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motherhood reviews

My Favorite Author: Janet Evanovich

Man I love books – If I could live, breath, eat and sleep books I might. I wouldn’t marry a book, but I am married to another book lover so that’s pretty good, too. So what book or books do I want to talk about today? I want to talk about Janet Evanovich, whose newest book in the Stephenie Plum series, Fearless Fourteen comes out JUNE 17.

I began reading the Plum series shortly after graduating college and getting laid off from my first out of college job (good times) – ironically, the series begins with Plum getting fired from her job as a lingerie buyer in Jersey and embarking on the fun life of a bounty hunter (almost as much fun as the life of a SAHM, am I right?), while trying to get the rest of her life, love life included, in order.

Evanovich began writing this series in the mid 90’s after spending several years writing romance novels (which admittedly are not as good as her Plum series but ARE fun fluff reading if you need a fix in between Plums hitting the shelf). Over the years she’s managed to keep things fresh and new, and with the times without feeling forced. She keeps the world’s hottest love triangle from getting stale and keeps Plum always, always relateable to the real women of the world, even while she’s out fighting crime like a bad ass.

I’m a pretty big fan you could say. As a woman, I relate to Stephanie Plum a lot – her imperfections and quirks remind you that we’re all human, we’re all figuring this out as we go. As a writer, I admire Evanovich’s style – she’s found a formula that WORKS for her and she’s good at keeping that from feeling forced or sell out-ish. She’s even written a book about writing that I just loved. It makes me feel like someday I might actually write something of worth and figure out how to do it well. She is a legend for me and just fantastic.

My point? If you haven’t given this series a chance yet, do it! Do it now!

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reviews

Top 10 Books Read This Year (so far…)

So far this year I’ve read almost 30 books – my goal was to make it to 50 by the end of the year and I’m thinking that won’t be much of a problem. So what have my favorite books been so far? Well, let’s see…

10. Masquerade by Melissa De La Cruz ( finished April 30 ) This is the sequel to the first book in a new series, the first book is called Blue Bloods and okay yes it’s a teen vampire novel, but it’s so much more – it’s about angels and demons and romance and history – it has a lot of intriguing takes on New England history and more. Just a yummy yummy novel, even when it’s being terribly teen cliched.

9. Extras by Scott Westerfeld ( finished March 30 ) The fourth book in what was intended to be a 3 book series, this is the final installment of the Uglies trilogy – a sort of “so what happened next?” for all the readers who couldn’t put Tally Youngblood and her world behind them – it steps forward a few years from the close of Specials and shows you how much Tally’s actions really did change the world and how much they didn’t. It took awhile to get used to a new main character, but it was interesting to see the legend they had turned Tally into in this society, and how false it was from actual truth. If you loved the trilogy, you’ll devour this one.

8. So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld ( Finished April 8 ) Same author as the Tally Youngblood series but totally different world, plot, concept – but Westerfeld’s ideas and writing style are just so intriguing and well done that this short book was superb – a look at the world of marketing and what’s “cool” – I really really enjoyed it.

7. The Luxe by Anna Godbersen ( Finished January 4 ) A surprising gem in a sea of trendy young adult fare, this novel begins in 1899 at a funeral, and also ends with a funeral but is nothing you’ll expect – the novel reads like a mystery novel and also a romance novel with very Austen-esque themes of family and expectations and it will knock your socks off. I am eagerly waiting to read the next in the series, Rumors.

6. Trickster’s Choice by Tamora Pierce (& Queen) ( finished April 27 ) I list these both together because I read them in quick succession – this was different than a lot of the young adult books I’d been reading in that it is part of a much bigger thing – a varied series of sorts by Tamora Pierce and I seem to have started at the end so to speak, but still these two installments were so good and so timeless in their themes and yet so obviously dated – I intend to read the rest of the books in this series soon. It is full of fighting, wars, racial tension, gods and goddesses, magic, family, love, slavery and more…

5. A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray ( Finished February 20 ) My friends and I are obsessed with this series, which we admittedly caught on to awfully late in the game – the first installment of the Gemma Doyle trilogy tells a story of secret societies, witch craft, magic, and another turn of the 19th century mystery – it has it all – and despite it’s “age” it’s very current – another novel that shows the more things change, the more they stay the same…

4. Lean Mean Thirteen by Janet Evanovich ( finished March 25 ) I am an avid Stephanie Plum fanatic and as far as I’m concerned this may have been her best Plum book to date. I love all of her current events references – the cable company charade as well as a million other things I can’t remember anymore were fantastic. It was very now, very current, very good. The Morelli / Ranger thing manages to continue without feeling stale – ah, I just can’t say enough. It was terrific. Can’t wait for fourteen!

3. The Other Boleyn Girl by Philipa Gregory ( finished March 18 ) I fell in love with Tudor England and Philipa Gregory after reading this novel and waited with baited breath for the movie which inevitably disappointed me. This book was so amazingly good – better with every chapter, every added detail to this historical masterpiece. I don’t know who I felt for more, Anne Boleyn or Katharine of Aragon but this book was just so good words can’t even describe – if you have a chance to read it, please, please do.

2. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde ( finished YESTERDAY June 9, 2008 ) Obviously being the second best book I’ve read this year it was pretty good. This book was just fantastic in so many ways – the english major in me drooled and laughed my way through the entire book. It took me awhile to read it, just because the plot was a bit complicated – Fforde creates his own world within the confines of this great book, and it took me awhile to get used to the swing of things, but now I’m eagerly awaiting the next book in this series!
annnnnnnd

#1 book read this year is: is actually a series, a very well known series some of you may have heard of…

The Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket ( finished series March 8 ) I can’t say enough amazing things about this series – the English major in me just drooled over the entire series – I think it’s amazing how he introduces new vocabulary to his readers without making you feel like you’re doing homework – I can honestly say I’ve learned several new words and phrases after reading this phenomenal story and I was in love every page of the way with the weaving of his web of wonder. I recommend this series to anyone.

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I Will Never Be The Woman With The Perfect Hair, Who Can Wear White and Not Spill On It.

Count on Carrie Bradshaw to sum it up perfectly. I just got back from Sex and the City: The Movie and in a word, it was, of course, fabulous. And because, like Carrie, I’m a writer – you know I’ll need more than one word to sum all this up. I laughed, I cried, I saw body parts that I didn’t know were allowed to be shown in a movie, even a rated R movie. And man did I see life, in all it’s sloppy yet gorgeous glory. I saw my life, the lives of my friends, and the mistakes we all make, on the big screen as only Candace Bushnell could portray it.

It was probably all very obvious and well guessed and yet it shocked and stunned me at every corner – I had no idea what my movie ticket had gotten me in for. I re-learned that marriage, while it can be hard work, should not “feel like chemo” – that it’s about two people, no matter how many years you’ve devoted to yourself up until then. It’s about living in the now and letting go – and not getting caught up in the labels, the what people thinks, and the baggage. It’s about love.

So with that happy probably only half-coherent note, I leave you all and bid you good night and a fabulous weekend. I hope you will all greet the coming morning with a very Carrie-d away, “Hello lover,” or at the very least remember to be fabulous, at 20 or 50 or somewhere in between. Enjoy every moment, and for just this once, don’t bother with the spell check.

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motherhood reviews

How Have I NOT Read the Nancy Drew series yet??

Somehow despite my big appetite for books, there are always those classics that seem to evade me. While I was busy reading The Babysitters Club books, I somehow managed to avoid ever reading the Nancy Drew or Hardy Boy series – perhaps they weren’t as colorful and current, I don’t know, but I missed out, and years went by and it just never happened. But I’ve always been curious about this series and after seeing the new Nancy Drew movie, now I’m convinced – I need to read these books. I need to be in on this!

The movie, by the way, was fantasic – far exceeding my expectations. I assumed it would be cute and probably funny, but didn’t think it would be so well made – I loved every little detail, the storyline, the acting, the script – all was REALLY good. I love how they give a new kind of depth to each character that I suspect wasn’t necessarily present during the books. Especially the “mother angle” – Nancy’s mother died when she was little and you come to realize how big of an effect this has had on her life and how it partially explains her obsession with sleuthing. Being one of the many children out there who grew up without a mother, this is something I can get behind. It was very authentic and realistic, and yet it also had situations that were absurd and hilarious. Even the little love plot between Nancy and Ned was adorable. Um, hello, “Can you tell when a girl looks at you and is thinking how much she likes you and is wondering if you like her and thinking how important it is for you to say how you feel before she says anything more about how she feels about you or anyone else they might be jealous of because she’s already said how she feels how she’s said in her own way?” Seriously.

And now I want to know moooooore. I want to read them all. I want to go to the library right now and check out every single Nancy Drew book EVER. But maybe I should finish reading the other three books I’ve already checked out first? 🙂

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motherhood reviews

The Other Boleyn Girl: A Review

To begin with, this was my first book since finishing the Series of Unfortunate Events and it took me a LONG time to properly disengage myself from Snicket’s amazing series – a long time for me to stop referring to Mary Boleyn as “Not a Baudelaire” – and a long time for me to realize, “Hello, shut up, this story is incredible.” Philipa Gregory has been referred to as one of the best historical fiction writers of her time, and I have to say after reading her novel, The Other Boleyn Girl, which was recently made into a movie, I am agreeing 100%.

Now, it took me half the book to realize that this novel was actually about King Henry VIII and how huge that is – knowing a small portion of the history surrounding this ruler, I became even more intrigued upon this realization and quickly found myself devouring the humongous novel, entering a stage my son will eventually come to know as the “point of no return” – yesterday found me glued on and off to this book, unwilling to put it down for more than an hour at a time, until I finally finished. There were hours I laughed out loud and others where I struggled not to cry bitterly.

This story could be considered grotesque, as it begins with an execution and ends with one, but what fills the heart of this book is stories of love, heartbreak, motherhood and betrayal – at the beginning, Mary Boleyn, the main character is an innocent girl of fourteen, newly married, anxious about having her sister, the other Boleyn, joining her at court and surprised to find she has caught the eye of Henry VIII. Pushed into his bed chambers by her social climbing family, she struggles with falling in love and realizing how worthless and powerful she can be at the same time. When the king’s interests wane, she finds herself easily tossed aside as her sister (who has always been a rival as well as best friend) takes her place as the king’s favorite. The story grows darker, but also more and more fascinating from here on out, with secrets and twists that even history buffs may not anticipate. It ends with a woman very mature for her young age, who defies her family and pursues marriage for love and not advancement, fights for the right to raise her own children and occasionally struggles with the realization that despite their differences, she will always be a true Boleyn girl – with all the deception, deceit, and secrecy that comes with it.

The highlights (despite some being low points) for me, include her experiences as a mother and lover – things that are completely relatable and yet hardly capable of understanding at the same time. Despite the hundreds of years passed, it seems to me that not much has changed – with women still struggling to make names for themselves and yet also struggling to earn the right to raise their own children, nurse their own children, and have a say in their upbringing, all while balancing the art of keeping the eye of their husbands and lovers, indeed, it seems not much has changed, except the type of expectations that keep us from achieving these goals.

Having been raised an only child, I found her relationship to her siblings almost as fascinating as DH’s relationship with his own set of three siblings, while growing to love the characters myself as the book drew on. By the final chapters I felt heartbroken right along with the novel’s heroine and even now, a day later, I find I am not quite ready to put Gregory’s characters to rest. I think there will be a movie theater in my future soon, so that I can see how the big screen will compare to this amazing, incredible masterpiece of a novel – also in my future, a trip to the library to check out the author’s other works – was The Other Boleyn Girl a fluke or one of many masterpieces – we’ll be soon to find out.

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motherhood reviews

Eww!! Germy McGerm Germs!!

So, what do we think about air sanitizers and disinfectants? I keep seeing these commercials on tv where Oust is all like “We are so much better than Lysol because…” and then Lysol comes on five minutes later to say, “We are like SO much better than Oust because…” and when I’m not thinking, “When did commercials start to feel like political campaigns and start actually calling out their opponents?” I’m thinking, “Should I be disinfecting and sanitizing MY home?” As you may remember, I’m not exactly a mopping maven or disinfecting diva… So when bzzAgents.com emailed me, inviting me to join the Oust Surface Disinfectant AND Air Sanitizing campaign, I decided it was time to give this thing a shot, particularly since Oust is all about multitasking, and lets me do both at once with one HUMONGOUS can and did I mention they sent me TWO cans for free? Huzzah, if I do say so myself.

So today, my bzzKit finally arrived in the mail via my friendly neighborhood UPS man. And after calming MLM down from the disappointment that our doorbell was not rung because we had company in the form of some relative coming to take him out on a fun play date like on Wednesday, I set to work disinfecting my apartment. It went a little something like this…

1) Open box. Nearly shout with glee – “TWO CANS!!! These are humongous!!! Woohoo!!!!!!”

2) And look, handy dandy paperwork and COUPONS for more free cans!!! (which don’t expire until August, so if all my friends and family DON’T want a coupon and I decide I like spraying spray, I’ll be one well stocked momma.)

3) Carefully read can to insure that spraying spray is not more difficult than it sounds (again, remember the mopping incident).

4) Cautiously shake can and spray on refrigerator handles. Cannot remember if it is Lysol or Oust that says you can spray INSIDE refrigerator and thus refrain.

5) Move on to spraying doorknobs, trash compactor, recycle bins, diaper pail and bathroom.

6) Remember how humongous cans are and start feeling liberal. Spray MLM’s crib, bedroom, my bedroom, and finally the entire living room in one big gigantic spraying extravaganza.

7) Cough, sputter, and rethink extravaganza. Remind myself to next time, not spray so close my personal self. Honestly, the smell isn’t that bad, but I can still feel the fumes….

So how does this work, this spraying thing? I think that the apartment should come equipped with a special “light” that shows me all the germs, so as to determine if my spraying spray has actually accomplished anything worth blogging about. Perhaps my DH can engineer me something? 🙂

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reviews

A Series of Unfortunate Events: A Review

So when I’m not blogging or parenting or wifeing, I am most likely reading. I’m one of the co-founders of my very own book club, was an English major in college, and used to manage the children’s department at an independent bookstore which sadly closed its doors in 2006. Point being, I like to read – a LOT – and consider myself “something of a literary expert” to vaguely quote one of my MLM’s favorite t.v. shows, Word World (and oh yes, I do love all of the ABC, reading themed shows on PBS these days). So anyway, I read a lot, and the last month has mostly been devoted to reading A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. I’m assuming you’ve heard of it – otherwise, hi there and welcome to Earth!

I’d heard the rave reviews about this series for years, but hadn’t read them myself for various reasons – like being in hardcover for ages, the sheer quantity, and that mild itching theory of mine that a lot of books get seriously over-hyped. But SOME books are hyped just right and when my SIL loaned me the first nine books, really, what excuse did I have?

I began reading this series at the tail end of January. From that point on – it became an obsession – food, sleep, socializing, even my book club books – all took a back seat to Snicket’s genius. My husband endured weeks of me excitedly rambling about how Snicket was the next Chaucer (as in creates a character for himself inside the novel who happens to be less intelligent perhaps on purpose for the sole reason of pointing out the obvious – thus showing his true genius), a real literary pro who had created one of the world’s few masterpieces. I dreamt about this series and frequently found myself referring to the heroine of my book club pick as “Not the Baudelaires.”

But enough fanfare. Really, if you don’t have cheap access to this series, it is a bit of an undertaking and may get expensive at 13 books total (I highly recommend Amazon) but it’s seriously worth it. Here is an author who can pay attention to EVERY detail and ensure you are immersed in his world. And he takes one seriously complicated plot and delivers it in 13 manageable pieces, building and smoothing and leveling so that you properly digest every book. And if you aren’t well read or are in fact a child – his primary audience – this is an excellent series to help you build up your vocabulary and knowledge of the world, as Snicket will constantly define words, explain away anything and give examples of everything, without losing your interest somehow. He accomplishes what those SAT novels wanted to accomplish without being completely nerdy and even I, the English major, learned a few new things in this series. Your parents, in short, will approve.

Anyway, if you or a child you know have been meaning to read this series, run, don’t walk, to the nearest library or bookstore and get ready for one of the best reading experiences of your life. Seriously.

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oMop, Oh You’ve Got To Be Kidding Me! a.k.a. Hi!

When I was in college, you know all those three years ago, I hated that whole “first week” pattern of teachers lecturing about what they would lecture about – I always found myself thinking, “Stop telling me what you are GOING to teach me, and start teaching!” So I won’t make that mistake here, dear readers. I won’t tell you for the second or third time who I am, what I plan to blog about and why you should read. Rather, I will simply begin blogging and you can choose whether or not to read, as soon as you see fit. If you love me, keep reading. If I’m like a train wreck you can’t take your eyes away from, again, keep reading. But if you are so bored you’d rather watch water boil, by all means, go cook up some Ramen instead – but then come back and read some more! (j/k, I think…)

Without further adieu, my first REAL post, in which I simply blog:

So, I love my son and all, but in one hour without him this morning I managed to empty the dishwasher and load new dishes, vacuum half the apartment (I may have done more but 10 minutes were devoted to de-clogging the poor beast of all the “fuzz” that My Little Monkey (son, we’ll call him MLM for the sake of conciseness or maybe just clever initializing) has been collecting which didn’t make it past the carpet “brush” thing), mopped the floor with my new oMop (keep reading for my review of said Method-ical mopping system) and took out the trash – that’s right – all by myself – some of said trash has been lingering in this apartment for MONTHS. And in one hour of free time I got rid of it for GOOD.

So, the oMop, purchased at Target a few months ago under the theory that grown assed ladies need to own things like mops and irons, was used for the first time this morning while Sesame Street blasted through the apartment because I couldn’t bring myself to turn off the tube, even though MLM had gone off on a play date with my MIL and thus wasn’t there watching it, if only because the show playing gives me an idea of what time it is, how long he’s been gone and what I should really be doing – does that make sense to anyone else?

Anyway, back to review. Basically, I attach cleaning cloth to the nifty oMop, squirt some cleaning liquid on floor and, um, mop? Right? According to the package, I then let the floor dry and admire my clean floor. This should be easy, but I am not exactly a mopping maven and I’m not convinced I did it right. Maybe I didn’t use enough liquid. Maybe I didn’t scrub hard enough. Maybe it simply hadn’t “dried” yet. Point being, the floor looks the same to me. And there are some spots on the floor that I was hoping would be cleaned up and decidedly weren’t. I ended up moving on to other chores and will try again next week with more vigor in one of the aforementioned areas (i.e. more liquid or more elbow grease). In, oh say, a month, I will probably have decided if it was worth the dough. If I actually commit to things like mopping floors. P’shaw.

Speaking of cheap assed kitchen products, last night our beautiful Chefmate Santoku knife proved that when the famous Jagger said, “You can’t always get what you want,” he should have added, “but you will almost always get what you paid for.” Sure we were a bit shocked to see we could get two Santoku knives (the average lookin’ size and the wee baby size (for super skilled toddlers perhaps?)) for the low price of $20 when the average ones can sell on their own from 50-750 dollars, but who were we to complain? Beggars can’t be choosers, and our bank account tells me we are, in fact, beggars. For weeks we were fooled, thinking we’d really hit the jackpot with that $20 and were in love with the best two knives in the apartment. Our knife block mourned our loss of love as we undoubtedly chose Santoku over their sorry asses every day (seriously, our knife block sucks – it was pawned off on us by my parents who also hated it, and probably was given to them by someone who hated it even more…) until one fateful day, i.e. yesterday, when our big daddy Santoku knife met its demise in the hands of MLM’s big daddy, a.k.a. my husband (DH). Simply slicing some of his morning after bread (an Alton Brown recipe involving a half a bottle of beer from one of his cookbooks – a.k.a. DH’s favorite cookbook) for a late night snack, the knife literally broke in half. The handle “exploded” as he worded it, revealing the poor craftsmanship behind our “good buy” – it looks like a real Santoku knife chopped off the handle of our fake Santoku knife and our fake Santoku cried mercy and died. For real. So now we are basically without good knife-age, unless you count the baby Santoku which is still in the drawer but I’m now terrified to use. And our knife block, which will live with us until we can afford a real set of knives and then pawn off the old block on some other sucker.

And that is the story of my one hour without MLM. Are you hooked yet?