Review: The Westing Game

Title: The Westing Game
Author: Ellen Raskin
Publisher: Puffin Books
Publication Date: 1978
Genre: Junior Fiction, Mystery

Sunset Towers is a beautiful apartment building in Wisconsin, which looks out over Lake Michigan. With a restaurant on the top floor and a coffee shop and doctor’s office on the ground floor, each apartment is quickly let out. The tenants were all carefully chosen, but one of them is a mistake. The residents of the building seem to have little in common: they are a doctor, a restaurateur, a hairdresser, a secretary, a judge, a delivery boy, a housekeeper, an doorman, an athlete, brothers, sisters and wives. One is a thief, one is a bookie, one a bomber and one is not who they say they are. When millionaire Sam Westing is found dead in his mansion, sixteen people who live in Sunset Towers are called for the will reading. Westing’s will is actually a puzzle, and he intends to give his entire fortune to whoever solves the mystery of who killed him. The sixteen are divided into eight groups of two, and are given $10,000 each as incentive to play. Each pair is given a clue, which consists of random words with nothing in common. The will says that one of the sixteen is the person who took Westing’s life. As each pair tries to solve the mystery behind Westing’s death, they find out that things are even more complicated than they first imagined.

What fun! This murder mystery of sorts was extremely clever and well thought out. I love junior fiction that doesn’t underestimate its readers or talk down to them. The Westing Game provides a mystery with many layers, the first of which we are introduced to just as the book begins. Who handpicked the tenants of Sunset Towers and why? As we are introduced to Westing’s sixteen potential heirs, we get to know this colourful cast of characters. I especially loved Turtle, who first appears to be bratty and spoiled but proves to be a brilliant young girl. I loved getting to know the many characters and seeing how they changed throughout the game, and being able to see what they became as they grew older. While many authors do not succeed in creating a believable protagonist, Raskin managed to write a book with so many well-developed and realistic characters. The plot was creative and well planned out, and I was very satisfied with the resolution. The forward says that Westing did not plan out the plot before beginning to write, which is kind of unbelievable. The Westing Game was a smart mystery that’s perfect for anyone (young or old) who likes a gripping puzzle.


“The poor are crazy, the rich just eccentric.”

For When You're Under the Weather

via pinterest

I've never been one to plan out my blog posts. I tried that once (remember the semi-failed holiday series?) and I only posted a few of the posts written in Sharpie on my butcher-paper calendar.

No, blog posts for me come at a moment's notice. I'll just be sitting here on my bed, looking up the definition of selah and listening to Jonsi music, and somehow the mood changes, and I know: I must write on the blog immediately.

So, hello. Here I am.
I've actually had a sick, miserable day of coughs that come from my chest and a sore throat that is only momentarily cured by each honey-lemon cough drop I suck on. I headed off to class at quarter to eight this morning, homemade lemonade in my backpack's drink pouch, and I thought I was going to die during our lecture on Abigail and John Adams (which was, I'm sure, brilliant. I was just feeling awful.).

My dad has always told me that you can push through any sickness with pure willpower. Usually this is true for me, but today I've had to agree with my mom: Put on your socks and robe, and make yourself a big bowl of chicken soup. Add a giant glass of fresh grapefruit juice and spend some time recuperating.
This is okay.

So I've spent the day in pajama pants, drifting in and out of sleep on my white, fluffy bed. 

I did go to the grocery store around two o'clock, because we were out of all easily edible citrus things (hence the homemade lemonade this morning) and the only hot-drink packets in our cupboard were for cocoa, which, let's be honest, coats a raw throat in all the wrong ways.

My trip to the store got me thinking: What are my go-to items when I'm feeling under the weather? Heaven knows I've been blasted with a few too many colds during pregnancy (I'm hoping this is the last round before our baby girl comes next month).

When I'm sick with a cold, I only feel like eating the following:
-grapefruit, either in juice form (Simply Grapefruit) or halved and sectioned to eat with a spoon
-orange slices, Clementines
-lemonade: juice of one lemon + tall glass full of cold water + agave nectar to taste
-Malt-O-Meal with applesauce or canned peaches and cinnamon
-herbal tea, either lemon or orange
-canned peaches or pears with cottage cheese
-applesauce, green apples
-chicken noodle soup, which does not include Top Ramen or Cup-o-Noodles
-homemade Caesar salad: Romaine + juice of one lemon + Worcestershire sauce + minced garlic + olive oil + parmesan + S&P
-buttered toast (sometimes)

When I'm sick with a cold, eating these things just makes my sore throat worse:
-peanut butter
-creamy anything

When I'm sick with a cold, it helps when I do these things:
-take Dayquil (though off-limits during pregnancy)
-drink lots of water
-do a nasal rinse every couple of hours
-wear socks and slippers
-continue accomplishing things, but
-take it easy, too
-have fresh Kleenex and cough drops at the ready
-stay inspired

What do you eat when you're not feeling good? 

Review: Pandemonium

Title: Pandemonium (Delirium #1)
Author: Lauren Oliver
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: February 28th, 2012
Genre: YA, Dystopian Fiction

If you have yet to read Delirium, the first book in the series, then it would be wise not to continue reading this review.

Now that Lena has escaped Portland and found her way into the Wilds, she wants to move on and start over. She wants to forget the person she used to be; a girl who believed everything society told her, and saw love as a life threatening disease. Lena managed to escape just before she was to undergo the procedure that would stop her from ever feeling true happiness or sadness again, although in the process of fleeing she lost her boyfriend, Alex. Now Lena is one of the Invalids who live on the outskirts of society. With her new group of companions, she struggles to survive and find food. While things are much more difficult than they were in Portland, she at least has her freedom. As time passes, Lena becomes part of the resistance and lives under a false name in Brookyln. She finds herself in grave danger when she is asked to keep an eye on Julian, the son of a prominent leader in support of an earlier procedure. While their cause is for the good of everyone, to what extreme will the resistance go to to stand up against the government’s fear of love?

I haven’t been waiting for this book as long as some people (I read Delirium in August) but it feels like I waited forever. While some sequels to terrific books can be a letdown, thankfully Pandemonium was worth the wait. The book is told in chapters that alternate between ‘now’ and ‘then.’ ‘Then’ follows Lena’s life after she escapes into the wilds and meets up with a group of Invalids. ‘Now’ follows her life as a ‘cured’ member of the resistance in New York. This format worked very well, since the two different paces complimented each other. Honestly, I can’t imagine it being done in any other structure. If the events of Pandemonium were told in sequence, it would have dragged on too much. While it had a slow start, Pandemonium quickly took off and was fast moving and full of suspense. The interesting thing about this sequel is that only one of the characters from the last book appears in it. And that, of course, is Lena. After having to leave everything she knows behind, Lena has grown a lot as a person. The hardships she faced as she left Portland have helped her grow and leave the person she used to be behind. As Delirium began, Lena was almost exactly the type of person the government wanted her to be. She believed in The Book of Shh and feared deliria. Now, Lena is immersed in the resistance, fighting for the right to love. I don’t actually want to reread my Delirium review, since it was one of my earlier reviews. However, I do remember saying that while Lena felt like a bit of a flat character, it was because she grew up in a society that encouraged her to be ‘flat.’ So many things have changed Lena since then, and in Pandemonium we get to see more of who she really is. After this book, I don’t think anyone could accuse Lena of being flat or undeveloped anymore. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that Lena has another romantic interest in this book. I knew that this was going to happen, and I had an idea of how she would meet this person. My predictions on that front proved to be incorrect, although I guessed who was going to be Lena’s new boyfriend as soon as he was introduced. I know a lot of people were not looking forward to this aspect of the plot, but I ended up feeling just as Lena does by the book's end. Of course, the big question when reading a sequel is how it measured up compared to its predecessor. While Pandemonium didn’t quite match Delirium, it was a compelling read that was darker and perhaps more thoughtful than the original. I think one of the reasons I preferred Delirium was because of the writing. The prose was much more poetic and enchanting. I suppose you could measure how much you enjoyed a book in a series by how much you want to read the next book (or if you want to read it at all.) If Requiem was already out, I would probably have gone to the bookstore to buy it right after finishing Pandemonium.


“Grief is like sinking, like being buried. I am in water the tawny color of kicked-up dirt. Every breath is full of choking. There is nothing to hold on to, no sides, no way to claw myself up. There is nothing to do but let go.”

In My Mailbox (28)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren, in which book bloggers post about the books they've bought, borrowed or received in the past week.

This week I bought French Women For All Seasons: A Year of Secrets, Recipes and Pleasure by Mireille Guiliano. I have to admit I'm more interested in the recipes than anything else. I found this for .50 cents, and it's by the author of French Women Don't Get Fat. I'm assuming it's not a sequel, but I'm not sure.

Earlier in the week I took out The Death Cure by James Dashner and Where She Went by Gayle Forman. The Death Cure is the third book in the series, following The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials. I read Where She Went earlier in the week, and it didn't quite live up to If I Stay

More books from the library! I was killing time and picked up Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett to glance through. I ended up liking it enough to take it out, and I'm reading it right now. It kind of reminds me of The Westing Game. Saving June by Hannah Harrington was recommended to me by theyretakingthehobbitsto yesterday. I also took out Looking at the Moon by Kit Pearson, the sequel to The Sky is Falling. This will be a reread for me. I just realized that I have way too many books to read before I go on vacation on March 8th to South Carolina. While some of the books I took out last week will probably not get read, I really hope to read all of the ones I took out this week. 

What was in your mailbox this week? 

Review: If I Stay

Title: If I Stay (If I Stay #1)
Author: Gayle Forman
Publisher: Speak
Publication Date: April 9th, 2009
Genre: YA, Contemporary

Mia is in her final year of high school, and has a promising career as a cello player ahead of her. She just nailed her audition for Julliard, and she’s dating the lead singer of an up and coming band. But when an impromptu road trip with her family on a snow day results in a horrifying car accident, Mia’s life will never be the same. After the accident, Mia wakes up standing over the wreckage, while the paramedics take her damaged body to the hospital. Her music loving parents are found dead at the scene, and Mia is in grave condition. As Mia’s remaining family members visit her in the hospital, she realizes that she has a choice to make. How can she live in a world without her parents? But how can she leave her boyfriend and her best friend? Over twenty-four hours in the hospital, Mia has to grapple with the biggest decision of her life: whether to end it or keep on living.

This book was recommended to me over and over, but all the same I still had misgivings before I started reading. The quote at the top of the book from USA Today recommending If I Stay to fans of Twilight didn’t help. Twilight isn’t really my thing, so the comparison made me nervous. I started this book to kill time, but I ended up falling in love with it very quickly. As for the Twilight comparison, these two books have very little in common. If I Stay was similar to Before I Fall, not just because of the plot but also because of the writing styles. However, both can stand on their own and were similar without it feeling repetitive. Initially, I didn’t quite understand what this book was about. Soon, Mia is in a fatal car accident, and watches over her comatose self as she tries to decide whether she should live or not. Forman’s writing was quite lovely, and I loved the role music played in the novel. Initially, I wondered how the whole novel could focus on Mia making a single decision. I worried that it would drag on. Flashbacks are shown throughout the novel, and they helped with the pacing and kept the book from feeling dull. While I wouldn’t go as far to call the story heart wrenching, it was an emotional read. There were sections that certainly were tearjerkers, such as the end. Adam and Kim were incredibly realistic characters, and I also loved Mia’s family. I did like Mia as a protagonist, although she acted differently around other characters than you would expect from her narration. Like Adam, I loved her passion for music, but I found her to be a bit too perfect, and not as strong as some of the secondary characters. I was actually surprised to learn that there is a follow up to If I Stay, since I thought this was a stand-alone type of book. All the same, I am looking forward to reading the sequel. With most books, I love to read other reviews right after I finish, to hear what other people think. With If I Stay, I had no desire to read what other people had to say, since I just didn’t want to hear anything negative about this compelling novel, which was a first for me. Although If I Stay wasn’t perfect, reading it was a very personal experience and I would definitely recommend it.


“Sometimes you make choices in life and sometimes choices make you.”

Contractions + Lemon Broccoli Pasta with Ricotta Cheese

My latest guess for what Addie will look like / via pinterest

Let's just say, heading into month nine of pregnancy has taken its toll on my bod.
And my mind.
And my sleep regiment.

Thankfully, my birthday was filled with one-on-one time with my hubby, sushi sushi sushi, a mini shopping spree at the J. Crew factory store, and a body full of energy (p.s. thank you all for your kind birthday wishes! they made me smile, one by one). My wonderful man took the afternoon off to lead me through a list of things that make me happy (taken from my journal, unbeknownst to me).

He gave me a foot massage with minty body butter and even painted my toenails himself as we caught up on Parks & Rec episodes. He had done the dishes, something that makes my mind lighter just thinking about it, and vacuumed the kitchen (yes, our kitchen is carpeted). He had made a hair appointment for me, something I desperately needed, and set aside some birthday money so I could purchase some spring-colored accessories (can you say yellow skinny belt and bright coral flats?).

All in all, my boy took things at my pace and really pampered me.
Birthdays are the very best. So is my husband.

But in the last week, I have been a slow mover indeed. Most recently (last night), I was up until three o'clock. In the a.m. Just snacking on dried cranberries and sifting through Jo's Motherly Monday posts. Unable to be anything but horizontal, because Addie's taken to kicking hard on my hip bones when I stand for too long...which honestly is making me wonder if there isn't something more going on with that pain. Please hold while I call my nurse...

Okay, lesson learned: Nurse Julie said that a contraction consists of a couple different things. First, you can't carry on a conversation during it. Second, if you change positions (lie down when you were standing up, for example), the pain does not go away. Third, you'll know if you're having contractions. The verdict for today? I'm not having contractions--just experiencing the common discomforts of pregnancy. You know, just all the common, perfectly normal things that happen--like being kicked in the hip all day. Yep, normal.

Addie-girl is just growing and growing these days, which makes for a slightly uncomfortable mama and a very squished baby. I think that's where the pain is coming from: She has no more room to kick except into my bones! As long as I resolve to take it easy, realizing that it's okay to mostly be on the couch during the day (as long as I'm accomplishing things from my computer), I should be able to avoid or at least diminish a lot of the discomfort.

Oh, pregnancy. What a learning experience you are. I can only imagine what mothering will be like!

Pregnancy updates aside, I'd like to leave you with an easy, tastes-fresh-like-summer pasta dish (you know how I love pasta!). This meal combines three of my loves--citrus, whole wheat pasta, and roasted broccoli--and adds a budding favorite, ricotta cheese. Toss it all together and, my dear, you will close your eyes in delight. Let me know if you decide to give it a go! I know you'll love it.

Lemon Broccoli Pasta with Ricotta Cheese

Cut up a head of broccoli. Sprinkle with the juice of one lemon, some zest if you're feeling bold, olive oil, and S&P. Roast at 425 degrees for 10 - 12 minutes.

Toss with cooked whole-wheat spaghetti and more lemon juice. Top with dollops of ricotta cheese, S&P, and parmesan.

Review: The Sky is Falling

Title: The Sky is Falling (Guests of War #1)
Author: Kit Pearson
Publisher: Puffin Canada
Publication Date: February 8th, 1990
Genre: Junior Fiction, Historical Fiction

In the summer of 1940, ten-year-old Norah and her friends spend their days watching the planes fight above their village in Kent. The war has certainly brought excitement to Norah’s life, but all parents see is the danger. Once they decide to send Norah and her five-year-old brother Gavin to Canada until the war ends, Norah realizes that there is no way to persuade them otherwise. While the ship ride from Liverpool to Montreal is full of excitement, the idea of living with strangers in a foreign country terrifies Norah. After staying at a University in Toronto for weeks, a family is finally found for Norah and Gavin. The only problem is that they originally only wanted a boy. Mrs. Ogilvie and her grown daughter live in an enormous house in Toronto. While Mrs Ogilvie immediately fall in love with Gavin, she shares Norah’s stubbornness and the two clash almost instantly. While a girl from her village is also in Norah’s class at school, the teacher treats Norah with sarcasm and the students tease her and call her a coward for leaving England. When the war might be go on for longer than Norah first believed, she has to find a way to accept her new home.

I first read this book maybe twelve years ago and I loved the series. However, I recently read Kit Pearson’s newest book, The Whole Truth. I found it disappointing, and that made me doubt whether The Guests of War trilogy was as good as I remembered. The first book in the trilogy follows Norah as she and her brother leave England for Canada during the Second World War. I was probably ten or so the first time I read this book, but this time it was just as hard to put down. It’s one of the best historical fiction books I’ve read for children. I might be a bit biased towards this book because it takes place in Canada, but I thought Pearson realistically portrayed World War II from the eyes of an English child forced to leave her home. One thing I found rereading this book in my twenties is that it was much more of an emotional read than it was the first time. As Pearson points out in the afterword, for some children being guests of war may have been an adventure, but Pearson did an excellent of conveying what it was like for some children who didn’t want to leave (like Norah.) While Norah could be much too headstrong and stubborn at times, I think her actions were very realistic. Who wouldn’t act out when they’re forced to leave everything they’ve ever known and live somewhere completely different than what they’re used to? Plus, Norah is only ten-years-old. I will definitely be rereading the other books in the series, the last of which is told from Gavin’s point of view. Overall, this book is a must read for children interested in World War II.


#253: City-Wide Liquors

You must think I'm scraping the bottle of the barrel if I'm highlighting a liquor store as one the top "things to do in South Bend." 

Au contraire, mon amie -- City-Wide is more than a liquor store: it's a destination.  They have arguably* the best selection of beer and wine in town, and unless you know what you want ahead of time, plan to spend 10, 15, 30 minutes browsing their selection.  Peruse the extraordinarily expensive beer in their beer cellar. (Dear, how about we try the 2008 Behemoth Blonde Barleywine tonight? Only $39!**)  On Thursday nights at their downtown location, they offer tastings -- last week it was of specialty spirits and cocktails, but primarily beer and wine distributors offer samples.  From my description, this place might scream pretentious snob to you, but happily, the atmosphere is truly the polar opposite -- the staff is always at hand, willing to help and offer a pointer or two.  Plus there's always a sale on cases of  popular brands.

So for a complete Mardi Gras, after you pick up paczkis at Dainty Maid or king cake at Chicory Cafe, walk just down the block to City-Wide, where you can find Abita, Lousiana's finest brew, in stock and waiting for you to try out!

Where: There are four locations city-wide, but head downtown (109 E. Jefferson) for their tastings.
When: Monday-Thursday, 9 AM - 10 PM; Friday-Saturday, 9AM - 11 AM
Tip: Are you interested in specialty/limited release microbrews?  Get on their newsletter to hear when the stock will be arriving -- often, there is a purchasing list for the in-demand stock!

*The side story behind this claim: There is a wine, whose imports are limited to one distributer in North Carolina, a wine which I had only seen in Italy and on the menu of a single restaurant in Richmond, VA.  A wine so special that my 90-year-old grandmother smuggled out a bottle from this restaurant to send me one of their bottles for my birthday.  Yet there it was, at City-Wide, sitting amongst the Chardonnays and the Pinot Grigios.  That sealed my allegiance to them.
**Totally fictional price estimate and choice of beer.  We can begin a discussion about the journalistic responsibilities of bloggers, but please consider this creative license.

Review: The Virgin Suicides

Title: The Virgin Suicides
Author: Jeffrey Eugenides
Publisher: Picador USA
Publication Date: January 1st, 1993
Genre: Fiction, Realistic Fiction

In the 1970’s, the five Lisbon sisters killed themselves over a yearlong period. The first was the youngest, Cecilia, and eventually the other girls followed. To the neighbourhood boys in their Detroit suburb, the Lisbon girls are a beautiful mystery, and years after their deaths the boys are still trying to piece together what happened. Who were the Lisbon girls, really? What was life like in their stifling and strict house? And why did they choose to end their lives in such a way? As the boys try and seek the truths that they will never find, they will never be able to stop loving the Lisbon girls.

I originally wanted to read this book when I was sixteen, but my hold came in at the library around the same time two girls at my high school killed themselves in a rumoured suicide pact. While the idea that it was a pact didn’t turn out to be true, I obviously wasn’t in the mood to read a book about teenage girls killing themselves at that time. Five years later I finally bought The Virgin Suicides. If I had read it when I was sixteen, I don’t think I would have got this book. It’s been a few weeks since I finished reading it, but I’ve been putting off writing the review because I find it a difficult book to describe. That might be because The Virgin Suicides is different from so many other books I’ve read before. One of the things that makes this book so unusual is that we don’t get to know any of the characters as deeply as we usually would. This isn’t because they’re not fully developed, but because we just don’t get to see who they really are. There is no actual protagonist. Instead, the book is told from the perspective of multiple boys in the neighbourhood, in the first person plural point of view. You never get to know any of these boys as intimately as you would with the average protagonist. The person the reader knows the most about is Lux Lisbon, who is still an enigma to us. Like the boys in the book, we only get to know Mary, Therese and Bonnie Lisbon through glimpses. A lot of people look for novels that show them a character they can relate to, and I don’t think this book will provide them with that. However, while there is so much we don’t know about the boys, we do get to see the extent of their obsession as they watch the girls’ lives unravel. The writing was rather beautiful and it was definitely a good book. But, at the same time, it was hard for me to enjoy. I suppose it’s kind of like Citizen Kane: everyone knows it’s great, but less people actually like to watch it. Reading The Virgin Suicides dragged on a little bit, but I loved certain parts, especially with the girls and the tree and their communication with the boys through music over the phone. There were parts that made me ache, especially since I felt like the suicide of the four older Lisbon girls could have been preventable if their parents (and even the people in their neighbourhood) had acted differently. It was strange to read a story and feel on the outside of everything, knowing so little about the main characters. At the same time, I enjoyed how many things were left open for speculation. While this could be frustrating, I would recommend this book to people who like to analyse and read books that are unique. While so many authors couldn’t pull off a book like The Virgin Suicides, I think the lyrical writing saved it.


“Basically what we have here is a dreamer. Somebody out of touch with reality. When she jumped, she probably thought she'd fly.”

In My Mailbox (27)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren, in which book bloggers post about the books they've bought, borrowed or received in the past week.

Lots of books this week! I'm not sure I'll get to read all of them, but I'll give it a shot. 

From the library:
In the Woods by Tana French
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
All These Things That I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
The Wild Things by Dave Egger
Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
London is the Best City in America by Laura Dave
Frommer's Paris Free and Dirt Cheap
See it London

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith (ebook)
Dave Cooks the Turkey by Stuart McLean
Mandy by Julie Edwards
National Geographic Traveler Paris
Lost Explorers by Ed Wright
Rick Steves' French Phrase Book & Dictionary

You can also see my owl luggage tag, which is nothing to do with books but it's just so cute! I bought so many books this week, and I'm thankful for my library's bookstore for selling books for 50 cents.

Feel free to post a link to your own IMM in the comments.

Review: The Future of Us

Title: The Future of Us
Author: Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: November 21st, 2011
Genre: YA, Science Fiction

The year is 1996 and Emma Nelson has just set up her first computer. After she signs up for AOL, she finds herself on a website called Facebook, which asks her for her e-mail to sign in. On the website, Emma finds herself looking at the profile of a woman named Emma Nelson Jones. She looks like an older version of Emma, but her status updates reference things Emma has never heard of. When her next-door neighbour Josh comes over to look at the website, he writes it off as a joke. Emma and Josh used to be best friends, but have drifted apart since Josh admitted that he wanted to be something more. As Emma spends more time looking at the site, she becomes more convinced that this woman is herself fifteen years in the future. And future Emma doesn’t look like a happy person. Once Emma realizes that the smallest things she does can change her future, she tries to change things so she can be happy in the future. Josh’s future, however, appears to be perfect. But is it really what he wants? As the two teens get to see small glimpses of their futures, they wonder if seeing what the future holds is really worth it.

This is a fun book if you don’t take it too seriously. The concept is creative, but initially I felt like it could be a hit or miss. Written by Jay Asher, the author of Thirteen Reasons Why and Carolyn Mackler, author of The Earth, My Butt and Other Round Things, the narration switches each chapter. The two characters have been friends for ages, but Josh’s feelings for Emma put a wedge in their friendship. Emma Nelson (isn’t that a Degrassi character?) goes from one boyfriend to another without ever getting attached. Josh is a skater who goes with the flow. Anyone who has spent at least five minutes on the Internet knows that pretty much everyone thinks the 1990’s were the greatest thing ever to happen to humanity. If you’re looking for nostalgia, then The Future of Us is for you. There are lots of references to popular culture (maybe a little too much, it felt a little forced sometimes.) This book comments on modern society and raises a lot of questions: would you change your future if you could? What do the few sentences of our status updates say about us? What would I have thought fifteen years ago if I had seen my present Facebook page? How do our simple actions today affect the future? The plot was interesting, although the writers could have worked more with the creative concept they thought of. Why were Emma and Josh able to access the Facebook of the future? Because of the absence of an answer, I’d say this book isn’t really science fiction, but no other label fit for the genre. I love a quick read that goes by fast, and The Future of Us was that. Asher and Mackler are both good writers, and their sections flowed well together. Mainly character driven, the plot focuses primarily on the relationships of the characters and how Facebook has affected them. There wasn’t a strict plot, but because of the unique premise that didn’t matter too much. The characters were a bit superficial and I couldn’t understand why they only cared about who they ended up with when they were able to look into the future. While these things might make it seem like I didn’t enjoy The Future of Us, I actually did. It was original and easy to get caught up in. While it might appeal more to fans of teen realistic fiction than fans of sci-fi, it’s definitely worth reading.


“I've always protected myself when it comes to love. And maybe that's the problem. By not letting myself get hurt now, it ripples into much bigger pain later.”

Today Is My Birthday


And so I must sing (but not be sung to...too much attention).

Leaving you with a happy scene and some happy words,
for today will surely be a happy day for me
as I hope it will be for you.


Found Letter

What makes for a happier life, Josh, comes to this:
Gifts freely given, that you never earned;
Open affection with your wife and kids;
Clear pipes in winter, in summer screens that fit;
Few days in court, with little consequence;
A quiet mind, a strong body, short hours
In the office; close friends who speak the truth;
Good food, cooked simply; a memory that's rich
Enough to build the future with; a bed
In which to love, read, dream, and re-imagine love;
A warm, dry field for laying down to sleep,
And sleep to trim the long night coming;
Knowledge of who you are, the wish to be
None other; freedom to forget the time;
To know the soul exceeds where it's confined
Yet does not seek the terms of its release,
Like a child's kite catching at the wind
That flies because the hand holds tight the line.

--Joshua Weiner

Review: The Paris Wife

Title: The Paris Wife
Author: Paula McLain
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: February 22nd, 2011
Genre: Historical Fiction

When Hadley Richardson is twenty-eight and visiting a friend in Chicago, she meets the charming and passionate Ernest Hemingway. The two quickly fall for one another and marry with plans to move to Italy. After Hadley inherits some money, they leave for Paris under recommendation from a friend. In Paris, Ernest becomes acquainted with other writers who take him under their wings. As his writing becomes recognized and his confidence grows, Hadley feels like she will always be on the outside. While she makes sacrifices for the sake of her husband’s work, Hadley begins to feel distanced from her genius husband. In the end, Hadley is the first of a long string of wives for Ernest. Was she just the Paris wife or did their relationship mean something more?

This book is a tricky one to review because as a whole it was quite solid. Some books I like and I could talk about them for ages, while others I liked just as much but there isn’t very much to say about them. The Paris Wife is the latter, and it was actually recommended to me by my Grandmother. The Pairs Wife is the story of Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson. I knew very little about Hemingway and his novels when I started reading this book, and I don’t think that you have to be familiar with him to enjoy The Paris Wife. This book is historical fiction, but it was easy to become so caught up in the story that I’d feel like I was reading a memoir for a moment or two. The author’s prose is quite lovely, and the writing was smooth and well phrased. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this made into a movie in a few years time, since it’s so easy to picture the events of the book taking place on the screen. You could tell that a lot of care went to into the details of this book, although I don’t know enough to vouch for the historical accuracy. Of course, this is fiction so you can’t expect it to be a perfect reflection of the past. McLain captured Paris in the 1920’s beautifully, and I loved reading about ‘the lost generation.’ The main character became a bit unlikable and too dependent on her husband as the novel wore on and I was especially frustrated with her submission towards Ernest. However, I think the writer did a good job of explaining the reasons behind Hadley’s actions, such as her domineering mother. We are introduced to a cast of colourful characters, including F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein. As a portrait of the jazz age and the many writers featured in this book, The Paris Wife was an enjoyable read that might whisk you away to the past.


“Though I often looked for one, I finally had to admit that there could be no cure for Paris.”

#252: Cooking Class with Chef Laurent

Thanks to 'Chef' C. for contributing this culinary-minded post!

Still looking for something special for your Valentine? Here’s your chance to save your Valentine’s heart – and your chivalrous character– with a fun idea for a quaint night out on the town. You’ll get to learn how to make a few delicious dishes, and sample them in the meantime. What could be better?

There are a number of establishments in the South Bend area that offer cooking classes, but one particularly fun spot is Chef Laurent’s kitchen in the basement of Villa Macri near Heritage Square, just two blocks north of Target on Main Street.

With a heavy French accent and a flair for culinary deliciousness, Chef Laurent Robic keeps his audiences entertained throughout his 1.5 to 2 hour cooking lessons. Born in northwest France and a  student of the Cordon Bleu Cooking School in Paris, Chef Laurent came to South Bend after working in Chicago and Southwest Michigan. His specialties are seafood and desserts, but his upcoming menus feature everything from Chicken with Mango Sauce, to Quiche Lorraine or baked Italian frittata.
Can't take the heat? Get outta tha kitchen...and into his class.
Classes vary in price but generally cost around $50 per person. Keep in mind that this price includes the cost of instruction for three to four great dishes along with very generous samples of all the menu items. (The word generous is to be taken seriously - don’t eat dinner if you take an evening class). Another plus, of course, is that you don’t have to clean up or even do the dishes once class is over!

Students at the class are also invited to purchase a glass of wine (or two!) upstairs at Villa Macri prior to dinner – the bartenders can recommend a drink selection based on the evening’s menu. Glasses generally range in from $6-15.

When: Classes are normally held in the evenings (5:30-7:00) with a few on the weekend.  Check teh website for specific times.
Where: 225 Toscana Park, Granger
Call: 574.993.2772 for reservations and gift certificates

Tip: Cooking classes are great for more than just dates. Next time you can’t figure out what to get mom, Uncle Fred, or Grandma Ginny for their birthday, consider an “experience” like a cooking class rather than a token gift. Chances are that your gift will either end up in next year’s white elephant exchange or the local goodwill box anyway!

Review: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

Title: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight
Author: Jennifer E. Smith
Publisher: Little Brown
Publication Date: January 2nd, 2012
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance

As Hadley races to JFK airport to fly to her dad’s wedding in London, she doesn’t feel prepared for what she expects to be the worst day of her life. Hadley has no interest in seeing her dad for the first time in a year or meeting his soon to be wife. Things become worst than she could have imagined when she arrives four minutes late for her flight and has to wait three hours for the next plane to Heathrow. Just as things couldn’t get any worst, the unexpected happens; Hadley meets a boy who could change her mind about love and relationships. As Hadley gets to know Oliver over the seven-hour plane ride, she comes to dread landing in London even more than she already had. After they lose each other in the airport, Hadley races across London to make it in time for her father’s wedding. When it seems like Hadley and Oliver meeting in the first place was an incredibly unlikely piece of luck, how will they ever meet again?

I’ve been looking forward to this book for a long time, and I thought it be the perfect book to read for Valentine’s Day. In the end, it was definitely worth the wait. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is different from so many other books I’ve read because it’s told in third person present tense and takes place over a twenty-four hour period. While the style of narration took a while to get used to, it worked quite well and I was impressed with the writing. This was a quick read that was easy to get caught up in, even if it isn’t exactly plot heavy. I loved Hadley and Oliver’s relationship, although I never really believed it was ‘love at first sight.’ I enjoyed Oliver’s wry humour and the way he and Hadley interacted with each other. While their relationship is the critical event of the novel, Hadley’s family problems were the reason they met, and that played a significant role as well. Hadley dealing with her father’s remarriage added a lot to the story. Smith succeeded in making me feel the same way Hadley felt about her father: frustrated and angry with him, but still loving him to pieces. This book is fairly short, and that combined with the fact that it takes place over a short period of time made it feels sort of incomplete. If felt more like a novella, or that is was kind of missing something. While I can see the books flaws, it didn’t really matter to me. I still loved it. I loved how it made me feel, I loved the title and how it tied into the book, I loved the central relationships (romantic and familial), I loved the setting and I loved the storyline. This is the sort of book I usually like: a YA contemporary novel with a realistic romantic relationship, witty banter and family playing a large role in the plot. However, I could understand why a lot of people didn't like this book because they felt like not enough happened. While this book is certainly not for everyone, I really enjoyed it. It actually reminded me a bit of the movie Serendipity. In the end, I couldn’t have picked a better book to read right before Valentine’s Day.


“She thinks of the way they stood together near the bathroom, how it seemed like they’d been on the brink of something, of everything, like the whole room was changing as they’d huddled together in the dark.”

Review: Perfect Chemistry

Title: Perfect Chemistry (Perfect Chemistry #1)
Author: Simone Elkeles
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 23rd, 2008
Genre: YA, Romance

Brittany Ellis is seen as the perfect girl, and she’s put a lot of work into maintaining that imagine. In reality, Brittany’s life is far from perfect. Her sister has cerebral palsy and Brittany feels like her parents put so much pressure on her to make up for her sister not being able to do so many things. Senior year is supposed to be the time of Brit’s life, but she finds herself partnered with Alex Fuentes, a dangerous gang member from the wrong side of town. Alex and Brittany despise each other, but they can’t help feeling the attraction between them. When Alex accepts a bet that he can sleep with Brittany before Thanksgiving, he tries to get to know her. As the two spend more time with each other, they learn to see past the facade they have each created. What started out as a bet for Alex has started to mean something, but how can he be with a girl like Brittany when his life is so dangerous? When the gang life that also claimed his father’s life might ruin Alex’s as well, he has to decide what he would really do for love.

Throughout February, Chapters and Indigo have been doing a display in the stores titled “Book Boyfriends,” which features books with desirable boys. I think the books are chosen through twitter. I was looking for a book to read for Valentine’s Day, and Perfect Chemistry was one of the books on the display. I had mixed feelings about this book. I did enjoy reading it, but there were things that bothered me. I think everyone has heard this story before; forbidden romance, good girl falls for bad bay, boy accepts a bet not thinking he’s going to fall for girl, etc. It has a bit of Romeo and Juliet, Grease and She’s All That. And I was fine with that, because I knew it was going to have an unoriginal plot going in. Like the students at Fairfield, I judged Brittany and Alex from the start and was proven wrong; they were much more complex than they first seem. Alex is the smart mouthed bad boy with a good heart that he tries to hide. I have to admit I’m getting sick of boys in books being huge jerks at the beginning then turning out to be a girl's dream. I know Alex is a good person beneath everything, but I hated they way he acted at the beginning of the book. The way he treated Brittany was horrible, from harassing her to objectifying her. When Alex finds Brittany extremely drunk on the beach, he considers having sex with her to win the bet. In the end, he decides not to, since he’s drunk and high and wants to be at his best when he finally hooks up with Brittany. Seriously. Not because it would be wrong to take advantage of a girl, but because he’s drunk. He does say later that he doesn’t have sex with passed out girls, but the whole thing stopped me from ever completely warming to the guy. Another thing I didn’t understand about the book was Brittany hiding her sister from most of her friends. My mom works with students who have special needs, including cerebral palsy. Where I live, anyone can go to school until they’re 21, and some students do this so that they can meet people their own age and socialise. I really think Brittany’s sister would have benefited from going to school, and the way her family hid her inside made it seem like they were ashamed of her. Brittany does say she feared people teasing Shelley, but the whole thing was a bit bizarre to me, since it was very different from what I’m used to. At my school it would not have been a big deal for some one with cerebral palsy to be at school, and I like to think no one would have teased someone like Shelley. All of that aside, I soon became caught up in the story. The plot was well paced with an exciting climax. I found myself rooting for Alex and Brittany, especially when it felt like I was the only one on their side. The narration switches between Brittany and Alex, which sometimes doesn’t work very well when done by one author. Fortunately, Elkeles pulled it off. While I found myself rapped up in the story, the ending was a bit too cheesy for me, especially the epilogue. However, Perfect Chemistry is perfect for anyone who loves YA romance. If you like bad boys and a seemingly unlikely romance, then you will probably love this book.


“One of the things that makes me who I am is the loyalty I have to people I hold close to my heart.”

In My Mailbox (26)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren, in which book bloggers post about the books they've bought, borrowed or received in the past week.

Yay books! From the library, I took out The Sky is Falling by Kit Pearson, which I'm reading right now. I read it before maybe twelve years ago, and so far it's just as good as I remember. I also took out Jane by April Lindner, which I might read in a hurry tomorrow and post the review on Valentine's Day. Maybe. Last, I took out Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty. Someone recommended this one to me on my other blog, but I completely forget who. I should start writing down who recommends me books, or tagging the posts so I can check back later. I also took out some more travel books. I bought The Hunger Games, since I'm a bit mental and it was driving me crazy that my paperback didn't match my hardcovers. I'm really anal. And, thankfully, Costco sells books for very cheap. I'll give my old copy to the library bookstore I volunteer at. 

That's it for me, what was in your mailbox this week? 

#251: South Bend Studebreakers

Last year, we made a few (tongue-in-cheek) suggestions for blind/first date ideas.  One suggestion was a South Bend roller derby event, and we haven't elaborated on this great group since.  Since it's rolling round to Cupid's special day, appropriately, perhaps it is timely to highlight "Heartbreaks and Beatdowns," this Saturday's match-up between the South Bend Studebreakers and Naptown Roller Girls Third Alarm.

The movie "Whip It" might be have brought roller derby into semi-mainstream culture, but it's really something you must see (experience?) for yourself.  From Afro Disiac to Twiggy Tormentor, the skaters will impress with their skills, hilarious names, and of course, bad ass-ery.

The group also hosts fundraisers for the community with regular frequency.  They're not all about dealing and taking hits -- a motto of theirs is: Northern Indiana has a taken a beating and we want to give everyone something to be excited about!  (Aww.  But don't let their kind motives fool you into false expectations about their ferocity.)  If you're not a girl, or a skater, you can still get involved by attending events like these.

Although they were accepted into the Women's Flat Track Derby Association just six month ago (July '11), the South Bend Roller Girls have a huge following, and previous events have sold out.  You can buy tickets for tomorrow match-up online here, but online sales stop at noon, FYI. (Tickets available at USA Skate Center and Orbit Music as well.)

When: Saturday, Feb. 11, 8:30 PM (doors at 8:00 PM)
Where: USA Skate Center, 3909 N. Main St., Mishawaka
Cost: $10/advance, $12/door
Event Website: or

Tip: Can't make it Saturday?  They host free public scrimmages the first Thursday of every month at USA Skate Center.

Review: Hush Hush

Title: Hush, Hush (Hush, Hush #1)
Author: Becca Fitzpatrick
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: October 13th, 2009
Genre: YA, Paranormal Romance

When Nora meets Patch, her new biology partner, unexplainable things begin to happen. She suddenly feels like someone is following her and can’t help but wonder if Patch is somehow connected to the peculiar things that have begun to happen to her and her best friend. Patch is a mysterious bad boy that Nora knows isn’t right for her, but she can’t help being attracted to him. When Nora and her friend Vee meet Elliot and Jules, Nora feels that something is not right with them. She keeps finding herself in danger, and it becomes clear that she cannot simply ignore her feelings for Patch. While Nora thought Patch was all wrong for her from the start, what will it mean if he’s not even human?

Isn’t Hush Hush a great title? The cover is amazing as well, but the actual book didn’t live up to either. My first qualm about this book was that it felt like I’d seen it all before: angels, forbidden romance and bad boys. While some books can make popular elements feel new again, Hush Hush couldn’t quite pull it off. I think if I’d liked Patch, the main character’s love interest, I would have enjoyed this book more. Not only did Patch remind me so many characters I’ve seen before, I also thought he was a jerk. It kind of freaks me out that we’re supposed to like him. In fact, I disliked all of the characters. Vee was likely the silliest, empty-headed girl I’ve ever encountered in books and Nora was almost as bad. She was a very superficial character who felt underdeveloped. Her main characteristic was that she was spineless. Nora and Vee do a lot of irrational things, such as calling in a bomb threat so that they can snoop through Patch’s permanent record. There were a lot of times where the author did things to advance the plot that didn’t make sense. Nora’s dad was recently murdered, so why is her mom so lax about her safety, especially after her best friend is attacked? Why on earth would a tower of terror be called the archangel? Why are they talking about these things in biology class? I also felt that the pacing was all wrong: there was way too much build up. It felt like there was too much plot: there were too many villains and things got confusing. A day after finishing Hush Hush, I had already forgotten why certain things happened, mainly because there was just too much going on and too many different villains and motifs.

So far, this has been a very negative review. I don't enjoy writing reviews about books I don’t like, but no one can like every book. This book reminded me a lot of Twilight, which I suppose is both good and bad. If you love Twilight and are looking for a similar series, then you might like Hush Hush. However, this also means that the plot felt overdone and unoriginal. Since a friend recommended this book to me, I really wanted to like it. But Hush Hush just wasn’t for me. If you like paranormal novels and bad boys, then you might enjoy this book.


“Keep in mind that people change, but the past doesn't.”

Simple Pleasures + Mixed Berry Muffins

One day last summer, I called my dad just to say my potted mint plant was thriving on the front step. With a chuckle, he responded: "Simple pleasures, Claire. Simple pleasures."
Though my pleasures for the week might have been simple, they are still pleasures to me.
Let me explain.

Baby girl is rolling around inside my belly more than ever, but I'm still smiling when I reach the top of the long staircase up to campus. Though my breath may be spewing out in gusts of frozen air, I am still smiling.

I've been trying to say "Excuse me" instead of "Oh sorry" to people I almost run into (or who almost run into me), and I'm feeling more sophisticated with my manners as I steadily succeed in this transition.

With the exception of this morning, I have successfully handwashed (due to our lack of dishwasher) our dishes after every meal, every day since Sunday. If this doesn't seem like a big deal to you, please understand that dirty dishes are my most dreaded nemesis. Ever. Worse than cleaning the toilet--which I don't actually mind--or hanging up my coat right as I walk in the door--which I'm still trying to do better at. And seeing how much I love to cook, those dirty dishes tend to pile up very quickly. So anyway, yeah. I've been showing them who's in charge around here: the lady in the apron! Will share my tips on joyful dish-doing soon.

I have recently re-embraced the confidence boost that comes from a freshly painted set of fingernails. I went sans-polish for over a year (fingers and toes), assuring myself that a true Seattle girl prefers bare nails. Little did I know, there are lovely shades of gray and brown nail polish that both complement my personality and add a little pop of flair to my everyday. As I type this now, my fingers are painted a lovely shade of champagne. And they are loving it.

My recent goal to shop for produce according to the sale ads brought me true pleasure today. For $13, I purchased a bunch of asparagus, a bag of cuties clementines, three grapefruits, three navel oranges, and a family-size pack of chicken breasts. Three of those five things are usually at least $5 each. Yeah. Boom. (Sale going on through next Tuesday at Sunflower Market.)

We made our first big sale on Craig's List today: an upright piano (better to sell it, we said last August, than risk being squashed carrying it up the stairs to our new apartment). What did we do to celebrate? Bought my husband a Mac Book Air. Which happened to be on sale. And made him happier than I've seen him in a long time.

And for my last simple pleasure, I bring you these muffins. They remind me of the big ones I used to get on the way home from snowboarding with my dad: lots of berries and lots of streusel on top. The only thing that makes these muffins different? These ones are so healthy. And tastier because they are so healthy. Give them a whirl this weekend. Saturday morning, perhaps?

What were your simple pleasures from the week?

Mixed Berry Muffins
Inspired by joy the baker

1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup demerara or brown sugar
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg, beaten

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup mixed berries, frozen or fresh (We love the frozen berry medley bag from Costco!)
Cinnamon sugar or your favorite streusel topping

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a muffin tin with paper cups or grease with olive oil cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine wet ingredients. Add dry ingredients and stir until just combined.

Fold in berries.

Fill muffin cups 2/3 full and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar or your favorite streusel topping.

Bake for 16 - 18 minutes.

Note: My muffin tin is extra large, so the muffins took about 20 minutes to cook through.

In Memoriam: Bonnie Doon Drive In

Yesterday, en route to Mishawaka, passing by the comfortably familiar sights of Club Landing and the Wooden Indian on Lincolnway, I noticed, to my deep disappointment, that a well-known landmark was not readily apparent: the italicized letters spelling out Bonnie Doon, usually glowing a soft neon blue and pink, were dark.  In a vague recollection, I remembered an article a couple weeks ago about it closing soon... but I foolishly thought we had at least until April, or least one spring day left to enjoy a chocolate malt/IUSB sundae/mini-scoop sampler.    But the windows are papered; the parking lot, empty.
And so I call, just like I have done countless times before.  I have often called to find out when they close for the evening in the hope I can make it in time to that perfect place to end a day's adventures.  It's happened before that my luck ran thin, and I headed to the Dairy Queen instead.  But it wasn't the same.  It wasn't just the ice cream -- it was the red vinyl and jukebox, or the indestructible poured concrete tables and Harleys outside.  It's that intangible feeling one gets visiting somewhere unique, where the experience can't be found anywhere else. 

I guess it didn't use to be this way.  I have passed former Bonnie Doon drive in's, still standing like skeletal remains in the desert surrounding downtown South Bend and Mishawaka... yet I naively assumed that the location I grew so fond of over the past two years was safe, a timeless local institution, somewhere that had such essence of the community that it would remain forever.  I should have paid closer attention to the seemingly unavoidable consequences of bypassing old Lincoln [high]Way with US-31 and the Toll Road. 

Honestly and undeservedly, this post is more of an apology than elegy.  It wasn't the price, or the customer satisfaction.  There simply wasn't enough traffic, one might say.

Review: Betsy-Tacy

Title: Betsy-Tacy (Betsy-Tacy #1)
Author: Maud Hart Lovelace
Publisher: HarperTrophy
Publication Date: First Published in 1940
Genre: Junior Fiction, Realistic Fiction

To people in Deep Valley, it felt like Betsy and Tacy had always been friends, since it was difficult to imagine one without the other. The girls first became friends when they were five years old and Tacy moved to the house across the street from Betsy. Tacy is very bashful while Betsy is a born storyteller. Together, they can turn an ordinary piano box into their extraordinary hideout or a sand into their own special shop. Betsy tells Tacy stories about giant feathers or about the magic horse that pulls the milk wagon. As long as they have each other, any day can be magical for Betsy and Tacy.

This is wonderful little book about two little girls and their day-to-day adventures at the turn of the century. While they are rather ordinary girls, they turn simple activities into something magical. Reading these books was slightly bittersweet, since I knew that I’d been missing out on these books throughout my childhood. I don’t understand how I hadn’t heard of this series until very recently. I re-watched You’ve Got Mail in mid October, and caught a reference to the series. A year or so ago I read Ballet Shoes, based on the reference in the same movie. It was amazing, so I figured I’d have to read Betsy-Tacy as well. A week or so ago I read Home for the Holidays by Heather Vogel Frederick, which is a part of the Mother-Daughter Book Club series. In the book, the girls read the ten books in the Betsy-Tacy series, which they all loved. Fans of the books actually wrote to Frederick trying to convince her to read Betsy-Tacy (which she did, and she obviously loved them.) After reading that, I went out to the library and took out Betsy-Tacy. This book struck me as the Anne of Green Gables for the younger set. It had similar themes and focused a lot on a strong friendship, plus the main character had a vibrant imagination. These books are semi-autobiographical and were originally stories Maud Hart Lovelace would tell to her daughter. As her daughter grew up, so did Betsy and Tacy. The main characters are sweet girls and it was very easy to forget that this book takes place in the 1900's. I was their age in 1995, but I still saw similarities in our childhoods, although theirs took place in a very different time. I’m really looking forward to seeing the girls grow up throughout the series, which ends with Betsy’s wedding.

When first hearing about these books, it would be easy to dismiss them as being boring. The plot outline doesn’t exactly sound riveting. I think that that’s the beauty of this book: it takes simple and ordinary things that children do and turns it into a sweet book about the wonders of imagination and childhood. Although the writing is very simple, it’s also charming and delightful. My favourite part was when Betsy was telling Tacy about heaven. I thought that chapter was sad and beautifully written, yet it still managed to have all the sweetness of an ideal childhood. I’m really looking forward to continuing with this series. I don’t think this lovely book is half as popular as it deserves to be. Betsy-Tacy is practically perfect and a must-read for children (or children at heart.)


“Goodness!” Said Betsy. “The world is big.”

simple beauties today

from here

Pregnancy has made me think about a lot of things.
Yes, the obvious things like "Will my baby girl be irresistibly chubby?" or "Will this little babe have a loud laugh like her Daddy?"
But also the less expected things.
What can't I live without? What sorts of experiences, mindsets, moments do I want to give my baby girl? What really matters to me? Is it having lots of money? Surely not. Turns out you can live a very happy life, even if you're using WIC vouchers once a month.
Which mothers do I admire? What are the qualities I'd like to learn for myself?
What in the world am I going to do at home all day long?
No assigned readings. No argumentative essays. No pronounced schedule, really.

And these questions (along with this post) got me thinking: What do I like? What do I really like?

Let me tell you.

Moleskine notebooks, unlined pages, bound with brown paper.
Pilot ink pens: Precise V5 Rolling Ball in extra fine.
Stunning photographs.
Handwritten letters, received in the real mail, stamp and envelope and all.
My handwriting. The handwriting of others and what it says about them.
Laughing with Chad, creating with Chad, Saturday errands with Chad, eating out with Chad.
My first name. My middle name. My maiden name. My married name.
New friends.
Oil paintings.
Bright-colored flowers.
Valentine's Day.
Sometimes I even like painted fingernails.
REI. Tang. Chaco sandals. Any gear.
Mountains. Lakes. Rivers. Forests. Fresh air.
Snowboarding through fresh powder. Waterskiing until my legs give out.
Reusable grocery bags. Recycling. Burlap.
Wearing an apron.
Candles with lovely scents.
Oatmeal with berries and brown sugar. Malt-o-Meal with applesauce and cinnamon.
Evergreen trees, especially when it's twilight and all you see are tree-shadows against a deep blue sky.
Yoga. Moving my body. Having moved my body.
I know I love the idea of backpacking and camping. But I never sleep well on hard ground.
Early mornings, though if I have the choice, I sleep in.
Long talks with my mom. Text messages from my sister. Letters from my dad.
Asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts. Roasted with lemon.
Grapefruit, halved and with the sections loosened by a sharp knife.
Painted dishes.
Spring colors. Spring blossoms. Spring green grass. Spring sunshine.
Things I'm scared of...after I've conquered them for the day.
Faith. Hope. Charity. These are all you need, really.
A tidy house. A made bed. A sink clear of dishes.
Storms of thunder or rain or hail or snow. Storms of all of the above.
Non-fiction. Books about real life. Sometimes fiction.
Fresh scents like citrus and yuzu mint.
Daydreaming about my baby.
The ideas of minimalism, wabi-sabi, and Zen.
Baby bubble bath.
Peanut butter toast with sliced bananas and a mug of hot chocolate.
My own desk.
Personalized stationery. Happy stamps.
Scripture study. Having read my scriptures.
Relief Society. Singing hymns.
Homemade granola. Dried fruit. Greek yogurt. Cucumbers.

Basically, I like lots of things. Who doesn't?
Here's to letting our favorite things play bigger roles in our lives.
Here's to making time for what makes us happy.
Here's to living joyful lives.

What do you really like?

Review: The Book of Lies

Title: The Book of Lies
Author: Mary Horlock
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: March 3rd, 2011
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction

Cat has just murdered her former best friend Nicolette and she can’t believe that no one has caught on yet. As Cat hurriedly writes a confession detailing the events leading up to her fight with Nic, she looks at all the lies and secrets kept in her hometown. Guernsey is a small island that was changed forever during the German occupation, and Cat’s father became a local expert concerning Guernsey’s history. Cat believes that her family history has determined what kind of person she has become. Her own story is intertwined with her Uncle Charlie, who was thirteen when the Germans first came to Guernsey. Charlie was eventually sent to prison and then a concentration camp when he was only fifteen. As Cat reflects on her relationship with Nic, it feels like everyone in Guernsey is also telling lies.

This is the only time that I’ve been able to write a review where I reveal not only that there was a murder, but I can say who died and who killed them. The fact that Cat killed her friend Nic is revealed in the opening paragraph. The book takes place in 1984, while transcripts from Cat’s father flashback to the 1940’s. Cat’s uncle, Charlie, left her father with audiotapes detailing his involvement in the German occupation. Footnotes are featured throughout the entire novel, written by either Cat or her father. I found the footnotes to be useful but some of the transitions into the past felt awkward. At first I preferred Cat’s narrative to Charlie’s, since Cat’s read more smoothly. In the end, I actually preferred Charlie’s story. While it didn’t flow as well (and perhaps that was the point,) Charlie’s story ended up being gripping and well thought out. I was shocked by the ending of that storyline, and I thought that it was a perfect ending considering the themes of the novel. One could argue that none of the characters were likable, but this is the type of book where that is actually the point. However, I actually found myself liking the characters despite some of their actions. I loved Cat’s sense of humour and her honesty, although I hated some of the things she did. This book was primarily character driven, but the plot was interesting and creative. It was a bit slow moving at times, but it was worth it in the end. The historical aspecta of the book were well thought out, although some of the facts were included awkwardly. The Book of Lies takes an intriguing concept while focusing on an aspect of history that it often overlooked or misinterpreted. As a history student, I think that this book expresses a lot of interesting ideas about the relationship between the past and the present. The Book of Lies is the type of book that you can’t really compare to anything else. Original and engrossing, it’s not a book I will soon forget.


In My Mailbox (25)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren, in which book bloggers post about the books they've bought, borrowed or received in the past week.

This week I got two new books for 50 cents total! Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok I picked out from The Little Free Library in the Beaches. For .50 I bought How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff from my library's bookshop, where I volunteer. I've already read How I Live Now, but I'd like to give it a reread. 

From the library, my hold on A Year Without Autumn by Liz Kessler came in. In the book, a girl skips a year of her life and finds she is no longer friends with her best friend, Autumn. I've been looking for a book to review on Valentine's Day, and I'm still hoping my hold on The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith will come in, but it's still on order. Just in case, I picked up Love Story by Jennifer Echols and Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles. I'd been recommended these two books at some point, but after examining them closely I'm having my doubts about them both. They don't really look like my thing.

I also picked up a lot of travel books at the library. I have a job at a summer camp, so I'm (hopefully) going to Bath, London and Paris for two weeks in September. Unless something goes wrong, so here's hoping. I've already booked my hostels, since I was looking at places while I tried to make up my mind, and rooms I wanted were booked up a few days later. So I'm spending all weekend reading travel books with my Mom. I've never been on a plane before and I've never traveled alone, so this should be interesting. Feeling very spoilt since I went to New York a month ago and the family and I are going to South Carolina in March. 

That's it for me, what was in your mailbox this week? 

Review: The Truth About Us

Title: The Truth About Us
Author: Dalene Flannigan
Publisher: Kindle Edition
Publication Date: November 5th, 2011
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary

Erica’s life seems to be falling apart when she catches her husband having an affair. But just as things are becoming difficult for her, she gets a call from her old friend Jude who drags the past back into Erica’s life. And all of a sudden Erica’s problems are much more dire than her marriage falling apart. Jude, a former party girl, has recently become a devout Christian and is trying to repent for all her sins. Unfortunately, she wishes to confess to her involvement in something that Erica has tried to forget. Sixteen years ago, Jude, Erica and Grace were college roommates. Now, Grace makes documentary films, and Jude’s wish to confess would certainly have a major effect on Grace’s life. When the truth about the past could have life altering consequences for all three women, is it worth it to risk telling the truth? And what if the people don’t want to know the what really happened? When one person’s actions years ago has had a rippling effect for these three women, they will have to finally confront the past.

I’m going to do my best to make this review spoiler free, even if that means excluding a major part of the plot. Before I started reading The Truth About Us, I imagined that it was going to belong to the Romance or Chick Lit genre. Instead, this intense and dramatic book dealt with a lot of serious issues and became impossible to put down as the story progressed. This was a quick read that was thought provoking. I took Women’s Studies in University and this would have been a perfect book to read since there is so much to discuss. The narration switches between each woman every chapter, with Grace’s chapters told in first person and Jude and Erica’s in third person. At first I was sceptical of the switch between first and third person, but in the end it worked quite well. While Jude felt like a bit of a caricature, Erica and Grace were great characters. While they felt real, it also felt like I didn’t know them as well as I could have, but that may have been because of the book’s length. The plot was well paced, although in retrospect the ending might have been a bit anti-climactic, although it didn’t feel like that while reading. I know some people don’t like to read independently published books, but this book is worth making an exception for. Well written and gripping, The Truth About Us was an enjoyable read that I’d definitely recommend.


“She could see the subtle but pervasive ivy stems that had grown from that little seed.”