Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Five Favorites

(Linking up with Hallie at Moxie Wife for Five Favorites)

1. My babies.  We recently signed the kids up for email. No idea how old they're supposed to be before you do this, but Ava asked for one and I couldn't think of a single reason why not to let her, so up we signed. And then she sent me some emails. And one of them said I'm the best mom ever. So basically, she wins. Although lately, they're all being sweet. Very suspicious.  I'm sure they're planning some sort of coup. But for now, I'll revel in the satisfaction of having four kids who are not all acting like assholes at the same time. WINNING.

2. This website. (That link will take you to today <April 30> but if you click the header it will take you to the main, then you can click back in for whatever day it is. Sorry if that sounds confusing, it's really not.) It's called the Skimm (WHY two m's?!?! I hate when people misspell stuff on purpose!!) and my friend Megan sent it to me. Thank God. It's no surprise that I don't exactly watch the news. My Facebook feed has been my ONLY source of current events for YEARS, but honestly, that's awful, and I don't go through my Facebook feed anymore because a)it usually sucks and b)the risk of spoilers when you live in the UK and get all the shows later (sometimes WAY later) than the US is too great. Hey, I said I read the news now, I never said I was any less lame and obsessed with TV.

Anyway, the Skimm rounds up whatever they consider to be important and edits it down into short, easily digestible blurbs. It's news for dummies. News lite. But it IS news. And they include links to actual articles on like the New York Times and Forbes and ESPN and things like that, if you want to read longer versions. And as far as I can tell, the girls at Skimm don't really put a spin on things like they do on Fox News, they just state things bluntly. I get the impression that they make fun of everything equally, if that makes any sense.

Anyway. I love it. You sign up and then they send you an email every day, at about noon London time, so I guess you'd get it America right when you wake up. It's nice to feel like I know a little bit about what's going on in the world (granted, today's Skimm is pretty boring, nothing I'm interested in, except that execution because isn't that almost EXACTLY like what happened on the Good Wife at the beginning of this season?!?!) but I also really love JUST getting the highlights. I don't want to hear about how a reporter agrees or disagrees, I don't want to feel pressure to think one way or another, I just want to know the story. That's it. And with the Skimm, that's what you get.

Let me know if you sign up. Because then we can talk about current events!!!

3. Routines.  Today I broke from my typical morning routine and it was awful. AWFUL. Of COURSE it was awful, what was I thinking?!?! Different is always bad. ALWAYS. Well obviously there are a few exceptions.  New movies can be good. As long as they aren't different version of the same movies. Finding a new books series is ALWAYS good. So there are exceptions. But for the most part, SAME is my favorite, and DIFFERENT is awful.

4. My new tupperware. Is it totally and completely lame to have new tupperware as one of my faves? I don't even care, I like it THAT much. For my pantry, I'm a stickler for actual Tupperware (don't forget we spent three years in hot humid tropical islands with lots of bugs and lizards- I needed that comfort of the Tupperware seal. If I'd poured a bowl of cereal and bugs tumbled out with it, I would have FLIPPED MY SHIT. Lost my shit? What's the expression?) but for leftovers, we just use rubbermaid or target brand or whatever.

Well all these years later, the plastic is stained and cracked and the lids are all missing. So last time we went to base, we stocked up on these beauties.
I didn't get the box set because I think round containers are stupid and absolutely useless, so I got mix of bigs and smalls. And I just love them. LOVE. They look so fancy in my tupperware cabinet and they're all sleep and gorgeous stacked up in the fridge- LOVE. Is this weird? Am I the lamest stay at home mom in the entire world?

5. The Bleak House miniseries. It's on the UK version of Netflix, not sure if they have it up on the US? It's old, I think it came out in like what 2006 maybe? I watched it while I was sewing and I was HOOKED. Agent Scully was AMAZING, as always. Tywin Lannister was in it, playing a Tywin Lannister character, so that good as he is as Tywin Lannister? Not as good actually. But good enough. And of course Susan from Bletchley was BREATHTAKING. I just love her so. Carey Mulligan doesn't do much for me, and her character was lame, but she's a decent actress.  Anyway, it's just REALLY good. This trailer makes it look sort of lame. And apparently, if you can't find it on Netflix, you can watch it all on YouTube, so that's kind of cool!

Could they have picked a worse still to use?!?! I can't even think of a sentence to tell you what it's about. It's about a bunch of people in the old days in and around London, being poor and rich and having smallpox and falling in love and getting murdered and blackmailed.

So that's my faves for today. Nothing mind blowing. Do you have any faves? Link up with Moxie Wife!!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Life After Life (And the Movie About Time)

Okay. This is like the hardest review EVER. I hate reviewing things that I really really REALLY love. First, there's the daunting task of trying to relay what it is exactly that made something so exquisitely perfect. Then there's the complete terror that someone will read and/or watch something based on my reviews, and then she'll either not get why I loved it so much or else she'll just straight up hate it.

It's nerve wracking!!!

I read Life After Life while we were on holiday in Amsterdam, where we rented About Time one night as well. So they will both be forever intwined in my mind, but they also had a LOT of similarities.

Let's do the book first because I can probably do this one without crying.  Okay, probably not.

From the back of the book: What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?
During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath.
During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale.
What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?
Life After Life follows Ursula Todd as she lives through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. With wit and compassion, Kate Atkinson finds warmth even in life's bleakest moments, and shows an extraordinary ability to evoke the past. Here she is at her most profound and inventive, in a novel that celebrates the best and worst of ourselves.

To be fair, I didn't read that until I actually picked it up from the library. I'd first heard of the book in EW when they did their Best of 2013 issue. It made best book from one writer, but to be honest, it didn't pique my interest AT ALL. They also pick Husband's Secret as one of the top ten, and that book was just lame. Here's what the EW reviewer says: Life After Life begins, inauspiciously enough, on a dark and stormy night. But it ends (and begins, and ends, and begins again) as an utter original: a book so dazzlingly inventive and deeply human that it's hard not to stop every few chapters to give Kate Atkinson a private standing ovation. Yes, she kills off her protagonist, Ursula Todd, almost immediately, letting the ''black bat'' of death descend before she even takes her first breath. And then Atkinson resurrects her — bringing Ursula, an otherwise ordinary British girl living an ordinary life in the first half of the 20th century, back to that same snowy night to be reborn over and over. Is she immortal? Do her reincarnations serve a higher purpose? Is she really trying to kill Hitler? It feels wrong to call Life magical realism, and it's nowhere near science fiction; somehow, the book comes off as both brilliant postmodern sleight of hand and old-fashioned storytelling in the best, most enveloping sense. It may actually make you grateful you'll only live once — and yet that didn't stop me from reading it twice. —Leah Greenblatt

But again, I didn't see any of this until AFTER I read it. I just vaguely remembered seeing the American cover (you know, with the roses) in the Best Of issue and then it just kept coming up over and over and OVER again, usually on my Goodreads lists. For one last cut and paste, here's the Goodreads synopsis: On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born, the third child of a wealthy English banker and his wife. Sadly, she dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in any number of ways. Clearly history (and Kate Atkinson) have plans for her: In Ursula rests nothing less than the fate of civilization.f
Wildly inventive, darkly comic, startlingly poignant — this is Kate Atkinson at her absolute best, playing with time and history, telling a story that is breathtaking for both its audacity and its endless satisfactions.
Should I try to formulate an actual review? Ugh. Here goes. First, you need to know that I am obsessed with all things Blitz related. It started forever ago when I first read Narnia, and it's multiplied by infinity since moving here. Obviously. I just can't wrap my mind around the fact that people bombed a CITY. Not only a city filled with innocent people who weren't actually FIGHTING IN THE WAR, but a gorgeous city full of history and irreplaceable architecture!!! Nick rolls his eyes whenever I get riled up about it (i.e. whenever we watch Nanny McPhee Returns, or go into the city, or it was especially bad during Call the Midwife when they had that unexploded bomb at Christmas) and he just says "it's war. No one is following the rules" but that's just bullshit. BULLSHIT. It shouldn't be allowed!!!

So I had no idea how much of this book would be about the Blitz, and maybe for other readers, it won't take up that much of their minds, but for me, this book was basically about the Blitz, all the Blitz, and nothing but the Blitz.

My favorite life (obviously) was when she was part of the rescue and recovery team.  I've just spent twenty minutes on Google and I can't find it, and of course I've already turned my book back in at the library, but the lady that she's working with in these chapters is my favorite character of the book. And she obviously left a huge impression on me since I can't even remember her name. Ugh.

So. Aside from the AMAZING and perfectly harrowing descriptions of the Blitz, here's some take home points that stuck with me while I was reading.

1. Lots of life is just dumb luck. Being in the right place at the right time. A lot of times, she drowned at the beach when she was like three.  But sometimes, this random dude looked up from the painting he was trying to do and saved her. It had nothing to do with how she lived her life (other than maybe not going into the water, but she tried that and her sister still got her to go in, and then at the end the poor cousin drowned, so I'm calling it nothing to do with her) it only matter how OTHER people were living their lives. And that either sucks or rocks, depending on how you look at it.

2. But lots of life IS what you make of things. Now I'm one of the (apparently very small percentage of) people who thinks Ursula didn't REALLY know she was living over and over. At the VERY end (the Hitler assassination life) she seems to get it, but all her other lives, I got the distinct impression that she knew SOMETHING was up, but not what. So she had this horrible feeling that she had to stop Bridget (was that her name?) from going to London and getting Spanish Flu, but she didn't know WHY. So she took matters into her own hands, and made her life take the shape she wanted. Same with the lives after she was raped, she couldn't just wait for dumb luck- she shaped it herself. Which is the inverse of my first point and either sucks or rocks, depending on how you look at it.

As a side note, I found the book VERY slow going until she FINALLY got around the Flu- after that, I literally didn't put it down till I was done.

3. The rape life made me think of that part of Perks where the teacher says "we get the love we think we deserve." And that makes me SO grateful to being living in this day and age. I mean, life is pretty fucked up, but at least we have some better grasps on psychology. If I were raped in this day and age, I think I wouldn't necessarily blame myself. I'd like to think my mother wouldn't disown me. I'd like to think I wouldn't stay in an abusive relationship as atonement for what I'd done- for what had BEEN DONE to me. That life was particularly hard to read (duh) but I think she (obviously) learned a lot and grew from that experience. And I just love being reminded of Perks.

4. What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right? That's like, the blurb for the book, and it's something her brother mentions to her sort of in passing. And obviously, it's just about forefront in your mind the entire time you're reading. But what does it REALLY mean? How do you know if you've finally got it right? More than anything, this book made me see how vast the web between us is. Ursula (and by extension, me, the reader) is just an ordinary run of the mill gal- and yet she (and each and every one of us) affects so many people in so many ways.  How can there be a 'right'?

5. How did the shrink's son Guy disappear? In some of her lives he's there (there's a pic of him in his office?) and sometimes not? Does that affect the way the shrink deals with his patients? Didn't Guy have PTSD from WWI? I might be reaching here, it was just sort of in the back on my mind when I read that his picture was gone, but now I think about it ALL THE TIME. How come in some of her lives, things are SO different for other people? People that she's not interacted with, so it should be the same? How come no matter what, her sister ends up married to the same dude? No matter what Ursula does, Pamela lives the exact same life? That doesn't seem right!!

6. Which leads me to: surely Ursula isn't the ONLY one living life after life. When I read near the end, where Sylvie delivers before the doc gets there again (which has always led to Ursula's death) and Bridget is all freaking out and Sylvie just sort of rolls her eyes and grabs the scissors and snip snip saves the baby? I just assumed it was a given that Sylvie was living life after life as well. It wasn't until I googled it and came up with NOTHING that it dawned on me that other readers weren't jumping to that conclusion. AT ALL. Which bothers me, but not too much. I don't mind having my own take on things.

7. And speaking of Sylvie, I got the distinct impression that we were supposed to hate her, but I just couldn't do it. I actually sort of even LIKED her. I can forgive a woman a multitude of sins if she loves her children. (Cough, Cersei, cough) I thought it was sweet how she breastfed even though (apparently?) it was cooler to get a wet nurse. I know she was distant and aloof and sort of a not-very-paying-attention-mother (cough Jennifer cough) but what can I say, I liked her.

Except, OBVIOUSLY, the Rape Life version. What the fuck Sylvie. How could she be so awful to Ursula?!?! Was it just the times? Were those her true colors? The only good thing about seeing what a horrible bitch Sylvie is in the Rape Life was seeing how deep Hugh's love for Ursula goes. It's there in all the other lives, but I REALLY noticed it in Rape Life.

And for my final point, I'd recommend that you read a flesh and blood copy of this, not a kindle version. I had to go back to the table of contents a lot, and I had to frequently flip back to the beginning of whatever chapter I was on to remember when/how old Ursula was.

I gave this five stars. I would have given it more. This was without a doubt a Drop Everything and Read. A Stayed Up all Night to Finish. How else does Meredith rate her books? I can't remember. But whatever they are, this is a winner. Winner winner. This was AS GOOD as the Dovekeepers, if that shows you how serious I am.


On to the movie?

Here's the trailer.

Obviously, it looks a little cheesy and dumb.

But it's NOT. It's so good!!!

The time travel gimmick is like BARELY a part of the movie. Seriously, I would NOT lie to you. In fact, I sort of hate time travel, it makes my head hurt. And I mega hated Time Traveler's Wife, I thought it was just so stupid and he was just such a dick.

But this MOVIE ya'll. It's one of the best I've seen. It's a movie about life. Just life. Nothing big, nothing fancy. Live life, live it well. Love your family. Love your parents and your sisters and your wife and your babies. Do it right, and do it now.

The scene where he visits his dad for the last time before the baby? I WAS A HOT SOBBING MESS OF SNOT ROCKETS.

It was BRUTAL.

Every single person in this entire movie was perfectly cast. Even Rachel McAdams, who I don't really love. His parents were especially perfect, and Uncle Devon (Desmond?) was almost as perfect as they were. It was just a PERFECT movie. Not a single wrong note.

I'll end with this quote from the ending, which sums it up and mildly spoils some of it, just in case you don't want to be spoiled. It doesn't ruin anything, and it really does sum it up nicely.

And in the end I think I've learned the final lesson from my travels in time; and I've even gone one step further than my father did: The truth is I now don't travel back at all, not even for the day, I just try to live every day as if I've deliberately come back to this one day, to enjoy it, as if it was the full final day of my extraordinary, ordinary life.

So there you go. Read Life After Life, then watch About Time, then get back at me. And if you don't like one of them, then you're dead to me.

No pressure.

Friday, April 25, 2014

One Little Word Fridays: THRIVE

Well.....I sort of let the ball drop on my OLW project. I'm still trying (as best I can) to make the thriving choices (when I can...) but I haven't been working on my binder or doing anything with Ali's prompts or anything like that. Kinda lame, but what can you do.

For anyone who has no idea what I'm talking about, Ali has this thang where you pick a word (one little word...) and it's like your theme for the year. You're supposed to use your word to help guide your choices and reshape the way you think about certain things. To take the easy way out, I chose the same word as Ali: THRIVE.

Along with Ali, I've also gotten hooked on Deborah at WhipStitch. She's funny, I like her voice, she talks with her hands, her word is margin and most of what she says can be applied to me, even though our lives are basically polar opposites. What's not to love? In this vlog, she talks a LOT about not thriving. Like, she felt like her life was happening TO her. Instead of like she's living her life. DING DING DING. Winner winner. Anyway. It's a long video, but it's good if you've got some time.

In January, I set up my intentions, and in February, I used those to shape a few (manageable, hopefully...) goals for the rest of the year.

You're supposed to fill in your reflection cards for the past month at the beginning of the next, but naturally...I have not done this.
Feb and Mar look exactly like this too.

So. If I do get around to filling in my reflection cards, what will I write?

Goal One: take plenty of deep breaths, be more proactive than reactive. Hmm. Do I do this? I think so. I definitely take more deep breaths. I haven't yelled at the kids as much lately. It's becoming almost an unconscious habit to bite my tongue and remind myself kids are dumb, he/she has NO IDEA that that is a TERRIBLE plan, he/she doesn't have enough life experience yet to realize that that is going to make me FURIOUS so if I explode and scream at him/her, it's just going to be confusing and terrifying and it's not going to change anything except how he/she feels about me.

I don't want my children to be terrified every time they accidentally tip over a glass of milk or when they make huge messes in the office while I'm sitting on the couch drinking coffee and playing on the computer. I want them to think (which is, somehow, different than KNOWING) that my love is unconditional.

So yeah. We'll put Goal One in the WINNING column.

Goal Two: Stop and look them in the eye, teach them to do the same. ANOTHER WIN!! Ha. Check me out, I'm thriving all over the place!! Warren is the hardest, he REFUSES to look me in the eye when he's rambling on and on and ON with is stories. I actually don't find this too terribly difficult on my part either, which surprised me. Kid starts talking, phone or book goes down, eye contact is established and continued until conversation is over.

Guess I'm sort of a badass in the thrive department.

Goal Three: Create twelve projects this year. Chugging right along!! I've got three quilts under my belt, three more on my table, the fabric for number seven coming in the mail, I've been keeping up with my 2014 scrapbook- this goal should be pretty easy to nail. Maybe should I increase it a little? Aren't you supposed to evaluate and change goals up as needed? Who knows.

Goal Four: Read six chapter books to the kids this year. Uhh....not so much. I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, then started Little House in the Big Woods...then stopped. Completely. Ugh. By the seven thirty, after baths and their show, I'm done. DONE. I want to wash my face while Nick throws them in bed, then veg out in front of the TV for an hour and then pass the fuck out. So I guess I need to work on this.

See? This is why I should have been doing my reflections cards, I might have caught this sooner and read more!! As it stands, I'll have to get through almost a book a month to make this one happen.

Goal Five: Read your Bible. Uhhh.... (crickets) Notsomuch. No excuses, no lengthy explanations, I just straight up haven't done this. At all.

Goal Six: Purge at least a bag a month. Um, no. Not even a little bit. Dammit. That's what I get for being cocky about the first two goals!!!

Goal Seven:  Teach the kids to do their chores. Um, halfsies? I was really into this in the beginning, chore charts were designed (of COURSE they were), tasks were assigned, money was given out...but the man with the money (ahem) wasn't as into it as the kids and I it's sort of fallen by the wayside.  And I can't just blame him (well, I can, but I won't, I suppose) because of COURSE I fell back into the habit of good LORD they're slow, I'd rather just load the fucking dishwasher myself. So...not winning.

Goal Eight: Calm the fuck down on vacations. Um, gonna call that one a loss as well.


How come I don't have any goals about working out and eating better? I haven't really been eating very well, but I have been working out consistently, no lie. Five days a week. Still loving on Fitness Blender. They really are the best. Obviously, I'm not losing any weight (I really do eat an obscene amount of crap) but I feel AMAZING.

Read a thousand books, is that one of my goals? Because I was nailing that one, till I got stuck on Eleanor&Park. Ugh. I feel like I've been reading that FOR EV ER. FOREVER. It's not bad, necessarily, but it's not very good. Trying too hard to be Perks of Being a Wallflower, if you ask me.

Anyway. That's what's up. Anyone else doing a One Little Word? Keeping up any better than I am? I'm gonna get this all sorted in May, get my binder up to snuff.

Engelbrecht out.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Latest Stack of Books

This started out as like three books, but then I realized I've read allthethingseverwritten in the last what, two months? So WHY am I all stalled out on Eleanor and Park? It's good! It's funny and I'm completely engaged, so why am I not reading?

Well. To be honest, I know why. It's because I'm too busy playing spider solitaire on Ava's kindle and plowing through all seven seasons of Big Bang Theory.

Anyway. This post ended up being reviews of The Long Earth, Hyperbole and a Half, In the Woods, The Likeness, Shovel Ready and (not) Life After Life. (These links aren't 'affiliate, if you're interested, they're just the links to Amazon so you can see the books if you want. I got each and every single one of these at the library though. Hillingdon Libraries FOR THE WIN.)

First, The Long Earth. Not my cup of tea.

From the inside jacket:

The possibilites are endless. Just be careful what you wish for....)

1916: The Western Front.
 Private Percy Blakeney wakes up. He is lying on fresh spring grass. He can hear birdsong, and the wind in the leaves. Where has the mud, blood and blasted landscape of no-man's-land gone? For that matter, where has Percy gone?

2015: Madison, Wisconsin. Police officer Monica Jansson is exploring the burned-out home of a reclusive--some said mad, others allege dangerous--scientist who seems to have vanished. Sifting through the wreckage, Jansson finds a curious gadget: a box containing some rudimentary wiring, a three-way switch, and...a potato. It is the prototype of an invention that will change the way humankind views the world forever.

The first novel in an exciting new collaboration between Discworld creator Terry Pratchett and the acclaimed SF writer Stephen Baxter, The Long Earth transports readers to the ends of the earth and far beyond. All it takes is a single step...

Sounds interesting, right?

It wasn't.  I don't even know how this ended up on my list. I'll probably never know. My dad? EW? SK? Who knows. But they had it at the library and seriously, doesn't it seem interesting?!?!

It's boring. To copy the review I left on Good Reads: I thought it was meh. The way they wrote the conversations was annoying, so often the people spoke like robots. The first three hundred pages were boring, and I had a hard time wrapping my mind around the last hundred and twenty. Could be that I'm just not smart enough for this sort of story though, I can definitely see how some people might really like this. I highly doubt I'll be reading the next one...but you never know.

It just didn't do anything for me. AT ALL.

Now Hyperbole and a Half, on the other hand, TOTALLY did all the things to me. All the feelings that have ever existed or will exist in the history of ever- I felt them while reading this. At the same time. It was WONDERFUL. Exquisite even.

From the back of the book:
This is a book I wrote. Because I wrote it, I had to figure out what to put on the back cover to explain what it is. I tried to write a long, third-person summary that would imply how great the book is and also sound vaguely authoritative--like maybe someone who isn’t me wrote it--but I soon discovered that I’m not sneaky enough to pull it off convincingly. So I decided to just make a list of things that are in the book:
Stories about things that happened to me
Stories about things that happened to other people because of me
Eight billion dollars*
                                            Stories about dogs
                                            The secret to eternal happiness*
                                           *These are lies. Perhaps I have underestimated my sneakiness!

I've heard she has a website, but honestly, I haven't gone to it. This is going to sound insane, but hear me out. It's the same way I feel about the experience I had at the Harry Potter Studios: it was SO COMPLETELY PERFECT AND AWE INSPIRING the first time, I can't bear the idea of taking the risk of returning, and having it be not as magical.

I know. I'm cray. Trust me, I KNOW.

But I can't risk going to the blog and finding out something I don't like about her, which will then color the way I look back on the book.

I loved this book SO MUCH. I can't even describe it to you, it's just a bunch of ramblings (likey likey) with horrible drawings. Like reading a horribly illustrated comic book? I wouldn't know, because as nerdy as I am, I've never read comic books.  Weird, right?

They're not really about anything in particular. There's a few about her depression, which are heart wrenching, and as someone who battles depression, the most accurate and spot on descriptions I've EVER read, seriously EVER, but mostly they're just sweet, hilarious ramblings about her life.

Just trust me. GO READ THIS BOOK.  I never read nonfiction, but I'd heard about this and I've read the depression one a few times, so when I saw it at the library I snatched it up. I'm so glad I did!! Honestly, this book CHANGED MY LIFE.

The one where she eats the cake?!?! HOLY SHIT. I peed myself. SO EPIC.  I'm gonna risk finding her blog to see if she's got that one up.  Hold on.

Here it is. It's different from the book, slightly, the pics are different (maybe the UK book is different?) and it's not AS funny, but it's pretty close. JUST GO GET THE BOOK!!! GET THE BOOK!!! (Double points if you name that movie.)

In the Woods and The Likeness

So these are the first two in a series recommended by my beloved SK. In the Woods sounded really good, so I grabbed it up: When he was twelve years old, Adam Ryan went playing in the woods with his two best friends. He never saw them again. Their bodies were never found, and Adam himself was discovered with his back pressed against an oak tree and his shoes filled with blood. He had no memory of what had happened.
Twenty years on, Rob Ryan - the child who came back - is a detective in the Dublin police force. He's changed his name. No one knows about his past. Then a little girl's body is found at the site of the old tragedy and Rob is drawn back into the mystery. Knowing that he would be thrown off the case if his past were revealed, Rob takes a fateful decision to keep quiet but hope that he might also solve the twenty-year-old mystery of the woods.

Sounds good, no? And it was. Expect it turns out that Rob is sort of a dick. And I found the idea that no one realizes he's Adam a little far fetched. I mean, this is Dublin in the twenty first century, not Dublin in the fourteen hundreds. Surely they have Google? Surely they do background checks on detectives? I dunno. But the case itself was very interesting, and kept me guessing for a good while. I especially liked the way you sort of got a better than average behind the scenes look at police work. I really got into the details she provided, the whiteboard and the busy work- just all the nitty gritty stuff they don't usually show on TV. She's a REALLY good writer. And throughout the entire book, there's the sort of intense but also subtle (can it be both? Because it is) foreshadowing, which I REALLY REALLY enjoyed.

But yeah, the main character was a dick and I thought it was far fetched that he was even on the case. But it was good enough, so I picked up the next one, which was so fricking far fetched that I could barely read it without rolling my eyes: Still traumatised by her brush with a psychopath, Detective Cassie Maddox transfers out of the Murder squad and starts a relationship with fellow detective Sam O'Neill. When he calls her to the scene of his new case, she is shocked to find that the murdered girl is her double. What's more, her ID shows she is Lexie Madison - the identity Cassie used, years ago, as an undercover detective. With no leads, no suspects and no clues to Lexie's real identity, Cassie's old boss spots the opportunity of a lifetime: send Cassie undercover in her place, to tempt the killer out of hiding to finish the job.

So yes, she looks identical to the dead girl, so she moves in to her house. And none of her friends- her close, spend all day at work together then all night at home together- none of her friends notice.

Give me a fucking break!!!

So yeah, it freaked me out because I'm crazy and I became obsessed with demanding that Angela assure me that she would not be fooled by my double.

But if you're a normal person who is not terrified of your friends believing you've been replaced by a double, you might enjoy this.

I didn't like it better than the first one, but wanna know something weird? I didn't realize this until I wrote up this review!! Weird, right? Either way, I've already got the next two from the library, so I'm obviously hooked. Far fetchedness aside (that's a word) she's just a fantastic writer and I'll probably read everything just puts out.

And now, on to the good stuff!!! These next two were EASILY the best of this bunch. Well, except for Hyperbole, which is on its own special planet of awesomeness, but I figured that was implied.

Shovel Ready will easily be one of my Top Five Things of 2014. That being said, this book is NOT for everyone. DO YOUR RESEARCH. This book is seriously rated R, it's pretty dark, all things considered.

From the back: 'I don't want to know your reasons. I don't care. Think of me as a bullet. Just point.'

Spademan used to be a garbage man. That was before the dirty bomb hit Times Square, before his wife was killed, before New York became a burnt-out shell. Now the wealthy spend their days tapped into virtual reality; the rest have to fend for themselves in the streets. Now there's nothing but garbage.
So he became a hit man. He doesn't ask questions, he works quickly, and he's handy with a box-cutter.

When he's hired to kill the daughter of a high-profile evangelist, Spademan's life is upended. He will have to navigate two worlds - both the slick fantasy and the wasteland reality - to finish the job, clear his conscience, and make sure he's not the one who winds up in the ground.

He's like Dexter, but with a MUCH more lax code.  As in, he'll kill anyone except children. And he'll kill random old dudes just because he feels like it, even if no one has hired him.

It bothered me that the conversations aren't in quotes, but I got over it pretty quickly. It's short choppy sentences, but not in the same way that Jack Reacher books are, it's WAY better writing. At first I was bothered that there wasn't enough back story about the rest of the county, but now I realize that that just doesn't even matter. It was so good!! I'm telling ya, five stars. I gave it four on Good Reads, but I'm gonna change it to five. It just gets better and better the more I think back on it.

But again: THIS BOOK IS NOT FOR EVERYONE. He's a hit man, basically without any morals whatsoever. I've read a lot of dark stuff in my day, but this one is different. So I don't want anyone to read it and then come crying to me that it was awful and you hate me. DO YOUR RESEARCH.

Life After Life is one of the best books I've ever read.

Do I say that too often? I'm serious this time though. In fact, as I'm writing this, I've decided that I just can't, and I'm going to have to do a hole post on this book and the movie About Time. So look forward to that, ladies.

Tonight I WILL PLOW THROUGH Eleanor and Park, and then after I read the two Dublin Murder books I've got (Faithful Place and Broken Harbour), I'm going to hunt down Ocean at the End of the Lane as per the always spot on Meredith, and the next Jack Reacher. Aren't libraries the BEST?!?! Can you imagine how much it would cost me to do this on amazon!?! Hint: a shit ton.

Anyway. Got any good ones for me? Because if you haven't heard, I got my library card and can read basically everything ever written for FREE.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Bullets at the HQ

-After doing nothing but  READREADREAD for the past few weeks, I'm stalling out on Eleanor&Park. It's not that it's not good...I just don't feel like reading. I'm all read-ed out.  It happens, I suppose. It happens to me anyway.  It just sucks because what I want to do INSTEAD of reading all the things all day long is sit on the couch drinking coffee and working on my scrapbook. But for some reason pse is CONSTANTLY crashing on the laptop. So I can pull up a page and place ONE photo and then BOOM, gone. It's a race to see if I can hit SAVE before the crash. Seriously, it's that bad. But is it pse or the laptop itself? Apple seems secretly notorious for making their shit crap out after a few years so you have to buy new stuff.  We have an original iPad and you can't put the newest operating system (?? is that a thing??) on it. How is that fair?

I love apple, but I feel slightly cheated. Have they hoodwinked me? But what are my options? After using my macbook for just a few weeks back in the summer of 2010 (WOW) I tried to use our PC and it was like trying to use a chisel and a stone. So I can't exactly go back. But what, I have to pay for new shit every few years? That's not fair!!

If, however, it's a problem with pse and THEY have this evil plan to make you replace THEIR shit every few years, I'm even MORE fucked. I downloaded a new trial of pse 11 or 12, whatever they're on now, and it's SO different that I couldn't use it.

I don't know if you know this little secret about me, so I'll share. Lean in, I want to whisper it: I don't like change.

I know. It's shocking.

-Jennifer. Could this post be ANY less interesting?

Why yes. Yes it can.

It was bound to happen (and one night it did- name that tune!!!) but I wasn't expecting it to happen overseas where I have no access to Pottery Barn and everything is expensive as shit. We have outgrown our sofa. We cannot all six sit on our couch to watch tv.

I know, right? Six people don't fit on one couch?

It's true, it's true. Sigh.

I knew, as I kept getting knocked up over and over and OVER again, that one day we'd have to get a sectional sofa, which I hate and are so ugly. But having a sofa and loveseat just seems stupid, and I doubt we'd ever be able to fit that anyway, considering we'll have to make room for Big Ugly forever and always.
Our beloved Laz-E-Boy. She's UGLY in all
 caps, but OHHHH we love her so.
I have naturally taken to Pinterest. We might be stateside as early as next January (please God, no!! NO!!!!) so I might as well have a plan, no?

I'll share another little tidbit you surely already know: I'm not only uninteresting in the big stuff, I'm boring in the trivial as well.  My favorite colors, in order, are beige, deeper darker beige, light brown, grey, dark grey, light grey, dark brown, and burnt orange.  I also like a deep green, but just a tiny splash here and there.  I love to scroll through gorgeous interior design blogs (a few faves here here and here, if you're interested. Oh, and here, but she's redoing her house and hasn't posted much amazeness lately.) but when it comes to my own home, there's only one thing I want: I want my home to look like a Pottery Barn catalogue.  Completely uninspired and generic, filled with browns and beiges and the occasional greys. Remember on Friends when Phoebe is mad because she hates Pottery Barn? SHE CRAY. Uniformity and genericism (new word I just made up) are THE BOMB DOT COM.

While most sectionals are still quite ugly, here's a few I could live with.  If you're considering having Too Many Children, don't forget to take your home decor into account when deciding whether or not to go for gold.

Original image here at PB, naturally. 
I would want this in one of the darker colors. In fact, you can assume that for anything I post ever. I also want it to cost a LOT less. I feel like if you're going with a big box chain like PB, it should be massively cheaper.

That link doesn't go anywhere. I cannot STAND that!! It just goes to a giant image blown up. Don't be lazy!! Track it down. I will track it down. Just not right now. Okay fine, I tried. I think it might be this, but I can't find that picture of it in a living room ANYWHERE.

This one is getting into the ugly frumpy that I associate with sectionals and hate, but I love the giant ottoman and all the pillows, so it was worth a pin.

Original image here, but it's not a store, it's just a design board thing.
Anyway. I could do this all day, but really, this is getting out-of-control-boring, even for me.  I'm just getting super nervous about Nick's board in May, and he keeps gently reminding me that screening is a very real (and fifty percent likely) possibility, so I need to be prepared. And planning our Future Home is a way to calm my nerves. As a side note to this incredible ramble of a side note post, we don't say Forever Home. I grew up in the military, moving every few years until I was twelve and my parents settled in the God forsaken wasteland that is Biloxi. I love moving, LOVE IT. So we don't plan on staying anywhere for too long, even once he gets out.  Anyone know of a job that pays to move you all around the world like the military? Anyone? <crickets> Dammit.

-For another mindnumbinly boring bullet, I have been on the hunt for a blazer since like September. All the fashion blogs (because I read those, while sitting here in yoga pants and a ratty threadbare Auburn tee) were ALL about the blazer. I know own three.  None of them fit, and I've never worn any of them out of the house. I just ordered the last one from thredup, and it has to go back, and I refuse to buy another one EVER. My arms are too fat, my boobs are too small, I can't move, I can't breathe, it's a TRAIN WRECK. It HAS to stop.

So. What to do?

Apparently I need a denim jacket. Because it's 1987 again.

My mother tried to get us into All Denim All Day for our entire childhoods. She just needed to wait it out a few years, then she could have struck gold. GOLD Jerry!!
Original image here

I love Pinterest Told Me To, even though she's petite and perky and apparently quite wealthy. Our styles don't match up, but I like how she seems pretty down to earth.  For a fashion blogger.  I've ordered a few things on her recommendation and honestly, they've all been fantastic. Some socks for my toms that I can't find her post for, but they were these and I love them, the ultra wide leggings, and a few things from the Gap. She gets most of her stuff from Nordstrom and I haven't ordered anything from them yet, but I might just get this jacket she swears by. Her original Must Have is like a bleached acid wash, and I don't care HOW in-style those get, I will NEVER wear one, you mark my words. Not gonna do it.

But honestly. A demin jacket? Is this REALLY a thing? Do people really wear them? I don't want to look like a fool. But I have about eleventy billion maxi dresses from Guam and Hawaii and it's NOT warm enough to wear them alone here, even in the dead of July, and I'm getting sick of All Cardigans All the Time.

-And that is LITERALLY all that's on my mind. My kids all go back to school on Wednesday and I cannot WAIT. They're not really bothering me that much, but I want my routine back. Junebug is out of sorts and the only thing I can figure is that she's fed up with the lack of routine as well.

And before you say duh, Jennifer, can't you just implement your routine even though everyone is on break? Not just no but fuck no. I refuse to EVER give up the chance to sleep in. Ever. The day I do that, you have my permission to slap some sense back in to me.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Netherlands Recap

For the first week of the term break, we headed east to the Netherlands.

And as always, we rented through Homeaway. Because Homeaway is the greatest invention in the history of the world. Besides the smallpox vaccine. This one was more of a hotel type, it was five or six apartments in a big building and it had a reception desk and all that jazz- it wasn't the typical Homeaway listing of just some dude's house. So for those of you who are (crazy weirdos) nervous about the idea of staying in someone's 'home' you could go this route and get the 'security' from a 'regular hotel' (weirdos) but also get the kitchen and a room with a door to get away from your kids.

My view from the front door- it was actually quite breathtaking, not to sound overly dramatic.
The only (so so super slight, so small that it's barely worth mentioning) downside to this one was that the laundry room was a community one. It was RIGHT next to our apartment, but still, I had to bring my shit over, and pay attention to when it was done in case someone else wanted to do a load.

It was listed as a working farm, and we weren't disappointed. There were cows everywhere, and sheep, and chickens, and they were so friendly and invited the kids to come watch the cows get milked (it was all with machines, so slightly more boring than you'd think) and to come with the guys to herd them back to the barns in the evening.
Cows are NOT very smart.

Anyway. The farm was the best part of this holiday.

Don't get me wrong, it's not like I hated it and cried all week.

It's just that we've done so many amazing vacations, and this one was just sort of lacklustre. The main problem was my own damn fault- I didn't plan a single thing. Nada. I just figured we'd go see some tulips and maybe wander around Amsterdam.  And so that's exactly what we did.

We drove (we took the Euro Tunnel if you're interested) and it took us all day since it's us we're talking about, so the first night we just lazed around the barn and went to the grocery store for dinner and went to bed.

The next morning (Tuesday? I think?) it was raining, so we didn't want to go to the tulip fields, but we also didn't want to just sit around, so we headed to Amsterdam. We were about thirty minutes out of town, so we drove in to park and took the tube the rest of the way.

And it started to hail as soon as we walked up from the station.


So we hid out at the Heineken Factory, which was REALLY badass.  Way better than the Guiness one in Dublin. It was very interactive, and the people were all so nice, even with Team Engelbrecht. Which is harder than it sounds.

After that, we walked around a little, hit up the Hard Rock (duh) then drove back home.

Wednesday was the coolest- we hit up the tulip fields, both on the side of the road (the BEST) and Keukenhof Gardens, which is like the tourist trap for everyone all over the world who wants to come and see the tulips. I wondered if it would be worth it- paying money to see what we could see for free? IT WAS. There's a reason people pay the fee- it was BREATHTAKING in there.

Here's the fields on the side of the road...
I know it looks like they're peeing- they are NOT. 

Fave shot of the day below. I wish there wasn't a path right on the left there. But other than that- LOVE IT.

And then here we are in the Gardens, which were very crowded, but it was weird because even though there were TONS of people, as soon as we got thru the very front funnel entrance thing, we barely ever ran into anyone else.

Maybe they heard us coming and steered clear?

They also had a pretty neat playground.

Why is he licking a flower? No idea. 

Thursday, we headed over to Kinderdijk to check out the windmills, which was REALLY cool.  Probably my favorite part of the trip. The tulips were beautiful, but this was better.

Then on the last day, we headed back to Amsterdam to take a boat tour around the canals.

I'm sure you can imagine what Warren did on the boat tour...

Then the next day we got up early and caught the train home.

It's not that I didn't LIKE the Netherlands. I think it's just that...we live twenty minutes away from London, one of the most magnificent cities in the world. So as far as cities, you've got to do a LOT to impress me. Rome did it. But Amsterdam? Not so much. However, the windmills and the tulips were AMAZING. I just wish we'd planned some more countryside type excursions.  Alas. Live and learn, right?