Tuesday, April 1, 2014

New Kid in Town


In January I got to take maternity photos of my friend Jamie and a couple family photos with her husband and son before the arrival of their little girl. Keaton was born just a few weeks after the maternity session (yes, be jealous of that tiny tummy!). We had a lovely follow up session when little K was just a week or so old with the new complete family.





Only a few days old here and little K has the wisest eyes. I really loved watching her take it all in, this new world she inhabits. Such a sweetie. Congrats Jamie and Ryder on your sweet, complete family!





Monday, March 10, 2014

Friday Night Book Club - April Pick

Our book club met for the second time on Friday night, to discuss The Book Thief and decide on the next book we read. I know I said I would post the options here, so even those from afar who want to participate could put their two cents in, but I just could not get my ish together last week to make it happen. I know I also said that I would post questions each week on The Book Thief, but again, my ish. Not together.

Also, I read the book in two days and going back and making questions each week left me freaking out that I would accidentally give off spoilers. So, instead, I will from now on post discussion stuff for those who want to, once a month after book club meets, so that I don't have to frantically look through the book to ensure I didn't mention something from chapter 3 when I should only be talking about chapter 2. These things keep me up at night. I can't get any less sleep than I already do, people.

So. We got together. We chatted. We ate German food inspired by the book - Kelly's amazing pea soup and Jamie's homemade bread and Jen's beer steamed bratwurst and Nina's sangria. Ok, maybe that last one wasn't traditional German food, but it was delish. Once we got the oh, so important business of eating out of the way, and I talked myself into getting up and leading the discussion, we had a great time chatting about what we liked and didn't like about the book.

We all pretty much decided that it was a good book, great even, but no one wanted to read it again. It was just too dark and heavy and the funny bits just didn't overcome the tragedies. We discussed our favorite characters, lots of votes for Hans and Rudy. I personally loved Rosa. Sure, she was a bit...prickly, but as soon as Max arrived and she wholeheartedly rallied for him, I loved her. Plus, she was smart enough to choose Hans, right? I mean, how awful could someone who landed him really be?

I loved Max's stories and drawings. I loved the process of painting over Hitler's awful book to create something meaningful and lovely for Leisel. It made me want to make a book like that. Without having to come in contact with Hitler's insanity, of course. I wish I had the forethought to make some books to bring to the meeting, but we have already established where my ish is (say it with me - not together).

After we talked about The Book Thief, we decided to read Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. It's about two high school outcasts who find that they have more in common than they think and fall in love. It's sweet and sad and wonderful and, oh yeah, I read it in one day. I think everyone will love it and if not, they will certainly have strong opinions about it. I can't wait to meet in April and talk about it!


I found this adorable wallpaper based on the books cover on a blog that I am pretty sure I am going to become obsessed with, Novel Sounds. It is a blog that matches books with music. Yes. Please. If you are interested in reading along with us this month you can feel free to use the carousel below to buy the book or any others that strike your fancy. I do get a teensy, tiny commission on your purchases, so if you do choose to support my habit, I thank you!



Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Book Thief, Week 1

To catch you up super quickly, we met last Friday night for Book Club, fun was had by all (or everyone is an amazing actor), we decided to read The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak, and for those who don't want to or can't come to actual book clubby meetings, they could follow along while I talk about it here.

I broke up the book into roughly four parts, but I have already read more than half the book since last night the whole darn thing since Thursday. Officially, we are only reading through Part Two, so if you are following along, I won't be giving anything away past Part Two. Though, you will notice the narrator gives us plenty of glimpses of what is coming ahead anyway, so I can't imagine I'm going to give away much. 

Please, if you are reading along or have read the book already, shoot me a comment with your thoughts thus far. I will get a little pretentious book clubby with some of my questions. Just a fair warning. I'm not, like, trying to be pretentious, it's just an unfortunate by-product of book club questions and their lingo. I may also throw in some questions that I come across that are (in my mind) so pretentious I don't even get them. You know for laughs. Though I am sure you all will get them just fine and I'll look stupid. So basically, it will all even out.

When I use a quote, I will put the page number, but the numbering may be off since everyone has different books, kindles, etc. Hopefully, it will still be relatively easy to figure out where I am in the book when I quote something. I'll make some obsevations, but when I list a question, I'll answer it in the comments section as a part of the discussion, rather than in the post. 

Well, now, where was I? Oh right. Potentially pretentious book club discussion. Here goes nothin'.


The Book Thief, Parts One and Two

A couple of things jumped out at me. First, was the use of color as descriptors. Do you have a favorite? Mine is when the narrator describes the sky over the battlefields of The Great War as being milky white and spreading over everything.

Second is how the narrator (Death) describes gathering souls. Did you notice any in particular and what were your thoughts about how Death describes that process?
"I walked in, loosened his soul, and carried it gently away" pg 11 
"It was exactly when I knelt down and extracted his soul, holding it limply in my swollen arms. He warmed up soon after, but when I picked him up originally, the boy’s spirit was soft and cold, like ice cream. He started melting in my arms. Then warming up completely. Healing." pg 17

Death tells us he made numerous mistakes when it comes to Liesel, saying,
 "Mistakes, mistakes, it’s all I seem capable of at times. For two days, I went about my business. I traveled the globe as always, handing souls to the conveyor belt of eternity. I watched them trundle passively on. Several times, I warned myself that I should keep a good distance from the burial of Liesel Meminger’s brother. I did not heed my advice.
From miles away, as I approached, I could already see the small group of humans standing frigidly among the wasteland of snow. The cemetery welcomed me like a friend, and soon, I was with them. I bowed my head." pg 18 
Why do you think he felt so drawn to the funeral and why do you think he felt it was a mistake to go?

What were your impressions of Hans and Rosa when you first "met" them vs by the end of Part Two?

Who is your favorite character so far and why?

The last sentence of Part Two:
"Beneath her shirt, a book was eating her up."
Why do you think Liesel is so drawn to books that she feels compelled to steal them when necessary?

OK! That is it for this week! I'm also curious how many people read through the whole thing already? It was such a quick read. I'm finding myself already drawn in to read it again. I can tell it is going to be one of those books where I notice more and more with each read through.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Friday Night Book Club - The Book Thief

It's official, we have a book club. Friday night rolled around and I nervously waited to see if anyone other than my best friends would show up to book club. Fifteen amazing women came to my house and put themselves to the mercies of my crazy ideas. It was fabulous. We laughed and talked and played a goofy game that I made up and ate gelato and drank wine. Yes. MY book club has gelato and wine. If getting to read juicy YA novels wasn't enough, we have gelato, people.

Not to rub in chocolaty Italian desserts to those who can't make it to our meetings, I'm sure it will be just as fun to follow along as we read here on the blog. I can't say that my writing is nearly as delicious as gelato and wine, but I'll try. At the first meeting it was decided that we would read The Book Thief. Outsiders got one vote (poor Ponyboy!) and Thirteen Reasons Why didn't get enough votes to overwhelm the The Book Thief contingency.

For those of you following along, I will do a small summary/discussion each Friday. We will divide the book into four parts.

Week 1 - Prolougue through Part Two
Week 2 - Part Three through Part Five
Week 3 - Part Six though Part Eight
Week 4 - Part Nine through The Handover Man

That is just the order of how we will go through the book here on the blog, if you are like me, you will read the whole book in one sitting, anyway. I read the first page and had to tear myself away; I can tell it's going to pull me right in and not let go and it's midnight.

Ain't nobody got time to stay up all might reading, so I'll get my start tomorrow. Besides, these late night Olympics aren't going to watch themselves. I can only stay up so late, people and people with a death wish luging (Or is it lugeing? Sledding. They are all uber-sledding. Let's call a spade a spade, k?) at a million miles an hour wins.

You can click the link below to purchase a hard copy of the book or a kindle copy from Amazon. I do receive a small amount of money when you purchase from the Amazon carousel and you would receive high fives from my husband for saving him some money on my book habit.





Saturday, February 1, 2014

Downton Abbey Season 4, Episode 4

It's Saturday and I am just now getting to writing about last week's episode. I am so off my game right now, people. Of course, it is all because of my issues with time management, but I am going to blame this season's writers instead. Because that is easier and who wants to admit that they suck at making time for stuff? Actually, the real travesty is that this was the best episode this season in terms of story and character development, so of all episodes to rant and rave over, this was the one, right?


STOP MOANING, EDITH - Well, vintage Mary is back sniping at her sisters every word. When she made the first snide remark, I nearly choked on my ice cream. I thought that Mary was gone, but, no, as the episode moved on she rolled her eyes, snipped and sighed whenever Lady Edith dared speak - or even breathe - in her presence. Funny though it was, after the third or fourth time I started to fear that we were reverting to their old, ridiculous sibling rivalry. Since we saw Edith slink alone into a London doctors office, I suspect she is going to be moaning about quite a lot in the coming weeks. 

DON'T GO, TOM! - So uncomfortable with his new life, Tom begins talking about making changes. I sit up straighter in my chair expecting to hear him say he is interested in politics again but am quickly disappointed to hear him talking about going to America. America? Really? The fact that he even says this is laughable because he has a job he likes and family to support him in raising his daughter. He and Mary seem to really be becoming friends and he even has a friendly understanding with Carson and Hughes downstairs. Tom Branson may not have see Far and Away, but I have. Ask Nicole and Tom about how 'Murrica works out for Irish immigrants, let alone Irish immigrants with kids. STAY PUT, dude. 

THEY KISSED AND MADE UP! - And I tried not to jump up and down for joy! Mrs. Hughes did what she shudl have done in the beginning and told Bates what happened, Bates and Anna made up and everything is finally ALL RIGHT.

EXCEPT IT'S NOT - Everything is NOT alright and Bates makes sure we know it. It is FAR from ALRIGHT and he will not let it rest. Bates has revenge in his eyes and at the end of this episode I have anger in my heart. 

Here is why:

In the first two and half seasons of Downton Abbey, the characters and their lives were glamorous, exciting,and heartbreaking. Using the tragedy and pain of the Titanic and World War I as a backdrop, the Crawleys navigated the changing world mostly with grace and class. Lady Sybil challenged how the family thought of women and class, Matthew helped the family recognized they had souls. Without them, Lady Cora is left to holding up the nice person fort and she just isn't up to the task, I am afraid. 

The problem with the show for me now is that so much of Downton Abbey's stories rely on the changing times. No doubt the 20s brought sweeping changes to England, but for whatever reason we just aren't seeing them. It was the Jazz Age, after all, and all we have gotten has been teaser episodes with Rose that are uninteresting and kind of vapid. Rose, I am guessing is supposed to inject some youth that Sybil took with her when she died, but she's more Miley Cyrus than Fellowes probably counted on. 

I'm mostly annoyed because it really feels like all my favorite characters are regressing or becoming something they never were or should be. Mary is back to being a biatch to her sister, Edith is back to being mopey and tragic, Bates is becoming vengeful and angry, Robert is grasping to keep power over an estate he never really cared for, Tom has not only lost his revolutionary streak, but is on the verge of giving up entirely and Thomas, without a worthy adversary or partner is crime is left to fester and be the jackass we all know he is. 

It all leaves me disappointed and bummed out and yet completely unable to cut the cord on this show. 

Sidenote: Isobel + Granny = TOTAL WIN. These two are comedy GOLD. I cannot wait until Lady Cora's mother comes back because OH MY GOSH THOSE THREE. 

Julian. DO NOT LET ME DOWN.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Are you YA enough for this book club?

My bedroom growing up had a whole wall of floor to ceiling bookshelves. The previous owner had used the room as an office, and when fourth grade me saw those bookshelves I made it my mission to fill those shelves. I almost did, too. By the time we moved I'd amassed a collection of nearly 1,000 books. Ramona, The Babysitters Club, Sweet Valley High, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Secret Garden, Sleepover Friends, Matilda, R.L. Stine, Anne of Green Gables...my collection was non discriminatory. Little Women shared shelf space with blonde twins from California. Really bad teenage love stories cozied up to Gone With the Wind. 

I didn't love reading right away as a kid and to encourage me to read more my parents bought me literally every single book I seemed vaguely interested in. Their (very expensive) scheme worked, I loved to read and in the process found a very special place in my heart for YA lit - Young Adult literature. 

A few years ago it came to my attention that my friend Megan is also my literature soul sister and ever since then we have been trading books books like the madwomen we are. A couple years ago she became the Scholastic book mom for her kids classes and turned me onto such literary gems as Twilight, The Hunger Games and amazing teenage mermaid stories. We used to hide our YA shame, but this week I decided that enough was enough. Not are we no longer hiding our love of the Young Adult novel,  we are starting a book club. 

That's right. Young Adult novel book club is happening. As it turns out, we are far from alone in our taste in books. Within about 2 hours of announcing on Facebook my crazy plan of a book club I got 15 or so ecstatic messages from friends ready to read the angst. Bring on the coming age stories and the dystopian heroes and heroines. Bring on the romance and misunderstandings. Bring on the vampires and mermaids, because we are taking them all on. 

If you are local and interested, send me a message. If you aren't or don't fancy being in a room with a bunch of 30 year old women reading teen lit (well, when you put it that way...), you can follow along here on the blog. Our first meeting is February 7 where we will be deciding between one of these three books. I scoured Amazon for ideas and decided to narrow it down between a social issues book, a classic, and a soon to be released book-to-movie title.

Vote for the title that most interests you in the comments below and the pick for the Friday Night Book Club will be revealed on the 7th. If you are so inclined, you can request to join the Facebook page where we will let our literary freak flags fly high and proud. If you choose to buy any of the titles, please consider clicking through to Amazon via my carousel at the bottom of the post. I will get a small percentage of each purchase, which will make my husband happy considering how easy a Kindle 1-click is at 2 am when I have just finished book one of a particularly amazing series and cannot possibly wait another second to start book two. 

If you can relate, this is probably your kind of book club. 



Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker - his classmate and crush - who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah's voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out why. Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah's pain, and learns the truth about himself-a truth he never wanted to face.

Thirteen Reasons Why is the gripping, addictive international bestseller that has changed lives the world over. It's an unrelenting modern classic.



The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
According to Ponyboy, there are two kinds of people in the world: greasers and socs. A soc (short for "social") has money, can get away with just about anything, and has an attitude longer than a limousine. A greaser, on the other hand, always lives on the outside and needs to watch his back. Ponyboy is a greaser, and he's always been proud of it, even willing to rumble against a gang of socs for the sake of his fellow greasers--until one terrible night when his friend Johnny kills a soc. The murder gets under Ponyboy's skin, causing his bifurcated world to crumble and teaching him that pain feels the same whether a soc or a greaser. This classic, written by S. E. Hinton when she was 16 years old, is as profound today as it was when it was first published in 1967.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Markus Zusak's unforgettable story is about the ability of books to feed the soul.

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak, author of I Am the Messenger, has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Downton Abbey, Season 4 Episode 3

So, I have given myself permission to post these updates when I can, which obviously, isn't very timely these days.On Sunday night we were living it up with the cool kids at Benihana celebrating my friend Megan's birthday, so shock of all shocks, I missed Downton Abbey. What is Downton compared to onion volcanoes? Nothing, that's what. And those onions were delicious. And I really want one of those grills in my kitchen. And one of those chefs while we are at it.

Alright, on to the fun stuff:

Tell me you see it? 

THE BREAKFAST FROM HELL - Pardon my french, but ANNA HAD TO EAT BREAKFAST NEXT TO HER RAPIST. #*@&%$ My stomach is in knots just thinking about it. Did anyone else feel like crying in the first few minutes of the show? Between Anna and Bates and Tom and Lady What's Her Name, we were three minutes into the show and I was sure I was not going to make it. I was getting a little tired on Tom feeling sorry for himself for not fitting in, but I definitely loved how the Lady got to the nitty gritty of Tom's heartache and I loved her for it. But not enough to remember her name, apparently. Sidenote: BEST LINE of the series or maybe my life, and it didn't even come from Granny: "I have always found something foreign about high spirits at breakfast." Me too, Carson, me too.

Watching Bates fumble and flounder around Anna is as heartbreaking as it is annoying. I mean, who falls and bangs up their head as much as she did, wake up, dude!. She was full on beaten up. Like to a pulp! Between Anna's silly line of not telling Bates because he will kill the man, and the fact that I suspect that the Crawley's will start thinking Bates is beating his woman, I am fed up. I haven't been so annoyed with a story line since, well, Bates was in jail.

DING DONG THE WITCH IS GONE! - This almost makes up for the hating on Bates and Anna. While I hate that she's such a conniving idiot, it was the conniving idiocy that got her the boot. Finally! Way to go Mrs. Hughes. I might have to start a fan club, I love her so much right now. Though, I did cringe at her saying she'd pin her down and rip her clothes off her if she had to. Just felt tacky considering Anna's situation and even a schemer like Edna dosen't deserve that. All in all, though, well played Mrs. Hughes, well played. Ever since last episode, every time Edna walked in I just couldn't shake the image of Voldemort. She's so snake-like, it just fit too perfectly! She got what she deserved, and then some, leaving Downton with her snaky tail between her legs, but not before she gave Thomas the ol' one two. At which I laughed heartily, because, hello, pot, meet kettle. Sidenote: I love how Mary totally came through for Tom, offering him sound advice in his hour of need and that he had the good sense to take good advice when he hears it (*cough* Anna).

WALK OF SHAME - Who knew Edith had it in her to be so naughty? Although, there wasn't a whole lot of shame in her walk, she did try to play dumb when Aunt Rosalind called her out on her comings and goings. Does anyone else get a bad feeling about this? I think Aunt Rosalind's outburst is a foreshadowing of very bad things to come. "The world may be changing, but some things never will." Gulp. Something about the mentally ill wife and Germany and divorces and revoking one's citizenship isn't ringing true with me. Edith! You are making me nervous, girl! Don't be stooopid!

MARY'S MISTAKES - So, Lord Goodlookingham has fallen hard for Lady Mary, so hard in fact, that her family schemes to get them together socially as much as possible in the course of, what, a week? Has everyone brainfarted on the fact that the woman's husband died six months ago? What in the hey is everyone's all-fired rush to get Mary, well, married? Mary has a good time with him, laughs, smiles, Isobel has a sweet moment where she says how she hopes she will see him often blah, blah, blah. Gillingham asks Mary to marry him twice, both times he is rebuffed.

The second time, when he says she would fill his mind, she says that her mind is too full of Matthew to consider anyone else. It was sweet, it was lovely, it was what you might expect a happily married, recent widow to say. Then, in what is becoming an annoyingly expected move, Lord G asks if he can kiss her, one for the road, and all. They kiss, her wedding ring in clear view as   they snog, and I rolled my eyes, but I was thrilled she turned him down. We She needs more time.

And then, sneaking in just before credits roll, Mary says to Tom, "I think I made a decision I'll regret the rest of my life." *Face-palm* MARY! Are we still mourning, or what? You made a decision, stick with it. I don't know why I found that so ridiculous, but I did.

FAKE AMERICAN ACCENTS SHOULD BE BANNED - Downton Abbey is going global and diverse with the addition of American bandleader, Jack Ross who is black and therefore even less acceptable for little Rose to fall for than if he were only a wretched American. To add insult to injury he has the worst American accent I have ever heard. To be fair, I did double check on IMDB, just in case, because the truly worst American accent I have ever heard turned out to be from an American (it was this guy, on Foyle's War). Bad accent aside, he's cute and I suspect a juicy story line there, though I cannot for the life of me figure out how we are going to see him again.

So, what do you all think? I know there is a whole thing going on downstairs, but I am still just not interested in Alfred/Ivy/Jimmy/Daisy's whatever. Am I the only one?