Category Archives: book

Mini (World Record) Fame

Skying high to catch the frisbee during a ?? event last Sunday.

Skying high to catch the frisbee.

Remember this photo from this blog post?

Well, it just so happens that the dog, Davy Whippet, and his owner, Rob McLeod, set a world record for the longest flying disc throw caught by a canine later that year (2012). Apparently, Rob felt that the best photo snapped of his four-legged buddy was the one above. So he got me and the “Guinness Book of World Records 2014” peeps together via e-mail.

Jazzy cover

Jazzy cover

Guess whose photo is published in a book for the first time? Yep, little, old me!

Pretty cool!

Pretty cool!

Check out page 40, the first of the “Dazzling Dogs” section. There’s my pic halfway down (albeit flipped horizontally).

The close-up version (which looks better in the book)

The close-up version (which looks better in the book)

Autographs anyone?

Not that you can tell which photo is mine.

Not that you can tell which photo is mine.

Plus I got a photo credit. And $125 that was wired to my bank from London. Yep, the one in England!

I’ve had photos published before in various newspapers, magazines, and catalogs. But this is the ultimate for me, so far.

Looks like my 15 minutes of world-record fame has been sealed forever!

Books and Movies

Just see the movie.

I started reading “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” (a title that I never can remember, by the way; I always have to look it up) before the movie came out. I was only about halfway through the novel when the Mister and I saw the film, finishing the book soon after. That gave me an interesting perspective of both media.

For the first time ever, I thought the movie actually was better than the book! Eric Roth, the screenwriter, did a masterful job separating the wheat from the considerable, overwrought chaff penned by Jonathan Safran Foer. I know there are plenty of people who loved the novel, but I thought it needed better editing. Or it just could be that I didn’t like Foer’s writing style.

The narrator is different in the book.

On the heels (or should that be “hooves”) of seeing and finishing “Extremely Loud,” I next experienced “War Horse,” first by movie and then by book on my Kindle. The Mister and I loved the flick, so I couldn’t wait to read the novel it was based on.

Talk about your quick reads! Of course, it helps that it’s geared towards children, which also meant that those graphic war scenes on the big screen were added to the already-rich story. The biggest surprise for me? The book is narrated by Joey, the horse. What a novel (hee hee!) idea!

I wouldn’t say I was too caught up with the story’s sentimentality and sweetness, but I’ll admit that I felt a little embarrassed when I was finishing the book while eating lunch at Chipotle. I sat hunched over my Kindle trying not to let any of the other patrons see me cry at the ending.

I did discover, though, that tears give guacamole an unusual flavor!

So far, so good!

Right now I’m speeding through “The Hunger Games” (free on my Kindle through’s Prime lending library). It’s so compelling that it’s tempting to just read all day and let the laundry pile up. I love books like that!

I sure hope the movie, set to debut next month, does the novel justice. I can’t wait to finish the book, go to the theater, and judge for myself.

Stay tuned for the review!

Now You See It, Now You Don’t

Who owns this book?

See this Janet Evanovich novel? Guess where it is . . . or, rather, where it was.

Lovin’ my little Kindle!

On my $79 Kindle . . . but only for two weeks.

I’ve read the entire Stephanie Plum series over the years. Some books I borrowed (thanks, Diane!), while others I bought. But even though I’ve enjoyed the novels, I’ve felt like Evanovich has been spinning her wheels for the last five or six books. (When will Stephanie finally choose Joe or Ranger?) So while I still want to read the series (I’m hooked for the duration), I want to keep it a cheap vice.

Enter the public library! Ours allows patrons to download certain books (not a great selection yet) to all kinds of electronic devices . . . including Kindles. The loan is only for two weeks (the book disappears after that), but, fortunately, the Plum novels are quick reads.

I recently finished up “Smokin’ Seventeen” (with a few days to spare). I loved that I have less clutter, and, of course best of all, that my cost was zero dollars.

Now I can’t wait for the library to get in “Explosive Eighteen” (which came out on November 22) for me to borrow!

“The Help”

“The Help” is a great read.

Know how I could tell my younger son was away on his week-long disc golf vacation? I finished reading a book, “The Help,” in my comfy, living-room chair without having to dodge discs or balls being thrown at me. Or without him asking me to let him drive (he recently got his permit) or take him somewhere.

Yes, I’ve appreciated the quiet. But, oh, how I’ve missed that boy while he’s traveled to and from an amateur disc golf tournament in North Carolina with his pals T.J. and Papa Patrick and his 17-month-old daughter Tristin Lee. I call it the “Two and Three-Quarters Men and a Baby” tour.  Along the way to Charlotte, they played disc golf courses in Alabama and Georgia. Now that the two-day Charlotte Amateur Championship is over, they should be back in the Houston area tomorrow.

I can’t wait to see my #2 son and return to my chauffeuring and driver’s ed duties! As well as trying to catch discs and balls in the living room.

As for “The Help,” it was such a page-turner! Usually, I only read books while I eat lunch. But with this novel, I just had to sit down and devour the last third in one big gulp. The best-seller is about Jackson, Mississippi, in the early 1960s when many white families hired black domestics to raise their kids and clean their houses. It’s told from the point of view of three strong women: Two maids, Aibileen Clark and Minny Jackson, and Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan, a white woman who takes an interest in their plight and tries to write a book about the lives of a dozen Jackson domestics.

Sidebar: Even though I grew up in the 1960s, I lived in Chicago and didn’t experience anything like what was in “The Help.” But the Mister, who was raised in Fort Worth, has told me stories about segregation in Texas; he well remembers the separate public bathrooms and drinking fountains of that time.

“The Help” is so well-written by Kathryn Stockett that I found myself worried about what might happen to Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter, and I cried at the ending. Now I can’t wait to see the movie, which comes out on August 12.

What a nice early birthday present for me!

Harlan Coben Puts Me Through the Wringer Again

Harlan Coben’s latest and greatest mystery

My baby brother, the hot-shot Chicago lawyer, recommends savoring great books. He doesn’t believe that we should rush through novels just because we can’t wait to see what comes next. He leveled this particular guilty verdict on yours truly just because I read the last Harry Potter tome in about 18 hours (thank you, catheter and smoothie IV).

I would love to see the kid manage to savor a Harlan Coben mystery. It’s impossible! As I’ve written before here and here, Harlan has that uncanny ability to grab you by the neck within the first page . . . sometimes even the opening paragraph, for goodness sakes . . . and drag you through his magnificent tightly worded, often humorous prose. He says, “I want you to pick up the book at 9:30 at night and still be reading it at 4 a.m.” If you’re not careful, that’s exactly what happens.

If you like the mystery/thriller genre, you need to read one of his novels. But don’t be surprised if you get instantly hooked.


I’ve avidly read all 19 of Coben’s novels, 10 of which star sports agent and freelance detective Myron Bolitar; I’m totally an unabashed fan. I just finished reading “Live Wire,” his newest Bolitar thriller, on my iPad. Harlan made me audibly gasp twice (my younger son asked, “Mom, what’s wrong?”) and, of course, made me cry. Somewhere I could see him chuckling with a self-satisfied grin on his handsome face.

Great book, Harlan! I can’t wait to read the next one (he’s starting a young adult novel series that I know I’ll love, too). Baby brother, don’t expect me to savor that one, either.

Tripping Down POTD Memory Lane

The cover of my POTD photobook

When I looked at the calendar and checked today’s date, I about did a double-take. Wednesday? February 16th? What happened to this week?

Matter of fact, what happened to last week?

A sudden (to unorganized me) Groupon deadline, that’s what. I had bought two Groupons last fall for photobooks, one for $15 (value up to $60) from and the other for $10 (value up to $20) from Kodak Gallery. In my January 4th blog post recapping my photo of the day project, I wrote that I wanted to make a book out of my 365 pix. Some day. Some nebulous time period way ahead in my usual procrastinating future. As in no time soon.

A week or so after I wrote that post, I figured I should glance at the deadline for using the Groupons. Know what stared back at me when I checked online? February 15, 2011. As in OMG!

Dragonflies rock in this photobook.

I knew that I easily could whip up the smaller photobooks that I planned to create on Kodak Gallery. I was just going to use photos. One would be filled with my dragonfly pics.

Flowers take center stage.

The other would blossom with flowers (sorry!).

But the project? That would be my masterpiece, brimming with about 200 pages of photos and text. It would be a book that I would be proud to pass down to my sons, as a remembrance of the year when their mom snapped a photo every day (well, except for poor, pitiful October 6, of course). Future generations would marvel at it and be intrigued by what life was like for our family in 2010.

Gosh darn it, this was destined to be a veritable historical document! Until I saw the deadline. I quickly realized that I would have to put in a lot of hours in a short amount of time just to produce an adequate photobook, let alone one that eventually was headed for the Smithsonian.

One of my POTD blurb book spreads

So that’s what I’ve been doing for a solid 10 days . . . tripping merrily down POTD memory lane in a sleep-deprived manner. Making the travel extra bumpy was software (via that tended to be a little wonky and unintuitive (more PC- than Mac-like), as well as having to do major edits on my POTD descriptions. Calling my sons “#1” and “#2” in my blog is all well and good, but that won’t work for a potential family heirloom. I needed to personalize the impersonalized. Plus I had to tweak everything, including the templates, to get it to fit properly. And, finally, check, double check, and triple check everything for typos (although I’m sure I didn’t catch them all).

This was a mammoth undertaking! Somehow I made yesterday’s deadline for all three books, and I can’t wait to see what they look like in print. But you know what I feel like doing right now . . . and for the next several days?

Go to sleep!

An Open Letter to Harlan Coben



Dear Mr. Coben:

Do you never tire of grabbing me by the throat and tossing me into your vortex of compelling mystery thrillers? All your books that I’ve read (and thoroughly enjoyed) so far have forced me to follow the same pattern: Start reading the first paragraph and immediately become intrigued. Forget that you’ve hooked me on your line and are merely waiting for the right time to reel me in as I slowly but surely read on when I go out solo for lunch. Finally, with mere chapters left, cause me to drop everything to read without stopping until I finish.

“No Second Chance”

This just happened to me with “No Second Chance,” which had me in tears near the end. I doubt that any other author sends his/her readers’ emotions on a roller-coaster ride quite like you. You are the master of twists, turns, and even more twists and turns . . . as well as of the satisfying ending. I almost feel exhausted when I finally close the book for good.

Even though I know what to expect, I’m diving in once again with “Tell No One,” which I’ll begin reading today. Start the roller coaster!

“Eclipsing” Stephenie Meyer + “The Karate Kid”

Will Bella continue to choose Edward over Jacob?

Facebook friends were in agreement: “Eclipse,” the third movie in the “Twilight” series by Stephenie Meyer, was the best one so far (the final book will be two films). Of course, the #1 son and I had to see for ourselves.

Sidebar: Once again, I give you fair warning that if you’re not a Twihard, you might want to skip this part of the blog post and move down to the next movie review. The Mister, who hasn’t read the books nor seen the first two flicks, wanted to see “Eclipse” with us, but I, mercifully, spared him the utter confusion he would’ve suffered.

My short review of the movie? Two thumbs up! “Eclipse” absolutely rocked. For the most part, the screenplay (by Melissa Rosenberg) did a great job of melding Meyer’s prose with scenes and “information” that only could be imagined (e.g., the birth of Riley, Victoria’s right-hand vampire). I especially liked the fight scene among the newborns, werewolves, and vampires. And, of course, when Edward bit Victoria’s head off . . . so satisfying!

The vampire and werewolf clans . . . plus Bella

I’m especially glad that Rosenberg kept in the back stories of Rosalie and Jasper, which made it easier to understand their actions in the book. The scene where Rosalie is about to pay back her former fiancé was hilarious (if not a bit morbid).

I will pick some nits, though: Only Twihards would understand that Edward (Robert Pattinson) couldn’t be near Bella (Kristen Stewart) when she was freezing in the tent, because his skin is so cold. Jacob (the very buff Taylor Lautner) came in to warm her up, because his wolf temperature is so high. That wasn’t explained at all in the movie. And I don’t think the acting by the love triangle stars is all that great; they’ll probably have to prove their worth in other films.

Like with “New Moon” before it, “Eclipse” nicely paves the way for the two-part “Breaking Dawn.” The first installment of the final flicks won’t be out until November of 2011, which leaves Twihards loads of time wondering how in the world the Cullen baby will be depicted!

The new “Karate Kid”

"Karate Kid": Old vs. new

The entire family recently saw “The Karate Kid” remake, starring Will Smith’s son, Jaden. Two thumbs and a high leg kick up for this endearing movie that had me teary-eyed right from the start (I love movies that make me cry).

The new version puts its own spin on the 1984 flick that starred Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita. Jaden looks like he’s going to become a fine actor, while Jackie Chan, who plays his reluctant teacher, was outstanding. Plus the scenes on the Great Wall of China were breathtaking.

Go see this movie, but be sure to carry a Kleenex or two.

Getting Hooked By a Mystery Series

Harlan Coben’s first two Myron Bolitar novels.

Like my #1 son, I love to read. I’ve been flipping fascinatingly through pages since the age of four when my older sister Fran taught me how letters formed words, which begat sentences and then books.

But unlike #1, who beat me in learning to read by a year, I don’t have time to sit with a book glued to my face whenever possible (where “whenever possible” = not on the computer). Instead, I usually limit my reading of novels to when I go out to eat lunch solo. Which is why it can take me a long time to finish a book.

Books three and four

For the last year, my favorite choice of lunchtime reading material has been Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar series. If you’re a fan of the mystery genre, you need to check out Coben’s novels. There are nine Bolitar books so far; the first one debuted in 1995, just like my #2 son!

As I noted in a previous blog post, my friend Diane, my nice neighborhood crack book dealer, got me hooked on the Coben books, just like she did with the Janet Evanovich series. I waited about a year before reading “Deal Breaker” and then wondered why I had put off becoming part of Bolitar’s world.

Coben is a master at writing thrillers: His plots are intriguing, his characters are compelling, his writing is tight and humorous. I’ll be reading one of his books several chapters at a time, depending on how slowly I’m eating lunch. Until all of a sudden I’m nearing the end of the book, and Coben has me hooked! I just can’t wait to find out the who, what, when, where, why, and how Bolitar, who is part sports agent and part detective, solves the mystery.

Books five and six (the one I'm currently reading)

I’ve steadily made my way through Coben’s first five Bolitar novels. I’m currently reading number six, “Darkest Fear.” It’s so good and so compelling that I’ve been tempted on more than one occasion to bring it inside from its temporary home in my Honda Pilot and become comatose with it on the couch as I gobble up and enjoy every sentence.

But I won’t (well, until I near the end), because there still are three more Bolitar books to read. Plus, Coben has written eight stand-alone (non-Myron) mysteries as well. I’m set for my lunchtime reading for a long time!

The Chanukah List

The #2 son’s Chanukah list

Tonight is the first night of Chanukah. The first and the eighth nights are my favorites of the holiday—all the excitement of the start of the celebration tonight, and then the 18 candles (two menorahs) filling the dining room with a warm glow eight nights from now. Plus all that lovely low-light photography featuring my Nikon D700 and Nikon 50mm lens in between!

Recently, I asked my sons for their Chanukah lists. My #1 son only wants two things: Music and books. Those (and videoing) are his passions. Pretty easy.

But then there’s the #2 son. That’s his list above, scrawled on a dry-erase board. On the left side are the discs he’d like for disc golf; on the right is everything else.

A closer look at #2’s list

#2 knows, of course, that just because he wants something doesn’t mean he’ll get it; he’s not a super-materialistic kid anyway. But it’s nice to know what’s on his mind.

Let’s look at his list:

Jelly Car

1. An iPod Touch. He especially wants this so he can play Jelly Cars, which, apparently, is the crack of app games. I put it on my iPhone for him, and he loves to use up my battery power moving those silly cars through obstacles.

ATM bank

2. An ATM bank. He saw this in a Bed, Bath, and Beyond mailer and thinks it would be a great place to keep his money. Instead of strewn around his room, as it is now.

3. UH stuff. As in the University of Houston, the Mister’s alma mater. Easy to find here in the Houston area, especially with the football team doing so well.

Daunte Culpepper quarterbacking the Detroit Lions

5. Culpepper jersey (not Miami or Vikings). #2 is a big Daunte Culpepper fan. He already has the quarterback’s jerseys from his stints with the Dolphins and Minnesota. Now he’d like one from Oakland or Detroit. The price of Culpepper’s Detroit Lions jersey? 80 bucks. As in . . . don’t think so.

4. I skipped #4 at first, because it makes me laugh so much. First of all, can you even read what it says? At first glance, I couldn’t decipher what #2 wrote after the word “No.” Was that “boots?” Or “Beatles?” #2 shot me a withering glance and said emphatically, “It’s ‘no books,’ Mom.”

No surprise there. It happened several Chanukahs ago when my sons opened their presents one of the nights. I’ll always remember how #1’s eyes lit up when he saw that he had several new books. And I’ll never forget how #2 scowled as he held his mini stack of paperbacks. What he said next are words that will haunt me for the rest of my life:

“I hate this night! I always hate book night.”

And that’s why #2 made sure to note that he did not want any literature gifts this Chanukah.

Now, there’s never been a Chanukah that I didn’t give the boys books as a present one of the nights. Even after that fateful declaration of hatred. What’s my plan this year? And will #2’s list be fulfilled?

We’ll know in a week!