Tuesday, July 29, 2014

One for the Money

One for the Money (Stephanie Plum, #1)One for the Money by Janet Evanovich
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Remember the good old days when you would curl up with a Nancy Drew novel and catch some bad guys? Well, here is Nancy for adults. Light and fluffy writing that masks the serious events taking place, and a heroine that can't quite manage to take care of herself.

First off please remember this book was written ages ago,1994 to be exact. And yet I don't feel like that justifies how many little things in the book bothered me. Spandex shorts were mentioned multiple times, glow-in-the dark cherry red lipstick, a macho sexist love interest, a twitterpated heroine, the list goes on and on. I did however find sections humorous, and I think that if you are looking for a series that you can pick up and read on vacation this may be for you.

Plot line - lets see. Stephanie is out of work and in desperate need of cash. In an effort to avoid her families assistance she makes a desperate move to become a bounty hunter. Real world? Stephanie dies tragically three days later. Book world? Through a series of mis-steps a crime is unraveled and solved.

Stephanie, as I have mentioned, is not a Clarisse, or a Ziva David, or even a Kinsey Millhone. She is just an out of work lady with an opportunity for a big payday if she can find an ex-boyfriend. The author is at least honest about her qualifications as it would be annoying for her to be a karate expert one week in, she reacts just as any completely unqualified person would react. Hopefully in the rest of the series she loses the dumb damsel in distress bit, that would make future books more appealing.

Honestly, I found the whole cavalier attitude about an 8 year old molesting a 6 year old, and her whole attraction to the "bad boy" off putting. Maybe it's a sign of the times but I feel like readers come away with the idea that it's all ok since they are friends now. NOT OK.

Long story short, would I read other books in the series? Probably. Am I in a hurry to find them any time soon? No.

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A Lifetime to Die

A Lifetime to DieA Lifetime to Die by P.S. Meronek
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Let's start with the cover shall we? Do you see that shadowy profile of a clearly female character who is standing rather defiantly in front of a clock? Yea, she doesn't exist. And the title of the book is really lame. So from the front there isn't much appeal here.

The book itself starts off with an engaging story of a boy in Czechoslovakia who lives with his mother and has been wronged by his uncle. Throw in some Russians and it is a pretty good story if a bit old school. You'll also be able to guess at the type of book this will be while reading these first few chapters. Time is a rather relaxed concept, jumping from present to past rather loosely. You'll also see that this is the type of book where major plot points will be glossed over to allow a "reveal" moment later. Gimmicky, and rather transparent to the frequent reader, but whatever. The story then has an American dream segment, which is when I start to dislike the main character. He has an awfully elitist tone for a newly made man. Then there is a segment which revisits the past and a general typing up loose ends.

The further I progressed in the book the less I liked it. Not usually the way one wants a book to go frankly. By the end details start to unravel, plotlines that were thin to begin with become completely unbelievable, and the editing as far as quote marks and paragraph breaks usage also starts to suffer. After finishing the story all I was thinking was you have to be kidding me!

Let's talk characters a bit.

Aristotle "Telly" Mercury - The guy whose picture should have been on the cover of the book. He becomes less believable as the book goes on. By the end you can't help but feel like he should have developed a bit more. Instead you are left listening to the same "nice guy" routine. The prose alludes to his outlook changing - but you don't witness any of it in the book first hand. He's a guy who can't be troubled to get a drivers license but has the mettle to be a self made bajillionaire. Please.

Every other character starts off strong and then becomes a footnote. Angelina Torres - Enters the story as an obvious romantic interest. Has a bit of a spark to her, definitely likable. Unfortunately after the early part of their relationship she is relegated to the occasional side thought. Mrs. Schroeder - A spitfire of an old gal. After proving useful to Telly though again is discarded. The romances involve women of ever decreasing ages, with ever aging men, their personalities described less and less. Meanwhile even at almost 50 Telly has such a hot body his 25 year old daughter has to mention it. Gross.

In the end I think the story concept had merit, it just needed to be thought out a bit more in the second half.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Call of the Wild

The Call of the WildThe Call of the Wild by Jack London
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was our book club read for July 2014 - and we just had a great discussion on it last night.

Let me start by stating that this is actually the second time that I have read this book. And if I were left to my own devices I would not have read it again. Thanks goodness for book club! You see I didn't really like this book the first time I read it. I was reluctant to read it again, but my desire to enjoy the meeting prevailed. Now having read it once I knew going in the best piece of advice I can give London readers - don't rush it. I like to get a book stared and then rush headlong into the pages until I get to the end. Some call it binge reading. This is not a book that you can binge on and enjoy. It is too dense, much too dense. Even though it is 78 pages (in my copy) I took 4 days to read it. I could have read the words in less time but I could not have enjoyed the story.

Let's get to the story. It is essentially the tale of a domesticated dogs return to the wild. The return is in the ancestral sense, the dog himself was born into a human home. The story is told from the third point of view following the dogs experiences which I think was a smart move as hearing "squirrel!" every page or two gets old. White Fang is another book by London which tells the reverse story - so if you enjoyed Call of the Wild you may want to consider Fang further reading.

Call of the Wild is considered by many an allegory for mans struggles - but London has responded that any allegory was unintentional. It certainly makes me wonder how many great books by long dead authors are analyzed in college courses that were intended merely as entertainment and not the deep analysis of human nature that they have become. At any rate, it is hard to read the book without having the personalities of dogs and people recall to the reader past relationships. When the team is led by Hal, Charles and Mercedes I was reminded of past jobs I held and the leadership I was under.

As for female characters there is only the one Mercedes whose role is brief. I do not hold this against the book in any way as Alaska generally has a shortage of female characters. The female characters that one is likely to find in Alaska however I would expect to be much more hearty then the portrayed Mercedes. Mercedes is soft hearted toward the dogs, possessive of material belongings, childish when crossed, and generally a whine butt. London does however take a moment to examine the root of her shortcomings. "She was pretty and soft, and had been chivalrously treated all her days. But the present treatment by her husband and brother was anything save chivalrous. It was her custom to be helpless. They complained." Chivalry sounds like a good thing at the outset - and some complain that the days of chivalry are dead - but how much nicer it is to have people expect strength over weakness, and self-reliance over dependence. It's a self-fulfilling prophesy.

In a nutshell I definitely recommend it, I will read more by London, and I may even read this again. I think this would be a good read out loud book, so I will have to remember it for future car rides.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Thought

My 15 month daughter will take her clothing to the laundry chute and send them to the basement.  She will also pick up whatever clothing is on the bathroom floor and drop it down the chute as well.   Now how do I get my husband to do the same?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Our week

I haven't posted in a while - so here's just a bunch of random stuff that happened this week!  Last weekend VF was climbing on everything!  She would get up on the chairs and not be able to find her way down.  She didn't seem to mind being stranded too much though.
Our baby birds all flew away.  I didn't think we would be empty nesters quite so soon!  On Sunday all three were in the nest when we returned from church.  They were on top of each other and clearly quite crowded.  Sunday night only 1 bird was in the nest.  We looked around a bit but couldn't find them on the ground so we optomistically concluded that they had flown away.  The next morning I went out and the nest was empty.  When I looked closer the baby bird was sitting on a branch above the nest planning his day.  He was nice enough to stay there while I ran and grabbed my camera.
 
Tuesday we walked to the park for some library reading program fun.  It was really cold - lots of people were wearing their winter coats!  Because we had attended 5 times VF was given a free T-shirt!  It might be a bit big.
Oh well, it makes a great nightshirt for now.  We had fun playing in the park, more climbing, sliding, and walking adventures.  There was a radio van there on Wednesday playing music for some reason, but that was a lot of fun.  Kids love dancing! All week it has been chilly in the shade, more like football weather than splash pad weather.  It's nice to not pay for air conditioning though!

Wednesday  I really wanted something sweet so I made some Orange Pecan Tea Bread.  I had all the ingredients in my kitchen, and it baked up pretty quickly.  It was delicious!!  It disappeared in 24 hours - and while that may not be the healthiest habit - I think it was probably better than going to the store for a bag of candies.  

Thursday the two of us went to Meet me at the Market and walked with friends.   Newbo Market does a meet every Thursday for people to exercise together and then listen to music.  The musician on this particular night was singing Elvis.  We walked miles and miles - but not so many miles as some people.  Some people who go are serious about their fitness!   After the walk we got a sandwich to eat - a hummus sandwich called Infield which was delicious.  One of our friends got some ice cream for dessert.  He was nice enough to share with VF and I have to say it was pretty funny watching her face light up as she was excited to have more of this new treat.

Thursday and Friday we went to the library play groups.  Thursday we went to the library nearest us.  Friday we went to the library down town.  S played with her on Friday which was I am sure she enjoyed.  Afterward we all went to her pediatrician appointment.  She's doing fine - able to do all the things she should be able to do - and already able to do some of the things they look for at 18 months.  I think that she recognized the nurse who does the shots because everytime she came into the room she would get all serious - and watch her closely.  It didn't save her though because she received 3 more shots.  Oh the wailing! Only one more round of shots in November, and then she will be done until she is 5.

After her nap yesterday afternoon it was clear she wasn't feeling very well.  She was wobbly on her legs looking like bearing weight on them hurt her.  She had a tiny fever, and was fussy.  I gave her just a bit of children's tylenol and we cuddled in to watch Winnie the Pooh together.   So many fun lines!  "I'm a little black rain cloud of course."  "I have a rumbly in my tumbly."  This is the first time that she actually sat still and watched a movie with me, it was a good time.  She would laugh at parts that aren't really funny though which makes me wonder what she sees or hears or remembers that is different.

Today two more teeth broke through - the two next to the one she has.  It's funny to look at her gumline because you can see all the teeth lined up just waiting to come through.  Guess it's a good thing we got her a toothbrush!
Finally, I wanted to include a quick thank you to Aunt W. for the scrapbooking supplies.  It's slow going, but I finally got around to making another page in her scrapbook!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

IQ

Well, I've still got it! Whew, motherhood just makes you feel dumber, LOL IQ Test
IQ Test

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Day of Play

Today has been a day to play!  Thursdays our local library has a storytime for children under the age of 4 so the two of us decided to go check it out.  There were lots of kids, and the leader Tara was a lot of fun.  She knew lots of fun songs, and dances which VF very much enjoys.  After the singing and reading she pulls out a box of toys for all the kids to play together.  It's a great chance to interact with other little ones and VF likes to see all the different ways that they play with their toys.  The first order of business though was getting that toybox completely empty!


I think VF played with every toy they had before we left!  She especially enjoyed the dump truck, not sure why but she thought it was SO funny to watch it roll away from her.  

After the library we went to the park.  Earlier this week VF started to go down the slide all by herself and she wanted to show off for Dad.  

video

Not only does she go down the bump slide by herself, but she will go down the curly slide all on her own too, albeit on her belly.  If no other kids are at the park she will then try and climb up the slide.  It's a lot easier when she takes her shoes off.  

Catch a wave and you're sitting on top of the world!
Most of the time though she has to go around the corner and climb up the "rigging.'  I'm not sure what it's actually called, but it always made me think of the ropes sailors would climb on ships.  She can almost climb it all on her own, but I hold onto her feet just to make sure they stay on the rungs.


It all adds up to prove that she's not a little girl anymore. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Then Came Life

Then Came Life: A Memoir of Living with the Same Courage, Spirit, and Humor that Helped Me Survive Breast CancerThen Came Life: A Memoir of Living with the Same Courage, Spirit, and Humor that Helped Me Survive Breast Cancer by Geralyn Lucas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the "after" story of cancer.

Geralyn is a survivor, and that strong identity with cancer holds a lot of negative energy for her. This book is about her trying to live while surviving.

It's certainly an important and likely oft overlooked part of the healing process. Here you are, one of the lucky ones that "beats" cancer, and it's so easy to ask "Why me?" To wonder what sets you apart. To feel guilt that you aren't doing something amazing with this new found life that you have been granted. To feel like you owe something to all of the people who weren't as lucky. It's equally hard not to let the fears become overwhelming. Is it coming back? Did I "give" this to my daughter? Every little pain, bump, bruise becomes a new obsession. Geralyn explores some of these ideas, and shares the moments that gave her strength.

While reading the book I was continuously thinking to myself how much I disliked the author. She's shallow, self-centered and insecure. She's not the kind of person that I would want to be, or to hang out with, or even meet for coffee. Then I thought - wait a second. This isn't a character in a novel, this is a real person. A person who has the nerve to really put herself out there. She put all of these flaws in a book for me to read and she shows an awareness of the need to grow and evolve. Doesn't that deserve a little bit of credit?

I think my main issue with the author is that while she shows the need to love herself, respect her mother, grow closer to her family, etc. she doesn't really achieve any of that. But isn't that life? Don't we all look back at ourselves a day, month, year, or decade later and think "Geesh, I was a real jerk there, I wish I would have just done _____ instead." So I tried not to hold the authors selfish outlook against her. I really did try, and by the end it was kind of worth it. But I still don't want to meet her for coffee.

I have not personally had cancer, but I can see how this book could be helpful for people who have had cancer, or have made the journey through cancer with a loved one. For myself though, the book wasn't really for me, and I probably will not look for other books by this author.

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Pregnancy Thought

You may read the advice that you should use hair ties to make your current wardrobe last as long as possible.  And if you need to save up some money to buy maternity pants that's fine.  But here's a little secret: maternity pants are SUPER comfortable.  Trust me.  Spend some time looking for a style you like, and then just enjoy!  Besides the extra wear your current wardrobe will be getting on the thighs and butt isn't going to save you any money in the long run.  :-) 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

More Babies!

Baby Birds that is!  My awesome MIL bought us a tree when we got married and moved into our house.  It's a Lancelot Crabapple, and I just adore it.  Every year a bird would start a nest just nestled right in there, where it looks so cozy, but I don't think it had quite enough room.  We never saw any eggs, or baby birds, until this year that is.  This year I repeatedly saw a robin sitting in the nest, and I thought to myself, hmmm could the tree be big enough for eggs?  Sure enough it is!  We have four little babies in there now, and I can spy on them from our front window.  I can't wait for VF to be a bit older so she can sit on the window seat with a pair of binoculars and spy along with me.


Just One Thing

Just One ThingJust One Thing by Holly Jacobs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a story about losing and finding loved ones. It is written with two separate timelines, the past and present and the main two characters are sharing their pasts with each other. It's a rather charming set-up actually. The barkeep asks the patron to tell him just one thing on each of her visits. Slowly she comes out of the shell she has built around herself. It immediately sucks the reader in and starts off very strong.

I particularly enjoyed the fact that the characters and situations were completely realistic. The main couple were both older characters with family situations that were relate-able in one way or another. The obstacles they faced are being overcome by people everyday. The only magic in the book is love, forgiveness, and acceptance and that is a magic that we are capable of bringing into our own lives with a bit of effort. In the right hands this is a book that could deliver hope.

My only complaint is the ending, it was a bit of a let down. One of the ongoing stories is a tapestry that is being made. Although it is a bit of a quilt styled tapestry if you ask me. Anyways, each square is a significant picture and there is a story bringing meaning to it. The last square felt like a big tease. A chapter ends stating "I knew how the tapestry should be finished." And then the whole next chapter is building suspense on her completing it. Then . . . nothing. I messaged the author to ask if I had missed something and she told me what she sees as the last piece, but the book doesn't spell it out because the main point of the book is that it doesn't really matter. It doesn't matter because everything is more than just one thing. Which is one way to make a point I suppose. I get it, but I don't like it. I wanted more, or perhaps I wanted closure. Given the topics in the book denying closure is a pretty artistic move.

The author is really cool to have written me back though, and I will definitely keep an eye out for other books by her since I do like her writing style. I also like that she has the confidence to end the book with a piece missing, knowing that in general we readers like to have it spelled out for us.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Kansas City and Baseball

 We just spent the last weekend in Kansas City on a great vacation with GJ and Larkypoo.  We stayed at Harrah's and oh boy did we luck out when it came to rooms!  I don't know if it was because we traveled with a baby and they wanted us as far away as possible or if it was just luck but our room was a suite at the end of the hall.  It has 1.5 baths, 3 televisions, a huge tub with jets, and I'm pretty sure it was larger than one level of our house!  VF thought the view was great - although you can see S was a bit more nervous.  With a room like that I am surprised we came home at all!  It's the sort of room where S can be a professional poker player and I would just live in the hotel!  Is it such a crazy idea I mean S did come out ahead $30 at the end of the weekend.  :-)

 The shower as you can see was pretty nice.  I am loathe to consider just how many gallons I used since I had all 5 shower heads turned on. 

When it came time to clean VF up the lowest one on the wall there was the perfect height for her.  She thought it was a lot of fun until I had her turn her back on it to wash her hair.  Not so fun then I'm afraid.


Of course when I was showering my view was the same.  You can leave town - but the baby still will not allow you to shower alone.


The big event that drew us to KC in the first place was to see a Royals game.  We were worried that the game would be cancelled because there were rain clouds predicted.   We had our hopes high and headed to the ball park anyway.  You can see in the picture it was a bit windy - and VF was concerned about her hair. 
We originally had 2 pairs of tickets in two different sections - but S negotiated his way into 4 seats together - along the first baseline and in row U so very close to the front.  We watched about 3 innings of baseball, but the rain clouds caught up to us and the game delayed.  After waiting a while we decided to head back to the hotel, and I am glad we did.  Three hours later when we sat down for supper this game was still trying to beat the storm and reach a decision!

It was a great weekend - thanks so much for EVERYTHING GJ.  We can't wait to go again soon. 


The Lawman's Oklahoma Sweetheart

The Lawman's Oklahoma Sweetheart (Bridegroom Brothers, #3)The Lawman's Oklahoma Sweetheart by Allie Pleiter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Summary: This is a Christian Romance taking place in the wild west of Oklahoma. It is the story of how Clint Thornton, a gloomy Gus, and Katrine, a self-loathing baker, face the danger of confronting a local gang while falling in love.

I think my biggest complaint with the book is the way that the characters view themselves. They find obstacles, and go out of their way to look for reasons why they shouldn't be together, instead of just being happy. They are quick to be happy for other people who find love, but feel that they themselves are unworthy. Why? I mean really, why? Isn't it a big enough miracle to find that someone you are attracted to is equally attracted to you?

The faith based portions are well done, and I definitely want to credit the author with just enough religious input. It in no way drives the story, it is simply part of who the characters are, and how they view their world. It doesn't feel like the story is a thinly veiled agenda.

I took away a star for characterization, and a star for predictability. I wouldn't read it again but I will probably pass it on to others.

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