So it’s Christmas week, and I know each and every one of you has your gifts wrapped in matching themed paper, your dinner menus planned with place cards scripted in Old English calligraphy, your cookies baked and covered in sprinkles, and your cards signed and mailed to everyone who attended your wedding (insert laughter here). But seriously, some of you may still be looking for a last-minute gift, so why not think BOOKS!
Judging by the amount of a coupons I’ve been emailed from Borders lately, we’re on the same page (at this point, I think their stock is 30% off too). And the clever folks at IndieBound would like to remind you that, “A Scented Candle Never Changed Anyone’s Life.” So don’t just buy your milk local, buy your books local too.
And to help you out, I’m dipping into my big Santa bag of tricks to create some Haiku Reviews that might inspire you to pick up a book for that special someone. Because nothing says “Ho! Ho! Ho!” more than kids fighting to the death. Um, Catching Fire... My Haiku Reviews
CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins
Survivor All Stars
revolt and die in the ring
Can’t wait for book three
THE NAUGHTY LIST by Suzanne Young (advanced reader’s copy)
Meg Cabot humor
with some Sex Kittens thrown in
Cutest book ever BEST FRIENDS FOREVER by Jennifer Weiner
Sweet and nostalgic
A high school reunion meets
Thelma and Louise PROPHECY OF THE SISTERS by Michelle Zink
End of days is near
Modern day gothic novel
Like the evil twin THE LATKE WHO COULDN’T STOP SCREAMING, A CHRISTMAS STORY by Lemony Snicket
Chrismukkah on crack
For those who celebrate both
This book is way fun
Feel free to leave your own Haiku reviews in the comments. I’m always looking for book recommendations to spend my coupons on!
POP CULTURE RANT: General Hospital I’ve waited as long as I could to say this, but the Franco storyline just isn’t grabbing me. You’d think an A-List celebrity doing a soap opera would be daytime gold, but so far it seems disconnected from the show. I don’t care about this character at all. And Jason fighting yet another threat to “his family” on the heels of Alcazar, Manny, the Russians, Jerry Jax, just seems played out. I wish the writers had done something else with “Franco.” Because right now, the Liz-Lucky-Nick triangle is more interesting. And this is coming from a Sam fan.
Oh, Chrismukkah! Oh, Chrismukkah! How lovely are your candles! For those who don’t know, my DH and I are rocking the interfaith marriage. He’s Jewish, I’m Catholic, and for the past 11 years, we’ve pretty much perfected the menorah/Santa hybrid holiday we call Chrismukkah. But this holiday season, we’re staying with “Those Who Will House Me ‘Til Then,” so there have been lots of inquiries as to whether we can pull off the season in temporary digs.
Now it must be said that I am a Christmas freak. I can’t help it. I was raised by a Christmas freak. My sister’s a Christmas freak, my aunt’s a freak. The seasonal sickness has a long and lengthy family history. So I am publicly admitting that there are seven large Home Depot plastic garage tubs in our basement labeled “Christmas.” We’ve got inside decorations, outside decorations, ornaments, lights, wreaths, you name it.
Add to that, two menorahs, two Chrismukkah books (Yes, they actually make these. We got them as gifts), and plenty of challah. Plus, we also go to the DH’s annual family Hanukkah party, which was this past Saturday.
So our Chrismukkah-filled weekend went something like this: FRIDAY
- Lit candles for first night of Hanukkah with DH’s parents and grandma. Blessed the wine, blessed the challah, ate chicken, gave each other candy.
- Went to friend’s birthday party in Philly and drank a little more wine— this wine was not blessed (accept by Napa sommeliers).
- Went to Home Depot, bought seven-foot Christmas tree (I like Noble firs), and plopped it in one of the cool foot petal stands.
- Went to Hanukkah party, brought fruit salad, lit candles for second night of Hanukkah, ate latkes, exchanged Pollyanna gifts (got an iTunes gift card, gave a Philosophy gift set).
- Decorated Christmas tree with my husband’s Jewish family. How nice are they? They even listened to Christmas carols as they hung the Potterybarn crystal snowflakes.
- Ate sushi and latkes.
- Baked Christmas cookies. My signature cookie is the Maple Lace (they’re these lacey oatmeal cookies sandwiched with melted chocolate).
- Watched the Eagles game. They won! And they’re in first place, officially making it a Chrismukkah miracle!
POP CULTURE RANT: Eagles How awesome was that Eagles-Giants game last night? I cheered, I panicked, I bit my nails. And to top off their win, the Cowboys lost (Thank you, San Diego!). But, I will say I was a little shocked by all the punches. I mean, what good is it throwing a punch at someone wearing a helmet and a few tons of protective pads? It’s a wasted effort that will only get you thrown from the game. Whether you’re winning or losing, don’t be a jerk about it. This isn’t hockey.
* Those are photos of my actual tree and actual Hanukkah party, slightly blurred to protect my pint-sized relatives. It is the Internet, folks.
Ah, Manhattan at Christmas time, gotta love it. Of course when I lived in Times Square and my roommate worked at Rockefeller Center, she swore we “lived in Christmas hell.” The crowds can be rather aggressive, you know? But still, it’s very pretty.
And I’m proud to report that I even got a little snow when I visited this weekend. I felt just like that Alabama song.
“By now in New York City… There’s snow on the ground…” Christmas in Dixie
Anyway, as a former resident and current tourist of the great city of New York, I have a few observations to share. Things I Noticed About Christmas in NYC This Year:
1. You won the World Series! Does anyone remember that? Because Philly does, painfully. Yet you can walk around Manhattan for days and see no evidence of the Yankee’s accomplishment. There are no signs in the windows, no banners in store displays, no flags on cars. If the fans really care that little, I think we should take back championship.
2. We found a rockin’ four-star hotel on Lastminutetravel.com for $179. Considering NY prices, that’s practically free. And our place had a bedroom, two bathrooms, a living room, a kitchen and a dining room! I’m not joking. It was extended stay that was bigger than my friends’ apartments.
3. Takashimaya, the Japanese department store, has the best selection of under $25 Pollyanna gifts ever! There was a Lego calculator, a funky paper wallet, an engraved silver NYC subway map, typewriter key cufflinks. You name the random crap, and it’s got it!
4.The tree at Rockefeller Center has no ornaments. Was it always that way?
5. The price of a caricature in Central Park has gone down from $20 to $15. See, the economy has affected everyone.
6. We found three—count ‘em THREE—free parking spots over the weekend. We didn’t pay for parking once. The odds of that happening are about as good as me winning the lottery, maybe I should play…
7. If you go to the Met, you don’t actually have to pay $20 per adult (as the sign says). It’s just a “suggested donation.” You can just give them $5 if you want. Really.
8. There are “bridal consultants” in the J.Crew in Rockefeller Center.
9. The ring that inspired my engagement ring is no longer at Tiffany’s. (Six years ago, my DH took the Tiffany specs of that ring to a jeweler in the Diamond District and had the ring recreated for much less. He’s so smart.)
10. I'm mad old. At one point while visiting a college friend, I realized we had just spent thirty minutes discussing furniture and the prices at Pottery Barn. That's sad, folks. We used to do shots.
POP CULTURE RANT: Shrek the Halls Okay, I think this is officially the best modern Christmas movie in existence. If you haven’t seen it, rent it. Now. It’s really funny. And as always, my favorite character is Puss ‘n Boots. If you’ve got a cat, you’ll find this clip funny. “I’ve shamed myself.”
GCC Member Debbie Rigaud Breaks Some Barriers at Simon Pulse
I’m excited to introduce everyone to GCC member Debbie Rigaud, who has a breakthrough young adult novel debuting through Simon Pulse. PERFECT SHOT! marks the first book in the Simon Pulse Romantic Comedies series to feature an African-American protagonist and to be written by an African-American. Talk about breaking down some barriers! And to make Debbie even cooler, she lives in Bermuda. Jealous, yet? Okay, so let’s talk about her novels.
As always, here’s a little bit about her book to get you hooked:
What’s the wackiest thing you’ve ever done after a crush attack?
High school athlete London Abrams is more likely to spike a volleyball than wear spike heels. Yet in one crush-tastic moment, she signs up for a modeling contest as an excuse to meet the photo intern Brent St. John. But instead of getting a call back from Brent, London gets a call back from contest judges! Now she’s in a fierce modeling competition feeling way out of her league, and Brent’s camera is zoomed in to document everything. Suddenly, London’s not feeling so ready for her close up.
Here’s what Debbie had to say:
Q: In AMOR AND SUMMER SECRETS, Mariana discovers a hidden family secret. Are you a good secret keeper?
Debbie: I try to be. I look at it this way, there are too many people spilling secrets and feeling okay about it, just because they convince themselves that it's okay to tell one trustworthy person. That one person then tells their one trustworthy person and so on. Pretty soon, everyone knows that secret.
Very perceptive. I think that IS how many secrets are spread.
Q: What is the favorite place you ever traveled to, and what was the coolest thing you saw/did there?
Debbie: Ghana, West Africa. It was such a culturally and spiritually enriching vacation. The coolest thing about my trip was vibing with the people. From friendly teen students, knowledgeable tour guides, market vendors, hip hop MC's and talented dressmakers (who hooked me up with gorgeous traditional dresses), I was given the warmest welcome.
Sounds like an AMAZING trip! I must add Ghana to my list of must-see places!
Q: I often tell the story of how a psychic once predicted that I would go on to write children’s books. Have you ever visited a psychic?
Debbie: Yes, I have visited a psychic before. I went with friends, which made it more fun. I'm totally fascinated by all things paranormal. Ironically, I absolutely don't like getting predictions. Predictions mess with my head. I'm afraid of hearing anything unpleasant, like when I was told that my college boyfriend wasn't "the one." At the time, I really wanted him to be and didn't want to hear anything to the contrary.
Q: My character Mariana spends her summer in Puerto Rico connecting with her father’s heritage. Have you ever researched your family tree?
Debbie: Sad to say, but I haven't yet visited Haiti, the place my parents were born. But I adore everything about the vibrant Haitian heritage I inherited. In researching my family, I've learned that my relatives left their mark on Haitian history. For example, my dad's great great grandfather played a role in the Haitian Revolution. My dad even pointed out the page where our great-great-great grandad's photo was included in his school history books. Pretty cool.
Q: Where were you when you found out that your book was going to be published? Debbie: I was on vacation in Accra, Ghana with my husband. We stopped by this tiny but crowded Internet cafe in the heart of the busy capitol one night. That's where I read my agent's email announcing my book deal. I was mad excited, but I kept cool until I exited the café, so as not to cause a scene and incite panic in such a tight space. Once outside, I told the hubby and we celebrated over chilled bottles of pineapple juice.
Thank you, Debbie! Now, everyone go out and buy books, lots and lots of books!
Diana Rodriguez Wallach’s debut young adult novel, Amor and Summer Secrets, is the first in a three-book series published by Kensington Publishing in 2008 and 2009. In addition to writing, Diana is a pop-culture junkie: everything from primetime to soaps, ew.com to The Soup, The Hangover to Slumdog, and Gossip Girl to Jane Austen. She’s loves it all and loves to rant. Enjoy!