Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Book review - Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side

You all know I started blogging in Feb. because Janet Reid said you weren't ready to start approaching agents if you didn't have a "web presence." And then she dismissed Facebook friends because you have to be a FB member and be approved to access me...

So I got to work posting *stuff* every day that I thought my friends and family might enjoy in the hopes of building a following.

(Umm... side note, if you're one of those still enjoying my blog and haven't clicked on that little grey "follow" button right down there > > >, please feel free to do so now. I promise you won't get spammed.)

OK, so I'm blogging along, then reality set in. I realized that if I'm going to be a freelance writer for two publications, write books, research agents, and pretend to be a good wife, mother and friend, there was no flippin' way I'd be able to post every day.

So I cut it down to twice a week--Mondays and Thursdays.

Then I noticed something... Unfamiliar faces among my followers. (!) So I scurried over and checked out their blogs and from there I found others. And ultimately, through comments and email exchanges, I "met" other writers who now feel like friends.

It's weird. I told JRM it reminds me of the pioneer days when people could only communicate with letters. But it's also better because now we get to see pictures, read profiles, get daily or weekly (as opposed to monthly or yearly) updates...

So not only have I gotten to know my dear friends and family better, which is wonderful, I'm meeting writers from around the world. Yay--blogging wins!

Problem is now I really do need to get back to WIP before I completely lose the spirit of the book.

But I don't wanna leave! I want to keep reading your comments here and commenting back and then visiting all the blogs I've commented on and going back and re-commenting on the comments made to my comments...

Whoa! Where'd Thursday go?

All this to say, I'm headed into the cave for a few days. Back soon--hopefully with good progress made on even newer brand new novel. (!)

Now for the promised book review + CONTEST!

One of my new blogging buddies recommended Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark side by Beth Fantaskey. And while I said a few posts back that I was feeling a little vamped out, I trusted her recommendation and picked it up.

Here's the cover image. I'm including it because I think it's so pretty. I would have totally picked this up in the store and read the back cover. Bonus: it actually portrays a real scene in the book. (!)

But the back cover blurb isn't really true to the spirit of the book, in my opinion. The main character (Jessica) is well-drawn and has a great arc, and the book has a definite mood that makes it not as high-schooley chicklit as it sounds.

To begin with, the opening scene is of Jessica alone, waiting for the bus when a mysterious fellow appears and calls her Anastasia. She's completely freaked out by it, and by the end of the day her mother's told her she's a long-lost princess (yes, the Romanovs called) and the strange guy now living above her parents' garage is her fiance by an arranged marriage.

It's actually a blood pact, and they're both vampire royalty. The conceit of this tale is that she doesn't fully become a vampire until he bites her, which he almost does a few times. (whee!)

At first, I was a little disappointed by the dialogue. Again, I felt like these were teenagers talking like grad-school students, and I was seriously getting Love at First Bite vibes every time the male lead (Lucius) spoke. But by page 60, that's all completely forgotten. (And he's Romanian royalty, so he gets a pass.)

Once the Jessica-Lucius relationship gets going, it's hard to put the book down. First you have him all insisting she embrace her identity. Then you have him all resolved to protect her by breaking the marriage pact. (She's too sheltered and sweet to rule a bunch of assasination-proned, power-hungry vampires.)

Of course by that time, she's determined that she's gotta be with her sexy vampire future husband. He gives her a toothache.

(That sounds funny, but it works.)

Fantaskey throws in some fun plot twists--for example, a competing female love interest for Lucius--which really heighten the tension, and she gives readers enough insight into the cruelty of Lucius's childhood to prove his point without being off-putting to her target audience.

I also liked the nod to Bram Stoker's Dracula provided by Lucius's letters to his uncle back home, and the ending has an element of ambiguity I think readers will dig.

Other than some very mild language (moms), it's a pretty clean read. So JGTDDS gets an A from me!

If you liked the Twilight books, it's possible you'll like this one even better. I've heard there's an epilogue floating around somewhere in cyberspace... must find that...

Now for the CONTEST!
Post a comment below, and on Tues. a.m. I'll use the random number generator to pick one lucky commentor to WIN either Caleb + Kate OR Perfect Chemistry!* (I reviewed these books in the June 24 post.)

What? You thought I was giving away my copy of JGTDDS?! I said I really liked this book.

1-Comments have to be below this post to be counted.
2-Followers of this blog get bonus points, and are more likely to win. So click the little gray bar up there > > > to improve your odds!
3-Comments must be made by Monday, midnight to count. (OK, if you beat me up Tues. a.m., you'll be counted, but I have no idea what time that'll be.)

If you're having trouble commenting, shoot me an email, and I'll troubleshoot w/you. Google likes to make me enter my password twice sometimes when I leave comments. Like I hit "post comment" and then I have to enter my password again and hit "post comment" again. I'm sure this is to guarantee I really mean it.

*Those guys following for whom YA romance sinks your boat, we can work out an alternate prize. I'll email you and we can discuss. I have a set of ginsu knives I'm trying to unload... and the first three Charlaine Harris books... Oh, alright, and if you really want JGTDDS, we can chat. Especially if you're a good friend who lives near my house... ;o)

I'll announce the winner Tues a.m., so have fun, and thanks for playing. I won't be commenting back til after Tuesday so as not to skew the results.

Happy 4th of July!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Smart spider, dumb spider

My yard's practically a jungle. And not just because we've entered the time of year when temperatures reach into the upper 90s and the humidity hovers around 110 percent.

Bugs? We got 'em. Mosquitoes, horse flies, the dreaded yellow fly... But we've also got spiders.

I know, spiders are creepy and nobody likes walking through a web, but when you're up against Mother Nature the way we are around here, you incorporate all the foot soldiers you can get.

This also includes those translucent gekkos and lizards (Ew! and only slightly less ew... but good helpers!)

I was working in a flower bed that was recently demolished to fix a plumbing leak when I noticed two really pretty green spiders with orange stripes on their bellies building webs in different places. I was pretty sure they were harmless banana spiders, so I let them hang out.

One spider set up shop in a corner by the garage door, out of the line of traffic, but still in a primo location for catching flies.

The girls like to look at his web, and I stop them daily from poking it with anything or disturbing his progress.

But there's this other spider who just refuses to learn.

He builds his web right over the door to the garage (inches away from Smart Spider) so I walk through it every a.m. on the way to the recycling bin. Gah!

He then rebuilds across the path to the newspaper box... yick!

Every day Dumb Spider has constructed his web in a prime spot for me to walk through. And can I just say, I take the same route for my little a.m. chores every morning?

Friday, when the girls were away, I stood in the kitchen watching Smart Spider hanging out and thought about how it's coming up on a month now of him being in that same spot.

Then I started thinking about how I've seen this happen with people.

Some people seem to find the right place to be, develop favor with the right people (sometimes for no apparent reason), and are successful.

Others just flounder, annoy the people they need to please, get knocked down, try again--still wrong, and eventually move on to who knows where. They disappear.

Both spiders look exactly the same. So what's the difference?

And check this gorgeous purple clover. A nice lady in Fairhope gave me a piece of it this weekend when I visited her shop.

It looks like a bouquet of butterflies, and I hope it's happy in my bed. They say free flowers grow the best.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Book Reviews - Caleb + Kate & Perfect Chemistry

What is it about the Romeo & Juliet premise that's just so darned appealing to us humans? Is it the forbidden love? The youth? The rapture of first love? The declarations? The defying of the parents?

Maybe I should say "to us female humans" because I know JRM declares R+J to be Shakespeare's weakest work. He much prefers Hamlet.

LTM: Whatever. Make up your mind already!

I actually saw West Side Story before I knew about R+J. I was about six years old, and we were on some beach vacation with friends of my parents. I remember my mom's girlfriend was so excited WSS was going to be on TV. She told me all about it and we were going to watch it together.

I must've been that kind of little kid, because I also remember my aunt being so excited about the two of us watching the Nutcracker on TV together one Christmas when I was around the same age. It was the old Balanchine version with Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland, and I think I liked it...

Anyway, I immediately loved WSS--the music, the dancing, the love story... (!) I don't know if I cried at the end then like I do now, but I do remember years later reading R+J and thinking, "Hey! This is just like West Side Story!"

So my reviews of Caleb + Kate by Cindy Martinusen-Coloma and Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles might be biased. They're both updated WSS stories, and both do a great job of keeping you going to find out if these kids are going to end up together or if one (or both) will end up ... dead--!

(Maybe THAT'S it...)

I'm pretty safe reviewing these guys together because seriously. They're almost the same book just written for different audiences. Both feature a misunderstood, Aryan female lead who falls for the dark, handsome bad boy.

But there are some differences. The covers might give you a clue:

Reow! Yep, C+K is written for the inspirational market, while PC is not.

I picked up C+K in Sam's one day because I'd been wanting to read more in the inspirational genre. It was part of my research in handling certain scenes, etc. I saw "updated R+J" and thought OK expecting it to be a very tame reimagining. And to a certain extent it was.

I did not expect characters to smoke, discuss drug use, drink, have tattoos, have chemistry... (!) I give it up. It's a well-written, believeable story that kept me engaged for an afternoon. It's very (very) romantic. The setting is the Pacific northwest, a private academy, wealthy kids. Caleb is the new "scholarship" student from Hawaii who's all smoldering.

I won't give too much away, but Coloma develops the romance very well. I felt like the characters were believeable and her resolution was solid and worked. There were a few times I felt like her dialogue was off. (LTM: "Do kids really say that?") But otherwise, good book--def. worth a read!  (B+)

As for PC, I expected it to be a lot racier than it actually was. There's plenty of language, mild violence, alcohol and drug use (moms), so it's Rated R. But there's more longing and angst than I expected--not a lot of sex scenes like I anticipated. It's more WSS in that the racism element is very pronounced. But there's still the family disapproval--Alex is a gang member, after all.

The conflicts felt real, and Elkeles didn't shy away from the character she'd created in Alex. He's forced to deal with being in a gang, so there's definite suspense there. Again, there were just a few times I didn't believe the characters would say/do some of the things they did, but those moments were easily overlooked. PC is another hard to put down page-turner. (B+)

On a technical note, I liked how both books went back and forth between the female lead and the male lead in telling the story. When the two (finally) get together, it heightens the impact because you're not having to wonder (through a sole, first-person narrator) how the other person's feeling.

Typically these books are written from the female perspective, so the device allowed the author to have their boys act like boys. (I.e., not spill their guts.)

In my experience, unless they're gay, guys don't deliver monologues about their deep, romantic longings. They just don't. The alternating-narrators trick overcame that problem nicely.

So yay! Now get out there and have a great, reading weekend!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Neighborly inspiration

I had a lot of *stuff* on my mind Saturday, and I decided the best thing to do was to run down to the Gulf, flop out on the sand, close my eyes and just listen to the pounding surf.

The little ladies could run and play in the water, and I'd watch them, breathing in and out until it was all better...

(insert swearword)

So I threw on my running gear and took off around the neighborhood instead.

There's a eucalyptus tree in one of the yards here, and it is the most amazing sight. I'm totally nearsighted, and at times my lenses get out of place throwing everything into a Monet-style relief. Saturday the tree seemed to grow in a haze of bluish-silver but as I got closer, I could make out the round leaves.

I think eucalyptus is the coolest tree--it's so strange and alien-looking, and I want one in my yard so bad.

Two doors down is this incredibly annoying little black and white dog that chases me, teeth bared, barking like the house is on fire the whole way from that driveway to the end of the cul-de-sac and back to eucalyptus yard.

Little over a year ago, an old man shot a dog in our neighborhood. He claimed it was chasing him and threatening to bite him, and it was a big stink--so big it made the paper.

I read the story one morning after it happened. The rage and sorrow of the young couple who owned the dog and claimed it would never hurt anyone, the defensiveness and embarrassment of the old man who insisted the dog chased him into his yard and wouldn't let him leave his house, the neighbors who explained they didn't let their sons go near that yard because the dog had bit one of them...

Of course, being a writer, I was in all their heads imagining their emotions and mental dialogues.

Two days later when firehouse dog chased me (again), I thought of that story.

LTM: Go away little dog before somebody shoots you.
FD: Bark! Bark! Bark! snarl snarl... Bark! Bark!
LTM: Find a happy place, find a happy place.

Now, a year later, I'm friends with FD's owner. I like her very much but I'm still not sure how I feel about her owning such a pest. I try not to judge pet owners by their pets, but it's so hard...

Continuing on Saturday, I passed a house where an elderly gentleman once squirted me with his garden hose as I jogged past. I jumped and then giggled the rest of my run.

Later that winter (jogging again) I saw an ambulance at his house and watched as they rolled him out on a gurney and took him away. I never knew his name, but his house is for sale now.

As I rounded the last curve and headed back to the house, I thought of the Gulf again, and again I felt the ongoing helplessness at the oil that's filling her body and threatening to kill her and everything in her.

I thought of all the times I ran down to the shore to sit and listen, letting the breeze blow on my face until all the stress was gone. Then, when it got too hot, I'd jump into the salty water and splash around with the kids.

Where will I go to release the stress and find inspiration now?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Clean teen

So I'm writing these books for YA readers, and I've so far chosen to stick with realism. Light romance, a little humor, situational comedy.

But about half-way through Book 3 of a series I've got going, the main female and male (teen) characters... well, let's just say they've got great chemistry.

What was that movie with (I think) Meryl Streep where she was a novelist and they would have real actors play out what her characters were doing while she watched? Or was that Nicholas Cage? Or... wait a minute... was it John Candy?!

Anyway, there I am happily typing up a scene, (teen) male lead and female lead embrace. They've finally declared their love! They kiss. They kiss a little more... that's pretty good, so they get a little closer when...

Hello! Where are those hands, mister? Missy?

I picture it something like this. I'm in my glasses with a pencil stuck in my hair and a stern look on my face with these two (naturally) great-looking teenage kids panting in front of me.

LTM (frowning): You two are not mature enough for this sort of thing.
Male lead looks guilty; female lead glares in defiance.

Yep, those are my literary babies.

So I've got those two cooling their jets in the "drawer" (it's really just a file on my computer) while I think about what to do with this.

I know it's a common concern because just yesterday I read a post about it on another writer's blog. The issue of sex in YA novels and how to handle it.

I suppose if I weren't a mom, I'd have a different reaction. I know much has changed for me since I gave birth. Whereas I used to laugh at Faye Dunaway's Mommie Dearest, now I cry, "Stop beating little Christina!"

Still, my characters are real kids, and in the kind of writing I aspire to make a living at, authenticity is everything.

I have characters who curse occasionally, although I've left out the F-bomb. I know, I know. Kids say it, but I'm not writing an episode of the Sopranos. I also haven't decided to write strictly inspirational fiction.

I've noted how some writers handle it. They'll have the chemistry kids "on break" from other relationships, and they're too honorable to "cheat" on their holding significant others.

That's good, but you can only use it so many times.

In Brand New Novel, I handled it two ways. First, the chemistry kids were separated because female lead was determined to date someone else. Then when they finally did get together, it was a natural place to end the book.

Yay! We're together now--kissy kissy, close curtain.

But that won't work in Book 3. And I'm sure I'll run into this again if I keep writing.

Even in the inspirational fiction I've been reading, I see authors grappling with this. It's not realistic for kids to get married at 17, but if you set up this dynamic... well, it's not realistic that they just hold hands either.

But good Lord, you can't go around romanticizing teenagers having sex. That's completely irresponsible.

I know! So show the potential consequences, right?

Well, that's just an enormous buzz kill. I'm trying to write for entertainment over here.

So what's the answer?

Eureka! Male lead's a 150 year-old vampire who can't have sex with female lead or he could kill her!


No, it's a tough one. And it's going to test my creative mettle.

Let me go on the record saying I don't think it's OK for teens to be having sex. But I appreciate that being a teenager is hard. And not because I buy the whole "they're exposed to more sexual images these days" line. (Read my "Madonna Earth" post for more on that.)

I'd really appreciate hearing what other writers think about this issue. Even parents of my potential readers (i.e., parents of teens), or any teens brave enough to venture into these waters. (Lord knows I played dumb on the subject at that age around adults.) Or just anyone who has an opinion. You know I'm easy.

Hey--not like that.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Monday, June 14, 2010

Age and imagination

First, if you're 7+ years-old and haven't watched Avatar: The Last Airbender, you're seriously missing out. (It's the Nickelodeon cartoon upon which the movie Airbender by M. Night Shyamalan is based, and it is so good.)

On to today's post!

I read on a writer's forum a lament about how many young novelists there are now--as in agented writers under 20--and how they're being greeted with so much enthusiasm. The person was concerned if s/he was "too old" to be writing YA.

I can understand this insecurity, but I don't know. Maybe I watched too much Miracle on 34th Street growing up. The imagination's ageless right?

To me, this is just another one of those sneaky things that'll psych you out as a writer.

And there's all kinds of things that do that. I almost psyched myself out the other day worrying about how much time I don't have for writing now that the summer break is upon us and the girls are with me nonstop.

If the concern is younger writers having more time to improve at the craft and build a bigger following, I guess they might. But if it's about keeping up with trends or slang proficiency, I think that's a mistake.

I like to imagine my books being read in 20 years (or more). So I want to be as neutral as possible in what my characters are saying or doing. Catch-phrases and technology change so fast, and publishing is sooo slooow....

But the imagination and good stories are ageless. Which is what makes writing such a wonderful craft when compared to crafts like acting. Or rock-n-roll musician-ing. Only don't tell Madonna that. Or Mick Jagger... Or Meryl Streep.

OK, there's also that way some people have of knowing how to give the market what it wants. I'm not sure if you can develop that or if you just have it. Like It.

Perhaps it's a matter of getting in the right mood. Maybe life's blocking your creative flow... If it's me, I plop down and watch some iCarly with the girls or jump over to the "Forever YA" blog. The author of that blog never fails to put me in a funny, YA mindset--especially when she goes on a Sweet Valley High rant.

I loved those books.

Then again, I just wrapped up a week with (awesome) teenage helpers at VBS.

That's another way to get plunged right back into those days of wanting to be an adult so badly and being freaked out by the whole idea at the same time. Oh, the self-consciousness! Oh, the desire to just blend! Oh, is that boy looking at me?!

Or read some good books in the genre. I try to really get to know my characters before I start writing. Just really get in their heads, and then relax and let them act.

Regardless, heed the experts and keep writing, writer friends~

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Writing and kids

I haven't talked about writing in a while. Two different posts by writers got me thinking about it, and the stress I've been feeling lately over my lack of time to "do it all."

The first post was about writing and mothering, and it was very comforting.  (Link)

Summer's hard. I must make time for the paying gigs, but with the little ladies home, it leaves no time for other, more solitary work.

So my creative writing is on semi-haitus. Unless you count this blog. Oh, and the Get to Knows I do every week for the local paper. I don't.

The GTKs are news writing, which is straight reporting the facts, and while they're great for character ideas, they involve zero imagination. (They'd better not, right?)

And I think of this blog as more me sharing with you random thoughts that are bugging me or funny stuff on my mind. To which I love reading your responses.

So they're great exercises, but they're not the same as telling a coherent narrative with real characters readers will believe and connect with. And imagining situations for said characters that readers will buy and care about.

I've been fretting about it mainly because I really did get an amazing idea for a whole brand new novel and I've typed out about 6,000 words of it, and now I've completely stopped.


The word makes my throat tighten. Creative ideas are so insistent, and my fear is as more time passes, I'll lose it.

But I can't deny reality. I do have other jobs, including my jobs of wife and mother and volunteer jobs like teaching kindergarten VBS, which I've been doing this week. And I haven't even started on my diminished social life...

The second post I read was similar to the first, but it was more about the "rules" of writing. (Link. Heads up--language.)

It made me think about the process as I've experienced it to date. For Debut Novel, I followed the advice "write every day." Regardless of whether you're feeling inspired or know where you're going (or have time), They say you must write every day.

But LTM, you say, you do write every day!
Yes, friend-readers, but They mean on your book.

So I did it for Debut Novel, and I gotta say. There were some draggy bits that I ended up cutting. Guess when I wrote those?

Brand New Novel was a different experience entirely. I got the idea vacuuming (seriously! and it doesn't suck---or have vampires in it!), decided I couldn't start another novel at that time, stewed on it some more, watched the movie Signs, and then sat down and two weeks later it was "finished."

At least the first draft.

It was only 35,000 words at that point, but in revisions and fleshing out scenes and characters, it grew to a respectable 55,000 that test readers say is "awesome"! One cool compliment I got was, "I completely forgot you wrote it while I was reading."

Yes, that made me happy!

Another said she got chills at one point. That comment gave ME chills, and that's when I decided to give DN a rest and push BNN. Those types of compliments didn't come Round 1.

So who knows. I'm agreeing there are no "rules for writing." Good grief, it's what I always told my 10th graders the year I taught. Must start teaching self...

And praying I can hold Even Newer BNN in my head until I bust or have time again to sit down and focus on it.

I wonder if any of my writer-readers out there have had similar experiences. Do you (like me) write differently every time you approach a new book? Or do you have rules you must follow? Personally, I don't think either method is wrong or better. Whatever works, right?

In other news, I've been thinking a lot about one particular "Deep Thought" by Jack Handy: "The face of a child can say it all, especially the mouth part of the face."

Heard the following this week teaching kindergarten VBS:

LTM to K class: Think about ways God shows he cares for you while you color.
K student: I don't like to think about anything while I color.
LTM: Okay...

LTM to KS: What do you remember about our story today?
KS: My mom says I forget things as soon as I hear them.

K4 teacher to class (next door to our class): Trees are very strong. They can hold many things. (They were discussing Zacchaeus.)
K4 student: Even fat people.

My own kids crack me up regularly--Laura (upon seeing the delta region of north La.): "Look, Catherine. It's the middle of nowhere." My neighbor's little daughter was just hugging me the other day and then asked, "How do I know you?"

It's stressful. But it's a fun, funny time. Have a great weekend, kids~

Monday, June 7, 2010

Summer Sharing - Music

The girls are back, school's out, and today starts VBS week with me teaching kindergarten. Naturally, I've got this amazing idea for a new book... !

For my non-local readers, it's been dark days since our last check-in. On Friday, Day 45 since the explosion, oil washed up on our beaches.

Along with it came the smell of paint, disinfectent and hot tar. And the pictures of oil-soaked pelicans, the stories of dead dolphins and sea turtles, and the destruction of underwater habitats.

Today is #48, and the oil continues to flow at a rate of 5,000 barrels per day. Now they're talking about the extermination of sperm whales and other endangered species...

This isn't a political blog, but I find I've taken a side on drilling in the Gulf. Care to guess which it is?

On a more positive note, there's a new, fashionable way to support local wildlife relief efforts: has created a supercute "Rescue Me" T-shirt, and all proceeds go to saving the Gulf marine life. Here's the link--scoot yourself over there and buy one now! They also come in kids' sizes.

The National Wildlife Federation has also set up a site for talking to kids about the oil spill. Click here for that page. To report oiled wildlife, call (866) 557-1401; to request volunteer info., call (866) 448-5816.

This is in addition to the links I put at the end of my May 27 post, "Oh, Black Water."

And on a quest for "lighten the mood" music, I found a podcast on iTunes called "St Tropez Beach House" that has great, free dance mixes.

I feel this must be wrong, but it is so good.

Go there and dowload Rihanna's "Please Don't Stop the Music" and shake that pain away. It's summer sharing, music edition. What's your favorite lose the blues tune?

A big Thank You to everyone who recommended books last Thursday! Anybody seeking escape via literature (recommended by cool people who read this blog), check out the comments section of that post.

I can't wait to get my hands on some makeup-wearing bullfighters, kudzu queens and guernsey literary and potato peel societies.

I also revisited Prodigal Summer by B. Kingsolver over the weekend, and I still like it very much. I also still can't quite say why--and I didn't recall it being so sexy-sexy--however... :o) JRM has announced he'll read it next.

LTM: It's very... earthy.
JRM: All her books are earthy.
LTM: Yes, but this one's very earthy....

I'll leave you with this memory. Our Gulf, Oct. 2009. "Just another day in paradise" we used to say.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Summer Sharing - Books

When I was in high school (like today), kids had required summer reading lists every year and then the first week back at school, we got to write an essay about our selections. Yay.

Hard to believe, I know, but I never dug summer reading lists. I read somewhere that the hardest reading to do is required reading. Why is that?

But in the spirit of summer reading and the notion that we have more time in the summer to read, I wondered what you guys would suggest as a great book I might've missed.

I'll get the ball rolling.

Since I feel bad about harshing on SL of PC, I suggest you ladies out there pick up a copy of Honey, Baby, Sweetheart by Deb Caletti. It has a great summer feel, with a road trip and a wedding. Give it a whirl and let me know what you think.

For those of you who like really long books that are also classics, I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy The Three Muskateers. I'm not kidding!

That year I taught HS English, it was on the required summer reading list, and I'd never read it. I looked at the size of it and shuddered--you know how I feel about uber-long books--but it was really, really fun and entertaining. French names and all! (And it's good for guys, too, so bonus!)

If you're not really down with that and prefer something a little shorter/more modern, I really liked Sarah Dessen's That Summer. It's her debut novel, and I liked the mood of it. It's YA, but I think older audiences will like it. I don't know if it's "good for guys," but who knows.

You'll find it in bookstores with a picture of a girl doing a handstand on the cover. Not once in that book does a character do a handstand. It's very odd...

For more adultish books, I remember really loving Barbara Kingsolver's Bean Trees. I'm not sure what genre it is (literary fiction?), but it's an engaging read. I also liked Prodigal Summer by her, but JRM declared it "unreadable." Maybe so, but "unread." I found it appealing the summer I read it. It's all lush and green...

Of course, I'm planning to keep up the blogging, so you can always pop in for a quick read here. But for me summer is a time of heightened Mommy-guilt combined with a small dose of panic.

I feel bad when the girls start complaining that they're bored or when they want me to play with them, but I've got to do an interview/write a GTK/update house... (OK, cleaning house is usually pretty easy to blow off for me. ;o)

So your assignment, should you choose to accept it: Tell me, What good book do you recommend? All ages/genres welcome!

And put it in the comments section for easy reference. You can even list more than one. I hope you'll also say whether it's scifi, romance, teen, classic, paranormal, inspirational--and if you're daring, why you like it. As a writer, that's very interesting to me.

Speaking of guy books (what?), has anyone read any Stieg Larsson? (Girl w/Dragon Tattoo, etc.) Every time I see those in the bookstores, I'm so curious...

Have a great weekend, and thanks for sharing!

And if you're looking for a fun book to read to your kids, the original Pooh books by A.A. Milne are super. The girls and I've been reading a chapter at bedtime, and we just collapse into giggles. Maybe we should read them after breakfast...