Monday, March 30, 2009

Lucky Me!

I just found out I'm the lucky winner of Everyone is Beautiful, a book about Lanie, a mother to three young boys and the wife of a composer trying to succeed in his profession. Lanie is beginning a new chapter of her life at the onset of the story, moving her family from Texas to Massachusetts to support the aspiring career of her husband.

Lanie is beginning to realize her life can only be defined in relation to the people around her...a mother...a wife. She now has trouble recalling the person she used to be.

Thank you 5 Minutes for Mom. For more great giveaways, visit 5 Minutes for Moms and its sister sites, including 5 Minutes for Books and 5 Minutes for Giveaways.

Everyone Is Beautiful:

Chapter 1
The morning I decided to change my life, I was wearing sweatpants and an old oxford of Peter’s with a coffee stain down the front. I hadn’t showered because we’d slept the whole family in one motel room the night before, and it was all we could do to get back on the road without someone dropping the remote in the toilet or pooping on the floor.
We had just driven from across the country to start Peter’s new job. Houston, Texas to Cambridge, Massachusetts. I’d had the kids in our ten-year-old Subaru the whole drive, two car seats and a booster across the back. Alexander kept taking Toby’s string cheese, and the baby, except when he was sleeping, was fussing. Peter drove the U-Haul van on the theory that if it broke, he’d know how to fix it.
On the road, I was sure I had the short end of the stick, especially during the dog hours of Tennessee. But now Peter was hauling all our belongings up three flights of narrow stairs, and I was at the park, on a blanket in the late-afternoon shade, breastfeeding Baby Sam. Peter had to be hurting. Even with our new landlord helping him, it was taking all day. And I was sitting in the shade, just waiting for him to call on the cell phone when he was ready for us to come home. Or as close to home as a curtainless apartment stacked high with boxes could be.
We’d been at the park since midmorning, and we were running out of snacks. Alexander and Toby were galloping top speed, as they always did. I’m not even sure they realized that they were in a new park. They acted like we might as well have been at home, in Houston, the only place they’d ever lived. They acted like the last five days of driving hadn’t even registered. I, in contrast, was aching with loss.
I didn’t like this park. Too clean, too brand-new, too perfect. The parks at home had character—monkey bars fashioned like cowboys, gnarled Crape Myrtle trunks for climbing, discarded Big Wheels with no seats. And we’d known them backwards and forwards—every tree knot, every mud hole, every kid.
This park, today, felt forced. It was trying too hard.
I surveyed the moms. Not one of them, I decided, was a person I wanted to meet. And just as I was disliking them all and even starting to pity them for having no idea what they were missing, park wise, Toby—my middle boy, my sandy-haired, blue-eyed, two-year-old flirt—watched a younger kid make a move for the truck in his hand, and then, unbelievably, grabbed that kid’s forearm and bit it.
The little boy screamed as Toby pulled the truck to his chest. “My truck!” Toby shouted. (He always pronounced “truck” like “fuck,” but that was, perhaps, another issue.) And then, of course, all hell broke loose.
I jumped up, startling the baby out of a nap and off my boob. I ran across the park, wailing baby on my shoulder, shirt unbuttoned, shouting, “Toby! No!” Toby saw my horrified face and instantly started to cry, himself—though he was no match for the little kid he’d bitten, who was now screaming like he was on fire. His mother, too, had sprinted from her perch, dropping her purse on the way, and was now holding him as if he’d been shot. “Is it bleeding?” she kept asking the boy. “Is it bleeding?”
It was clearly not bleeding. Isn’t that the number one rule of parenting? Don’t Make Things Worse?
All the other parents, meanwhile, had gathered around us to see what the heck was going on. My shirt was hanging open, the baby was still shrieking, and I remembered from one of those parenting books I used to read—back when I used to do that type of thing—that when a child bites, the parent of the biter must give attention to the bitee. I turned toward the little boy and reached out to comfort him, and, at the same moment, his mother actually tightened her grip and rocked away from my hand so that I missed him altogether. As if I myself had done the biting. As if I were about to attack again.
I regrouped. “I’m so sorry about that, sweetheart!” I said to the son, who was not, you might say, in a listening mode. Next, I tried his mother. “I’m so sorry!” I said. “He’s never done that before!” She was staring at me, but not at my eyes, and it took me a second to realize that it was, in fact, my uncovered magenta nursing bra she was looking at. I buttoned my shirt and started to try again when Alexander took that moment to push Toby down and take the very truck that had started all this commotion.
Toby let out a wail like a scalded dog, and Alexander threw the truck with all his might into a nearby bush. “No biting!” he said, pointing at Toby. “Biting is rude!” Toby got up to run after the truck and soon they were both tangled in the bush, wrestling for it.
Here was a moment when I was truly outnumbered. With two kids, in moments like this, you at least have two arms. With three kids, you’re just screwed. “Stop it! Both of you!” I shouted, sounding just like my own mother had years ago when she had been outnumbered, too.
And then, I did the only thing I could think of. I set Baby Sam down on the sidewalk—at ten months, he wasn’t crawling yet, or even thinking about it—stepped into the bush, took the truck, and wedged it high in the branch of a tree. Then I grabbed the two boys by the scruffs of their necks, dragged them to our blanket, sprinted back over to my now-almost-purple-with-hysteria Baby Sam, picked him up, put him on the boob as I stood there, and then marched back to where the boys were.
“Anybody who moves off this blanket gets a spanking,” I said in my meanest mom voice, sounding for all the world like a 1930s gangster. It was an empty threat. Peter and I weren’t spankers. And I wasn’t about to spank anybody in front of the still-gaping crowd of Cambridge parents ten feet away. But, honestly, what else was I going to do? Send the boys to their room? I wasn’t even entirely sure where our house was.
The bitee and his mother eventually gathered themselves up and limped out of the park, giving us the cold shoulder the whole way. It occurred to me that park etiquette probably dictated we should be the ones to leave. But, since we were waiting on Peter, we stayed. We ate our remaining snacks and drank our remaining juice boxes. Alexander and Toby soon forgot about the whole thing—though not until after I’d given them the best talking-to I could muster about how we all had to work together in this time of transition—and they were back on the swings in no time. Alexander, sweetly, got down from again and again to give Toby another push.
The old crop of parents trickled out, replaced by the after-work crowd. This batch was preppier and wealthier—pushing Bugaboos and carrying 200 dollar diaper bags. One woman caught my eye as someone I might like to be friends with. She wore stylishly frayed khakis and clompy leather sandals. I kept an eye on her and willed her to come over and talk to me. The bitee’s mother excepted, I hadn’t talked to an adult since ten o’clock that morning, when we’d said goodbye to Peter.
And then she did come over. Her daughter toddled up to our blanket wanting to look at Baby Sam, who was now eating from a spilled constellation of cheerios in front of him. The mom stood beside us, and I squinted up at her in the late afternoon sun. I could tell she wanted to ask me a question. And from the way she was composing herself, I guessed it was a good one. I was hoping for, “You’re new here, aren’t you?” or something like it. Something that might lead to a real moment of exchange between the two of us, or, at the very least, a phone number from her and an invitation to call. I’d only been away from home six days, but already I was hungry for friends.
She did have a question for me, it turned out. And it was not about diapers or wipes. Here’s what it was: Tucking her hair behind her ears, she squatted down next to her toddler—who was now picking up our Cheerios one by one, too—took a gander at me, sitting next to my ten-month-old, and said, “When are you due?”
Here is my policy on that question: Don’t ever ask it. Even if you’re talking to a woman who is clearly about to have quintuplets. Just don’t ask. Because if you’re wrong, you’ve just said one of the most horrible things you can say to a woman. If you’re wrong, you’ve ruined her week—possibly her month and even her year. If you’re wrong, she will go home and cry, and not even be able to tell her husband what she’s crying about. He’ll ask over and over as she lies face down on their bed, and she’ll have no choice but to say, “It’s nothing,” and then, “Please just leave me alone.”
This woman in the khakis, she was wrong. And I did go home and cry, but not until much later, because just at the moment she spoke, before I had even settled on a response, another woman approached us and leaned in to peer at me.
“Lanie?” she asked.
I met her eyes. I was pretty certain I didn’t know a single person in Massachusetts, and, so, given the circumstances, it was amazing, even to me, that I recognized her. It was Amanda Hayes from Houston, my high school’s favorite cheerleader, and, even fifteen years later, she had not changed at all. If anything, she looked better. But still exactly as blond, lean, and smooth as she had been all those years ago. She might as well have been carrying pom poms.
“Hi!” I shouted, too loudly. “Hello!”
I might have been fueled by my fight-or-flight reaction to the woman in khaki pants, but I stood up and gave Amanda Hayes, who I’d barely known in high school, a hug. Then I threw myself into a kind of conversation-on-steroids with her, acting far more delighted to see her than I might have otherwise. I would have been friendly in any situation, just as we’d always been friendly to each other during assigned seating in Chorus, but I might not have been quite as riveted.
I was hoping that, witnessing a reunion of two women who had a real connection to each other, the when-are-you-due girl might feel out of place and wander off. She didn’t. Her child continued to eat my cheerios, and she continued to stand there, smiling as if she were a part of the conversation, as if the three of us moms were friends, drinking mojitos and whiling away another afternoon with the kiddos.
I asked Amanda every single question I could think of, trying to fill any conversational pauses before Khaki Pants started up again with her pregnancy topic. What was Amanda doing in town? How long had she lived here? What were her thoughts on Middle East peace? Where did she get those great sunglasses?
And Amanda, bless her, met my enthusiasm for our chat head-on. She answered all my questions, and volleyed several back at me, and just when I was starting to feel like we’d built a conversational wall that the woman in khakis couldn’t scale, Amanda’s daughter, Gracin—who was almost four and, it turned out, exactly one day older than Alexander—came running over to ask for a band-aid.
“Did you get an ouchie?” Amanda asked.
Gracin pointed at her arm. There was no ouchie.
“Oh.” Amanda peeled a band-aid from a stash in her pocket, then put it on Gracin, who ran off. Watching her go, I noticed she had band-aids all down her legs.
“She loves band-aids,” Amanda told us, with a what-are-you-gonna-do shrug.
And then, in that moment, Amanda paused to gaze at her daughter, now climbing up the ramp of the slide, and to take one of those small moments that parents sometimes indulge in when their children are a little at a distance. She was admiring her, and possibly even wondering what stroke of insane luck had brought that exact child into her life, and feeling grateful for all her blessings. Amanda got caught up watching her daughter, and I got caught up watching Amanda, and so I was a split-second late cranking up the conversation again—and into that little gap, Khaki Pants leaned in, touched my sleeve, and said, “So. When are you due?”

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Review: Mortal Prey by John Sandford

Hardcover: 354 pages
Publisher: Putnam Pub Group May 2002
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0399148639
ISBN-13: 9780399148637

John Sandford is one of my favorite authors. His "Prey" series, featuring Minneapolis supercop, Lucas Davenport, never disappoints. As quoted in the Chicago Tribune, "You know life is good when you have a new Lucas Davenport thriller to escape into."

This is the 13th installment of Sandford's popular "Prey" series. Our villainess, Clara Rinker is an evil, ruthless woman who is the best hit woman in the business. But there is a side of her that you can't help but feel sorry for...even Lucas has a soft spot for Clara. Abused as a child, she does what she has to do to survive. Whether it's dancing nude, running her own bar, or killing for hire, she does it with expertise.

If I had to offer one criticism, it would be that the ending was almost like an afterthought. After page after page of suspense and pursuit, what could have been an exciting climax to the story was dealt with in a mere 14 pages.

Synopsis--from the author's website:

Years ago, Lucas Davenport almost died at the hands of Clara Rinker, a pleasant, soft-spoken, low-key Southerner, and the best hitwoman in the business. Now retired and living in Mexico, she nearly dies herself when a sniper kills her boyfriend, the son of a local druglord, and while the boy's father vows vengeance, Rinker knows something he doesn't: The boy wasn't the target – she was – and now she is going to have to disappear to find the killer herself. The FBI and DEA draft Davenport to help track her down, and with his fiancĂ©e deep in wedding preparations, he's really just as happy to go – but he has no idea what he's getting into. For Rinker is as unpredictable as ever, and between her, her old bosses in the St. Louis mob, the Mexican druglord, and the combined, sometimes warring, forces of U.S. law enforcement, this is one case that will get more dangerous as it goes along. And when the crossfire comes, anyone standing in the middle won't stand a chance....

Thursday, March 26, 2009

1st in a Series Challenge 2009

Now, this is an interesting challenge. Read 12 books that are the first in any series. The challenge is hosted by J. Kaye's Book Blog and you can read about it by clicking on the link or the picture at the top.

Here's my list...

1. Rules of Prey by John Sandford (Prey series)
2. Along Came a Spider by James Patterson (Alex Cross series)
3. st to Die by James Patterson (Women's Murder Club)
4. Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell (Scarpetta series)
5. Hornet's Nest by Patricia Cornwell (Andy Brazil series)
6. The Bone Collector by Jeffery Deaver (Lincoln Rhyme series)
7. The Cold Moon by Jeffery Deaver (Kathryn Dance series)
8. "A" Is For Alibi by Sue Grafton (Alphabet series)
9. Split Second by David Baldacci (King and Maxwell series)
10. At Risk by Patricia Cornwell (Win Garano series)
11. Shallow Graves by Jeffery Deaver (John Pellam series)
12. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer (Twilight series)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

100+ Reading Challenge 2009

I've decided to join the 100+ Reading Challenge hosted by J. Kaye's Book Blog. The goal is to read at least 100 books between January 1 - December 31, 2009. Click on the link for the guidelines.

I noticed some readers are listing the books they intend to read for the entire year. I don't think that will work for me so I'll list a few and add to the list as I go along. And since I'm starting late, I'll start with the books I've already read since January 1.

So here is my beginning list, not necessarily in any order....

1. Rules of Prey by John Sandford
2. Shadow Prey by John Sandford
3. Eyes of Prey by John Sandford
4. Silent Prey by John Sandford
5. Night Prey by John Sandford
6. Mind Prey by John Sandford
7. Sudden Prey by John Sandford
8. Secret Prey by John Sandford
9. Certain Prey by John Sandford
10. Easy Prey by John Sandford
11. Mortal Prey by John Sandford
12. Dragon Tears by Dean Koontz
13. Cross Country by James Patterson
14. The Winner by David Baldacci
15. False Memory by Dean Koontz
16. The General's Daughter by Nelson DeMille
17. Naked Prey by John Sandford
18. Hidden Prey by John Sandford
19. Scarpetta by Patricia Cornwell
20. The Stone Monkey by Jeffery Deaver
21. Speaking in Tongues by Jeffery Deaver
22. The Summons by John Grisham
23. King of Torts by John Grisham
24. Broken Prey by John Sandford
25. Invisible Prey by John Sandford
26. Phantom Prey by John Sandford
27. The Quickie by James Patterson
28. La Cucina by Lily Prior
29. Chosen Prey by John Sandford
30. The Likeness by Tana French
31. 1st to Die by James Patterson
32. Along Came a Spider by James Patterson
33. Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell
34. Hornet's Nest by Patricia Cornwell
35. The Bone Collector by Jeffery Deaver
36. The Cold Moon by Jeffery Deaver
37. A If For Alibi by Sue Grafton
38. Split Second by David Baldacci
39. At Risk by Patricia Cornwell
40. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
41. Shallow Graves by Jeffery Deaver
42. Everyone Is Beautiful by Katherine Center
43. Against Medical Advice by James Patterson & Hal Friedman
44. Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
45. The Savage Garden by Mark Mills
46. I Heard That Song Before by Mary Higgins Clark
47. Halloween Party by Agatha Christie
48. B is For Burglar by Sue Grafton
49. C is For Corpse by Sue Grafton
50. Whispers by Dean Koontz
51. Act of Betrayal by Edna Buchanan
52. Critical Judgment by Michael Palmer
53. Dead Watch by John Sandford
54. The Front by Patricia Cornwell
55. Sail by James Patterson
56. 7th Heaven by James Patterson
57. Relentless by Dean Koontz
58. Saving Faith by David Baldacci
59. New Moon by Stephanie Meyer
60. Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer
61. Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer
62. Your Heart Belongs to Me by Dean Koontz
63. The Cheater by Nancy Taylor Rosenberg 
64. Still Life by Joy Fielding
65. One Door Away From Heaven by Dean Koontz
66. 700 Sundays by Billy Crystal
67. Bitter Harvest by Ann Rule
68. Cursed:  A Regan Reilly Mystery by Carol Higgins Clark

A Review: Dragon Tears by Dean Koontz

Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Putnam Pub Group Jan 1993
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0399137734
ISBN-13: 9780399137730

I have to say, I didn't really care for this book nearly as much as other Koontz novels. It was OK but it just seemed to take a long time to get into it. I found it to be rather slow paced and at times, difficult to focus on. The characters are likable and interesting and although the villain is sufficiently creepy, he is sometimes a little too predictable.

Behind most scary stories, there is a little niggling feeling that the described events could possibly happen (even though in the common sense part of your brain, you know they won't). That didn't happen to me with this story. I couldn't find anything believable about this villain.

Description (from author's website):
Harry Lyon was a rational man, a cop who refused to let his job harden his soul. His partner urged him to surrender to the chaos of life. But Harry believed in order and reason. Then, one fateful day, he was forced to shoot a man—and a homeless stranger with bloodshot eyes uttered the haunting words that challenged Harry Lyon’s sanity…
“Ticktock, ticktock. You’ll be dead in sixteen hours…Dead by dawn…Dead by dawn…Dead by dawn…”
The day had started out so well, but it sure had gone to hell in a hurry.
He was determined to get it back on track. Paperwork would help. Nothing like official reports and forms in triplicate to make the world seem ordered and rational.
Out in the street, the whirlwind had gathered more dust and detritus. Earlier the ghost dancer had appeared to be waltzing along the blacktop. Now it was doing a frantic jitterbug. As Harry took a step away from the tree, the column of debris changed course, zigged toward him, and burst upon him with startling power, forcing him to shut his eyes against the abrasive grit.
For one crazy moment he thought he was going to be swept up as Dorothy had been, and spun off to Oz. Tree limbs rattled and shook overhead, shedding more leaves on him. The huffing and keening of the wind briefly swelled into a shriek, a howl--but in the next instant fell into graveyard stillness.
Someone spoke directly in front of Harry, voice low and raspy and strange: "Ticktock, ticktock."

Monday, March 23, 2009

Spring 2009 Reading Challenge List

  • Mortal Prey by John Sandford
  • Dragon Tears by Dean Koontz
  • The General's Daughter by Nelson DeMille
  • The Stone Monkey by Jeffery Deaver
  • Scarpetta by Patricia Cornwell
  • Naked Prey by John Sandford
  • Hidden Prey by John Sandford
  • Along Came a Spider by James Patterson
  • The Summons by John Grisham
  • 1st to Die by James Patterson
  • Broken Prey by John Sandford
  • Invisible Prey by John Sandford
  • Phantom Prey by John Sandford
  • Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell
  • Speaking in Tongues by Jeffery Deaver
  • Against Medical Advice by James Patterson & Hal Friedman
  • The King of Torts

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Review: The Quickie by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Little Brown & Co Jul 2007
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0316117366
ISBN-13: 9780316117364

What's not to enjoy about reading about a steamy one night stand gone wrong?

From the jacket:

When she sees her husband with another woman, Lauren Stillwell's heart nearly stops beating. Her marriage was perfect, she has a great job, she loves her life. But his betrayal turns her into someone she never imagined she could be–a woman lusting for revenge.

Determined to even the score, Lauren seeks to have her own affair. It was supposed to be a quickie, but Lauren's night of passion takes a shocking turn when she witnesses an unexpected, unbelievable, and deadly crime. Now her horrifying secret threatens to tear her life apart, pitting her need to uncover the truth against her fear that the truth may be too horrible to bear. And whichever choice she makes may cost her dearly—her job, her marriage…or even her life.

From James Patterson, the man USA Today has called the "master of the genre," comes his scariest novel since the #1 New York Times bestseller Honeymoon. This twisting story of desires, secrets, and consequences will have your heart pounding till the very last page…

An excerpt........................



I KNEW THIS WAS a really terrific idea, if I didn’t say so myself, surprising Paul for lunch at his office down on Pearl Street.

I’d made a special trip into Manhattan and had put on my favorite “little black dress.” I looked moderately ravishing. Nothing that would be out of place at the Mark Joseph Steakhouse, and one of Paul’s favorite outfits, too, the one he usually chose if I asked him, “What should I wear to this thing, Paul?”

Anyway, I was excited, and I’d already spoken to his assistant, Jean, to make sure that he was there — though I hadn’t alerted her about the surprise. Jean was Paul’s assistant after all, not mine.

And then, there was Paul.

As I rounded the corner in my Mini Cooper, I saw him leaving his office building, walking with a twenty-something blonde woman.

Paul was leaning in very close to her, chatting, laughing in a way that instantly made me feel very ill.

She was one of those bright, shiny beauties you’re more likely to see in Chicago or Iowa City. Tall, hair like platinum silk. Cream-colored skin that looked just about perfect from this distance. Not a wrinkle or blemish.

She wasn’t completely perfect, though. She tripped a Manolo on a street plate as she and Paul were getting into a taxi, and as I watched Paul gallantly catch hold of the pink cashmere on her anorexic elbow, I felt like someone had hammered a cold chisel right into the center of my chest.

I followed them. Well, I guess followed is too polite. I stalked them.

All the way up to Midtown, I stayed on that taxi’s bumper like we were connected by a tow hook. When the cab suddenly pulled up in front of the entrance to the St. Regis Hotel, on East 55th Street, and Paul and the woman stepped out smiling, I felt an impulse rush from the lizard part of my brain to my right foot, which was hovering over the accelerator. Then Paul took her arm. A picture of both of them sandwiched between the storied hotel’s front steps and the hood of my baby-blue Mini flashed through my mind.

Then it was gone, and so were they, and I was left sitting there crying to the sound of the honking taxis lined up behind me.

Are you up for a challenge?

I've been thinking about creating a reading blog for a while now and much to my delight I ran across A Southern Daydreamer Reads. She has accomplished what I was just thinking about. Anyway, she inspired me.

She has thrown down a challenge for Spring 2009. Here's my below for the rules and add your own.

  • Mortal Prey by John Sandford
  • Dragon Tears by Dean Koontz
  • The General's Daughter by Nelson DeMille
  • The Stone Monkey by Jeffery Deaver
  • Scarpetta by Patricia Cornwell
  • Naked Prey by John Sandford
  • Hidden Prey by John Sandford

Actually I'm reading Dragon Tears already. Is that cheating? You'll notice there's a number of John Sandford's "Prey" series listed. I'm working my way through the entire series book by book, reading them in the order they were written. I've done the same thing with Patricia Cornwell's Scarpetta books, thus her latest is on my list.


Rules as posted on A Southern Daydreamer Reads

Are you up for a Reading challenge?

Spring Reading Challenge 2009

Spring Challenge 2009

  • Challenge: Spring Reading Challenge 2009
  • Start date: March 20, 2009
  • Finish date: June 20, 2009
  • Hosted By: A Southern Daydreamer Reads
  • Rules:
    1. Make a list of books you want to read this spring.
    2. Write a post with your list on your blog. (You can add to or change this list at any time during the challenge)
    3. Visit this blog on March 30th to sign up (Mr. Linky). Note: Please post the direct link to your Spring Reading Challenge 2009 post. I am going to use Mr. Linky so that you can visit other participants and see what they are reading.
    4. You can write another post in June to let everyone know how you did.

    We will have another challenge for Summer 2009. The purpose of the challenge is for everyone to read and have fun!