Category Archives: Reading

Not Your Father’s Vampire Novel

I got reacquainted with children’s and young adult literature when my boys started reading for school and I wanted to read along with them. The fact that I have three boys, and that they attend all-boy schools means most of the reading we did together featured strong male characters. And the last vampire novel I read had protagonists name Louis and Lestat. So when I picked up The Monster’s Daughter I figured I’d find myself out of my element. But I picked it up anyway.

And, boy, am I glad I did.

Cover image used with author's permission.

Ginny Connors turned out to be my kind of heroine. Smart and sensible, she refuses to become a victim of her surroundings. Bearing the scars of a troubled life, she works through some serious issues – being raised by a widowed father, her sister’s substance abuse, and the usual angst that comes with being a 17-year old from a small town – without allowing herself to be defined by them.

When the people she loves are threatened, she comes to the realization that she alone can solve the problem that plagues them. But to do so, she must make an enormous personal sacrifice for the greater good and walk amongst the evil she loathes.

Motivated by love, she faces her choices with firm resolve.

Deborah Bryan’s first novel is an easy read, with contemporary language that flows in a comfortable, familiar style. And best of all – it’s the first installment of The Glass Ball Trilogy!


Now for the good part. I just happen to have a SIGNED COPY of The Monster’s Daughter that I’m going to give away here!

See! Signed by the author, with a bonus vampire smiley!

Here’s how to enter:

  • Send me an email with the subject line “TMD Giveaway!”
  • Share this link on your blog and send me an email with the link to the shared page and the subject line “I blogged it!”
  • Share this link on Facebook and send me an email with the subject line “I shared it on Facebook!”
  • Tweet about this giveaway, mentioning @lpfink, and send me an email with the subject line: “I Tweeted it!”

My email address: happinessengineer (at) yahoo (dot) com.

If you’d like more than one shot at winning, do more than one of these! You’ll be entered once for each of the above actions you take.

And what better day to announce the winner than FRIDAY THE 13th!

Entries will close at 12:00 A.M. CST on Friday, April 13th, and the winner will be posted on this site by 5:00 P.M. CST that day.

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This post was linked up at Mama Kat’s Writing Workshop. Hop over and check it out!

Talk Nerdy to Me — Part I

They’re irritating and overused.  Like the sound of fingernails of a blackboard, I cringe when I hear them.  We’ve all got a few on our personal lists, but there are a handful that are universally accepted as obnoxious.  Annoying phrases are everywhere.


I know I’m not the only one who wishes many of these phrases and words would go away.  I know there are others like me out there who long for a return to a more genteel manner of speaking.  (Now, I don’t want to swing to the opposite extreme.  I don’t need to ask my son “with whom he will be going to the movies.”)  But I would embrace the renaissance of a few polite and well-mannered phrases to replace some of the ones I feel just have to go.

The number one offender: “(I/she/he) was like.”  Attention teenagers: this is not a verb phrase.  If you want to describe what someone says, does, or feels, there are verbs for that purpose.  Please learn how to use them.

Fusion words: combining two words, then dropping a syllable or two because you’re too lazy to say the whole thing.  “ ‘Sup?” is the number one offending word in this category, but there are many, many more. “Dja-eat?” (“Did you eat?”)  If the statement or question requires two words, please speak them both.  Having a conversation reduced to a few grunted syllables is just rude and makes you sound like a cave man.

Overuse of the word, “Whatever.”  This non-committal word usually means the responder disagrees with what you’re saying, but doesn’t have the energy or vocabulary to respond appropriately.  Parents, beware.  It does not imply agreement.  It’s a verbal tool teenagers use to stop a conversation.

Interrogative words: What happened to them?  Questions should begin with words like how, may, why, or did.  Raising the pitch at the end of a phrase and inserting a question mark does not constitute a question. (“You went to the store?”)

The dreaded “No offense, but…”  This phrase should just be stricken.  No good can come of anything said after that phrase.  This disclaimer does not give you license to say rude or ugly things, just because you’ve preceded the insult with a feigned politeness.  Using the Southern cousin, “Bless his/her heart” (as in, “My aunt is crazy, bless her heart.”) after a put-down is just as offensive.  Don’t do it.

Now, I realize that language is an evolving entity.  Today’s vernacular is significantly different from that of just a few decades ago.  Therefore — as with all things – this, too, shall pass.  I just hope I live long enough to hear it happen.

For now, if you see me around and want to chat, avoid these phrases. Speak in complete sentences and leave out some of the slang.  Let your language bear some resemblance to the mother tongue we learned in school.  Please talk nerdy to me.

Which phrases make your head spin?  Please share if I’ve left out the one that makes your head spin!

Coming soon: Part 2 – Nerdy words, and how to use them.

A Pee-in-your-Pants Good Time

Because I live in the “Mommy Fast-Lane” I don’t often hear about new book releases (or other events that happen outside the worlds of my kids’ schools or my mother-in-law’s-doctor’s-office’s waiting room).  But when I saw Tina Fey’s new book Bossypants on the end cap at Wal-Mart I stopped in my tracks, moved the deli meat and eggs out of the seat of the shopping cart and placed it there so I could start flipping through the pages while I finished shopping.


You see, I’m a late-blooming Tina Fey fan.  As I’m rarely able to stay up late enough to watch Saturday Night Live, and her time there was before we had Tivo, I saw little of her prior to the birth of 30 Rock in 2006 (except for her Sarah Palin sketches which made it all the way to network news).  The show was on the air for quite some time before I caught wind of how hysterically funny it was and started watching.  But the moment I invested a little time in getting to know Liz Lemon, I was hooked.  I had found my sarcastic soul-mate.

I was afraid of taking out other shoppers by reading-while-shopping, so I finished up and headed home.  I threw the cold stuff into the fridge, sat down at the kitchen table, and started laughing.  Just the back cover had me snorting Diet Dr. Pepper out of my nose.  So I put away the groceries, gave the kids a snack, and settled into my favorite chair to dive in.

Reading this book is the most fun I’ve had by myself in a long time.  It turns out that Tina Fey is a lot like me. (Except for the part about being stinky rich and famous and a Democrat.)  And if you’re reading this blog, she’s probably a lot like you, too. A regular person with a strong work ethic, intense love for her family, and a longing to make her dreams come true.  Her straightforward observations about life are a lot like mine.  Respect people for who they are and what they can contribute.  Give all you’ve got to whatever you do.  Love your family.  Be nice to your in-laws.

My recommendation:  If you have a uterus, a child or are an underdog in any way, go buy/download/borrow Bossypants immediately.  If none of those apply, go watch something on ESPN.

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In homage to Tina Fey, and in celebration of Mother’s Day, I’ll leave you with this:

The Mother’s Prayer for Its Daughter.  

First, Lord: No tattoos. May neither Chinese symbol for truth nor Winnie-the-Pooh holding the FSU logo stain her tender haunches.

May she be Beautiful but not Damaged, for it’s the Damage that draws the creepy soccer coach’s eye, not the Beauty.

When the Crystal Meth is offered, May she remember the parents who cut her grapes in half and stick with Beer.

Guide her, protect her when crossing the street, stepping onto boats, swimming in the ocean, swimming in pools, walking near pools, standing on the subway platform, crossing 86th Street, stepping off of boats, using mall restrooms, getting on and off escalators, driving on country roads while arguing, leaning on large windows, walking in parking lots, riding Ferris wheels, roller-coasters, log flumes, or anything called “Hell Drop,” “Tower of Torture,” or “The Death Spiral Rock ‘N Zero G Roll featuring Aerosmith,” and standing on any kind of balcony ever, anywhere, at any age.

Lead her away from Acting but not all the way to Finance. Something where she can make her own hours but still feel intellectually fulfilled and get outside sometimes and not have to wear high heels.

What would that be, Lord? Architecture? Midwifery? Golf course design? I’m asking You, because if I knew, I’d be doing it, Youdammit.

May she play the Drums to the fiery rhythm of her Own Heart with the sinewy strength of her Own Arms, so she need Not Lie With Drummers.

Grant her a Rough Patch from twelve to seventeen. Let her draw horses and be interested in Barbies for much too long, For childhood is short – a Tiger Flower blooming Magenta for one day – And adulthood is long and dry-humping in cars will wait.

O Lord, break the Internet forever, That she may be spared the misspelled invective of her peers And the online marketing campaign for Rape Hostel V: Girls Just Wanna Get Stabbed.

And when she one day turns on me and calls me a Bitch in front of Hollister, Give me the strength, Lord, to yank her directly into a cab in front of her friends, For I will not have that Shit. I will not have it.

And should she choose to be a Mother one day, be my eyes, Lord, that I may see her, lying on a blanket on the floor at 4:50 A.M., all-at-once exhausted, bored, and in love with the little creature whose poop is leaking up its back.

“My mother did this for me once,” she will realize as she cleans feces off her baby’s neck. “My mother did this for me.” And the delayed gratitude will wash over her as it does each generation and she will make a Mental Note to call me. And she will forget. But I’ll know, because I peeped it with Your God eyes.


It is Meat and Drink to Me*

As I’ve already professed to the world that I consider myself a Nerd, it will come as no big shock to hear that I love to read.  As a nerdy kid, my social skills were a little lax, so being with 3-dimensional people was sometimes awkward.  Thus began my friendship with the local librarian.  The Wagner Library was about 6 blocks from my house, and (back in the day when you could let a little girl roam about unsupervised) I went there almost every day.

Check out that first edition Bobbsey Twins novel! It's OK to be jealous!

5 was the number of books you were allowed to check out in one day, and 5 was the number of books I went home with most of the time.  Several times a week I’d trot back for more.  After exploring the library and reading different things, I determined that I liked non-fiction best, and after exhausting all the books that “interested” me, I set out to read the entire library.  That proved to be a little ambitious (even for me), so I narrowed my scope down to Sections 920 through 998:  Biographies and History.  And I started reading them in order.

My love affair with reading continued through high school, and when it came time to declare a major, I stumbled on something in the curriculum guide that seemed too good to be true:  A Liberal Arts degree, with concentrations in Literature and History.  I studied Shakespeare, Moliere, and my favorite author– Emerson.  My husband fell in love with me over Hawthorne’s Young Goodman Brown(He’ll probably deny that, but I know the truth.)  I delved into Russian and European history with zeal, and actually worked as a research assistant on a book called The Artist as Politician, relating the role of art in the politics of 19th century France.

A few of the "Little Kid Favorites" we keep on the shelf. The rest are in boxes (many, many boxes) in storage.

Then something happened.  I had kids.  And the pursuits I loved so much before took a back burner to their pursuits, and I stopped reading.  Well, I didn’t stop altogether.  I just stopped reading books with big words and no illustrations.  I read what they read.  We started with Dr. Seuss, and worked our way up through J.K. Rowling and Lemony Snicket.  One summer I read the entire Lloyd Alexander series, The Chronicles of Prydain (which I highly recommend!) with The Middle Child.  Reading and sharing it with him gave me great joy, and I vowed I’d start reading again, but it was a promise I didn’t keep.

Then a funny thing happened.  The kids grew up.  And I rediscovered my favorite pastime!  Now I have 20 years of catching up to do, so I’m taking it kind of slow, but I’m proud to say that in the last few months I’ve finished TWO BOOKS!  Actual hardbacks, with no pictures!  The kids had to fend for themselves a couple of times, and I left clothes in the dryer overnight.  But I finished!  (Sounds like a small feat to those without kids and a house and a dog and a mother-in-law, but it’s a huge accomplishment for me!)  So What I Read will become a part of The Lucky Mom’s new world, and I’ll be accountable to my followers to keep it interesting!

(In case you’re interested, the two books, Jane Boleyn: The True Story of the Infamous Lady Rochford by Julia Fox and Tina Fey’s new memoir Bossypants, will be reviewed under the tab at the right, What I Read.

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*“It is meat and drink to me…” — William Shakespeare, As You Like It (1616)