Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Leaving 36 Behind



Sammy: ANNIE! Someone put balloons on the mailbox.
Me: I think it was Grandma. What do you think they're for?
Sammy: Your birthday.
Sammy (whispering): I think those balloons would make a great obstacle course in the kitchen.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Bye Bye Blankie? Not quite yet...

On a whim I bought Sammy a Stars Wars Clone Wars throw blanket today...because he LOVES Star Wars. (I'll post a video of him singing the Imperial March below.)

Tonight he announced that the Star Wars blanket was his new blankie, and his old blue blankie (which I bought him when he was born and he HAS to sleep with every night or the world will end) was now Monkey's blankie. He wrapped Monkey up in the blue blankie, and then crawled under the Star Wars blanket.

(He has a stuffed pink monkey with long arms and legs that he plays with...granted, Monkey dies a lot when they're playing [he keeps getting shot for some reason], but he's brought back to life by the doctor.) Of course Monkey sleeps right beside him, so his tried and true blankie is within reach, but it seems to be a good first step (made on his own) to gradually outgrowing the need for a comfort item.




Friday, August 5, 2011

A Different Motivation

It's tax-free weekend in North Carolina, and I just talked myself out of buying an ipad. There are certain health goals I want to meet, and I decided the ipad will be my reward...so it looks like I won't be getting one for about a year :( But maybe the ipad will be a more enticing reward than "good health" and "feeling better about myself". It's time to start moving and eating better.

posted from Bloggeroid

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Chess

Sammy found a magnetic travel chess game and begged and begged me to teach him how to play. He promised he wouldn't get "flusterated" with all the rules. I showed him how each of the pieces moved. Of course he didn't remember...he's four. The biggest questions he had were why the rook wasn't called a castle and the knight a horsey.

Once we got the basics out of the way, Sammy opened the game with his first ever chess move...he moved the pawn to the refrigerator...where else are magnets supposed to go? After playing with it on the refrigerator for a minute, he moved it back to the board. I spent the next few turns showing him how to kill (capture) my players. His attention span lasted a total of nine moves. Not a bad first lesson.



posted from Bloggeroid

Thursday, July 7, 2011

It's Official

7/7/11 - my new favorite day. My divorce was finalized this morning. Honestly, I don't feel anything...not sadness, hurt, anger, relief, anything. All of my emotions about him and us were dispelled a while ago. But I'm glad to have this part of my life behind me.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

I'm still working on simplifying

I'm trying to get to this point with my books as well as other aspects of my life. I saw it on The Simple Life's blog: "When I think about my book collection, I think about the books I’ve read, not about the books I own. The value isn’t in the collection, it’s in the experience."

posted from Bloggeroid

Saturday, June 18, 2011

There's more to buying a bike than pointing and saying, "I'll take that one"

I decided to get Sammy a bike for his birthday (he's turning four next Saturday). Little did I know it would take a whole hour to pick out just the right one.

I went looking at bikes a couple days to see what was out there. I discovered there are more girl bikes than boy bikes, at least at the three stores I went to. I also acquainted myself with the different sizes and shapes. I figured a 16" bike is what I was looking for, giving him a some room to grow into. Now all I had to do was find a color, and voila, I'd be done.

WRONG. I took Sammy bike shopping tonight, and let me tell you, buying a bike is a lot different than buying a hot wheels (his current cool ride). The first thing I found out was that 16" was too small. It just fit him, and as tall as he is and as fast as he's growing, a 16" would not do. His knees came to just under the handle bars when his pedal was at the top of the rotation. We looked at 16" wheels with a longer frame, but that stretched him out too far.

So we moved up to an 18" wheel. There were several that we tried, but they just didn't fit him right. Some were too hard to pedal, on one the training wheels weren't even, others were too big, etc, etc. And then we found GOLDIE. It was the right shape frame and right size wheel, and Sammy loved it. When the salesman from Toys R Us pulled it off the rack, Sammy's eyes got big, and he said, "Wow! That's a COOL bike."  Heaven help me. He wanted a gold bike. If I could talk him into another bike, I would try my hardest. But honestly, this bike really was perfect in every way (except color). It was small enough to fit him but big enough for him to grow into. The frame was the correct length, and it was easy to pedal. The orange 16" bike that cramped his knees that he HAD to have 5 minutes ago was forgotten. This was it.

I was talking myself into actually buying him a $100 gold bike when the salesman said, "I don't know why we don't have more boys bikes out on the floor. Let me go see if we have anything similar to this in the back." :D  <---This is me grinning and begging the salesman to PLEASE go look. If I had to buy him a flashy, blingy gold bike I would, but in the end, I didn't have to. He came back out with a green bike in the same style made by the same company. And it was only $75 (score!). And it was on sale for one more day for $20 off (double score!). This bike was mine. I even paid the extra $10 to have them assemble it (which made my brother happy).

Here's a pic of Sammy on the gold bike. Now imagine the bike as a light (but masculine) grass green. Yep, this is gonna be one good birthday.


Monday, June 6, 2011

Sammy the Water Gun

If it helps him enjoy brushing his teeth every night, I've got no problem with it.


We had to change his shirt before he went to bed. It was a little wet :)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

How to use nunchucks

Sammy teaches how to properly use nunchucks. More importantly, we learn their correct pronunciation...it's nunchuckles.


(The nunchucks are homemade from two soft blocks and a rubber band.)

R2D2, Darth Vader, and a monkey walk out of a store

Sammy and I played Candyland this morning. The bad thing is that we've lost most of the cards. The good thing is that it ends quickly because 3 of 10 cards left are shortcut cards :) But I realized I didn't have any more games to play that were on in his level.  So we took a trip to the store where we picked up R2D2 in Trouble and Chutes & Ladders (the superhero version).

After *looking* at the Lego aisle (he LOVES legos, but it's amazing how expensive they are and he has TONS), we were walking past the stuffed animals when he said, "Oh! What's this?" And he went straight for...a pink monkey. I kid you not. A PINK monkey. It has long arms that velcro so it can hug you and a button to press in his chest that makes monkey sounds. And he wanted it. He wanted it bad. I diverted his attention to other stuffed animals. No go. I suggested we leave it on the shelf, and he said, "I'll just carry it around with me and take care of it."

We looked at the trucks (not interested), the guns (he has too many), and other toys, all with a pink monkey wrapped around his neck. He was getting impatient. "We need to go check out now!" Before we went to the register, I told him he could only get two things, so he had to chose between the R2D2 game (he also loves Star Wars...the PS3 game and star wars Legos...not really interested in the movies.), the super hero game, and the monkey.

(Aside) When we were looking at some of the board games, he wanted to get ones that were too complicated for him. He gets frustrated easily when he can't do something. You can guess what I said to him multiple times in the toy store by his response to choosing which toy to not buy. (Aside over) "I think I need to get the super hero game later, when I'm older so I'll know how to play it." Yep. He chose R2D2 and the pink monkey. The Chutes and Ladders game (which is well within his age range) was tossed aside.

As we walked up the register, they had bags with Barbie and Sponge Bob and other assorted characters, and he wanted one. I initially told him no (even though they were only $2), but then I saw a Lego Darth Vader one...so I bought him that too.

Here's Sammy with his prize monkey. He played with it all the way home. Ran into the house to show his dad. We've played hide and seek with it and they've jumped on the bed with it. It's his buddy. When we had to go somewhere in the afternoon, the monkey came too, along with the Darth Vader bag filled with his Ninja Turtles. Hey, whatever makes him happy, right?


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Spike...through the years

One of my mother's cats died unexpectedly this afternoon. Whatever the cause, it came on suddenly. Within 24 hours of discovering he was sick, our sweet Spikey would leave us. Our pets are more than just animals. They're members of the family. We'll miss you Spike. 7/7/06 - 5/3/11

Spike was just minutes old

Katie (middle) "pinning down" her brothers, Spike (top) and Tater (bottom)

They had just started opening their eyes

Paparazzi again? Why must you take so many pictures of me?

He looks innocent...

He looks harmless...

...but this darling brought home lizards and birds for everyone. So thoughtful.

Spike and his brother Tater

I claim the top of the couch (and this cute lady reindeer) in the name of Spikey!

Our sweet boy

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I Thought I Passed This Test Already

There has been drama in my house over the past few months. It came in spurts, but it was always there in unspoken words and agitated feelings. Without going into any details, the drama is no longer in my home, but at a significant price, and now there are bigger issues to deal with...not by me but by my family. It's a situation that didn't need to happen, and it didn't need to take the path it's taken. But it has. And I really want to yell and scream at certain people right now. But I can't. I want to complain about the unfairness of it all to anyone who will listen. But I won't. Because even people who only have cruel intentions have a right to privacy too, right? Plus focusing on the anger only feeds it and lets it grow and take residence inside my soul. So instead, my heart silently aches with the pain and hurt of betrayal and sadness for the innocent.  I thought I'd mastered the lesson of forgiveness with the trials I went through with my ex, but this situation has shown me I'm still a grasshopper with much to learn.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Americanized for Your Consumption

On Twitter this morning, one of my favorite authors wrote:

Monday: Done USA rewrite of Dragonslayer-1, finishing DS-2 for the UK in November

Which got me thinking...how often are "foreign" books rewritten for American audiences? I'm not talking about translation, which in itself involves a certain about of rewriting so that the meaning and spirit of the words come across rather than the exact translation which, depending on the language, can be very broken.

My concern is with books originally written in English. I don't know if the rewrites for the author above were just to fix errors in the UK version or to clarify issues. BUT if it was to simply Americanize the book so it's easier for us to absorb, I don't agree with that. Even something simple, like changing the first Harry Potter book from The Philosopher's Stone to the The Sorcerer's Stone bothered me. Why was there a need to change it? So it was easier for the kids to immediately understand?

We Americans are very isolated in our culture. Yes, we travel across the US, but there is so much more to the world than the good ol' US of A. Traveling overseas is very expensive though, at least for me it is. It isn't something we can do casually or often. It requires planning and saving.

Some of the best ways to be exposed to different cultures is through literature, and most easily through popular books, books which are set in foreign places written by foreign authors  Let us learn about your society and traditions and customs. We're resourceful enough to figure out what we don't understand (hello wikipedia). Don't Americanize books for our consumption. Don't protect us from the world. Help us experience it and broaden our horizons.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

My Attempt to Make Bread Pudding

 A couple weekends ago, I attempted to make bread pudding for the very first time.  I tried out a recipe from www.ourbestbites.com. My family enjoyed it, but I thought it was just all right. I think I had added too  much liquid.  Well, I don't think. I know. I've had bread pudding before, and it isn't supposed to be that liquidy...just an excuse for me to make it again.

I didn't have any day old bread, so I cut up half a french loaf and let it sit over night so it'd be dry enough to soak up the eggs, cream, and vanilla. The recipe calls for adding bananas, which I did, but I also made one with apples. The general consensus was that the apple one was better, but that could have been because the bread didn't have much texture to contrast with the softness of the bananas. But texture aside, I did like the flavor of the apple version better too.

The recipe has you cook the bananas and then place them between two layers of bread crumbs before you add the cream/egg/etc mixture. I'm not sure this step is really necessary. Next time I'm going to skip it and just mix the fruit and spices together with cubed bread. The liquid definitely needs to be added last. Next time I just won't add so much.

Without further ado, here are a few pictures I took. Don't laugh. It was my first attempt.

Mise en place (it's essential to have everything read BEFORE you start baking)

Apples going in the oven
Bananas going in the oven


Both bread puddings ready to be cooked


the finished banana bread pudding
(I later added a little whipped cream too)

I'll Do Better In April

I'm gradually learning to prioritize writing to my blog (which I've been horrible keeping up with), reading other people's blogs (my ereader backlog is 500+ strong), catching up on twitter (I currently have 929 *favorites* that I want to read but haven't yet), plus read the books in my massive to-read pile while writing reviews on them so I can actually participate in the Book Challenges I've signed up for) and make sure I watch my favorite shows. I think if I have a schedule, I'll be able to squeeze all of these things into my already busy life. I need to prioritize. I promise to do better in April.

Speaking of books, check out this AWESOME stack of books I won from Maggie Stiefvater's blog! I've never won anything like this before, and I'm super excited to get them. About half of them are already on my to-read list. I posted this pic on Facebook, and I already have three people asking to borrow some. (I've found I AM THE LIBRARY for several of my friends.) I need to start keeping a list of who has which books, because I currently have five books lent out, and I'm pretty sure I only know where three (maybe four) of them are. I keep close track of my favorite books, but others just get lost in the shuffle.

Monday, March 28, 2011

An interview with Wendy Booker

I love this! Having MS doesn't mean you have to stop living your life.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Chocolate-1, Susanne-0

I enjoy cooking, but a baker I am not. I attempted to make chocolate covered marshmallows today. I had a grand image in my head of a field of marshmallows, covered with chocolate, nuts, and sprinkles. Instead, this is what I got.


At first glance, they look half-way decent, so I'm recommending you not look too closely.  Chocolate, as I learned, is a tempermental #$*&%. Good heavens, she does not like to be told what to do. Silly me for thinking it would be easy.

But this was my first time really working with chocolate, so I'm considering this (and my next few attempts...if there are any) as a learning process. Here's what I learned:

1. Have your marshmallows skewered and ready to go before you melt your chocolate, because the chocolate cools quickly and then it gets lumpy and gritty. 
2. Marshmallows taste better coated with milk chocolate rather than semi-sweet.
3. The appeals (the orange stuff) melt easily and stay melted for a while. 
I like appeals.
4. I can chop nuts and chocolate quickly.
5. Next time I want to make some with crushed graham crackers and coconut.


I had also planned to make Banana Bread Pudding today, but my Mom, Sam, and Sammy left after lunch to visit with Stephan and his family, and they didn't get back until after 8:30. Bread pudding is best served warm, in my opinion, so I'll attempt to make it tomorrow. I have much more confidence in my ability to make it than work with chocolate.

I did get a little bit done. Here's as far as I got on it today.


Since I was planning on making the bread pudding, I went to Sam's Club to see if they had day old bread I could buy. Unfortunately (for me), they pull the bread the day after it's expiration date and donate it. So instead I bought a french loaf, cut it into slices, and left the slices out to dry so it can soak up all the creamy, banana-y goodness. Tomorrow is going to be a yummy day.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Draw the line and defend it

I saw a version of this on Facebook and loved it. I added/changed the last three lines, but the overall message is unchanged.


The Girl you just called fat? She's been starving herself & has lost over 30lbs.
The Boy you just called stupid? He has a learning disability & studies over 4hrs a night.
The Girl you just called ugly? She spends hours putting makeup on hoping people will like her.
The Boy you just tripped? He's abused enough at home.
Every person has a story. 

Accept differences. Show kindness.
Zero tolerance for bullying.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

More Sammyisms

Sammy: Annie, can you hold me in your arms?
Me: ((heart melts))


Sammy: What are you listening to? 
Me: A story about boys in space (Ender's Game) 
Sammy: What!? Boys aren't "aposed" to be in space.


‎Sammy: Why do they make stores so big? 
Me: So they can sell lots of stuff 
Sammy: If they made just little stores, they can have just one thing.
Me: What one thing would they have?
Sammy: a toy
Me: What toy?
Sammy: A lego face


Out of the blue, Sammy asked: Why do people need pinkies?


‎Sammy: I like your shoes, Annie! 
Me: Thank you. 
Sammy: Why do they have sticks on the bottom?


Sammy: When I eat, I'm going to eat outside so I don't break your house, 'cause I'm going to get big like the 'Credible Hulk. He's SO big.


Sammy: Why is one a tooth but two is teeth? 
Me: Because two is more than one. It's plural. You change the word a little when it's more than one. 
Sammy: Two is a turtle?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Book Review: Anna and the French Kiss

ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS
By Stephanie Perkins
Published by Dutton Books, a member of Penguin group, in 2010
Format: Hardcover (372 pages)

Anna and the French Kiss

How I heard about this book: Several friends on twitter/blogs
How I got a copy: From the library
Why I wanted to read it: I’m trying to read more YA books, and several people whose opinion I trust raved about how fantastic it was.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars (I’m buying my copy this week!)

Intended Audience: Young Adults
Genre: YA/chicklit
Themes: romance, infatuation, doubt, discovery, friends


Parental Warnings: Sex is mentioned a few times, but it isn't part of the story. There are several instances of drunken behavior. One very strong curse word is used several times near the end of the book.

First Line: Here is everything I know about France: Madeline and Amélie and Moulin Rouge.

I can’t remember the last time I stayed up all night to finish a book, but I couldn’t put this one down. I finally closed the covers just after 5:30 am and managed to get about three hours of sleep.

The author does a fantastic job of capturing the voice of Anna, a senior in High School sent to boarding school in France for her final year. You hear her tone and cadence. You feel her uncertainty and doubt. She does not want to be in Paris. She left behind her brother, her best friend, her great job at the multiplex, and the cute boy at the multiplex…all because her Dad wants to impress the people in Hollywood (he’s a big time writer whose books have been turned into movies). She’s alone and scared and living in a city where she doesn’t speak the language.

But she makes friends quickly. The second person she meets is the wonderfully handsome and eternally likeable Etienne St. Clair. She falls head over heels for him, but he has serious girlfriend. How will she juggle her feelings and their friendship? And what about the boy back home? Anna isn’t perfect, but who is, especially at seventeen.

The Latin quarter of the city and her life at school are breezily laid out. At times, her inner monologue is melodramatic as she analyzes every possible meaning of something that was said or done. (I totally remember being that way). The dialogue is flirty and funny and effortlessly cool. I laughed out loud so many times, and I lost count of how many favorite passages I had. Although the story is predicable, it doesn’t detract at all from the storytelling. This was such a fun, easy read. I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I really enjoyed it. The YA/chick lit/lite romance isn't my typical genre at all, but I would recommend this to any girl out there.

Do you want another point of view? This review and others can be found at goodreads.com.

My thoughts on the cover: It's all right, but Etienne is too tall. And although the Eiffel Tower is THE landmark for Paris, it's only mentioned once in the book. Notre Dame would have been better, even if it's less recognizable.

CHALLENGES
1. 2011 YA Reading Challenge from Jamie's Bookshelf
2. The TwentyEleven Challenge from Bart's Bookshelf (To YA or not to YA)

   The TwentyEleven Challenge

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Book Review: Packing For Mars

PACKING FOR MARS: The Curious Science of Life in the Void
By: Mary Roach
Published By: W.W. Norton & Co in August 2010
Format: Hardcover (318 pages, excluding Acknowledgements & Bibliography)

How I heard about this book: On twitter (I think)
How I got a copy: From the library
Why I wanted to read it: I love science, especially space


Intended Audience: Adults, Science Geeks
Genre: Non-fiction, Science
Rating: 3.75 stars (out of 5)

Summary: Descriptions of how astronauts prepare for outer space and what it would be like to live there. 

First Impressions: I was confused when I first started reading for two reasons. First, there wasn't a real introduction to what the book was really about. Yes, it's inside the front sleeve of the book jacket, but I consider that a summary, not an introduction, which I felt this book needed. Why? Because of the second reason: it wasn't what was expecting. What was I expecting? Based on the title, information on what it would be like travel in outerspace (which the author covers fantastically and with much detail), the dangers and obstacles of travelling to Mars (it's a long way away and takes a long time to get there and come back), and the preparations needed to make such a voyage safe and successful (both of which were only touched on very briefly).

Final Impressions: Once I stopped tripping over my expectations, I really enjoyed the book for what it is. I'm a science nerd (especially when it comes to space and astronomy), and I appreciate all of the research that went into writing such a detailed book. It covers how NASA prepares it's astronauts for space, including a lot of testing and studies to understand the impact space will have on the human body and how to cope and survive. It discusses hygiene, weightlessness, motion sickness, eating, bone loss, and more. It has first hand accounts from astronauts about some of the pleasures and difficulties. It definitely strips away the glamor of being an astronaut, but it still left me in awe.

This past Thursday (2/24), the space shuttle Discovery was launched on her final mission. She docks with the ISS today and will be there for a week. There are two other flights planned (Atlantis & Endeavor) and then NASA's shuttle fleet will be retired. The focus will then shift to building a craft that can fly beyond the moon, possibly to Mars.

A favorite quote from the book: "According to more than one astronaut memoir, one of the most beautiful sights in space is that of a sun-illuminated flurry of flash-frozen waste-water droplets. Space doesn't just encompass the sublime and the ridiculous. It erases the line between. (pg. 19)"

Do I recommend this book? Yes, especially to people who enjoy science and space.
Would I read another book by this author? Yes.

Do you want another point of view? This review and others can be found at goodreads.com

BOOK CHALLENGES
2011 Non-Fiction Challenge by The Broke and The Bookish (Category: Science/Nature)

Monday, January 31, 2011

Do I cook or clean?

One of the *fun* things about having MS is never knowing how much energy you're going to have at the end of the day. Until recently, I've been operating under the assumption that I can still do everything. I push myself. In the past month, though, I've noticed that I can't. I have limits. I don't like this, but I'm learning to accept and adapt.

When I get home from work, it's usually my responsibility to cook dinner. My mother is exhausted at the end of school. My brother can't cook, and the other adult living in my home only cooks dinners that come out of a box. While having heated frozen dinners is a nice reprieve on occasion, I prefer to know all of the ingredients in my meals. I'm funny that way. (sidebar: I think I'm beginning to develop a dislike for fast food -- which is a good thing because I used to eat it WAY too much.)

The meals I cook may be simple or complex or time consuming, but once I'm done cooking, I'm usually done. Period. I have nothing left. I'm drained. The day has done me in. Especially if, before I start cooking, I have to run a load of dishes and pots and cups and silverware that has been kindly placed into the sink throughout the day to the point of overflowing but not  put into the dishwasher. (There are other two adults in my home all day. Surely one of them can take care of this. Admittedly, half of the time is. But it's not fun when I have to come home to a dirty kitchen that has to be cleaned before I can start cooking.)

Once we've eaten, I just want to get on the computer or watch TV or read, anything that doesn't involve a lot of moving or concentration. How do you explain to someone without MS the inability to put dishes in the dishwasher or wipe the stove and table because you just don't have the energy and all you want to do is sit down. And if you try, you just stand there for minutes with a complete lack of focus (what was I supposed to be doing?), willing yourself to move. And then, if you do get it done, it takes 2-3 times longer than it normally should.

Sometimes, I hate to admit, I pile all the dirty dishes into the sink and let them stay there overnight and put them in the dishwasher in the morning. Other times I push through and just get it done. And then there are days like today, where my Mom has lots of energy left, so she's cooking dinner. I still had to put dishes in the dishwasher when I got home, but since I don't have to cook or clean up, I may be able to do something else with my evening. I have a cabinet that needs organizing, so I may just tackle that tonight.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Book Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES by Seth Grahame-Smith
Published in 2009 by Quirk Classics
Format: Softbound
How I got it: Bought it


(My copy of the book, complete with bandaids...Adler asked why the girl was hurt, so we made her better.)

Audience: Adults
Genre: Classics, Mash-Up, Action, Zombies,
Rating: 3 stars

Summary
The Bennet sisters, highly trained warriors, must battle the undead while dealing with relationships and their mother trying to marry them off.

First line: It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.


Review
Paranormal books aren't typically on my nightstand, but Pride and Prejudice is one of my all time favorite books, and this seemed like an interesting concept, so I bought a copy. Although zombie books aren't my normal read, I enjoyed this book, although I felt more could have been done. In the beginning, it seemed as if the author was only inserting bits and pieces of zombie fights and references to the Bennet girls being great warriors into Jane Austen's existing narrative. My complaint is not that her original work should not have been used (I'm glad it was), but that more of the author's writing should have been inserted. That being said, when there was more of Mr. Grahamme-Smith's own words, it sometimes appeared he was trying too hard to match the original language, and other times he didn't even try (i.e. I cannot imagine Jane Austen using the word "piss"). Of course, at other times the writing flowed smoothly between the two authors.


I admit that some changes needed to be made to fit the zombie/warrior theme, but these changes took some characters out of their original patterns of behavior rather than fitting the additional plot of the book to the already established characters. In addition, some changes not related to the zombie theme were made that were just confusing. A couple people were written (briefly) to have "loose morals" that just are not that way, and the whole Wickham/Lydia relationship once they left Brighton just left me confused. While I'm not a zombie person, this book could have used more zombies, more original writing. The one character transformation that took place was very funny.


Despite my complaints above, I enjoyed this book. I'm glad I read it. It made me laugh. Will I read it again? Maybe once more. My feelings after reading it? Honestly, it made me want to reread the original for the twentieth time. Do I recommend this book? Sure, as long as you're not an Austen purist (too many zombies) or a die-hard zombie lover (not enough zombies) -- a small understanding of both would be helpful though.


Do you want another opinion? You can read this review and many others at goodreads.com


A Few Favorite Quotes:
(112) The only harbinger of XX's unhappy fate was her ever-worsening penmanship. (The name of the unlucky person slowly turning into a zombie has been protected to prevent spoilers.)


(124) Elizabeth's courage did not fail her, even though she had been regaled with stories of Lady Catherine's accomplishments from the time she had been old enough to hold her first dagger. The mere stateliness of money or rank she could witness without trepidation, but the presence of a woman who had slain ninety dreadfuls with nothing more than a rain-soaked envelope was an intimidating prospect indeed.


(205) She remembered the lead ammunition in her pocket and offered it to him. "Your balls, Mr. Darcy?" He reached out and closed her hand around them, and offered, "They belong to you, Miss Bennet." Upon this, their colour changed, and they were forced to look away, lest they laugh.

A book without pictures! What fun is that?

Sammy: "What are you doing?" 
Me: "Reading a book." 
Sammy: "Without any pictures?" 
Me: "Yep, no pictures." 
Sammy: "The same one?" 
Me: "Yes, the same one as last night."
Sammy: "Why it take you so long to read your book?"

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Book Review: The Athena Project

THE ATHENA PROJECT by Brad Thor
Originally published by Atria (an imprint of Simon & Schuster) in November 2010.
Format: hardbound
How I got it: from the library

The Athena Project

Audience: Adults
Genre: Action, Mystery, Sci-Fi lite
Rating: 2-1/2 out of 5 stars


Summary
An elite military group of four women are assigned on multiple tasks to help find a weapon that could have catastrophic consequences for the rest of the world.


First Line: The sound of suppressed gunfire in the narrow fuselage was drowned out by the roar of the slipstream coupled with the plane's engines.


Review
This is definitely a plot driven book, not a character driven one. Character development was left more to stereotypes. I never really got a feel for who each of the members of the Athena team were. Yes, the author stated their strengths when he introduced them, but each character was almost interchangeable. I just referred to them as the team in my head. I did enjoy their friendly, joking banter with each other, even if the time wasn't always appropriate.

It was easy read. Because you don't have to invest a lot into the characters, you can just go where the story takes you. At the beginning, though, I was confused by all the characters and stories put into play. It took a while to sort them out, and eventually I saw how they all intertwined at the end, but some of them just weren't needed.  I'm still a bit lost about the need for the Denver International Airport in the story line.  There was one twist (pg. 309) I did not see coming. A lot more could have been done with this; it ended too suddenly.


Overall, the book was well paced, although a few more resting spots would have been nice. I know the Athena girls were exhausted after all that non-stop action. The main plot device of the book takes it into a sci-fi lite category, which made it seem out of place with the rest of book.

The writing was good, but it was descriptive in places it didn't need to be. For example, I don't need to know the make/model of the the wire cutters and to know they were up to the task of cutting the fence. On the flip side, my favorite descriptive line in the whole book is on page 305: The women moved like demons in some medieval nightmare scaling down a castle wall -- that provided a very visual image with only a few words.

Overall, the book was just okay. Would I recommend it to others? I'm more apt to say I wouldn't not recommend it...which makes it a 2-1/2 out of 5 star book for me.



Do you want another opinion? You can read this review and many others at goodreads.com

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Randomly Asked Questions 1/27/11

What is the last thing you watched on TV?
The Late Late Show with Craig Fergsuon -- the BEST late night talk show host. I love that his monologues are more conversational rather than going from joke to joke. Plus he TALKS to his guests. He can be a bit baudy, but that's what they have censors for :)

What's your favorite (scripted) TV show?
I don't think I can single it down to just one, but here's a list of my current favorites: NCIS, How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory, Castle, Doctor Who, Psych, Bones...there are more, but these are the ones at the top.

What is the last film you saw?
Goodness, it's been a while. I was planning on seeing Harry Potter, but those plans were lost when Mom had her hip replaced. I hope they release it again in the theaters when part 2 comes out. Back to the questions...the last movie I saw in a movie theater, I think, was How To Train Your Dragon. I'm sure I saw another movie after that, but I just can't remember.

What's your favorite movie?
Again, to many to really narrow it down. I don't think I have one, but I love old Gene Kelly movies. I've had a crush on him since I was a young teenager. Here's a link to my top 10 movies.

What is the last song you listed to?
"Raise Your Glass" by Pink


What type of music do you like most?
I'm all over the map, but if I had to choose one I really like, it would contemporary acoustic guitar. There's a guy named Matt Hutchinson from Manchester, England who plays under the name ortoPilot. He's known for his covers, but he also has original songs too. I found him on YouTube about three years ago. He also sells songs on iTunes.  One of my favorites is his cover of Snow Patrol's "Run". He also does a cover of Jason Mraz's "The Geek in the Pink" with TheBathroomGirl that I love.

What type of music do you dislike?
I'm not really into rap or hip hop (surprise), or songs with a lot bad language. Does that make me a prude?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Book Review: Rebecca

REBECCA by Daphne du Maurier
Originally published by Victor Gollancz in 1938
My copy was published by Doubleday & Company in 1961
Format: bound novel & audiobook

Rebecca

Intended Audience: Adult
Genre: Gothic romance with a dash of mystery thrown in
Themes: self-doubt, self-discovery, jealousy, loyalty, love, hate
Rating: 3-1/2 out of 5 stars

Summary
Our unnamed narrator marries Maxim de Winter, a widower. Though she loves him, she feels he will never truly love her because she cannot measure up to his former wife and true love, Rebecca. She constantly lives in Rebecca's shadow.

First Line: Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.


Review
I was a good way into the book before I felt invested in the story and characters. The pacing at the beginning is very slow, although it does use the time well by establishing the setting and our narrator's character. She's full of self-doubt before she marries Maxim, a man many years her senior and in a much higher station in life. Entering his world only magnifies her feelings of inferiority and unworthiness, although to be fair to her, she doesn't have a support system. She is almost entirely alone.

As soon as she moves into Manderley (his estate), she knows she'll never be the real mistress of the house because it is still Rebecca's. The servants loved Rebecca and were devoted to her, especially Mrs. Danvers, who takes it upon herself to feed the new Mrs. de Winter's insecurities.

I felt I really knew who Mrs. de Winter and Mrs. Danvers were. I understood their motivations and thoughts, even if they both got on my nerves in their own ways. I would've liked Maxim's character to have been developed more fully in the beginning since he's rarely seen in the middle section, although I suppose it was necessary in order for the ending to be revealed. But I wanted to experience them fall in love, and I feel robbed that I didn't. I understand why his new bride felt he didn't love her.

Once the plot finally picks up, it takes a hold of you and doesn't let you know until the end. About the ending...WOW. I did not see that coming. This is definitely a different book the second time you read it. Your perspective is completely different. While I understand the end, I would not have made some of the same choices.

Do I recommend this book? Yes. Will I read it again? Yes, maybe once or twice in a few years. Why only 3-1/2 stars? Because the beginning was so slow (an odd complaint from someone whose favorite book is Pride & Prejudice). I kept stopping and starting. I finally switched to an audio version so I couldn't stop reading by putting the book down.

Do you want another opinion? You can read this review and many others at goodreads.com.

Book Challenges
The TwentyEleven Challenge from Bart's Bookshelf (Category: Way Back When)


The TwentyEleven Challenge

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Book Review: How to Train Your Dragon

How to Train Your Dragon, by Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, translated from the Old Norse by Cressida Cowell
#1 in a series
Published by Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hatchett Book Group , in February 2000
Format: audiobook (abridged: 3-1/2 hours)


How to Train Your Dragon (How to Train Your Dragon, #1)

Intended Audience: Middle Grades
Themes: Friendship, Kindness, Courage
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

First Line: “A note from the author: there were dragons when I was boy. …You’ll have to take my word for it, for the dragons are disappearing so fast, they may soon become extinct.”

Summary: Toothless, Hiccup's dragon, is whiny and self-centered and refuses to be trained. Hiccup is a failure at everything, but if he doesn't train his dragon in four months, he won't become a Viking and will be kicked out of his tribe.

REVIEW
I originally chose to read this book because I really enjoyed the movie. (Note: This book is nothing like the movie.) While I usually never read an abridged book, I chose to listen to this version because David Tennant is the narrator, and I LOVE David Tennant and his wonderful Scottish accent. He does an absolutely fabulous job. I can imagine him sitting around a camp fire surrounded by a bunch of entranced kids as he tells this story.

I'm not sure how it was shortened, (the unabridged version is an hour longer), but I really liked this book. I was confused at first because it didn't follow the movie's story line, but I quickly let go of my expectations and appreciated it for the adventure it is.

While this is a middle grades read, it isn't a dumbed down story. The characters and setting are well-developed. This is a great read. It's funny and entertaining. You feel sorry for Hiccup because his situation is so hopeless. But it has a fantastic, feel-good ending. This book may be targeted to boys, but I think girls will like it to. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go buy this book. I have nephews to read to.

Do you want another point of view? Check out reviews of this book at goodreads.com

Book Challenge
2011 Audiobook Challenge by Teresa's Reading Corner

Monday, January 17, 2011

Randomly Asked Questions 1/17/11

I was doing a "Five Random Questions" post, and I discovered I was posting them on dates that had a 7 in them, so I'm changing this up just a little. First, I'm changing the title to "Randomly Asked Questions." Then, three times a month, on the 7th, 17th, and 27th, I'll post answers to 7 questions I find randomly on the internet.  Here's today's edition:

1. How many nicknames do you have?
Just one, Sus. It's what my soon-to-be ex-husband used to call me. It was usually when he needed something, so he'd say, "Hey, Sus, can you..." It always sounded like he we was calling for some Mexican guy (Jesus) instead of me. My brother will call me Sus occasionally, but mostly people just call me Susanne.

2. How many e-mail addresses do you have?
Five, I think. 1) family and friends; 2) social networking; 3) finance/bills; 4) junk; 5)...nope, just four.

3. Are you usually late, early, or right on time?
Late. It's a habit I truly dislike in myself. I'm trying to change it. It's one of my goals for the year.

4. Who do you envy?
There are many people I envy, mostly because they seem to have it together while I feel like I'm floundering. I have many friends who are younger than me (I'm 36), have children (I have none), a husband (I'm getting divorced), and a job (I do have a good job I enjoy, so that's a plus), and they still have an immaculately clean house (I hate cleaning because it never ends) and prepare a home-cooked meal every night (I love cooking, but I have I mentioned I hate cleaning up afterwards).

5. Do you have freckles?
Yes, but surprisingly, the darker ones on my face are lightening up. That's probably because I haven't been to beach in YEARS. I love listening to the ocean waves as they lap up on the shore, but I don't like just sitting on the beach getting hot. I blame this on MS. I also used to love HOT showers, but my MS flares up when I get hot, so now I can't stand them. (Did any else say those last four words like Jean Hagen in "Singing in the Rain"? No? Just me?)

6. Can you do a cartwheel?
No. Never have.

7. How do you like your steak cooked?
Medium rare -- lightly pink in the middle.

Book Review: How I Killed Pluto & Why It Had It Coming

HOW I KILLED PLUTO AND WHY IT HAD IT COMING by Mike Brown
Published by Spiegel & Grau, a division of Random House, in Dec. 2010
Formats: traditional (256 pages), audiobook (7hrs 48min)

How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming

Genre: non-fiction, science
Themes: astronomy, family
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Brief Summary: The story of how Mike Brown's search for "planets" beyond Pluto led to Pluto's demotion from planet to dwarf planet (which isn't really a planet at all).
Language: no curse words

REVIEW
Mike Brown does a fantastic job of interweaving the story of his search for large astronomical bodies beyond Pluto with his family life. There's suspense (bad guys trying to steal planets), humor (Mike graphing his newborn daughter's eating and sleeping habits), science (explained so a person of average intelligence can understand it), and controversy (Pluto was kicked out of the planetary fraternity with more than a little discussion). I found it fascinating to discover that the number of accepted planets has fluctuated many times.

The only complaints I've seen about the book focus on the fact that it's not just about Pluto, Eris' discovery, and science. Go into your reading of this book with your eyes open. It's also about several large planetoids he's found, which, for me, helps put things in perspective. It includes a little bit of his childhood. He talks about his wife and child. This isn't really Pluto's story. It's Mike Brown's story and how his discoveries and the question "what is a planet?" resulted in Pluto's demotion.

This was an incredibly fun & informative read and listen. After I borrowed the book from the library, I not only bought a hardbound copy, I purchased an audiobook version too. The narrator did a great job. I recommend this book to everyone.

Do you want another point of view? Check out reviews of this book on goodreads.com

Book Challenges
2011 Audiobook Challenge by Teresa's Reading Corner
2011 Non-Fiction Challenge by The Broke and The Bookish (Category: Science/Nature)

 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

An 8th Book Challenge...kind of

((Another challenge? Really Susanne?)) Okay, okay, this is the last one, I promise. I've decided to join The Broke and the Bookish's 2011 Non-Fiction Challenge.  ((Wait, aren't you already participating in a non-fiction challenge?)) Yes, I am, but I'm adding this new one because it has different categories you have to read from, so it will force me out of my comfort zone. I have soooooooooo many non-fiction books on my to-read list right now, it isn't even funny. I need a challenge help push me.

In other book news, (slightly related to the above challenge because it's about a...wait for it...non-fiction book) I slacked off this week in my reading. I've started All the Kings Men and have gotten half-way through. It's very interesting, but it seems to be getting a bit redundant. The information isn't the same, but there's only so many ways you can interview someone and find out another small piece of information that fits into the great big, huge puzzle that is the Watergate scandal. A lot of foundation work is being laid, but I'm ready for it to begin moving forward. I will finish this book this week. I feel it's holding me back on my other reads.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A 7th Book Challenge

I've added a 7th Book Challenge for 2011. I know...I'm asking for it. I have such high expectations for my reading goals this year. I've already read three books in the first week. But I just found this: The TwentyEleven Challenge from Bart's Bookshelf. The goal is to read 20 books in 11 different categories (maximum of two books per challenge). I have ideas for the books I'm going to read, but others will require more thought. Here are the categories:

1. To YA or not YA -- if you read mostly adult books (like me), then you would read a YA novel, and vice versa. This will be easy to accomplish because I've added a lot of YA books to my to-read list this year.
2. ...With A Twist -- choose a sub-genre you don't normally read.  I need to think about this one.
3. Hot Off the Presses -- read a book published in 2011.
4. It Wasn't Me! -- choose a book published based solely on the recommendation of another blogger. Easy peasy. This is how many books have been added to my TBR pile.
5. Show It Who Is Boss! -- choose a book already in your TBR pile. Again, easy. There are a lot. Many of which I've started but got sidetracked by another book.
6. Bablefish -- choose a book translated into your native language. Interesting.
7. Will Power? What Will Power? -- Read a book you BOUGHT NEW in 2011. Library books and used books don't count.
8. Mind the Gap -- Do you need one more book to complete a trilogy/series? Get it and read it.  I had an idea for this book, but it's the newest release in the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde and will be released this year. I'm not sure this book counts because it can't be the penultimate (next-to-last) read, but I'm not how many more books are planned. I'll have to think about this.
9. Back in the Day -- Reread a favorite or two
10. Way Back When -- Read a book published before you were born
11. Slim-Pickings -- Choose a book between 90-150 pages long

Friday, January 7, 2011

Five Random Questions 1/7/11

1. When was the last time you went out of town?
In September for my grandfather's (father's father) funeral. He was my last grandparent alive, but I didn't know him very well. He lived in Paducah, Kentucky. It was a sad occasion, but I was able to meet three cousins I had never met before.

2. What was the last thing you had to drink?
Water (w/ dinner) -- I'm trying to drink less soda, and I don't drink alcohol.

3. When is the last time you ran?
hahaha ha ha ha (wiping tears)...that's funny.  run.  I don't run. Although I want to start. It was my goal to try and run a half marathon by my half birthday (13.1 miles--thanks Amanda) but that ISN'T going to happen. That's less than two months away. So I have a new goal that's more realistic. I'm going to run a 5K by my birthday.

4. Were you an honor roll student in school?
Yes. I enjoyed studying (especially math and science. NOT history...I really don't like history). I was also very shy, so I didn't have much of a social life.

5. Are you wearing any perfume?
Yes. Sung (my favorite). My favorite perfume used to be Le Jardin, but it's not sold any more. My grandmother would give me a bottle every year for Christmas. Sung is similar but not quite as light and florally, but I still like it.

What time is it Sammy?

Sammy: "My watch says, 'It's time to get Annie (me)'."
Me: "Not if I get you first!"


 **POW, POW** 
::Sammy falls dramatically to the ground:: 


Sammy: "Help me, Annie Doctor. I've been shot." 
Me: "Oh No! Who did this?"
Sammy: "You did, when you were a bad guy."
Me: "I'm sorry! Let's get you better so you can play and have fun."
Sammy: (weakly) "and catch bad guys"

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

My 6 Book Challenges

My own personal book challenge is one I tried last year...52 books in a year, one per week...and failed at. This year I'm more determined. To help me meet my goal, I'm joining several challenges hosted by different people. I'm hoping they will compliment the books already in my to-read pile while allowing for opportunities to discover more great books.

The first is the "WHAT'S IN A NAME" challenge by hosted Beth Fish Reads. There are only six books for this challenge, but the title of each book must have _____ in the title. Here are my books:

1. Evil:  Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche (non-fiction)
2. Gem: Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History by Scott Andrew Selby
3. Number: One Day by David Nicholls (or maybe The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall)
4. Size: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
5. Movement: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
6. Life Stage: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell (I hope this one counts. It seems like it should, but it's kind of a stretch.)

The second is an E-BOOK challenge hosted by The Ladybug Reads. I don't have an e-reader (although at some point I feel I may cave and buy a Nook color, but that won't be for some time.) I do however have a smart phone with the kindle app. I also have the kindle software on my laptop. At Amazon, all of the books in the public domain are FREE, so my focus for this challenge will be the classics. I've signed up for the Addicted level (12 books).

Almost all of the books I plan on reading will be first reads, but I've decided to join Daemon's books in rereading the HARRY POTTER series.

This past year, for the first time, I read a lot of Young Adult and Middle Grade books, and I've enjoyed most of them.  So I'm reading more and joining For the Love of YA's 2011 YOUNG ADULT reading challenge. I only signed up for the lowest level, The Mini (12 books).

I enjoy non-fiction books, especially ones about science, but I'm not going to limit myself to just one type of non-fiction. I'm joining Past as Prologue's NON-FICTION challenge. I'm going for Expert (7+ books) because I have 10 on my to-read list for this year.

FINALLY, I'm doing an AUDIOBOOK challenge hosted by Teresa's Reading Corner. I'm hoping to get to the Addicted level (12 audiobooks).

Some of these challenges may overlap, but I think that's okay. And although these seem like a lot of books, I think I can do it. Wish me luck.