books

I am shopped out and I haven’t even started yet

Really, is it too much to ask that the amateurs leave the building, internet, wherever they are congregating? Yes, you seasonal shoppers, I mean you. I am a skilled and talented bargain shopper. It is a source of great family pride and maybe a bit of a compulsion to share the provenance and cost (low, low) of each amazing find – I am in (self-directed) therapy for this but if you find me saying (after you compliment a particular article of clothing) “I got it for $15 at Filene’s Basement” or worse yet, regale you with the tale of my shopping prowess, know that therapy is a process and that my therapist sucks.

So naturally, I do not deign to shop on Black Friday (amateur day indeed) and I really dislike crowds, too. So no weekend shopping EVER – never mind from now to Christmas. Outlets? Yes, but not now. Later, when the hordes are gone. Cyber Monday never involved or bothered me, maybe because I am not the target audience (workers shopping on the payroll?), but this year I needed a few items (I can’t tell you what they are – they are not all for me) and thought I would take advantage of the day. Okay, I can tell you one item. I want/need/have to have an e-reader (although this does not roll lightly off the tongue). E-Reader. Nope. Still unwieldy.

Anyway, I read. A lot. Maybe too much but that is for another time. My parents always give me a generous gift card to local bookstore for my birthday (there is no way of telling what I have read) and it is all I can do not to spend it the day I get it. I am older now so I actually wait (my birthday is in the summer so if I buy all the books then, I spend it on beach reads which I finish in a day – seriously unsatisifying) so now I wait and and buy good books. Here is one I found that I can’t wait to get to read The Idiot Girl and the Flaming Tantrum of Death by Laurie Notaro.  I seriously cannot believe that I didn’t write this – love this title – it replaces my previous favorite (but still a close second) title, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (Dave Eggers).

I found Idiot Girl through fast and funny Jodi of MN Reads idiot girl and the flaming tantrum of death capability mom on Twitter. Yes, Twitter promotes literacy. You read it here first. The lovely review is by Melissa Slachetka also of Minnesota Reads.

So, this particular tangent is over. I want an e-reader – and it would have come in so handy during our trip to Florida for Thanksgiving. But I hadn’t decided yet. As you know, Moms are research-driven – so I did some research. Okay, so I read some (ten actually) reviews on line and talked to friends (probably about 10, too). Does that count as research? I think so. Is the coffee I had while chatting about e-readers tax-deductible? Probably not.

I liked the look and feel of the Kobo e-reader – a friend has one – it has easy controls, a quilted back and the screen is anti-glare. It comes with 100 preloaded classic (!) books. I am set. It is ordered and when I get my hot little pre-Christmas hands on it (we celebrate Chanukah, too which means I can have it this week) I will be reading it all over the place. Oh, and it is only $139. Good price. I just found it at WalMart – sold out on-line for now but available in stores – for $129. Worth a trip? Sure. Stock up on wrapping paper while you’re there. I also just found link to Borders (I am so focused right now and you are welcome for doing the legwork) where I can buy the e-book for The Idiot Girl and the Flaming Tantrum of Death for under $10. Can’t wait for that Kobo e-reader!

Other shopping was performed (in a very high-performance outdoors-y way from the comfort of my kitchen) at REI – if you are a member, you get dividends when you shop at REI so it was almost $50 off the total price (my dividend from last year) and I haven’t even hit the REI outlet yet (really great deals). These items I definitely cannot talk about (and it got kind of gnarly when an item I thought I had in my shopping cart was bought up all over the internet) and will probably have to throw myself on top of the packages if they come after school is out (Don’t they always?). One year we ordered an child’s standing easel from some nice on-line toy store (maybe Hearthsong) and the huge package was waiting on my porch with GIANT letters on it saying “CHILD”S EASEL” or what I saw  “THERE IS NO SANTA CLAUS”, or something like that. It was awesome.

So shop away – Cyber Monday has been extended and good deals are to be had. After the holidays I will tell you more stories.

Rocky Road – a summer read worth reading – Take the ice cream personality quiz at the end

I do like to read young adult fiction, I can say it because I am pre-reading for my children but that is only a partial truth – I like the quality of the writing, the story lines and the fact that I can read it in the time I could read a Harlequin romance…not that I read those now – but I did in college – by the armful, and the occasional Danielle Steele novel, too. I did say I would read anything…and I have – if you are judging me now, so be it. I also read “grown-up” books and am reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog now. Back to YA…

The last young adult fiction book that  I read was Rocky Road by Rose Kent  – Pragmatic Mom let me borrow an advance copy back in June but I am just getting around to writing about it now – it was already published in hard-cover by the time I got the  pre-published bound copy but it was still kind of cool – I walked around with it casually…on purpose. No one asked about the advanced copy but I had fun.

Anyway,  the story involves a more than usually dysfunctional family (Note to YA writers – you know how Disney  kills off a parent for the sake of the story line? YA writers sometimes rely too heavily on family dysfunction for their conflict), having said that and loving YA the way I do, I really liked this book.  The family was dysfunctional in an interesting way with a lot going on. Tess, a seventh grade Texas transplant, whose bipolar mother (father is not involved in this family) moves them to Schenectady, NY in the dead of winter to open an ice cream shop. Tess’s younger brother, Jordan, is deaf and struggles to make himself understood by their mother who can’t seem to manage sign language. The mom is charming and high-functioning and Tess is an artsy-crafty girl who struggles to fit in.  The story is believable and you really care about the characters – and there are plenty of well-drawn characters here,  A strong sense of community and friendship and good values like hard work and responsibility also run throughout the story. If that sounds like a drag, it isn’t. I liked the characters, the writing and that the author dealt with tough topics – bipolar disorder, financial troubles and even caring for a younger sibling (when you may not really want to) are all interwoven in a way that make these topics accessible to younger readers but also engaging to – ahem – older readers, like myself.

All in all, a good read that makes me want to find other books by this author. I found this one: Kimchi and Calamari about an adopted boy who is researching his roots.

About Rose Kent  –  a native Long Islander who spent her summers in the great state of Maine. She is a former naval officer who also worked for a major food corporation. Rose’s first middle-grade novel, Kimchi & Calamari (HarperCollins Publishers) was inspired by her adopted children from Korea. Kimchi & Calamari has been nominated for the NY Charlotte Award, the Rebecca Caudill Young Readers’ Award, and the Florida Sunshine State Young Readers Award.

Ice Cream Personality quiz that Pragmatic Mom found and I blatantly copied. Thanks, Pragmatic Mom!

best 2010 summer books from NPR

Really – all you have to do is click on the image or any of the highlighted text below and you will go to the wonderful NPR site. They are running a special series on 2010 Summer books and here are the topics in the series. Exceptional.

A Mom’s Night Out with a Purpose

A Step Up - Boston Globe photo
Suzanne Kreiter – photo Boston Globe

It is a hideously rainy night and I am slogging through serious puddles in a vain attempt not to look like a drowned rat when I reach my destination.  I am only mildly successful.  The house is lit up and I can hear the voices and laughter of the women (yes, this is a women only event) before I even open the door.  Is this some great party – on a week night, in the suburbs? – no, it is the brainchild of five amazing women who decided that they could do something more.  More than care for their families (which they all continue to do), volunteer in the community (still doing that, as well), more than work at home or out of the home (again, yes)? Yes, they went even further and saw a need for local charities to be given a bit more attention or, as they called it A Step Up.

I walk in and am warmly greeted and I write a check for $35 for the featured charity (tonight More Than Words) and place it into a large glass bowl.  The energy is wonderful and although I only know two people there, I am welcomed and made to feel comfortable. We mingle and chat over wine and lovely food and it seems like another Mom’s Night Out.  Then our attention is directed by the hostess to the reason we are here and we gather on couches and chairs and turn to the speaker.  She is engaging and well-spoken and sincere and clearly outlines the program and why she started it.  Her name is Jodi Rosenbaum and she if the founder and executive director of More Than Words*.  More Than Words is a physical bookstore on Moody Street in Waltham and it is also a social services connected program that helps some of the most marginalized youth through support and job training.  Jodi’s commitment and dedication are evident and we are all attentive but when we really sit up and become fully engaged is when the two teen speakers – graduates of the program – tell us their stories.  Their stories are a far cry from the comfortable suburban lives we are living and the opportunities that we are able to provide for our children. In turns, I feel guilty and blessed.

The amount of work that has gone into this evening is incredible. These women have, as a group, carefully researched the charity being showcased that evening and prepared for a party of 100 plus people, and made it look effortless. All five members of A Step Up invite their friends who are encouraged to invite their friends. It is a truly collaborative effort.

Here is a great article about the women behind A Step Up that ran in Sunday’s Boston Globe –

‘Giving circles’ boost donations, catch on in communities west of Boston – The Boston Globe and here are  A Step Up Events listings.

*MTW is led by Founder and Executive Director Jodi Rosenbaum.  She has over 13 years of experience in the child welfare, juvenile justice, and education fields and was a Teach For America  Corps member.  Jodi has an Ed.M. in risk and prevention from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education

**Check this out – I wrote about the non-profit Web of Benefit, when I had just started this bog, here (way back in February) which was introduced by… A Step Up

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