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Showing posts from April, 2011

This and That

Quick comments on the Royal Wedding--Lovely couple. Perfect dress. Dream wedding. I just know the kids riding in the carriage with Prince Harry were saying, "Yeah! We get to hang out with Harry!" Mazel tov to the happy couple.

If you watched either live or the highlights later, what did you think?

I think I'll "need" to do some online shopping later to get my hands on a few wedding postcards for Maya. . . . Let me know if anyone runs across anything wonderful, please.

I'm considering going back to school. My local public university has a completely online program a friend told me about where I could get my teaching certificate while earning a master's degree in consumer science.

One of the stumbling blocks? I'm not sure who to ask for letters of recommendation since I certainly haven't kept in touch with any of my former professors, and I'm not sure how many people I want to know where I currently work since the degree isn't somethin…

The Raising by Laura Kasischke

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Synopsis from the publisher for The Raising by Laura Kasischke (2011):

Last year Godwin Honors Hall was draped in black. The university was mourning the loss of one of its own: Nicole Werner, a blond, beautiful, straight-A sorority sister tragically killed in a car accident that left her boyfriend, who was driving, remarkably—some say suspiciously—unscathed.

Although a year has passed, as winter begins and the nights darken, obsession with Nicole and her death reignites: She was so pretty. So sweet-tempered. So innocent. Too young to die.

Unless she didn’t.


Don't be sucked into thinking this is a book about zombies or vampires or some other form of the living dead by the title and the current emphasis on the paranormal. Well, unless you want to nominate sorority girls as a category of the living dead. . . .

Since the story jumps around in terms of time and which character is providing the point of view, the reader gets a pretty interesting view of the different personalities. I can…

This and That

I know I'm posting the poll a bit late, but I'm curious to know everyone's thoughts on the Royal Wedding. Maya is so excited because (she thinks) she really wants to be a princess. Since the wedding is on at 3 a.m. our time, she's going to have to "make do" with watching the taped version later in the morning. A lot of other people I know are sick of hearing about the wedding and can't wait until everything's done. Please cast your vote, and feel free to leave a comment explaining your vote.

I love comments!!

If the weather cooperates, I'm thinking about taking Maya to the Nebraska Renaissance Faire this weekend. We haven't been in previous years, and this looks like something fun for us to try. Now, if I can just convince Herb to come with us!

Any special plans for the weekend on your end?

Treasures from the Attic by Mirjam Pressler

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Gerti Elias takes on the task of going through the attic after her mother-in-law's death. Wouldn't anyone be thrilled to find a large collection of treasured family letters? Imagine having your late mother-in-law, Helene (Leni) Elias, also be the sister of Otto Frank, making her the aunt of the Anne Frank of The Diary of a Young Girl.

Fortunately for this reader, portions of the letters, family photos, and a lengthy collection of family history are compiled in Treasures from the Attic: The Extraordinary Story of Anne Frank's Family by Mirjam Pressler (2009 in German, published in English in 2011).

Gerti's husband and Anne's first cousin, Buddy Elias, is the only living member of Anne's family who remembers her from real life. Buddy, his brother, and his parents moved from Frankfurt, Germany, to Basel, Switzerland, not too long before Otto, his wife, and their daughters moved from Frankfurt to The Netherlands, and that made all the difference in the experience…

Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner

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Have you ever had a book on your bookcase for what seems like forever, and you're absolutely positive you've read the book, only to discover you haven't when you start to "re-read" the book? That happened to me with Jennifer Weiner's Goodnight Nobody (2005).

Kate Klein *should* be someone I find interesting because she's living the life she never exactly expected herself to live. Mother to three children, including a set of twins, born unintentionally close together (nothing like going to a delayed post-birth check only to learn you're pregnant again), and not exactly fitting in with the other moms in the Connecticut her husband moved the family to after a stroller jacking in the city, Kate isn't very comfortable in her own skin.

Then one of the other moms is killed--and Kate finds the body. Suddenly, all of her skills as a former journalist go into overdrive. With a little help from charming, snarky best friend Janie and not-all-that-interestin…

The Reasons I Won't be Coming by Elliot Perlman

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Elliot Perlman's collection of short stories, The Reasons I Won't Be Coming (2000 in Australia, 2006 in the U.S.), is eclectic and entertaining. Perlman has a talent for making varied voices seem authentic, and their stories are all thought-provoking and somewhat dark.

My favorite entry is the relatively lengthy A Tale in Two Cities, with the cities in question being Moscow and Melbourne, as a Russian Jewish family makes the transition to a new life. Not surprisingly, part of the family (mother and the narrator daughter) adapts well while part of the family (father and son) struggles. This story could easily have carried a full-length novel.

My overall personal rating of The Reasons I Won't Be Coming is a B+.

This and That

I want to direct you to this post about Greg Mortenson at the One Tiny Starfish blog. Her posts are always insightful, and this one is especially important because she has the perspective of also being very involved in the world of NGOs.

While you're visiting One Tiny Starfish, look around her blog. Nikki has a lot going on that involves providing a better future for children around the world.

Maya and my mom head to Iowa this afternoon to spend a few days with my niece. My sisters are meeting in Las Vegas for a long holiday weekend. Sounds fun, doesn't it?

I hope I'm not making my "to do" list for the weekend too long. I'm taking tomorrow off from work, so I'll have at least two-and-a-half full days to accomplish something before Maya and Mom return on Sunday afternoon. Part of my list is fun--dinner with one friend, coffee with another friend, Target, post office to mail packages, catch up on writing to my pen pals--and part is not exactly my idea of…

The Sonderberg Case by Elie Wiesel

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Although this certainly isn't fair on my part, I'm sure I keep waiting for Elie Wiesel to produce another book I love as much as The Fifth Son. The Sonderberg Case (2010 in English), translated by Catherine Temerson, doesn't even come close to being a match for quality or intensity.

Synopsis from the publisher:

Despite personal success, Yedidyah—a theater critic in New York City, husband to a stage actress, father to two sons—finds himself increasingly drawn to the past. As he reflects on his life and the decisions he’s made, he longingly reminisces about the relationships he once had with the men in his family (his father, his uncle, his grandfather) and the questions that remain unanswered. It’s a feeling that is further complicated when Yedidyah is assigned to cover the murder trial of a German expatriate named Werner Sonderberg. Sonderberg returned alone from a walk in the Adirondacks with an elderly uncle, whose lifeless body was soon retrieved from the woods. His plea…

Greg Mortenson

Has anyone read Greg Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea or heard him speak? What did you think? And, if you saw the 60 Minutes item on Sunday night or read some of the subsequent print media coverage, has your opinion in any way changed?

You can watch the 60 Minutes piece, where Mortenson's honesty and integrity, both in terms of the accuracy of his book and the way his charity spends the donated money, is questioned, on the CBS site here.

Stories are pretty much everywhere, so I'm just going to link to a story in my local paper's current edition about a nearby college wondering whether they want Mortenson to still speak there.

Three points that bother me the most--(1) the potential that aid received isn't actually getting to the children in Afghanistan and Pakistan to provide them with an education, (2) the potential for the American military, every one of whom deployed to Afghanistan is required to read this book, to be basing decisions on inaccurate information provid…

Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler

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After watching Chelsea Lately a few times (definitely less than ten) and always finding a reason or two to laugh, I decided to try reading one of her books. With the title play on one of my favorite books back in my younger days, I decided to go with Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea (2008).

Huge mistake. I didn't laugh, not even once, while reading the book. I cringed a few times, though I expected to do that because Handler seems pretty irreverent and equal-opportunity snarky on the episodes I've caught of her show.

I also kept turning back to the cover. Who approved this photo? She's a lovely woman, and this photo bugs me because (a) it doesn't look like her and (b) the open mouth looks silly. If you're beautiful, shouldn't you aim for photos that look like yourself for your books?

Has anyone read anything else by Handler? Is there something you considered at least relatively funny that I should try?

Maya & Spring Tulip

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I love this photo because the look on Maya's face so clearly states, "Oh, Mom, come on; another photo?"

Prom 2011

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My lovely niece and her boyfriend heading to the prom on Saturday night (April 9).


Close to Home by Emma Miller

[Full disclosure--I'm a member of Harlequin Ambassadors, so I receive free copies of books from Harlequin to read and share with others every so often.]

If you're looking for a slightly different, very G-rated romance, I suggest one of eHarlequin's current free online reads, Close to Home by Emma Miller (2011). A new "chapter" (much shorter than in a regular book, of course) is posting every weekday through April 22. You can already read Chapters 1-13 if you look here right now.

Summary from the site:

For an Old Order Amish woman, being twenty-five and unmarried is bad enough. But to be shipped off to another community on a hunting trip to find a husband is downright humiliating for Mary Glick. She's too tall, too plain, too picky—at home in Blessing Creek and here in Kent County—and she despairs that she'll never find someone who'll love her and give her the life she craves.

Until she sees him. Caleb Stutzman.

They were as close as two people could be a…

This and That

Today, April 12th, is National Drop Everything and Read Day in honor of children's author Beverly Cleary's birthday. Learn more at the site here.

And a very special 95th birthday to Beverly Cleary today, too!

Both the bloggers at A Year of Letters and Oh, Write Me! (both new-to-me blogs that I'm loving) posted about We Care Act and their Letters to Japan project.

If you're interested in sending a card or note to support a person experiencing the current disaster in Japan, the address is:

We Care Act
2722 Garden Falls Dr.
Manvel, TX 77578

Maya made a lovely (yes, I'm biased) drawing of a polka-dotted tulip to send.

What's new with you?

Muffin Photos by Maya

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Here are a couple of photos Maya snapped of Muffin at the park on Saturday. We were there for two hours, and Muffin wisely went under the park bench whenever she needed to rest and take a break from the heat. [We hit a record high for an April 9th in Lincoln of 90 degrees Fahrenheit, beating the previous record of 89 set in 1930. Some records you don't really want to break!]

I call this one Up Close and Personal.

This and That

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Trying to keep my focus on this note from Maya because I'm feeling a little blue and a lot crabby right now. Herb and Maya are sick again (another cold), and I'm hoping my mom and I don't get sick. Also dealing with some TMSHS (Thorn in My Side Herb/Husband Syndrome) to the point that I was a little snappish with one of "my" pen pal soldiers on e-mail who innocently made a comment that sounded exactly like what Herb would say. Pig-headed, wrong comment, but still. . . .

What's new with you? Anyone have any fun plans for the weekend?

Hotter than Wildfire by Lisa Marie Rice

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Hotter than Wildfire (2011), the second book in Lisa Marie Rice's Protectors series, is my latest read.

The Protectors are three foster brothers in security work who run a special, very personal service on the side where they assist women in serious trouble. Ellen, who needs them because she's on the run from a previous boss who stole money from the United States government, finds them through one of the abused women they helped in the past.

Harry, scarred from watching his mother and younger sister killed by one of his mother's abusive boyfriends as a child and from his experiences in Afghanistan, is exactly what Ellen needs.

We see quite a bit of Sam and Nicole, the leads from the first book in the series, Into the Crossfire, in this story, and the ending gives a significant look at what's coming for the third brother, Mike, in the next book.

I'm a Rice fan, but I have to say this Protectors series doesn't come close to approaching the quality of the Midnight …

Stamps

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The Missive Maven posted on her blog about this cool new Patriotic Quill and Inkwell stamp. [If you're interested in finding a comprehensive blog about letter writing, her blog is the one to visit.] How perfect for sending mail to "my" soldier pen pals, right? Well, you can only get them in coils of 3,000 ($1320) or 10,000 ($4400) at the post office. Stamps or mortgage and food for the month? Yeah, the stamps lose.

Fortunately, you can also order them from USA Philatelic here in strips of 25 for $11. I don't think we'll get into how many strips I ordered, but I can assure you I didn't hit the $1320 mark!

Also, don't forget that, while the price of first-class domestic letters remains unchanged (44 cents), along with the rate for international first-class letters and postcards (98 cents), these important new postal rates go into effect in the U.S. as of April 17, 2011:

Domestic postcard--29 cents [up 1 cent]
Canada (postcard and first-class letter up to…

Hazel Abel Park on April 3, 2011

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Maya and I went to see Hazel Abel Park, the place in Lincoln where Herb and I, along with many other couples over the years, had our wedding ceremony in 1996. The Parks & Rec Department for the city recently renovated Hazel Abel Park, and I wanted to see the changes. Some were good; some were disappointing--just like everything in life with change, I suppose.

Maya's pronouncement, "This is a boring park, but a nice place to get married."

The park gate with the new playground equipment in the background.

The view of the top of the Nebraska State Capitol Building from inside the park.

The gazebo where we stood with the minister during the wedding ceremony.

A close-up of Maya in the gazebo.

Random Facts about Me

~~Twenty years ago today (gulp!) my now-husband and I had our first date. Twenty years, gone in the blink of an eye!

~~I don't like games--board games, card games, crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, etc. No thanks!

~~I'm secretly a Big Dog (most especially Rottweilers, of course) Person. Just don't tell the little dogs who have been a part of my family over the years!!

~~I used to be so excited for Easter candy season, especially the Cadbury creme eggs and the Cadbury candy-coated eggs, and they just aren't the same now!

~~Every time I go to, think about, or hear someone mention a gas station, I flash to the scene in Say Anything (love, love, love that movie) where John Cusack/Lloyd Dobler says, I got a question. If you guys know so much about women, how come you're here at like the Gas 'n' Sip on a Saturday night completely alone drinking beers with no women anywhere?

How about you? Any random facts you want to share?

Fated by Rebecca Zanetti

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I'm very happy to report I found a new, fun vampire series. Fated (2011) is the first book in Rebecca Zanetti's Dark Protector series.

Cara Paulsen is a botanist and empath with a young daughter, Janie, with serious psychic abilities. Janie's powers go far beyond Cara's empathic skills.

Talen Kayrs appears to save/kidnap them just after Janie wakens Cara to say that the bad guys are coming. Janie knows Talen is okay and isn't afraid to leave with him. Cara isn't so certain, and that's before he reveals the existence of two races of vampires--one of which he belongs to--and the fact that Cara's his mate.

If you're a fan of Lisa Marie Rice (strong, Alpha males and very quick starts to the relationships) and also enjoy a paranormal twist, Zanetti's series seems like a good choice for you.

You can learn more about this "romance with a bite" at the author's site here.

My overall personal rating of Fated is a B+.

National Autism Awareness Month

April is National Autism Awareness Month in the United States. Learn more from the Autism Society.

An excellent blog by the mother of a son with autism is Into the Woods, Living Deliberately. She writes beautifully about her life, overall, and raising both of her children.

An estimated 1 in 110 children born right now in the United States--and 1 in 70 boys--is affected by ASD.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which provides information on Autism Spectrum Disorders, here are some of the signs in children possibly affected by ASD:

Not respond to their name by 12 months
Not point at objects to show interest (point at an airplane flying over) by 14 months
Not play "pretend" games (pretend to "feed" a doll) by 18 months
Avoid eye contact and want to be alone
Have trouble understanding other people's feelings or talking about their own feelings
Have delayed speech and language skills
Repeat words or phrases over and over (echolalia)
Gi…