Fluffy reading is educational?

One of my fave romance blogs posted this op-ed piece one of their contributors wrote on Tango. She raises a good point though – romance isn’t the stuff of movies. It isn’t running down the streets of Paris to find that one person on the bridge and tell them you can’t live without them. It isn’t running off to the islands and being wined and dined. It’s the small gestures on a daily basis…often seen in the build up to the big romantic gesture at the end that wins the damsels heart. Wait – my escapism is actually teaching me something?

I might joke about my mom having been mad enough at my dad to throw a vacuum at him. (1 – she didn’t throw it, she pounded it on their floor. 2 – she was pissed.) But, I know that they actually love each other – from the little things like how he takes her elbow over icy patches or watching them prepare breakfast for each other with hardly a word said. The Bald One and I have similar little things that say daily how we love – he turns the electric blanket on for me in winter and I’ll leave little notes for him to find or indulge his goofy side even when it involves tickling me to death.

It’s February, and with it comes reminders from the AHA that it is heart month and the biggest Hallmark & florist holiday comes right in the middle of the month. The stores are scattered with tokens big (diamonds! a new car!) and small (a single rose, the perfect chocolate). Charities ask that you adopt an animal or make a donation in someone’s name to show you care about them and the things they’re interested in. As par for the course, I’ll be working on a play when the big VDay happens. I jokingly told the director I’ve spent more Valentine’s Days with him than with my husband. (In the 9 VDays we’ve been together, I worked five shows with this director, two elsewhere — if you go by hours in the day, I’m right.) Luckily, it’s a matinee (second time that’s happened) and not a archival photo night. This means I’ll get home at a decent hour to have whatever wonderful concoction the Bald One creates this year.

Ever since our first Valentines Day, the Bald One has done something wonderful for the holiday. While it is often a grand gesture in the terms of our relationship, it means just as much as knowing that he kills the random bugs before our cats turn them into toys. And I guess that’s how I know we’ll be fine when we go from being just us two to being parents.

Reading /is/ fundamental

I don’t remember story time, but my mother tells me she took me every week when I was growing up and it was a highlight of the week for me. I do remember being in elementary school and breaking away from my classmates hovering around the grade-level appropriate books and looking at the books for kids anywhere from one to three years older than myself. I remember the grandmother-ly librarian who reached down to the Henry novels and introduced me to Misty of Chincoteague. I ran quickly through the entire series of books, even reading one of her novels not taking place off the coast of Virginia but in the depths of the Grand Canyon.

Later, having run through everything “girl appropriate” in my small elementary school’s library, I turned to my dad for direction. My dad was the reader of my parents while we were growing up, and I figured if someone could get me my next series of books that person would likely be him. He took me from the female child appropriate fiction of ponies and into a land of dragons and music. The first book he placed in my hand then was Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonsong. I read quickly through this, finishing its sequel in less time than the book’s seven days covered. Being the parents that mine are, I got to finish reading all the books McCaffrey had published at the time – meeting strong women like Lessa and learning about sex in very abstract terms.

I learned about the science in the paranormal as I continued reading McCaffrey’s novels, giggling over the date having been passed but no evidence showing of these people existing yet. I tried to get to read the leaders of science fiction (RAH, JRRT) but could not finish the Hobbit and wasn’t allowed to touch Friday. Eventually, I started choosing my own books and found Mercedes Lackey, Robert Jordan (who I still despise), Tad Williams, David (& Leigh) Eddings  and George RR Martin. Sometimes I go more towards the fluff of the romance entwined in fantasy, other times the gritty realism of war in a world not quite like ours can capture me for days.

What prompted all this is an interview on GeekDad of Nathan Fillion on Why Kids Need to Read.

I haven’t been in a school library since I left middle school. Any time I needed to do research, I went to the local public branch for a better selection and was usually too involved to actually have time at school to go research. The idea that libraries in schools are being decimated scares me. I had involved parents, I plan to be involved in getting the Gummi Bear into reading…but not every child is so lucky. One of my girlfriends recently told me that she’s not worried for us putting our daughter in public schools because we read and are likely to get our children to do so as well. Granted, reading won’t solve everything, but it does open many a door.

FTC – poking in where now?

You may have noticed something strange in my last post – a disclaimer at the FTC. As you may have seen elsewhere, the FTC has decided to watch out for you, the consumer, by making us Wild West critics fess up that we may not be completely honest with you because we are swayed by the big bad corporations.

I know, I’m exaggerating. But for a reason…do you really think 90% of us sit here and go “yes, free stuff! I promise to say I love it and have my throngs of followers worship you even if it’s crap!” In a word, no. But the FTC is worried about that 10% who might not be so scrupulous.

I know I’m a tiny little flea in the world of swaying the almighty consumerist dollar. I don’t have a large following, if I even have any following. I more often tell strange tales of my life working on shows and having a day job or the strange things that pass as “normal” in our family life than I do tell you about the books I read, products I buy or other things that qualify as a product review. Heck, I’ve even started to get a little snarky on book reviews because it’s fun to crack my girlfriends up while being honest about a book plot.

I can honestly tell you the only ARC I have ever reviewed here is one I blatantly said was an ARC. The books I’ve received as a give-away, either as a prize for a contest well-won or the one time I’ve gotten something from an author, have been noted. Unless stated otherwise, my books come from one of three sources: my local library, a PaperBackSwap trade or my own hard-earned cash. My husband works in retail – formerly for Linens ‘n’ Things, Best Buy, a wine distributor and various movie theaters. As such, we did receive discounts on some purchases but never have I received something for free because of this connection from the retailer. He now works for a retail servicer, and as such we get pretty much nothing. Any product reviews (like how I love my wash machine due to it’s delayed start), are based on experience and not because somebody gave me something to make it sound awesome. In the event this ever changes, despite my tiny influence, I’ll make sure to warn you.

And while I love the government…I’m siding with a folksong here (and if you’re really curious, I’ll go figure out which…but my recording is at home): Judge, the good folks don’t need your laws and the rest won’t listen.

Happy LOL cat – it shares my views

On Sunday, I drove myself (in a car without cruise control!) out to the almost-farm country on the other side of the Triangle. Part of the point of this adventure was to learn something I never quite got with my mother – how to cook vegetables. In all fairness to my mom, we’re mainly of Eastern European descent…which means most of our cooking is meat, potatoes and boil the heck out of everything until losing their flavor. Maybe not literally, but it often feels that way.

While hanging out with StubbornDev and Lil Bit, I got to have a glimpse into my future – Lil Bit is potty training. I’d say something crazy like it reminds me of the cats, but at least with children you can reason and maybe teach…but that’s unfair to both cats and kids. You can sometimes teach cats and often you cannot reason with children.

Getting back to the veggies…one thing I’ve realized is that I need more of them in my life. I live near the state farmer’s market, which I just need to go to more often and ask more questions. But there are other ways to cook veggies than boil the flavor out of them…blanching, roasting, grilling, sautee and even the occasional fun with a wok. Heck, we even have a veggie size wok. Just because the Bald One isn’t a veggie fan doesn’t mean I can’t cook up a single serving.

Part of my education was reading Nourishing Traditions. This book reminds you that eating is fuel, and fuel should be high grade and not over processed. I’ve been reminded that oatmeal, when done right, doesn’t have the consistency of runny snot. Milk is actually better when it’s full of milk fat. Butter is actually made from milk fat, and not chemically cooked up margarine that tastes about the same. While my darling husband does much of the cooking, small changes can be made around him – cous cous in bulk that we flavor ourselves, whole grain pasta cooked correctly tastes just as good, brown rice…and his favorite change is beef to die for from the guy who raised the cows. Sure we’ll probably still break out the occasional Hamburger Helper, but we’ll now add beef from the guy at the market and eggs from local chickens. Small changes will be easier (on us and the pocketbook), but they’ll make all the difference. Even if tomatoes are evil.

Book Review: Art of Racing in the Rain

Let me just begin with: don’t read this one if you’re hormonal, prone to cry at animals potentially suffering or tear up at Hallmark commercials. If you fit in one of these categories, please do read, but with a box of tissues handy. I cleared out my sinuses.

For those that grew up with a dog, you know how the bond of family that really ties you with your “family pet.” This is often a relationship that teaches you things you never quite fully understand until you’re an adult. My husband’s cat taught his goddaughter how to crawl. My family dog taught me that snoring was okay, to occasionally be tenacious, and just how to always be there when someone needed you. These are the deep-set feelings that you immediately tap into on the opening pages.

This book is written from the dogs point of view, on the eve of his death. He stages it carefully, so to choose best his time as he knows that his family no longer needs him. He reflects through his life from being chosen from the cruel man who cared for his mother to meeting the woman who’d share his owner’s heart with him. Where this book excels is the thing that sells romance novels – emotion. Every single page makes you feel like you are really, emotionally living with these people. You never quite see the house in your mind so you are free to fill in what says “home” to you. You don’t know exactly where in foggy Seattle they’re living, but you have a sense of these people’s lives day-to-day. You can forget that they may be a continent away from you because this could happen in your neighborhood.

I will say, for the tears you shed throughout and in the last pages, it is a happy book. The pay off is worth the pain. I’d put this in the great stocking stuffer list for anyone you know that has a dog.

T&A Let Me In

Let Me In by Donna Kauffman was part of a stack of books I won courtesy of SBTB. I can honestly say I haven’t read a Donna Kauffman book before this, but I’m a little sad to say I’m not sure I’ll pick one up again.

Sidebar: my darling Bald One and I are seeing each other three nights a week based on his work schedule. Based on our sleep schedules, we’re seeing each other alive even less. And I’m losing a lot of sleep. So when I decided to read this, it was Sunday, in between naps and laundry. I hit the jump. That’ll be the rule for the lovely T&A reviews. My gals have no plans on reading these, so I know I won’t ruin it for them…but I wouldn’t want to ruin it for you.

I read romance for plot, suspense and well developed characters all laced with titillation and a bit of sex. Most of what I get to read has two of the first three characteristics and often heavy on one of the last two. This book gave me a lot of suspense, two decently developed characters and a lot of longing glances. What I wasn’t looking for but got through the ying-yang? Conversation.

We spent probably the first third to half of the book with two characters. Talking. To themselves. Each other on occasion. Or to themselves in their heads and arguing. It takes that long for the two of them to finally introduce the third character, who I think got a passing mention while they were talking them to themselves. We learn about violence and for some reason the idea of spies being romantic heroes has been set back with this one. Yes, he’s hot – but he spends most of the book nursing his ribs. (Although – mad props for realistic recovery time on injuries.) She’s also the requisite compact, adorable master spy who’s been massively injured and hiding away – so we don’t expect her to be fabulously fit. And in many ways, she’s damaged. But we’re to believe she’s managed to write two romance novels while having limited experience? Oh and she’s able to pull off some mad moves in a pinch. Like helping a man almost twice her weight into a cab top sleeping bed.

Oh yeah, she’s a writer now. A well hidden writer, as she’s in the mountains of nowhere (well, I’ve been there). Unless you read the Amazon synopsis, then you knew this going in. This writing she never actually does while we’re seeing her in this adventure with her ex-boss. Just saying. Continue reading T&A Let Me In

New feature: T&A synopsis

I’ve been toying with this idea for a little bit. I have several friends who are amazed that I read romance novels. Even when I openly admit that they’re occasionally horrid, saccharine soaked monstrosities that I’m astounded got past an editor’s desk without said-editor dying of insulin shock.

Recently, APop was flying around the country, as she is often scheduled to be in very exciting places to talk for an hour or two. The book that was getting her through the lonely nights was accidentally abandoned on the plane. (Yes, I’m exaggerating a bit.) She picked up a new Mary Higgins Clark novel at the in-airport bookseller. She started reading it and immediately thought of me. While sweet, it was because it was Romance! and Suspense! and not because it was a good book. *sigh*

When she came back, the three of us – including Tab, were discussing her latest travels, she mentioned the book. I briefly gave her what I thought were the big emotional moments in the book. I believe the conversation went something like this:

Rae: Let me guess, she goes to Foreign City to Her to find her missing brother almost immediately. While their – she meets two men, one that is a Friend of said missing Brother and one that is more of a PI or law officer of some sort that started tailing her to see if she would lead him to missing Brother.
APop: Well, I’ve met the first one. Maybe the second.
Rae: and the Friend, he’s all kinds of good, right? and the PI is dark and scary. And both guys seem to have a tendency to show up just when something off has happened?
APop: Have you read this?
Rae: No.
APop: But how?
Rae: Formula. She’ll get close to figuring out the truth, but both men will keep showing up. The very last chance, she’ll figure it out.

Since this happened, I’ve been doing an almost-snarky synopsis of whatever book I’m reading for them. It’s fun, and I’m thinking I need to put some of these out there for posterity. Or do them for books I’m slightly worried about even telling people who really know me that I’ve read (Like, Speed Dating, for example). It’ll be a fun experiment. And in their honor, I think I’ll call them T&A Synopsis posts.

Black Hills

First, an apology: when I originally talked about my win of books, I said this one wasn’t signed. I lied…the signature was on the cover page inside the book – not the inside cover of the ARC.

Secondly – I love it when an author does not disappoint.

I’ve been reading Nora Roberts for quite some time, and while I can usually predict some of the story lines (especially when she writes trilogies) I’m not always spot-on with the stand alones. I was thrilled that this new stand alone was part of my collection of books that I got. And, being who I am, I enjoy it when my fiction gives me a glimpse to some of the folks I work with — people I don’t come across in my daily life of office and theater and friends.

Black Hills takes place where the name suggests – the Black Hills of the Dakotas. We spend the first third of the book learning our two major characters – Lillian Chance and Cooper Sullivan. We watch them grow up, become best friends, fall in love. But it never can be that simple. Life intervenes – first in the form of a found dead hiker and then in the form of outside family pressures, dreams – both delayed and realized. Years pass and we meet a very different Lil and Coop – he’s come back to the only home he’s ever known and she’s hard at work in the refuge she has made. A killer stalks, best friends fall in love around them and we watch them both deal with the very real parts of life – family, work, money and each other.

One of the points I loved about this one is we find out who the killer is – both through deduction of our crack PI and his introduction as a character. We get to watch him work against Lil and Coop as they try very hard to live their lives while protecting those they love. And the fact that they didn’t put their lives on hold or run off into the wild with a madman chasing them is what really sold me on this book.

I lost most of my Sunday morning to this book. I had gotten through the first third while waiting for the Bald One to get home Friday night when I should have been sleeping. I picked it up a couple of times Saturday, but knew I couldn’t lose the hours that I’d want to when it got rolling. By Sunday, I had to read…and lost my morning and a small chunk of the afternoon.

There are moments that aren’t for the weak at heart…violence against animals, rather brutal violence at points and not to mention that much of this takes place on a (mainly large cat) wildlife refuge – a few of (meat) feedings. But there are tender moments as well – like slow dancing in a bar. I laughed out loud several times and will likely never look at where to store ammo the same way again.

Let me know what you think.

reading score

Today in the mail came the fantabulous stash of books.  I got a box and envelope  of crazy fabulous books from the gals over at Smart Bitches. A few posts back, I posted about the glorious win the Bald One and I suggested a great new possibility for a room at the Inn BoonsBoro.

The bottom book is the only one unsigned. That one, however, is an ARC for Black Hills which isn’t due out until July 7th. That’s the first one I picked up…because I’m that crazy fun.

Thank goodness I have a few weeks off before my next show.

squee with glee

Every once in a while, I win things. Not very often, but it happens. Usually when it does, it is something fairly cool. Today was one of those days.

I read quite a bit, and when I do it falls into two categories – things that make me think and “trashy romance novels.” That’s in quotes, because they’re not really trash or that heavy romance…I tend to drift one of three types – Regency, contemporary thriller or (sigh) paranormal. And for the latest news in what’s coming, I hit up the lovely gals at SBTN.

Sunday night, while listening to our friends play “remember when” with one of their number who’s ditching us for the West Coast, I came across this post. Fifteen signed books and all I have to do is get going on another room suggestion for the Inn Boonsboro? Count me in. What I didn’t count on was my husband playing along. His useless knowledge store is in movies when my runs to books so between the two of us we had quite a list. We pared it down and submitted our list (after two single shots, we stuck with a single list).

Well, the winners were announced today. I read through the runners up enjoying the giggles I got from them and a few face:palms for the ones I should have remembered (Anne Shirley & Gilbert Blythe?!?) and one for the one we threw out (Eowyn & Faramir). And then I read this:

But I had to pick one, because, well, duh, there can only be one. So: the winner: Rae, and Rae’s husband:  for a truly strong heroine and equally smoldering hero: Han & Leia.

Ron & Hermione are a lovely idea, too! To say nothing of the potential of Lloyd and Diane, or Niles and Daphne, or Harry & Ginny.

What I love about all the ideas, particularly Rae’s, is that the couples are not only happy in their ever after, but you’re happy for them as a reader, and sharing that joy by staying in a room with a theme based on their story is just FUN. And, if you’ve been at the Inn Boonsboro (and you should SO GO OMG), outrageously wonderful.

How frickin cool are we???

Oh, and one of the books is an ARC of Nora Roberts’ new Black Hills. This made me giggle gleefully, as it wasn’t part of the stash when I initially signed up. I can hardly wait to have my loot…and start getting into trouble, I’m sure.