Monday, January 31, 2011

Lunch In Paris by Elizabeth Bard

I'm so glad I put this book in my library queue after reading about it on The Captive Reader (Thanks Claire!). Lunch In Paris is the story of Elizabeth Baird who meets a Frenchman, falls in love and moves to France. This is what ever I moved to a foreign county memoir should be. It's full of honesty. More than once Baird doesn't understand how she can live in a country that goes against so much what she grew up with. I loved her adventures. How she spent her days, getting to meet her boyfriend's parents, how she dealt with returning shoes. It was all very fish out of water.
At the end of each chapter there are recipes, oh the recipes. I couldn't read this book when I was hungry because I wanted to make every single thing in there. I would read the recipes aloud to Tai and he asked if I was reading a cookbook. A memoir with a menu. Loved that.
Baird writes in a conversational tone, almost like a diary. She also has a blog with the same name with more recipes. I found her adventures amusing. She reminded me a little of Julia Child, being in France, not sure what to do, determined to make it home. But overall I found the book to amusing, touching and just plain lovely. Highly recommended for those who love a good travel memoir, love food or all things French. Others who shared their thoughts on Lunch In Paris: The Captive Reader and The Opinions of A Wolf.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Losers by Andy Diggle

I decided to read The Losers after seeing the movie. The movie was a little lacking but I can see why. The books get dark quick. It would have been hard to translate. And the movie only really covers Book 1. I imagine they could make a sequel using the material from Book 2 but I think it would be even harder to translate into a good movie.
The Losers are a black ops military team sent, in the beginning, on a mission to kill a terrorist. Things go south quickly and The Losers find themselves persona non gratis. These books are the story of how The Losers try to set things straight and the man who wants to change the world to suit him. The Losers are pretty bad ass especially Aisha (who's not a Loser but teams up with them). I'd love to see a series of prequels about all the characters. Anyway, good story, great characters, awesome bad guy.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tantalize By Cynthia Leitich Smith

Vampires? Werewolves? Sign me up! Sadly I wasn't head over heals about Tantalize but I did enjoy it. Tantalize is the story of Quincie, a young woman, facing some challenges in life. Her parents died, leaving her and her uncle in charge of their restaurant. Quincie's best friend, crush, Kieren who's also a hybrid werewolf is leaving her to join a pack. So tons of angst, a new mysterious man, and murder. Ah kids these days.
I found myself shaking my head at poor Quincie. Girl doesn't make good choices. Not that she had a lot of options but seriously. Girl was drunk for the whole middle of the book. And no one stopped her or asked her what was wrong. Geesh. I'd hope for better friends than that. Or maybe teens are just drunk a lot more than I was back in my day. Maybe I'm just old.
Overall light, fun read. Definitely for those vamp/werewolf lovers out there. Other who shared their thoughts: Mundie MomsThere's A Book and Girls In The Stacks.
This is my first read for 2011 YA Reader Challenge and the first for 2011 Support Your Local Library Challenge.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I Heart The Dollar Store

I love cheap stores. Dollar Tree, Grocery Outlet, Big Lots, I love them all. But today I'm going to talk about what I buy at the Dollar Tree. Since there isn't a Dollar Tree close to me, I usually make a special trip to pick up these items:
Both Tai and I use these bath sponges. They tend go south after about a month. Even the fancy ones from Bath and Body Works don't last forever. I buy 10 at a time to make sure I don't need to make another Dollar Tree run or buy an expensive one from the grocery store.
I prefer to use fresh spices but I like to keep dried ones on hand. I don't taste any difference between the Dollar Tree spices and the stuff at the grocery store so I rather save my money for where I'll notice it.
Sometimes I'm really lucky and find the 1 lb box of kosher salt at the Dollar Tree. But again it's the same thing and often the same brand as your grocery store.
And while you are there check out their food selection. I've bought Top Ramen, juices, chips, candy, snacks at the Dollar Store. Just check out the sell by date which might be coming up and judge for yourself if you'll use it.
I also like to buy storage baskets. I buy them cheap especially ones that might go under the sink or in a closet. There I don't mind they are an odd color. But I've had great luck with their baskets and they have tons of sizes.
Dollar Tree is also fantastic for parties. I go there for plates, napkins, party decor, glasses. Plus you can order large quantities online so no schlepping home a dozen glasses!
What do you buy at the Dollar Store?

I realized that this seems like an ad for Dollar Tree. They didn't compensate me for this post. I honestly just love Dollar Tree.

Monday, January 24, 2011

What Is Beauty?

While reading The Beauty Myth, I started thinking what do I find beautiful? The women on tv, in magazine ads or people I know? Honestly I stopped reading magazines cause they made me feel bad. I don't have her body, her skin, her wardrobe. I feel a lot better about myself since I stopped reading those magazines and focus what I like. Perhaps I don't have the latest clothing or the newest hairstyle but I feel better.
So I want to show you what I think is beautiful. Starting with me:
In November I started a project where for the entire month, I took a photo of myself everyday. This is my favorite of the bunch.
 Two of my favorite people, Pat and Jen. And they look this beautiful all the time!
 Ashley and Marta, two beautiful women I'm lucky to call friends.
 Another beautiful friend, Erin.
 Adria and me on my beautiful wedding day. Adria's beautiful and a bad ass to boot.
And the beautiful Cindy with me at Kris' wedding.
Then there's all of you, my beautiful readers. Yes, I honestly believe you all beautiful too. How often do we give ourselves compliments? Probably not as often as we criticize ourselves and others. Stop looking for the flaws and look for the beauty in life. It's so much more rewarding.
Heather of Heather's Dish started The Faces of Beauty website "to celebrate the incredible and unique beauty in all of us.  It throws off the societal pressures to look a certain way and gives an opportunity to share what we love about ourselves." Check out the beauty there and spread the love, starting with yourself.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

It's All Too Much By Peter Walsh

Or How I Discovered I'm A Horder.
Yes friends you read that right. I'm a horder. There's a quiz at the beginning of the book and I scored a 13 out of 20. Peter was shocked I could find a pen to take the quiz :) I have dirty dishes in my sink. I don't know where my car insurance policy is. And I have clothes in my closet with tags on them.
It's All Too Much is not a how to manual on how to clean up your clutter. It doesn't outline what storage containers you should use or quick tips on keeping your home clutter free. No it deals with why you have all this crap in the first place.
While reading It's All Too Much I realized how much junk I was keeping. I had planned on my day off from work to clean out our second bedroom. When we moved we stashed all the stuff we didn't know what to do with in there til we figured it out. We've lived here over a year and no sign of moving those items out or dealing with them at all. Well Monday morning using my new found clutter busting strategies (do these items hold meaning to me and am I honoring their importance?) and my resolve to reduce the amount of stuff in that room by half, I succeeded. I filled my trunk and backseat with items for the Goodwill and took 4 paper bags full of recycling as well as several empty boxes. I found papers that we now longer needed. Trinkets and toys that could serve someone else better than me. The room isn't empty (not enough to put a futon in there) but it's progress. Now I look stuff and say do I need this or is it filling a void (sadness, anxiety, frustration)? And I'll continue to review items and par down to only those things that bring us happiness.
I highly recommend It's All Too Much to anyone who feels overwhelmed by their clutter and wants help solving their clutter situation for good. Others who shared their thoughts on It's All Too Much: The Recessionista, The Great Shrinking Euphie and Maw Books Blog.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson

Yay! I finished the Millennium trilogy! The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest picks up right where The Girl Who Played With Fire. I was excited to see how the story played out. I felt this one told more of Lisbeth Salander's story than the first two. We don't learn all of Lisbeth's secrets but we learn a lot more about who she is. Mikael had a smaller role (sort of) in this one. At least I felt like he got less page time. There were a lot of new characters some which I had trouble keeping straight. The story moves pretty fast and is very engrossing. I felt the story ended nicely although I could see a few loose ends for future books.
There are a few asides in this book that I don't remember in the previous book. These all deal with women warriors throughout time which led me to do some research and note some books for future reading. I loved these snippets and they framed the book for me in different way than the other 2 books.
Others who shared their views of The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest: Laura's Reviews, Bookyurt and Nishita's Rants.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Cherry Oat Crumble

A friend came over for dinner on Sunday. Chili was the main course but I wanted to make a little dessert. I had one can of cherry pie filling but needed 2 cans to make cherry pie. I didn't want to back out the store so I found a recipe for Cherry Oat Dessert Squares. I'm calling it a crumble cause that's what it did- crumble. It was yummy but Tai deemed it "healthy". I added a dollop of whipped cream which made it a little sweeter. But there was plenty leftover the next day for my breakfast. Very healthy!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Under The Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

This is probably the first time someone has ever said this: I liked the movie more. I choose to read Under The Tuscan Sun because I thought the movie was adorable. I was hoping for more that adorableness but it wasn't there. But after I got over the story being a little different than the movie, I enjoyed Mayes story of buying a rundown house in Tuscany and repairing it.
But the house really isn't the true subject here; it's Tuscany, the food and the land. About midway through the book Mayes' story really picks up steam as she starts talking about the food in the restaurants, the local markets, even the food she grows on her land. I loved it when I could see Tuscany through her eyes. I loved hearing about how she got oil from olives she grew. It was very entrancing and I wanted to move to Tuscany with her. It felt very real.
Two small (spoiler-ish) gripes I had with Under The Tuscan Sun. She mentions Ed frequently. At the beginning she states she had divorced before purchasing Bramasole. She never clarifies who Ed is. I assumed he was her boyfriend but it bugged me that she said. Also Bramasole was her summer home. She fixed up the home during her summers and breaks from work. It was frequently hard for me to root for someone who has enough money to have a home in San Fransisco and in Tuscany. If you can more power to you, you're living the dream but I felt some of her complaints about owning both houses were whiny (often bordering on the edge of Gilbert-ish). The whininess didn't overwhelm the book just grated on my nerves every once and again. I'm really sorry if that sounds harsh. Perhaps since I saw the movie my expectation was that Mayes moved to Italy and left the US.
Recommended to travel lovers, those who love Italy (bonus recipes!) and those into home renovations. Other who shared their thoughts on Under The Tuscan Sun: S. Krishna's Books, Reading In A Single Sitting and Literary Soujourn.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Entre Nous: A Woman's Guide To Finding Her Inner French Girl by Debra Olliver

I added Entre Nous to my to be read list sometime ago but I can't remember where I heard about it. I'm kind of on a French kick right now so I was glad to read about how to find my inner French girl. But I was disappointed by Entre Nous. The book is broken up into sections-Home Life, Food, Parties, Love Life. But I really felt that each section was way too long. I wish Ollivier would have told the story as a memoir rather than a how to manual.
I did enjoy some of the tips like eating in season, shopping every day for your meals, buying the best you can afford rather than a bunch of stuff on sale. Ollivier spends a lot of time talking about the French women she knows so she's drawing examples from a limited number of people. Although she does talk about some great French films and books.
In all it was cute and light. This is the second book I read for The Original TBR challenge. Others who have posted their thoughts on Entre Nous:  Dwell In Possibility, Rose City Reader and The Breakfast Club Blog.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Library Loot

 Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!
Since you all were applauding me for my restraint last week I bring you my unrestrained library loot:

 The next book in The Women of The Otherworld series, Haunted.
While we were watching The Road (so depressing), Tai mentioned Earth Abides. He read it sometime ago and thought that I had read it too. I did not so I added it to my queue.
My Name Is Mary Sutter is for the War Through Generations Challenge.
I read about Brave Girl Eating on Weightless. It sounded interesting so I thought I would give it a whirl.

The Losers books 1 and 2. I'm trying to read more graphic novels this year so these are a start.
What did you get this week?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Mongolian Beef

I've been on a Chinese food kick. After making the Cantonese chicken I found on on Lisa's blog, I looked around for more Chinese food I could attempt to make. I found this recipe for Mongolian Beef. I didn't have any green onions so I substituted regular onions. I tried to pick some the onions out thinking it would be too strong. But Tai picked out an onion and said the sauce really soaked into the onion and said it was delicious. It was delicious and easy to do once you prepped all the meat and veggies ahead of time.

Monday, January 10, 2011

My Life In France by Julia Childs

I grew up watching Julia Child on tv. I loved her enthusiasm for life and cooking which is evident in this book. My Life In France is about Julia and Paul Child’s time in France, living in Provence and in Paris. Paul’s governmental job took them to France (Germany and Norway as well) with Julia tagging along. One of my absolute favorite things about this book is that it shows you can never start anything to late in life. Julia was 32 when she moved to France and started to learn to cook. Julia felt a passion towards cooking and felt compelled to learn more. Julia never suggests that you move to France or join Cordon Blue cooking school. If you have a passion towards something, you should use what resources are around you to develop that passion.
I found Julia’s story to be encouraging. Often times in the kitchen I get upset that something I made doesn’t come out well. Julia says you should never apologize. As long as you try your best, it’s all part of the learning. I’ve been using Julia as inspiration in the kitchen and I’ve felt more at ease trying different recipes.
I love reading memoirs of folks who have lived in France and this has to be the best I’ve read so far. Julia describes the sights and smells of France in such an enchanting way I felt like I was standing along aside her.
Highly recommended to those who love food, memoirs or enjoy Julia Childs.
This is the first book off my TBR challenge.

Friday, January 7, 2011

New Year's Eve Dinner

Since Tai and I stayed home on New Year's Eve. I needed find a yummy dinner item. I'd seen these Spicy Lemon Garlic Shrimp on Pioneer Woman's blog and I knew they were just the thing.
Jeff had made some garlic butter and left an extra loaf of bread so I made some garlic bread to go with the shrimp. Yummy! Both Tai and I had seconds! These shrimp made a fantastic dinner but would also work for appetizers as well.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Secret Life Of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

As 2010 wound down, I had one day left and no book to read. I considered starting a longer book but a lot of the books I had were for a 2011 challenge and I couldn't start one early. I decided to see if I had anything laying around on the book shelf I could read in a day. And I found The Secret Life of Bees. I'm sad it took me so long to get around to reading it. I loved this book.
The Secret Life of Bees is about Lily Owens, a young woman living on a peach farm with her father, T. Ray. Lily doesn't lead an easy life. One day Lily finds a way to leave the peach farm and search for answers about her mother and herself. Combined Lily's search with the Civil Rights movement in the South and you've got a fantastic story.
I've read other books by Sue Monk Kidd so I knew I would just fall into Lily's story and not want to leave. Each character has a life about them. They seem to leap off the page. Lily, August, T. Ray, Rosleen, June and May become so alive that I think they do live in Tiburon, South Carolina and I could visit the bright pink house.
I also took away a lot from Lily's story. All of us are adrift at times. All of us don't know who we are and wind up searching for answers. Sometimes we think a new place will show us who we are but instead we find the answers within ourselves. We are the answers; we just need to listen.
The Secret Life of Bees is a beautiful story that I got lost in. I highly recommend it to anyone. Other who shared their thoughts: Reading On A Rainy Day, BiblioHistoria, and Book Loving Mommy.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Library Loot

 Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!
 Just one to start off the New Year. I have Eternal on my Fill In The Gaps list but since it's number 2 in the series I thought I'd start off with the first in the series, Tantalize.
How are you starting off the New Year? What did you get this week?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

End of 2010 Book Survey

End of 2010 Survey stolen from Perpetual Page Turner.

Best of 2010?
Can't choose just one! The Help, Almost Perfect, Ballad and Lament were my favorite reads of the year.

Worst of 2010?
I couldn't finish Blindness by Jose Saramago. I know other people enjoyed it. Perhaps it was the translation. Maybe I'll try it again later.

Most Disappointing Book of 2010?
Justine by The Marquis De Sade. I'd wanted to read the Marquis for a long time. For his time his writing was probably very risque but I found it slightly dull.

Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2010?
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Once I discovered that it was a thriller/mystery, I wasn't sure if I was going to like it. But I loved it.

Book you recommended to people most in 2010?
Both The Help, Almost Perfect and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I couldn't stop talking about these books for weeks after I read them.

Best series you discovered in 2010?
I seriously hope that Maggie Stiefvater continues The Books of Faerie series because that was the best series I read in 2010. I also read 3 more books in the Women of The Otherworld series and am loving it even more! I'm also looking forward to the next in the Newsflesh series after reading the first one.

Favorite new authors you discovered in 2010?
Maggie Stiefvater, Jane Yolen, Midori Snyder, Cherie Priest. I can't wait to read more by them.

Most hilarious read of 2010?
It's a toss up between When You Are Engulfed In Flames or I Was Told There'd Be Cake. I laughed out loud at both of them. 

Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2010?
Most thrilling? Yeah that goes to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire. Both of them equally engaging and not the kind of book I would usually pick up. I'm really glad i did though.

Book you most anticipated in 2010?
I was excited for The Second Short Life Of Bree Tanner. I loved Twilight and I was excited to have more of that world. I wasn't thrilled by the book but enjoyed a dip back in the Twilight pond. I was also really excited about Radiant Shadows and loved being back in The Wicked Lovely world. I can't wait for Darkest Mercy to come out!

Favorite cover of a book you read in 2010?
Probably my favorite cover is Luxe:
I love the dress.

Most memorable character in 2010?
Lisbeth Salander from the Millennium trilogy. I've never read anything like her. I find her fascinating. I couldn't stop thinking about Sage and Logan from Almost Perfect. After I finished Almost Perfect, I couldn't stop thinking about them and what would have happened to them. James and Nuala from Ballad also got stuck in my mind for days after I finished the book.

Most beautifully written book in 2010?
The Secret Life of Bees was a beautifully written story with fabulous characters. The Language of Trees had fantastically wonderful prose.

Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2010? 
There wasn't one book that had a great impact on me. I took away a lot from many books I read.

Book you can't believe you waited UNTIL 2010 to finally read?
The Secret Life Of Bees. It was the last book I read in 2010. Such a great book. I can't believe it took me til now to read it.

Monday, January 3, 2011

December Book Tally & Year End Wrap Up

Books read in December:
An Artificial Night-Seanan McGuire
The Bleeding Dusk-Colleen Gleason
The Fall-Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan
Wishin' And Hopin'-Wally Lamb
It's Always Something-Gilda Radner
Kind-Holly Black
Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
Industrial Magic-Kelley Armstrong
The Secret Life of Bees-Sue Monk Kidd (review coming next week)

Fantastic month. Nine this month. Bringing my yearly total to 78 books or 26,775 pages. I didn't meet my goal of a 100 books but I beat my last year total (52).
I read 20 off my Fill In The Gaps Challenge this year. I've read 30 so far off that list.
I love this wordle of the books I read in 2010.
Tomorrow I'll post about my favorites and not so favorites of 2010. But today I'll post about stats. This year, I kept better track about the books I read.
I had this fantasy of making up charts showing the different stats I kept track of (pages, gender of author, genre, year published) but the charts I made were a mess. The only one worth showing was the gender of authors:
The majority of books I read in 2010 were written by women. At the beginning of the year I wasn't sure how this would skew. It'll be interesting to see if it's similar next year.
The majority (92% or 72) of the books I read were written in the last decade (2000-2010). A lot of the books on my Fill In The Gaps challenge are older but I tend to read a lot of newer books (whatever catches my eye).
Sixteen of the books I read were nonfiction (memoirs, food, self help or general nonfiction). I've been noticing that nonfiction tends to be catching my eye a lot more than it used to. In 2010, I read more general fiction (10) and paranormal romance (11) than any other genre.  Seven of the books I read were graphic novels. I hope to double that number next year.
It was a great year. I'm looking forward to another fantastic year.