Friday, November 19, 2010

Catching Moondrops by Jennifer Erin Valent - Book Review

Catching MoondropsCatching Moondrops by Jennifer Erin Valent

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Catching Moondrops is the last book in the Calloway Summers series, and it does not disappoint! Jessilyn is about to turn 19 years old, and her love for Luke Talley has only gotten stronger over the years. A new young doctor, Tal Pritchett, has arrived in town, and when Mrs. Cleta becomes ill, he's the only doctor she's willing to see. The only problem is that Tal is a black man, and prejudice still runs rampant in Calloway. Hate flares up again, and Jessilyn finds herself lost between her craving for revenge and doing what is right.

I can't say much without ruining the ending, but I will say that Valent's final chapter in the Calloway series does not disappoint. I have thoroughly enjoyed this entire series, and would highly recommend it!

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The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson - Book Review

The Devil in the White City Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed AmericaThe Devil in the White City Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Th Devil in the White City is, hands down, the best non-fiction book I've ever read. Every American should read this book! It tells the most fascinating tale of 2  men: Daniel Burnham, the lead architect in charge of the Chicago World's Fair of 1893, and H.H. Holmes, a convicted serial killer who used the fair to draw victims to his World's Fair Hotel. Larson manages to pull history of the time from every corner of the nation into this superbly written novel, from Frank Lloyd Wright to Susan B. Anthony and Buffalo Bill. He writes a haunting account of H.H. Holmes, a man who had the charm and charisma to attract women in droves, but an evil streak that puts Charles Manson to shame.

The Chicago World's Fair of 1893 was a turning point in American History, and this book describes that event and its effects in spellbinding detail.

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez - Book Review

Love in the Time of CholeraLove in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Florentino Ariza fell in love with Fermina Daza as  a young boy. When she marries another man, he dedicates his life to one day winning her back. Fifty years later, the opportunity arises, and Florentino will profess his love for her again.

I really thought I would like this book. I held out hope up until the end that I would find some redeeming quality about it. It's a "modern classic", and was picked for Oprah's book club - it HAD to be good, right? Wrong, wrong, wrong. This may actually qualify as the worst book I've ever read. Perhaps that is a harsh statement, but I can usually find SOMETHING in every book that I enjoy, even if its not my favorite.

The writing style is too verbose and makes for a difficult read. Despite that, I felt that important information, such as a well-defined setting, was lacking. It took me a while to figure out the time-period and location of the story. (Turn of the century, Carribbean.)

The main characters in the story were not at all likable. Fermina is cold and distant, and not worthy of the love that Florentino holds for her. She is a bitter woman who seemingly treated her husband with hostility rather than love. Florentino is worse. Though the author wants you to see him as a romantic and a poet, he comes across as a desperate man with no morals - his way of proving his ever-lasting love for this woman is to spend half a century sleeping around with other women, one of whom was a 14 year old girl. He's nothing short of a pedophile. The only thing I enjoyed about this book was finally finishing it.

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Lottery by Patricia Wood - Book Review

LotteryLottery by Patricia Wood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked up the audio book version of this book at the library to listen to while on a business trip. What a great choice!

Perry L. Crandall (the L stands for Lucky) has an IQ of 76, but he is not retarted - he's just slow. His Gram taught him some important things when she raised him: learn 5 new words from the dictionary every day (he's somewhere in the P's), don't say bad words, and most importantly, always play the lottery. Perry continues to take his Gram's advice after she passes away, and soon finds himself the winner of a $12 million lottery ticket. It doesn't take long for Perry's estranged and distrustful family to come knocking on his door. Fortunately, Perry has 2 friends he can trust: his best friend, Keith and his boss, Gary. He knows he can trust them, because his Gram told him so.

Perry L. Crandall is wiser than most people with an IQ of 120, and his story will warm your heart.

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Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - Book review

The Hunger Games (Hunger Games, #1)The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The country of Panem, located in what was once known as North America, consists of 12 Districts ruled by the Capitol, an intimidating and controlling government. Every year, each District is required to send one boy and one girl, between the ages of 12 and 18, to The Hunger Games - a fight to the death. Only one of the 24 contestants will return home the victor. When her younger sister is randomly chosen as the female competitor for District 12, sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her place.

I was surprised to find this book was written for youth, considering the subject matter. However, it was one of the most engaging books I've read in some time. It was suspenseful up until the very end and I'm anxious to read the next two books. It's difficult to review, as the ending leaves much of the story unresolved, which is entirely due to the fact that this is the first book of a trilogy.

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Mommywood by Tori Spelling - Book Review

MommywoodMommywood by Tori Spelling

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed sTori Telling, so I was excited when I heard Tori Spelling was publishing her second book, Mommywood. I bought the audiobook and listened to it on a day-long business trip. It certainly made the trip go by fast, and I loved hearing the "real" story behind things I'd read int he tabloids, but I found myself confused about the timeline. It seemed that the book jumped back and forth - one minute, it was Liam's first birthday, the next he was 4 months old. I think it could have been edited in a way that it flowed more smoothly, but overall, a very interesting read.

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Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaefer - Book Review

  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie SocietyThe Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Juliet Ashton, a writer living in post-WW2 London, receives a letter from man in Guernsey named Dawsey Adams. Dawsey found Juliet's name and address in a book by Charles Lamb that previously belonged to Juliet. Dawsey would like to know if Juliet can find more books by the author in London, as he would like to read them for his book club,  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Intrigued by the unusually named group, Juliet begins corresponding with Dawsey and eventually other members of the society. Through this correspondence, she learns how the group came into being, how it obtained its bizarre name, and what life was like on the island of Guernsey during the German occupation.

Mary Ann Schafer's epistolary novel combines historical fiction with romance, and keeps the you turning page after page until the very end.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wicked: The Life & Times of the Wicked Witch of the West - Book Review

  Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (Wicked Years, #1)Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! Gregory Maguire is quite the story-teller. Wicked, as the full title clearly states, is the story of Elphaba, known to most as the Wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum’s classic story, The Wizard of Oz. Starting at her birth, and ending in the same spot as the classic tale, Maguire takes you through a journey through Oz, a place that turns out to be quite different than you would expect. Not only do we meet Elphaba, a green-skinned outcast who dislikes the Wizard’s regime, but we also learn more about Glinda, the Good Witch of the North (who may not be as perfect as she seems) and Nessarose, the Wicked Witch of the East, tragic victim of Dorothy’s house, sister of Elphaba, and original owner of the infamous ruby slippers. If there is anything that Maguire wants you to understand, it’s that every story has two sides, and things are not always what they seem.

My only confusion was that the story does not seem to tie in exactly with the movie. This is possibly because the movie was changed from the original story, but I will have to read it to find out.

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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Soft Place to Land by Susan Rebecca White - Book Review

A Soft Place to Land A Soft Place to Land by Susan Rebecca White

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
A Soft Place to Land tells the story of two half-sisters who, at the beginning of the book, lose their parents in a plane crash, and are then separated. This seemed like a great premise for a good novel, but in a nutshell, this book was just very boring.

Throughout the first half of the book, I was still trying to figure out where the story was going, and what the plot centered around. Ultimately, it was just about the relationship between the two sisters. The sisters seemed so self-absorbed, they were hardly affected by their parents death. Neither was likeable, which made it hard to care about their relationship, and thus made the book a slow, anticlimactic read.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Barefoot by Elin Hilderbrand - Book Review

Barefoot Barefoot by Elin Hilderbrand

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Vicki, Brenda and Melanie all come to Nantucket for the summer, each with their own problem: Vicki has been diagnosed with cancer, Brenda lost her job as a professor after having an affair with a student, and Melanie is finally pregnant after several rounds of in-vitro, only to learn that her husband is having an affair. Josh Flynn, a responsible and good-hearted young man, is on summer break from college, and working with his dad at the Nantucket airport. Bored with his job, he hopes to find some excitement this summer in Nantucket. Upon seeing three women walk off a plane, he believes they may be the answer. As it turns out, he's right. A great summer read, Barefoot makes you want to feel the sand between your toes, and the ocean breeze in your hair. This novel offers the perfect mix of love, scandal, and tragedy, while still remaining a light and uplifting read.

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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Tomatoes and Babies and Car Shows, Oh My!

Hello Again!

I really need to be more consistent about my posts. I'm currently on a once-a-month schedule, which is not so good. I apologize, but the truth is that since I started my new position at work, I simply don't have as much time to blog during working hours. Not that I should be doing that anyway, but hey.

I promised to keep you up-to-date on my Topsy Turvy tomato plants. They are doing great, and I have REAL TOMATOES growing! Check it out:
It's gotten pretty huge, right? And here is a close-up of some of the tomatoes that are growing:

They have actually gotten even bigger than that since I took the pictures. I'll have to take a couple more this weekend.

So what else is new? WELL, I'm happy and elated to announce that my first niece entered the world on May 4th, 2010. She was obviously anxious to meet us all, because she came 6 weeks early, weighing in at just 4lb 0oz and 17 inches long. Little Savannah is such a bright light in all our lives. She's the first grandbaby in the family, and she's as precious as she can be!

Work has kept me super-busy for the last few months. I consider that a good thing, as I was quite bored in my previous position. I've been doing a bit of traveling here and there, and learning all kinds of new things. It's been great.

The Big Car Show was 2 weeks ago, and it went great. My husband had his car ready just in the nick of time, and the weather was perfect all weekend. Not a drop of rain until we were ready to leave on Sunday. We got to spend time with my brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and my nephew. My nephew, Benjamin, is now 9 months old and cute as a button. He had is own car for the car show - one of those ones he sits on, and you push him around. Everyone agreed he had the best ride of anyone at the car show. Ha! Here is a recent pic of my hubby's GTO.

The Hubby also hit a big milestone in the last couple weeks - he turned the big 3-0. We had a party for him over the weekend.

We haven't done any home projects recently, as hubby had been busy preparing for the car show. This weekend, I hope to do some landscaping - I will let you know how it goes!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Please Stop Laughing at Me by Jodee Blanco - Book Review

Please Stop Laughing at Me: One Woman's Inspirational Story Please Stop Laughing at Me: One Woman's Inspirational Story by Jodee Blanco

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I love a memoir, so I was anxious to read "Please Stop Laughing at Me". The book has two great simultaneous messages, one for the bully and one for the victim. The Bully reading this book may be enlightened as to how his/her behavior is affecting their victim. The Victim reading this book may realize there is hope, and there is a bigger life out there beyond high school.

I only gave this book three stars. I began to feel that the author was talking a little too highly of herself, which made the book less believable. It's not that I think her claims are false - they are probably all sadly very true. But had she been a bit more humble and honest about her own faults, it may have given a stronger message. She talks about being "different", but she doesn't say exactly how she is different, or why she is shunned by her fellow students. Nor does she offer advice to others on how to deal with bullying if they find themselves in that situation.

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Spring Flowers!

Hello Folks!

I hope everyone is having the same beautiful weather we've had this weekend. It's been WONDERFUL. Hubby spent the majority of the weekend working on his car. Actually, he spent all day Saturday underneath his car, yelling and cursing because he couldn't get a couple dowels out of the block of the engine. (If you understand what that means, more power to you.) He ended up going to Lowe's at 8:30 last night to buy a welder, and proudly came out of the garage about 10:00pm with both dowels (to which he'd welded threaded rods) in his hands. He has been in a MUCH better mood today. I haven't heard any noise coming from the garage all day, except for the noise of the air compressor.

So during all of this, I decided to start planting flowers. I'm pretty confident that Old Man Winter has departed for the year, so I took a trip to the nursery this afternoon to get started on my favorite Spring activity: planting flowers. Now, just to clarify, my idea of "planting flowers" is that I go buy them, and watch my husband plant them. That is FUN. However, my husband has spent the good part of the last 2 months under his car (a '69 GTO, by the way), putting in a new transmission, among other projects. The Big Car Show is in May in Ocean City, MD, and for the 2nd year in a row, he has taken on Big Project at the last minute. (Last year, he installed a new rear suspension or brakes, or both, or something.)

So needless to say, I bought lots of plants and had to come home and plant them myself. Not quite as much fun, but still rewarding. Assuming they do not die. So here are some photos of the things that are blooming in my yard right now. Some were bought today, others were planted last year.

This is the "Cheddar Pink" Dianthus that I bought and planted today. Sort of a grassy plant with pinkish/purplish blooms.
 This here is one of my winter pansies that I planted last fall. It'll probably be getting too warm for it soon.
 One of two Bleeding Hearts - this one is unique in color, sort of a lime green foliage.
 Closeup of the Bleeding Heart blooms. So pretty!

 This one is called Diamond Frost. Planted this weekend.
 Bleeding Heart #2, planted last year.
Bugs Eye View of the blooms. 
And finally, this is my Topsy Turvey tomato plant! I'll keep you updated on how this thing works - I've never grown a vegetable in my life, so if this works, I'll be amazed!

Friday, April 9, 2010

"Julie and Julia "by Julie Powell - Book Review

Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Funniest book I've read in a long time! I love a memoir, and this was no exception. Julie Powell will have you laughing out loud at every turn of the page.

At 29 years old, Julie is feeling the stress of a dead-end secretarial job, and the tick-tock of her biological clock - a clock that doesn't seem to have a snooze button. She needs a distraction. So she decides to make every recipe from Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" within the next year. As she puts it, "365 days, 536 recipes". She finds her inner chef, and also finds herself.

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Have you missed me?

Hey, Blog World! Didja miss me?

I am so very sorry that I haven't been updating. Life just got busy, and I have no other excuse than that. As a quick update:

My brother, and his wife Mandy are expecting their first baby! My little niece is due to arrive in June! Everyone is so excited, as she will be the first baby in our family. I cannot wait to meet her!

Also keeping me busy is my new job - as of January 1st, I was promoted to Assistant Project Manager, and my responsibilities have been keeping me VERY busy. I have no time to blog anymore! LOL. I usually did my blogging first thing in the morning, before things got too crazy at work, but now, things are crazy before I even get to my desk. Its good, though - I prefer to be busy over bored, and I was definitely bored with my old position.

On the home front, I've done a couple minor projects. We installed a built-in desk in our library and placed a stationery laptop there. Its quite useful, as we use it to pay our bills, and its especially convenient for guests who want to use the internet. I also FINALLY painted our master bathroom, something I've been wanting to do for 3 years. We were holding out to do a full remodel, but I simply could not stand to look at the hideous navy blue wall any longer. I will try to do a post for each project soon with pics.

Lastly, I decided to put The Things Girls Love on an indefinite hiatus, and begin posting all of my book reviews here. You may notice I've already posted one!

Hope everyone is doing well. Thanks for sticking around while I disappeared on you, and also to those of you who checked in on me. Happy Spring!

The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold - Book Review

The Almost Moon The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This book grips you at the beginning, and you have to know: how could a woman murder her own mother? But the back story was weak, and the ending was terrible. I loved The Lovely Bones, and expected more out of this. But all I found it to be was disturbing.

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Monday, January 4, 2010

Soooo Sorry....

I am a horrible, horrible blogger. I have been MIA for weeks, and there's no excuse other than the fact that the holidays have kept me busy. Last week was the perfect opportunity for me to catch up on my blogging, because I was at home on vacation all  week long. But I just never got around to it. So I'm sorry everyone! Thank you for not abandoning me while I abandoned you.

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and an amazing New Years! I have to say, mine were both wonderful. We spent a few days in Lynchburg with my family before Christmas and stayed until Christmas morning. Then we made our way to New Jersey, with a pit stop in Richmond to unload, reload, feed the cat, and exchange our "big" gifts to each other. He got me a North Face jacket (LOVE!) and I got him an Erector Spykee robot. We spent a couple nights in New Jersey, and were back home late on Sunday night. Although were exhausted from all the traveling, we managed to stay up long enough to exchange the rest of our gifts with each other.

Scott had to go back to work on Tuesday, but I was fortunate to have the entire week off. I did some shopping, cleaning, cooking, and organizing. I still haven't taken down Christmas decorations, but that was by choice - I don't want to! We plan to do it this coming weekend. One more week of the Christmas tree. :-)

I've also spent plenty of time playing the Wii, which hasn't gotten much use since last winter. We've played so much Rock Band, Guitar Hero, and Super Mario Bros this week. It's been fun!

We are trying to decide what our next project will be. Could be hardwood floors in the Library and Dining Room, or it may be a built-in fridge in kitchen (which would open a huge can of worms!). Once we decide, I will let you all know and keep you up-to-date.