Saturday, August 21, 2010


I'm sorry to say, I can't keep up blogging here! But you can find me on my websites at and my blog at - thanks!

Friday, July 31, 2009


I recently watched one of my favorite movies again - Proof, starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Anthony Hopkins. It made me remember how much I love that movie, how much I love Gwyneth, how much I miss my dad and that I have completely forgotten to blog about two outstanding books I read this summer.

But, first, back to the movie Proof. For anyone who didn't see it or forgets the plot, Proof is the story about a young woman whose father is a mathematical genius - but he's losing his mind and she gives up her college career and goals to go home and care for him. With the fresh perspective of having just gone through something similar with my own dad, the movie was even more poignant. Of course, my dad was no mathematical genius, but he was a master mechanic and often in the nursing home when I'd arrive, he would be going on about things he needed to get done and jobs that needed to be finished - and sometimes, when he could speak more than a word or two, he'd belt out, "Let's go, I got work to do."

I often looked for proof that my dad knew what was happening to him - usually, it wasn't there. And, I suppose in a way that is good. Because he was only 58 years old and having the realization of his situation would have made things much worse. There were, however, two times I can remember in the year I spent with him when he showed signs of knowing what was going on. Two times before he died when he looked at me - really looked at me - grabbed my hand, squeezed and cried for all that he had lost. It was heartbreaking. But, for me, it was proof that he was still there, somewhere, and that he knew I was by his side.

The movie Proof also reminded me of another beautiful story about a math genius - No One You Know by Michelle Richmond. I devoured two of Richmond's books this summer (No One You Know and The Year of Fog) and I can't believe I forgot to add them to my list of recommendations for summer reading.

And don't fret if you aren't a math fan - I should say that neither the movie Proof nor the book No One You Know is about math (though math plays a huge part, a wonderful character in each.) No, just as the movie is a human story about a woman and her father, Richmond's book is about two sisters - one, the top math student at Stanford, who is murdered. She leaves a notebook and unanswered questions behind and the real story is the journey of the other sister, Ellie, to find out what really happened to her sister.

I love Richmond's writing - she is lyrical and poetic and weaves places and things into her stories like no one I know. She breathes life into San Francisco and brings you so far into the place and story that you can taste the coffee and see the fog, and you won't put her books down until the mysteries are solved.

So, if you haven't already - pick up both of her books: The Year of Fog and No One You Know.

And rent an old movie - Proof with Gwyneth. (And go home and hug your dad.) Oh, and speaking of Gwyneth... check out her new issue of GOOP to see what she and her lovely friends are reading for their end of summer downtime.(And thanks @JennyBrooks for sharing that list.)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

End of Summer Reading

What happened to the time? It seems like just yesterday when the entire summer was spread out in front of me, complete with endless possibilities and the promise of lazy, hot days doing absolutely nothing (except reading and writing, of course). Yet, already the kids go back to school in less than two weeks and the choas of gathering school supplies, bus schedules and weeding out too small clothes is in full swing! I barely saw a firefly, let alone caught one. And with the recession still breathing down our necks, we didn't step foot on a beach - we barely left our own yard. Where did all that time go?

Speaking of time and it getting away from you, time travel seems to be one of the literary trends of the moment (does this mean vampires are fading? doesn't appear to be, but one can hope, right? And don't go hating on me all you Twilight fans, I actually love the's just all the other vampires coming out of the woodwork that irk me.)

Anyway, I've just finished two time travel books - two completely literary opposites, but both worth your time, nonetheless.

The Time Traveler's Wife
Earlier this summer, I picked up Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife because I wanted to read it before the movie comes out (can't wait by the way, August 14th starring Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams, both whom I adore! View the trailer.) Many of you know, I am interviewing her for my piece over at She Knows and I'm so excited.

The book is a journey through time, a powerful love story between Henry (who time travels uncontrollably due to a genetic epileptic-type disease) and his wife Claire (who spends much of her time waitng and wondering when Henry will return.) One minute he's there, the next he's not - a pile of clothes left in his wake. You see, he can't take anything with him when he goes. And on the other end, he arrives naked and completely unsure of where and when he is, or when he'll get back to Claire.

Friends who read the book indicated that, at times, the datelines and time travel could be confusing, but stick with it. The book is worth the energy - it's literally a love story for all time. For me, the book was like gravity, pulled me in and I can't wait to pick the author's brain!

Time of My Life
The other time travel type book I just finished, called Time of My Life, comes out in paperback next week. I had the chance to interview the lovely author, Allison Winn Scotch, who is so fun and sweet - my interview with her will be up on She Knows early next week (she dishes on the movie version and the glamorous life she leads!) and she's also answering "25 Things Liz and Lisa Want to Know About..." over at the popular chick lit blog: Allison is also one of those lovely authors who blogs and answers questions about writing and the industry and things we writers love to know.

Time of My Life is the ultimate "What if?" book - it's the story of Jillian Westfield (a woman who has it all - perfect husband, lovely home, angelic toddler) until she wakes up and finds herself seven years in her past. Suddenly, she's living with her ex-boyfriend (the star of her what-if fantasies) and back at her high-powered ad agency job - before marriage, before baby. Can she do things differently this time around? Will she? It's worth your time to find out.

So if you are lucky enough to be planning a last-minute summer getaway, pick up one or both of these books. Neither will disappoint.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Summer Reading

There's nothing I love more than summer - sitting poolside or on the beach with a great book in my hand. One that smells not just of crisp ink and paper, but adventure and heartache, salty like the ocean or dewy like the grass. A book that vibrates like a small propeller engine or a hot air balloon ready for flight. One that sounds like electricity cracking with every turn of the page. Okay, so I'm getting a little too excited, but books can do that to a girl.

When I was a kid, my grandma took me to the library every Monday. I picked out six books to read - and I'd gobble them all up and be fidgeting to go back the following Monday. To this day, I can vividly remember where I was when I conquered A Separate Peace by John Knowles, Dicey's Song by Cynthia Voigt and even this sappy Silhouette book called Written in the Stars about a girl who falls in love with a boy from the other side, a ghost who appeared to her in her backyard (think Edward and Bella minus the blood sucking! I've tried many times to find that book again - and I'll admit, I camped out in my backyard a few times in search of my own ghost boy to love.)

So yesterday I took my almost ten-year-old daughter to the library to snatch up some books. She had a handful and was unsure which ones to check out with her shiny new library card burning a hole in her pocket. So I told her to sit down and embrace the book, read the first couple pages. If the book grabbed her, like a fishing line cast out from the pages and hooked her in, then we'd get them.

She chose two:

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (a Newberry winner, he also wrote Coraline) - We read the first couple pages and both had chills. It wasn't a fish hook that reeled us in, it was more like being pulled by the hair and yanked in (like your first junior high girl fight, you really have no choice and blindly start swinging...with this book, you have no choice, you just have to read it, you can't stop yourself.)

If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period by Gennifer Choldenko (author of the excellent Al Capone Does My Shirts - also a Newberry winner) I think what really hooked my tween into this one was the fact that the first few paragraphs had the word "crap" in them several times. But don't let that turn you off - it's a great book.

A couple other recommendations for your tween/middle grade reader:
Shug by Jenny Han (about first love, starting Jr. high - as sweet and sticky as a cherry Popsicle. I've read it twice.)

The London Eye Mystery by Zetta Elliott (have not read this, but can't wait to and if you're tween likes mystery and adventure, this is supposed to be a good one.)

For older tweens and teens, I recommend anything and everything by Sarah Dessen - I just finished her new one Along for the Ride and am interviewing her next week.

As for me, here's what I'll be reading this summer:

The Pull of the Moon by Elizabeth Berg
The Family Man by Elinor Lipman
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
Follow Me by Joanna Scott
Mercury in Retrograde by Paula Froelich (can't wait for this one! A great chick lit read about three NY women who move into the same SoHo apartment building)

Also, if you love chick lit, Jennifer Weiner has a new book coming out in July and Emily Giffin's Love the One You're With (LTOYW) is out in paperback. Both of these authors will be featured on the popular blog with a super fun "25 Things to Know About" each of them. Emily will be June's (up starting next week) and you could win a copy of her book (watch the blog for details) and Jennifer will be up in July promoting her new book Best Friends Forever. Fun stuff!

Last but not least, for any men out there who might be reading this...I have a recommended list for you too:

The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro - about a Vampire virus infecting New York. Hey, why should we women be all the ones enjoying a good love affair with teenage vampires? This one's for the guys and is uh...adults.

The Tourist by Olen Steinhauer - a CIA spy thriller (don't all guys wish they were a spy?)

Drood by Dan Simmons - if you like a terrifying thriller

Okay, so even though I could ramble on and on about books for ages, I'll stop now. After all, I need to get back to my book.

p.s. Take your kids to the library this summer!
p.s.s. I just re-read Jodi Picoult's Songs of the Humpback Whale - if you haven't read it, pick it up. I love this book!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Book Round-Up: Handle With Care, The Department of Lost and Found, American Wife

Quick book round-up since I've had my nose stuck in various books over the last several weeks....

Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult
So, I'm a huge Picoult fan as many of us are. I love so many of her books and I was truly excited to dive into this new one and get lost in Picoult's relevant and captivating storytelling - her books are more than stories, they are experiences which is what I love about them.

Handle With Care was like baking a rich cake full of texture and flavors - I felt like a real pastry chef. I could smell the desserts baking in the warm kitchen while the snow melted outside. I savored every word, every character and character flaw, I rolled her eloquent passages over my tongue like the best icing I'd ever tasted, sometimes sweet and sometimes bitter. The raw emotion and passion of her characters, and their likable and not so likable actions, are what make her a genius. But I have to say, this book experience for me was like baking that wonderful cake, anticipating it coming out perfect and opening the oven door to find the damn cake had folded into itself, crumbled under it's own weight. Perhaps the weight of my expectations?

And the thing is I didn't feel that way until the end. I was rolling along enjoying the story (even though at times it felt like My Sister's Keeper all over again)and loving the characters (especially Sean and Willow) and then just -bam! - it ended in a way that left a bad taste in my mouth. I felt like Picoult was trying too hard to recapture that moment at the end of My Sister's Keeper where everyone was shocked to the core. I felt like for this story, how it ended, just wasn't necessary.... but maybe it was? I don't know... I'm still perplexed. But I'm still thinking about it and maybe that was her point? And the part that really got me ticked off was the money - so unrealistic and what a waste, think of all the other kids that could have helped. Makes me angry to think about it.

The Department of Lost and Found by Allison Winn Scotch
This was my first foray into the literary world of this writer - who came highly recommended to me by my friend and author Lisa Steinke. It's about a tough subject - a young woman who gets breast cancer - but it's handled with the right balance of seriousness and necessary humor. The result? Hope. Which I think we can all use right now.

The premise is this: 30-year-old Natalie finds out she has cancer the same day she is dumped by her boyfriend. She embarks on a journey of recovery through chemo and by digging into past relationships (five of them) to see what went wrong in each of them so she can learn from her mistakes. I loved the humor, the touching emotional moments throughout where the cancer becomes very real to her and breaks her facade of strength and the whole idea of learning from your mistakes. Not that I would go back to past boyfriends and ask them what went wrong (oh Hell no!) but it was fascinating reading about her journey. What I found in The Department of Lost and Found is another great writer to look forward to reading over the years.

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
So I loved this book. I have to admit I enjoy fiction that is inspired by real people or real things - and this one is inspired by Laura Bush. I love how a writer can take a nugget of information, a small glimpse of someone and create an entire story of their life that is real and believable and so amazingly layered that I am wondering if it indeed is fiction or not. Sittenfeld is gifted, there's no other way to describe her writing.

But, no, this is not a book about Laura Bush, her childhood or her life with W. It's a story about a woman from the time she's a teenager (where she is responsible for a life-altering tragedy not unlike Laura Bush) through her choices (some a bit shocking) and into womanhood and adulthood where she ends up as the American president's wife. It was fascinating.

What am I diving into next? Well thanks to Mary, I'm excited to start Ahab's Wife and my mother in law just sent me a collection from my all-time favorite Joyce Carol Oates called Dear Husband.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Dora the Exploited

Sometimes I can't believe what parents get upset about these days. Like the fact that Dora the Explorer (the fun, Spanish speaking, monkey loving little adventurer) is getting a new modern makeover to appeal to today's tweens. Parents have actually started a petition against this! I find this hysterical since a great many parents can't find time to petition for say ... better education... but they can find time to rag on a toy company for expanding its fan base to include girls a bit older than those learning how to count beyond ten?

Now, I am the parent of a tween and I think it's great that they are trying to keep Dora alive for those beyond diapers, goldfish and sticky fingers. After all, she's wholesome, super intelligent, bi-lingual, resourceful, adventurous and kind-hearted. What tween in today's society doesn't need a role model like that? Especially when current role models include the likes of Lohan, Spears and a gaggle of Disney princesses gone bad (and nude!)

Yet over-zealous parents are freaking out... from what I've read you would think Mattel is making the new Dora into a tramp (a la Paris Hilton, Britney Spears or any number of inappropriate examples as mentioned above.) I've read the articles and seen the picture of the new Dora. She has longer hair, bigger accessories and - gasp!- a skirt...with leggings. She is sweet looking and current and relevant what if she ditched those orange boy shorts and bad hair cut for a stylish little makeover?

The thing is, Mattel is still keeping the old Dora around for the preschool crowd, so it's not like they are replacing that Dora with the new one, forcing young kids to only get their Dora fix with this new sassy, pre-pubescent Dora. They are catering to both age groups, separately.

The new Dora is a far cry from one of those freakin' BRAT dolls (with the vampy eyes, Victoria Secret model hair and curves Hef's Girls Next Door would envy)and I have to say, don't we all have bigger fish to fry right now?

In fact, if you are so worried about your tween and this whole Dora thing, shut off the TV, take away the iPod and take her for a walk... go exploring. That's what Dora would do.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Jingle All The Way

You know when you get a jingle in your head - a song or a bit from radio or TV - and you can't get it out? Like there's this one on the local radio here....a little commercial song that goes something like this... "Christy Smith, helping people on the move. Christy Smith, helping people on the move. Christy Smith, helping...*pause for dramatic effect here*...people on the move." I have no idea who she is, there clearly wasn't much thought put into the lyrics, but every time it comes on, my daughter says "Oh turn it up!" as if it were her favorite song. (Of course, this is the same daughter who insists we need a swiffer, a snuggie and that I need the dual lash spinner to get rid of clumps in my mascara. Clearly, she is easily swayed.) But, I digress. Christy Smith, when I move, I will remember that you help people in that situation.

Just this morning when I was waking up my daughter, I said "Get up, I hit snooze and now you need to bust a move!" The rest of the morning, I've been stuck with the same line in my head... "If you want it, baby you've got it....just bust a move." Now, honestly, I can't tell you the last time I actually heard that Young M.C. song. YEARS. But, there it was playing over and over in my head. ("This here's a tell for all the fellas, try to do what those ladies tell us....")

And I guess it never goes away...those lyrics and jingles get engraved in our brains and pop out at random times. It's like Whack-a-Mole...that crazy game with the psychotic mole that pops out of the holes: you never know when or where he'll pop up next before you have to thump him on the head with that crazy hammer-like instrument. (I have to admit there is something quite satisfying about thumping that annoying little weasel!)

But my point is, these song lyrics and jingles stay with us... one day at the nursing home when I was having dinner with my dad, there was an old lady at the table with us. She was in a wheelchair, curled up into herself like a puppy dog tail. Her head was bowed, her eyes were closed, her face grimaced as if she were in perpetual pain. Her food sat untouched in front of her. It was hard to tell if she was asleep or if this was her common state of lethargy, just waiting for it all to be over.

My daughter went over to the piano in the dining room at this point. It was just after Christmas and she had been rehearsing for her recital. She began to play "Jingle Bells" and the sweetest thing happened. The lady with her eyes closed, seemingly unconscious, began to move her lips ... "Jingle Bells...Jingle Bells...Jingle all the way..." She mouthed the words right along while Anna played. When Anna stopped, she stopped. When Anna picked up again, the woman picked right back up with her. She never missed a beat, never missed a word. She never opened her eyes but the music moved her.