Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Code Name Verity

I'm a sucker for WWII books.  I had heard about Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein from a couple people so I put it on my wish list and got it for my birthday.  I took it with us on vacation and started after I finished Black & Blue.  It was soo hard to get into.  I read it for two days on vacation and then it sat for over a week when I got home and then I picked it up again for a couple pages on Thursday night, read a few chapters on Friday and then finished a big chunk of it on Saturday.  I was really hoping to be hooked from the get go but that just wasn't the case.  I will say, that I found the second half / last third of the book to fly by and that seems to be the consensus from other reviews on goodreads.  So, if you do pick it up, give it a shot.  Kind of like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, if you can get through the first 100 pages,  it will be a good story. 

Description:  I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.

That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine — and I will do anything, anything, to avoid SS-Hauptsturmf├╝hrer von Linden interrogating me again.

He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France — an Allied Invasion of Two.

We are a sensational team.

So, it sounds good, right? It is good.  The parts that dragged for me were the in depth parts about planes and types of planes and flying and paths and stuff like that.  But when Queenie was giving her accounts or it was 'real' time or when the second narrator is doing their part.  It was much better.  The details about the flights? I had to fight through them.  The author even says she wrote this book about planes for pilots so there is a lot of detail.  Not to let it scare you away because there is a GOOD story with a great friendship and so many connections that WORK that makes it a great WWII story.

It focuses on Queenie's, captured by the Ormaie Gestapo after parachuting into France, friendship with Maddie.  Queenie is tasked with telling the Gestapo everything she knows through her position as a second officer or something or other (i'm telling you those details I skimmed over because I was getting bogged down and I still can't tell you exactly what her position was but let's say it was in Intelligence because that is true).  She is an incredible storyteller and she uses it to buy more time before they decide to execute her.

There is a lot about British women involvement in WWII and the French Resistance.  I found all of those things interesting as well as the secret missions and how people came together to collaborate against the Gestapo and how the organized themselves to not get caught.

If you are in a rut, this might not be the best as I think it is slow at times but otherwise, it's a book you should read at some point if you are fascinated by WWII.

Have you read this book? What is your favorite YA historical fiction book? What is your favorite WWII book?

Monday, April 14, 2014

May's Group Read Suggestions

That time of the month again! I'm so excited that it's FINALLY spring and soon that means SUMMER VACATION AND ALL THE READING TIME IN THE WORLD, err that a 3 year old will allow this summer!!

What we've read..

Jane Eyre
The Rent Collector
Labor Day
Orphan Train
The Death of Bees
Liberating Paris
Life Sentences
Looking for Me
Ladder of Years
Where'd You Go Bernadette?
Beach Music
The Dinner
The End of Your Life Book Club
Still Alice 
The Song Remains the Same
Those Who Save Us
We Are All Welcome Here
Gone Girl
Prisoner of Tehran
The Wednesday Sisters
Looking for Alaska
Cutting for Stone
One Summer
The Year of Fog
Winter Garden
The Violets of March
State of Wonder
The Invisible Bridge
The Postmistress
The Scent of Rain and Lightning
Still Missing
The Sandalwood Tree
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
Something Borrowed
The Blue Orchard
Sammy's Hill
In the Woods
Shanghai Girls
The Weight of Water
Water for Elephants
The Color Purple
The One That I Want
The Secret Garden
House Rules
American Wife
Firefly Lane
The Reader
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
The Awakening
Pride & Prejudice
I See You Everywhere

What do you want to read? Suggestions open until the 18th! Then I will use random.org to pick a winner!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

What we did on Vacation

Ate, drank, laid on the beach, played Cards Against Humanity (BEST GAME EVER!!!!), and repeat.

Seriously, we spent almost all of our time in the sand on the beach or on the awesome deck looking at the beach/water, taking walks, drinking, eating or hanging with our friends playing games or catching Big Bang Theory reruns.  So relaxing, so enjoyable.  I want to be on vacation for ever.

Basically, we woke up around 7:15ish courtesy of the 2.5 year old.  Then we'd try to keep her quiet for awhile and feed her a bit and then head off on a walk.  Then do some playing inside or on the deck until it was time for the beach.  We'd go down to the beach and spend about 2-3 hours with the kid until it was her nap time.  Then we'd head up and get her ready and then make a quick lunch for ourselves and head back down to the beach for awhile or head to the deck and enjoy some alone time reading and laying in the sun.  Then shower and get dressed for the day.  When the kid got up, we'd get dinner around and then we played outside for a bit or out for ice cream or a nightly walk.  Then we sat around and drank, played games, watched tv, read books and then passed out early every night.  It was amazing.

approximately 30 minutes after we got to the beach house

 the little blob is my husband in his kayak

 my nap time reading view from our deck

 doing her thing

my model cheesing it up.. of course for the ACTUAL real picture time she was having NONE of it

I love this picture


she stayed here for over an hour doing this.  by herself and with the occasional adult helper.  her favorite game was taking turns running into the waves and back again.

the life..

<3 p="">

 the perfect view from the perfect house on the perfect vacation..
Okay, now I need to plan our next spring break trip! We got insanely lucky and only had to split a cleaning fee with our friends to stay here.  Probably will never beat the price of this vacation but now that we've done it, I don't think I can stop! Where would you recommend for a family friendly spring break destination? Must have a beach.  Ideally, I'd love to hit up Key West but that probably will not be happening for awhile!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Vacation Eats

Now, if I was a food blogger or one that routinely shares photos, I would have captured pictures of the awesome food I ate in my travels, but, I'm not so you get some links, some info and a few pictures of my kid. ;)

We left on Friday around 12:30 and neither my husband nor I had eaten lunch but my daughter fell asleep right away and slept for 5 straight hours that day, so we didn't want to stop.  We did briefly stop about 4 1/2 hours in because we needed to use the bathroom and were hungry.  So we stopped at a Culvers somewhere in Indiana.  I was not really impressed with the bathroom there nor was I with the people who were working there who saw us (the only people in the restaurant) standing at the counter and ignored us for 5 minutes.  We got a large order of cheese curds to share on the road and they were yummy. 

We spent that night in Franklin, Indiana with a cousin who made us a yummy dinner of steak, roasted veggies, crusty bread and beer! Yum.  We also did a bourbon tasting with him that night and watched MSU and UofM win.  And then immediately crashed.  We ALL slept in until 9:15 the next morning, whoops.  But we hit up Ann's Restaurant in Franklin.  It was packed.  And we all really enjoyed our food.  Mine took longer to get (all of it took awhile but mine longer) so I got 10 percent off my sausage, eggs and toast breakfast.  The pancakes were AMAZING and my husband really liked his omelet.  The French toast also looked amazing and I'd get that if I am ever back.

From there we headed to Nashville and got in around 4ish.  We hit up some honky tonks to listen to live music and it went a lot better than I envisioned with a 2.5 year old!  We went to Second Fiddle and Layla's and enjoyed some really good live music and some Yeunglings! And Isla enjoyed dancing to the music.  Then we hit up Margaritaville for dinner since it appeared to be a quick wait and child friendly.  Which, it was on both accounts.  Isla got a balloon hat that she adored until it popped a day later in Alabama and we all three split the Volcano Nachos for dinner and they were delicious!

Second Fiddle in Nashville
Sunday we stopped in Birmingham, Alabama at Dreamland BBQ.  It was delicious! I had a pulled pork sandwich with a side of mac and cheese and my husband had ribs and a side of beans.  I really enjoyed the sandwich and the large sweet tea I drank with it. ;) It was very quick service which was great with a two year old and then when we walked outside we noticed a park across the street so we played there for about 15 minutes before we hit the road again.


Both of my loves enjoying lunch at Dreamland BBQ
That night we stopped in Opp, Alabama which we affectionately have been calling O P P since we found the hotel in January.  My husband and researched some places he wanted to try and besides our google directions being wrong, it was easy to find on the main stretch.  Sadly, a few of the places we had wanted to try were no longer open.  We ended up eating at B&B Family Restaurant.  It was a dive.  But we love dives.  Very small town feel and a lot of locals in when we were there.  My husband said it was the best fried chicken he ever had and I most say it was very juicy when I tried a bite and his meal had a TON of food.  I got shrimp stuffed with jalapenos and cheese and it was delicious.  The chicken breast smothered in cheese that came with my meal was very overdone and I didn't eat it.  The inside of the restaurant was a little scary but it was a good experience. 
We only went out to eat twice in Panama City Beach and the rest of the time we ate at our beach house.  Which was good and bad.  There were soo many places I wish I could have checked out and should have adjusted to do so, but eh, you learn these things.
Captain Andersons was a recommended place for seafood and I ended up being a little disappointed.  The prices were a bit much and my meal was a disappointment, my husband's was just so so and my friends with the grilled grouper was probably the best at our table.  The rolls were good and our waiter was awesome.  Probably should have checked out some of the 'divey' looking places since we probably would have enjoyed them more.

At Captain Anderson's
Thanks to restaurants.com our other meal was picked.  Time Out's Sports Bar.  Talk about divey.  We pulled up and it was attached to a gas station.  However, when you got inside, you'd never know.  And I've ate in other restaurants INSIDE gas stations and this was probably the best of them.  You probably wonder where I eat, but when you travel, you try random things. ha.  So,we got a coupon from restraunts.com so we checked it out.  I got grilled fish tacos which were AWESOME and my husband got chicken tenders that he liked.  I got onion rings but eh, they weren't that great.  Yummy yuengling and their children's meals come with a small ice cream cup. 
Milk And Honey Frozen Yogurt was a good after dinner stop.  Every vacation needs ice cream/frozen yogurt! Isla and I really enjoyed the sea salt caramel yogurt mixed with pecan praline.  Yum.  And of course a ton of toppings.  I used yelp and got a 25 percent off coupon for checking in.
We planned on driving straight through but about 8:30 Friday night after driving for about 12 hours we decided that we could make it to Indiana but were fading fast.  And we hit one lane traffic for awhile so we found a hotel on hotels.com and booked it and got points. (GOT TO LOVE TECHNOLOGY AND TRAVELING!) It just happened to be in the town I have an old family friend so I texted with him and got a recommendation for pick up pizza.  Bearno's Pizza was delicious!  We ate it in our hotel room and yum, it was good.
We finished out our vacation in Marshall, Michigan and enjoyed Charlie's Grill & BBQ.   We split a three meat platter with two sides.  So we got to try the brisket (blah), bbq chicken (decent) and the bbq chicken (yum!).  I'm glad I talked my husband into the chicken because it was my favorite.  The rub on it was great and I loved dipping it into their bbq sauce.  The mac and cheese was super cheesy and I wasn't really a fan after the first couple of bites but my kid who doesn't normally eat mac and cheese ate it up! Their corn muffin's were excellent and the baked beans were good.  Definitely beat a random chain for a quick lunch. 
Overall, we ate very well. I'm so glad we had our smartphones to help plot out better stops along the way than the typical fast food since we tried planning ahead of time but there were toooo many choices.  So we basically went with yelp reviews when we got closer.
Do you research places to eat before vacations? Do you just drive until a sign sparks your interest? How do you pick?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Black & Blue

This was probably not the best beach read, but it was one I wanted to read and knew would be easy to get into, therefore it was perfect for vacation.

Description: With daring and compassion, Anna Quindlen weaves a forceful, harrowing portrait of a woman and a marriage, capturing the profound intricacies of love and rage, passion and violence. At once heartbreaking and utterly riveting, BLACK AND BLUE is an extraordinary work of fiction and a brilliant achievement.

For eighteen years, Fran Benedetto kept her secret, hid her bruises, and stayed with Bobby because she wanted her son to have a father and because, in spite of everything, she loved him. Then one night, when she saw the look on her ten-year-old son's face, Fran finally made a choice--and ran for both their lives.

I love Anna Quindlen.  The subject matter may be dark and ugly but the story is amazing.  This is a story of domestic abuse so if you can't handle it, do not read it.  It tells the struggle of Fran and how she breaks away from Bobby and how she and her son escape.  I like that it was very real.  They were stuck in a nondescript town, in a shabby apartment and a crappy job.  They made mistakes.  They suffered from the mistakes.  But Fran got stronger and she got away, though she suffered a lot by her choices, it was leave or eventually die.

The ending is heart wrenching and I wanted a sequel in about 10 years from the time the book ended.

Have you read any books by Anna Quindlen? What would you recommend? Have you ever wondered how it would be to get an new identity and start over?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Things I Learned Road Tripping with a Two Year Old

First, I did not mean to have such a long blog absence but the ONLY downfall on our wonderful vacation was that the Internet sucked.  Wah, wah, wah, right? So, I had planned on updating throughout on my husband's laptop but it just sucked so I stuck to quick fb/instagram photo updates throughout the week.

Vacation was wonderful.  Road tripping with a two year old was actually better than I had hoped for, but to be honest, I didn't put tooo much thought into it because if it was a failure it was just too awful to think about.  We did have tantrums, we did have some screams, but for the most part it worked. 

Things I learned on a Road Trip With my Two Year Old

- She will watch Daniel tiger's neighborbood for days on a repeat silently.. with no volume.  If you dare to close the DVD player when she was sleeping and/or not watching she will immediately wake up and scream for more Daniel.

- Holding out on the tablet for the very last day of driving is the best idea ever.  My child who never plays with our kindle fire at home played a Thomas game for 6 freaking hours yesterday until the battery died and of course she screamed but we were 20 minutes from home.  I'm a genius.

- You know you've been in the car too long when your husband says, 'The garmin is punishing us by adding more minutes on, " when I took a different quicker route.

- I am going to be VERY sad when my XM radio free trial is over.  We used that all the way down! Good music the whole time.  I love The Highway!

- I would drive through Alabama for days instead of driving through Indiana again.

- Having mini activity bags and pulling them out sparingly is the best idea ever.

- When in doubt, offer a snack.  My kid may have eaten more snacks than ever and learned how to ask for juice.  She finally was introduced to real juice as opposed to watered down Gatorade.  We then stressed that on vacation we get treats. 

- And because of all the snacks, no need to actually order the kid a meal in a restaurant because chances are she will not eat a real meal all of vacation because of all the junk.

Birmingham, Alabama

- Potty training 2 year olds will learn that mommy and daddy will stop the car if you shout, OW OW OW and say you have to pee.  Mommy and Daddy will become very frustrated when you do this every hour and then proceed to NOT pee.

- Potty training 2 year olds are very embarrassing to be around.  MAMA TOOT.  I-YA PEE! Was heard more times than I care to share.  At least I managed to keep her from opening the door on me.  Also? I witnessed some freaking disgusting bathrooms in Alabama and Tennessee.  My favorite stops by far were McDonalds.  I think my kid thinks they are made for running and peeing since we did that in multiple McDonalds in multiple states.  And we bought her apple slices from them.

- Two year olds do not understand being quiet in hotel rooms.  Sorry people in Tennessee who got to hear an epic tantrum at 8 am.  And sorry for people in Indiana who heard one at midnight, along with fake laughter because midnight pizza party's turn into giggle fests and not going back to sleep. 

- My kid is a pretty good travel companion as long as she doesn't hear the word no.

I'd do it again.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Rent Collector - Discussion

HAPPY SPRING BREAK FRIDAY!!!!!! So EXCITED to start our family road trip down south and spend a week with my best-friend and her man on the Gulf!!

1. In the opening pages of The Rent Collector, Sang Ly’s grandfather promises that it will be a very
lucky day. What role do you think luck plays in our lives? How does the idea of luck reconcile with the novel’s epigraph, the quote from Buddha on the opening page?
After reading Sarann (the Cambodian Cinderella), Sopeap and Sang Ly discuss how story plot
repeat, reinforcing the same lessons. Sopeap calls resurfacing plots “perplexing” and then asks, “Is
our DNA to blame for this inherent desire to hope? Is it simply another survival mechanism? Is that
why we love Sarann or Cinderella? Or is there more to it?” How would you answer? What are possible explanations for the phenomenon?
3.Sang Ly says that living at the dump is a life where “the hope of tomorrow is traded to satisfy the
hunger of today.” How might this statement also apply to those with modern homes, late-model cars,
plentiful food, and general material abundance?
4. Sopeap tells Sang Ly: “To understand literature, you read it with your head, but you interpret it with your heart. The two are forced to work together—and, quite frankly, they often don’t get along.”
Do you agree? Can you think of examples?
5. In a moment of reflection, Sang Ly admits that she doesn’t mean to be a skeptic, to lack hope, or
to harbor fear. However, she notes that experience has been her diligent teacher. She asks,
“Grandfather, where is the balance between humbly accepting our life’s trials and pleading toward
heaven for help, begging for a better tomorrow?” How would you answer her question?
6. The story ends with Sang Ly retelling the myth of Vadavamukha and the coming of Sopeap to
Stung Meanchey. By the time you reached the final version in the book’s closing pages, had you
remembered the original version in the book’s opening pages? How had the myth changed? How had
Sopeap changed? How had Sang Ly changed?
Have a good weekend!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Pilot's Wife

This one has been on my radar for awhile.  I've picked it up at the library and set it back down but I picked it up at our recent library book sale and read it.  Wow.  I was hooked. 

Description: Who can guess what a woman will do when the unthinkable becomes her reality?

Until now, Kathryn Lyons's life has been peaceful if unextraordinary: a satisfying job teaching high school in the New England mill town of her childhood; a picture-perfect home by the ocean; a precocious, independent-minded fifteen-year-old daughter; and a happy marriage whose occasional dull passages she attributes to the unavoidable deadening effect of time. As a pilot's wife, Kathryn has learned to expect both intense exhilaration and long periods alone—but nothing has prepared her for the late-night knock that lets her know her husband has died in a crash.

As Kathryn struggles with her grief, she descends into a maelstrom of publicity stirred up by the modern hunger for the details of tragedy. Even before the plane is located in waters off the Irish coast, the relentless focus on her husband's life begins to bring a bizarre personal mystery into focus. Could there be any truth to the increasingly disturbing rumors that he had a secret? Fighting the impulse to protect herself and her daughter from the details of the crash and the mystery surrounding it, Kathryn sets out to learn who her husband really was—whatever that knowledge may cost. The search will lead her to shocking revelations, testing both the truth of her marriage and the limits of her ability to face it.

From the bestselling author of The Weight of Water, this taut, impassioned novel asks fundamental questions we all have about how well we can really know anyone—even those (or especially those) we love the most. Written with grace and controlled beauty, The Pilot's Wife definitively places Anita Shreve among the ranks of the best novelists writing today.

The emotions that Anita Shreve captured with her writing was amazing.  I mean the character of Kathryn wasn't my favorite character nor was her daughter but man.  The emotions.  It was a heavy book and it touched on one of the worst moment's in a person's life, the death of a spouse/parent.

Jack, the pilot, seems like such a great guy.  A family guy.  But then snippets of the past seep in.  A nugget here and there.  And then you wonder, how can his wife say all the good things she is saying.  And how could have had such a 'good' marriage when all of these secrets come tumbling out after his death?

It was a very quick read and I liked it.  I felt very dark afterwards and I didn't want to write about it right away but days later the book is still with me.  Definitely, one to check out, but not if you are looking for a light read.

Have you read any books by Anita Shreve? How well do you think you know the people in your life? Has a significant other ever kept something from you that shocked you when you found out?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

April's Group Read is...

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte!

This has been on my shelf for over a year now? I bought it when it was cheap when I was purchasing another book.  It is one of those books I've always meant to read and feel I should read, but just never did it.  Fingers crossed it is good.

Description: Orphaned into the household of her Aunt Reed at Gateshead, subject to the cruel regime at Lowood charity school, Jane Eyre nonetheless emerges unbroken in spirit and integrity.

She takes up the post of governess at Thornfield, falls in love with Mr. Rochester, and discovers the impediment to their lawful marriage in a story that transcends melodrama to portray a woman's passionate search for a wider and richer life than Victorian society traditionally allowed.

With a heroine full of yearning, the dangerous secrets she encounters, and the choices she finally makes, Charlotte Bronte's innovative and enduring romantic novel continues to engage and provoke readers.

Have you read Jane Eyre? Do you plan on joining us? I will post a discussion on Friday, April 25th!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Summer Rental

THIS book is what I needed to get out of my slump.  It was one where I did not want it to end.  If you are looking for a mindless, quick fun read.  Aka a beach read? Pick it up.

I had been meaning to try a Mary Kay Andrews book for awhile and I was able to pick one up at our used book sale and I'm glad I did.  Now, I could get nit picky about the fact that the Maryn/Madison plotline was not perfect and that at the beginning I was wondering if she was writing middle aged characters or younger characters.  When all their parents were dying and they were only 34-36 I was a bit confused.  I mean, I hope my parents aren't going to start croaking in the near future.

However, if you want a story about three life long friends who rent a beach house in Nags Head and have a little drama, a  little mystery, and a summer fling? Pick it up.  I didn't want these characters to end!

Description: Sometimes, when you need a change in your life, the tide just happens to pull you in the right direction…

Ellis, Julia, and Dorie. Best friends since Catholic grade school, they now find themselves, in their mid-thirties, at the crossroads of life and love. Ellis, recently fired from a job she gave everything to, is rudderless and now beginning to question the choices she's made over the past decade of her life. Julia--whose caustic wit covers up her wounds--has a man who loves her and is offering her the world, but she can't hide from how deeply insecure she feels about her looks, her brains, her life. And Dorie has just been shockingly betrayed by the man she loved and trusted the most in the world…though this is just the tip of the iceberg of her problems and secrets. A month in North Carolina's Outer Banks is just what they each of them needs.

Ty Bazemore is their landlord, though he's hanging on to the rambling old beach house by a thin thread. After an inauspicious first meeting with Ellis, the two find themselves disturbingly attracted to one another, even as Ty is about to lose everything he's ever cared about.

Maryn Shackleford is a stranger, and a woman on the run. Maryn needs just a few things in life: no questions, a good hiding place, and a new identity. Ellis, Julia, and Dorie can provide what Maryn wants; can they also provide what she needs?

Mary Kay Andrews' novel is the story of five people questioning everything they ever thought they knew about life. Five people on a journey that will uncover their secrets and point them on the path to forgiveness. Five people who each need a sea change, and one month in a summer rental that might just give it to them.

What book has gotten you out of a recent slump?