Sunday, February 23, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, that is guaranteed to add to your reading list. 

Read Last Week:

I managed to read a book! School and let's be honest, watching the Olympics, took up most of my free time. But I did manage to knock out at least our book club book for the month. I think I am also getting the February wintertime blues, and am preoccupied with some things. But this week will be different! I am on spring break from classes! I still work, but at least there won't be homework!


The Perfect Match by Kristan Higgins: Fun little read!

Reading This Week:


The Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks: I started this last week, and I am still working on it. I like it so far.

The Undead Pool by Kim Harrison: I am super excited about this one! I am going to see Kim Harrison on Tuesday night! Yay!

Reviews Posted:

Survival Lessons by Alice Hoffman

Friday, February 21, 2014

Book Review: Survival Lessons by Alice Hoffman

Title: Survival Lessons
Author: Alice Hoffman
Source: LibraryThing

Goodreads Summary:

Fifteen years ago, Alice Hoffman received a diagnosis that changed everything about the life she'd been living. Most significant, aside from the grueling physical ordeal she underwent, was the way it changed how she felt inside and what she thought she ought to be doing with her days. Now she has written the book that she needed to read then. In this honest, wise, and upbeat guide, Alice Hoffman provides a road map for the making of one's life into the very best it can be. As she says, "In many ways I wrote this book to remind myself of the beauty of life, something that's all too easy to overlook during the crisis of illness or loss. There were many times when I forgot about roses and starry nights. I forgot that our lives are made up of equal parts sorrow and joy, and that it's impossible to have one without the other. . . . I wrote to remind myself that in the darkest hour the roses still bloom, the stars still come out at night. And to remind myself that, despite everything that was happening to me, there were still some choices I could make.

My Thoughts:

 I think this book is amazing, and a book that everyone should read, at whatever age and whatever their situation.  It is a book about hope, about living your life to the fullest, taking time for what is important. Taking time for yourself, and to do the things you will always dreamed of doing. I felt so inspired after reading this book, to go out there and do all those things I have been putting off.

A few quotes from the book that I really liked:

"Make time for old friends.  Get a group of your favorite people together and rent a room at a hotel. Order room service, watch movies, dance until the management starts to get complaints from other guests. Go to a spa together or make pizza from scratch."

"Watch every old movie you've always wanted to see. Fall in love with Clark Gable. Watch comedies that involve bridesmaids, pretty women, men at bachelor parties, teenagers and hot tubs, and anything with Bill Murray."

"Don't forget books. What would life be without them? Emily Bronte, Edgar Allen Poe, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Toni Morrison, Jane Austen, William Faulkner. Read the greats - they're great for a reason."

"In my family, a book was a life raft"

I hope that you will read this book, and share it with people you love.  I know that I did.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, that is guaranteed to add to your reading list. 

Whew, I have been AWOL all week long! It was a rough week at school, I have been working on four writing projects diligently for my classes.  

I also did a big promotion at work this week. Instead of the blind date with a book, I wrapped the books up and promoted not judging a book by its cover. The kids loved it!!!! I ended up having to wrap hundreds of books (thank god for great volunteers to help!) but the kids enjoyed it. I told them to just try it, even if they didn't like it, they at least tried something new. Many of the students came back and told me they had loved their "mystery" book, as they called it.

When they returned the books, if they tried to read it even just a little, I had them write their name on a heart, and tape it to the window. It looks really cute.

Read Last Week:

I am sorry to say I only read half of a book! I actually checked out a blind date book from my library, thinking if the kids were doing it, then I could too. I ended up with a really good one! 

Reading this Week:

My assignments aren't as intensive this week, so I should be able to read a little more. I also have tomorrow off, so bonus! I have a lot to choose from right now, and I don't know which I will read!! If there is one on my list here you really enjoyed, let me know! I am leaning towards reading The Winter People. 


The Radleys by Matt Haig


Sunday, February 9, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, that is guaranteed to add to your reading list. 

Read Last Week:


The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas: This book was grim and sad, but I enjoyed reading it. Review Wednesday.

Survival Lessons by Alice Hoffman: A total departure from her norm; this book is nonfiction, and was written when she had cancer. Review Tuesday.

Let It Snow by John Green, Lauren Johnson, and Lauren Myracle: This was a happy, clever book of short stories that allowed some lightness on my reading week. I really enjoyed every story in the book.  Review Thursday. (maybe)

Reading This Week:


The French House by Don Wallace: I received this from NetGalley. I love any French memoir out there usually, so I am excited to dig in. 

The Radleys by Matt Haig: I saw on Estella's Revenge last week, and was reminded I wanted to read it. Then when Andi said that it was only $1.99 on Amazon for the Kindle version, I knew I had to snatch it up!

Posts from last week:

Friday, February 7, 2014

Lafayette vs. American Coney Island: A Detroit Debate

A coney is a hot dog covered in chili with mustard and onions. There is no ketchup. Don't even ask for it.

The Detroit Coney Dog is an institution around here. Every other corner has a coney island, and everyone has a favorite. But that is nothing compared to the debate between American Coney Island and Lafayette Coney Island. These two battling restaurants sit side by side, and are owned by the same family; however a rift caused their restaurant to split, from one to two.

Since then, Detroiters and visitors alike either come down on one side or another: The American or The Lafayette.

On Super Bowl Sunday, after Billy and I walked around Belle Isle, we decided that it was OUR time to make a choice. This decision was going to be hard for me as a vegetarian, so I deferred completely to Billy's taste buds.

We went to Lafayette first. Walking in, you are greeted with stainless steel counters that run half the length of the narrow restaurant,  with a few tables at the other end. It had an old school diner feel, and was virtually empty due to the Super Bowl.

We took a seat at the counter, and Billy ordered one coney dog minus the onions, and then made a fatal mistake: he asked if they could make me a grilled cheese. The man behind the counter seemed a veritable giant as he stared down hard at me. "No," he barked out, and put the small menu in front of me to make sure I knew that a grilled cheese was blasphemy in his restaurant. Billy and I looked at each other. I told him to go ahead and eat, it was fine. I would just have a Diet Coke. The man offered me french fries with just cheese, and I accepted.

I had no idea that we were dealing with Detroit's equivalent to the Soup Nazi.

Our food arrived within seconds, steaming hot, on small white plates that have had to be around since the 1950s. I was reminded of when my mom and I used to go to Sanders, another Detroit staple but one that is no longer around. My fries were crunchy, with a glob of cheese right in the center of the pile. As I reached for my fork and dug in, Billy tried a bite of his coney.

And proclaimed it delicious. He said the hot dog had a crunchy casing, which was perfect for a snap under the mounds of chili. The chili had a good tang, but he wished the bun would have been toasted. Billy also wished he would have not had said no onions. As for my fries, they had a good crunch as well, but they weren't anything exciting.

We ambled next door to American Coney Island, and walked into a whole different atmosphere. It is obvious American caters more to a family friendly experience. It is all bright colors, a bigger place, and they have more options on their menu, including Greek salad. We were told to grab a table by a young man in a paper hat, and our waitress came to the table to take our order. She was also young, a teenager or early twenties. Actually, looking around, the whole staff was young, while at Lafayette the staff was older. There were a couple of older gentleman at a counter that looked like it was maybe for staff only; everyone there was playing on their phones.

Look ketchup!

Billy again ordered coney dogs, this time two, with onions. He again asked about a grilled cheese for me. The girl said that they do have a version of a grilled cheese they could make for me, and I happily ordered it. I also ordered cheese fries again, just as a comparison, since I couldn't compare anything else.

The food again came quickly, thanks to the restaurant being empty except for us.

These coney dogs were mammoth, spilling over the sides of the small plates that were identical to Lafayette's. The fries were exactly the same as well, made with shredded cheese. The only difference between these fries and the fries next door were that these fries had way more cheese. This wasn't necessarily good, as it made the fries soggy. The grilled cheese was shredded cheese melted on a folded pita, which was grilled. It wasn't bad! It was way more than I could eat, considering I had just eaten fries, but I made sure I tried them both. 

Billy took his first bite. He ate them both, but he said that the coney dog at Lafayette was better than these powerhouses. He missed the crunch of the coney he had at Lafayette, and he said that the chili was better there as well. 

Our final decisions:

Billy: Bite for bite, coney against coney, the Lafayette Coney is the winner! It had a better texture and taste. 

Erin: My opinion is based on the fries - and it is a tie. 

The Breakdown:

Lafayette: The better coney. The overall experience left a little to be desired in my opinion, but you can't hold tradition against them. They do what they know, and they are good at it. I understood their reluctance to make something off menu, but I felt a little judged.

American: I appreciated their willingness to make a grilled cheese for me, and their more expansive menu. Billy did not like their coneys as much, so based solely on that, the Lafayette is the winner. The place is more family friendly. 

Overall Verdict:

If the coney is what matters most, the Lafayette is your restaurant. If you are looking for more of a restaurant, then choose the American.  

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Book Review: Snowblind by Christopher Golden

Title: Snowblind
Author: Christopher Golden
Source: Library

Goodreads Summary:

The small New England town of Coventry had weathered a thousand blizzards...but never one like this. Icy figures danced in the wind and gazed through children's windows with soul-chilling eyes. People wandered into the whiteout and were never seen again. Families were torn apart, and the town would never be the same.

Now, as a new storm approaches twelve years later, the folks of Coventry are haunted by the memories of that dreadful blizzard and those who were lost in the snow. Photographer Jake Schapiro mourns his little brother, Isaac, even as---tonight---another little boy is missing. Mechanic and part-time thief Doug Manning's life has been forever scarred by the mysterious death of his wife, Cherie, and now he’s starting over with another woman and more ambitious crimes. Police detective Joe Keenan has never been the same since that night, when he failed to save the life of a young boy . . . and the boy’s father vanished in the storm only feet away. And all the way on the other side of the country, Miri Ristani receives a phone call . . . from a man who died twelve years ago.

As old ghosts trickle back, this new storm will prove to be even more terrifying than the last.

My thoughts:

If ever there were a winter in Michigan to read this book, it is this one. Last week temperatures plunged below negative 20, and this week, the sky opened to dump 6 inches of snow on us, in just a few hours! I drove to work today in a whiteout!

I read this book last week, on a snow day from work. It was so cold, and I was bundled up in a sweater and slippers, reclined on the couch covered by a blanket and an English Setter. Yet as I read, I felt colder and colder, the drafts more and more noticeable.

This book is written from the multiple viewpoints of a few different characters. It begins with a snowstorm, a nasty one that drives everyone indoors and off the streets. Yet not everyone is cowed by the blizzard, and those who do venture out for whatever reason, whether it is sledding, a knock at the door, running for help, or doing the neighborhood patrol, either never return, or are never the same again. Even those standing too close to an open window suffer.

After twelve years of grieving and trying to move on, another storm strikes the town of Coventry.  Everyone remembers the casualties and horror stories from the storm that hit twelve years ago, and again the town pulls up the streets, and townspeople hide indoors. Or at least they try. Those most affected by the previous storm return as the main players, and find out the shocking, terrifying truth behind the nightmare. This book focuses on these people, and every single one of their stories drew me in. Usually in a book like this, with multiple viewpoints, there is usually one that I am bored by and that doesn't interest me. However, in this book, I loved them all.

This book scared the hell out of me. It was like I was 8 years old again, laying in bed at night, with little noises freaking me out!I hardly slept the night I started this book. It definitely put me in mind of a Stephen King book, and it makes total sense that he has a little endorsement blurb on the front.

If you like to be scared, then read this book.

If you want to be terrified, read it during a blizzard!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

With The iPhone, In The Conservatory..

The Belle Isle Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory
Please respect that this photo is mine and don't use without permission.
 On Sunday, Billy and I took the short drive from our house to Belle Isle. Belle Isle is an island (lol) located in Detroit. It was created by the same person who created Central Park, Fredrick Law Olmstead. Interestingly, Belle Isle is bigger in size than Central Park. Back in the day, it had quite a reputation for crime, and the legends trickled down that to go to Belle Isle was to take your life into your own hands. Since those long ago days of the 1980s, Belle Isle is on the rise and changing its image.

We decided to take advantage of this urban park on Super Bowl Sunday. You can tell we are big football fans. The park was virtually deserted, which may have had something to do with the fact that the roads were pure ice on Sunday. I was only nervous when crossing the bridge to get onto the island; I had visions of plummeting over the side to land in the freezing cold Detroit River, and plunge to our deaths in the deep waters. Thankfully, Billy is a careful driver and we survived. We took a slow drive around, taking in the white magical landscape, and spotting all the birds. I saw a Great Blue Heron standing the water surrounded by ducks, looking for its lunch, and a Cooper's Hawk startle from the branches of a tall tree. There were a few photographers on hand, their long lenses pointed at these birds. 

Belle Isle has a couple of different attractions on the island, including a nature zoo, an aquarium, and Great Lakes museum.We decided that we would save most of them for future visits, and only check out the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, pictured above. (and below!)

The walk up was white and haunting and silent except for our boots crunching over the snow and ice. I felt like we were entering the lab of Dr. Frankenstein, or some other horror story  mad scientist. Billy remembered going there as a kid, once we got closer. It was my first time though, and I was excited. 

Upon entering we were greeted at the door, and then hit with a delicious wave of heat, and the scent of wet rich soil. I took deep breaths, it smelled so good, the scent of spring and green things growing. The warmth felt so good, and being surrounded by so much growing plant life left me feeling happy and dreaming of warmer weather and my garden. 

An orange tree!

Children's Temperance Fountain - if you look closely, you can see a little green plastic dinosaur.

A statue of Dionysus? 

The big show room

Orchids! Not something we usually see in the winter here.

This wall made me think of hobbits.

This room was closed off, which was a bummer. This was as far as we could go. It did make me want to have a room just like it in my future mansion! A room where I could go and read amongst the tropical flowers.  

A cute little rabbit hidden behind this poinsettia. 

Afterwards we continued our drive around the island, through a wooded area. The state has recently taken Belle Isle over, so I am sure there will be some more positive changes on the way, and the island's reputation will become a thing of the past. 

We had a great day at the conservatory! We are definitely going back in the summer as well; there is a lily pond there that was closed for the winter. The best part is that the admission is free! It gave me spring fever in a big way, but reminded me that winter can't last forever. If you are in the area and need a break from the cold and snow, pop in! If you go on a Saturday you can visit the aquarium right next door as well. 

**since my visit, a very small fee to access the island has been implemented. It is for the good the island, and is nominal. 

Book Review: Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

Title: Lost Lake
Author: Sarah Addison Allen
Source: NetGalley

Goodreads Summary:

Suley, Georgia, is home to Lost Lake Cottages and not much else. Which is why it's the perfect place for newly-widowed Kate and her eccentric eight-year-old daughter Devin to heal. Kate spent one memorable childhood summer at Lost Lake, had her first almost-kiss at Lost Lake, and met a boy named Wes at Lost Lake. It was a place for dreaming. But Kate doesn't believe in dreams anymore, and her Aunt Eby, Lost Lake's owner, wants to sell the place and move on. Lost Lake's magic is gone. As Kate discovers that time has a way of standing still at Lost Lake can she bring the cottages—and her heart—back to life? Because sometimes the things you love have a funny way of turning up again. And sometimes you never even know they were lost . . . until they are found.

My thoughts:

This book reminded me of lazy hot summers up north in Michigan. Lying on a sun warmed dock, the lake lapping against the wooden posts, feeling sweaty and lazy and relaxed. And happy. Definitely happy, with the sun on your skin and blinding you even with your eyes closed, a book laying next to you where you laid it when you got tired, wishing you had a drink nearby. The trees rustling behind you from the sporadic breezes, that wash over your skin making it possible to stay there just a little longer. I had to make reservations at a cabin near a lake after reading this book, true story.

Yes, this what Lost Lake made me think of.

The story is beautiful and whimsical and sad, a story of beginnings and endings and the stuff in between. Everyone is looking for something, and Lost Lake has the magic to make them dream and want and realize what they want is not always out of reach. The main characters are absolutely charming, and the villains devilishly villainous. But even they are not always how they appear. Kate Pheris finds herself at Lost Lake with her daughter Devin on a whim - an old postcard hidden away for two decades finds itself at last into the hands of its intended recipient. Eby Pim, the owner of Lost Lake, is carefree and easy and full of goodness, and is maybe one of my favorite characters in any Allen book. Don't we all wish we could be as comfortable with ourselves as she is? She can fix anything, and the town loves her. The lost and broken have found themselves at her door many times, needing her to help them out. Lisette especially. Lisette who was born without vocal cords yet has one of the loudest presences in the book, and Jack who is painfully shy but desperately in love with her.

And we can't forget Devin. Eight years old, inquisitive, who still believes in the magic of the world around her, who believes that she can see better out of her formerly lazy eye, than she can using both of her eyes. There is Selma who can make any man fall in love with her if she chooses, Buhladeen who knows that endings can change and who has one of the best background stories, and then there is Wes. Wes. Wes who carries around his old demons and hope, who will break your heart, who recognizes a good thing when he sees it and doesn't want to let it go.

There is magic around every corner in this book. It is a story of love and hope and the ghosts that haunt our daydreams. It was an amazing story, I fell thoroughly in love with its twists and turns and characters, and I hope that you do too.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, that is guaranteed to add to your reading list. 

Read Last Week:


Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen: I am in love with this book. Amazing amazing read. Review Tuesday. 

Snowblind by Christopher Golden: This book really scared me!!! It was soo good! Review Wednesday.

Reading This Week:


The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas: My good friend Irma, who happens to be Australian, challenged me to read more Australian authors this year. Then she said I absolutely have to read The Slap. I am very excited to start it this week!

Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle: With my schedule right now, its nice to read short stories. I can squish them in anywhere.

Survival Lessons by Alice Hoffman: I won this from Librarything and I am looking forward to reading it.

Posts From Last Week:

Saturday, February 1, 2014

30 Second Book Review: The Visit

Title: The Visit
Author: Mark Kimball Moulton
Source: NetGalley

Goodreads Summary:

In December of 1823, the poem now known as The Night Before Christmas was first published anonymously and has since become the best loved Christmas poem of all time. Now, for the first time in The Visit, Dinghy Sharp, a direct descendant of recognized author Clement Clarke Moore, shares her delightful story with us all, and reveals the history and origin of this beloved poem as it has been passed down for generations in the Moore family.

My thoughts:

This book was beautiful. The illustrations, the story behind the famous poem - I adored every bit. I read this at Christmas time, and was swept back in time, to the days of story. It was delightful,enchanting, and heartwarming, and I loved reading about the origins of The Night Before Christmas.

I am definitely going to order this book for the school library where I work. I am sure teachers and students both will enjoy reading it as well.