Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Girl Who Played With Fire

First off.. the winner of the second summer giveaway is... Lisa of Lisa's Yarns! Lisa you must be one lucky lady since you won by my other one, or it could be because no one else entered besides Julie (thanks lady!).. I will try to send it out today! ;)

The Girl Who Played With Fire starts off about a year after The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo ends. We find out that Lisbeth has gone off and traveled the world and has been zealously reading about Mathematics. She gets hung up on Fermat's Last Theorem and fills notebook pages trying to solve it. She hasn't talked to Mikael in almost a year and can't believe she allowed herself to 'love' him.

Mikael is super busy at Millennium still and seemingly has no idea why Lisbeth is not returning his calls or nowhere to be found.

Eventually Lisbeth makes her way back to Stockholm and reconnects with an old flame, buys herself a ridiculous new apartment and trying to figure out what to do with her billions and checks in on her guardian and then on Mikael. She finds a startling connection between the story Millennium is working on, her douche of a guardian and her past. She meets up with the two reporters working on the case and the next thing you know, they are dead, her prints are on the weapon and the douche of a guardian is dead as well.

Of course, everyone points the blame on Lisbeth and paints her as a maniac in the press. Her dear friend Mikael does not believe it and races against the police to clear her name.

I really really really liked this book about 983434324 times better than the first. I would suggest forging through the first just to get to this book it was so good. Kelly even told me! ;) She's a smart cookie. I started it on the beach on Wednesday and finished it Friday. And there are a LOT OF pages. It was so good. Totally up in the top books of the year. ;)

What's your favorite series? (Mine is Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum Series!!)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

July Group Read is...

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett!

Frightened orphan Mary discovers the joyful wonders of life on the Yorkshire Moors with the help of two local boys and a mysterious, abandoned garden...where all things seem possible.

This will be interesting one for me... I never ever wanted to read this as a kid. I thought it would be 'boring.' Here is to hoping my adult self doesn't think so! ;)

I have been out of town basically since last Wednesday. I was home for a brief time on Sunday and then just got back and will be gone most of tomorrow because of a funeral. I have finished The Wednesday Sisters and The Girl Who Played with Fire and can't wait to write up reviews on them. Both of them were fabulous!!! Read them for sure!

Today is the last day to enter my giveaway for Twenty Stories by Kirstin Fouquet. It would be a great beach read!

I also want to hopefully post some discussion questions for House Rules tomorrow since it is the last day of June. If you have any quotes, thoughts or questions you want me to include in my post send them to me either my blog comment or via email at pinkflipflops44 at gmail dot com. I am planning on a lot of blog work today!! ;)

Friday, June 25, 2010

What I took to the Beach this weekend..

12 Times Blessed by Jacquelyn Mitchard

Though True Dickinson was widowed eight years ago, her young son, her thriving business, and her loving friends give her a full life. Still, her fory-third birthday party, on a snowy Cape Cod night, is cause to reflect and lament her dwindling youth, beauty, and chances at romance.

But everything changes the moment True slides into a ditch on the drive home and comes face-to-face with an opportunity to let love back into her life.

Twelve Times Blessed is the story of one year of transformation in a woman's life, and an unforgettable tale of the perils and pleasures of love in the modern age.

The Girl who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

Mikael Blomkvist, crusading journalist and publisher of the magazine Millennium, has decided to run a story that will expose an extensive sex trafficking operation between Eastern Europe and Sweden, implicating well-known and highly placed members of Swedish society, business, and government.

But he has no idea just how explosive the story will be until, on the eve of publication, the two investigating reporters are murdered. And even more shocking for Blomkvist: the fingerprints found on the murder weapon belong to Lisbeth Salander—the troubled, wise-beyond-her-years genius hacker who came to his aid in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and who now becomes the focus and fierce heart of The Girl Who Played with Fire.

As Blomkvist, alone in his belief in Salander’s innocence, plunges into an investigation of the slayings, Salander herself is drawn into a murderous hunt in which she is the prey, and which compels her to revisit her dark past in an effort to settle with it once and for all.

The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton

Friendship, loyalty, and love lie at the heart of Meg Waite Clayton’s beautifully written, poignant, and sweeping novel of five women who, over the course of four decades, come to redefine what it means to be family.

For thirty-five years, Frankie, Linda, Kath, Brett, and Ally have met every Wednesday at the park near their homes in Palo Alto, California. Defined when they first meet by what their husbands do, the young homemakers and mothers are far removed from the Summer of Love that has enveloped most of the Bay Area in 1967. These “Wednesday Sisters” seem to have little in common: Frankie is a timid transplant from Chicago, brutally blunt Linda is a remarkable athlete, Kath is a Kentucky debutante, quiet Ally has a secret, and quirky, ultra-intelligent Brett wears little white gloves with her miniskirts. But they are bonded by a shared love of both literature–Fitzgerald, Eliot, Austen, du Maurier, Plath, and Dickens–and the Miss America Pageant, which they watch together every year.

As the years roll on and their children grow, the quintet forms a writers circle to express their hopes and dreams through poems, stories, and, eventually, books. Along the way, they experience history in the making: Vietnam, the race for the moon, and a women’s movement that challenges everything they have ever thought about themselves, while at the same time supporting one another through changes in their personal lives brought on by infidelity, longing, illness, failure, and success.

Humorous and moving, The Wednesday Sisters is a literary feast for book lovers that earns a place among those popular works that honor the joyful, mysterious, unbreakable bonds between friends.
I am pretty sure that I am going to start off with The Girl Who Played with Fire, but we shall see what I am in the mood for! I am hoping to get a lot of reading done. We've been camping with the fam since Wednesday and will be coming back Sunday... So lots of time to get reading! Hope you all have a fantastic weekend and don't forget to enter my 2nd Summer Giveaway!
What is in your beach bag this weekend?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

2010 Challenges Update

Don't forget to vote on the July Group Read. Poll is up on the side!

Books read in 2010

1. Cross Country – James Patterson (Jan. 2nd)
2. Alias Grace – Margaret Atwood (Jan 26th)
3. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson (Feb. 2nd)
4. Twenty Stories – Kristin Fouquet (Feb 3rd)
5. The Sister Pact – Cami Checketts (Feb 7th)
6. The Reader – Bernhard Schlink (Feb. 14th)
7. Spooky Little Girl – Laurie Notaro (Feb. 21st)
8. The Worst Case – James Patterson (March 1st)
9. Morning Neurosis: The mostly true story of a girly trying to reconcile her rock n ‘ roll roots – Juliette Miranda (March 6th)
10. Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher (March 7th)
11. Sexaholics – Pynk
12. Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides
13. Firefly Lane – Kristin Hannah (April 19th)
14. The Last Child – John Hart (May 2nd)
15. True Colors – Kristin Hannah (May 8th)
16. The Help – Kathryn Stockett (May 22nd)
17. Jane Austen Ruined My Life – Beth Pattillo (May 23rd)
18. The Perfect Wife: The Life and Choices of Laura Bush – Ann Gerhart (June 12th)
19. Dying Scream – Mary Burton – (June 13th)
20. House Rules – Jodi Picoult – (June 20th)

A-Z Author and Book Title Challenge..

A – Alias Grace – Margaret Atwood
B – Dying Scream – Mary Burton
C- The Sister Pact – Cami Checketts
D –
E – Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides
f – Twenty Stories – Kristin Fouquet
G –
H- Firefly Lane – Kristin Hannah
I –
J –
K –
L – The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson
M – Morning Neurosis: The mostly true story of a girly trying to reconcile her rock n ‘ roll roots – Juliette Miranda
N – Spooky Little Girl – Laurie Notaro
O –
P – House Rules – Jodi Picoult
Q –
R –
S – The Reader – Bernhard Schlink
T –
U –
V –
W –


A -
B –
C- Cross Country – James Patterson
D –
E –
f –
G – The Perfect Wife: The Life an Choices of Laura Bush – Ann Gerhart
H- The Help – Kathryn Stockett
I –
J – Jane Austen Ruined My Life – Beth Pattillo
K –
L – The Last Child – John Hart
M –
N –
O –
P –
Q –
R –
S – Sexaholics - Pynk
T – Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher
U –
V -
W – The Worst Case – James Patterson

10 TBR from my Blog readers
Revolutionary Road – 5
Middlesex – 5
Water for Elephants – 5
Teacher Man – 4
The Perfect Wife - 1
Summer Reading - 1
Jane Austin Ruined my Life - 1
Wednesday Sisters - 1
Pledged - 1
Bridget Jones -1

I need to get my booty reading more! Hopefully I will get a lot done this summer! My favorites so far were probably, The Help, The Reader, Firefly Lane, Morning Neurosis, The Last Child and 13 Reasons Why.

What are some of your favorites from this year so far?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

2nd Random Summer Giveaway!

My first random summer giveaway was Isabel Allende's Portrait in Sepia that Lisa won!

The second one is Twenty Stories by Kristin Fouquet. I received this book as a giveaway and reviewed it here back in February. This book would be great for beach as it is a collection of flash fiction. You can read a story and hop in the water. Come back and read another! If you are fascinated with New Orleans or enjoy short stories this would be great for you.

Oh and my favorite part? The book cover!!!! I LOVE IT.

To enter you must be a follower..

Leave a comment telling me what is your favorite collection of short stories.
Follow me on twitter for an additional entry...

and tweet about this on twitter for an additional comment.. (one tweet per day... just leave a comment letting me know)

Giveaway will be up until Tuesday June, 29th and the winner will be announced Wednesday, June 30th! Thank you for reading and commenting!
Don't forget to vote for the July Group Read. Poll is up on the side!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

House Rules Review...

Don't forget to suggest a book for July's Group Read!

House Rules by Jodi Picoult is about Jacob, an 18 year old teenager with Aspergers. Jacob is obsessed with forensic science and likes to set up crime scenes for his mom to solve. This is just one of his many 'quirks' as his mom refers to his Aspie symptoms. He only eats brown food on Thursday, blue food on Friday and the first of the month is all white food. His world is very black and white. He is made fun of at school and is super smart. He meets with a tutor named Jess twice a week to work on social skills. Jess is his best-friend and only friend in the whole world.

His younger brother Theo is also really smart and aggravated with how is life is because of Jacob. Theo starts breaking into houses of people who have 'perfect' families. He steals something small from them and thinks no one is the wiser. One day, he sneaks into a professors house that he thinks is empty. Unfortunately, it is not empty. Jess is staying at this house while the professor is out of town and in the shower when Theo walks in. Jess catches Theo and as he runs out of the house, she slips and falls in the bathroom.

Jacob arrives at the house a little later. He and Jess had argued earlier in the week when he awkwardly had asked her out on a date. When Jacob gets home later that night he is agitated and has a complete meltdown. He sleeps in his closet over night and his mother, Emma, starts attempting to take him to the hospital when he 'snaps out of it.'

That morning, Mark, Jess's boyfriend shows up at the police station and claims Jess is missing. Detective Matson takes the case and assumes Mark is abusive (he is) and that he has something to do with her disappearance. It isn't for another 5 days and two talks with Jacob before they find Jess's body wrapped up with a quilt belonging to Jacob and marks on her neck and arms.

Here is the part in a Jodi novel, when you think ohh I bet this is what happens, but she will have a twist and maybe it won't be. Well, there was no twist. There was excellent character development and the different perspectives that she uses in her stories were a great way to tell this story. To understand how Emma, Theo and Jacob think.

I was however disappointed. I think it was frustrating to read about how unprepared the police were with dealing with Jacob even after being told about him. Like you wouldn't look up information on Aspergers or consult someone before you interviewed them. I was also disappointed in Oliver's character, the lawyer Jacob's mom gets. He was obviously very unprepared and yeah, she could hardly afford anything. BUT this is YOUR CHILD, who on TRIAL FOR MURDER. I would not have trusted him to be the best defense for my child. HELL NO. And why was no one asking Jacob' the correct questions. His mom flat out asked if he killed Jess, he said no. Okay, so then you say, why did you move her? Was Jess bleeding when you got there? Did you hit Jess? Come on people. You say over and over and over again that he will tell the truth, so ask the right questions!

And Emma was so into the Jacob drama she NEVER let Theo try to spit out information. And I was disappointed in Theo that he DID not say anything until waaayyyy late in the game. Ugh. I guess it was just aggravating to me.

There was a lot of information in there about Aspergers and a lot of information about forensic science. If either of those interest you, the book may interest you. The court scenes kind of dragged for me and I skimmed through some of it.


If anyone else would like to share their thoughts on House Rules via a guest post email me at pinkflipflops44 at gmail dot com!

Monday, June 21, 2010

July Group Read Selection Ideas...

Ok everybody, throw them out there! What do you want to read together in July?

I will throw up a quiz on Wednesday (leaving town that afternoon for awhile..)

I finished House Rules last night and my review will be up tomorrow..

I hope everyone had a good weekend. What did you do?

We bought a pool on Saturday which turned into a bigger ordeal when we realized that we need a fence to put around it and we needed to level the ground out more. So needless to say we swam in a half full pool yesterday and then stated to drain it. Operation build a fence coming soon!

Friday, June 18, 2010

House Rules Check in...

First I want to lead off with Miss Anthrope's comment from my last check in last week. She just posted it today, but I didn't want anyone to miss it..

Uffda! I finally got this book a couple days ago from the library (Monday, actually)- I was like 130 on the wait list (so, whew! I'm gonna back off my library after seeing that some are in the 1000's!)

I work with individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders- it's so fascinating in the way that they think:

For example:

I had one individual who used to hate taking showers. Whenever her mother tried to bathe her/wash her hair, she would become physically aggressive (hit, kick, spit, pull hair, etc). So when she came to the crisis facility, we showered her: we put up with the physical aggression, we got our hair pulled, punched, kicked, spit on, yelled at- but I'll never forget the day I had her in the shower and she looks at me and says, "Turn it farther!" And when I was clueless, she kept (calmly) repeating it. "Turn it farther?" I asked her, "Make it hotter?" and she'd scream out, "Noooo, farther!"
Finally I just looked at her and said, "show me". If you look at the shower handle, it was the kind where the handle should be turned in a counterclockwise fashion (like an arc) to get hotter and to the right to get colder. She literally meant, "turn it farther".

It was interesting because we always would teach people, "if you say something, they take it literally", but sometimes I think we don't even know what the literal meaning of a word is, or what slang literally means- because we're so used to it we don't think of it like that.

One guy I currently work with loves the tingling and burning sensation of slapping- it feels good to him, so he will walk around the house, pound on walls, windows, tables, doors, people-- yes, people, and he does it either because it feels good or he wants attention. For the longest time (years ago), they didn't think he could talk; he would just echo what he heard from others. Turns out, now many years later, he talks all right! He swears in context! He'll tell you that he does something, "to get a rise out of you!" It's a bit of a word salad, where throughout the day you have to stop and listen to what he's saying to figure it out. But we talk back to him- if he starts talking about something, we talk about it too, even though it might not be talking together, but more of a parallel conversation- that way, he knows we're listening to him (and it gives purpose to language for him). Otherwise, if no one would respond or listen to him, then why talk?

Oh, and the need for consistency and routine- it gets to be difficult. I work with one individual now who was misdiagnosed all his life as OCD, but really, he is on the spectrum. "I want peas, cottage cheese, and hot dish for supper". And if that's not what you were having, then he'd tell you, "I want my way now! Peas, cottage cheese and hotdish, now!" He'll eat food that falls on the table: not because he's hungry, but because it's his. So to get him to stop doing that (eating off the floor), we have him throw it away and we "replace" what he lost.

Surprisingly, Picoult does a really good job of conveying what it is like to support an individual with Autism Spectrum Disorders... the mom in this book, is, lemme tell you, by far the most understanding parent I've run across! (Many parents simply just don't understand or don't know what to do- even providers, group homes!! don't know what to do sometimes.

The mom in the book (I'm on all of page 61 haha) reminds me of another mom that I was blessed with meeting when I was student teaching. She is super mom to me. Her oldest daughter is on the spectrum and she fights for everything for her daughter. She has improved sooo much and she makes sure that her daughter gets what she deserves and is treated fairly. She gets the side-eye from a lot of people and has pissed off school admins but she is doing what she is supposed to do; advocate for her daughter. It's tough for people who have no experience with autism to realize how much work and how much struggle and how much isolation the whole family has to go through!

My thoughts through page 61...

I like Jacob's character but it is almost hard for me to think he can be so reflective on everything and yet unable to control his outbursts.

His brother is going to snap and his mother really needs to remember that she has two children and that Theo can live his how he wants regardless of his brother. Oh and the breaking into 'perfect family houses' is not going to end well and is a perfect example of a cry for help. I also have quite a few guesses as to how this is going to play out and I am already kind of disappointed.

My co-worker just finished it and she said she thought she had it figured out and was like no, it will be a twist and then at the end finished it and said, yep had it figured out. She was not a fan. So now I am worried.

And let's borrow a question from Jodi's website...

‘My mother will tell you Jacob’s not violent, but I am living proof that she’s kidding herself’ (p.11).
As with many of Jodi Picoult’s previous novels House Rules is written from the perspective of several different characters, each taking turns to narrate a chapter. Why do you think Picoult favours this narrative device, considering the nature of her stories? Is it a successful technique?

I enjoy when she tells the story in different perspectives, I think it helps you know more about the characters and develops them into real people to care about and gets me engaged in the story! I think she does it for those reasons.. ha

Have you gotten it? How far in are you? Do you like it? Anything you want to discuss? I will respond in comments!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Fruit & Veggie Fail...

I saw on Clean Eating Machine the other day this break down of how many servings of fruit & veggies she had in a 3 day span. She wanted to see how many she was getting out of the recommended 9 servings a day. I thought, what a great idea since I am trying to eat better and watch my veggie and fruit intake. Well after a 3 day recording of what Iwas putting into my body (only the fruits & veggies) I realized I have a LOT of room for improvement. The sad thing is, I was making an effort to eat a fruit or veggie or both with every meal or snack. So here is the damage.

Monday Fruits / Veggies
1. Tomato
2. Asparagus
3. strawberries (in yogurt)
4. orange

Tuesday Fruits/Veggies
1. Strawberries
2. lettuce
3. tomato
4. radishes
5. green pepper
6. carrot
7. pear

Wednesday Fruits/Veggies
1. green pepper
2. tomato
3. strawberries
4. orange

Wednesday was a bit tough since I went down to the Tiger's game yesterday and as you can imagine there really aren't fruit and veggies at a ball park!!

How do you get in all your fruits and veggies? Do you get enough? Any suggestions on how to add more to your diet?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Winner of Portrait in Sepia!


Lisa from Lisa's Yarns!

Lisa I will email you.. I think I may still have your address. ;)

In blogger book club news.. I was able to get a copy of House Rules! I just popped into the library and they had like 8 copies just sitting there! So much for that 110 wait list! I am on page 60 something now.. Pretty good!

Headed down to the Tiger's game tonight..Pretty pumped! ;)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Dying Scream - Mary Burton

I received this book awhile ago (like months) from a giveaway from J-Kaye's Book Blog. Probably in 2009, I don't really remember ha. I just got around to REALLY read it (it's been my purse book for awhile) and I finished it off in one sitting. It's an adavanced uncorrected copy, so I tried to keep that in mind as I found errors and got a little irritated.

It's definitely a book that gets you in the middle of the who-dunnits and the suspense doesn't disappoint too much. I can see this being a pretty decent movie with some attractive actors. ;)

The book is about Adrianna Barrington who is a wealthy widow of a foolish womanizer Craig Thornton. Craig was killed in an accident and Adrianna miscarried their child in this same accident. Craig lingered after the accident for 2 years in a coma before dying. The book opens with Adrianna trying to finish up the sale of Craig's families estate and pay of his debts and move out of the town that has caused her so much misery. Adrianna also recently found out she was adopted and that her adopted parents had a child that died right before they got her, also named Adrianna. When Adrianna hires a company to move the Thornton families craves they make a grisly discovery. Two unmarked graves, of women who have been murdered. Enter Gage Hudson, an attractive dectective that Adrianna briefly dated when broken up from Craig.

The mystery continues as they realize the dead women all can be connected to Craig. And Adrianna keeps getting wierd phone calls, letters and flowers from her DEAD husband. The chemistry between Adrianna and Gage is hard to deny and of course they muddle the waters. Gage has to work fast to figure out who has killed these women and why there are now fresh murders with the same murder weapon. Will he figure out who did it before they get to Adrianna?

The book was pretty entertaining but it did add in extra storylines that should have been followed up better on or could have been ignored. Like why did we have to a relationship develop between the forsenic expert and the coroner? Or why not wrap up who was working with Janet? But then again this was the advance copy and the final product so maybe those discrepencies worked themselves out, or maybe I am the only one who hates when books don't explain the drama they cause to make you think other people are the who dunnits. ;)

Basically, it was a fast thriller read and a book I'd take to the beach with me. The first couple pages made me think it might make me feel uncomforable to read it, but they were probably the most graphic of the whole book.

What suspense/thriller are you planning on taking to the beach with you this summer?

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Perfect Wife: The Life and Choices of Laura Bush

Most of you know that I adore American Wife and it made me want to read more about Laura Bush. Mind you, my political views are the exact opposite of her husband. American Wife had given me hope that even though Laura is married to a man I despise that she may have some good and fun in her. While, I do think she does think a lot more liberally than her husband, this book made me mad at her and her "choices" she has made in her life.

Ann Gerhart was assigned to cover the first lady by The Washington Post and the information she shares is from various interviews with Laura, her friends/family/acquaintances/employees and from observing and research. The book is broken into different sections but the timeline jumps around a lot and that really bothered me. I understood the reasoning to break up the different parts of her life into different sections but the repeating of facts and quotes really irked me. I only need to read it once!

I really found the sections about her life as a young adult working as a teacher and getting a grad degree as well as the section on the Bush twins. Ms. Gerhart was NOT kind to the Bush twins. They were portrayed as bratty, spoiled and immature. She really railed into them and I also think she was a bit perturbed at Laura's lack of a public action on their wildness.

It was interesting to learn a little more about her, and some truth as opposed to the fiction in American Wife, but I really think I would have been happy not reading the book.

It irritates me that someone who hints at being progressive or a teacher or a WOMAN could portray yourself the way she does in public. The demurring to her husband or "whatever he thinks/says" just doesn't fly with me. I also honestly do not know how you can be married to someone if you differ so much on issues, so frankly I don't know how she stands on things but I cannot accept that as an educator she could have rallied behind No Child Left Behind. One of the worst bills ever. Seriously. I guess I just get so angry at that type of a woman and that made the book a little sour to me.

Who is a woman role model that you look up to? Am I alone in this how can you stay silent and never speak your mind camp? I would go crazy. I also think it would lead to a very boring relationship.

Don't forget to enter my first summer giveaway!

(This book also counts towards 10 books I will read that my readers chose for me in 2010!)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Today's Workout Play List

When I use my MP3 player I always have it set on random. I think it makes running/walking/biking more interesting. Sometimes I skip over the song but usually whatever song it is gets me in a good mood to either run or want to sing my heart out. Typically it puts a smile on my face and pushes me on. Or I decide that song really needs to get off my mp3 player. Yeah I am still old school with an MP3 player. I have been known to do an entire run using Jimmy Buffett songs. Ahh... Something about thinking about sitting on a beach really gets you moving faster!

Here is what I listened today on my bike ride....

Big Time – Big N Rich
The Times They Are a Changing – Bob Dylan
Who Says You Can’t Go Home - Bon Jovi and Sugarland
I hope you Dance – Martina McBride
This is How a Heart Breaks – Rob Thomas
All By Myself – Celine Dion
One Particular Harbor – Jimmy Buffett
If Everyone Cared - Nickelback

Quite the selection wouldn't you say? What did you listen to today? Any embarassing favorite workout song? Mine is The Climb by Miley Cyrus!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

1st Random Summer Giveaway

Throughout the summer I am going to randomly giveaway some cool stuff around these parts! First off is a read once, but in excellent condition, copy of Portrait in Sepia by Isabel Allende.

Description from Isabel Allende has established herself as one of the most consummate of all modern storytellers, a reputation that is confirmed in her novel Portrait in Sepia. Allende offers a compelling saga of the turbulent history, lives and loves of late 19th-century Chile, drawing on characters from her earlier novels, The House of Spirits and Daughter of Fortune.

The book's heroine is Aurora del Valle, who "came into the world one Tuesday in the autumn of 1880, in San Francisco". As Aurora sets out to retell her own history and that of her family, she admits "there are so many secrets in my family that I may never have time to unveil them all: truth is short-lived, watered down by torrents of rain". In typical Allende fashion, Portrait in Sepia is crammed with love, desire, tragedy and dark family secrets, all played out against the dramatic backdrop of revolutionary Chile. Aurora's mother is a Chilean-Chinese beauty, whilst her father is a dissolute scion of the wealthy and powerful del Valle family. At the heart of Aurora's slow, painful recreation of her childhood towers one of Allende's greatest fictional creations, the heroine's grandmother, Paulina del Valle. An "astute, bewigged Amazon with a gluttonous appetite", Paulina holds both the del Valle family and Allende's novel together, as she presides over Aurora's adolescence in a haze of pastries, taffeta and overweening love.

One of the most interesting aspects of the novel is Allende's decision to turn her heroine into a photographer, bringing together the written word and the photograph as a way of holding onto the past: "through photography and the written word I try desperately to conquer the transitory nature of my existence, to trap moments before they evanesce, to untangle the confusion of my past". There is little confusion in Allende's elegantly crafted and hugely enjoyable novel. --Jerry Brotton

Allende came to visit my college when I was an undergrad and she is SOOO fascinating. I seriously left the talk to go buy this book. It is wonderful and she is an excellent storyteller. She writes in Spanish and it is translated afterwards.

To enter: be a follower and leave a comment of who your favorite storyteller is!

This is open until Tuesday, June 15th. Winner will be announced next Wednesday the 16th!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

An Excerpt from House Rules..

I still haven't gotten this from the library, however I am within the 100s!! ;) I was looking on Jodi's website and found an excerpt that I thought I would post here, so for those of you who are like me and still haven't been able to get your hands on our June Blogger Book selection here is a taste of House Rules by Jodi Picoult.

(copy and pasted from here. )

Everywhere I look, there are signs of a struggle. The mail has been scattered all over the kitchen floor; the stools are overturned. The phone has been knocked off its pedestal, its battery pack hanging loose from an umbilicus of wires. There’s one single faint footprint at the threshold of the living room, pointing toward the dead body of my son, Jacob.

He is sprawled like a starfish in front of the fireplace. Blood covers his temple and his hands. For a moment, I can’t move; can’t breathe.

Suddenly, he sits up. “Mom,” Jacob says, “you’re not even trying.”

This is not real, I remind myself, and I watch him lie back down in the exact same position – on his back, his legs twisted to the left.

“Um, there was a fight,” I say.

Jacob’s mouth barely moves. “And…?”

“You were hit in the head.” I get down on my knees, like he’s told me to do a hundred times, and notice the crystal clock that usually sits on the mantel now peeking out from beneath the couch. I gingerly pick it up and see blood on the corner. With my pinky, I touch the liquid and then taste it. “Oh, Jacob, don’t tell me you used up all my corn syrup again –“

“Mom! Focus!”

I sink down on the couch, cradling the clock in my hands. “Robbers came in and you fought them off.”

Jacob sits up and sighs. The food dye and corn syrup mixture has matted his dark hair; his eyes are shining, even though they won’t meet mine. “Do you honestly believe I’d execute the same crime scene twice?” He unfolds a fist and for the first time I see a tuft of cornsilk hair. Jacob’s father is a towhead – or at least he was when he walked out on us fifteen years ago, leaving me with Jacob and Theo - his brand-new, blond baby brother.

“Theo killed you?”

“Seriously, mom, a kindergartner could have solved this case,” Jacob says, jumping to his feet. Fake blood drips down the side of his face, but he doesn’t notice; when he is intensely focused on crime scene analysis I think a nuclear bomb could detonate beside him and he’d never flinch. He walks toward the footprint at the edge of the carpet and points. Now, at second glance, I notice the waffle tread of the Vans skateboarding sneakers that Theo saved up to buy for months; and the latter half of the company logo – NS – burned into the rubber sole. “There was a confrontation in the kitchen,” Jacob explains. “It ended with the phone being thrown in defense, and me being chased into the living room, where Theo clocked me.”

At that, I have to smile a little. “Where did you hear that term?”

“Crime Busters, Episode 43.”

“Well, just so you know – it means to punch someone. Not hit them with an actual clock.”

Jacob blinks at me, expressionless. He lives in a literal world; it’s one of the hallmarks of his diagnosis. Years ago, when we were moving to Vermont, he asked what it was like. Lots of green, I said, and rolling hills. At that, he’d burst into tears. Won’t they hurt us? he’d said.

“But what’s the motive?” I ask, and on cue, Theo thunders down the stairs.

“Where’s the freak?” he yells.

“Theo, you will not call your brother –“

“How about I stop calling him a freak when he stops stealing things out of my room?”

I have instinctively stepped between him and his brother, although Jacob is a head taller than both of us.

“I didn’t steal anything from your room,” Jacob says.

“Oh, really? What about my sneakers?”

“They were in the mudroom,” Jacob qualifies.

“Retard,” Theo says under his breath, and I see a flash of fire in Jacob’s eyes.

“I am not retarded,” he growls, and he lunges for his brother.

I hold him off with an outstretched arm. “Jacob,” I say, “you shouldn’t take anything that belongs to Theo without asking for his permission. And Theo, I don’t want to hear that word come out of your mouth again, or I’m going to take your sneakers and throw them out with the trash. Do I make myself clear?”

“I’m outta here,” Theo mutters, and he stomps toward the mudroom. A moment later I hear the door slam.

“What we got here,” Jacob mutters, his voice a sudden drawl, “is…failure to communicate.” He crouches down, hugging his knees.

When he cannot find the words for how he feels, he borrows someone else’s. These come from Cool Hand Luke; Jacob remembers the dialogue from every movie he’s ever seen.

I’ve met so many parents of kids who are on the low end of the autism spectrum, kids who are diametrically opposed to Jacob, with his Asperger’s. They tell me I’m lucky to have a son who’s so verbal, who is blisteringly intelligent, who can take apart the busted microwave and have it working again an hour later. They think there is no greater hell than having a son who is locked in his own world, unaware that there’s a wider one to explore. But try having a son who is locked in his own world, and still wants to make a connection. A son who tries to be like everyone else, but truly doesn’t know how.

I reach out to comfort him but stop myself - a light touch can set Jacob off. He doesn’t like handshakes or pats on the back or someone ruffling his hair. “Jacob,” I begin, and then I realize that he isn’t sulking at all. He holds up the telephone receiver he’s been hunched over, so that I can see the smudge of black on the side. “You missed a fingerprint too,” Jacob says cheerfully. “No offense, but you would make a lousy crime scene investigator.” He rips off a sheet of paper towel off the roll; dampens it in the sink. “Don’t worry, I’ll clean up all the blood.”

“You never did tell me Theo’s motive to kill you.”

“Oh.” Jacob glances over his shoulder, a wicked grin spreading across his face. “I stole his sneakers.”

What do you think, would it be worse to be verbal and not fit in or silent and not be able to express yourself? Have you started reading or are you still waiting?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A day in the life...

Summer is here and with that my desire to eat healthier and workout more. So here is a snapshot into yesterday and what happened.

started off the morning by sauteing mushrooms and asparagus (fresh from my backyard!) with some garlic powder, onion powder and pepper..

added in an egg/milk combo..

and my lovely breakfast... scrambled egg with mushroom and asparagus and some yummy strawberries and grapes!

( image from )

I spent most of the morning researching different eating/work out plans and looking at interesting recipes long with some cleaning..
I decided to time how many crunches and push ups I could do in one minute intervals..
35 crunches and 11 push ups if you were wondering.. (boo)
HOPING that the rain would stop.. it did not..
so I had one of these delicious raspberry chocolate bars and decided....

a little rain never hurt anybody! except maybe my mp3 player that would randomly stop working when it got wet every now and then! so i popped on my hat and went out for a 1 mile run/walk

and here I am AFTER that little run/walk.. i didn't time myself because i kind of just ran out the door but i felt good.. i decided that instead of doing the couch to 5k AGAIN.. and not finishing i am going to stick with my 1 mile route and get up to being able to run it all and then move on from there...
since my summer plan is wake up, start the coffee, go for a mile walk, drink coffee / watch the news and play around on the internets, clean for awhile, go workout again, and then get ready for my day.. so along with my mile walk i will be doing something else.. either 30 day shred (when i figure out how to use the play station!) bike riding, running or inline skating.. and then what other activities i do in the afternoon with friends or hubby (hiking, walking, bike riding etc..) are bonus! since last Wednesday when i started this i am down 2 pounds! and by starting i mean after a day of work i road my bike over 2 miles, ran/walked .6 miles, jump roped and did crunches.. so here is to a healthier summer!

my lunch.. chicken salad (mixed with mayo, mustard and celery) topped with lettuce and tomato (realized all of mine were pretty much bad boo) celery on the side, some pineapple and baked southwestern ranch lays potato chips! (yummmm)

dinner.. salad (lettuce, mushrooms, carrots, asparagus, olives, celery with some Parmesan and peppercorn dressing) baked red potato with butter and some salt & pepper, applesauce and some chicken from a roasted chicken i got at the store the other day..

and what better way to end a summer night than with ice cream! a soft serve carmel with nuts from McDonald's! yummmm

So, the exercise wasn't fabulous *but it was a start* and the eating does leave room for improvement but hey I did something!
What are your favorite summertime meals? What are your favorite ways to exercise? Any suggestions??

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Blog Award!

Thanks to Alee over at Love Is... for this sweet award!

I am supposed to tell you all 7 things about me and then tag 15 blogs....

Here goes...

1. I keep my toes painted at all times, but always do it myself because I cannot stand to have people touch my feet.

2. I wish I was a runner.

3. I stalk healthy eating and living blogs for ideas but then realize that everything is super duper expensive when I go to the store or that my store doesn't carry it.

4. I would not regret a single penny paid to a maid if I had one.

5. I grew up on a lake and wish it was in my backyard still.

6. Even with all of my responsibility done for awhile, I am overwhelmed with what I should be doing every day.

7. I love traveling.

And I am going to tag..

Booking Mama









Amber Murphy


and whoever else that is reading this and wants to play along!!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

June's Group Read is...

House Rules by Jodi Picoult! Thanks for the suggestions and voting!

Description from

HOUSE RULES is about Jacob Hunt, a teenage boy with Asperger’s Syndrome. He’s hopeless at reading social cues or expressing himself well to others, and like many kids with AS, Jacob has a special focus on one subject – in his case, forensic analysis. He’s always showing up at crime scenes, thanks to the police scanner he keeps in his room, and telling the cops what they need to do…and he’s usually right. But then one day his tutor is found dead, and the police come to question him. All of the hallmark behaviors of Asperger’s – not looking someone in the eye, stimulatory tics and twitches, inappropriate affect – can look a heck of a lot like guilt to law enforcement personnel -- and suddenly, Jacob finds himself accused of murder. HOUSE RULES looks at what it means to be different in our society, how autism affects a family, and how our legal system works well for people who communicate a certain way – but lousy for those who don’t.

Suprisingly, as much as I love Jodi Picoult I have not read her last two books. I think I got a tad burned out on them being basically the same, but I am interested in this book because I have spent a lot of time working with students with Autism and it is very fascinating.

Have you read any other books by the author? Do you know a lot of information on Autism? If not check out Autism Speaks for more info!

Weak vs. Strong.. Rich vs. Middle Class.. Kelly weighs in..

Hey everybody, Kelly from She Wears Red Sox Cap as graciously written us a guest blog about American Wife, our Blogger Group Read for May...

I really enjoyed reading Lisa’s thoughts on American Wife, so I thought I’d add a few of my own. Like Lisa, I was a bit worried about how long it was, but it is such an engaging book that it goes by quick! I tried to include no major “spoilers” so if you haven’t finished or haven’t read at all, you can still read J

When I first started reading the book, I was a bit struck by how similar Alice was to Kate, the main character in last month’s book club read, Firefly Lane. They both seemed to choose friends with very strong personalities. Dena, Alice’s best friend reminded me in so many ways to Tully, Kate’s best friend. It got me thinking about friendships and relationships in general.

Do you think people are either born as a strong personality or a “go with the flow” personality, or do you think some people can be both depending on what relationship they are in?

To me it seems that Alice is the weaker personality in many of her close relationships including her friendship with Dena, her marriage to Charlie and even at times in her relationship with her sister in law. This role that she takes on in her relationships seems to lead to “blow out” fights with those close to her when she finally decides to stand up for herself. This happened with Dena, and later with Charlie. This is not to say that I blame Alice for either situation, but I think that strong personalities and weak personalities coming together can often accentuate the strength and weak and lead to a situation that cannot work, particularly for the weaker person. And on a similar subject, is the “weaker” person actually weak, or simply less sure about their own correctness in a given situation? Alice says, “When I see political pundits on television, or meet the Republican ones at events in or outside the White House, what strikes me most is their certainty. Is it exaggerated for the cameras, or do they in the privacy of their homes, at the end of the day, remove it along with their socks and stockings? Or are they always so bombastic and assured? I envy them as I envy the deeply religious…but I have felt incapable of joining their ranks.” I could really relate to this quote, as I have strong views about some things, but on others I can just see both sides and I’m simply, not sure. I have also been the “weaker” (or lesser) personality in some of my friendships, but does that make me weak, or just less sure about my own opinions?

Are you 100 percent sure about your own rightness in your opinions, or do you have your moments where you consider the other side?

Another interesting theme that I saw throughout the book was Alice feeling uncomfortable with the place she was, for example at the country club (both because she did not feel part of that group of people, and because she would think about poor people who did not have these advantages) and in the White House. I found this interesting both because it was relatable for everyone (who hasn’t been somewhere and wondered, do I belong here at all?) but also because I feel like it ties back to the quote that Lisa wrote about Alice giving her political thoughts for her husband. She did not simply give up her politics, she also gave up her lifestyle. There is a huge difference between being a school librarian and a housewife at a country club. In marrying Charlie, she was choosing that lifestyle and I think while that may seem like an obvious upgrade for some, for Alice it was a bit of a difficult decision because she felt comfortable in her “middle class” life. Unlike the political differences, Alice doesn’t seem to truly consider the lifestyle change until she is already married and part of the life, which I find amazing (though not surprising considering how short their “dating” time was). I suppose I don’t believe in the kind of love that Alice claims to have for Charlie, where you don’t care if you don’t agree on your fundamental opinions, or if your lifestyle may change to something you don’t even necessarily want for yourself. At least it wouldn’t work for me. I think you need to love with your eyes open, and realize what your life will be like when you choose to spend it with someone else. I’m not saying you should only settle for a millionaire so you can travel the world, but I think realistically you want to be with someone whose life you feel comfortable with.

What do you think? Could you love someone even if it meant a lifestyle you might not want? Would you ever feel like you belonged if you married into a world you did not grow up in?

Wow, two great guest blogs on the same book!! Thanks Kelly and Lisa! I am most definitely not a go with the flow person. I try really hard to be, and am pretty adaptable but I like a plan. Even if the plan doesn't work out. Though, I can be go with the flow in some situations. I just like a general plan. I am also very indecisive!!! ;) My husband is very much a go with the flow kind of guy. I think my gun-ho loudness and is hey whatever Mr. Jimmy Buffett attitude work real well together!

If I am remembering correctly, I think Alice has always wanted to belong. She adapts to those around her to fit in and have people around her and she deals with the differences by ignoring until it gets to a point where she can longer do so and then she explodes. I think she is afraid people won't like her if she tells them what she thinks. I think she is wrong to assume that!

Can't wait to hear what you all think!!