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Embracing (and Controlling) Sun Haze in Your Photographs

Have you ever had one of those photo session when you are over the moon excited to download and behold the beauty that will surely be your images only to have a WTFFFFFFFF!!!!! moment?  Yeah, me neither.  Oh, wait, that totally happened to me a few months ago when I photographed my friend’s family.  Yeah, I had called Alli up and offered to photograph the Bee again.  Yeah, I was free.  But, they still had set aside an afternoon for me, dressed up oh so very cute, and Alli’s husband may have bit his tongue more than once when I broke off a couple of the lower branches on their tree, because, you know, they were getting in my shot!  I was pretty thrilled with what I had captured…and then I downloaded my images that night.

I had expected super crisp images.  Instead, they were blurry?  No.  Out of focus?  No.  It took my me a minute and then I realized they was heavy sun haze in almost all of my images.  Sure, it would have been easier to just photograph them in the shade.  Luckily, I had done that at the end of the session.  (Thanks for being so patient, Louis! ;)  However, I was really stoked about the backyard images, because they were backlit.  Seriously, who doesn’t love a backlit photo?  Plus, all my “keepers” were exposed well.  In my book, there’s no reason to waste a good photograph with proper exposure.  So, after a deep breath, I began to process them one by one.

I had two options:  1.  Hate on the sun flare by adding contrast and luminance.  However, I just felt that the photographs felt phony.  2.  Embrace the sun haze.  Although far from what I had intended, I ended up loving the feel of these photographs.  They are warm and evoked the love of this new, little Encinitas family.

*All photographs were edited in Lightroom 4.

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Would I take photos this way again? Yes and no. I think that there is a particular mood that sun haze enhances in your photographs. For example, while I loved the sun haze in the first photo of Maya, I would have preferred to have taken a more crisp image of Maya and Louis (similar to that of Alli with Maya sitting down).

Here are three easy ways to limit the effect of sun haze in your photographs. You don’t need anything fancy!

1. Use your lens hood. If you don’t have one, get one from your local camera shop, Amazon, or B&H Photography. The $5 one works just fine.

2. Use a reflector. All it really takes is a white foam board available at your local Staples or paper store. You can spray paint one side gold and the other side silver, if you want to get real fancy. Okay, if you are photographing professionally, get the real deal. However, the foam board is great for mommytographers and I can guarantee that you won’t feel bad if your kids get it dirty!

3. Move around your subject so that they block the sun. Go ahead and review your images in the LCD screen. If your kid’s head is a big ball of light, take a big step to one side so that the sun is even more behind her.

Make it easy on yourself and shoot during the Golden Hour. Right now in CA, this is about 6:45 – an hour before sunset. Since you are probably up early, the hour after sunrise works well, too :)

10 Mother’s Day Gifts for the Mommytographer

12 days until Mother’s Day!  If your husband is anything like mine, he doesn’t even know it’s just around the corner.  In that case, read through my wonderful suggestions and send him this link!  I’ve tried out and can verify the quality of items 1-6.  Items 7-10 are what I would like for Mother’s Day.  I bet you would, too!  Prices range from FREE to $229.  Most are under $100.  They are all meant to make taking photos of your kiddos (and you WITH your little ones) more enjoyable!

Mother’s Day 2012, oh how long ago you seem:

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1. is my absolute favorite online learning center for everything photography. At only $25 a month, it’s like a gym membership that you will actually use! The teachers are all top-notch (think Brooks Institute) and distill an incredible amount of information into easy-to-understand video chapters. These are very professional videos that you can review as many times as you like. I highly recommend Bill Long’s camera technique classes (My favorite is Understanding Exposure) and Chris Orwig’s photo editing classes.


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2. Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson: In my opinion, exposure is the most important component in your photos. It also allows for a lot of creativity and room to challenge yourself as a photographer. Peterson is great at explaining the basics and complex alike. Even after reading it twice, I tend to pick it up every now and again to read a couple chapters for a little inspiration.

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3. Vellow Freewave Wireless Remote Shutter Release: One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to Get Into the Photo! One of my mom’s regrets is always being behind the lens for family snap shots. I think this is true for a lot of moms. I’m not going to worry about my hair and if I am wearing yoga pants AGAIN; my goal is to take simple snapshots of me and Avery in little moments throughout our day. Of course, I’ve been totally lame about getting this project started. Typical!

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4. Canon 50mm 1.8: This is always the first lens I recommend to friends who ask what they should buy for their DSLR cameras. Okay, it feels cheap; however, this image creates great images – promise! The low f-stop allows for you to take photos in low-light situations (i.e. indoors) and at around $100, you won’t be too heartbroken if your little one throws it in the toilet. (It will be a great excuse to say you’ve earned a 50mm 1.4 :)

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5. Bloom Theory Camera Straps: I ordered one of these for our friend who was kind enough to take Avery’s newborn photos. I loved it so much, that I decided to get me one, too! There are A LOT of camera straps out there. I’m going to confess right here and now that I was completely focused on aesthetics when I bought this strap. The pleather lining feels a little cheap, however, it wears nicely and, mostly importantly, looks great!

Prices start at $100.  I love my Super Girl strap – $100.  The strap picture below is $110. Look in the 2012 Collection for more affordable prices.
creme brule 10 Mothers Day Gifts for the Mommytographer
6. Shootsac Tote and Shoot: My tote and shoot was a surprise Christmas gift a couple of years ago. Yes, it’s a bit pricey, However, it’s by far the best made “bag” I’ve found. Plus, it also double as a diaper bag.  I find that the camera-plus-lens front pocket comes in especially handy for Mommyphotog outings.  Since it doesn’t scream, “I’M HOLDING A LOT OF AWESOME CAMERA GEAR,” I’m not worried about someone stealing my bag when I get preoccupied with Avery. My one lament is that my version doesn’t have the medal loops for a shoulder strap/stroller clips. Ugh, if only I could attach mine to my BOB! They’ve since added this essential feature, so lucky you will get an even better bag than me – Yes, I’m jealous!

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I found items 7 and 8 at I don’t have them myself, so I can’t personally vouch for them; but, if *someone* is reading their wife’s blog, I’d be ever to happy for any of these cool little items:

7. Canon Camera Lens Mugs:  How cute are these mugs! The white mug holds 16oz. and the black mug (my favorite, honey!), holds 11oz.  There are also Nikon options!


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8. The iFlash Drive:  I can’t be the only mom who lets over 1,000 photos collect and sit on their iPhone!  I’m not going to own up to the number of videos of Avery.  This iFlash drive looks like such an easy way to clear off your phone so that you can download your photos onto your computer without having to put in the time it takes to sync your iPhone.  If you’re a bit neurotic like me, you take the time to organize your photos into folders as they download before backing them up on an external hard drive.  This would really simplify things (or allow you to just fill up your drive; BUT, we won’t do that, right?! ;)


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9.  Photo Book:  If you’ve invested in a professional photography session and purchased the digital images, here is your chance to get your full money’s worth!  Just download all of your photos to the online printing center of your choice to create a beautiful book.  No worries if you don’t have professional shots; just choose your favorite snap shots to create a book of memories that moms love!  I’m in the middle of collecting my photos and going to use Adorama’s Mother’s Day 50% discount to create an 8×8 book.

Prices vary

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10.  Mommy In-Front of the Camera Day:  Pick a special outing and give all camera duties over to dad (or grandma, grandpa, auntie, or uncle) for the day.  It can be as simple as the local park or as exciting as Disneyland.  Make sure you like how you look.  I mean, hand the kids over so you can blow-dry your hair and choose an outfit that doesn’t have stains on it.  Then enjoy the day while your personal photographer takes candid and posed photos.  iPhone photos totally count!


I looked for an example and, besides the photo for Mother’s Day, this was all I could find on my IG feed.  I’m not sure it even counts!  But, hey, my hair looks great and my 4-legged baby is in the photo.  Seth loves taking photos, so we will have to make this a project this month.  (Don’t worry, honey, I won’t make you go to Disneyland, even though IT’S THE HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH!)

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Happy Mother’s Day to everyone!



May 1, 2013

Claire - Come to Disneyland with us!!!!

Maternity Photography: Sarah

Sarah was one of my pregnant friends with whom my first pregnancy coincided.  She gave birth to Cora the November before Avery was born.  In short, it was a long delivery.  Very long.  “I’m gonna get real with you,” she told me as she revealed the realities of childbirth and post-partum recovery.  However, the personality trait that I love best about Sarah is that she’s the antonym of a “Debbie Downer” and shared her story with a lot of laughter.

Getting pregnant when Cora was only 9 months was a surprise.  Sarah kidded me that I should go ahead and get pregnant, too, because her new baby also needed friends.  As luck or fate would have it, I ended up being a rather loyal friend and was pregnant again before Sarah was in her third trimester.  For those of you doing the math, Avery and Baby #2 will be 21 months close.

I hope I look as great as Sarah has with her second pregnancy.  She’s one of those women who are all belly.  However, there’s no easy way to be 6 months pregnant and run after a 15-month-old.  A few months ago, Avery and I were at Sarah’s and Cora’s home for a play date.  After lunch, we all huddled up in Cora’s room for a little kiddie music and play time in a contained area.  Sarah carefully balanced herself to sit down on the floor; but, it wasn’t long before we were both up attending to the girls.  Sarah settled on the floor again, this time with Cora in her lap.  Always honest, she looked straight at me and confessed that most days were hard.  Very hard.  Then, she burst out laughing:  “I’m just happy I’m almost done.  You still have a long way to go!”  I started laughing, too.  If you ever find that friend that can laugh with you when life throws you a curve ball, hold onto her!  She is a rare gem.

Also rare is a friend who is so comfortable in-front of the camera.  I asked Sarah if she’d be up for an impromptu photo shoot.  I wanted to hit the beach at low tide, so the sun was a bit too high.  However, when you have a patient friend who looks great on the other side of the lens, you end up with some pretty wonderful images.  Without further ado, here is Sarah – 9 months pregnant with little Ivy:

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UPDATE:  Ivy was born on her due date, April 19th. It was quicker delivery.  It was also easier.  Much easier.  Mommy and baby are doing very well.

Good Reads: I Love Warwick’s and Me Before You

One of the many reasons I love independent book stores is that you don’t have to go by gold stars to guide your purchase.  Instead, you get to talk to real people at Warwick’s; people who can give you their personal opinion as to what they loved reading and suggest a list of books that align with your tastes.  Plus, you get to actually meet some of the authors at their monthly events!  Unfortunately, your advisors aren’t always right.  However, you do get the pleasure of indulging yourself by holding a real book in your hands, smelling the newly printed pages, and making notes in the margin to your heart’s content!  Yes, I was a literature major and just can’t help myself.  Here are my latest reads from Warwick’s:

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Me Before You by Jojo Moyes:  I was mad when I finished this book.  If I were a more empathetic person, I would have been happy for Louisa and Will.  I won’t spoil the ending, except to say that it is a happy ending.  It just depends what you mean by “happy.”  In short, this novel is a love story between two people who couldn’t be more different.  Will, once the dare-devil and man-about-town, is now confined to a wheelchair as a quadriplegic.  However, it’s not simply a wheelchair; it’s a quality of life that of which is quickly deteriorating.  Louisa, on the other hand, couldn’t be more ordinary.  Of course, it’s rare that anyone goes through life without their own defining moments and Louise hides her scars under shockingly eccentric clothing.  When Louisa is hired as Will’s caretaker, she sets out to show him how fulfilling life can still be for this man who can no longer bathe, wipe, or feed himself.  Will, on the other hand, sets out to help Louisa realize her own talents and potential.  It’s a novel that shows how love can change a person and, at the same time, must allow a person to make their own path in life and in death.  Ah, and there’s the rub.  This book won’t leave you unchanged.

After hearing Jojo Moyes speak at Warwick’s, I became an even bigger fan of Me Before You.  Insightful and clever, it was incredibly interesting learning about how Moyes created such a believable cast of characters.  Plus, it was just plain fun to hear about how other characters (ahem, the annoying boyfriend) were inspired by people she’s met (ahem, perhaps a former annoying boyfriend).  Her background as a journalist proves to be an asset in presenting a contraversial topic in a compelling; yet, unbiased way.  I’ll definitely be reading her next novel!

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: I loved this novel from the first sentence.  Such was the addiction that I gave true homage to the title be using all my free time in the evenings, and sacrificed many a night’s sleep, to immerse myself in Morgenstern’s fictional world.  This is also a love story, but a much different kind than that of Will and Louisa.  In TNC, Celia and Marco are recruited as children to train as magicians in order to and face-off in the most beautiful and imaginative venue – Le Cirque des Rêves.  Simplifying this novel to just that one sentence is trite; however, there’s no concise way to express the intricate plot.  I will instead clarify that this is not a battle between good and evil.  Rather, this is a battle of talent, ingenuity, and beauty…of which the end result is meant to be the death of one of the competitors.  Morgenstern moves this novel beyond simply a game to an illustration of the power of secrets, words, and stories.  That’s the real magic  Anyone who believes words matter will fall in-love with this story.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach:  I hate to end this review on a bad note; however, I will summarize my feelings by quoting my notes from the top of chapter 37, “What has happened so far?”  Mind you, that was 261 pages into a 512 page book.  This novel promised to be The Novel of Our Generation!  It’s a New York Times Book Review Best Book of the Year!  Oh my, my hopes were high.  Wow, was I let down.  Indeed, it’s well-written; but, that’s the best I can say about Harbach’s effort.  The relationships are unrealistic, I didn’t care about the characters, and, for crying out loud, how does a novel pertend to be empathetic, supportive, you name it, of a homosexual relationship when it applies a lame stereotype to one partner and makes the other partner almost seem predatory?  Yes, I get that Harbach must be an expert on Moby Dick.  No, I haven’t read MD.  I thought about picking it up right after I finished TAOF, however, I needed to clear my head from this novel to give MD – a true classic and literary icon – its due.

Let me know what you thought about these novels (without giving away the endings!).  I’d also love to hear what you are reading!  To read a Book Club post, please click here.

Book Club: Gone Girl

This is also a post I wrote last year.  My book club fell apart and I had no one to talk to about my most favorite novel of the year, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  So, I sat down, put on my Nerd Lit Hat, and wrote my own mini-analysis.  I had wine while doing it, so it was almost like a book club.  C’mon, how many of your  book clubs have turned into a girl’s wine night?  Yeah, that’s what I thought.  I should clarify right here and now that this is not a review.  The plot will be spoiled in this series.  I will also be posting reviews, however, those will be entititled Book Review. 

Book Club: Gone Girl

Gone Girl Book Club: Gone Girl

If you haven’t read Gone Girl, stop reading this post and go purchase Flynn’s latest novel.  You may also want to cancel all social engagements, because you won’t want to put it down.  I mean, this brought my “The Walking Dead” marathon to a screeching halt.  Not since Barbara Kingsolver and the Poisonwood Bible have I read a story that provides first-person narratives from different characters that are whole unto themselves.  Moreover, the characters are nuanced and interesting, the storyline is compelling, and there’s a believable (albeit disturbing) ending that tucks all the loose ends in neatly.

Like I explained, this is not a book review; it’s a book club.  Okay, fine, a book club of one.  Me.  But, feel free to join in by leaving a comment.  I promise to not take anything personally.  Wait, that’s a lie.  I probably will take it personally; however, I will be mature and respond as if I were not offended that you don’t think all my insights are anything less than brilliant.

For this first Book Club, I thought I’d do a brief character analysis.  I had written more, but I can barely make it through the entire orinal piece.  Believe it or not, here is the abbreviated version.  Even if no one reads it, I was just so happy to be drinking my wine and typing away like the happy, little nerd that I am!

Character Analysis

Mmme, let’s start with….


Oh, poor too-good-looking-for-his-own-good Nicholas.  I vacillate between feeling sorry for Nick and thinking that Go is right, he’s just as sick and twisted as Amy.  I don’t think that it’s the baby that keeps them together.  Rather, it’s the fear that his own kid won’t like him.  He pictures “Mother whispering, whispering lies into that tiny pink ear” and, therefore, confesses, “ I deleted my story.”  Ah, yes, the ultimate revenge on a journalist: Taking away his story.  However, it’s worth it for Nick because signing up to play the role of perfect husband to Amy guarantees that he will be his best self, a perfect husband and father.  Thus, he will never succumb to his worst fear:  Ending up like his father.  Yeah, that’s a tad cliché; but, Flynn’s novel makes it way more interesting than just an “oh, I might end up like dad” syndrome.  Don’t you agree?   

Still, I worry for Larry Nicholas.  I was holding Avery as she slept while I started on the last couple of chapters.  Poor baby girl had been teething and most likely sick with a cold (how do you tell the difference sometimes?)  all week with a cold and holding her ensured that she would sleep better.  You know, so that I could finish my book!  I’m a very selfless mom like that.  So, as I’m reading the incredible and chilling conclusion, I started reflecting on my own marriage.  I mean, calling Amy crazy is oversimplifying this incredible character.  Sure, she sounds loco en la cabeza when she says things like, “Love should require both partners to be their very best at all times.”  However, how often do we expect just that from our partner?  Just yesterday I kidded with Seth that he should know what I want for my order from Puesto, a local take-out Mexican joint, and that I really worried about “us” when he ordered me things like fried cheese and huilacochtle.  It’s a little inside joke.  Sheesh, I never realized how dangerous those were!

Avery was in a pretty deep sleep by the time I finished thumbing through the epilogue.  I held her up and held her close, her warm cheeks resting on my shoulder, as I swayed back and forth while patting her back.  It had been a rough several days for me and baby girl.  Earlier that day, I called Seth to say hello and check on his flight arrival that evening.  He had had a great work trip or, as I like to call it, vacation.

Your sweet husband is on the last day of a work trip during which he has enjoyed good food, time with family and friends, as well as several nights of uninterrupted sleep.  Meanwhile, you have been eating whatever was easiest to scarf down while holding a fussy baby, away from friends with little ones, and getting up several times during the night.  When he starts telling you about his trip, you

a)       Are happy for him, “how wonderful that you got to spend time with family and friends before work started Monday.  What a special treat to eat slow-roasted pulled pork that Pete spent all day smoking in his new Green Egg!”

b)      Let him know nicely that you are happy he will be back to help with the baby, “wow, it sounds like you pulled some long days at the office.  We’ve had our hand full here, too, and are excited daddy will be home to help with bath time tonight.  Would you mind going into work late tomorrow so that I can catch up on some sleep?”

c)       Start a passive-aggressive ramble about things that have nothing to do with why you are actually annoyed, “I don’t see how you’re gonna fit all those bikes in the storage closet.  The hallway is a mess.  Blah blah blah” all in a perturbed voice.


Answer)  A or B would do, but I did C.  I wasn’t happy.  I was tired, worn out, and more tired.

Sure, I would have preferred if Seth has just said he had had a nice time in general and spent a lot of time working so that I wouldn’t have felt like Avery and I (That’s the correct grammar) had missed out on a fun little vacation.  Yeah, it made perfect sense for him to share the fun details of his trip.  But, tired new mommies don’t make a whole lot of sense when they haven’t had a good night sleep in days/weeks/months.  Truth is, it probably wouldn’t have mattered what Seth said, I still would have picked a fight.  Of course, I had the good sense to call him back and apologize.  I knew I was being unreasonable.  Seth came home to a smiling wife.  But, Nick?  He can’t even say the right thing before baby makes three.  “Just wait until Nick meets post-partum Amy,” is all I could think.  “Poor guy is dead already.”


I like Amy.  Admit it, you do, too…at least a little bit.  No matter what you think of her, by the end of the novel, you’ve got to give the woman her due:  Amy is just plain smarter than everyone else and (almost, more on this later*) always one step ahead.  Flynn does an especially excellent job of using Amy to highlight the normative values that society places on women with Diary Amy.  Likable and kind, “She’s easy to like,” Amy explains, noting, “I’ve never understood why that’s considered a compliment.”  She’s the Cool Girl that takes on the likes and dislikes of her boyfriend, feigns interest in his hobbies, and lets her boyfriend get away putting her second anytime he feels like it.  To the men who date the Cool Girl, Amy yearns to explain,

“You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss him.”

The women who pretend to be Cool Girl are all the worse because, “They’re not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they’re pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be.”

Except, oh wait, when Amy rises above all of the roles women play and reveals “Actual Amy,” she a psycho-bitch murder who has cut her teeth by driving her best childhood friend to suicide and accusing an ex-boyfriend of rape.  And her final trump card?  She got pregnant.  Granted, technically, one could argue that she did it without submitting to a man.  Still.  It’s the ultimate cliché of female manipulations; I’m pregnant, so now you are stuck with me.  Forever.  Also, I might kill you, turn your child against you, or worse.  Yeah, not exactly a feminist role-model.


Margo, Nick’s explains, is the “one person in the entire world I am totally myself with.”  Twins, they “spent nine months back to back, covering each other.  It became a lifelong habit.  It never mattered to me that she was a girl, strange for a deeply selfishly conscious kid.  What can I say?  She was always just cool.”  Cool!  Margo was actually, genuinely Cool Girl.  Sure, their relationship gave the impression to their high school friends that they were involved in twincest.   I spent most of the novel waiting for Go reveal that she is in-fact gay.  Okay, she was a little boring and a bit of a pushover.  But, like I said, she’s the Cool Girl for real!  She loves her brother no matter what, no If’s about it.

Detective Boney:

Why is it that the one woman who figures out the truth, despite all of the convincing lies and manipulation, is dead ugly?  On one hand we have Amy, who Nick describes as the, “first pretty girl I ever dated, really dated.”  On the other hand, we have Boney who was “surprisingly ugly—brazenly, beyond the scope of everyday ugly.”  Sheesh.  Lucky for Boney, Nick has an “affinity for ugly women,” who include all of the women from his mother’s side of his family, including good ol’ mom, because, “they were all smart and kind and funny and sturdy, good, good women.”  Not cool, but good.  Girls should be good, after all, right?

I like that the villain is the beauty and the hero’s a far cry from the Disney-esq dark, skinned villain with an accent.  Still, it’s a bit unfair that the good girl is also the ugly girl, right?


Many thanks to Flynn for staying far, far away from the Madonna-Whore characters so many authors (mostly male)


*The anti-feminist character.  This woman runs away from an abusive relationship and then punches Amy in the face so that she can steel her money.  So, she’s a doormat for her boyfriends and physically abuses her so called friend.  Plus, Betsy is such a 1950’s name, right?


Okay, just one more bit for the literature nerds out there…

Inside Jokes

Inside jokes play a key role throughout the novel.  If Nick had been in on the treasure hunt inside jokes, they would probably still be living in NYC, happy as a clam (Lobsters?).  Well, anyway, I love when authors include details that reveal what can only be (or what I’d like to think) are their little pet peeves and quirks.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: 

It’s the book Amy suffers through on her and Nick’s honeymoon while he devours thrillers.  Have you read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle?  I have and I will fully admit that I set it down about ¾ of the way through and picked it up about 5 months later out of sheer determination to get through the increasingly weird plot and cast of characters.  If you’re reading this, I hope you already finished reading Gone Girl.  A thriller.  That, if you are like me, you completely devoured.  Both are about a wife who mysteriously disappears one day, after which husbands realize they never really knew these women at all.   I mean, both couples even have a cat.  See!  Inside jokes are fun; but, only when you “get it.”  Otherwise, you end up just getting super annoyed at a novel that keeps making allusions to Moby Dick, a whale of a novel  that you have no intention of ever reading.  But, that’s a book club write-up for another day.  So, my point is:  No wonder Amy was so angry with Nick for not being able to get any of her treasure hunt clues based on inside jokes he doesn’t get, and no wonder he just wanted to give up.


Well, that concludes my first Book Club.  Hope you had some wine on-hand and enjoyed this little break from journaling ;) 

April 25, 2013

Good Reads: I Love Warwick’s and Me Before You | Aimee Desiree Press - […] Let me know what you thought about these novel (without giving away the endings!).  I’d also love to hear what you are reading!  To read a Book Club post, please click here. […]

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