Friday, January 29, 2010

Book Club road trip: Asheville

My bookclub began about 6 years ago. We are a group of about 10 women. From all walks of life. All ages. With a mutual love of reading. We have different style preferences. And I have been challenged to read lots of books that I would not have typically picked. Books that I am so glad that I read. Others. Well. I am glad I tried.

The bookclub took its first road trip about three years ago when we went to Tybee Island. I have no pictures from that trip. Even though we took a horse drawn carriage tour of Savannah. Contemplated eating at Lady and Sons. And did some great shopping along the squares. I wonder if I just didn't bring my camera.

Last year, we went to Asheville. We had a great time. But I was sworn to secrecy regarding the events of the weekend. The wine might have flowed a little too freely. But you didn't hear that from me. No siree. I can keep a secret.

And then last weekend we headed back to Asheville. We went to the spa at the Grove Park Inn.
By we I mean not me. I was too cheap for the $200 massage. So I started. And finished my book in the gorgeous lobby. By the ginormous fireplace.

And thanks to Shannon, we got discount tickets to visit Biltmore estate.

I wish I had schooled our picture taker in the above the hips rule so that you could see the house. Rather than those tree trunks I call legs.

We did a little walking around downtown Asheville. Ate at the Early Girl restaurant (if you go to Asheville, you need to go here). Did a little shopping. Not too much because the weather was biting cold.

We played scrabble in teams. Except for one member who we made play without a partner. Because she has all the two letter words from the Scrabble dictionary memorized. Did you know that "Jo" means sweetheart?

And then the highlight of our weekend was to go back to the Grove Park Inn. To the dueling piano bar - Elaine's.

To be honest. I was not so sure about the idea of a piano bar. I was thinking old music. Show tunes. Songs I had never heard of. Not that there is anything wrong with that. It just wasn't my idea of a fun evening. And now. I must say. I was rather pleasantly surprised. More than pleasantly. It was a great evening.

And I was oh so wrong. They played rockin' music. Everything from mo-town classics. To Billy Joel and Elton John. To country. To Snoop Dog's "Gin and Juice." And the only showtune they played was one our group requested - "Summer Lovin'" from Grease. And they made us sing the girls' parts!

And even with all that...we still managed to find time to discuss our book.

So...what about you? Are you in a book club? What book has been your best discussion (or what do you think would make a great discussion book)? Ever been to a piano bar?

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

A new blog

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flatterly. So, when I saw that Shannon started a photo blog...I knew that I wanted to start one, too. Our blogs are part of Project 365 which challenges you to take a photo a day. And in typical Kat fashion, I was fashionably late. At least I didn't procrastinate starting until January of 2011.

When I was setting up the new blog...that is when I somehow managed to destroy the layout here. I think I have penciled in my overplucking a bit. But do come visit me at my new digs -- Drops of Sunshine!

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Time to celebrate

We had a big accomplishment at our house a few weeks ago. Madalyn got straight As for the first time. I was so proud. To reward her efforts, I told her we would take her out to dinner to celebrate and she could choose the restaurant.

My notion of a reward and her notion of a reward are not in the same league. Evidently. To an eight year old. Dinner out with the family is on par with punishment. Or chores. Or a visit to the dentist. However. Madalyn agreed to this outing if she got to bring a friend. You know. So she could have someone to talk to. So. Last Sunday we headed out as a family. Plus Madalyn's friend Shannon. For the big, celebratory meal. And where did we go? When the sky was the limit? Her choice was...

Yep. Golden Corral. Where she dined on such delicacies as popcorn shrimp. Rolls. A single bite of baked potato. Mashed potatoes. And dessert. Which was best served on a plate and eaten as soup.So...what about you? Do you like Golden Corral? Where would you want to celebrate getting straight As? Where would your kids choose to go?

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Can we talk about Michelle Obama's eyebrows?

I was watching TV last week and an ad came on. It was Michelle Obama. Talking about something. That something? I had no idea. I couldn't. Because I was rather distracted. By her eyebrows.

What had she done? They are in the middle of her forehead. I had to pause the tv and try to figure it out. Did she have a lift? A little botox? An accident - so she had to draw them on? Were these fore.head.brows on purpose?

I finally figured out that she was appealing for donations to the red cross. And it was rather catty of me to only see the eyebrows rather than the need in Haiti.

But those forehead feathers were rather distracting. Watch for yourself.

I suppose I should be rather sympathetic. It appears that I overplucked as well. When I accidentally deleted my blog design. And I had to pencil in what you see here. I think that Michelle and I both need a do-over.

So...what about you? What do you think of Michelle's brows? Do you shape yours? Have you ever overplucked your blog?

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Friday, January 8, 2010

Anatomy of a Georgia Snowfall

It snowed here Thursday night. I suppose though that "snow" is a relative term. We have a dusting of white stuff on the ground. Which makes one wonder why. Why this slight dusting of white has shut our entire city down. Canceled schools in the upper third of the state. And caused a rush on milk, bread and toilet paper from the corner store.
The thing is...that's not dusty feeling. It's hard. Packed. Crystalized. And impossible to drive on. When we get snow here, our temperatures usually hoover around freezing. Which means that we don't get true snow. But more of a mix. Rain. Sleet. Freezing rain. And maybe a smidge of snow. And then since we are in the south. Our DOT is not equipped to deal with the ice. I watched the news this evening as they showed "them" dealing with an icy hill. It was a dump truck full of sand. With one guy standing on the load. With a shovel. Can you imagine how slow that process is?

Our temperatures are not forecasted to be above freezing until Monday. So we are staying here. In the house. Because the ice is on the streets. We are trying to stay warm watching the first 5 seasons of LOST. Admiring Sawyer. Noticing LOTS of details I didn't see the first time around. (I didn't remember Kate's father being in Iraq with Sayid). Watching Ben chew the scenery.
Oh. Would you like to know why we are TRYING to stay warm? That would be because our heater decided to stop working today. Friday. And they will schedule a service call on Monday. If they can get here from there.
So...what about you? What's the temperature at your house? Did you get snow? Enough for your kids to play in? Do you watch LOST?

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Science Fiction and Sawyer and Flashforward

Once upon a time I would have said that popular fiction was pretty much what I read. But after reading John Brendt's "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," I was sold on the possibility that a non-fiction book could be just as compelling as fiction. Possibly more so. Depending on how the story was told.

Once upon a time I would have said that under no circumstances would I read romance novels. But after reading Diana Gabaldon's "Outlander," I completely and totally changed my mind. In fact, I have become quite the fan of romances. Most of them. Well. Any of them.

Once upon a time I would have said that I don't like fantasy stories. Once upon a time I would never have ventured into the children's section to browse the books. Books for me to read. For myself. But authors like JK Rowling and Suzanne Collins and Lois Lowry and even Carl Hiaasen have made this my go-to genre. And have you noticed that most of the books being published in this genre are fantasy? Veddy interesting.

And once upon a time I would have said that I don't like science fiction. Because it was. Too scienc-y. Too Y chromosom-y. I might still. Sorta. Say this today. I have not completely gone over to the dark side. But there are some books in this genre that are really good. One of them being "The Sparrow" by Mary Doria Russell. In fact. I would put that book as one of my all time favorites.

And then. Once upon a time. I discovered a science fiction author. One that I think you should try. Maybe even think of him as science fiction lite. And that is Robert J Sawyer.

You could start with "Flashforward." Are you watching the TV show? Well. The book is nothing like it. In the novel, there is an event that causes everyone in the world to black out - and see a vision of their future. In the tv show, that future takes place in 6 months. In the book - 20 years. What makes the book so very good is the philosophical angle. Do we control our own destiny? Is the future fixed? Is it malleable?

Keeping with philosophy, why not try "Calculating God." It is the story of a paleontologist who is visited by an extraterrestrial. Specifically to gather information about mass extinctions that seem to happen not only here on earth - but across the universe - at the same points in time. The alien assert that "the primary goal of modern science is to discover why God has behaved as he has and to determine his methods." The book is mostly cerebral. But it is also touching. Laugh out loud funny. Character driven. Especially as we read the grappling our paleontologist must do as he deals with his athiest beliefs ("If there was a God, there wouldn't be cancer").

Or. What about a triology. Where you don't have to wait months for the next one to be published. Don't you just love finding a completed series after the whole thing has been published? You ought to try the "Neanderthal Parallax" (Hominids, Humans, Hybrids). It tells the story of a parallel earth where the neanderthals are the hominids that are dominant. And somehow a bridge between these worlds opens. There are chasms in the differences. Yet. There is shared "humanity."

So...what about you? Do you have a favorite genre? One you never thought you would read? Do you like science fiction?

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

My favorite books of 2009

When I started blogging in 2008, I noticed that I did not read nearly as much as I used to. And 2009? Well. I seem to have half fallen off the bloggy bandwagon. I have a dozen posts that I have started. I have lots of post ideas. But. Making them come to fruition. It has not been my strong point.

So fewer blog posts equals more time to read. I read more than 100 books in '09. Some good. Some stinkers. Some real disappointments. And then there were these. The best books that I read last year:

1. The Road by Cormac McCarthy- On the surface, this story is post-apocalyptic. Some sort of undefined disaster has struck. The landscape has burned. Its colors are bleak. It's cold. The unnamed characters are hungry. And hiding from other survivors. Because those other survivors are not to be trusted. But. That is all surface. At it's heart. It's a story of love. That indefinable love between a parent and a child. When you do whatever it takes to protect them. In the most harrowing of circumstances. It's lyrical. Poetic. And beautiful. Yep. Post apocalyptic. Gut wrenching. And beautiful. (And the movie? I have not seen it. Not really interested. I am not sure who would read this book and say "hey...this would make a great movie...")

2. The Help - A first novel by Kathryn Stockett...and what an effort it is. Set in 1962 in Mississippi, the novel revolves around several Junior league members and their black maids. But the story gets is umph when one of the women begins applying for editing jobs in New York. She gets some great advice in one of her rejection letters...not that traditional "write what you know" but "write about what makes you uncomfortable." She takes this advice to heart and interviews the maids that clean the houses, cook the meals, raise the children...but women that would never be invited to the table.

3. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. I have this certain affinity for young adult novels. But sometimes, they can be hugely disappointing. I read so many this year that had this overarching potential...yet they failed miserably. But this one. This one was different. It had a lot of similarities to others of this genre. Romance. Barriers between the two. Magic. But again. This one was different. It is so well voiced. The characters are so well developed. There is nothing two dimensional about it. And it's original. With it being told in first person. From the hero's point of view.

4. The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley. I know it may be shocking...but I read A LOT of romances. And if you like romances...this one is incredibly well done. With a tortured hero who truly is "mad." A hero that was in an asylum in his youth. But the noises in his head are stilled - at least momentarily - when he finds the love of his life.

5. The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan. I love this series. It is full of action and adventures. Steeped with Greek mythology. But with thoroughly modern twists. Like...the Olympian gods follow the heart of the modern Mount Olympus is at the top of the Empire State building. The entrance to the underworld?'s Las Vegas.

6. Everything Matters! by Ron Currie, Jr is a difficult book to describe. It tells the story of a boy who has known since he was in utero when the world would end. If you knew...would you live your life differently? Would anything matter? The book also delves into those little things that matter...and change everything. What I really liked about the book was that...really...for all of us...we are here on this earth for a short time. We don't know exactly when our end will come. But life can be full of unexplicable joy and beauty...where everything does matter.

7. The Space Between Us by Thrity Urmigar. I read this as one of my book club selections. And it is one of the things that I love most about being in that group...they encourage me to read books that I would not normally pick up (like the one I am reading now "On Human Bondage" which is actually quite far). And this short novel was one of my favorites of the year. It is about two women. One wealthy. Educated. Priviledged. The other her maid. She is poor. Illiterate. One would think that the divide between these women would be huge. Divided by money. By class. By opportunity. But. They share many of the same experiences. Some they don't even realize that they share. The tale is a haunting and compeling tale of our shared humanity.

8. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly. This is not an action book. It is not fast paced. Yet there is adventure. But it is quiet adventure. Observational. And full of changes. Calpurnia is a girl on the cusp. On the verge of womanhood...but not wanting to play the prescribed role. On the verge of a new century with the promise of self-discovery.

9. The Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris. The series is fueled by the notion that someone in Japan invented a synthetic blood. For medical use. But...because of the invention, it allowed vampires to come out of the closet. So to speak. And. Well. If there are vampires. Why wouldn't there be shapeshifters? Werewolves? Fairies? Witches? Maenads? Why indeed. And all of these fantastical creatures become part of the world of Sookie Stackhouse. Bar maid from Bon Temp, Louisiana. An ordinary girl...who just happens to hear the thoughts of everyone around her. So. Is she part of that fantastical world...or not?

10. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. After reading "The Hunger Games" last year, I really could not fathom where Collins would take her next story. She took the story in a direction I did not expect. And then left me hanging at the end. Ugh! How much longer till book three?

So...what about you? What is the best book you have read this year? What is in your to-be-read pile?

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