Monday, December 10, 2012

The Lady of Bolton Hill Review

The Lady of Bolton HillThe Lady of Bolton Hill

 
When Clara Endicott and Daniel Tremain's worlds collide after twelve years apart, the spark that was once between them immediately reignites into a romance neither of them thought possible.

But time has changed them both.

Daniel is an industrial titan with powerful enemies. Clara is an idealistic journalist determined to defend underprivileged workers.

Can they withstand the cost of their convictions while their hearts--and lives--hang in the balance?




My Review: 1/10

The cover was beautiful, that's about all I can say. In fact, this seems to be an increasingly frequent occurance; I'm beginning to suspect that a beautiful cover is overcompensating for something, and I think I'm going to need to make an effort to seek out plain, nondescript covers and stear clear of these ones.

Anyway, I read the first 10 or so chapters and as soon as the villain makes his appearance, I thought, you have to be kidding me. So cheesy. And the relationship between Clara and Daniel is completely unbelieveable. They immediately pick up where they left off and clear all the misunderstandings between them in ONE conversation. It didn't give me anything to invest in. So I skimmed the rest of the way through, reading paragraphs or pages at a time, and finished thinking, I am so glad I did not waste my time reading every word. Kind of ridiculous.

Deep in the Heart of Trouble Review

Deep in the Heart of Trouble

Deep in the Heart of Trouble

by
 
Texas bloomer girl Essie Spreckelmeyer (Courting Trouble) is still just trying to maintain her balance. The president of the local velocipede club has had her fair share of pratfalls, but her present situation is unusually perilous. Running her father's oil company in this male-dominated boomtown was difficult enough before arrival of handsome, headstrong Tony Morgan. A robust Christian romance





My Review:  4.5/10


I like Essie SO much more in this book, and the change seemed natural. I do like that Essie was going to be given a family even though she had embraced not receiving one. But the subplot of the lynchings was too much. And though I liked some of the ways that Tony was different and flawed, I felt like he changed unnaturally. I don't know, I didn't completely buy into the relationship. And the way that all the loose ends tied up, with his sister's marriage and the deputy being shot and implicated, and the killer having left and obvious trail, not to mention his older brother's demise to begin with, it was all just too easy. Too simply, too neatly wrapped up.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Redeeming Love Review and a slight tangent on historical fiction

Redeeming LoveRedeeming Love

 
California's gold country, 1850. A time when men sold their souls for a bag of gold and women sold their bodies for a place to sleep.

Angel expects nothing from men but betrayal. Sold into prostitution as a child she survives by keeping her hatred alive. And what she hates most are the men who use her, leaving her empty and dead inside.

Then she meets Michael Hosea. A man who seeks his Father's heart in everything, Michael obeys God's call to marry Angel and to love her unconditionally. Slowly, day by day, he defies Angel's every bitter expectation, until despite her resistance, her frozen heart begins to thaw.

But with her unexpected softening come overwhelming feelings of unworthiness and fear. And so Angel runs. Back to the darkness, away from her husband's pursuing love, terrified of the truth she no longer can deny: Her final healing must come from the One who loves her even more than Michael does ... the One who will never let her go.



My Review:  10/10

nothing at all like i was expecting. Painful to read, but also one of, if not THE most powerful book I've ever read.  

I don't understand why more Christian books aren't written like this. It's kind of driving me crazy. It seems that people think that for it to be a Christian romance there has to be an element of self-denial (which supples the sexual tension that the whole book feeds off of until the very end when they marry). I hardly ever come across one that goes into life after marriage, unless it's part of a series, and even then the focus is off the first couple; they're married now, so their story is over.

This attitude is not only boring, it's damaging. Being a Christian does not mean that you're perfect and chaste. I generally appreciate less scandal and vulgarity, but these books take it to the extreme.

And why are all the heroines progress, feisty women? Is there not more than one persona that was appealing several hundred years ago? It seems they are all (poorly) modeled after Jane Austin's Eliza Bennet. But even Jane Austin only did it that one time. Her other characters, and even other lovable characters in Pride and Prejudice, were vastly different. Some were arrogant and self centered, some were meek and shy, some had a servant attitude, some were immature. All of them vastly different. Why are all the women in these historical fiction novels so one dimensional?

How wonderful it would be if more love stories were modeled after ones in the Bible. We could really learn a thing or two about how real love really works, about patience, kindness, too. About how love and healing can find any person, no matter how deep they're standing in sin, and how God can make anyone clean.

Redeeming Love was the most beautiful love story I've ever read. While I'm so thankful that I got to experience it, I'm also a little sad because I don't think I'll come across anything quite like it again. Read this and savor every moment of it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Courting Trouble Review

Courting TroubleCourting Trouble 

by
 
Tired of Waiting for a Match-Made-in-Heaven,
She'll Settle for One Made in Texas

Whether it's riding bikes, catching snakes, or sliding down banisters, Essie Spreckelmeyer just can't quite make herself into the ideal woman her hometown--and her mother--expect her to be. It's going to take an extraordinary man to appreciate her joy and spontaneity--or so says her doting oil-man father.
Unfortunately such a man doesn't appear to reside in Corsicana, Texas.
It's 1894, the year of Essie's thirtieth birthday, and she decides the Lord has more important things to do than provide her a husband. If she wants one, she needs to catch him herself. So, she writes down the names of all the eligible bachelors in her small Texas town, makes a list of their attributes and drawbacks, closes her eyes, twirls her finger, and ... picks one.
But convincing the lucky "husband-to-be" is going to a bit more of a problem.
Join Deeanne Gist for another unforgettable tale and find out whether Essie's plan to catch a husband succeeds or if she's just Courting Trouble.



My Review:  4/10

I did kind of enjoy this book at times. Essie was cringeworthy most of the time, but I think that was intentional. I had to skip reading from the moment when Adam almost walks away but she calls after to him, to the moment they are discovered. I knew what was going to happen and I couldn't stomach reading the build up. I was surprised and delighted by how things ended.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Heart Divided Review

A Heart Divided (Heart of the Rockies #1)A Heart Divided 

It is 1878 and the Caldwells and Wainwrights have been feuding for decades. Still, Sarah Caldwell has misgivings when her father pressures her into distracting a ranch hand while he and her brothers rob the Wainwright place. When it becomes clear that hand is actually Cord Wainwright, Sarah realizes she needs to lay low. But Cord spots her in town and, with the sheriff away, makes a citizen's arrest, dragging her off to the Wainwright ranch until the sheriff's return. As the feud boils over, Cord and Sarah make a most inconvenient discovery--they are falling in love. Can they betray their families for love? Or will their families betray them?
Against the beautiful and wild backdrop of the Rocky Mountains comes this sweeping saga of romance, betrayal, and forgiveness from beloved author Kathleen Morgan.



My Review: 3/10

I got bored halfway through. Definitely had to echo sarahs frustration at why couldnt the conflct just END already?!

Some minor period discrepencies and time issues. Other than that the story line just got old quick.
 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Head in the Clouds Review


Head in the Clouds

Head in the Clouds


Adelaide Proctor is a young woman with her head in the clouds, longing for a real-life storybook hero to claim as her own. But when a husband-hunting debacle leaves her humiliated, she interviews for a staid governess position on a central Texas sheep ranch and vows to leave her romantic yearnings behind.
When Gideon Westcott left his privileged life in England to make a name for himself in America's wool industry, he never expected to become a father overnight. And five-year-old Isabella hasn't uttered a word since she lost her mother. The unconventionality of the new governess concerns Gideon--and intrigues him at the same time. But he can't afford distractions. He has a ranch to run, a shearing to oversee, and a suspicious fence-cutting to investigate.
When Isabella's uncle comes to claim the child--and her inheritance--Gideon and Adelaide must work together to protect Isabella from the man's evil schemes. And soon neither can deny their growing attraction. But after so many heartbreaks, will Adelaide be willing to get her head out of the clouds and put her heart on the line?









My Review: 2/10
 
I tend to like books less when I listen to the audio version (something about the annoying voices they always give the characters, ESPECIALLY Isabella's voice and ohmygosh the sleazy Jose, gah) so maybe this is unfair. But I really didn't like this book. I'm used to Ms. Witemeyer's style, but this was just way too melodramatic, even for her. Adelaide was too back and forth for me. I hate that she accepted Giddeon's proposal. Isabella was not at all lifelike to me. I have a six year old and this child was too babyish and too perfect for much of the time. Actually, I think that's the issue I have with these books- the characters do not seem to be given any flaws. They don't change, they don't grow. The villain's were too over the top. Nothing in the book was subtle or slow building, and therefore none of it felt lasting.

I really enjoyed the first book of Witemeyer's that I read, Short Straw Bride, and though I have not read them in chronological order, it seems that they are getting more and more desperate with the violence, threats, declarations of love, and obstabcles, and so I'm liking them increasingly less (if that makes sense).

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Death Cure Review

The Death Cure (Maze Runner, #3)The Death Cure 

 
Thomas knows that Wicked can't be trusted, but they say the time for lies is over, that they've collected all they can from the Trials and now must rely on the Gladers, with full memories restored, to help them with their ultimate mission. It's up to the Gladers to complete the blueprint for the cure to the Flare with a final voluntary test.

What Wicked doesn't know is that something's happened that no Trial or Variable could have foreseen. Thomas has remembered far more than they think. And he knows that he can't believe a word of what Wicked says.

The time for lies is over. But the truth is more dangerous than Thomas could ever imagine.
Will anyone survive the Death Cure?



My Review: 8/10

**spoiler alert** It was good. But felt incomplete.

So much was unexplained in the first book. And so much I was unsure of in the second. I didn't really feel that much was answered satisfactorily in the final book.

Spoilers!

These are just some of the many questions that were pinging in my head after putting it down. Why hadn't anyone thought to quarantine and protect some or all of the Immunes? Where did they go? Were they left instructions? So many questions regarding this- how the Immunes were just plopped in some random Paradise that I thought could no longer exist.

And what about Thomas' brain surgery? One minute, he's going under, the next he's being awoken by Chancellor Paige. I have NO idea how that went down so smoothly.

Don't even get me started on Teresa. No questions answered there. Except that she was really FOR Thomas all along, which I don't think anyone truly doubted for one second. And then you kill her off. I cannot stand it when authors do this. They create a love triangle and then think that they only way that their character can choose beyond a doubt is to either kill one off or make them do something unforgiveable (accidentally bombing your beloved's sister, anyone?). I cannot find this relatable at all. How refreshing it would be to create two characters that are meant for each other based on their own personalities and the way they fit each other. It's like the author doesn't even trust his own judgement. Argh.

Anyway, back to the questions. So Thomas never gets his memory back? We never really know if Wicked was good or not. Good intentioned or not. Mistakenly believed by Thomas to be good or not. Picture is incomplete.

What about the second group in the other maze? I mean obviously they didn't make it, but they don't even seem to have been given a second thought.

Maybe some of these questions will be answered in the prequel. But I doubt it.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Delirium Review

Delirium (Delirium, #1)

Delirium 

They say that the cure for Love will make me happy and safe forever.

And I've always believed them.

Until now.

Now everything has changed.

Now, I'd rather be infected with love for the tiniest sliver of a second than live a hundred years smothered by a lie.

Lena looks forward to receiving the government-mandated cure that prevents the delirium of love and leads to a safe, predictable, and happy life, until ninety-five days before her eighteenth birthday and her treatment, when she falls in love.














My Review: 9.5

I'm not sure this is one I'll feel the need to relive over and over like my other favorite books. But infinitely superior to most things I've read. Sure it's a little predictable, but Delirium harbors no pretense about that. Some of the things that were meant to be a shock were not entirely shocking.

But it was beautifully written; a lot of books try to pull off a lyrical kind of style and it just comes off as melodramatic, but Oliver did it well. I loved the characters; you want to dig deeper and understand villain and hero alike. I can't wait to see what happens next, what happens to each of them. Despite the prevalent despair, the author always provides some hope to cling to. Just like in other dystopian novels, like Hunger Games and Divergent, you can sense a coming revolution. And I can't wait to be brought along for the ride. This book is so popular that I was on the waiting list for two months with my local (and rather large) library. It was definitely worth the wait.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

If that were the essay question, my response would be a book report for the most part.

I was trying to save on gas (like 15 miles to the gallon in my car, plus no ac.) and unneccessary expenses (I have a tendency to buy things when I'm out), so we spent the majority of our free time at home. Then wasps took over the swingset, so home became limited to indoors.

And I knew that, with classes starting up again and the girls schedule (school, ballet, etc) and bible study and a bunch of other time commitments, finding time to read would be really difficult. And probably a bad idea, the way I read. So I ended up reading a TON of books. Rather than writing reviews or blurbs on them here, I started a Goodreads account, gave them a rating and if really necessary, wrote a review. I love it- a lot of people have them, so I finally have a steady influx of recommendations. Plus you get a heads up when your favorite authors or series are coming out with a new book, and you can enter to win an ARC (advanced reader copy) or just a free book. Awesome! And there is a feature called listopia, which has lists people have made categorizing books (ie happy endings, YA of 2012, Classics from the 50s, etc). And based on the ratings you give, Goodreads recommends books that fit your interests. I highly recommend this site to anyone who hasn't used it before.

All that being said, out of the dozens of books I consumed, I had few complaints, which was really surprising and refreshing. I've been reading dystopian novels and fantasy. I really enjoyed Starcrossed and Liar's Moon. The third book hasn't been picked up by the publisher yet. The first Graceling book was good, though a little slow at times, and rather disturbing at others. I'll probably read the second book Fire when I get a chance. I read a few historical fiction novels, all of which sucked, I'm sorry to say. Predictable, didn't learn anything, and just thoroughly dry. Poison Study was really good. I'm on the waiting list for the following books, but I've heard they decline. I may change my mind by the time I actually get the book, and let a good thing rest. Why does everyone feel the need to make a book a trilogy. Not everybody (actually few it seems) is cut out to write follow up books. Some people's strengths lie in a strong standalone book. It really diminishes the quality when a sequel fails. I can't enjoy the original the same way, knowing what lies ahead.

The best thing I read all summer was Divergent (and sequel Insurgent). If you liked The Hunger Games, you'll like this. Veronica Roth has a blog that she actually keeps up with too. Right now, I'm reading The Giver series (4th book out soon!) and the Percy Jackson series. I've got a week to squeeze 'em in!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Graceling Review

Graceling (Graceling Realm, #1) Graceling 

 
His eyes, Katsa had never seen such eyes. One was silver, and the other, gold. They glowed in his sun-darkened face, uneven, and strange. She was surprised that they hadn't shone in the darkness of their first meeting. They didn't seem human....

Then he raised his eyebrows a hair, and his mouth shifted into the hint of a smirk. He nodded at her, just barely, and it released her from her spell.

Cocky, she thought. Cocky and arrogant, this one, and that was all there was to make of him. Whatever game he was playing, if he expected her to join him he would be disappointed.


In a world where people born with an extreme skill—called a Grace—are feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of the skill even she despises: the Grace of killing. She lives under the command of her uncle Randa, King of the Middluns, and is expected to execute his dirty work, punishing and torturing anyone who displeases him.

When she first meets Prince Po, who is Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change.

She never expects to become Po's friend.

She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace—or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away...a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.



My Review: 7/10

Plot line was really predictable at times. Characters were likeable, relatable, though the two main were getting on my nerves a lot by the end- too whiny. Decently well written. Despite being soaked in violence, most of the time I didn't feel it was overdone.

The villain was definitely creepy, enough that, despite his rather limited involvement, I probably wouldn't have read this book knowing that was the realm of evil I was getting involved in.

Truly, I felt the novel did well enough on it's own that a sequel wasn't necessary. So I kind of wonder how it's going to go in the next book.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Giver Review

The Giver (The Giver, #1)The Giver (The Giver Quartet #1)

 
Jonas's world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear or pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the Community. When Jonas turns twelve, he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.


My Review: 7/10

** spoiler alert **
I've read a lot of dystopian novels recently, so maybe that's why it didn't make as lasting of an impact. Overall though, a good book. Full of meaning, without the depressing heaviness that can accompany the topic matter. It was a little slow for the first few chapters, but then it really picked up pace. I think it was well written, especially as the lack of color was a complete surprise to me. I'm looking forward to seeing how the story progresses.
 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Curse Dark As Gold Review

A Curse Dark As GoldA Curse Dark As Gold


This ravishing winner of the ALA's William C. Morris YA Debut Award is a fairy tale, spun with a mystery, woven with a family story, and shot through with romance.

Charlotte Miller has always scoffed at talk of a curse on her family's woolen mill, which holds her beloved small town together. But after her father's death, the bad luck piles up: departing workers, impossible debts, an overbearing uncle. Then a stranger named Jack Spinner offers a tempting proposition: He can turn straw into gold thread, for the small price of her mother's ring. As Charlotte is drawn deeper into her bargains with Spinner-and a romance with the local banker-she must unravel the truth of the curse on the mill and save the community she's always called home.

















My Review: 8.5/10
  
This high of a rating usually means that this is something i will want to read again and again. not the case here. part of me wishes i had never started reading it to begin with. despite a happily resolved ending filled with hope and a bright future, with the skeletons of the past peacefully buried, the story is riddled with sinister and violent happenings. the creepy tone that seeps forth from the pages was too all-consuming.

elizabeth bunce did an amazing job with the story telling and i agree with her that this is a much better rendition of rumpelstiltskin. but the stories i read latch themselves firmly on to my being, and it is my nature to prefer novels with more light than darkness, more humor than despair and more hope than fear. to anyone who does not share my easily affected constitution, i would recommend this book.

i disagree with ms bunce as well as many other reviewers regarding the names. i know that in history a lot of people did get their last names from their professions, and this certainly helped me to remember who they were quicker, but i didnt feel that these direct names gave them strength or made them more solid. quite the contrary, i felt that it made them seem more indistinct, like vapor; most of these names, i will not remember or think of again.

charlotte, rosie, and randall are all characters worth knowing and growing attached to. and the messages of honesty, family, forgiveness and justice are all themes we could do with more of in our lives.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Apothecary's Daughter Review

The Apothecary's Daughter The Apothecary's Daughter

by
 
LILLY HASWELL REMEMBERS EVERYTHING --- WHETHER SHE WANTS TO, OR NOT ...

As Lilly toils in her father's apothecary shop, preparing herbs and remedies by rote, she is haunted by memories of her mother's disappearance. Villagers whisper the tale, but her father refuses to discuss it. All the while, she dreams of the world beyond --- of travel and adventure and romance.

When a relative offers to host her in London, Lilly discovers the pleasures and pitfalls of fashionable society and suitors, as well as clues about her mother. But will Lilly find what she is searching for --- the truth of the past and a love for the future?




My Review: 4/10

I felt that this novel went on for way too long. I was surprised by the way some of the characters' loose ends were tied up. Lilly was likeable but I felt that she passed from man to man way too easily and without any real feeling. Her father's disgrace was not pretty. I had hoped for the best for her mother til the bitter end. One of the reasons that I like reading pieces set during this time is that there is less debauchery and less scandal. Emotions, attachments, etc weigh so much more heavily and are so much more pure. I didn't feel that this story represented that very well at all.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Colonel's Lady Review

The Colonel's Lady The Colonel's Lady

 
In 1779, when genteel Virginia spinster Roxanna Rowan arrives at the Kentucky fort commanded by Colonel Cassius McLinn, she finds that her officer father has died. Penniless and destitute, Roxanna is forced to take her father's place as scrivener. Before long, it's clear that the colonel himself is attracted to her. But she soon realizes the colonel has grave secrets of his own—some of which have to do with her father's sudden death. Can she ever truly love him?



My Review: 5/10

  some aspects were definitely interesting, but i felt the story could have, sometimes should have, ended several times over. the constant crying got a bit old and if it werent for the overuse of the word "winsome" (apx every other page) I would have given it 6/10- if im too distracted by the word use to take in the story, its too much. i liked 5 feathers' involvement. and though i suspected either hank, bella or micajah (sp?) I was never certain, so that was well done.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Insurgent Review

Insurgent (Divergent, #2)

Insurgent

by
 
One choice can transform you, or destroy you. Every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves, and herself, while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.
 
 
 
 
 My Review: 8.5/10 
 
It was a little slow going for the first half and Tris was really irritating me with the constant contradictions (ie I am strong, I am not strong. I can do this, but I can't do this). It was a whole lot of nothing. Maybe I'm not very compassionate and/or maybe it was supposed to show her confusion and numbness, but I really just found it ineffective and annoying. The second half was so much better. I liked the conversations with Jeanine. And I thought the ending was great too. If nothing else, I would at least say that this book stands alone and does not succumb to the "middle book syndrome." Looking forward to reading "Detergent" when it comes out in a little over a year. :]
 
 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Help

I finally got to read the book The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Don't worry, I'm not going to provide plot synopsis or spoilers. This is a quick enough read that you should check it out for yourself.
The Help
There are several different covers you may see: This one,


this one,
Or this one.


It was just as good as I'd heard. I'm not usually a fan of books written from multiple points of view, preferring to connect with one person at a time, but this was done well and I felt it was appropriate. I love period pieces. Usually I prefer ones written then over those that are simply set in a particular time period for two reasons. First, the more obvious issue is anachronisms. I like to learn about daily life in history and it doesn't help if I learn it wrong because the writers don't do thorough enough research. More troubling is when the mindsets are off.

(For example, I have had a hard time getting my hands on the original Nancy Drew books, because they are rare. Thankfully, they have reprinted the originally published books (though they are still hard to find) because fans have complained that the politically-correct, watered down versions that had replaced the originals since 1959 are a poor imitation. Yes, there is racism and stereotyping, but those books unapologetically represent a worldview from back then. They show how far we've come and help to explain why things were the way they were, why people thought and behaved the way they did. Which brings me to the point. I've been disappointed by a tendency to put a modern heroine or a heroine that holds none of the cultural influences of that time, in a period novel. It throws everything off.)

Though I cannot say for sure, since I was not alive during the 60's and apart from Nancy Drew books, I have not read a lot of work from that particular time period, I thought Stockett did a wonderful job with both lifestyle and mentality of 3 very different cultures from the time: the black women, southern white women and northern white women. I brand Skeeter a northern white woman despite being born and raised in the south because of her desire to live up north and the way that fits in with the northern movements and culture more and more throughout the book. It was insightful and impactful and fascinating. I liked that Skeeter was different but not in an unheard-of way. She was strong but still doubted herself, which made her relatable. It's human nature to want to be accepted and liked, but I have so much respect for an author who shows the reality of isolation, rejection, and dealing with it. Not to mention, sacrifice for a worthy cause never fails to be inspiring. I think it says a lot when a book about writing a book makes me wish I could also read the fictitious book.

I'm not sure if it's realistic, but I was worried about graphic violence and I was relieved to see that while it was present, it was in the periphery and not where the book was ultimately leading.

Now I have to hunt down the movie! I'm glad I held off seeing it until I could read the book, but I have faith- Emma Stone is one of my favorite actresses and I trust that she will do Skeeter justice.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

.... Part deux

My highschool French rears its ugly head at the oddest of moments, I'll admit.

Moving on.We were on the topic of June highlights.

*I had two successful Premier shows, which were low key and fun. I was a little nervous because I'd been out of practice; I had 3 shows in May, two of which were cancelled, and one of which really amounted to nothing. Long story. So really, it had been over TWO MONTHS since my last show. It was really good though. I finally feel like I'm getting back in the swing of things.

*The girls got to go to a birthday party and we took them to see Annie at the Benedum last week. I was still really sick, so it was kind of torturous for me, but they LOVED it. Also, Sally Struthers of Gilmore fame ("Babette") played Miss Hannigan, which was so neat to see. We were invited to the cast after party, but I was too sick to go. I still feel kinda bummed about that.

*And the girls have gotten to spend a lot of time with Grandma lately. Pam takes them for the day on most Saturdays and they look forward to it all week. It's been nice for me of course, because I get some kiddo-free time, which usually involves getting caught up on housework/house projects. But it's been so wonderful, because I've felt so guilty for years; our parents were not ready to be grandparents- they were all still raising kids of their own. And I felt so bad that we robbed our daughters of having those relationships and memories that were so important to me when I was growing up. But now it seems like things are falling into place. I couldn't be more grateful to Pam for finding time in her crazy busy schedule to see them consistently. It means so, so much to them and to me.

So those are the highlights. Apart from two book posts, it will probably be a while til I post another update- July is kind of jam packed. We've got a lot to look forward to and a lot to be thankful for. Hope everyone else is enjoying their summer!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Monthly Report

It has gotten to the point that the majority of my posts are an update from a period of a month or more. This means that, as I'm not creative enough to think of varying synonyms for "Update", rather than have 12 posts with the same name, I've had to enlist the help of my trusty thesaurus. I'm sure that if I keep this pace up, the titles will stray further and further from the initial intent, as I run out of similar words. Like a game of telephone. :]

Anyway, I believe it was my last post that officially put me over the edge of writing more this year than I did last year. And, though they all seemed to be posted at once, I was staying pretty consistent with about 3 posts a month. If you remember, these were two conditions for one of my NYR regarding this blog. So I patted myself on the back and subsequently slacked off.

I wish I could say that we were incredibly busy enjoying summer and I just haven't had the time to write about it. In reality, I spent more than two weeks being really sick with what must have been the flu because a full course of antibiotics only seemed to make it angry. We have hardly gone anywhere or done much of anything. The good news is that as of today, I am finally feeling functional and 99% better. And the whole month wasn't wasted.

Some highlights for June:

*I've gotten into a really good rhythm of plugging in at Training Meetings for Premier. I meet my with my "step-family" every other Monday and it has been SO helpful. It constantly provides me with encouragement, ideas and keeps my mind focused on Premier. I also have monthly meetings with my Premier "Mama", "sister" and "baby" which is fun too.

*I've gotten to have several dates with Jon, which is amazing because I don't think it's been like this since before we had Ella. I know it's only temporary until classes start back up next month, but I have been loving every second of this more traditional schedule. We got to go to a BoyzIIMen concert after a Pirates game (and they're finally playing well, so that made it even more exciting :] )

*We were able to go to Bible Study on Wednesday nights as a family. I miss seeing my dad there, and I don't know what he's been up to. It's not the same without him. But I've been appreciative that Jon has been able to see firsthand something that I've been investing my time in.

*We've both been able to see friends of ours that we have not seen in way too long. I love that have somehow been blessed with relationships that are strong enough to endure even though we have not been able to invest nearly anything in them over the years. We're hoping that we will have time to change that now. Shills, Kate, Ian, and B- thanks for being so patient with us. Love you guys!

*On top of that I've been building some new friendships too. I think I have to count Jacki as new- it had been about two years to the day since we'd last talked and much longer since we'd spent any time together. Not sure about her yet, but I know I've changed a lot, mostly in this last year. Truthfully, I've oftened wondered why she would even want to be friends with me now, because I can't see that we have much in common anymore. But I'm not opposed to the idea, so I guess it will be for her to decide as she gets to know me better now. It is a little awkward, I'll admit. Kind of like going back to a childhood home and seeing echoes of your memories even though another family has moved in and made it their own. Part of me wants to fall into step with how it used to be. Easy. Effortless. Natural. But that's not me anymore. And honestly, I don't want what I had. It was broken beyond repair. Even though I've healed, you can't go back. But it seems to me that God has been pretty determined to put us back in each other's lives and I trust Him. I'm still wary and nervous and I have no idea what to expect. But knowing what we had, I'm hopeful that with a clean, fresh beginning, it will be stronger and somehow, completely different.

As a direct result, I finally met the famous Erin. That was a little weird too,  but in a good way. I had wanted to meet her years ago, so it was kind of strange, like "Gee I already feel like I know you reaaallly well, even though we've never spoken." I kind of wondered if she'd live up to the hype, because apart from Jacki/Casey, I can't remember ever having the same taste in friends as either of them. Which is weird to look back on, because we definitely rotated in the same social circles, but I don't think I'd have called any of the others my friends. Anyway, Erin is awesome. Offbeat, smart and funny. And she talks as fast as Jacki which I find impressive. :P And she likes books. Which is sadly not common, at least in the people I come in contact with. I have met many people who like to proclaim that they're readers, but when I ask for some recommendations, they draw a blank. I don't understand this. Being a "reader" does not automatically make you smart or make people respect you. Kind of seems like a dumb thing to exaggerate/lie about. It's become a pet peeve of mine when people try to define themselves in ways like this ("at work, I'm the girl that's always reading during her lunch breaks") and project a character that is not at all in line with who they really are. It's annoying. It's like, if that's the person you want to be, then make the effort to be that and stop with the smoke and mirrors. I have never had much patience for insincere, unathentic fakes. But having been fooled by a few in particular has certainly not helped with that. Tangent, sorry.

This post is far too long already, so I think I will split it into two.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Better than wood or silverware

Seriously, who comes up with traditional and modern anniversary presents?


On the 26th, we celebrated our 5th anniversary. Now, as Jon and I are both romantics, our track record has not been very indicative of our feelings or commitment over the last 5 years. Our lifestyle just has not afforded much in terms of time, creativity, extravegance or sadly, romance. We've been two poor college students providing for a family of four. Money doesn't buy everything, the best gifts are free, etc. Yes, that's true. But we've pretty much exhausted the free or nearly free gifts over the last seven years. At this point it got to:

the night before our anniversary

Me: So, tomorrow's our anniversary! :]
Jon: Oh! oh, no! What are we doing?
Me: Uh, what?
Jon: We're supposed to be doing something for this one? Remember? Back in April, we decided that we would celebrate our wedding anniversary this year instead of our first anniversary.
Me: Oh. Oops.

We kind of dropped the ball on this one too.

We've talked for years about the grand ideas and schemes and plans we have for each other for birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, etc. I'm hoping that in six months we will finally be able to start. Rainchecks just aren't as fun to wrap or receive after so many consecutive years.

Despite the lack of gifts, outtings, etc. it was still a big milestone for us. We cooked dinner together at home, just the two of us. We ate by candlelight and then went to starbucks and talked for a little while. It was certainly a humble 5th anniversary, but it was still bursting at the seams with love, devotion, and hope. We've gone through so much together over these last 7 years. I hear comments every day about teenagers getting married. Marriages that fall apart are not a result of a lack of age or experience. It's more complicated than that. But at the heart of it, it's usually a lack of God and a lack of understanding what marriage really is.

People these days, at any age, seem to think that marriage is about happiness. I have no idea where that came from, but let me set the record straight. It's not. And if you think that's what you're aiming for, you're well on your way to being a statistic. What makes a person happy changes all the time. If you're only in it for your present happiness, that's not a commitment. That would be incredibly selfish. Marriage is not about getting what you want or being happy all the time.

I can't sum it up into one pithy sentence, but the abbreviated form I can come up with is that marriage is about sacrifice. It thrives on trust, commitment, love, friendship, etc. But day in and day out it is about sacrifice. And, especially in this day and age, it impossible to do it right without God. We're not perfect. We mess up, sometimes really, really badly and He is the only one who can bring healing and second chances. Luckily God gives clear cut instructions on how to nurture a marriage, how to keep it healthy and strong, and then when you follow Him, He blesses your marriage.

Just a couple of days ago I heard that Miley Cyrus got engaged. She's 19. Everyone seems certain that it's a divorce waiting to happen. But if her relationship doesn't last, I believe it will have less to do with how old she was and more to do with how she treated her relationship, the length of time it lasts depending solely on whether it was about 1 person, two, or three.

Jon and I have had our fair share of challenges and struggles over the beginning of our relationship. But by God's grace and guidance, what could have destroyed us, and has certainly destroyed older couples, has only strengthened us. We both look to the light with hope that we can enjoy much less stress and more normalcy in the near future, but even if that doesn't happen for quite some time, or ever, we will end each day thanking God for the many blessings He has heaped on us, starting with each other.

To celebrate, here is a little walk down photo-memory lane.


 A couple of months after we started dating. At Kennywood. 2005



 At Prom- 2005
 





 Me with Ella. She's 3 months old here. I don't think I have any pictures of Jon and I together from this time. 2006





 Cutting the cake at our wedding. 2007




 The most modest 1st anniversary in history. Me, 2008



 Our cake 2008



 Jon 2008



See, we had just had our second daughter 2 months previously. The fact that we were both awake and (mostly) functional for our anniversary was an accomplishment in and of iteself. Here is newborn Lorelai -2008



 At our stepbrother Nate's wedding to his beautiful wife Amber. If I look red here it's because I have a 105 degree temp and I'm about to spend the next 18 hours severely dehydrated. 2009
 We went to Niagara falls to celebrate our anniversary. This was before you needed passports so it was a lot simpler. 2009




 Family vacation to Disneyworld, after our cousin Michael's wedding to another lovely bride Amanda. 2009




 We can't wait to go back!




 2009




A
Celebrating our sister's 21st!   2010





One of the last pictures in 2010 before we moved.

In January 2011, we moved all of our stuff into storage and moved in with family while we both went to school full time and looked for the right place. Over about 8 months, I lost the habit of taking a ton of pictures. No pictures were taken until mid summer 2011, when we moved again, but they are of the house and the girls.

Jon has brought it to my attention that since then, I primarily take pictures of my cats, or rather one bad cat in particular.



 2012


 Fat kitty 2012



 2012



2012

 Who sleeps like this??? 2012


2012


He may have a point. Eh well. 

Cheers to another 5 years of happiness, sadness, peace, and challenges, but most of all, someone to share it all with. I love you, Snufflekins. <3

Wedding

Another major event for the month of May was one of my best friend's wedding.

 There's not a whole lot to share there since you don't know the couple personally. But I got really sick with strep or something about 2 or 3 days before the wedding. This is the second time this has happened, so I'm two for three.

I went the free route for  a day- taking Cephalexin. It made everything a LOT worse. My sinuses felt like they were on fire. So I bit the bullet and bought a Zpak. I couldn't smell or taste much, but I started to get better.

Everything happened in a frenzied rush, but Jon and I had an amazing time at the rehearsal dinner and the wedding itself. And the bride was stunning. Just stunning. We had so much fun that for the next week or so, Jon talked incessantly of wedding crashing.



I got some great ideas for future weddings of friends and family; for example, the photobooth was a smash success I think.

I kind of can't believe it's over. But I'm so happy for my friend, so excited to see how life unfolds for them in this new stage.

I'm still itchy just writing about it

So I've been thinking for weeks now that I needed to write. There's been a lot to say, but I just haven't. So tonight, though I should be going to bed early (-er anyway) I decided to do this. Naturally, I went back and read my last post to figure out where I left off.

I left off with Sienna being schooled in litterbox usage. Well things went from bad to worse. Not too long after I wrote that post, we had several nice warm days. Until we got time to reinstall the air conditioner, I just left the windows open. Oops!

Turns out, our front bedroom window had a broken screen- the left corner opened like a flap where the piping had come off. So of course, our bad kitty and one other thought this was their personal cat door to the great outdoors. Sienna and Squirrely both took off twice before I rectified the problem. Probably about a week to ten days later I found the presents they brought back: Fleas.

In my panicky state I read a lot of online information. This guy was pretty thorough so I trusted his advice. I messaged my soon-to-be Vet friend first asking for her help with Diatomaceous Earth. She had no idea what I was talking about. Not a good sign. But I went ahead and ordered a ten pound box of the stuff from Amazon and in the meantime, I spent HOURS every day flea-combing and then drowning my finds in soapy water. It was horrible. I only got bitten once, but the girls were covered in red spots, despite washing everything and vaccuuming every time I saw (or thought I saw) a flea.

Amazon had never failed me up to this point, but it took about a week for the stuff to arrive. I couldn't believe it. It was the longest week ever. I hardly got any sleep because I was convinced they were jumping on me and munching on me. Gross. While I waited for my shipment, I tried all of the other suggestions: flea traps with lights ( I was amazed that this worked, but still it only caught 3 or 4 over the course of the week), bathing the kitties (this just stopped the fleas from being able to jump. They could still zip around pretty fast though), rubbing the kitties down in baking soda (this was a substitute for the DE, but it still killed 2 or 3 to my knowledge), vaccumming constantly, washing everything, putting vaseline on the fleas to keep them from moving (this did NOT work. it clumped up the fur because I could not get close enough to the flea before it moved) and of course flea-combing every hour/every time I spotted one.

This had the most success. However I noticed the above mentioned article stated the most fleas he ever saw in a house at one time was about 30. I was pulling about 45 off EACH cat, EACH time. It was bad. Once I realized how high the numbers really were and that they were going down, but not dropping dramatically, I started to distrust his judgement a bit.

Cue Diatomaceous Earth. Luckily it arrived on a Saturday. As soon as Grandma arrived to take the girls for the day, I COVERED the house in this stuff. He says to sprinkle it low to the ground because, though it is safe to eat and touch, if you breath it in it causes lung damage. Easy enough I thought. Better than flea bombing with poison, I thought. As an adult, I can be careful, but my kids, they could be hurt by flea bombing, I thought. So I spread it around like peanut butter on toast and waited. For a couple of hours just in case. Then I started vaccumming. Oh. Boy.

Maybe it's because our vaccum is bagless. Maybe it's because it's not a Dynex. I don't know what the exact cause was, but the minute it started sucking up the DE, the filters were clogged and a mushroom cloud of lung-destroying flour exploded. Luckily I was the only one home. But it was an awful experience. There was nothing I could do about it- I had to keep washing out the filters and vaccumming. Over and over and over again. This went on for about two and a half days. Jon couldn't sleep at night because he could smell the DE. It wasn't strong, but he's sensitive to dust and dust-like things.

I do believe it worked a little- I found a couple of dead fleas on Sienna over the next couple of days, but it was NOT worth it.

Meanwhile, my Vet friend mailed me a 3 month supply of Advantage II for each of my kitties. The fleas were dropping dead within the hour. It's been about a week and a few new baby fleas are hatching, but this stuff works for 30 days. So the new ones should die before they cause any damage or lay any eggs.

Dante, who scratched himself raw, is healing and his hair is growing back, poor boy. The other kitties have stopped scratching and now that everything in the house has been washed and rewashed, things are starting to return to normal.

The moral of the story is, do not mess with DE. The guy above guessed that people use Fleabombing products because of the convenience and then they neglect to clean everything, or it ends up being more work to clean everything. I beg to differ. I will be using the flea bomb product Knockout in  the future because 1. it's what the vets recommend 2. it works 3. it works fast 4. it kills everything. It's worth it!

I'm sad that this has already consumed about 3-4 weeks of my life. But I'm relieved to be nearing the end. Now, I just have to get that screen replaced!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

3 cheers for SSScat!

I may have mentioned that an issue we've had around here for the last year is that the baby of the family, Sienna, has been going to the bathroom on the carpet since Labor Day. She was about 4.5 months old when we got her last August. We had her for two weeks and everything was fine. Believe it or not, we only had 1 litter box with 3 kitties, which got scooped pretty much immediately after it was used.
 Then we went on vacation for 4 days and a friend of mine housesat for us. We walked into the house and found that Sienna had been urinating on the rug in the bathroom for what looked like several days. Gross. So so so gross. I cleaned the rug and she stopped peeing on it. But she started pooping right in front of the litter box, or next to it, every day after. We took her to a vet, got her tested. No issues. I gave her a second dose of dewormer just in case. I tried changing her to a kitten chow diet. I tried soft food. I tried a mix. I tried several different litters. I tried negative reinforcement. I tried positive reinforcement. We bought a second litter box. Then a third, then a fourth. I tried changing location. I tried floor mats. I tried different carpet cleaners. I tried closing her off for days at a time. I tried everything. She would stop for 4-5 days periodically. But it was inconsistent. I'd still been cycling through different ideas, because this is not just something you accept.
Jon and I were just thankful that she wasn't urinating on the floor. It was still gross and a major problem, but at least it wasn't seeping into the floors and making the place smell, and it wasn't staining anything. Then one night we had a stray kitten literally walk in our front door. I penned the kitten in the bathroom overnight and then took her to the human society the next morning.
Our problem went from bad to worse. Sienna started urinating in front of the litterboxes in addition to defecating there. I doused the bathroom in bleach products, every last nook and cranny. I washed or threw out the things the kitten slept in. It's been six weeks and no change. 
I finally found cat food that seems to be relieving some of her issues (there was a small amount of blood in her stool about 50% of the time). Kit and Kaboodle. It's cheaper, still by Purina, and it seems to be more filling because the cats are eating less of it. She started going to the bathroom in her litter box of her own accord. One success in my belt, I tried google again, despite the fact that it had been nothing but a disappointment thus far.
It was here that I found something called SSSCat. Kind of a dumb name, but a Godsend all the same. I read the reviews on amazon- 4-5 stars over hundreds of reviews. And thought I would give it a try. It arrived yesterday and is already having a major impact.
 Innotek SSSCAT Cat Training Aid 
It has a motion detector, which sends a loud SHHHH-ing sound as it sprays the offender with a harmless spray. The other three kitties, all innocent, got sprayed first. But our bad one has gotten sprayed twice and now avoids the area at all costs. It was so satisfying to hear it go off when I had my back turned, because that would have been another mess I'd have to clean up and another day of misery.
I deep-cleaned the carpets and have the doors shut/SSSCat standing guard until they dry. I may have to buy another can or two, because she has a few areas she frequents and so the problem is only about 30% fixed. I don't mind though because it's working, which makes this the best $23 I've ever spent.
 
And, Bonus: When I'm convinced she has stopped going to the bathroom on the carpet, I'm going to use it to stop the kitties from getting up on the dinner table/countertops (and in Sienna's case, frequently catching herself on fire), eating my indoor plants/herbs, and scratching the couch instead of the post. Yay! It feels so good to have finally found something that works. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

mini update

Brief update!

Another NYR goal achieved: keeping up with the house. Now I realize I still have another half a year to go and I haven't done a stellar job up until this point. But the idea behind this was that I wanted to get our home to a place where I liked it and then keep up with it (in general) from there.

The reason I'm marking this as a success is because I finally took the time to finish a couple of projects around here: unpacking the last few boxes, packing up anything I wasn't going to use in the next year (aka before we move), and finishing picture/shelving projects.

I finally mounted those shelves I bought from Ikea a year ago, and you know what, it looks awesome- aside from the bottom one being ever-so-slightly crooked as I was too impatient, and feeling too empowered, to wait for Jon's help. I'm even thinking of buying a couple more for the living room. I finished hanging up all the pictures I actually wanted to hang up. And I rearranged some furniture and hauled a whole lot of junk out of the girls' room. Sidenote, it may sound weird, but I'm so glad that Jon and I were not always able to give our daughters everything they wanted. It got us into a great habit of teaching them to appreciate and take care of what they have. No one could say they're spoiled. Now we're trying to teach them a little more about money and how to save/spend theirs. This is a connected thought; it came from reflecting on how I like clearing stuff out of their room rather than packing more into it. Anyway, I got rid of about 1/3 of their toys, including one of the two giant bins they had to store it all. In it's place I put a new storage unit (though we have it set up like a desk) from Ikea. I got the idea from a friend of mine who is a genius when it comes to decorating and kid stuff.

Now I'm just focusing on keeping up with day to day light cleaning, which is just in time for the weather change. Less projects = more time spent with my family out and about in the sunshine!