Anonymous Soccer Mom

Musings from the Mundane to the Marvelous

My Spring Seven

Okay, so Spring sprang a while ago. Butterflies are fluttering through the air, the sun is shining, the sky is a brilliant blue. If I had my druthers, I’d while away my days relaxing on a chaise lounge soaking up the prose of brilliant authors whilst soaking in rays (and sipping a margarita made with ruby red grapefruit juice).  But alas, since I only have so much time in the day, instead of the Spring Seventy I dream about, it’s the Spring Seven.

The following are the seven books that have stood out to me over the past several months. I going to tell you why I liked/loved them, and if you want more detailed descriptions, just click on the book.

(BTW, for the sake of honesty, I’ll admit I read some of them in winter, but I couldn’t find a number that started with a W. The only alliteration option is My Winter One. Which would be a very short post.)

 

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  1. The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth: I loved this book from the very start. At its heart, it is a love story. The characters are beautifully drawn and Sally Hepworth handles the multiple POVs deftly. She also manages to mix humor and compassion when dealing with the issue of Alzheimer’s disease.41jTPkXy43L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_
  2. Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner: I’ve said it before, when I grow up I want to be Jennifer Weiner. I love all of her books, but this one–about a boy and girl who meet in their youth, then spend decades finding their way back to each other– spoke to me. It was funny, touching, heartbreaking and lovely, and I was engaged from the first page to the last.2016-02-01-1454357880-2655414-NoOrdinaryLife_cover2
  3. No Ordinary Life by Suzanne Redfearn: I read Suzanne’s first novel in one day, and not just because I was recovering from a back injury and couldn’t move. Her second novel is equally good. I connected with the main character’s plight as she tries to make the best choice for her children, her family and herself while succumbing to the lure of fame and the financial security that can come with it.download (3)
  4. Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. I don’t read much nonfiction. Some of it is dry and sterile. This book is not. It is rich with information about the creation of the 1893 World Fair in Chicago, the men who made it happen, and the serial killer who was on the loose in the city during that time. But unlike other historical nonfiction books it reads like a novel. I found it hard to put down.download
  5. The Memory Painter by Gwendolyn Womack: Womack weaves tales of the past into the present as she delves into the former lives and many incarnations of the main characters. Strong prose throughout, a clear thread through each of the lives, and a story that is both suspenseful and romantic.download (1)
  6. Deception by Jonathan Kellerman: Perhaps because I’m releasing the first book in my Musical Mystery Series next month, I’ve been reading some of my favorite series characters. Child psychologist turned sleuth Alex Delaware never fails me. If he were real, I most certainly would be in love with him. Is it any wonder that my real husband’s name is Alex…?download (2)
  7. X by Sue Grafton: What will we all do when she gets to Z? I love Kinsey Milhone as much now as I did when I first read A is for Alibi. And I am always amazed at an author like Grafton who can come up with absolutely unique plot lines and characters after so many books.

Happy Reading!

 


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The Butterfly Effect

The other day, I went outside and saw a beautiful sight. A monarch butterfly perched on this dazzling yellow flower.

yellow flower

Instead of admiring the beauty of the scene before me, my first thought was, “I need to take a picture of this and post it on Facebook.”

Yikes. I’ve become what I loathe.

I hurried into the house to get my phone, and by the time I got back outside, the butterfly had flown from the flower. He began to flutter around me, as if playing a game, and when I reached my hand out, incredibly, he landed on my palm. This wondrous creature had bestowed upon me a second chance to admire him, to be awed by the universe. And for the second time, as my kids would say, I epic-ly failed.

I fumbled with my phone to try to capture a picture of him, but because the butterfly was on my right palm and my phone was in my left hand, and I am right-handed and painfully unambidextrous, I couldn’t get the pic. I tried, failed, tried, fumbled, and the camera dropped to the ground.

I know it sounds crazy, but I think the butterfly was disgusted by my social-media-driven disregard.  He took to his wings and flew away, punishing me for not doing what I should have done in the first place, which was STOP, LOOK, TAKE IT IN, RECORD THE MEMORY, APPRECIATE THE SIMPLE BEAUTY.

How much do we miss in our fervor to post, tweet, pin, share? What memories are we robbing ourselves of? When we reflexively snap a pic and instantly share it with our social media friends, we are simply creating a digital image and a visual diary. Unless we fully invest ourselves in the world around us, we fail to create an emotionally-connected and impactful memory.

We’ve all heard the advice, the wise adage: Be present in the moment. Be present in the moment. I cannot be present in a moment during which I’m trying to capture an image to later post on Facebook.

Lesson learned.

And as a reward for the lesson learned, I was given another opportunity. I don’t know if it was the same butterfly. But the next morning, when I walked out my front door, I saw a monarch on the lawn. The dew had soaked his wings, rendering him incapable of flight. I didn’t think about my phone, or Facebook or Twitter. I thought about getting him dry. I carefully picked him up and took him to a sunny spot on the bricks.

He stood there for a long while. I checked on him regularly. After about forty minutes, I saw him gingerly testing his wings. Again, I didn’t think of taking a picture. All I wanted to do was to admire those beautiful orange and black wings.

And as I drew closer, something strange and wonderful happened. He lifted from the bricks and flew to me and landed on my fingers. And there he stayed. Not for a few seconds, but for whole minutes, many of them. I carried him across the street to show him to my neighbor. I brought him back to my front yard. I urged him to fly, but he stayed with me, allowing me to STOP, LOOK, TAKE HIM IN, RECORD THE MEMORY, APPRECIATE THE SIMPLE BEAUTY. And I did.

My friend took pictures and posted them on Facebook. LOL. But not me. It wasn’t until after he flew to the bird bath that I finally got my phone and took his picture. I didn’t need to. The image is burned into my memory banks where I’ll keep it and cherish it forever. Because I was present in the moment.

butterfly

Finally, he flew away, floating on the breeze as it carried him to the tract of homes behind mine, to another backyard. Perhaps he’d share his lesson with someone else.

Of course, I will continue to post, tweet, share….It’s what we do nowadays to connect. And it’s not a bad thing. But hopefully I’ll always remember to first STOP, LOOK, TAKE IT IN, RECORD THE MEMORY, APPRECIATE THE BEAUTY. Facebook might go up in flames. Twitter might crash and burn. But for me, the Butterfly Effect will live on.

 


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Who Needs Mistletoe?

mistletoe

I was watching a movie last night and there was this really great kiss, and it got me to thinking about all of my favorite screen kisses, and I thought I’d write a blog post about it. But then I thought, it’s the holiday season, you should be writing about blessings or the perfect side dish for Christmas dinner or the rampant catalog onslaught that happens this time of year or how to survive Target when they’re offering 50% off ALL holiday items.

But then I thought, no. I want to post about kisses. So I grabbed a picture of mistletoe off the internet, you know, to make this post seem more holiday-ish, and here we go:

specialist10. The Specialist: Okay, I know. Not the most spectacular display of film-making, but when Sharon Stone and Sylvester Stallone start snogging in her hotel room, wowie zowie! This kiss leads to a pretty hot shower scene, but my post is about kissing, not hot naked shower sex, so let’s stop right here.

 

still-of-russell-crowe-and-connie-nielsen-in-gladiator-9. Gladiator: Russell Crowe is chained to a dungeon wall. Connie Neilson is oh-so-fair in her Sister-of-Caesar garb. Russell might be dead soon, if daddy-murdering Joaquin Phoenix has anything to say about it. Yeah, baby, if ever there were time for a kiss, this is it!

 

fountain8. The Fountain: Now, here again, one of the two participants in the kiss is about to die, so there’s desperation and need. And also, there’s Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weitz, two of the most attractive people on planet earth, even if she is sporting short, cancer-treatment hair. And again, this kiss leads to bathtub sex, but the precursor kiss is awesome. As for the rest of the movie, um, don’t watch it unless you’ve recently ingested a whole crap-load of mushrooms. And I ain’t talking about shitake.

thomas crowne7. The Thomas Crown Affair: When I tell you it’s the Pierce Brosnan/Renee Russo version, you will need no other explanation as to why this kiss, on the dance floor with her in her see-through black sheath and him in his tuxedo shirt with the top buttons undone, is a very delicious moment in movie kissing history.

 

blue steel6. Blue Steel: The movie is about a very deranged and homicidal Ron Silver who is obsessed with fledgling cop Jamie Lee Curtis. Her boss is a very hunk-able Clancy Brown. After she almost gets Clancy killed by handcuffing him to his steering wheel (duh!), he takes her home where they unload all of the stress and danger and urgency and fear and anxiety of the day onto each other’s lips. This kiss leads to you-know-what, and after the what something really disturbing happens. If you watch this movie, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

WhenHarryMSally_172Pyxurz5. When Harry Met Sally: This is an example of ‘We’ve been waiting the whole movie for this to happen.’ We know it will lead to no good. Harry is a rapscallion. Sally is high-maintenance. But gosh darn it they belong together. We’ve been praying for it. It’s like two wrongs make a right. And the kiss doesn’t disappoint.

 

chocolat4. Chocolate: Again, we’ve got a couple of hotties. No one is going to see Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche lock lips and think “Yuck!” But it’s the way he grasps her face in his hands and the tears of angst sliding down her cheeks and the explosion of chemistry between the two of them that makes this kiss a real doozie.

 

bridget jones3. Bridget Jones’s Diary: I’m not talking about the kiss at the end of the movie between Renee Zellwiger and Colin Firth. That kiss is oh so vanilla. I’m talking about the kiss between Renee and Hugh Grant outside the restaurant when he’s trying to seduce her. The slow-mo kiss, with tongue and saliva, is yummy and made me root for Hugh, even though his character is a total douchebag.

 

 

pretty woman2. Pretty Woman: Julia Roberts doesn’t kiss on the mouth. Too personal. Richard Gere doesn’t kiss on the mouth. Too personal. So when the two of them finally kiss on the mouth, the angels sing the Hallelujah chorus! I have to be honest here. This is not the most sizzling kiss. It’s not Against All Odds or An Officer and a Gentleman or anything. But it’s a moment so anticipated by the audience, we’re so rooting for them to get ‘too personal,’ that when it comes, we all sigh contentedly. This kiss delivers satisfaction.

catch-and-release1. Catch and Release: Jennifer Garner is pissed. Timothy Olyphant is caught in a lie he told to protect her feelings. Did I mention that she’s pissed? She slaps him across the face. He takes it. She tries to slap him again. He grabs her hand and pins it against the wall. She tries to slap him with her other hand (God bless her, she’s ambidextrous!) He grabs her other hand and pins it against the wall. They look into each other’s eyes. Then GAZINGA! This kiss goes on for a while. And it’s good. Really good. It’s rewind-and-watch-it-four-more-times good.

So those are my TOP TEN screen kisses. I have more. Maybe I’ll do another post at Valentine’s Day when I plan to release my first romance novel. But for now, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and keep the mistletoe at the ready to make your own top ten kiss!

Do you have any movie kiss favorites? Let me know for a chance to win a free copy of NOW AND THEN, my romance novel which will be out early 2016!


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Happy Freaking Birthday

photoMy mother used to say, “It’s hell getting old.”

I could never figure out why she said this because my mom was one of those people who seemed to defy the aging process, like Ruby Dee, ruby

or Jaimie Lee Curtiscurtis

or Roger Federer (Yes, this is a cheap way of inserting Roger’s picture in my blog, but hey, he’s awesome!)Roger Federer pumps his fist

But on the morning of my birthday, and I’m not going to tell you which birthday, except to say that I can no longer say I’m in my MID forties, but am now in my LATE forties–I awoke to searing, immobilizing pain in my back. After planning my special day down to the minute, I was forced to spend the entirety of my birthday on the couch, icing my inflamed scapula and the vertebrae in my neck. Oh, joy!

I have always prided myself on my athleticism. I play tennis, I jog, I swim. I also pretend I’m eighteen. On the tennis court, I don’t just swing at the ball. I go for it, racket blazing, stretching, sliding , racing to make the shot. Just like a teenager. But I’m not a teenager any longer. And, from the memo my back received on my birthday, I realize that I can’t behave like a teenager any longer. Not if I want to keep playing.

I’ve never been much of a stretcher. (I could use a stretcher right now, but that’s a different story!) I never did those warm-up things that other people–aka professionals–said I should do before exercising. I just jumped right in. But now, I have to. I never did core exercises, espoused by trainers everywhere, to keep my center in shape (as is evidenced by my protuberant belly.) I never lifted weights to strengthen my muscles and keep my bones healthy.

Guess what? I have to now.

But the thing is, my mom worked hard to maintain her glowing youthful appearance. The older she got, the harder she worked. She worked out with a trainer twice a week into her seventies. She ate right. She took amazing care of her skin, exfoliating every night and creaming her face to within an inch of her life.

So perhaps the “It’s hell getting old” business was about the fact that the older you get, the more damn stuff you have to do to age gracefully.

But since there is only one alternative to aging, and that alternative is not one I’d like to contemplate at this time, I suppose the thing to do is to make the effort.

I guess I better take that Olay Skincare System out of the box, huh? I’ll exfoliate the dead skin cells on my face right after I finish my sit ups, which I’ll do after a half hour of stretching and weight lifting, which will be preceded by a kale and spinach smoothie.

Ah, crap….

I’d like to rephrase my mother’s words: Getting old sucks.

 

 


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I MISS THE FRESH SCENT OF LAUNDRY

good chemicalsRemember when you were a kid and your mom did the laundry. She would wash it with Tide or Wisk or All-Tempi-Cheer. She’d fold it and set it on your bed, and you’d bury your nose in the stack before you put it away. And every time you reached for a clean t-shirt or undies or socks or whatever, you got a delightful whiff of spring flowers or citrus orchards or tea-rose petals. Well, my friends, this scenario just doesn’t happen anymore. Why? Because scented detergent will kill you.

You know what else will kill you? Toothpaste. Dish-washing liquid. Hand soap. Antiperspirant. Mold and mildew sprays. Plastic bottles. Don’t even get me started on microwaves. You know that new car smell, a scent so universally revered that they make air fresheners to mimic it? That will kill you. Apparently, you should roll down all the windows of your precious new car to release the noxious fumes that are spewing from your brand new air conditioner.

I try to be a good mom, so I do my best to buy the organic fruits and veggies, the BPA-free bottles, I stand a good eighteen inches from my microwave while it’s running, and even when it’s not, just in case. And I buy only the dye-free, chemical-free, fragrance-free detergents. I know that I’m protecting my kids, but some part of me also feels like I am depriving them of some future wonderful sense memory from their childhood. My kids don’t bury their faces in their clean laundry, they just dutifully put their clothes away with nary a sniff. And the worst part is, most of the time, they can’t even tell the clean laundry from the dirty, unless there’s a four-inch-Rorschach splotch of ketchup on the item in question, and even then, that item might just be clean because the all-natural detergents are crap at getting out stains!

Another problem is that I cannot control the world at large (which doesn’t stop me from trying—I am the master of my universe, darn it). But I’d bet, dollars to doughnuts, the local Target doesn’t use all-natural cleaning products in their industrial floor-mopping machines. Heaven knows what kinds of chemicals the restaurants use to scour their grills at night. My favorite sushi place is guilty of polluting our lungs. Every time a patron leaves, the waiter clears their plates then sprays the table or sushi bar with Windex. Windex! Even when someone is sitting in the very next seat trying to enjoy their yellowtail hand roll. WHOOSH! goes the spray bottle and suddenly the air is filled with blue-tinged toxins.

It’s hard enough to protect my kids from pedophiles and cyber-bullies. Now I worry about airborne chemicals. What is a mother to do? The burden of keeping my kids safe from pollutants and free radicals and carcinogens and pesticides is overwhelming.

Maybe I should move my family into a plastic bubble. As long as the plastic is BPA free….


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Simple Mistakes That Cost Us

I am not just a writer. I am a book junkie. When I finish a novel, I desperately need my next ‘hit’ of fiction before the high of the last book wears off. As soon as I reach the acknowledgements, I immediately go to Amazon and peruse that section in the middle of the page, you know the section, the one that says “Customers also bought this.”  I don’t look to see who the publisher is. I read the description and if it tickles my fancy, I’ll download a sample, and if it grabs me, I go right to “one-click” shopping, which, in my opinion, is the most dangerous phrase in the world.

So last weekend, I finished a book and was feverishly perusing descriptions. I picked a couple of novels that were thematically similar: split-second mistake and the aftermath that mistake causes within a family.

I poured myself a glass of wine and opened the first sample. The writing was actually quite good. Strong characters, proper word usage, nice vocab, etc. But I knew before I got to the end of the first page that I wouldn’t buy this book. You know why? Because of two minor problems: The quotation marks that led into the dialogue were backwards.  ALL of them. Every last one. And there were giant gaping spaces

 

between paragraphs.

 

Between EVERY paragraph.

 

Now, I am not a book-formatting Nazi. But these two mistakes scream SELF-PUBLISHED! Don’t get me wrong. I love self-published authors. I AM one. And most self-published authors are just as talented as authors published by the Big 5. But the difference is that a traditional publishing house would NEVER allow those mistakes—those two minor mistakes which caused me to close that sample and purchase the other book.

As authors putting our own work out into the world, it is our responsibility to our readers to give them the best book we can. They are paying for it. Our readers deserve properly edited, properly formatted books. If we are going to self-publish, we must BECOME a publisher in every sense of the word. Being a publisher takes time. And energy. And patience. Hiring a good editor and a formatter will cost a bit of money. But our readers will thank us, and you know how? By buying our books.

Isn’t that why we write in the first place?

Bonus tip: If you’re looking for a good formatting company for print and digital books, I use MCWriting.

 


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MY SUMMER SIX

I know that summer is just a faded memory, but as you can see by the date of my last post, I’m a little behind on everything. It’s okay, though. I’ve had kind of a tough year-and-a-half. But now things are getting back on track and I’m catching up with my life.

No matter how busy or chaotic my world gets, I never fall behind with my reading. Books are like a drug and I am an addict. A good novel is like a balm for my soul, an escape from grief, stress, screaming kids, crushing boredom. I can’t wait to finish this post just so I can get back to my latest download.

Over the summer, I purchased and read many women’s fiction novels. So many, in fact, that some of them blended into others, and sometimes I could barely remember where one ended and another began. The following are those that stood out to me.

 

one plus one1. ONE PLUS ONE: A Novel by Jojo Moyes. Part romance, part road trip, part dysfunctional family story, I loved this book from the minute I started reading it. I adored ME BEFORE YOU, but I never wanted ONE PLUS ONE to end.

husband2. THE HUSBAND’S SECRET by Liane Moriarty. Thought-provoking and powerful, this book interweaves three women’s lives, all of which are connected by an event that took place decades earlier and the awful secret one of them discovers about that event.

all fall down3. ALL FALL DOWN by Jennifer Weiner. Of course this would be on my list. Weiner can do no wrong. This story takes a hard look at how addiction masquerading as a ‘bad habit’ can impact our lives and the lives of those closest to us. (All Fall Down made me rethink my beer habit. I’ve since switched to wine. Kidding! Jeez!)

sharp objects4. SHARP OBJECTS by Gillian Flynn. Okay, I know that Gone Girl is all the rage, what with the new Ben Affleck movie. And although the book was very good and very well-written, I honestly didn’t enjoy it. (Ironically, I did enjoy the movie. And no, I’m not just saying that to get back into Ms. Flynn’s good graces. I doubt my not enjoying Gone Girl will keep her awake at night.) Sharp Objects, however, really got me. Dark, disturbing, but unexpectedly filled with hope.

above 15. ABOVE by Isla Morley. I bought this book after hearing Isla’s keynote speech at the Southern California Writers Conference last month. Well-written, suspenseful and engaging, but the twist is what really made this book stand out.

don't let me go6. DON’T LET ME GO by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Great characters that leapt from the page and stole my heart. Funny and lovely tale of how one girl can transform a group of apathetic strangers into a close, caring family unit.

(If I were a shameless self-promoter, I would also note that I read my own novel SAY NEVER fresh from the formatter, and even after God-knows-how-many times I’ve read it, it still made me laugh and cry. But since I’m more of a shameful self-promoter, I refuse to add it to the above list. It’s coming out soon, so maybe it will make someone else’s list…hint hint…)

SAY NEVER_FrtCvr r1

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get back to WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY BESIDE OURSELVES by Karen Joy Fowler. I’ve only just started it, but I have a feeling it’s going to make my Fall list!

What are your favorite reads of the last few months? Comment below. I’m always looking for suggestions!

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