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The Sweet Far Thing: A Midway Review

Right now I’m reading The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray – it’s the latest (and I believe last) book in the Gemma Doyle series (trilogy?). Yet another young adult series that has captivated me, Bray creates a world of magic and petticoats. Taking place in the 19th century, achingly close to the 20th century, the books focus on the ideas of women’s rights (or lack thereof). The girls are all destined for whatever life their families have chosen for them (or been forced to succumb to) but each ache for something more, or at the very least an opportunity to choose for themselves.

Girls reading the books will see how much opportunities they are given these days but at the same time may notice how little some things have change – how far we’ve come as a society, and how little we’ve progressed at the same time. Magic and romance add a lovely spark to this historic novel which takes place in London for the most part, though the series began in India for a few chapters and has a constant Indian presence throughout the series. It is exotic and traditional all in one moment, exhilarating and stifling – much like adolescence.

Perhaps these books are even better to read at my age or older, fresh out of adolescence with a clearer mind of the girls’ mistakes – I am not the young hot headed teenager I once was and can see with great perspective when they are being silly, but I’m young enough to rally around them anyway (or perhaps simply human enough). Add to that a fresh dose of mommy issues, something I always enjoy (Grey’s Anatomy, Bones, Alias) – I do adore any story where family ties are not traditional and simple.

Anyhow, I just started Act III of the book and yet I’m not even halfway through. I’m loving every minute and squealing my way through with delight and I suppose since I haven’t finished the book that’s pretty much all I have to say on the subject thus far.

Other books of a similar genre that I’d recommend are: The Blue Bloods series by Melissa de la Cruz; the Twilight saga by Stephenie Meyer; The Luxe by Anna Godbersen; Tricksters Choice by Tamora Pierce and her other books as well.

Anyone else know of some other good ones?

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reviews

Oh The Thinks You Can Think: Seussical: The Musical

Yesterday, as most of you know, was Father’s Day. You may not know that it was also the day of the final performance of Central Mass OnStage‘s production of Seussical: The Musical. And all of this is relevant because, for me, it was also my first time seeing my father perform on stage – talk about a Father’s Day treat!

My father and I have always been fans of the theater – as an English major, of course the best things for me were always the intricacies of the plot lines, songs, script and basically just losing myself in a good story that happened to be right in front of my eyes for a change. My father, who has done a lot of woodworking, has always been fascinated with the set design and not too long ago, after years of saying, “I wonder how they built that,” he joined the ranks of Central Mass On Stage as a set designer. Meanwhile, I spent college getting my kicks in reviewing plays for my school newspaper and thus, we were both happy.

Then this year he really knocked my socks off – he told me he’d auditioned for Seussical a musical based on the works of Dr. Seuss, and he was going to be in the play! I’d never known acting held any appeal for him, so you can imagine I was surprised and elated! My father is a man who never ceases to amaze me, he’s proved to me countless times that anything is possible, with time and hard work. It always amazes me the things we can do when we put our minds to it (oh the thinks you can think) – and it really is never too late to try something you’ve always wanted to do (like approaching your long time crush of an elephant). So it was truly fitting that his acting debut be in Seussical, a musical which seemed to frequently announce that “anything’s possible” along with the general theme of learning to believe in yourself and the world around you.

Seussical was in a word, outstanding. The cast was incredible – from the big parts like the Cat in the Hat, played by Brian Scannell, to the little parts like young Paul Farrell who played a tiny elephant bird hatched by Horton the Elephant (Jim Catapano) for the bird, Mayzie (played by Donna Williams) at the tail end of the play. My favorite characters were probably Gertrude McFuzz (played by Stephanie Sarkisian) who really brought to life the story of Gertrude, which I only just recently began reading to my own son; and of course my father, who played a Who from the Whoville military who once dared to have an opinion.

The show tells a story of love, a story of war (over toast!), a story of families, and again, a story of believing. The beloved characters of Dr. Seuss came to life that afternoon to teach (or re-teach) me and the rest of the audience lessons in life with a classic Seuss-like humor and relive some of our favorite stories, and maybe some new ones, too. They made me laugh (a lot) and nearly made me cry a few times as well.

After the play I had a chance to meet some of the cast members and got a peek into the life behind the scenes of Central Mass OnStage. They are a great group of people with a real family oriented mentality. As their website will tell you, “the main goal of CMO is to have fun while providing the whole family with something they can do together… For over 25 years Central Mass Onstage has been bringing families of all shapes and sizes together.” They really are an incredible group of people, giving numerous opportunities to people of all ages and backgrounds. I feel privileged in knowing them and proud of my father for being a part of such a great group of thespians.

Next up for CMO will be the production of Life With Father, which according to Wikipedia, “Clarence Day wrote humorously about his father, Clarence “Clare” Day senior to portray a rambunctious, overburdened Wall Street broker who demands that everything from his family should be just so. The more he rails against his staff, his cook, his wife, his horse, salesmen, holidays, his children and the inability of the world to live up to his impossible standards, the more comical and lovable he becomes to his own family who love him despite it all.”

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Favorite Moments from Father’s Day Weekend

This weekend was a large, hectic, busy blur that left me more exhausted than the Friday I woke up to it. It began with a long overdue date night in which my husband and I went to see the new Indiana Jones movie and ended with me snuggled on the comfiest chair in the apartment watching the latest disc of Bones that we received via Netflix the day prior. Sounds pretty relaxed and cozy huh? Yeah I haven’t mentioned the whirlwind in the middle – a wedding in RI, the fastest grocery shopping trip of our lives, and the strangest Fathers Day I’ve ever had.

But I won’t bore you with my whining about things that went bad, no for this blog, I will focus on the really really good – my favorite moments from the weekend – I bet there were more than I realize as I type this.

These are in no particular order, at least not intentionally:

1. The yummiest salad I’ve ever had was enjoyed at Uno’s Chicago Grill – behold the GORGONZOLA WALNUT SIDE SALAD: Mixed lettuces, tomato, red onion,  cucumber, walnuts,  Gorgonzola and croutons with a blueberry pomegranate  vinaigrette drizzled on top. You know it’s a good meal when the entree comes and I don’t immediately abandon the salad that I was somehow possessed to order in spite of previous good judgment. This salad was delicious!

2. Finding that there were movies on this planet that my husband has seen and I have not. A serious strange anomaly that rarely occurs. I took dh to see the new Indiana Jones movie, in spite of never having seen the others (didn’t even know for sure how many there were) and found I loved it, and my husband demanded that I find a chance to watch the first three movies with him. I happily agreed and look forward to it. A lovely 40 % off coupon from Borders then magically gave us the perfect excuse to buy the box set for a steal of a price that very night. The coupon was one I’d read about a week before and forgotten about until 1 hour before it expired – what are the odds?

3. Chasing two adorable toddlers around the Fort Wetherill State Park in RI as one of my long time besties exchanged the vows of marriage on one of the most gorgeous days of the month. Perfect.

4. Seeing my father perform on stage for the first time (at least that I’m aware of) on Father’s Day – I was so proud of him and as a fringe benefit got to see an amazing musical and later meet the cast and crew of the Central Mass Onstage – a group my dad’s been doing behind the scenes work with for a while now and finally decided to take the plunge and audition for a show – and not just any show, but Seussical the Musical. I watched with my aunt (his big sister) and her family and we had a great time catching up and sharing in my dad’s big moment together. Again, way more on this later.

And that’s it. For once I won’t try to think up a 5th favorite moment just to make it an even list – these were the top of the crust for this weekend which will go down in history as a good one, an exhausting one, and a first in many ways.

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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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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? 🙂