Sunday Salon ~ June 28th, 2009

I hope your weekend was a good one!  Mine was nice and relaxing.  Read a little bit, ate out, caught a flick with Hubby and went to a great little concert with a couple of girlfriends. 

I’m reading The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler.  I downloaded a free sample onto my Kindle last week and started reading that at the end of the week and just had to find out what was going to happen to Macon.  What a great read so far!  Hubby and I went down to our lot site and discovered that the builders started working on our house last week.  The foundation/basement has started and the concrete should be poured this week.  It was so cool to see that progress has started to finally show.  We went to a recommended Korean BBQ joint near the future house but learned they aren’t open for lunch so we went to Red Lobster.  It was really delicious and the establishment was really nice and new’ish.  Last night we saw “The Hangover” and boy was it a doozy.  Funny, outrageous and just plain wrong at points.  We really liked it. 

Today I stopped by my folks house in Maryland on my way out to Annapolis to meet up with two girlfriends of mine, Rebecca and Alison.  We used to do theatre together back in the ’90’s and have reconnected thanks to Facebook.  They thought I would enjoy one of their favorite east coast singers, Toby Lightman.  They were totally right with their assumption.  She ROCKED!!!!!  It was an acoustic show with a total of three acts performing.  The show was at The Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis, MD.  If you live in the DC area it is a great venue for intimate performances.  They have great headliners and the room is cozy (though a bit chilly), comfortable and has fantastic sound.  The first singer/songwriter was Kentavius Jones and he was brilliant.  His voice was gorgeous and sensual and his songs were smooth and rich.  Second up was Luke Brindley.  He was very very good and could make his guitar produce sounds I never would have thought could be made by a single instrument.  Toby Lightman was the headliner and I really could have listened/watched her perform for many hours more.  Her voice was so beautiful, rich, strong, soft, emotion filled and enjoyable to listen to.  All three performers were incredible guitarists in their own right as well. 

Here are a  few videos of Toby Lightman.  Enjoy!!

Friday Finds ~ June 26th, 2009

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Friday Finds is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading.  While browsing book blogs,  Amazon.com, Washington Post.com, NPR.org, various other places on the Internet, and getting recommendations from friends, these are the books that either made it to my wish list this week or I downloaded the samples onto my Kindle from Amazon.com.

   

  

  

 The Accidental Tourist ~ Anne Tyler
The Angel’s Game~ Carlos Ruiz Zafon
The Book of Night Women ~ Marlon James
Early Bird: A Memoir of Premature Retirement~ Rodney Rothman
Eve: A Novel of the First Woman ~ Elissa Elliott
The Kindly Ones~ Jonathan Littell
Let the Great World Spin~ Colum McCann
Lost & Found~ Jacqueline Sheehan

That’s Mrs. Beastmomma To You!

This past weekend Hubby and I had the great honor of attending a slew of lovely and gorgeous Indian wedding festivities.  The bride was blogger Beastmomma who has been my little sister’s best friend for the last sixteen years.  Congratulations Mrs. Beastmomma and thank you so much for sharing your and PTB’s (Partner-To-Be; what will you call him now?) wedding weekend with us!

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Sunday Salon/Today’s Favorite Song

This week/weekend has just flown by.  My friend Alison lent me her copy of My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult so I could read it before we see the movie version when it comes out at the end of the month.  Today I went to Beastmomma‘s bridal shower which was lovely and just the beginning of the wedding festivities that pick up on Thursday and run through Sunday evening.  This evening Hubby and I saw No Doubt live in concert at Nissan Pavilion in Northern Virginia.  Gwen and the Boys were FANTASTICALLY AMAZING!!!!  It was so wicked cool to see Ms. Stefani in person and hear all the bands great songs.  There were over 24,000 people in attendance and when No Doubt performed Just A Girl, the estrogen in the pavilion was intense. 

I tried to link the video of the band performing Just a Girlon The Ellen Show last month but it didn’t work.  Sorry!  I did find this footage on YouTube of No Doubt’s first late night network television performance on Late Night with Conan O’Brien from January 1996.  It’s the song Just A Girl again but it really is cool to see their energy back then and compare it to now, thirteen years later and kids.

Friday Finds ~ June 12th, 2009

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Friday Finds is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading.  While browsing book blogs,  Amazon.com, Washington Post.com, NPR.org, various other places on the Internet, and getting recommendations from friends, these are the books that made it to my wish list this week.

  

 

   

The Servents Quarters by Lynn Freed
Roses by Leila Meacham
Circle of Friends by Meave Binchy
True Confections by Katharine Weber
The Girl Next Door by Elizabeth Noble
I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti by Giulia Melucci
Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner

Nice To Meet Ya!

Over the last couple of months I have become rather jealous of all you book bloggers getting together and meeting each other at the LA Book Festival and BEA in NYC so I was very excited when the opportunity to meet a fellow book blogger/Washingtonian arose.  This evening I met up with Charlotte of Thoughts of a Lusty Reader From DC at a local Barnes & Noble where we talked books and blogging.  What a lovely and intelligent gal “Lusty” is!  Wow!  She reads more than I even daydream to read.  She has inspired me to get crackin’ for sure. 

We talked about how we ended up blogging about books and what books we’ve read lately.  Charlotte just finished reading Belong To Me so we discussed the characters, story line and Marisa de los Santos’ guest post on Planet Books just last week.  It was so fun to meet someone as passionate about books as me, and maybe even more so.  I really hope we get together again and I look forward to meeting more of you book bloggers some day.  Nonsuch Book, maybe we can set something up when I’m over in MD visiting my folks?!

My New Obsession

kindle2_01I love my Kindle.  I love it even more now that we are back in the good ‘ole U.S. of A.  One of the many cool features it has is the sample option.  When you go on Amazon.com via your computer or the Kindle, you can download samples of Kindle books, read them at any time and if you choose to buy the book, you can download it automatically.  I am noticing that the book samples are pretty long too; at least the first chapter.  Over the last two days I have downloaded twenty-six book samples and I can’t seem to stop.  I haven’t even finished reading Olive Kitteridge on my Kindle and now I have all these samples to read and I did it to myself.  I will continue to download samples till I go crazy!  I LOVE it!!!

If you or even if you don’t own a Kindle, do you/would you utilize this feature?  It will probably help save money in the end because you can decide if you want to own the book or not by reading the first chapter or so of the book.

No Longer A Virgin

A library virgin that is.  Last week I needed to get out and stretch my legs so I headed over to the Oakton Library where I discovered a gorgeous, “green” and cozy library.  The staff was very helpful and quickly showed me where the interior design books were located.  I found a few great looking books that were laid out well so I decided to sign up for my first library card and check them out.  I will have to sign up in Prince William County when we move into our house at the end of the summer but that’s okay.  I think I will add libraries to my list of book resources for the first time in my life.

Guest Post ~ Belong to Me Author, Marisa de los Santos

I am so thrilled to welcome Marisa de los Santos to Planet Books!!  Marisa is the author of Love Walked In and Belong To Me.  She has written a wonderful guest post that I really relate to and I hope you will enjoy reading as well.  Without any further ado, Marisa de los Santos!

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   Lately, I’ve been thinking about happy endings.

   Not so long ago, I was on a panel at a book festival, and in response to an audience member’s question, one of my fellow panelists said something like, “I don’t write ‘feel good’ books.  It’s not my job to make people happy; it’s my job to put my characters in challenging situations and then see how they respond.”  This struck me as a completely fair and lucid remark, but what followed was a discussion about serious books versus fluffy books, literature vs. “beach reads,” and while I noticed that most of the audience was silent, those that spoke up seemed to share the assumption that happy books are, by definition, fun but trivial:  shallow, intellectually empty, even soulless.  “’Feel good’ books don’t make you smarter,” one woman said, “They just make you happy.”

Love Walked In

   I’ve written two books.  Neither Love Walked In nor Belong to Me ends with all of the characters, or really any of them, getting exactly what they want, but both have what I think of as “upswing” endings; in both books, hope gets the last word.  Judging from the emails I get from readers, a lot of them (the ones who like my books, anyway) find that, after reading my books, they feel, well, . . . good.

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   And what I’ve decided is that this is OK with me.  I like to be taken seriously; it’s painful to think of people dismissing my books as “fluff” because of their happy endings, but if readers walk away from my books feeling more joyful than when they opened them, so be it.  More than “so be it”.  Very few writers can be everything to all readers; everyone, if they’re lucky, has a place to fill; if my role is writing books that make people happy, I am humbled and honored.

   But the truth is that I don’t really have a choice.  I could write at length about happiness, how I don’t think it’s dumb or trivial or less complicated than sadness or anger or unrelenting grimness, how a character’s journey toward her or his happy ending can be just as difficult and interesting as any other kind of journey.  I could list works of literature generally acknowledged as “great” that end happily.  But this might imply that I write happy books on purpose, and that just isn’t the case.

   Like my fellow panelist, I don’t think it’s my job to make people happy.  It’s a good thing, too, because if faced with such an enormous responsibility as that, I would probably freeze up and write nothing at all.   I think it’s my job to create characters that feel multi-dimensional and alive to me, to set them in motion, and then to try to be true to them, to get their actions and reactions right, to find language that serves them and their stories.  I can’t think about anything else, like making readers happy, like being taken seriously by critics, like pleasing my editor, like selling lots of books, like fulfilling a higher moral purpose, because then I might get distracted and fail at my one job:  being true to the demands of my story.

   If both of my books end on an upswing, and if this third one does, too, as it might (I have no idea what will happen in the end, but if it ends on a hopeful note, I will not be shocked), it’s not because I write with that goal in mind.  My guess is that it has to do with the thing that all three books have in common:  me.

   I write out of who I am, what I know, what I intuit, and what I’ve observed and experienced.  While I have an imagination, I am singular and limited, and, while I’ve sorrowed and lost and encountered meanness, while I know that monsters exist, my life so far has led me to two beliefs out of which, inevitably, I live and write:  most people are fundamentally decent, and love is what saves us.  I hope this doesn’t change, but if it does, I’m sure my books will change, too.

   For now, though, I’m happy with happiness.

To learn more about Marisa check out her website HERE.

Book Review ~ Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos

Summary ~ Belong to Meby Marisa de los Santos ~ Cornelia Brown surprised herself when she was gripped by the sudden, inescapable desire to move to the suburbs with her husband. Her mettle is quickly tested by her impeccably dressed, overly judgmental neighbor Piper Truitt—the embodiment of everything Cornelia feared she’d find in suburbia. With Lake, another recent arrival, Cornelia shares a love of literature and old movies—as she forms an instant bond with this warm yet elusive woman and her perceptive, brilliant young son Dev.
Acclaimed bestselling author Marisa de los Santos’s literary talents shine in the complex interactions she creates between three unforgettable women, deftly entangling her characters in a web of trust, betrayal, love, and loss that challenges them in ways they never imagined.

belong-to-me-large2I LOVED THIS BOOK!  I knew by the time I was half way through it that it was going to get a 5 out of 5 rating and that feeling continued on till the end.  If you were a fan of Desperate Housewives before it went over the edge into absolute absurdity, than Belong to Me will quench your bibliophile thirst perfectly.  Like when I read Elizabeth Noble’s The Reading Groupand Jennifer Weiner’s Little Earthquakes, I loved going “in for a visit” with the characters of Belong to Me and now that the last page has been read I miss them already. 

Now I haven’t read the prequel to this book, Love Walked In, but I didn’t feel that I was missing anything because of that.  Belong to Meis told from the point of view of three characters.  Cornelia, along with her husband Teo, is the newest member in a neighborhood just outside of Philadelphia.  Cornelia finds out that when you are the new kid on the block, it might be difficult to find your niche and fit in.  That is proved true by another neighbor and fellow narrator, Piper (nick named Viper by another character).  Piper is in total control of her life and surroundings, or so she thinks.  She discovers that her husband isn’t happy and spends a good portion of the book caring for her best friend, Elizabeth, who is dying from cancer.  The third narrator is Dev.  A fourteen year old boy who’s mother moved them across the country to this new area where they meet Cornelia, Teo and their pseudo-daughter, Clare.  Dev was a very interesting character with his scientific and poetry loving mind.  His story line is full of anxiety, mystery and discovery. 

I can’t even start to tell you my favorite parts of this book because the whole thing was so great.  If you want a juicy, drama filled, funny and fantastically written book to read, than I must recommend Belong to Me!

{Rating: 5 out of 5}