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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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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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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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…)

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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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BLOG ROLL – WRITING PROCESS

As many of you know, my mom passed away last year, just before summer began. It’s been a tough year, not only because of my grief, but also because I was tasked with settling her affairs. This became a time-consuming and emotional business, and my writing suffered as a result. But recently, many of my writing friends and supporters have been contacting me, asking me about my new book, offering reviews and giveaways, help with marketing. etc. and I feel a little like Al Pacino when he said: “Just when I thought I was OUT, they PULL me back in.” Only in a non-drug-related and positive way. So, thanks, all, for the love!

The very talented Suzanne Redfearn invited me to take part in a blog roll. I was thrilled and flattered, especially since I read Suzanne’s novel HUSH LITTLE BABY in ONE DAY because I could NOT put it down. A blog roll is similar to a chain letter, in that if you choose to participate, you invite other authors to participate and so on and so forth.  All of us answer the same questions about our writing processes and it gives readers an opportunity to discover new authors and the unique ways in which we write.

Here goes:

1. WHAT AM I WORKING ON –

I am in the final edit of my mystery MURDER IN A MINOR.  This is the first novel in my musical murder mystery series featuring detective Samantha Wedlock. This is a bit of a departure for me, as my readers know me for SOMETHING NEW and SWEET NOTHINGS, which is humorous women’s fiction. But I have always loved mysteries, and am very excited about the upcoming digital release. I am also finishing the first draft of a romance novel called NOW AND THEN, which is loosely based on the Don Henley song HEART OF THE MATTER. (The awesome Emily Giffin already used that song title for one of her books, darn her!)

2. HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS OF ITS GENRE?

My main character, Sam Wedlock, is a closet songwriter–she composes songs in her head based on things going on in her life–her relationships, her cases, etc. MURDER IN A MINOR has a strong musical element and contains snippets of her compositions.

3. WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?

I love to entertain and make people laugh. I’m never going to write anything bleak, because we have enough tragedy, conflict and stress in this world. I like to offer an escape from those things. Most of my stories involve strong women. I grew up with an extremely strong and amazing mom, so in some ways, all of my books are a celebration of her (although many of my characters have serious flaws which my mother did not!) I’m also a romantic at heart–a sucker for a happy ending. I love writing about relationships and the trials and the tangles and the Tango of love. I can’t recall ever writing a story–and this goes all the way back to my first attempt when I was six–that didn’t have some sort of romantic element.

4. HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK?

I haven’t figured that one out yet! I don’t really outline. Basically, I sit in front of the computer and hope the words come. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes I drink.

5. AND THE OTHER PART OF THIS QUESTION, HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS NOT WORK?

Please see above.

WHO’S NEXT: All three of these women are amazing. I am grateful for their friendship and inspired by their talent.

Samantha Stroh Bailey, whose flirty, fun and romantic FINDING LUCAS captured my heart.

http://samanthastrohbailey.blogspot.ca/   and   http://samanthastrohbailey.com/

Julie Valerie, book blogger extraordinaire whose first novel debuts soon.

http://www.julievalerie.com/

Christa Yelich-Koth, whose graphic novel HOLLOW is a feast for the eyes and the mind.

http://christayelichkoth.com/

 

 

 

 


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As Seen on ScaryMommy…Thanks, Jill!

Mother-and-Child-700x400

 

This week, I was honored to be featured on ScaryMommy.com, Jill Smokler’s amazing blog, of which I’m a huge fan. The following is an excerpt from my guest post. Please visit ScaryMommy for the rest!

THERE’S NO ‘ME’ IN MOTHERHOOD…OR IS THERE?

Something strange and insidious happens when you become a mother. And no, I’m not talking about stretch marks, although those suckers are truly strange and insidious.

The moment a woman becomes a mom — as soon as that screaming, slippery, wonderful, miraculous baby is pushed from her loins — her world suddenly shrinks down to those things that involve her child.

When I was younger, before I had kids, if people asked me about myself, I would tell them all the fantastic things I enjoyed doing, or had done, like singing in clubs around New York City, or jumping out of airplanes from 14,000 feet, or going on national tours with off-Broadway shows.

Now, when people ask me about myself, I talk about my kids. Not that they aren’t worthy of conversation. They are amazing and gorgeous and great and terrific and funny and bright and — oops. See? I did it again.

But sometimes I wonder, what happened to me? The me before kids who parasailed in Florida and closed a club called Tattinger’s in Atlantic City at 7AM, and chased owls and assorted oddly colored bugs in Joshua Tree, and walked on the ruins of the Acropolis.

– See more at: http://www.scarymommy.com/theres-no-me-in-motherhood-or-is-there/#sthash.VMKixKSp.dpuf

 

 

 

 


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Dragonfly Mom

dragonflyI was in my sister’s pool doing laps when a large red dragonfly swooped down and started following me back and forth. My first thought was “Mom?”

I know how crazy that sounds—I don’t believe in reincarnation, and even if I did, my mom would never come back as a dragonfly or an insect of any kind, for that matter. She’d come back as a mighty lioness or a beautiful dolphin or Sophia Loren. And I was angry with myself for even having this thought.

But I realized that I was simply desperate to feel that Mom is with me in some way, that she hovers somewhere close by watching over me, that she’s STILL HERE. Because despite what others say (i.e. “She’s with you, Janis. She’s within you, Janis”), and whether or not what they say is true, Mom is NOT HERE. I can’t give her a hug. I can’t hear her musical laugh. I can’t receive from her the advice and wisdom I need. I can’t make her smile or listen to her sing a bawdy British drinking song or shake up a martini for her to enjoy. I can’t hold her hand and watch Bones with her.

And, quite frankly, that sucks.

My son, who is ten, often tells me that he will love me and need me forever. (And, furthermore, he says he is never moving out—gulp!) And I know that he means what he says. Because we do love and need our moms forever. I need my mom now, probably more than I ever did, as I try to navigate middle age and motherhood and menopause. I am constantly questioning my choices and worrying about my decisions and ruing my hormone-challenged, ever-changing (and not for the better) body.

If Mom were here, I know what she would say. She’d say, “Janis, you are wonderful. You’re doing a terrific job. I’m so proud of you.”

And maybe knowing what Mom would say to me is the way in which she IS HERE. And although it’s not enough, it’ll have to do for now.

Until the next dragonfly comes along.