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Showing posts from July, 2011

Random Facts about Me

[Don't forget to leave a comment on this post for an entry in the drawing to win my hardcover of The Secret Year. I only have four entries so far. Sigh.]

1. Herb just rolled his eyes when I told him this was going on my blog, but Lady Gaga and I have something in common. We both have a "cool Nebraska guy," as she refers to her boyfriend in the country rock single You and I.

2. Flying and driving stress me completely. I'm already dreading the drive to and from my sister's house in Iowa this weekend. Thanks to the Missouri River flooding and the necessity for an alternate route, our usual three-hour drive each way is going to take an additional twenty minutes each time, too. Oh, yeah--not.

3. I'm pretty OCD when it comes to certain things, yet not other things. I wish I had a little OCD when it comes to neatness/housekeeping, but no such luck.

4. I dread having unexpected company. (Refer to number three and the comment about not being OCD over house…

This and That

My thoughts turn often to the people of Norway right now. My grandpa, always one of my favorite people, felt quite proud of his Norwegian heritage, leaving me with, at least in my own mind, a strong feeling of connection to Norway. I hope to one day see the breathtakingly beautiful country in person. For now, my heart and thoughts are with everyone there at this time of crisis and grief.

A Bookshelf the Size of the World: Inside the Vision for the Largest Library in the World is an interview in the Boston Globe with Robert Darnton, who leads the Harvard library system. The interview addresses plans to create the Digital Public Library of America, which I definitely hope happens. My favorite question and answer:

IDEAS: Who do you see using the DPLA?

DARNTON: I imagine an enormously varied public. I’m convinced there are people throughout this country who just want to write something to express their own understanding of the world and need material to do that writing … .I think there…

Ecstasy by Jacquelyn Frank

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The description from the author's site for Ecstasy, the first book in the Shadowdwellers series from Jacquelyn Frank (2008):

"After a terrifying car crash, Ashla Townsend wakes up to find that the bustling New York she knew is now eerie and desolate. Just when she’s convinced she’s alone, Ashla is confronted by a dark warrior who draws her deeper into a world she never knew existed. The bond between Ashla and Trace is a mystery to both, but searching for answers will mean confronting long-hidden secrets, and uncovering a threat that could destroy everything Trace holds precious. . . ."
If you're more into science fiction than romance and enjoy reading lots of detailed world-building, this might be the book for you. I'm more into romance and dialogue and relationship-building (not just the romantic relationship), so this story failed to capture my attention. I found myself skimming lots of sections in order to just be done.

A slight warning--if I actually cared a…

Zookeeper

[Three entries so far for the drawing for The Secret Year. Leave a comment here for an entry!]

Does anyone else love Kevin James? He's perfect in Hitch, and I also enjoyed the episodes of King of Queens that I've seen. [I'm not very good about getting t.v. shows watched, and we may have one of the few households in the United States without a DVR or VCR for viewing shows later.]

Despite being a big Kevin James fan, Zookeeper rates as a total bust for me. Herb and Maya also weren't entertained.

Basically, James is a zookeeper still pining for a woman who refused his proposal and dumped him five years earlier. Is she an appealing woman? Not particularly, unless you're just interested in a woman based on her looks. Enter the animals, who try to help him win back his girl, eventually even revealing to him that they can talk.

Maybe that all sounds cute, but the actual execution is pretty long and boring.

Have you seen Zookeeper? What did you think?

The Secret Year by Jennifer R. Hubbard

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The summary from the author's site for The Secret Year by Jennifer R. Hubbard (2010):

"Seventeen-year-old Colt has been sneaking out at night to meet Julia, a girl from an upper-class neighborhood unlike his own. They’ve never told anyone else about their relationship: not their family or friends, and especially not Julia’s boyfriend. When Julia dies suddenly, Colt tries to cope with her death while pretending that he never even knew her. He discovers a journal Julia left behind. But Colt is not prepared for the truths he discovers about their intense relationship, nor to pay the price for the secrets he’s kept."
One slight correction--Julia's brother gives Colt the journal, which is actually a notebook of letters addressed to CM, making him the first person to know something of what happened between Colt and Julia.

I struggled a bit on what to write about this book for the blog. While I really enjoyed Colt and most of the supporting characters in the novel, plus the …

USPS

The Postal Service has been imploring Congress to act for years. If the status quo continues, Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe said Wednesday, mail delivery could be cut back to three days a week within 20 years.
According to the same article in yesterday's edition of The New York Times I quoted above, the USPS is expected to lose $8 billion again this year, just as happened last year.

I've been in a personal mail slump recently, as those of you who receive letters and postcards from me already noticed. Besides letting down my friends, I'm not taking full advantage of a wonderful system that may not be here in a recognizable form soon.

Instead of "eat, drink, and be merry," I'm thinking "reach out, write, and write yet more" is my motto of the moment. Want to join me?

Forever Mine and Always Been Mine by Elizabeth Reyes

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If you're looking for some fun, light reading, consider trying the self-published e-book Moreno Brothers series from Elizabeth Reyes (2011).
The first book in the series, Forever Mine, covers the story of the youngest brother, Angel, who falls for the new girl at his high school, Sarah. Angel doesn't date, he hooks up, and Sarah, sent to live with her aunt and cousin while her mom serves time in jail, isn't planning to stay in California any longer than absolutely necessary.

Always Been Mine jumps ahead a few years to a certain couple's wedding. The events surrounding the wedding allow the middle brother, Alex, the chance to realize his true feelings for Valerie, Sarah's cousin. Of course, his epiphany occurs just as Valerie's finally attempting to move beyond her long-time crush on Alex and find a lasting relationship with someone with serious intentions.

I enjoyed the characters in the books, including their close relationships with family and friends, and …

Horrible Bosses

While Herb and Maya went swimming to escape the humidity on Sunday afternoon, I went to a matinee of Horrible Bosses.

Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Jason Sudeikis face major issues with their bosses--Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston, and Colin Farrell, respectively--leading to the idea of killing them.

As I expected, there was plenty of humor directed at the average thirteen-year-old boy, and I actually asked Herb if guys really talk like that with each other. Yep.

My favorite parts were actually just the three friends talking and driving around in the car. That brought back nice memories of being with my two best friends in high school, minus the plotting to kill people. I miss those days sometimes, though maybe it's a good thing we aren't still driving around like that in our forties.

I give this movie an "okay," though I recommend skipping seeing the show in the theater.

Has anyone else seen the movie? What did you think?

This and That

I know, enough with the car already, so one final note to say that, of course, the body shop found $900 more worth of damage once they had the car and started making repairs. When does that not happen when it comes to cars and houses needing work done? That leaves the total bill at just under $4000. She drops her head in despair. . . .

Moving along, Herb and Maya recommend Star City Shores to anyone in the Lincoln area. Basically geared to children and teenagers, the city-owned water park features water slides and a large pool. Herb said they actually felt cold during their visit yesterday afternoon, which is amazing since we're in a heat advisory now from the high humidity and temperatures.

I found a cool site for purchasing cards, courtesy of an article in Saudi Aramco World. Saanya Hasan Ali, along with the help of family and friends, makes cards that she sells online. The money she raises through her site goes to Pennies for Education and Health (PEH) to sponsor childre…

Blogs I Love

Here's some more of the blogs I love to read:

In Spring it is the Dawn is from a Canadian blogger living in Japan. She's a prolific reader and a photographer, leading to a very visually-oriented blog. I've followed her posts for years, and I bought some cool cards made from some of her photographs at one point.

China Through My Dutch Eyes is a title that pretty much covers exactly what you're getting from the blog.

Skeptic in Qatar is from a Canadian living and working in Qatar since 2006. Most of the blogs I read happen to be written by women, and this is a male blogger. At one point, I wanted to move to Qatar, which is how I stumbled across this blog.

Allie & Muffin

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"Why are you whistling? Did you need something? What? You're taking pictures again? Why don't you take more photos of the little girl? We're busy looking out the window and watching the grass burn in this heat."

The Truth about Vampires by Theresa Meyers

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[Full disclosure: I'm a member of the Harlequin Readers' Panel, meaning I receive free books and participate in surveys for Harlequin every so often. This particular book is from the Harlequin Nocturne line, and I paid for my copy.]

Theresa Meyers' first installment in her Sons of Midnight series, The Truth about Vampires (2011), is a satisfying read.

Kristin Reed is a Seattle reporter in the midst of writing a Pulitzer-worthy (she hopes) series about how vampires happen to be real. Dmitri Dionotte is the second-in-command, or trejan, for his clan, and he's tasked with making sure Kristin reveals just the right amount of information to allow humans to feel comfortable about vampires walking among them.

Throw in a group of rogue vampires who aren't exactly thrilled about humans knowing they exist and human fear and paranoia, and you have a little mystery/intriuge to go with your vampire-human romance.

I felt a little wishy-washy about Kristin, though I loved Dmitr…

Feeling Off-kilter, Part 2

I'm feeling so out of sorts that I didn't even finish the point in my last blog message. Let me try this again.

So, we decided to save some daycare money by having Maya stay with Herb. With daycare costing $30 a day and our insurance deductible at $250, we certainly didn't save any money after I damaged my car.

At least we have insurance, though. The estimate for my car repair stands at $3000 and approximately a week in the shop. Ouch! That's what happens when a newer, more plastic car meets an older, steel-bumpered car--the real car wins.

But each day is a new day. . . .

What are you looking forward to for the weekend? Maya and I plan a movie of her choice for tomorrow afternoon, and I'm buying fresh-off-the-farm sweet corn for dinner tonight.

Feeling Off-kilter

So, Maya spent the last three days with her dad instead of going to daycare while I went to work. They had a great time, including swimming and visiting the Lincoln Children's Museum. Since Herb's daytime temp job ended last week, the goal, besides giving them "alone time," was to save the cost of daycare. Sounds great, right?

Herb had Maya at his shop yesterday afternoon, and I went there to get her after work. Parking by his shop is a bit of a problem, leaving me foolishly excited when I saw an open spot on the street near his building. I managed to clip the front bumper of the car behind the open spot as I attempted to park. Fortunately, his car had no damage, though my car is in sad shape. I'm not looking forward to hearing the repair estimate later today as there's a scrape in my rear passenger door and a bumper partially pulled away from the body of the car.

I know--I'm lucky no one was hurt. This definitely falls under the category of somet…

Blogs I Enjoy

There are so many wonderful blogs out there, and I just wanted to take a moment to mention some of my favorites to read. This is something I plan to do every so often, as I have plenty of blogs I enjoy.

Return to Rural from blogger TMC. I'm a relatively new reader as she kindly sent a contribution for my collection of birthday greetings for my soldier pen pal. She's a reader and a letter writer (like me) and a Tibetan Buddhist (something I don't know enough about).

Celina started (Not) So Single when she happened to be single, and now she's building a life in Utah with her Ethiopian husband, Adam. (Yes, they're LDS/Mormon.) She's a prolific poster and very entertaining.

Kwana Writes is the blog for author Kwana Minatee-Jackson. She happens to live in NYC, and my favorite member of her family is Jack, a Yorkie who looks a lot like my Rufus. Her twins, who just graduated from high school, are pretty cute, too! I like checking her blog when I need some enc…

Day Spring Christian Academy

I sponsor a child, Andrew, at the Day Spring Christian Academy, a school established in Uganda by Shiloah Ministries, Incorporated, a 501(c)3 organization.

The school and overall organization are, frankly, in a dire financial position. To quote the e-mail I received from Reverend Mooibroek:

We face DSCA closure at the end of this term as costs now exceed $7,000 per month, and we do not have funds for the balance of this month including being able to even meet payroll. The increase in fees for students now has diminishing returns as we have lost 25 students with our Fee increase for the Second Term. A positive note is that your donation is buying more as the dollar has increased in value against the Uganda shilling, but food and gas have risen sharply (Posho- that is maize flour is up by 25% since 4 weeks ago). Cooking oil is up 30% from the first term, diesel up 40%, etc.

I could continue to enumerate, but our current shortfall for this term is $8,000, and if we are to have a third t…

This and That

With the Canadian postal strike and subsequent lockout at an end, I hope mail delivery is returning to normal for all Canadians. My sister, brother-in-law, and nephew happened to be traveling in British Columbia in June, and I just received on Thursday a couple of letters she left for someone to mail in Whistler. Yes, my sister's as nutty about mail as I happen to be, as you can tell since I said she wrote *letters* while on vacation and not just postcards, so the lack of mail pick-up caused a few issues for her during their visit.

I also had the chance to enjoy my sister and brother-in-law's photos of their trip when they visited Nebraska this month. They're very into amateur photography, with my sister even serving as the photographer for my wedding, and they definitely did justice to Canada and Seattle, which they visited briefly on the way to and from Canada. Highlights for me included seeing through their photos the gorgeous Butchart Gardens, lots of bears, eagles…

Darkness at Dawn by Elizabeth Jennings

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I really wanted to like the latest release from Elizabeth Jennings, aka Lisa Marie Rice, Darkness at Dawn (2011). Instead, I spent most of the first half of the book waiting for something, anything, to happen romance-wise between the main characters and thinking I might scream if I read another word about the heroine's fear of flying. I'm a frightened flyer, as well, but I didn't care to read quite so much about her fear.

The basic premise is interesting enough. Lucy Merritt returns to the Himalayan country of Nhala, the sight of her parents' deaths, under the guise of restoring a manuscript. Actually there at the request of her CIA godfather, she provides a cover story for her "fiance," who is actually Army Captain Mike Shafer. He's on a mission to find an important USB drive, containing information about a frightening virus.

Despite being disappointed in the book personally, I'll note the author thinks this might be her best book to date, as in…

Such a Pretty Face by Cathy Lamb

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[Full disclosure--This review is based on an e-book I borrowed from another reader.]

Such a Pretty Face by Cathy Lamb (2010) starts with a jolting moment in time. Young Stevie barely survives when her mentally ill mother kills herself and Stevie's younger sister, Sunshine.

Fast-forward to a Stevie who is now 35 and just beginning to face the guilt and denial of decades. In a sense, her true life is just beginning after surgery and a subsequent 170-pound weight loss. She's finally ready to face the truth about what happened with her mother and her life with her aunt afterwards.

Honestly, I just couldn't get into this book at all. Yes, Stevie grew and changed, but I had to wonder why she didn't realize years earlier that her aunt's husband, a one-dimensional bad guy, did something incredibly wrong. I also felt all the adults around her as a child let her down horribly, before and after her mother and sister's deaths, in a way that read like emotional manipula…

Casey Anthony Murder Trial Verdict

What are your thoughts on yesterday's verdict in the Casey Anthony murder trial?

Do I think Casey either accidentally or intentionally killed Caylee? Yes, I think that's likely.

Do I think the prosecution proved their case? No. I don't even think the evidence existed to go to trial in the first place, and I believe all of the media/national attention created a "go to trial" scenario.

Ultimately, someone apparently being (a) not a very nice person and (b) not a very good mother doesn't equal proof of first-degree murder or manslaughter in our legal system. I believe the jury reached the correct verdict under the guidelines given to them by our system.

With the comparisons to the O.J. Simpson case, I'll note that, judging by his post-trial life, Casey can expect her life to fall very short of being all sunshine and roses due to the majority of people believing she killed her own young daughter.

Your thoughts?

Our Fourth of July Weekend in Photos--July 1-4, 2011

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My niece Amanda, who lives in New Mexico, and Maya, at my mom's house (July 1).

My nephew Garrett, who lives in New Mexico, making Muffin and Allie very happy dogs (July 1).

Amanda, Maya, and Garrett with Miss Muffin (July 1).

Maya meeting Keli's new kitten, Jasper (July 2).

Rocket Fizz, a very fun, yet dangerous, local candy store (July 2).

Herb and Maya enjoying snakes (July 4).

Maya and my favorite firework, the sparkler (July 4).

If you celebrated, I hope you had an equally nice Fourth of July weekend! I'm actually glad to have a break from the long weekend of loud noises and smoke.