Reading, Reviews

Antelopes. Antelopes Are Good.

Here’s a recommendation for you married ladies who need a fun read this weekend. I actually kind of wish I had saved this book for a beach read, because it would have been perfect.

antelope-book-coverThere’s still not a whole lot going on on the reading front here, but I did pick up and finish in two days The Antelope in the Living Room by Melanie Shankle this week. Shankle writes the Big Mama blog and has been cracking me up for four years. I’ll admit, I sometimes feel uneasy with the consumerism aspects of Shankle’s blog and book writing, the amount of fast food she talks about and the cute clothes she features each week on her blog. But I’m convinced that I’m just not being honest with myself about (a) the amount of fast food eat (Moe’s and Chickfila count as fast food, don’t they?); (b) the fact that I am not a fashion lover or food lover and, therefore, simply do not get revelries on food, especially ones involving Oreos or cheez-whiz;  or (c) the outreach and generosity Shankle and her family involve themselves in that I don’t. There’s way more to Melanie Shankle’s story than meets the eye and there is not an iota of self-righteousness in her work. Basically, Shankle’s writing won’t put you into a mood of deep contemplation, but it will make you laugh and appreciate the beauty in life. And the joy that is nacho cheese.

Shankle’s first book, Sparkly Green Earrings, is also stellar and is featured on the blog here.


Parenting, Reading

Some Things and Some Stuff

My brain is all over the place right now, so here’s a list of bookish and mostly non-bookish thoughts.

  1. I have spent the last two weeks picking up various books, reading a few chapters, and returning them to the library without finishing them. It wasn’t so much that they weren’t good books, but my heart and mind haven’t been into it. I’ve been restless. It’s like something has been telling me, “Just stop the reading, and do some thinking.” And then I attended the IF: Gathering . And now I’m like, “I need a book to get a break from all this thinking!” It was inspiring and rattling to listen to the likes of Jen Hatmaker and Shelley Giglio and Ann Voskamp and all kinds of amazing women. I am still trying to process it all and figure out what it means for me. I think everyone who was a part of IF is in a process, and that’s why the IF leaders have created IF: Equip. This is free and open to anyone, whether you attended IF or not. It’s a devotional/journaling/discussion tool. And it’s awesome.

And if you attended or tuned into the IF: Gathering, I’d highly recommend reading Holley Gerth’s book You’re Made For A God-sized Dream as soon as possible. It is so closely related to the content of the speakers from IF.

2. It’s snowing here again. Y’all…it should not snow so much in place where everyone says “y’all.” I drove in the snow for the first time in my life today, because ballet class cannot be missed. And we were out of diapers.

3. My daughter has started ballet again, and I am eating so much mental crow. Ballet used to be the place where it looked like I had it all together. Or at least I felt like it. Now, I look like that harried mom who just wants her kid to “Pay attention and help me out when I’m trying to put on your dance shoes, for crying out loud.” My frustration is not so much the little distracted ballerina’s fault, but also the fault of the little brother pulling on my shoulder, just about knocking me over, saying in his toddler-deep voice, “Mom, mom, mom, what is that? what is that?” The phrase “Just a minute” means nothing to a two-year-old. Absolutely nothing. So, to all the moms whom I ever judged when I heard you speaking irritably to your children, I’m sorry. I totally understand how you feel.

Also, insert a little boy with graham cracker crumbs all over his mouth in the place of Fancy Nancy’s little sister, and this is what we looked like at Target today:

photo (9)4. Raising a little boy is hard. It just is. I sometimes don’t think I’m built for it, and then I realize, yes, I am. I have one, so I am. But it’s definitely a stretching experience. I love him intensely – his boisterous zeal for life, his big soulful and mischievous blue eyes, his 90-miles-per-hour pace, his affectionate and goofy grins – I love all of him. And almost all of him can drive me crazy at the very same time. It’s enough to pull a mommy’s heart to pieces and then put it back together several times a day.

That’s all the randomness I’ll share today. Sometime this week a real blog post will show up here. Unless I’m buried in the ice storm that’s supposedly on the heels of the current snow storm.

This about sums up my winter sentiments:

Happy snowy days!


Reading, Reviews

So Long, January

January is a long month. There’s just no denying it. I’m not a fan, but I do appreciate the many opportunities to cozy up with a book, because winter is for reading. Here’s a “quick” overview of what I read in the past month.

The Firebird (The Slains, #2)The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley is my only venture into modern literature in January. It’s another one of those historical novels framed by present day characters and settings. The brief synopsis got me interested:

“Nicola Marter was born with a gift. When she touches an object, she sometimes glimpses those who have owned it before. When a woman arrives with a small wooden carving at the gallery Nicola works at, she can see the object’s history and knows that it was named after the Firebird—the mythical creature from an old Russian fable.

Compelled to know more, Nicola follows a young girl named Anna into the past who leads her on a quest through the glittering backdrops of the Jacobites and Russian courts, unearthing a tale of love, courage, and redemption.”

If you’re a fan of historical fiction, this book is for you. The historical setting and characters are very lifelike. I learned a lot about the early 1700s in Europe when Jacobites fought for James Stewart to be on the throne and Russia was coming out of the dark ages. The bits about Peter The Great and how St. Petersburg was built were especially fascinating. The modern characters and settings were so unnecessary, though. I didn’t enjoy the present day main character, Nicola, and her psychokinetic powers, and I especially didn’t appreciate her love interest. The historical main character, Anna, and the cast of historical characters around her were likeable, well-rounded, and much more lifelike. I was especially moved by the little girl Anna and her early history (it made me want to hug my little girl tight). All in all, it was a decent book and pretty clean minus one brief encounter. But frankly, I miss the days when novels didn’t cater to this ADD society and stuck with a plot line for the whole book. I think I’m in the minority on that, though.

Katherine Wentworth (Katherine, #1)That foray into literature from the last year/last 80 years was short lived, and I went right back to my newly discovered D.E. Stevenson to read Mrs. Tim Gets A Job and Katherine Wentworth. For a complete review on D.E. Stevenson the post, Lost in D.E. Stevenson. I just love her writing. I’m finding her main characters can get a little redundant – they are so similar to one another from book to book, minus the Miss Buncle books – but I like them all so that eases the pain of repetition. It’s almost become comforting because I know I’ll find a friend-like protagonist when I read Stevenson. And it turns out she’s a cousin of THE Robert Louis Stevenson. She just gets cooler and cooler.

I finished The Unwired Mom at the beginning of the month. More on that will come in the next few days when I post an update on The 7 Challenge.

Now I’m in middle of The Prayer Box and I just hit that wonderful moment in a reader’s life when every single book I’ve requested from the library in the last three months comes in on the same day. I’m not going to be sleeping much for the next two weeks, I guess. On top of that, the Olympics start this weekend. I loooove the Olympics. Sleep, you will just have to wait.

I hope your winter reading has been expanding your world and feeding your soul. Always feel free to share what you’re reading with me in the comments!


Reading, Top Ten Tuesday, Young Adult

Top Ten Tuesday: Best and Worst Book Worlds

Today’s Top  Ten Tuesday theme was one I couldn’t resist: book worlds where you’re glad not to live. But I’m going to tweak it a little and do five places where I’m glad I don’t live and five book places I would like to live. If you think this topic is as much fun as I do, check out The Broke and the Bookish blog. The ladies there host this meme every week and have lots of great bloggers chime in on all kinds of book topics.

So here goes!

Worst Book Worlds: Or, Books Worlds Where I I Don’t Want To Live

1. The United States featured in The Hunger Games. Yikes.

2. Charles Dickens’s London. The coal, the fog, the rain, the damp, the poor….eesh. When I read The Old Curiosity Shop, I cheered internally when Nell and her grandfather leave London to go to the country. And then there’s the danger of being put in the Debtor’s Prison, like Little Dorrit’s family. Talk about hopelessness.

3. The United States in Matched. I still haven’t read the third book in The Matched trilogy by Ally Condie. If you’re unfamiliar with it, basically everything is decided for your in life by The Society: your spouse, your vocation, your house, your food, everything. And that’s really all you need to know about why I don’t want to live there.

4. Life After Life‘s setting: a world where you can keep on living alternate versions of your life. This book gave me waking nightmares. Very vividly written and thought provoking, but not a read I enjoyed!

5. C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy worlds. Basically, anything that includes science fiction is somewhere I do not want to be. I like normal life. The ability to travel to other planets is nice to read about, but man am I grateful not to live there when I’m done reading!

Best Book Worlds: Or, Books Worlds Where I Want To Live

1. C.S. Lewis’s Narnia. For those of you who have only read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, you won’t get this one. Or maybe you will, if you can get past the beginning when it’s a perpetually frozen iceland. Like Bree in The Horse and His Boy, if I lived anywhere else but Narnia in the world of these books (say, Calormene), I would be high tailing it to Narnia. I want to see a Dryad, talk to a Beaver, dance with a Faun, all of it.

2. Tolkein’s Rivendell. Or anywhere but Mordor. Actually, I’d probably just like to visit Rohan, but not live there. I’m not exactly keen on horses.

3. Green Gables. Sigh. Green Gables.jpg

4. Guernsey from The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. After the German occupation, of course. Living on an island that’s not too far from the mainland sounds great.

5. Hogwarts. But just for a visit. =)


Everyday Life, Reading

The End of an Era: My Barnes and Noble Is Gone

My Barnes and Noble closed two weeks ago. I’m a little heartbroken. No, I didn’t really own it. But I’ve lived in the suburbs of a the same small, American capital city my whole life. I’m not even 30, and I feel like I already make those old-timer comments like, “I remember when there was nothing here but trees, and now there’s a Walmart!” This January, many of us in our suburb are making sad comments like “Remember when there was a Barnes and Noble here last week where we used to mix and mingle and be?” Or “remember when we were in high school and college and we would go and browse for an hour in that Blockbuster store that closed down last month?” For better or worse, it’s the end of an entertainment era in my hometown. I spent many a pleasant evenings in that Barnes and Noble, surrounded by books and coffee and my family or my friends, and later my boyfriend who was then later my husband, and most recently my children who loved that store. There are lots of memories there. Rather, there were lots of memories there.

It’s all very reminiscent of that movie I refer to way too often, You’ve Got Mail, when Meg Ryan writes to Tom Hanks about how her bookstore is closing. She writes that some foolish person will say it’s a tribute to our city the way things are always changing, but really, she’s devastated because tomorrow her store is going to turn into something really depressing, like a Baby Gap. Except for “my” store is turning into something even more depressing, a huge Nordstrom Rack. I went by a few days after they closed to take my daughter on a date to the Yoghut next door. It was surreal to see those construction workers taking down all the bookshelves and cutting wood to make tables for clothing displays. Ugh.

But I’m not sentimental.

Really, I don’t have any room to be sentimental. It’s my fault as much as anyone’s that bookstores are closing across the country. I’m the one going in and browsing, taking notes on what to check out from the library or download onto my Nook. I hardly ever bought anything bigger than a tall Mocha Latte in my favorite store of all time. I’m the one who has mounds of books that all came from used library book sales. I’m the one jumping on the free e-book deals of the day. I’m the one driving bookstores into the ground.

Good thing I’m not sentimental.

The one good thing that can come from all of this is there really needs to be a sequel to You’ve Got Mail. Now is the time for Meg Ryan’s character to open a quaint, Dickensian used bookstore and watch the conflict evolve as Tom Hanks’s character’s big box book store becomes obsolete in the wake of electronic book sales. I don’t know how it all should end, but I’m sure it’s great rom-com material.

I guess what it boils down to is a loss of atmosphere. The convenience of going right to a search bar and getting the exact book I want delivered wirelessly in seconds is a nice feature of the modern book era. But I want to browse and flip through real pages, I want to pick up movies and flip them over to read the synopsis on the back. I want to be surrounded by the possibilities.

When’s the next library book sale?

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