Monday, February 28, 2011

Book Review: Confessions of a Military Wife

Book 3/25 in the 2011 Reading Challenge.  Date completed: February 4, 2011.

I heard about Confessions of a Military Wife almost two years ago, when my Sony Reader was still brand new.  I waited and waited for it to become available in the Reader Library and finally, when I searched for it in January on a whim, I found it.

Mollie Gross is a hilariously cute stand-up comedienne and the wife of a former Marine Corps officer.  I had heard nothing but rave reviews about this book and I was excited to finally have the opportunity to read it.

I gave this one a Goodreads rating of three stars.  I very much enjoyed Mollie's ridiculous anecdotes about life on a military base and her marriage to a Marine.  I think I'd have benefitted more from the book if I were a "new" military wife, though.  My husband has been in the Marine Corps for nearly ten years and we've been together even longer than that, so I think some of the book was a bit lost on me because I didn't need any guidance or advice on the lifestyle.  I am not the typical "Marine wife - OOOOoooorah!" sort of girl, I have my own way of doing the whole thing...  And I'm happy with it.  So I didn't really need Mollie's advice so much as I was reading the book to get a laugh and relate to some of her experiences.  The military life is no doubt crazy (and the people you encounter in this sort of community are, on the whole, pretty interesting!) so that was my motivation to read the book.

Not to discount Mollie's advice though, in any way.  The thing about me is that I am not America's most patriotic girl, and I don't refer to myself as a "member of the silent ranks"...  ever, (Mollie uses that phrase often) so bits and pieces of the book I found myself skipping over so that I could get to the next silly story about her neighbors or her grandmother or the commissary.  I know many ladies, though, that would probably really benefit from the bits of advice in the book - what to expect living and shopping on base, how to make friends, how to adjust and keep busy during deployments, etc.

I'd definitely recommend this book to new (and old) military spouses.  It's a light-hearted approach to the Marine Corps, and I found Mollie's style and humor to be very enjoyable.  I'd love to see her comedy act live, I'll bet that she is every bit as "Semper Feisty" as her book makes her out to be.

Book Review: Safe Haven

Book 2/25 in the 2011 Reading Challenge.  Date completed: January 28, 2011.

I will admit that I enjoy the sappy (albeit predictable) romance offered in Nicholas Sparks' novels.  I couldn't bring myself to read The Notebook, but I love-love-LOVED the movie.  Actually, The Notebook is the reason I am always careful now to read books before watching films.

I very much enjoyed Dear John, The Lucky One, and The Guardian.  I liked how the books were all light-hearted and fun and easy to digest.  Quick, brainless reads.  I was even able to choke down the sugary-sweet, overbearing predictability in these books because the characters were likable.  In Dear John, for example, the highlight was not the relationship between John and Savannah for me.  My favorite part of the book was John's father.

Safe Haven, however, did not have a silver lining for me.  This book never fully caught my attention.  Several times while reading it, I wondered what had happened - maybe Nicholas Sparks was on a time crunch and needed to give his editors something, anything, ASAP.  So he hyped himself up on Red Bull and cranked out the crap that is Safe Haven overnight.  Halfway through this novel, I could have told you with about 95% accuracy the outcome.  I kept losing my place on the pages because I involuntarily rolled my eyes so many times mid-paragraph.

I think I am usually pretty generous about the "reviews" I give to books, but this was quite honestly a disaster.  To say I was disappointed would be a total understatement.  I was pretty excited to read this one, so I think the fact that it seriously sucked was an even tougher pill to swallow.

Basically what we have here is the EXTREMELY predictable story of a girl called Katie who arrives in a small town in North Carolina.  She is pretty obviously running from some sort of a troubled past - the details of her past I won't "spoil" for you, but just know that it's quite obvious very early on just what is going on.  I'm pretty sure that if you pick this book up, you'll figure it out quite quickly.  There are parts from about the middle of the book on that are from the book's antagonist point of view (if you read them often, you know that Nicholas Sparks frequently changes the perspective throughout his novels) and they are so poorly written that I cringed every time.  Just because a character is a "villain" does not mean they must be written like a big idiot.  Especially when the character in question is as clever as this one is supposed to be.  Every time it changed to this character's point of view, I found myself shaking my head.  I don't know what Sparks was thinking when he wrote this, and I really don't know what his editors were thinking when they allowed it to be published.

I won't even bother getting into the sloppy and completely unbelievable ending to this story.  There is no point.

I gave this book a one-star Goodreads rating, and quite frankly that was pretty generous, I think.  I managed to get interested enough to follow through and finish the book just to get a sense of accomplishment out of it, but it was tough.  Safe Haven represents $12.99 and seven days of my life that I will never get back.  How it has an average rating of 3.9 stars on Goodreads is beyond me - unless people are reviewing the book simply on the Nicholas Sparks reputation.  But quite frankly, that reputation is dwindling.  How many times will we have to read the same tired story lines over and over again?

I also found through Googling that they are making this book into a film - I think it seems like Sparks only writes now to try and have films based on his novels.  The decision to make this one into a film seems a bit ridiculous and premature to me, given the content of the book.

Needless to say, I don't recommend this one in any way.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Book Review: Running With Scissors

Book 1/25 in the 2011 Reading Challenge.  Date completed: January 20, 2011.

Running With Scissors is a memoir of Augusten Burroughs' zany childhood.  I gave a Goodreads rating of five stars to this book as I absolutely loved it and couldn't put it down.  I wasn't sure I'd be crazy about it when my friend recommended it to me but she was quite insistent that I absolutely must read it.  She was also careful to mention that it wasn't everybody's "cup of tea" and that it was quite vulgar and at times offensive and disturbing.  I tend to think that my "cup of tea" is not typical so that wasn't really an issue.  I think more than anything, my issue with reading this one was that I didn't feel like it was the type of book I was looking for at the time.  I was WRONG!  This book was exactly what I needed.

Augusten Burroughs is the gay son of a poet with some psychological troubles and an alcoholic.  Running With Scissors follows the relationship between Augusten and his mother during her divorce and a series of psychotic episodes.  She spends hours upon hours with her unconventional psychiatrist and eventually gives him custody of Augusten.  The psychiatrist - Dr. Finch, his wife - Agnes, his daughters - Hope and Natalie, and his adopted son - Neil, among the various other characters are all extremely interesting and entertaining.  They all live in a filthy, run-down old Victorian, which is not at all what Augusten had expected from a glamorous professional like a doctor. The whole family is really quirky and some of the things that they do are so ridiculous that I found myself wondering how it was even possible that this could be a true story.  And then other times, I'd read things and laugh uncontrollably, only to remind myself that it actually happened...  And then feel guilty.

If you're not easily offended, I would absolutely recommend reading this one.  The movie, starring Annette Bening (who was superb) and Alec Baldwin as Augusten's parents, was disappointing.  Definitely read the book first, otherwise you'll be confused.

The story line wasn't followed as well as I'd have preferred, which is generally my chief complaint in book-to-film conversions, but I think in the case of Running With Scissors, there should not have been a lot of difficulty sticking to the book.  The movie could have been perfect!  I mean, obviously some of the more risque parts would need some censoring, but as a whole, this book had the potential to be a fantastic movie.  I didn't think it was casted perfectly, and because I watched it within a week of finishing the book, I noticed all of the minor details that weren't true to the book - like how Hope (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) was a brunette according to the book.  And how Natalie (played by Evan Rachel Wood) was supposed to be a bit overweight.  These changes bothered me and left me wondering how much of the film was accurate to the real story of Augusten Burroughs.  I wondered so much, in fact, that I Googled it and found the lawsuit filed against Augusten by the Turcotte family.  I was in a Google-frenzy over the whole thing for an entire evening.  Don't get me started!

Anyways, long story short...  I loved this book.

Happy reading :)

Friday, February 25, 2011


I love to read.  I love to write.  I devour blogs as quickly as I can track them down.  I go through a very hot and cold relationship with book-reading.  Hot because sometimes I can't peel myself out of my current book and cold because sometimes I get into a funk and don't have the time I'd prefer to devote to my current book.  And then sometimes I just don't know what TO read next.

For Christmas 2009, M bought me a Sony Reader (akin to the Kindle).  I love it.  It's like having a giant book iPod.  And with access to the Reader store, I can generally find a plethora of books (complete with reviews - I am a BIG review shopper) available to me instantly - no driving to the one measly AAFES book store we have on Okinawa, no waiting for to ship (although I do love Amazon for everything else), no hassle.  No bookmarks, no dog-eared pages, nothing destructible for my kids to get their mitts on, and an almost endless amount of storage space - I could keep literally hundreds of books in my purse at any time.  Don't I sound like an advertisement?  I swear nobody's paying me for this - I wish somebody would though!

I also became a member of, so I can add books I'd like to read, books I've read, and books I am currently reading.  There is an iPod app that enables me to instantly record the page number of my current book and also allows me to scan the barcode on the back of any book and instantly read the reviews and/or add it to my library.  I love nerdy gadgety things so this is all right up my alley.

Kari's book montage

To Kill a Mockingbird
Where the Sidewalk Ends
Romeo and Juliet
Little Women
The Lovely Bones
The Time Traveler's Wife
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
Dear John
The Guardian
The Lucky One
The Last Song
Still Alice
Shutter Island
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
Running with Scissors
Safe Haven
Confessions of a Military Wife
Possible Side Effects
One for the Money

Kari's favorite books »


Anyways if you happen to read Cloudy at all frequently (though I know that here lately there has not been a lot to read!) you may have noticed my little 2011 Reading Challenge widget in the sidebar.  I have given myself a goal of reading 25 books before the end of the year.  (Just one of my MANY 2011 New Year's Resolutions.)  I'm four (and a half) books into the year so far - not terrible for February.  I want to go back and make quick reviews on my four books and then do quick reviews on the books I read from here on out so that at the end of the year I can go back through and review them.  Plus, it might inspire somebody else to pick up a book and read.  AND while my husband is a closet reader - secretly he enjoys it!! - he is a terrible procrastinator and he never gets through books, which means that I don't hardly ever have anybody to discuss my latest reads with.  It drives me crazy!  I get involved.  I feel a loss when I finish a book.  I have a desire to re-hash the story.  So maybe I'll have some sort of relief if I re-hash them a little bit here.  Plus, I've been so blog-lazy lately that perhaps it will motivate me back into the groove.

Keep your eyes peeled for my four mini-reviews coming soon.  If you're not into reading...  I'm sorry in advance!

MilSpouse Friday Fill-in #31

Trying something new...  the MilSpouse Friday Fill-in!  So...  Away we go!

1. Aside from no deployments, what is one thing you would want to make the MilSpouse life “perfect”? submitted by Oh How Delightful
The thing I'd change would definitely be the uncertainty!  I'd love to have a year's notice on every move and first pick at every duty station.  I'm a planner (I think I mentioned that) and I like to have a good idea of what is going to happen with us in the next 12 months at all times.

2. Just how many peppers did Peter Piper pick? submitted by Married into Army
None!  You can't pick a pepper that's already pickled.

3. If you could have any career in the world with nothing holding you back, what would you do? submitted by It’s My Party and I’ll Cry if I Want To
I used to think I'd love to be a teacher...  And then I had kids and realized that it's probably a lot more work than I'd ever realized before.  So...  At this point I have no idea what my "dream job" would be.  I'm in a holding pattern.  I'm ok with it.

4. Do you have a service oriented tattoo and if so what is it. If you don’t what would you get? submitted by The Squid’s Accomplice
Absolutely not!  I wouldn't get one!  I'm not really that kind of spouse.  If I got any tattoo at all, I'd get an ambigram of my daughters names, and nothing else.  Needles freak me out anyways.

5. Imagine a block of time has opened up in your busy day for you to take a class in anything you like. What subject would you choose?  submitted by To The Nth
I would take a creative writing class.  English always has been my favorite subject.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

This Jumble!

It seems like lately I have just been completely overwhelmed with everything!  It's already nearly halfway through February and while part of me is certainly willing the year away so that we can move on to the next chapter, the other part of me is reeling at how quickly the time is actually passing.  The fact of the matter is that this is our final year in Okinawa.  I am extremely excited to embark on our new adventure (which should be around September...  Is it really only seven months away?) but I am also in shock and denial that it is actually going to happen.  I have thoroughly enjoyed Okinawa but I am so ready to be out of this tower apartment of ours.  With the military dictating our lives the way it does, it seems like I have grown addicted to the constant moving and changing and we've been in this apartment (which has had the worst living conditions of anywhere we've ever lived) for longer than we have lived anywhere else since we moved out of my mom's house in 2004.  I am going stir-crazy, to say the least.

We have made a lot of [big] decisions regarding our final half-year here on island, perhaps the biggest of which is that we are only going to keep A enrolled in Yochien through the end of the current Japanese school year, which ends in mid-March.  My little girl will bid "sayonara" to her beloved senseis and tomodachitachi early and will have essentially an extended summer break before our big move and her beginning American Kindergarten at our next duty station.  This breaks my heart but I feel like it's the most reasonable solution.  She would not be able to finish out her "B-san" year at Yochien and much of the remaining five months would be spent on holiday anyhow - what with the built in spring and summer breaks approaching.  Not to mention the Yen rate is out of control and doesn't show any signs of turning around.  This decision will save us a decent amount of money each month until we leave.

I have been and plan to continue preparing A's bento lunches, but I have not taken photos of them recently - mostly because they haven't been anything remarkable.  Today's bento contained a hot dog, pasta, boiled broccoli, a mikan, a quarter of a Fuji apple, edamame, a couple of carrot hearts, cherry tomatoes, and fruit jellies.  A miniature feast!  Looking back, I should have photographed it as well as the fresh produce loaded bento she had last Friday, which she loved.

If you're military, I'm sure you understand how we have been on pins and needles awaiting new orders.  I am a "planner".  The military does not like people like me.  I can go with the flow, but I don't prefer it.  I like to have some sort of estimation of where I will be a year from now.  Up until here recently, I did not have any and it was driving me insane.  I have not yet held our new orders in my hands as my husband is in Korea doing training currently but the rumor is that our next duty station will be in Germany.  This is extremely exciting news as going to Europe on the Marine Corps' dime has always been sort of a pipe dream for us.

I have been Googling like mad trying to find as much information as possible on this new location, and I have been shopping like crazy to get us ready for the trip.  It will be C's first traveling, and probably the first traveling that A will really truly remember as an adult.  It's been a very exciting time.

Hoping that all is well in blog-land.  I have been keeping up with my "frequently visited" blogs and am loving all of the Valentine's silliness floating around.  M will not be home for V-Day this year but I plan on sharing the holiday with a few friends, and of course my kids.
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