Saturday, May 28, 2011

Book Review: Two Kisses For Maddy

Book 15/25 in the 2011 Reading Challenge.  Date completed: May 28, 2011.

Life and death in 27 hours.  Matt Logelin has "24" tattooed in his wife's handwriting (taken from a scrap of paper on which she'd written out a math problem) on the inside of his left wrist, and "25" on the inside of his right wrist.  24 represents the date his beautiful daughter, Madeline, was born seven weeks early via c-section.  25 represents the date his beautiful wife, Liz, unexpectedly died.

I was really excited to read Matt Logelin's masterpiece. I've been off-and-on following his blog at since Madeline was very small. Two Kisses for Maddy was good. It was painful and beautiful and hard to put down.  I gave it four stars. Matt's not the greatest writer in the world - I don't think he ever claimed to be - but his memoir was clearly written from the heart and I really appreciated reading the finer details of his story in a format unlike the telegram-esque weirdly spaced fragmented thoughts he uses on his blog. Each chapter begins with such a "clip" from his blog, but then goes on to read in a regular paragraph-style. I very much liked that. The one thing that keeps me "forgetting" about his blog for a month or two at a time is the fact that I find the posts to be difficult to get through typed out the way they are. I appreciate his style and I love reading his updates, but the choppiness gets to driving me batty.

Anyways, I really did enjoy this book. I can't say it'd be a great book for just anyone as his is a really devastating story and he doesn't attempt to sugarcoat it or censor his language (not that he should) at all. I'm sure that some people would be offended by the frequent F-bombs. I enjoyed those particularly, though. When he wrote that he was "crying like a motherfucker," I smiled because it was so REAL and normal. When the first line of the eulogy he delivered at his 30-year-old wife's funeral was, "This fucking sucks," I found myself nodding grimly. It does fucking suck. It is the kind of story that makes you want to put your arms around everyone you love and squeeze really hard. It makes you reconsider any and all hesitations within your own life.

Matt strikes me as a nerdy guy. He frequently references his favorite music and relates some of the most overwhelming moments in his own life to lyrics of his most-loved songs. I like that, though. And while it's obviously a tragedy that Madeline will grow up never having actually met the mother she so resembles, the woman that was so utterly thrilled to bring her into the world and share it with her... She is really lucky to have a father as determined as Matt Logelin is to give her a wonderful upbringing and to protect the memory of Liz.

See also:

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Book Review: Emails from an A**hole

Book 14/25 in the 2011 Reading Challenge.  Date completed: May 26, 2011.

I have been a fan of John Lindsay's for quite some time now.  I go there when I am in need of a giggle and I'm pretty sure I've read almost all of his email correspondence posted there.  I was eager to buy the book and read it.  I got through it really quickly, and I spent much of my reading time giggling uncontrollably - I was especially entertained by Killer, the Papillon guard dog.

I think my hopes were a little too high for this book though because I could only give it a three-star rating.  It's not that it wasn't funny - it was hilarious - but it was very short.  And much of the content was taken directly from his website.  I think there was a little more background on each email conversation included in the book, but I was hoping for NEW material, not the same things I'd read in the past couple of years of enjoying his website.  There were a few letters I hadn't read before but they were sprinkled in amidst the ones I was already familiar with.  Don't get me wrong, even the "repeats" had me completely cracking up, but I guess I just expected a little more from the "king of prank-emails".

Still a fun read, but I am not positive about whether or not it actually merits to be included in my reading challenge.  It does, however, inspire me to seek out and respond to some ridiculous Craigslist ads.

As a sidenote, if you are into this sort of thing, I highly recommend 27b/6 - it's even more hilarious (but also slightly more offensive).  My favorite is the Easter Play Permission Slip.  I seriously have never laughed so hard in my life.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Hungry Little Bento... and other stories.

I have been trying to get back into my bento groove, honest I have!  It has not been working out though.  With my kids both home all day and no car while my husband is at work, there isn't enough structure to my days most of the time.  So we usually end up doing something super simple for lunch.  Plus, of course, I've been caught up thinking about the upcoming move and I spend a lot of my spare time these days researching our next adventure.  (Well, when I'm not reading, that is.)

A couldn't stop asking me about WHEN we were heading to Germany, so I made her a paper chain.  This was it a couple of weeks ago - it's even shorter now.  The anticipation is certainly building!  I've been house-hunting, outing-planning, and travel-arranging from afar.  I still don't have specific dates yet but with conditions in our apartment building becoming ever-worse, I have to hold on to something.  So I've been occupying myself with the fact that there IS, in fact, an end in sight.

I did go bento shopping last week for the first time in a long time (the ¥/$ rate these days is REALLY not in our favor, unfortunately!  I've been trying to limit my out-in-town excursions as a result) so I was inspired.  I made the girls teddy bear bentos for lunch the next day, and that went over really well.  Poor photo quality, when I made these my camera's memory card was full so I had to take iPod photos.

A's lunch
C's lunch

These were really simple - a quick little salad with olives and heart shaped carrot slices, slider patties with hot dog, pepperoni and nori details to make them "beary" cute, a couple of fresh strawberries, a fruit jelly, and some pink star puffs.  My kids were really excited to have a bento for lunch so I think it could have been liver and onions and they'd have eaten it.

Then we had a sushi party.  Be jealous.  This was fantastic and I think we're planning to do these sushi nights at least twice a month from now on.

But what I am most excited to post is a bento I made with my friend the other night for her son's lunch.  We were experimenting with hot dog "sculptures" and I had the bright idea to do a hot dog caterpillar.  And then it came to me - her son's most favorite book in the world is Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  He talks about this book like crazy and it was the first book he read aloud to his class.  Whenever he comes over, he volunteers to read it to my girls.  It's adorable.  So why not make a Very Hungry bento lunch?  Hello inspiration!!

So my friend and I put together his lunch box and had a freaking blast doing it.  It was the most fun bento-ing I think I've ever had.  And the finished product was nothing short of awesome!

The very hungry hot dog caterpillar with spaghetti antennae and legs was sooo hungry on his bed of rice that he ate through two slices of pepperoni, one slice of "swiss cheese", and one (soy sauce filled) apple.

This side of the box is a little bit of a jumble, but he had a salad, two pickles, two strawberries (both snacked on by the caterpillar), a leaf with a caterpillar egg, and a butterfly.

This lunch was a total hit with him.  He was quite excited about it.

Of course we had to make my friend's daughter a super girly fun lunch too, so we did that - it's not nearly as awesome as the caterpillar lunch but it's still pretty cute.

She got a Hello Kitty onigiri with hot dogs, a salad and some grapes.  All decked out with hearts and cuteness.  :) You can't ever go wrong with Hello Kitty rice balls.  And when you have a Hello Kitty onigiri mold, it couldn't be easier!  Seriously, this is like a favorite tool.

So there is an update on the food happenings here.  Nobody has starved just yet.  ;)  OH!  And as a side note, did anybody happen to watch the Season finale of House?  I was a little miffed with it.  And VERY miffed to learn that Lisa Edelstein will not be returning for season 8.  I can understand the series ending after next year, but I can't imagine a whole season without Dr. Cuddy.  Hmpf!

Oh well.  I still think that Hugh Laurie is like the coolest guy ever, so I'll just try my hardest to savor the fact that there is going to be a season 8 at all.  And in the meanwhile I can just busy myself with Army Wives, Modern Family, 30 Rock, and the fact that hopefully soon Dexter season 5 should be coming available on iTunes.  See?  I do have things to keep me occupied.

Bento Lunch

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Book Review: Water for Elephants

Book 13/25 in the 2011 Reading Challenge.  Date completed: May 24, 2011.

My friend and I were out together a couple of weekends ago trying to come up with something to do - play the slot machines for a while, have a couple of drinks or maybe catch a movie before we headed back home for the night.  We went by the movie theater on base to see what was playing, but found it empty.  Ridiculous for a Saturday night, if you ask me, but we stood out front and looked at the schedule and the movie posters featured outside before we headed down to the bowling alley.  Advertised as "Coming soon" was a movie called Water for Elephants.  I squinted at the poster in the dim lighting and said, "What is THAT about???"  My friend said, "Oh, I don't know.  It has Reese Witherspoon and that "Twilight" boy in it."

Huh.  I live under a rock as far as newly released movies go and I really have very little desire to see anything with the "Twilight boy" in it anyways, so whatever.  We bought a couple of drinks from the soda machine and moved on.

A few days later I logged into the Reader Store and saw the book on the front page, advertised as a bestseller.

Bestseller, huh?

Ok.  So I bought it.  It was very impulsive but it was while I was reading Winter's Bone, so I needed something to look forward to.  I bought a lot of books while I was reading Winter's Bone to try and motivate myself through it.

Then I forgot about it because I got distracted by Tina Fey.  But while I was reading that, the same friend I was with outside the theater that night told me she had bought and started reading Water for Elephants and told me that it was so far really good and I should start it next.

So I did.  And (this is the same friend that suggested I read Running With Scissors) of course, my friend was right.  It was a great read.  I finished this book pretty quickly, and was completely captivated by the romance, the era, the circus, the animals, the drama, and the adventure.  I feel like this book maybe took a little bit from Nicholas Sparks' The Notebook as it begins and ends with an elderly Jacob Jankowski, a nursing home resident, reflecting on his past.  His story is nothing short of riveting.  I've read mixed reviews on the book - some people suggest it was overrated, some people loved it.  I loved it and gave it a five star rating.  I thought the story was absolutely beautifully done and I thought that the ending was completely appropriate and not devastating like some love stories tend to be (coughTheNotebookcough).

Now if only our on-base theater would play this movie sometime soon - I'm of course dying to see it, and I think I'm even willing to look past Robert Pattinson's teeny-boppin' self.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Book Review: Bossypants

Book 12/25 in the 2011 Reading Challenge.  Date completed: May 19, 2011.

A friend recommended Tina Fey's memoir, Bossypants, to me.  I needed something light-hearted and fun after reading Winter's Bone, and I happen to really enjoy Tina Fey, so I scooped this one up without being asked twice.  I'm glad I did.  This book was exactly what I needed.

Bossypants covers Tina Fey's life from briefly touching on the childhood attack that resulted in the scar across her jaw line to her love of improv, experiences with Saturday Night Live, being the "bossypants" at 30 Rock, and parenting.  This book threw me into fits of giggles and I was sad when it ended.  I gave it a Goodreads rating of five stars.  She's no Augusten Burroughs, but she is still absolutely wonderful and I can imagine reading this book again and again.

This book will obviously not appeal to the extreme conservative or anti-feminist.  That's cool with me.  I felt like through reading this book, Tina Fey and I were pals.  We have a TON of the same views on things and in a different world I'll bet we'd hang out together.  This book was totally fun and I loved it.  I gained a new appreciation for "that funny girl who looks a little bit like Sarah Palin".  (Although, in my opinion, Tina Fey is way prettier than Palin.)

Definitely a worthwhile read, and exactly what I needed after the painfully dry experience of reading Winter's Bone.  Now I can move on with my life (and my reading challenge).  :)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Book Review: Winter's Bone

Book 11/25 in the 2011 Reading Challenge.  Date completed: May 11, 2011.

I haven't been ignoring my blog, honest.  It actually took me this long to get through this book. After my love affair with The Hunger Games trilogy, I was so excited for the upcoming movies that I started looking into them.  I saw that they cast Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen and was instantly disappointed because her imdb page clearly shows her to be a blonde girl.  Katniss has dark hair.  Details like this that are ignored in book to movie conversions irritate me half to death.  And just who was this Jennifer Lawrence girl anyway??  I mean, if they'd cast a "big name" blondie to play the role I'd maybe half understand but I've never even heard of her.

So I poked around and found that she starred in a film called Winter's Bone, where she played the role of Ree Dolly - the teenaged daughter of a crank-cooker.  (Is that the proper teminology?  All I know is that throughout the book Ree pointed out frequently that Jessup, her dad, "cooks crank".)

I'm not into drug movies.  I never have been.  I don't like the comedies that feature potheads acting like idiots, and I don't like the whole drug culture.  It's just not my thing.  House is the exception to this rule as I actually quite enjoy him as a Vicodin-popping madman.  Still, though, I wanted to see Jennifer Lawrence's acting to see if I'd change my mind about her being the "wrong" choice for my beloved Katniss.

Winter's Bone is based on a book of the same name, so I of course had to read that before I touched the movie.  I'm weird like that.  I cracked it open early in April and almost chuckled at the fact that it only had 150 pages.  I'd breeze right through this one no problem.  Mwahahaha.

Wrong.  I set this book down a LOT.  I went days in between reading like five pages at a time.  I liked the story but the writing was not my forte at all.  The book is about a family in the Ozarks...  Basically about a backwoods family struggling to get by.  And that's how it's written.  The dialogue was almost painful for me.  So this one took me a while.  And I only gave it a two star rating on Goodreads.  But again, not because the story was bad - I actually quite enjoyed the story.  The style was just really rough for me and getting all the way through those 150 pages was akin to pulling teeth.  By the time I realized it was never going to get any better though I was too far into it to quit.

As a reference, here is a brief passage - no copyright infringement intended:

Harold said, "Some suds got missed."
"We'll get 'em with the next rinse."
Sonny coughed forth a shallow cough and said, "Got'ny more of that syrup?"
"Huh-uh.  You two like it too much."
"It sure gets rid of that scratchy feelin' good, though."
Ice hung from the roof eaves, catching dribbles of melt to become longer and stouter pickets of jagged freeze stretched across the window above the sink.  The sun was weak in the west, a faint smudge behind middling clouds, and low.  Soup stock from deer bones simmered on the stove and steamed a comforting scent.
"Might could mix you some later--but now you watch this.  Watch how to do her hair."
Harold said, "Got suds in her ear still."

Once I finally conquered the book, I was free to watch the movie adaptation.  I thought they did a great job with it and was impressed.  Although my opinion on it may be biased since watching the movie was much easier on me than reading the book.  And I can now vouch for Jennifer Lawrence.  I think she is a great choice for Katniss Everdeen.  Her acting was great and with a bottle of Nice n'Easy, I think she even looks like the Katniss I have formed in my mind's eye.

Glad it's over with and I am free to move on to more lighthearted reads.  And also glad that The Hunger Games put me ahead of schedule for the reading challenge because one book per month is not going to get me through the year.
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