489 and counting

This post makes number 489.  I’m trying to think of something cool for my 500th post, but I’m not sure what to do. I feel a giveaway is in order – perhaps something with my very fancy new MOXYWARES tag!

drawstring bag-4

That was a fun little drawstring bag I made for my niece’s 11th birthday…the blue linen was in the remnant bin at Joann’s! I got about 1.5 yards for like $6. Awesome. But I digress…maybe a box bag for a giveaway? A boxbag with some fun fat quarters inside?

Give me your thoughts.

In TV news, I’ve been watching all kinds of stuff – good and not so. On the good list: True Blood. Love it. I’m all caught up and can’t wait for the next episode. Also good: Eureka is back on – always good. And a new great show on SyFy – Warehouse 13. Crazy gadgets, funny dialogue, crime-stopping girl/boy duo.

In the not-so-good (but I’m habitually watching anyway) category, we’ve got pretty much all of the ABC Family shows. I actually think Secret Life of the American Teenager is pretty good, but I’d like to fire one or two actors and replace them with better ones. I love the little sister, though.

I think I saw the best “worst scene” ever on Make It or Break It. I think it was on the 2nd episode. If you, like most people over the age of 15, are not watching this show, it’s loosely based on the film Stick It, which I loved. Elite gymnasts working towards the Olympics, catty teen girl relationships, blah blah blah. So anyway, there was a scene where the gymnasts were at a gas station and these punk guys were coming towards them (with brown bag bottles in their hands) making rude comments. The lead girl says “follow me” and they start cartwheeling and roundoffing towards the bad guys. The guys stumble backwards, saying some crazy stuff like, “whoa, that was some superhero stuff or somethin’!” So silly. I feel everyone must watch this scene.

I watched the first episode of 10 Things I Hate About You – another show based on a movie – and thought it was pretty good. The lead girl is great.

I’ve been reading some good books also. I just finished Sarah Dessen’s latest, Along For the Ride. Cute YA book. I also finished a Nora Roberts series about witches…Charmed, Entranced, Captivated…I can’t remember the last one. Pretty good. I’m not a full fledged Nora follower yet, but her books are quick, enjoyable reads.

We also just came back from a big road trip to Montana, but it’s too late to tell that story tonight :)

Books #46 through #58

Well, clearly, I’m WAY behind on my book reviews. So this will be the short and sweet version.

Books #46 – #51: Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove Series

I have really enjoyed these books. So far, there are six books out. The seventh book comes out next month. Debbie’s characters are very sincere, easily relateable, and fun to read about. Each book in the series is named after a the address of a home in Cedar Cove, where the occupants of that home are the central figures of that particular book. Sort of. Actually, all six books could easily be one long book, because while things get resolved in each book, there are ongoing stories that last for several books. New storylines crop up, and get resolved a few books later. I think it’s excellent. I only wish that I had waited until all the books came out to start it, because I hate waiting for the next installment. These are not deep books – this is definitely light, pleasant reading. I highly recommend these books if you’re a fan of romance that’s not trashy with good characters.[rating:5]

Books #52 – #54, Debbie Macomber’s Blossom Street series

I blew through these books in a weekend. I liked the characters even better than the Cedar Cove series. The main character (and again, she’s got tons of characters that step into the spotlight all through the books) opens a yarn store in the first book, and each character is introduced through her (and sometimes his) relationship with the yarn store or a knitting class. I loved the theme of knitting running throughout, because I too am a big believer in keeping your hands useful to calm your mind. There are great characters forming believable (and enviable) friendships – it made me want to go and sign up for a class somewhere. Again – light, pleasant reading. Crafters will especially like this series. [rating:5]

Book #55 – The Nanny Diaries by Emma Mclaughlin and Nicola Kraus

Loved it. I wanted to read it before the movie came out – but now that I’ve read it, I just watched a trailer, and I can see that it’s totally different. I’m kind of glad because the ending made me cry and I was hoping for some different outcomes. I don’t want to spoil it, so that’s all I’ll say. But if you’re a fan of witty banter, quick dialog, and smart chick lit writing, you’ll love this. I instantly thought of Jennifer Weiner and Kristen Gore when I was reading it. I’m also happy to say I have Citizen Girl on my bookshelf that someone left here, so I can read their next book :)[rating:5]

Book #56: The Wedding Planner’s Daughter by Coleen Murtagh Paratore and Barbara McGregor

Loved it. Fans of YA – this one is for us! Willafred Havisham is a 12-13 year old daughter of a super uptight, rule crazy, broken hearted mom who happens to be a world famous wedding planner. This book chronicles Willa’s adventures on Cape and her struggles with her mom, other kids, boys, etc. Super cute, and I’m excited to find that there are two more Willa books out there, so the adventure continues![rating:5]

Book #57: Lean Mean Thirteen by Janet Evanovich

As always, the Stephanie Plum books are great. However, this was the first one where I DIDN’T laugh out loud, so I was a little disappointed. It seemed to be kind of a place holder – like half of the story could have been in #12, and half could have been saved until #14 because nothing really happened. I mean, Stephanie got involved in some harrowing mystery – but the love triangle of Joe and Ranger didn’t budge, no good Grandma adventures (besides the exploding beaver). I thought it was just okay. Still, I read it in an afternoon. Looking forward to the next one. [rating:3]

Book #58: Prom by Laurie Halse Anderson

This one was a book on tape, and I liked it, but didn’t love it. I really liked the main character’s family, but the story seemed to drag on. I think I would have liked it better if I read it. There’s something annoying about accents going in and out – less believable. It would have been better if I had given the characters voices in my mind because the audiobook was a little inconsistent. Anyway, cute YA story about a high school senior that ends up helping her best friend save the prom. She’s an unlikely hero, which I like. Again, I think the regular book would have been much better. [rating:3]

Whew. That’s it. What are you reading?

Books #39 – #45, The Epic of Harry Potter (spoiler!)

Well, I’ve finished all seven books (reread 1-5, first time reading of 6 and 7). I was especially sad when I finished #6 because I knew I only had one more to go, and I couldn’t imagine leaving that world. I feel like I’ve lost quite a few friends who I will miss dearly. These really are phenomenal books…

Here are my views of book seven, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. First, I’ll say that I was satisfied with the ending. I would have liked to hear what happened to everyone (Hagrid, George and Luna were absent from the last few pages), and I thought the whole “Harry has to die for Voldemort to die but not if Harry kills him, etc.” went on and on and got a little confusing. Did Harry survive because he had the Hallows? I’m still not sure I get it. Otherwise, I loved every bit of it.

I cried like a baby when Dudley showed a little kindness to Harry, and when Dumbledore died. I was relieved that the spiders didn’t eat Hagrid. I was also relieved that Snape wasn’t actually a bastard and Dumbledore was right to trust him all along.

Now I’m just looking forward to all the movies being out on DVD so I can watch them one after the other. Even though they’re not as good. I think I’ll reread the books every few years, too. I was amazed that it was like I was reading them all for the first time again. I knew certain major plot points, but I had forgotten how well written the dialog and the harrowing situations were written.

And how cool would it be to have an invisibility cloak or a wand? Thank you, Ms. Rowling! I’m sorry that the adventure is over.

I Heart Harry

At any given time, I have 10 or so library books languishing on my bedside table. This week, it’s a mix of polymer clay how-to books, a couple of Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove series, and the new Paulo Cohelo. So far, I only have eyes for Harry Potter. For the last two Harry Potter releases, I’ve preordered them from Amazon, and received my spanking new copy with the rest of America – but without the lines and wizard hats. I started Year 6 the day I received it, but couldn’t remember half of the characters from Year 5. I decided then that I would wait for Deathly Hallows to come out, and then I’d start from the beginning. So this week, Deathly Hallows arrived. I immediately picked up my copy of The Sorceror’s Stone, and haven’t been able to put it down.

It’s officially the second book I’ve ever read twice. The only other one is Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett – which is my all time favorite book of the universe.

As I was getting my hair cut today, reading about Hagrid and the baby dragon, there was a 14-or-so year old boy reading Deathly Hallows. When I was on the quilt run, I saw several husbands waiting out their wives with crisp new copies of the finale.

Whatever people think about J.K. Rowling and Harry, they can’t deny that it’s created a resurgence of reading in children (and 30-year old stay at home moms!) unseen since the advent of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boy, or even Oprah’s book club. If you’ve never given it a chance, nows the time to pick up the first year – Harry’s trials and adventures appeal to all ages, all cultures. The stories are a marvel of imagination.

And even though wizardry and magic is a central theme – the books are really about good vs. evil, not unlike The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (or Narnia). So don’t shy away because of it’s perceived evil – that’s shortsighted, and you’ll be missing out on wonderful stories.

~End Lecture~

Book #32 Just Listen

Just ListenJust Listen by Sarah Dessen. Thanks for all of you that recommended this one! Loved it. Great coming of age story – I especially loved the sisters and Owen. But my favorite part was all the references to other Dessen books. It made me want to go back and reread them. But I won’t. Too many other books to read.

About this book though – it deals with a lot of teen issues: eating disorders, sexual assault, regular angst, anger management, etc. I loved Owen’s little anger management-isms…they’ve proven quite helpful in my much-older-than-teen life.

Another great YA read. Highly recommended.

[rating:5]

Books #29 – 31: More Roman Mysteries

I’m waaay behind on my book reviews. So not only am I lumping three books into this review, but I’m also rolling out my new star rating system thanks to Allison’s Library Love and the developer, eyn.

[rating:5]
Roman Mysteries #8: The Gladiators from Capua by Caroline Lawrence

Lawrence really brings the Colosseum to life – I caution parents of younger readers on this one – it is not for the faint of heart. Although, I know if your younger readers have gotten this far in the series, they’re not turning back. This book opens with Jonathan being trained as a gladiator – he’s changed his name and is trying to forget his old identity. Believing his mother dead and Rome burned at his hand, guilt keeps him from returning to his friends and family. But in true Roman Mysteries fashion, of course those friends would never give up on him. And so the rescue and adventure begins! Enjoy :)

[rating:4.5]
Roman Mysteries #9: The Colossus of Rhodes by Caroline Lawrence

The friends set sail on Lupus’ new ship, formerly the Vespa – the slave ship Nubia travelled on. Lot’s of emotional moments for Nubia as well as for Lupus – who is hoping to find his mother. I was a little annoyed throughout the book with Flavia (hence the missing half star) because her usual singular focus kept placing more importance on their mystery (finding a kidnapper) rather than finding Lupus’ mom. It wasn’t just Flavia either. I could never tell if they really thought finding the criminal was more important or if they didn’t want to lose Lupus for good once he reunited with his mom. As for the rest of the story, I loved the descriptions of the seven wonders, and this book more than any other made me really want to visit Greece. You’ll have to read it to see if they find the kidnapper or Lupus’ mom.

[rating:5]
Roman Mysteries #10: The Fugitive from Corinth by Caroline Lawrence

While still at sea as part of Captain Gemina’s trade route, the friends pick up Aristo, who has just spent time with his family in Greece. Aristo informs everyone that he’d like to stay with his family and he’d like out of his contract. Later when Captain Gemina is found stabbed and bleeding, and Aristo is found standing over him holding the knife, he is arrested. Aristo escapes capture and flees and the four friends chase after him to bring him to justice. The story of Lupus’ mom also continues, and it’s a good one. I really loved Nubia in this book. She continues to be my favorite character – she has all the qualities I wish I had, although I fear I’m much more similar to Flavia. As always, Jonathan continues to be a source of comic relief and reason in this book. This is one of the best Roman Mysteries – do you think Aristo did it?

I’m waiting on book #11 from the library – it’s taking forever. I hope I’ve convinced you to start reading these books already. The BBC has created a Roman Mysteries show…wish I could watch it here in the States. I’m looking forward to the DVDs. There’s a trailer on YouTube.

Book #28

The Enemies of JupiterRoman Mysteries #7, The Enemies of Jupiter by Caroline Lawrence. Man, oh man. This was a page-turner. That crazy Jonathan and his hubris.

As always, I love the calm of Mordecai and Nubia. Flavia shows uncharacteristic restraint in this book, but mainly because she isn’t the focus.

I’m intrigued by the Emperor Titus. I know these books are factually based…I wonder if he really tried, as Ms. Lawrence portrays, to be a better man. An excellent chapter in the Roman Mysteries series. I can’t wait to see what happens in book #8.

(I think this was the first real cliff-hanger…the lack of resolution in this one made it all the better for me.)

Book #27 – The Twelve Tasks of Flavia Gemina

12 tasks of Flavia GeminaRoman Mysteries #6, The Twelve Tasks of Flavia Gemina by Caroline Lawrence. Flavia is truly a girl after my own bossy heart. When her father takes up with a woman, Flavia is sure that the interloper is evil. Following the model of Hercules, Flavia wrangles her friends into helping her complete twelve tasks to get to the bottom things. I loved Nubia in this one, and I was happy to finally learn what a camelopard was.

As always, highly recommended! Now I’m just waiting for #7 from the library. Blurgh.

Book #26 The Dolphins of Laurentum

Dolphins of LaurentumRoman Mysteries # 5, The Dolphins of Laurentum by Caroline Lawrence. Flavia’s father is shipwrecked, and returns home very ill. All of his wealth is tied to his ship’s cargo, so his creditors attempt to take his house. The kids and Aristo head to the home of Pliny the Elder, now left to Pliny’s nephew while the banking matters in Ostia are fixed. Of course, adventure ensues, and we get to know more of Lupus’ story. I just love Lupus. I also loved the Christian themes in this one. There are always Christian themes in these books, but this one was particularly moving.

Book #25 The Assassins of Rome

Assassins of Rome
Roman Mysteries #4, The Assassins of Rome by Caroline Lawrence. I truly love this series. The characters become richer and more interesting with each installment. This story focuses on Jonathan, whose assassin-uncle shows up and is wanted by Roman authorities. Adventure and intrigue take the four kids plus the handsome Aristo all the way to Rome to the Imperial Palace. More of Jonathan and Miriam’s backgrounds are revealed.