December!? Where The Heck Did November Go?

Where the hell have I been?  I sure wasn’t present on this blog in the month of November now was I?  Sorry about that folks.  Between travel to the States for two weeks, computer problems and then WordPress problems, I just fell off the blogging wagon.  I am now making a pledge to post once a day this month so I can get back into the swing of things and catch you up on all I’ve been up to, all (not really) I’ve read, all I’ve baked and all I’ve been listening to recently. 

You may have noticed this new, obnoxious look for Planet Books too.  I used this design last Christmas and until WordPress.com comes up with a new Christmas design that I like better, this is the one I’ll be using.  I think it is very festive!  On Friday, Hubby and I decorated the house for Christmas and I must say it looks great.  At night we turn off the regular lights and sit in the mood lighting of the Christmas tree, candles, a small white Christmas tree on the piano and the Christmas lights woven throughout the rungs of the banister.  I love it and it just makes the house so unbelievably cozy. 

tree-2008

A couple of weeks ago I said that I would post pictures and stories from my trip to D.C. in November.  Well, those stories and pics will be coming soon.  They will help me write a post a day for the next week or so, so hang tight and check back soon.

To all of you Americans out there, I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving last week and are getting excited about the holiday season as it is now upon us.  What are some of the things on your Christmas list this year?  Books?  Clothes?  Something big and outrageous or small and exquisite?  Please share your wishes with me.  I have asked for a personal digital recorder since a lot of my ideas for this blog come to me in the mornings while I’m laying in bed, waking up.  By the time I get up (talking instead of writing in the waking up state is much easier for me) and get to the computer, most of those clever thoughts have fled like the sleep from my eyes.  I also asked for the “Martha Stewart Cooking School Books ~ Lessons & Recipes for the Home.”  Those are just a couple of the items on my Christmas list this year.  We’ll see what arrives under the tree.

Houston… We Have A Problem

I know I promised you some stories and pictures from my trip to the States, but I have been having some technical difficulties these past few days and am working on correcting the problems. This is the first time I’ve been able to log into WordPress for a while now and I’m still unable to log onto Facebook, which is killing me. I’ve got some technical help from my computer guru friend, Adam, but it may take a little more e-mailed direction. Hoepfully I will be back to normal soon. Also, I don’t have any of the word processing buttons on this page as I type. Any ideas?

Book Review/Q&A ~ Off The Menu by Christine Son

off-the-menu

Summary:  Off the Menu is being called an extraordinary debut about second-generation Asian-American women trying to live up to society’s high standards, as well as their own.  

Even though it’s been ten years since their Houston high school days, co-valedictorians and best friends Whitney Lee, Hercules Huang, and Audrey Henley still delight in their once-a-month get-togethers where they talk, laugh, and confide in each other— although not about everything. Because each young woman has a deep, dark secret they think they could never share. Not even with their best friends. Then, during a girls’ weekend getaway, these three friends wind up revealing their most intimate truths—and realize that to get straight As in the real world, all you have to do is let go of the need to be perfect… 

Off The Menu is the delightful, emotional, detail oriented, conversation filled debut novel by Christine Son.  She has created three wonderful characters, two of Korean descent and one of Chinese who all bring so much to the long-time friendships they share with each other.  Whitney, the lawyer with the secret dream of being a performance singer, Hercules, the successful and merciless chef with a father who never seems to be pleased by her accomplishments, and Audrey, the school teacher with ambitions of becoming a professor, though her mother may never understand her “settling” for just teaching. 

Together this dynamic trio faces all that life throws them at breakneck speed.  Such trials and tribulations include a job firing, a monumental break-up, dealing with an aging parent, and even a road trip to Austin from their hometown of Houston. 

I enjoyed the characters of Christine Son’s Off The Menu and would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in reading about friendship and the strength that it can bring to ones life. 

Now, for the highlight of this post.  Thanks to TLC Book Tours, author Christine Son is here for her twelfth blog stop this month and has taken time to answer a few of my questions.  Please join me in welcoming this up and coming author to Planet Books.

 

Q:  This is your twelfth stop on your TLC Book Tours run this month.  What has been your favorite part of this experience?  How did you pair up with TLC Book Tours in the first place?  Do you feel that the sub-culture of book blogs and their readers are a powerful force in the book industry today? 

christine_son_picA:  I have absolutely loved being on the TLC Tour. The wonderful Lisa Munley sent me an email about it, and I’m quite the fan of interviews and blogs, so it was a lovely fit. My favorite part of the experience has been reading what the commenters have to say, both about my guest blogs/interviews or the book itself. It’s invaluable to hear what people think of the book, to gauge what I might have done well or not so well. It’s also great to hear that people like me (can you believe it?) and that some are interested in the book because they think I’m nice or friendly (which I am!). I absolutely believe in the value of book blogs, and while it may be a subculture now, but will become the mainstream soon, if it’s not already. It’s the groundswell of opinion, and I love that.
 
Q:  The three main characters in OFF THE MENU have secret dreams that they are afraid of admitting to each other and their own families.  Was writing this book your secret dream or did you share the whole process with your family and friends from the start? 

A:  Writing was absolutely my secret dream. No one knew that I was writing except for my husband, and that was only because we live together, and he was going to wonder why I was acting like such a loon (and also because I adore and trust him, obviously). At some point pre-publication, I told a couple of very close friends that I was writing, but that may have been in response to their concern that I was looking a bit rough. They were worried that something was going on in my personal life or that some calamity had occurred. It was just utter exhaustion from working all day and then writing all night. The feelings that the characters share–fear of failure, fear of disappointing their friends and families and themselves, fear of looking like a fool or a frivolity–those were very real to me. But, and also like the book, I realized that my friends are my friends because we love each other, and if I can’t share some of the most important aspects of my life with them, then what does that say about our relationship? Or about me as a confider or confidante?
 
Q:  Your main characters, Whitney, Hercules & Audrey, all have very demanding, loving and seemingly unforgiving and hard to please parents.  Are they a culmination of your own parents? 

A:  Well, my parents are incredibly supportive of my writing career and of me in general.  And they’re not terribly hard to please in the traditional “you’d better bring home an A+” sense (if only because I’m no longer in school!). At the same time, I do feel pressure to do right by them, to live up to the expectations that they have for me, although not because they think that my success is their entitlement, but because they think I’ve got a lot of potential. My mom tells me all the time that “you can do it,” no matter what the goal is. She doesn’t qualify her assertion. She doesn’t hem and haw and try to dissuade me. And that’s really encouraging, knowing that she already believes that I can achieve whatever I’ve set my mind to.
 
Q:  Have you ever gone on a road trip/vacation with your girlfriends?  If so, did anything outrageous happen? 

A:  I have! Several of my close girlfriends and I take an annual Vegas trip. Many outrageous things have happened, but they’re all in the vault, and the vault stays locked. Sorry! Actually, our girl trips, in part, inspired the characters’ decision to take a trip together. Something about being away seems to draw friends closer and affords opportunities for more soul-baring than when we’re all in town. Even if we see each other often. Maybe it’s the proximity, or the endless time together. Or the vulnerability utter exhaustion brings. I love girl trips.
 
Q:  What are your single most favorite things about being both a lawyer and a writer?

A:  I love that I can be creative in both fields. I’m a litigator, and by job requirement and personality, I’m very analytical and curious. How is my client going to react? How is my opposing counsel or the judge or the jury going to respond? And as I did when I was a child, I’m constantly asking why. Factual gaps in cases force me to consider all the things that might have happened, and the more I practice, the more I think about hypothetical situations. In writing, it’s the same thing. How is a character going to respond? How is she going to handle a dilemma or make her dream come true? Why does she do it? What are her motivations and thoughts and perspective? The two practices are so similar, which might be why so many lawyers want to write.
 
Q:  What were some of your favorite books that you have read this year?

A:  I’ve been reading a lot of YA fiction these days, and they have blown me away with their maturity and riveting prose. I absolutely adore Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, John Green’s Looking for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines, Ibi Kaslik’s Skinny, Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why and Sara Zarr’s A Story of a Girl. Really, YA fiction is unbelievably good. I’ve got a three-foot stack of unread books on my nightstand, most of it YA fiction. I also read David Sedaris’s When You’re Engulfed in Flames. Ha! So funny.

About Christine

Christine Son graduated from the University of Texas and Duke University School of Law. She works as Corporate Counsel for a Fortune 500 company in Dallas, Texas where she lives with her husband.  For more fun facts about Christine, and answers to questions such as “What are you?” and “What do you do in your free time?”, click HERE.

* Be sure to check out the rest of Christine’s TLC Book Tour on these upcoming dates:

Tuesday, November 18th:  B & B ex Libris

Wednesday, November 19th:  DISGRASIAN

Thursday, November 20th:  Booking Mama

Monday, November 24th:  The Literate Housewife Review

Tuesday, November 25th:  Feminist Review

Wednesday, November 26th:  Diary of an Eccentric

Sunday Salon ~ November 16th, 2008

So I just returned to Okinawa after a whirlwind two week trip to the D.C. area.  The official purpose for the trip was to attend my friend Jesse’s wedding but I also managed to see a ton of friends and spend time with family.  I easily put at least a thousand miles on my father-in-law’s brand new Lexus over the two week period and spent time in three states, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware, as well as our nation’s capital. 

On election eve I had dinner and drinks with my two dear friends and prior bosses, Aura & John, at Morton’s Steakhouse on Connecticut Avenue and L Street in D.C.  It was an exciting time to be in D.C. and to be alive.  Such a historic day was awaiting us.  Election night was spent in Delaware with my best friend, Angela.  Due to my jet lag I wasn’t able to stay up to see Obama accept his new position as our next President but Angela, bless her heart, did wake me up to tell me he had won.  “Sorry I scared you to death when I was startled awake!” 

While I was stateside I received books from authors at four different addresses.  My folks house in Maryland, my in-laws house in Virginia, our military P.O. Box on base in Okinawa and a book even arrived from an author living in mainland Japan who sent her book to my Okinawa residence where we live off base.  I have so many books to read over the next few months, I am feeling a bit overwhelmed but am excited about the stories that await my attention.  I also went to numerous Borders and Barnes & Noble stores while I was on the east coast and found it impossible to resist buying some books that had been on my wish list or that I just came across.  I had to mail all those books back because I didn’t have room in my suitcases for them.  They will hopefully arrive in the next couple of days.  When they do, I might have to take a picture of the impressive stack they will form and share it with you.

Well, after a jam packed trip, I have had the luxury of recuperatingand hanging out with the hubby and doggy.  It’s been a relaxing few days.  The jet lag is tough to get over but it gets a little bit better every day.  Tomorrow starts a busy schedule once again here on the island.  I am hosting Christine Son and her book Off The Menu for TLC Book Tours on Monday, followed by a list of things to do this week in preparation for Thanksgiving.  Be sure to check in with me here, starting Monday morning EST, where you will find a great little Q & A with Christine Son. 

I will start posting more regularly again here at Planet Books.  Thank you for checking in on me!  I still have some stories to tell about my trip home, including the great opportunity I had meeting author Jessica Anya Blau.  She wrote The Summer of Naked Swim Parties.  I also had the great pleasure of meeting Larry Doyle, the author of I Love You, Beth Cooper, at the same book event. 

I hope you are having a great weekend!  What are you reading?  Anything you would recommend?

The Home Stretch

This visit home has been such a whirlwind of a time.  I have had so much fun reconnecting with old friends, visiting with family, meeting new people and doing too much shopping.  I have so many stories to tell and promise to have new posts up upon my return to Okinawa mid-week. 

I hope that you are having a lovely weekend and spending it with people you love.  The fall weather here in the D.C. area has been just lovely and the colors of the foliage will be deeply missed when I return to the land of no seasons and palm trees. 

See ya on the flip side!!