Sunday, March 30, 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. 

In school news this week, I decided to transfer universities. I transferred to Wayne State in Detroit, for a few reasons: it is closer, only ten minutes away rather than 45; my sister-in-law attends there and we can carpool occasionally; they have more night classes which is great because I work. I am all registered for my new classes too! I am excited, I am taking Italian this summer! 

Read Last Week:


The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath: Pretty much like I remembered it, actually. Review soon.

Be Buried in the Rain by Barbara Michaels: I love these little mysteries that Micheal's writes. It was a good go-to when I needed a break from Plath.

Reading this Week:

I don't quite know, but it will be one or two of these.



La Bella Lingua by Dianne Hales: I checked this out because of my new Italian class. Lol.

The Heroine's Bookshelf by Erin Blakemore: I thought this sounded interesting. 

Paddle Your Own Canoe by Nick Offerman: I was finally able to move past the debilitating embarrassment I felt for Leslie Knope in Parks and Rec, and now the husband and I are addicted. We love Ron Swanson!

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami: I wanted to read a Murakami book, and after reading the summary on this one, I knew I wanted to start here. 

Exploring Detroit

Not too long ago, the husband and I visited the Belle Isle Conservatory, and everything was coated in a thick sheet of ice. It was like a scene from Frozen, all white and snowy. We decided to return, almost four weeks from the last time we were there, to find a whole new story. The snow is gone and spring is beginning!

This time however, we went to the Belle Isle Aquarium, right next door. The aquarium was first opened in 1904; it remained open for over one hundred years, closing its doors in 2005. It recently re-opened in 2012, and is run by volunteers. I am not sure if this will change, now that the state has taken over though. One cool fact: the basement of the aquarium was a speakeasy for a while!!

Inside it is otherworldly. The green glass tiles reflect light, and make you feel like you are underwater. The center area ahead used to house an alligator!

This little guy is there now. 

We also saw these fellows!

The aquarium and Belle Isle itself have been through hard times. During the Great Depression, the saltwater exhibits were shut down due to the costs, and tragically a favorite mammoth sea turtle was sold off and made into soup!! It started to make a comeback in the '70s, but in the '80s and '90s attendance declined, and finally the aquarium and Belle Isle could not make it past Detroit's bankruptcy and corrupt politicians. Now that Kilpartick is out of office, and things are looking up for the city, I believe the aquarium will return to it's former state as a destination, full of exotic fish and sea life. It is already making a huge comeback; on the day that we went, the aquarium was bustling with families and couples, who were excitedly checking out the fish and electric eels on display. 

If you want to read more, check this site out. 

After walking around the grounds and visiting the aquarium we were starving, and popped into Great Lakes Coffee for a bite to eat.

It was packed! Luckily, we only had to wait five minutes before a spot opened up at the bar. After being presented with many food and beverage options, I settled on a mocha, and Billy got a regular old black coffee, although it was made fancy. They do offer a huge selection of craft beer on tap and in the bottle, as well as a huge wall of liquors, but we were good with our coffee for the afternoon. Our waiter was Jason, and he was a great waiter!



As for food, I ordered the vegetarian Bahn-Mi, while Billy ordered a flatbread with chorizo. I didn't get a picture of Billy's but I did get one of mine. 

My Bahn-Mi was delicious!! My only complaint is that it was freezing cold, but it was super spicy and yummy. 

It was the perfect ending to a fun day, relaxing and bumping around the city. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Book Review: Big Girl Panties by Stephanie Evanovich

Title: Big Girl Panties
Author: Stephanie Evanovich
Source: Library

Goodreads Summary:

Big Girl Panties by Stephanie Evanovich is a rollicking and poignant romantic comedy about a young widow who decides to get in shape...and winds up getting her groove back--and a whole lot more! Holly Brennan used food to comfort herself through her husband's illness and death. Now she's alone at age thirty-two. And she weighs more than she ever has. When fate throws her in the path of Logan Montgomery, personal trainer to pro athletes, and he offers to train her, Holly concludes it must be a sign. Much as she dreads the thought of working out, Holly knows she needs to put on her big girl panties and see if she can sweat out some of her grief. Soon, the easy intimacy and playful banter of their training sessions lead Logan and Holly to most intense and steamy workouts. But can Holly and Logan go the distance as a couple now that she's met her goals--and other men are noticing?

My Thoughts:

I hate the phrase "pull up your big girl panties". It is terrible. I should have let that feeling guide me, and not picked this book up off the shelf, because this book is terrible too. It was weird. It pissed me off in many places. Yet, I still rooted for the main character Holly every step of the way. However, she wasn’t enough to redeem this book.

Holly is a widow, who in her grief has gained a lot weight. Logan is a personal trainer to celebrities and people with money; he is also in perfect physical condition apparently. These two strangers meet on a plane, where Logan is at first repulsed by Holly’s physical appearance, sloppy and overweight. He likes his women rail-thin and model beautiful. Yet he rallies his charming personality (or so he thinks it is) and chats Holly up. By the end of the flight, he is offering to train Holly, which she takes him up on.This is abnormal for Logan; his business is doing really well, and he does not need to take on anything like a charity case. But he is excited to turn this “ugly duckling” into a swan. For reals, that is how he described his Holly project to his two closest friends, Amanda and Chase.

Which brings us to weird #2, Amanda and Chase. Chase is into spanking. He is into sexually, and also as a form of punishment for when he thinks Amanda needs it. Not too rough, but still. I am not sure if Evanovich included this aspect to cash in on the popularity of Fifty Shades of Gray, but whatever her reasons, I hated it. It did not seem to be for the character’s mutual pleasure; in fact, it seemed at times that Amanda did not want to be spanked, which I think is against how this form of play works. Then came the worst part: Logan was having a hard time with Holly’s attitude while training, and Chase’s advice was simple. He said that Logan should spank her to put her in line! Say what!? Holly followed her spanking up with a slap to Logan’s face, which eventually to the first sex scene in the book between these two.

Oh yeah, that is the other thing. Holly and Logan are both interested in each other. Holly has lost a bunch of weight, has mega-confidence, and feels good about herself. They are dating, but never leave her house at first, because basically Logan is ashamed of her. He likes her company and he loves sex with her, but he also doesn’t want anyone to see him with her. Logan really likes her, but also spends time thinking about how to get the last of the weight off of her. Liposuction actually crosses his mind. This guy is seriously shallow, and we as the readers are supposed to believe he is undergoing the transformation. He eventually does start to introduce Holly to his friends and lifestyle, and this is where it all comes to a head. Holly runs into Logan’s ex-girlfriend, a model, who tells Holly that Logan called her an ugly duckling.  

Predicatively, Holly gets mad and doesn’t want to see him anymore.  The ex-girlfriend is waiting for Logan at his house, and instead of raking her over the coals for being a b-word, he is pretty nice to her and lets her down easy. Blah blah blah, eventually he and Holly argue, because he realizes finally that he doesn’t care that she is still not ever going to have a swimsuit model body, he loves her for who she is. After a conversation with her best friend, who is also kind of a jerk, Holly takes him back. The end.

It was terrible. Holly deserved way better than all of the people she had in her life. She definitely should not be with Logan, I am not convinced that if she were to gain a lot of weight again if he would stay with her. Or maybe he is going to keep her on a strict diet and exercise regime.

If you decide to read this book, be prepared for a weirdness, and anger at these characters.

Sunday, March 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. 

I really read a lot of books last week!

Read Last Week: 


The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman: Hoffman outdid herself with this one! I loved it! 

Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo: I read this as part of the Newbery Challenge. I adored it, it is wonderful!

Big Girl Panties by Stephanie Evanovich: Um. This one I didn't love so much.  It was weird. I am still deciding how I feel, about whether it was ok or not.

Insurgent by Veronica Roth: This was pretty good! I am undecided about reading the next book though! I just saw Divergent too - I actually liked it, although of course it wasn't as good as the book.

Reading this week:

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath: I read this a long time ago, when I was younger. I am sure some of it went over my head, so I am giving it a reread. I will probably balance it out with something else.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Book Review: The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman

Title: The Museum of Extraordinary Things
Author: Alice Hoffman
Source: NetGalley

Goodreads Summary:

Mesmerizing and illuminating, Alice Hoffman's The Museum of Extraordinary Things is the story of an electric and impassioned love between two vastly different souls in New York during the volatile first decades of the twentieth century.
Coralie Sardie is the daughter of the sinister impresario behind The Museum of Extraordinary Things, a Coney Island boardwalk freak show that thrills the masses. An exceptional swimmer, Coralie appears as the Mermaid in her father's museum, alongside performers like the Wolfman, the Butterfly Girl, and a one-hundred-year-old turtle. 
One night Coralie stumbles upon a striking young man taking pictures of moonlit trees in the woods off the Hudson River. The dashing photographer is Eddie Cohen, a Russian immigrant who has run away from his father's Lower East Side Orthodox community and his job as a tailor's apprentice. When Eddie photographs the devastation on the streets of New York following the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, he becomes embroiled in the suspicious mystery behind a young woman's disappearance and ignites the heart of Coralie.
With its colorful crowds of bootleggers, heiresses, thugs, and idealists, New York itself becomes a riveting character as Hoffman weaves her trademark magic, romance, and masterful storytelling to unite Coralie and Eddie in a sizzling, tender, and moving story of young love in tumultuous times. The Museum of Extraordinary Things is Alice Hoffman at her most spellbinding.

My thoughts:

I have loved Hoffman’s work for a very long time. She lyrically writes these beautiful stories, and up until this point, my favorite book she has written has been Here on Earth, which I think is loosely based on Wuthering Heights. It was so filled with emotion, and often I would finish one of her books and feel like I had just woken from a dream.

The Museum of Extraordinary Things has replaced Here on Earth at the top of my list. I feel Hoffman has outdone herself with this novel of love and loss and monsters and villains and unlikely heroes.

Where to begin? This is a world at the turn of the century. “Freak shows”, Coney Island, industrialization, political upheaval and civil rights, this is the time that Ezekiel “Eddie” Cohen and Coralie Sardie live in. They come from two different worlds, and without going into much background, Eddie works as a photographer, and lives his life freely, accompanied by his companion and friend, the pit bull Mitts. Coralie lives with her father and friend/servant Maureen in her home, the Museum of Extraordinary Things. Her father is a collector of living wonders: A wolf man, a butterfly girl, the fat woman, and so on. Coralie’s whole life is wrapped up in the Museum, and she lives an isolated life there. Her days are spent in a tank entertaining as the human mermaid; her nights spent swimming the Hudson River. 

I really don’t want to give anything away, but there is murder, mystery, love stories, truths revealed, references to Jane Eyre, redemption, and tragedy. Think Triangle Shirtwaist Fire and Dreamland fire. It was well-researched, well-thought out, well-written. Sensitive and beautiful, even in its tragedy. I had to skip a few pages at the end. It was actually more than I could handle in parts. I started skipping pages when I was reduced to sobbing at my desk in my office at work.

I think this book was amazing. I have been thinking about it for days, all the different details and intricacies and stories and symbolism. I hope you read it, and hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Sunday, March 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. 

It was a rough week as I suspected. I had a lot of writing projects due for my classes, and I have my big projects due very soon as well. I am going to be a busy girl for a few weeks. I only had the opportunity to read half of my book from last week. 

Read (partially) Last Week:

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman: I am only halfway through this book, but I am in love with it. It has definitely sucked me in. 

Reading This Week:


The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman: I will be happily finishing this up this week. 

The Magpies by Mark Edwards: I saw this flashing on Goodreads, and of course, the name piqued my curiosity. I knew I had to read it!!

Posted Last Week:

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Book Review Quickies: The Wedding Bees, The Radleys, Lowcountry Boil

Title: The Wedding Bees 
Author: Sarah-Kate Lynch
Source: Librarything Early Reviewers

I was previously unfamiliar with Lynch's work; now that I have read this one, I know that I want to read more. This book was delightful, fun, and enjoyable. I enjoyed the bee trivia that would pop up, as well as the cast of characters. They were all very vivid, with quirky issues that made them utterly likable. The main character Sugar, is a positive, upbeat beekeeper, who charms not only her bees but everyone she meets. She is keeping a secret though, that is slowly revealed bit by bit. It is not as dark as you might imagine though, and at the end of the book, everything is happy happy hunky-dory. Which was exactly how I wanted this book to end. Happy endings all around.

Title: The Radleys
Author: Matt Haig
Source: My own copy

This book was so fun!! I was reminded of the Addams Family, or of a vampiric version of the Cleaver family, complete with white picket fence and respectability. Peter and Helen Radley live with their two children in suburbia, and only Peter and Helen know the truth of what they are: abstaining vampires. Unfortunately, their subterfuge backfires, and their carefully laid out life begins to blow up around them. At the beginning of this book, it seems everyone is yearning for something they don't have; by the end, they all find out what it is that they really want.

I really enjoyed this take on vampires, and I also enjoyed all the author name dropping.

Title: Lowcountry Boil
Author: Susan M. Boyer
Source: Nadia at A Bookish Way of Life

This book was a pleasant surprise! I am a HUGE fan of books set in the south, and when Nadia mailed this book to me, I was very excited. Unfortunately, it took me longer to get to than I anticipated, but I finally read it, and enjoyed it!  Pure southern charm wrapped in a mystery, this book is for anyone looking for a relaxing, escapist read. I read it during the brief spring we had last week, and it was perfect! It would also be a perfect beach read too. The main character Liz, is a private investigator, who is smart, savvy, and brave. She is a great depiction of a strong woman character, who doesn't take no for an answer or let the men in her life boss her around. She does what she wants when she wants. It ended on a bit of a romantic cliffhanger, and I need to know what happens next! I will be looking for the second book in the series very soon!

Sunday, March 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 Radleys by Matt Haig: I loved this book; it was so fun! Review Tuesday. 

The Wedding Bees by Sarah-Kate Lynch: This was a pleasant read as well. I enjoyed it. Review Wednesday.

Reading This Week:

I think I am reading just one book this week- it is looking like it is going to be a very busy one. 


The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman: I am excited to read this, I love Hoffman!!  

Posted Last Week:

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Book Review: Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

Title: Year of Wonders
Author: Geraldine Brooks
Source: Library, but I am buying a copy

Goodreads Summary:

When an infected bolt of cloth carries plague from London to an isolated village, a housemaid named Anna Frith emerges as an unlikely heroine and healer. Through Anna's eyes we follow the story of the fateful year of 1666, as she and her fellow villagers confront the spread of disease and superstition. As death reaches into every household and villagers turn from prayers to murderous witch-hunting, Anna must find the strength to confront the disintegration of her community and the lure of illicit love. As she struggles to survive and grow, a year of catastrophe becomes instead annus mirabilis, a "year of wonders."

Inspired by the true story of Eyam, a village in the rugged hill country of England, Year of Wonders is a richly detailed evocation of a singular moment in history. Written with stunning emotional intelligence and introducing "an inspiring heroine" (The Wall Street Journal), Brooks blends love and learning, loss and renewal into a spellbinding and unforgettable read.

My Thoughts:

I loved this book. I know it sounds super weird to say you love a book that involves the plague, but I do. My Uncle Mike told me to read it a year ago; I finally got to it the other week, and I wish that I wouldn’t have waited as long as I did! This particular era in history is one I enjoy reading about.

Year of Wonders begins with the smell of rotting apples.  Anna, the main character, is so sick of the smell of apples; before, it was a good memory, making cider and pie, but later, after the plague, the smell was reminiscent of death. Apparently the plague smells like apples, which is a fact I will never forget.  
Anna Frith is a very young widow, being only 18, with two young sons in the time before the plague. Her husband had perished in a mining accident, leaving her with her flock of sheep and fond memories. Then one day, a dashing tailor named George Vicars sweeps into town, and knocks on Anna’s door, looking for a room to rent. He moves in, and Anna and her family become enamored with him.

The happiness doesn’t last however, as an infected bolt of cloth from London finds its way into George’s hands and onto the backs of many residents of Eyam. Even after George dies a victim of the bubonic plague, people still visit Anna’s cottage, wanting the dresses he sewed for them. It doesn’t take long for the illness to spread through the small, remote village.

This sickness is incomprehensible. There is no understanding of germs , or what causes something like the Black Death. As the more and more people fall prey to the plague, the citizens turn to the church and to the good vicar Mompellion and his wife, Elinor. Is God punishing them? Is God testing them? Vicar Mompellion sways the villagers to take an oath, to close the village borders and to remain isolated until the plague was gone, to prevent the spread of it. A nearby Earl agreed to deliver supplies to the village, so that they would not run out of important items.  But doubt still lingered as to why they suffered.  Superstition takes over, and some of the villagers come to their own conclusions, making a horrible situation worse and igniting near chaos. 

Just imagine living in a 17th century village, isolated from the rest of the world, while one by one your neighbors and friends drop dead from a disease you don’t understand. What would you do? How would you react? And why do some people survive, and how are some people immune?

The village of Eyam is real. Year of Wonders is based on the true account of what happened there in 1665. I did some more reading on the plague and on Eyam after I finished this book, and was amazed at some of the things I read, especially on plague survivors and genetics. You can find a few articles here and here that I found particularly interesting. 

I picked this book for my book club choice this month. I am excited to hear what everyone thinks about it!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Book Review: The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Title: The Headless Cupid
Author: Zilpha Keatley Snyder
Source: My library
Challenge: Newbery Reading Challenge

Goodreads Summary:

When the four Stanley children meet Amanda, their new stepsister, they’re amazed to learn that she studies witchcraft. It’s not long before Amanda promises to give witchcraft lessons to David, Jamie, and the twins. But that’s when unusual things start happening in their old house. David suspects Amanda of causing mischief, until the children learn that the house really was haunted long ago. Legend has it that a ghost cut the head off of a wooden cupid on the stairway. Has the ghost returned to strike again?

Reading Level: Ages 8 and up

My Thoughts:

The other day at work, I was going through the ALA list of Newbery Award winners and honorees, and checking to see if I had them in our library. I made a list of the ones that we didn't have that I wanted to order, and I also made a list of the books we had that just needed a newer copy. The Headless Cupid was a book that we did not have, and when I read the summary, I was intrigued!

 Life is never quite the same again for eleven-year-old David after the arrival of his new stepsister, a student of the occult.

A student of the occult? Say what? I went ahead and ordered it, and when it came in, I took it home to read, and found that I really liked it. I wish I would have read it when I was younger, because it was exactly what I enjoyed reading even then.

David is a sweet kid, who at 11 is shouldering a lot of responsibility, and takes care of his three younger siblings quite a bit. Their mother is deceased, and his father is recently remarried. His stepmom is around, but is usually preoccupied with her work. Then one day his stepmother's daughter Amanda arrives, complete with a pet crow.

I think that the students at my school will enjoy this book, even though this book is older than me! It is scary without being too scary, and although Amanda seems like a questionable character, she is just a kid going through some tough stuff, and dealing with it the best she can. Her life is out of control, and she is looking for a way to gain some control back. I believe that Amanda and David are characters that students today can still relate to, and will enjoy the spooky mystery aspects as well.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Book to Movie: My picks for the Hollows series

Last Tuesday, after meeting Kim Harrison and glorying in all things the Hollows, Mary and I began a discussion about who we would cast if the series were to be made into a movie. This discussion continued with my husband, who has also read the series. We had some major differences of opinion between the three of us! This is just the main gang too, not the entire series of characters.

Let's start with Jenks..

Clicking on photos will take you to original photo. Some sites may be graphic as I am finding them on Tumblr.
We all pretty much agreed that adorable Ryan Kwanten could easily play Jenks.


Maggie Q

Trent Kalamack

Chris Pine


Robert Downey Jr.


Tom Hiddleston


Tilda Swinton


Malin Ackerman

And finally Rachel...

Bryce Dallas Howard

The Undead Pool: Author Signing with Kim Harrison

Authors are my rock stars. I am not a celebrity stalker or a girl who hangs around waiting for a guy in a band (although some of my very good friends are), but writers? They are a different story.  I will wait hours in a crowded room so that I can stand in a long line, just to have an author sign my copy of their book.

Last year, my friend Mary and I went to the book launch and author signing of Ever After by Kim Harrison, and we had such a blast that when I saw that Harrison was going to be at Nicola’s Books again this year for the launch of The Undead Pool, I made our reservations immediately. 

Nicola’s Books is a cute little bookstore in Ann Arbor, sandwiched between a place that sells bagels, and a small branch of the Ann Arbor library, and is one of those bookstores that true bibliophile’s fall in love with just upon entering. Books cover every available surface, and you could spend hours happily browsing the shelves.

Mary and I arrived to the store at what we thought was the decently early time of 5:00 pm. The event started at 7, so we figured two hours was good. We were almost right; we were able to get a pretty good spot, but the seats directly in front were already taken, by people who had arrived as early as 2 pm! We were able to grab two seats in a front row; they were just off to the side, which was ok. We claimed our chairs, and then took turns going to the counter to claim our reserved copies and line ticket for the signing. 

I went first, checking out the shelves of books, and then on up to the big counter that dominates the front area of the store. The guy working actually remembered me from last year, but unfortunately after looking for my reserved book, he told me that there must have been some flukey mistake, because they didn’t have one put aside for me or for Mary. Thankfully, they had many extra copies of the book, so I was still able to buy one. He also handed me the next line ticket on the pile, which put us in place 66.Whatever, we all make mistakes right? It didn't matter too much to me, I was just happy to be there.

After Mary claimed her book, we spent the next hour waiting and talking to the people around us. I of course could not remain seated in a bookstore surrounded by books, so I browsed and shopped a little more. I found 800 or so more books I wanted to buy, but since that is not in my budget, I stuck to buying just one more and a notebook. And then, since I am sucker for the stuff that sits on counters near the registers, I added a few pins as well.

Just as Harrison was due to step out from behind closed doors, the bookstore guy came over to me and Mary. He asked me for my line ticket, and while I was digging around for it, unorganized as ever, he told me I was probably going to want to trade with him. I looked up as he ceremoniously flipped over the piece of paper in his hand – showing a line ticket for the first spot in line! It was our previously lost ticket, and he had found it! Yay!!! We had just moved 65 places up in line.

Not long after, Harrison made her entrance. She read all of us an excerpt from the book, and then opened the floor for questions. I was going to ask her if she hated tomatoes, but someone beat me to it. After this, it was time to line up. Like a giant nerd, I practically ran to the front of the line, books in hand, and then nervously stood in front of Harrison while she signed my books. I had wanted to talk to her about Al, my favorite character, and I felt worked up to talking. I very robotically and weirdly told her that I liked the evolution of Al throughout the books. Harrison answered me though, saying she never expected him to become the character he became. I wanted to say something about him charming his way into the story, but words failed me and I didn't.

Mary asked her to sign a get well card for a friend.

After we were finished, Mary and I scurried out of the store, excited like little kids, reading our book inscriptions. Starving, we headed to the nearby city of Ypsilanti and Aubree’s, where we had wine and devoured the deliciousness of their pizza, before hitting the snowy road to head home.

We are already looking forward to next year, which will be bittersweet, as the next book in the series is also the last.