and moving to a new town where I wouldn't see her devastated me. I've always preferred friends to environment. Nearly 30 years passed and my thoughts of spectacular friendships always included Wendy. Where did she go and what has she done? In one of those fit-for-the-silver-screen situations, it turns out Wendy attended Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff and eventually landed in Phoenix, just an abridged book on tape round trip from where the Hubster moved us in 2000.

I made Wendy pose with me in the bathroom last time we were together. She's a good sport like that.

I discovered Wendy's whereabouts a couple of years ago thanks to the amazing world of social networking, so thank you Zuckerberg for that. Others may think you're a tool for imposing annoying routine updates regarding a person's whereabouts or parental over sharing of children's activities or the gross abuses of our privacy. I am personally grateful that you brought Wendy back into my life. Since we reconnected, Wendy has been my date to two major events sponsored by my work, has written two guest blogs for my work and lent herself to a large event for my work. She also had her handbag stolen, but that's neither here nor there and not related at all to my job.

The point is that I loved Wendy as a child and I find her engaging as an adult. This morning, she sent an e-mail to me. The truth of it is obvious to me and because I adore her still, I'm passing it along.

"Hi! This is a difficult email for me to write because it requires being vulnerable enough to ask you for help. I am competing in a contest for a publishing contract. I need votes. Will you please take 3 minutes to vote? Then, would you ask the three people you speak to the most to do the same? For the past five years I have asked friends, students, clients, and family to help me with projects I have been involved with for others (Nuestro Barrio, 3 Day Walk, etc). Now I am asking you to help me personally. I really appreciate this and you get a free gift when you vote as a way to say thank you! I really appreciate your time and the favor.

Vote here:



If you go vote for her, you will have to register. I hate that, but I understand that it reduces duplicate votes while harvesting your address. I suggest a special spam account for that. Registration is painless and you will have helped Wen toward her goal. Even if you aren't inclined to go do that, you should at least watch the video. I love her video. I think it speaks volumes about Wendy -- both the one I remember as a child and the one I now know.