I keep meaning…

…to post reviews here, of The Maidenstone Lighthouse and Little Earthquakes and Pink, and, and, and, but right now I’m so depressed from reading “Miss Lonelyhearts,” which is quite possibly the bleakest and saddest novella EVER, that I just…can’t.

GonnaBe a Star?

I’ve been singing and acting in some fashion ever since I learned to talk, and I grew up watching the FAME tv show, even before I ever attended a performing arts school, so when I heard about Gonnabe, I was actually a little jealous – WHY couldn’t this have been around when I was a kid?

But I grew up in the pre-internet days, when we learned to type on actual typewriters, and the computer class we did have was stocked with TRS-80s, and PONG was a cool game. Yes, I’m THAT old. Of course, I also no longer live in California, and I don’t have kids, but if I did, I’d want them to know about Gonnabe.

Of course, you’re probably wondering – what is it? Well, it’s a production company and networking opportunity headquartered in Emeryville, CA, and it specializes in entertainment for and by kids. By joining, bright talented youngsters and their families will be provided with information about auditions, classes, and local shoots, as well as be able to network with professional casting directors, singers, dancers, actors, and models already in the business.

There’s a common adage that it’s not what you know, but who. GonnaBe helps kids who don’t already have those connections, but do have drive and talent, get the WHO.

If I were a kid in this decade, and I knew about GonnaBe, I’d be pestering my parents. If I had kids who were interested in the arts – I mean REALLY interested – passionate, even – I’d be signing them up.

As a production company, GonnaBe is already responsible for Kids Unlimited and Say What. As a networking community, I suspect it’s gonna be even bigger.

Reading with Mom

As I’ve been reading and writing about auto insurance quote all week, and today is Mother’s Day, I thought I’d spend a moment talking about reading with my mother.

When I was very young, before I was entirely comfortable reading long novels without pictures, my mother used to read to me, doing all the voices. I especially remember reading Fletcher and Zenobia with her, and I blame this book for my dark tastes, because the illustrations were done by Edward Gorey.

A bit later, she began to read Little Women to me, but by then I was a voracious reader, and our “chapter a night” system was beginning to chafe. That was the last book she read TO me, but several years later, when I was nine or ten, she began to read WITH me.

One book I remember reading together was a collection of Katharine S. White’s garden essays from the New York Times, a year of them, one for each week, I think. It was thick with a lovely color, and we would take turn reading the essays aloud to each other during a hot Colorado summer – there was actually a drought that year, but I didn’t realize it til long after. I’m not certain, but I think the title was Onward and Upward in the Garden. (Katharine S. White, btw, was married to E. B. White, who gave us Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan.)

That was the year I began stealing her Ms. magazines and reading them before she could. That was also the year I discovered Judy Blume.

We haven’t read together since then, I don’t think, though we’ve often passed books back and forth, fought over who was going to read one first, or spend lovely Saturdays going first to the library, and then out to lunch or a cafe.

While I can only handle my mother’s forceful personality in small doses, those sorts of days, where were together, but not necessarily engaged in conversation, are very comfortable, and one of the things I miss most when she goes home to Baja Sur, where she retired about seven years ago.

IF you’re reading this, I’d like to know when you stopped reading with your parents, or when they stopped reading TO you.

Booking through Thursday: What Do You Do?

Quick! It’s an emergency! You just got an urgent call about a family emergency and had to rush to the airport with barely time to grab your wallet and your passport. But now, you’re stuck at the airport with nothing to read. What do you do??

And, no, you did NOT have time to grab your bookbag, or the book next to your bed. You were . . . grocery shopping when you got the call and have nothing with you but your wallet and your passport (which you fortuitously brought with you in case they asked for ID in the ethnic food aisle). This is hypothetical, remember….

While I don’t own cats, I have enough friends who do to know that being alone without a book is somewhat akin to feline friends being locked in a house without a scratching post or cat tree…not a pleasant situation.

Since I have my wallet, I’d probably hit the airport bookstore and see what was on the best-seller list, or indulge in a few girly magazines of the sort I generally only read at the salon, because it makes them special, and they seem to GO with the salon.

Failing that, I’d look around for a stray newspaper or cast-off book – airports are popular drop points for Book Crossing, after all.

(And yes, I know, yet again, I’m participating on Sunday. Guess I’m not much of a joiner these days, is all.)

Rocket Tunes – MP3Rocket.com


Okay, so I just got a stylish new RED iPod NaNo, my first real foray into true iPoddy goodness, and now I have to fill it.

My 30 GB Zen is mainly full of free podcasts and Napster tunes, but Napster to Go, their subscription service, doesn’t work with Apple products (why can’t we have ONE standard for this stuff?), and iTunes has never been my favorite service.

This is why I tried out MP3Rocket.com for free music downloads. Similar to Limewire, it’s a subscription service interface for Gnutella, but it’s a lot more robust, and user friendly – I didn’t even have an issue running it in Vista, which is notoriously twitchy.

Top Five Downloads

Downloading the software is a piece of cake, and searching for songs is simple – type in the track name or the artist, and, if you really want to limit your finds to mp3s, and not videos or other media, specify “audio” before you start the search function.

The basic version of the software gets you instant access to music but for a more robust connection, quicker searches, and different file types, it’s better to join the service. Membership ranges from 1.64 / month for a year to $34.44 for a lifetime subscription, and an additional $14.95 gets you access to downloadable DVD movies as well.

It’s a pretty sweet site, offering services like the top five downloads, as well as a user forum, and a way to meet other music fans.

Goes well with an mp3 player and dancing shoes.


Six years ago, I had Lasik surgery on my eyes, and went from not being able to see the big E at the top of the chart to 20:20 vision, though it wasn’t instant – it takes time for eyes to settle.

People always ask what having the surgery impacted the most, and they generally expect grand answers like, “I can scuba dive without a special mask,” but the reality is, it’s the little things that you really notice, things like being able to see to shave your legs in the shower, or put on make-up, being able to read the numbers on the alarm clock when you wake in the middle of the night, and being able to read in bed without fear of rolling over on your glasses, or forgetting to remove your contacts and harming your eyes. (Ditto falling asleep on planes)

It is with this in mind that I present the following meme, in honor of the first 48 hours after surgery, in which I was forbidden to read anything at all.
These are the top 106 books most often marked as unread by LibraryThing’s users. As in, they sit on the shelf to make you look smart or well-rounded. Bold the ones you’ve read, italicize the ones you own but have not read.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
A Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West

The Canterbury Tales
The Historian : a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible : a novel
Angels & Demons
The Inferno
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels
Les Misérables
The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake : a novel
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers

Firefly Lane, by Kristin Hannah

Firefly LaneFirefly Lane
by Kristin Hannah
Get it from Amazon

When you were a teenager did you ever feel like a ram of your head against the wall might be more productive than a conversation with your mother? If you are a parent, have you ever felt that way about your child? If so, this novel is for you.

Firefly Lane is a tale of the lifelong friendship between cool, breezy and somewhat broken Tully, daughter of a strung out leftover hippie, abandoned to her grandmother most of the time, and average, suburban Katie. Their friendship is formed accidentally when they become neighbors, but ends up becoming a sustaining force for both girls.

As they grow up, Tully is the one who knows what she wants and pushes everything out of her way to get it, dragging Katie along in her wake, until, finally, Katie ends up with what SHE really wants – a home and family, and loving husband.

Set against the television news industry Katie and Tully’s friendship follows a timeline from the early 1970’s, when they meet, until present day, when Katie has to face a devastating challenge and needs Tully, estranged in recent years, to help get her through.

While Firefly Lane is not, ultimately, a feel-good novel, it is a strong portrayal of women’s friendships, and the characters drawn by author Kristin Hannah are complex and believable.

Goes well with an ice cold glass of lemonade, an Adirondack chair, and a soft cotton blanket.

Virtual Journeys

A friend’s writing about her “bicycle going nowhere” reminded me of the Eowyn Challenge – a virtual walk through Middle Earth to keep you motivated to keep up with daily use of your elliptical or exer-cycle or whatever. Four of us are beginning the journey on Monday, and I’m looking forward to our imaginary, 478 mile, trek from Bag End to Rivendell.

I’m reminded also of a scene from one of my childhood favorites, Little Women in which Jo talks about sewing sheets, and making a tedious task less so by dividing up the seams into continents and talking about the countries and cultures they were likely to meet on a journey through whichever place was being discussed.

The imagination provides not only virtual journeys, but also the “spoonful of sugar” we need to make our own hated activities into fun and games.