Friday, May 4, 2012

Monsoon Season

I am wholly missing Japan lately.

I got up this morning with the intent to make a bento for A to take to school and I just could not figure out how best to put it together.  Incredibly frustrating, and I know totally irrational, but I couldn't help thinking to myself that perhaps I'd left my bento muse back in Okinawa.

Really, the issue was most likely that I woke up with a killer sore throat on this, the morning of my Pampered Chef independent consultant launch event and I basically just feel completely overwhelmed in general.  But still, I miss Japan.  I miss the people, I miss the shops, I miss the FOOD - GOD, do I miss the food!!  I have this really awesome friend that is still in Okinawa and she has been wonderful - shopping and shipping things for me that I can't get anywhere else.  She even sent me a few Chu His in the last package.  Chu Hi is essentially a fruit flavored Japanese "soda" beer.  She reminded me recently that it's currently monsoon season in Okinawa.

Pretty sure I bring the monsoon with me where ever we go.  It's been raining for about 3 weeks solid here in England.  I get that this is a rainy country, but even the weather reports agree that this has been extreme for April/May.  A told me yesterday that she only likes BLUE skies, and why is the sky here always GRAY??  She has completely forgotten how frequently it rained in Okinawa.  A has also made it very clear that instead of living here in England, she would like nothing more than to move to California where she can be with grandma.  I don't blame her, grandma is basically the most awesome person in the world.

I just really need to get my act together.  The school year is almost over at this point, but it's never too late to quit being a slacker, right?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars

Book 10/30 in the 2012 Reading Challenge.  Date completed: May 3, 2012.

Oh my goodness, this book.  I am writing this blog review only after having recovered slightly from the blubbering mess I was earlier this evening when I finished The Fault in Our Stars.

Let me first say that I rated it five stars on Goodreads.  This book moved me.  When I was looking for a good clear picture of the cover for this blog post, I found it used in an "ALL THE THINGS" meme.  Totally fitting.  I felt, to be honest, ALL THE THINGS throughout this book.

My heart soared.  My heart broke.  Finishing out the last third of the book or so today, I can't tell you how much of it I spent crying.  Yes, I'm pathetic.

The Fault in Our Stars - to get down to the actual reviewing, here - is about Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters.  Two star-crossed-lovers (I'm clearly a total sap for star-crossed-lovers) who are - spoiler alert - dying of cancer.  Hazel is an avid reader and particularly loves a fictional novel called "An Imperial Affliction", which is about a terminally ill girl much like herself.

I don't want to give away too much of this story, because it's really something everybody ought to experience.  Suffice to say that I'm finished reading it now and my nose feels like it's going to never stop running, and I have a dull ache in my throat where the rock-hard lump was before the book ended.  This book is a masterpiece in young adult literature.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Book Review: A Child Called "It"

Book 9/30 in the 2012 Reading Challenge.  Date completed: April 20, 2012.

I found this book on Pinterest and immediately took interest in reading it.  Then my friend told me it was on sale at for something like $5.  I couldn't resist a deal like that.  So I listened to Dave Pelzer's memoir of his painful childhood.

Perhaps listening rather than reading was a mistake for me.  I found the narrator's voice to be irritating.  But furthermore, I don't think I cared for the way it was written.  Without disrespect for Dave's story, I didn't like the back-and-forth way of the way it was written.  One minute Dave is certain that there can't possibly be a god and the next, Dave is bowing his head in the backseat of his mother's stationwagon and praying "harder than [he'd] ever prayed before."  It switches a lot.  Between David now narrating and David as a child responding to his mother's erratic behaviors.

As far as the story goes, I found it to be absolutely unbearable.  The thought of a mother behaving this way towards her own child makes me physically ill.  Dave's mother, "The Bitch", singled out Dave - one of her five sons - and treated him as the absolute scum of the earth.  She came up with cruel and unusual punishments for this child.  Banished him to the basement garage on an army cot as his sleeping quarters, locked him in a bathroom with a bucket full of bleach and ammonia, starved him for days on end - and then when she did feed him, fed him the most ridiculous ways possible - regurgitated frozen hotdogs, table scraps, leftovers from his brothers' morning cereal bowls.  Beat him senselessly, made him lie - nude - in a bathtub filled with cold water and then immediately sent him to the back yard to sit - soaking wet - in the shade, smeared a soiled diaper on his face and tried to force him to eat it's contents...  Imagine all the most horrific things you can, and they're probably in Dave's story.

The worst part, though, is not his mother - who is obviously a very sick woman and should have been institutionalized.  The worst part is his father, a spineless San Francisco firefighter that allowed all of these things to happen right under his nose and did nothing to stop his deranged wife.  Even when Dave begged his father for help, the man did absolutely nothing to stop her or to help his son.  I absolutely can't understand any bit of logic in this behavior.

This was a quick read - under 5 hours recorded from Audible - and I'm glad I listened to it.  I'm also glad Dave wrote the book and then managed to make such a successful life for himself despite such a horrific beginning.  I gave the book two stars on Goodreads, though, mostly for writing style and also maybe a little bit because I'm irrational and wished that in times like these, nonfiction could work out to be a little less heartbreaking.  Oh and also because it touched religion a little more than I personally thought was necessary.  I'm going to go hug my kids for a while now.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Book Review: Her Fearful Symmetry

Book 8/30 in the 2012 Reading Challenge.  Date completed: April 30, 2012.

I think I mentioned last month that I joined this local book club.  It's called "The All Things British Book Club", and it consists of a bunch of Americans in our little community who are anxious to get out and explore this lovely country we're in.  I chose last month's selection, and then I chose this month's as well.  After this I'll be taking some time off from book club coordinating...  Phew!  But I was thrilled to have a good excuse to read Audrey Niffenegger's Her Fearful Symmetry.  Audrey Niffenegger is best known for her novel, The Time Traveler's Wife, which is one of my favorites.  I had heard of Her Fearful Symmetry but also had heard about all the very mixed and not very great reviews.  So I was hesitant to read it right away, worried that it would taint my adoration of The Time Traveler's Wife.  I'm irrational like that.  Anyways, the fact that Her Fearful Symmetry is set in London gave me all the shove in the right direction that was needed.  So glad, too.

Her Fearful Symmetry follows the life of American born-and-raised mirror twins Julia and Valentina Poole, who inherit their Aunt Elspeth's estate upon her untimely death.  The girls, 21 at the time and extremely immature - "green" if you will - travel from their home in Chicago to Elspeth's Swain's Lane flat situated right beside London's famous Highgate Cemetery, where Elspeth - their mother's estranged twin sister - is in the Noblin family mausoleum.

This story is complex and creepy and bizarre and I absolutely enjoyed every moment of it.  There's a great mystery in why Elspeth and the twin's mother, Edwina, parted ways in the first place.  There's romance - Elspeth's partner, Robert Fanshawe, lives in the flat directly below theirs.  There's quirkiness in the various additional characters - Martin and Marijke, the couple that owns the flat upstairs from the twins; Jessica, the elderly woman that runs the cemetery; Edie and Jack Poole, the twins parents back in Chicago...

Audrey Niffenegger in Highgate Cemetery
It was fun for me to read this book now as opposed to when I first heard about it because now that I'm IN the United Kingdom myself, I recognized a lot of what the book talked about - Sainsbury's and Tesco were mentioned many times.  I've BEEN to those places.  Not the local ones discussed in the story, but I can't imagine they're all very much different from one another.  In my research of the book for book club purposes, I discovered that Audrey Niffenegger herself worked as a tour guide at the cemetery while she was working on the novel, which I thought was an absolutely fantastic little tidbit.

I understand some of the negative reviews.  This book wouldn't be suitable for everyone.  But for me - an avid watcher of Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures, and a kid who grew up on creepy things - The Nightmare Before Christmas was in my Christmas stocking the year it came out on VHS.  One year I received Beetlejuice as well.  I love odd and different and mysterious.

The book gets weird.  I'm not going to lie.  To be fair, Audrey Niffenegger is a little bit weird.  Again, I like that.  Things happened in this book that I found to be quite disturbing.  But something about Audrey Niffenegger's talent for writing even made sense out of those things in the end for me.  I really enjoyed the book a lot.  Gave it 4 stars on Goodreads - would have given an extra "half" if permitted.  And this weekend I'm going to go and see the Highgate Cemetery for myself.  I can't wait.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Book Review: Minding Frankie

Book 7/30 in the 2012 Reading Challenge.  Date completed: March 30, 2012.

It was my month to lead the book club I'm a part of locally.  Since it was March, I thought it would be appropriate to read a book by an Irish author.  So I fell back on Maeve Binchy, since I read Tara Road not too long ago.  While perusing Tesco, I found her newest novel, Minding Frankie, and I picked it up and went with it.  I wish it hadn't taken me almost a full month to get through, but I wasn't really impressed with it.  Maeve Binchy is adorable and I love how her books about Dublin paint a picture of it being such a small, cozy community.  The books contain a lot of interrelated characters.  It makes for fun reading if you've read more than one of her books.  I was thrilled when Minding Frankie made reference to Tara Road, and the restaurateur that lives there, Colm Barry - one of my favorite characters in Tara Road.

However, Minding Frankie was for the most part all over the place and hard to keep up with.  Too many extra characters, too many running plotlines...  I had a really hard time keeping up.  The book follows Noel Lynch, a recovering alcoholic who suddenly and very unexpectedly finds himself a single parent to a newborn baby girl, Frankie.  Noel is surrounded by a loving and supportive community and has the added benefit of his older (and wiser) cousin, Emily, as a long-term visitor from the United States.  He is constantly having to prove his worthiness to his social worker, Moira, who is pretty much the biggest pain in the butt ever.

This book went on and on forever, and true to Maeve Binchy's unique writing style, many times at the end of a chapter, I felt like the book could safely have ended and spared itself from boring deeper into the well of "blah".

Disappointed that I chose this book for the book club and disappointed that it took me so long to complete.  I gave it a two-star rating over at Goodreads.  I really do like Maeve Binchy, though.  She's cute.  I can't help it.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Book Review: Lucky Man

Book 6/30 in the 2012 Reading Challenge.  Date completed: March 4, 2012.

Apparently I'm on a celebrity memoir kick.

Somebody recommended this book to me.  I can't remember who, but they shouldn't have had to recommend it in the first place.  This is one of those no-brainer books for me.  I should have had it in my "already read" column a long time ago.  Michael J. Fox is wonderful.

Because my mom suffers from a young-onset incurable degenerative neurological disorder, Michael's battle with Parkinson's Disease speaks to me.

Not to mention, I'd love Michael J. Fox even if my mom was her old self.  He's pretty much the most adorable guy ever.  And who doesn't love Back to the Future?    I mean, really.

So, Lucky Man is about Michael's life and how it changed for the better, ultimately, as a result of (and despite) his diagnosis.  It's an intimate look into his family, his career, his illness, and his life.  How one man takes the crappy hand he's dealt, and makes it work for him without seeking anybody's pity.  Despite his unfortunate affliction with Parkinson's Disease, Michael is still one of the most known and loved faces in Hollywood, has pretty much the most successful marriage in Hollywood, and rightfully considers himself to be a very "Lucky Man".

I admire his honesty and his optimism.  This book got four stars from me.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Souvenir photos

Ok.  I've been searching high and low but have found absolutely no solutions for my newest problem.

A VERY small selection of my problem photos.
Like, just the few I could scrap together from
the kitchen counter.  I love them but I have
absolutely NO idea what to do with them!!
You know how when you're on vacation you lose all common sense and you spend a small fortune on those souvenir photographs?  Yeah, I know about that a little too well.  I've been dropping serious dough on these clever mementos pretty much professionally for quite some time now.

My issue is...  Then what?  You buy the overpriced pictures and you bring them home with you in their cute little where-ever-you-went-themed folders, and then, if you're like me, you stick them in a safe place where you're likely to forget they ever existed.

I hate that.  I don't want to do it any more.  I want to be able to enjoy these pictures, but let's face it:  framing them all doesn't make a lot of sense, and I'd hardly have enough wall space for them anyways.  I can't find an answer on Pinterest or even on Google.  I know I can't possibly be the only person with this problem.  How do you preserve your vacation souvenir photographs?  If anybody has a good idea, I'll pay you a dollar.  Until then, I'm going to have to put some serious thought into this.  Sorting through all of my things, I just can't believe how much money we've put into photos we hardly ever get to look at.  It doesn't seem right.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Book Review: If You Ask Me: And of Course You Won't

Book 5/30 in the 2012 Reading Challenge.  Date completed: February 24, 2012.

Oh, Betty White.  Is there anyone more adorable?  Methinks no.  I grew up largely holding the hand of my grandma, and we spent much of my childhood watching Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.  When those weren't on, we were watching The Golden Girls.  I've loved Betty White since before I was C's age.

So I went into reading her newest book, If You Ask Me, a bit biased.  I knew I'd love it.  I pretty much knew I'd give it five stars.  I bought the audiobook from iTunes in the hopes that it'd be read by Betty herself and was not disappointed.  This absolutely made it worth the extra money.  Betty White is just a doll.  She's everything I hope to be one day.  Funny and wise and generous...  Plus, like I've already mentioned:  ADORABLE!  I have to keep reminding myself that she is NINETY years old.  It doesn't seem possible!

If You Ask Me is filled with anecdotes and life lessons from Betty.  She talks about her love of animals, her incredible Hollywood career, her late husband, friends, family, and more.  I'm not just being polite when I say I've learned a lot from Betty's book.  Her narrative had me giggling and it had me crying.  Sometimes simultaneously.  She is just such a neat person.  So humble and amazing.  I feel like we could be good friends.  My only complaint about this book was that it was too short.  ;)

Five stars.  I don't care if that's irrational.  I'm probably going to buy her other books, too.  And I'll probably also give them five star ratings.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Book Review: Still Missing

Book 4/30 in the 2012 Reading Challenge.  Date completed: February 17, 2012.

Another audiobook for me - listening in the car and while I am doing my chores is so convenient.  Still Missing was recommended to me along with Room and I'd Know You Anywhere (which I haven't gotten to yet, but have waiting).  It's another kidnapping story, told in the form of the victim's counseling sessions as she tries to cope with what's happened to her.

Annie is a Canadian real estate agent with a content, if not boring, life.  She's got a great boyfriend and a successful business.  She's got a wonderful dog, Emma, and she's got the home of her dreams.

Enter "the freak".  The seemingly decent man who abducts her from an open house, takes her to a cabin in the mountains, and among other abuses rapes her nearly every night for almost a year.

I won't spoil the main plot points, and I won't tell you how she goes from hostage to therapy patient, but this is a really complex story with all sorts of crazy drama that unfolds at the very end.  We're talking TWISTS, people.

I enjoyed this book.  I gave it four stars.  I'm getting rather irritated, though, because I bought Michael J. Fox's audiobook - Lucky Man, and it didn't download properly.  So now I am struggling to get it fixed in order to listen past the 20 minute mark.  D'oh!

Anyway, Still Missing was good.  Worthwhile.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Book Review: One Day

Would be book 4/30 in the 2012 Reading Challenge...  Had I finished it.

Another unsuccessful read for me.  I hate these.  I probably could have finished One Day, even though it was taking me an eon to get through, had I not rented the movie.  I couldn't resist it, though.  The book was a dragging-slow read for me and I figured best case scenario, watching the movie might intrigue me enough to finish the book.  Not likely since I tend to be unable to read books after watching the movies, but in this case, I wouldn't have tried.  And frankly, I've never been so thrilled with my decision and insight (shush, just because I didn't anticipate tragedy from this story!  I am calling it insight that I couldn't bring myself to read it!) to put a book down and not pick it back up.

This story is heartbreaking and awful.  It's like When Harry Met Sally meets City of Angels.  Although When Harry Met Sally is one of my favorite movies, City of Angels is one of my least favorites.  One Day is completely unrewarding and torturous.

Don't read it.  And don't watch the movie.  Putting Anne Hathaway's cute little face on any story this tragic should be illegal.

Onward, ho!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...