Archive | January 2013

Our New Puppy

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All the dogs that we had previously adopted were already fully grown, or almost. I loved the looks and personalities of our beloved late Rudi, Gretchen, and Lucky. To me, they were the most gorgeous and best doggies in the world. The same stands for Gunner, our two-year-old German shepherd. But I’d always wished I’d seen each of them in their puppyhood. Alas, I couldn’t, so the word “regret” doesn’t apply to this situation. Well, I’m happy to say that I finally have this wonderful opportunity with our new pet, a three-month-old golden retriever that we adopted yesterday. Oh, what a fuzzy little miracle! A dynamo! A beauty! And smart to boot. It took her less than an hour to learn her new name, Greta. Her previous owners expressed their concern about Greta’s fear of big dogs. Nah-uh! Not this puppy. Not only is she not intimidated by her new 70-pound big brother, Gunner, but she’s the one to provoke a playful “fight”–she slaps him on the nose, bites him on his ears, pulls at the tags hanging from his collar, and she even tries to climb onto his back when he rests on the floor. It’s fun to watch them chasing one another.

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Claire Cook’s “Life’s a Beach”

Claire Cook’s Life’s a Beach is not a page-turner, but in a good way! The detailed description of the protagonist’s life and her constant interior monologue pulls you into that life and almost makes you part of it. Ginger Walsh becomes someone you know very well, and you want to help her somehow, at least with advice. Like other heroines in Cook’s novels, Ginger is lonely, but not because she’s an introvert or an unlikeable person, but because, despite living close to her loving family and being in a relationship with a boyfriend, she can’t decide what she wants to do with her life or who she wants to tie herself to permanently, if ever. At forty-one, she’s still searching. She feels an artistic streak in herself, and takes up making sea glass jewelry, but she has no confidence in her abilities to create art. She needs a “push” that would make her believe in herself. Partly, she gets it from her mother who reminds her, “Ever since you were tiny, you always had to find the hardest way to do everything. Remember, Virginia, you choose your life or it chooses you.” You choose your life or it chooses you. So true, isn’t it? And I also love what Ginger’s boyfriend, Noah, a talented glassblower, tells her. He says, “Passion is the key to everyone’s gifts.” Perfect! Anyone who strives to achieve something in life should remember it. Passion is the key! Overall, I like the optimism in the novel.

Claire Cook’s “Ready To Fall”

Claire Cook loves writing about lonely women. Dissatisfied, disillusioned, insecure, unhappy women. They may be in their thirties and still single and lonely, or they may be married for several years and still feel lonely. In her novel, Ready To Fall, a 40-ish woman, Beth, has a husband, three kids, a nice home, and a satisfying job at a library. Some may ask: What else does she need for happiness? Well, her marriage has gone sour: Pete’s passion for her is gone, as well as his understanding and appreciation of her. Her role in life seems to be reduced to catering to her husband’s and children’s needs. Beth craves love and passion and romance, but she has stopped hoping that she’ll ever get them from her husband again.

So what does she do? She turns to cyberspace for solace, bombarding her neighbor, who has just separated from his wife, with e-mails, as well as tending to his house while he’s on a lengthy business trip. Despite his very short responses to her, or even lack thereof, Beth’s feelings for Thomas grow exponentially as her daily letters to him become longer and longer. She imagines herself in love with him and is ready for an affair. Some things that she writes to him are so embarrassing they belong only in her personal diary, but although she understands that, she doesn’t revise or delete anything; instead, she advises Thomas to just skip whatever he doesn’t find interesting. At some point she admits that she writes more to herself than to him, desperately needing to unload her feelings to someone.

Once, while strolling on the shore, she fantasizes about walking away from her present life and starting a new one. Just like Delia Grinstead, the protagonist in Anne Tyler’s novel, Ladder of Years, does when she picks up her pace and leaves her husband and kids behind and reinvents herself in a different city. (Don’t we all wish we could do just that, at one point or another, at least for a few days?) But that would be a transition from one extreme to another, from selflessness to selfishness. Beth doesn’t do that. Instead, she goes on a week-long retreat with a group of women, where they engage in lots of activities that help them understand who they are now and define themselves. It’s an enviously fun trip, in my opinion. Just women, chatting, laughing, bonding.

In conclusion, I must say that although Beth’s behavior borders on ridiculous and even pathetic sometimes, you still can’t help but sympathize with this sensitive, impressionable woman who wishes to regain what she has lost.

Rudi & Gretchen

MOM_withpupsIt’s hard to let go of beloved pets who become family from the day you bring them home from the pound. At least that’s how it is in our family. Our dogs brought such joy to our lives that it broke our hearts when they passed away. Memories of happy days with our beloved Rudi and Gretchen were not enough, so when writing, it felt right to give them a “second life” on the pages of my novels. It felt good to spend time with them again, healthy, happy and alive. In Without Thinking Twice you’ll briefly meet Gretchen, the sassy, fox-like beauty. And in A Measure of Guilt, both Gretchen and Rudi (the smart, regal-looking, black-haired pal) get to romp around a San Diego beach, where my husband and I spent two weeks with them in real life.

The picture on the left was taken in Arhus, on a family vacation in Denmark in 2007.

Gunner is back!

Last night, James Oliver, the dog trainer, http://www.dogu.us/ brought our German shepherd, Gunner, back from a week-long boot camp. I was so thrilled to finally see my baby that I was on him like a starved stray dog on a bone. I hugged him and kissed him, I petted his head, I scratched between his ears, I told him all the sweet things about how I loved him and how I missed him. What was Gunner’s reaction, though? Not the one that I’d expected. He licked my nose once and that was it. Huh? I was hurt. Hadn’t he missed me? Or had he felt abandoned (and hurt!) when I’d surrended him to James, a week earlier, and now couldn’t forgive my “betrayal”? Or had he become such a well-trained dog that he had learned a “proper” behavior and the skill of concealing his emotions, that is, his joy and exultation at seeing his parents again? Perhaps all that.

James talked to us for a good two hours about Gunner’s behavior at the obedience school and about the results of the training. The results were obviously impressive. Whereas a week ago Gunner wouldn’t come to me when I called him, unless I bribed him with a piece of meat, now, James had to only whisper his name or make a clucking sound, and Gunner was at his feet in a sec, practically begging for a praise, his nose up, his tail wagging. And the adoring look he gave to James? It made me jealous! Well…as James explained to us, it wasn’t love that Gunner felt for his teacher, it was RESPECT!

So. It’s all about respect as far as a man-dog relationship goes. If a dog doesn’t respect his parents (well, owners, in some people’s opinion), s/he won’t obey them. And that’s what we have to work on now–teach our spoiled dog respect. No more scraps from the table, no more lying on the couch, or in our bed, no more affection for Gunner at his request, but only when we want to show it, and so on and so forth. If we stick to his weekly assignments as to how to treat and train Gunner, James guarantees that we’ll have a perfect “gentleman-dog” at the end of one or two months. Oh, we do hope so!

Jason Starr’s The Craving

thecravingUSI shouldn’t have expected the “expected” ending in Jason Starr’s “The Craving”–the sequel to “The Pack”–since every novel of his had surprised me at the end. Yet, I was shocked. I was devouring the last ten+ pages (just like Simon Burns, the protagonist, devours everything that’s meat), anticipating–no, craving!– for the desired outcome, and…what? Huh?!?! Seriously? That’s not how I would end this tale! That’s not how most writers would’ve ended it! But this novelist hates the predictable. And guess what? I applaud him! Well done, Mr. Starr! I give you 5 stars!

A week without Gunner

GunnerRestingThis is the longest week of my life! All because our Gunner is at boot camp, and I miss him something awful. One comfort, he’s successful at learning obedience and manners, according to his trainer, James. And judging by the photo of his begging for the food on my plate, he obviously needs to learn some manners. Because we never go anywhere together where dogs aren’t allowed, my husband and I decided to take advantage of Gunner’s absence and went to the Smithsonian National Art Museum in DC. Together, like a normal couple. The trip was great and…two more days till our “newly trained, well-mannered” boy will be home. Yay!