Friday, November 18, 2011

It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer. ~ Albert Einstein

-X


I do this every year. Then, I am shocked and bewildered into tears when I fail... every damn year. Future Kristin, future participants, here is why NaNoWriMo may not be the best option for you.

Unless you are already writing, sitting in front of a computer or notebook for hours every day will give you the willies. You will begin talking to plants, dogs, or that fuzzy google-eyed end of your eraser. If you hate cats, you may find yourself outside talking to them, changing your voice inflection. "Hell-oh, ki-ttens." Suddenly, you have lost yourself, loving kittens, wanting to write about your newfound feeling for ki-tten rights. Then, when there are peers around, you get busted talking to plants, dogs, or that fuzzy google-eyed end of your eraser... or, the ki-ttens. There is no "method writing" excuse for us.

If you are writing, fantastic. Keep it up. You have a set schedule. You are, as I tell other writers, doing the main thing: keeping your ass in the chair. This is the hardest part of being a writer, especially when one wants to flit over to the coffee shop ("I'm a WRITER!") or a reading at a local college ("I'm a WRITER!) or just leave snarky messages about other books on BN.com or Amazon ("I'm a WRITER who goes by A1Author69!").

But, if you are writing, the email to join NaNoWriMo is like a siren's call: finish a book in a month. Dreams begin to fast-forward on the mental loop. This baby could be sold by Valentine's Day. My tour could fit with my summer sabbatical. And, the insanity begins.

What have you completed to perfection in one month's time? I figured out how to combine the ingredients for Dodge's cocoa, but I have not been able to make it perfectly since. I have written beautiful sentences that I re-read to remind me to keep writing, but there are also some clunkers to steer me toward a career in dog or ki-tten grooming.

Writing takes time. Writing takes a personal rhythm. Only you know the beat of the week, the earworm of the month. Guilt produces nothing but empty pages. Remember this.

XX. TO THE END OF THE LAND ~ David Grossman

Perhaps this is the first lyric novel, where every feeling and emotion of each character is expressed, analyzed, re-evaluated, and turned over again for moldy remnants. Or, perhaps, it is a metaphor for modern society's desire for analysis. My need to understand why I did not connect with this award-winning novel is an example.

I left it at page 186. I liked the roundness of those numbers, and I knew I cared about the characters. Just not enough to slump along with them for another 437 pages.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

8. 10 MINDFUL MINUTES ~ Goldie Hawn

10 Mindful Minutes: Giving Our Children--and Ourselves--the Social and Emotional Skills to Reduce Stress and Anxiety for Healthier, Happy Lives

I can hear many of your thoughts. What. The. ? Why is she reviewing a self-help? For kids? Parents?

It is so simple. Otherwise, you may end up reducing your stress with a cocktail instead of - I don't know - playing Goth Barbies for the millionth time.

Actually, my sister showed me the book while we were, um, "visiting" at another relative's house (trying to protect the innocent here). With all of my imbibing, I finished reading it during trips to the loo.

I despise stars using ghost writers to push personal agendas, but this seems to have Goldie Hawn's sticky sweetness all over it. Is it the new wave of parenting or psychology? No, but it is a smart way to provide kids with the language to express their feelings. Eventually, it will help both the parent and child develop strategies to deal with those feelings in a zen-Buddhist reminiscent manner.

There are many other books that will help those with teens or to assist in the understanding of human brain development (as in, teenagers do not have functioning pre-frontal cortexes, so they just cannot help text-driving). This book lands on this like a butterfly sipping nectar but prefers to spread its showy wings to spread calm and beauty.

Hey, it might work.

3.5 out of 5.0 Healthy 2% Milks.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Flippin' Freebies - Flash It

Congratulations to Sandy M., who will be receiving a free book for her beautiful prose about autumn:


               "... moldy cedar similes/sweep the leaves past/the memories of death."

*sniffle* After a brief pause for a cough-ffee break, I would like to announce the Flippin' Freebies event for November/December.

Visit the Facebook Books for Breakfast page or email booksforbreakfastblog at gmail with your mini-bits about the upcoming holidays. Keep it flash, y'all, at under 200 words.

Two winners will receive free books for the new year. Or the last year, according to the Mayan calendar and Nostradamus. Either/or, let's not quibble unless it is over something important, like comma splices or how Twilight is Twideath. Oh, I can feel a a reader's mail post coming soon...

Deadline: December 20, 2011. Because this is a tax write-off for me, so let's get crackin'.

And, yes, I am tweeting now. Blogger did not allow me to use my preferred language for it.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

7. THE MATCHMAKER OF KENMARE ~ Frank Delaney


The Matchmaker of Kenmare: A Novel of Ireland

A toast to excellent publicists because Frank Delaney has become one of my new favorites. His dedication to Irish history and the descriptions of its scenery are akin to Maeve Binchy's use of Ireland as a backdrop in her romance writing. The difference is Frank Delaney's epic plotting.

In this wonder, the focus in upon Kate Begley, the local matchmaker. Ben McCarthy, who is gathering stories for the Irish Folklore Commission, finds her and observes Kate using a mix of compliments, style tips, and scolding to set up the right couples.

Unknown to Kate at the time, her biggest challenge is yet to come: finding Ben's missing wife, as well as her own love story.

Set during World War II, the author is smart enough to stay away from too much about the war (been there, done that). However, each tangled knot is unraveled long enough to reach the next plot point with many surprises and some reliefs. Reading this reminded me of "frogging" a poorly crocheted hat with all of its snags, and how wondrous one thread can hold it all together beautifully.

4.0 out of 5.0 Dodge Cocoas.

Dodge Cocoa: Make your favorite hot chocolate with milk. Then, use whipped cream vodka instead of peppermind schnaaps. On second thought, use both. Garnish with shaved chocolate and peppermint.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

"Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital." ~Aaron Levenstein

I hit 300,000 unique viewers sometime over the weekend. I allowed myself some time to imagine why... the changes to the blog, my new goals to read 300-350 books in a year.

I told myself I could grow up to just drink and read books!

After pouring a celebratory shot of Bailey's and Godiva into my coffee, I looked at the stats.

Okay, who is doing a project on Number the Stars by Lois Lowry? First, students, you never, ever, use a blog as an informational source. Especially a blog by a delusional drunkard wannabe. Second, if you are semi-smart enough to quote from the blog, your teacher will put it into the google machine and find THIS. I am a quasi-English professor, so I know. Last of all, if you do quote this blog and cite it, no instructor would believe it as a reliable resource. See also: Wikipedia, Sparknotes, Yahoo Questions.

Teachers? Do not assign this book at the same time.

It is almost noon. Time to switch to vodka sevens and never trust the stat spikes again.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

6. HOW TO BE A MOVIE STAR ~ William J. Mann

How to Be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood

Sidenote: I adore my nook, and I love my library. Otherwise, I would be pretty ticked off about the deals going on at the bookstores regarding recent reads.

After reading Cleopatra, it only made sense to look at America's closest woman. Elizabeth Taylor even played the part, though I doubt the real Cleo was as voluptuous.

While this isn't the typical biography of Elizabeth Taylor (it covers her golden years in Hollywood - that's it), it does show how the public relations and marketing machines cranked out stars during that era. It also demonstrates why so many of them crashed or have caught the attention bug fiercely enough to tap-dance on Jenny Craig commercials today.

Mann sets up each chapter as an example of how to handle a situation in Hollywood to one's advantage. His point is to argue there will never be another movie star, throwing all of the Jennifer Anistons and Angelina Jolies back into the ocean.

I like how he used new information previously unreleased, including some of Elizabeth Taylor's handwritten records, but his sources tell the stories. Elizabeth Taylor is too big of a star, even posthumously, to let someone else write for her in this book, and her voice is the strongest. It convinced me to start with Blue Velvet and rediscover her work.

3.0 out of 5.0 Creme de Violettes.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

5. CLEOPATRA: A LIFE ~ Stacy Schiff

No, she did not dissolve a pearl in wine,
but, damn, what a great story!
Cleopatra: A Life

Do you know what I hate? Reading a fantastic book with nothing to show for it. While I adore my nook and dig the library system, my husband build a custom library for me. I can sit and look at my books in the winter sun with huge, fluffy white dogs purring and snoring around me, candles lit to mask their odorous farts.

It is my heaven, referring back to The Lovely Bones.

However, the book is on sale, so this is one of my must-buys of the year: Cleopatra: A Life.

Why? Did you think you knew everything about her from Elizabeth Taylor's movie? Or, *shudder*, Shakespeare? From this book alone, you will discover that Shakespeare cribbed most of his words from historians who wrote about Cleopatra 200 years after she died.

And, what about the infamous asp that killed her? I will let you have even more surprises, but there are far too many legends dispelled in this wonderful historical biopic.

Even if you do not have any interest in Cleopatra or are tired of her appeal, it is important to read to understand why people were so ready for the coming of a savior (Jesus Christ) during these tumultous Roman civil wars. It is a time when people were questioned for not being Jewish enough, as Cleopatra was not Egyptian, but Greek. And the roles (i.e., "expected roles") of the Roman women are remarkably similar to Tea Party statements today.

Although the prose is repetitive at times, it is so thick with details, it has to be. Not everyone gets to read a book cover to cover in a few sittings. Fanatic in her meticulous historical comparisons and specificity, Schiff is someone I will refer to in future writing.

4.5 out of 5.0 Cleopatras.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

"Writing is an exploration. You start with nothing and learn as you go." E.L. Doctorow

It is going to be an interesting month. By "interesting," see also: painful, insane, and "mad hatter."

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

4. THE HOUSE AT RIVERTON ~ Kate Morton

The House at Riverton: A Novel

Oh, to be Grace Bradley. First, she lives 98 years - imagine the change in daily life. Her grandson is a famous author, but Grace is suddenly thrust into the spotlight because she is the only living reminder of Riverton Manor, as well as what happened there during a summer party.

A film director wants information and "truth" from Grace, and validation that she recreated the scenes correctly. Grace, who had been a maid for the Hartford family, is the only one who knows why the poet was found shot, and why the two Hartford sisters, Emme and Hannah were distraught and separated in their grief. However, Grace shares her memories and observations through tapes to her grandson, to be played only after she passes away.

For those who have read my reviews, you know how this would appeal to me as a lover of historical work. However, the details of servant life in early 1900s Great Britain, especially when tipped against the wealth at Riverton, is confounding and admirable.

I had one moment where I thought, "Grace, why didn't you...?" and readers will know it. But that wasn't the focus of this novel. It is about the beauty and glamour of the Hartford's and their multiple tragedies. Beautifully written, though a big slow toward the end.

4.2 out of 5.0 Fog Cutters.