Thursday, March 24, 2011

Review: The Outsiders

This is not the first time I've read this book.  Far from it.  Since I was eleven years old, I've read this book at least once a year.  And this past weekend, I pulled out my copy and read it again.  One of the favorite moments I've had this year with my little bit, who is now eleven, was giving her a copy of this book.  I can only hope she loves it as much as I do.

I'm also making it work for the "something old" portion of Lazy Girl's Mini-Challenge.

Book 3/4 - something old (my copy is old - contact paper holds the cover together)

Title: The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

Summary:  When it was first published in 1967, The Outsiders defied convention with its immediate, deeply sympathetic portrayal of Ponyboy and his struggle to find a place for himself in a difficult world. Thirty years later, it speaks to teenagers as powerfully as ever.

My Review:  I think this book has one of the best opening lines I've ever read, especially considering how it also serves as a perfect ending.  Immediately, the reader is immersed into Ponyboy Curtis' world, where things are tough all-around, but somehow, he manages to remain strong. 
I'm convinced this is the book that caused me to develop my obession with all things close-sibling-relationships.  Even when they're fighting and downright feel like they hate each other, not only do the Curtis Brothers, but the rest of their gang as well, have such wonderful dynamics with one another.
Outside of Harriet the Spy, this is the book that probably meant the most to me as a kid.  And outside of Pride & Prejudice, it's the only one I constantly seek out to re-read over and over again.
Overall: 5 stars

Review: Crescendo

I've been spending most of my free time writing or reading, but not updating about what I read.  Makes partaking in these challenges a bit precarious, but I'm working on it.

Book 4/12 for the 2011 Young Adult Challenge

Title: Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick

Summary:  Nora Grey's life is still far from perfect. Surviving an attempt on her life wasn't pleasant, but atleast she got a guardian angel out of it: a mysterious, magnetic, gorgeous guardian angel. But, despite his role in her life, Patch has been acting anything but angelic. He's more elusive than ever and even worse, he's started spending time with Nora's arch-enemy, Marcie Millar.

Nora would have hardly noticed Scott Parnell, an old family friend who has moved back to town, if Path hadnt been acting so distant. Even with Scott's totally infuriating attitude Nora finds herself drawn to him - despite her lingering feeling that he's hiding something.

Haunted by images of her murdered father, and questioning whether her nephilim bloodline has anything to do with his death, Nora puts herself increasingly in dangerous situations as she desperatly searches for answers. But maybe some things are better left buried, because the truth could destroy everything - and everyone - she trusts.

My review:  I loved this book from beginning to end. My only complaint was the cliffhanger at the very end, which left me wanting more right this second.

The story picks up not long after Hush, Hush with Nora and Patch together, but with the Archangels watching them closely (as he's her guardian angel), and slowly unravels from there. There is a lot going on in this book with Nora, her relationship with Patch, her father's murder, and so much more, but it all fits together wonderfully.

I continue to love the characters and the story as it unfolds and I'm completely engrossed in Nora and Patch and what happens next.

This was definitely a couldn't put it down read. I read the whole book in one sitting, not willing to put it down (ah, thank goodness for a lazy Sunday).

Overall: 5 stars

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

It would be nice if the weather could sparkle...

It looks like winter hasn't received the memo that spring is upon us and is trying to hold on a bit longer.  It probably wouldn't feel so miserable if I hadn't been spoiled by nice weather recently.  I really am trying to cut down on my woe-is-me attitude, but like the Carpenters' song says, "rainy days and mondays really get me down."

Something fun-making?  It's Wishcasting Wednesday, a chance to dream and wish and share with other creative spirits.

This week Jamie asks:

courtesy of We Heart It

I wish to sparkle with understanding.  I feel like I've spent a great deal of time on my life journey without any idea of who I am or what I am truly capable of.  I've allowed others and my own negativity to drown out my voice.  I wish to find that voice and embrace the sparkle, walking away with a better grasp of who I am.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Daily gratitude

Today I am grateful for a very good therapy session.  It's been slow going but I'm seeing the progress and I know I can't undo over thirty years of issues in one.  Mostly, there was this connection my therapist pointed out to me today that had never occurred to me and really has me thinking.

Where most of our thoughts are right now...

Happy Wishcasting Wednesday!  If you've never taken part, it's this great weekly chance to explore and dream and share with others.  To quote Jamie, "Wishcasting Wednesday is a safe haven for wishes, a fertile field in which to plant wish seeds and have them witnessed and tended lovingly. It’s a place where magic begins."

Today Jamie asks:

courtesy of We Heart It

With everything that has happened in Japan since last Friday, it's hard not to automatically think of all the thoughts I'm having for the people there.  I'm constantly updating the live feed from Guardian news, as though listening and sending out my prayers will do some good.  I want them to get the help that they need and for things to calm down so that they have a chance to deal with the catastrophe.  I want so desperately to be able to do more than donate the few bucks I can spare. 

Beyond that, it's hard to think of wishes for the world at the moment.  I suppose, if there is something to learn from the horrible tragedies in Japan, it's that the world is far too dependent on nuclear power and petrol.  For such a smart species, we continue to be lacking in ways to come up with alternative fossil fuels.  I realize that wouldn't have stopped the earthquake and tsunami - mother nature does as she sees fit and all we can do is be there in the aftermath to help those affected - but there wouldn't be the threat of nuclear meltdown and maybe help would be able to get to those who needed it without the need to stop and analyze the gas reserves.  I'm not blaming the Japanese for this, I hope that's clear, and this isn't the first time I've thought about how dependent we, especially here in the USA, are on oil and nuclear power (and nuclear weapons).  It amazes me sometimes that some people still don't see the problems that they pose to our continued survival.

My wish this Wednesday is first and foremost that Japan stops getting hit with catastrophe after catastrope so they can be properly aided in the aftermath.  But I also wish that as the months continue, people stop to think about the things we can control to help combat this dependency on a personal level. I worry I don't do enough myself, let alone have the ability to effect change in others, but I wish to believe that it can be done.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Five Best Reads of 2010

As part of Princess Bookie's contest craze, the blog,Forever Young, is hosting a giveaway, involving the creation of a list of the best five books read last year.

So let's get to it:

1. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins - If you have not read the Hunger Game trilogy, I cannot implore you more to go get a copy now.  If I had a copy to spare, I would send it your way.  This last book ties up everything so perfectly in ways that can be so violent and heart-wrenching, but so true to the world that has been created.  Katniss Everdeen continues to be one of my favorite characters.

2.  Undone by Brooke Taylor - The book hooked me from page one and Serena's journey as she deals with mourning and moving on and making sense of life all resonated so well.

3.  WAR by Sebastian Junger - It feels odd to say that a book about an outpost in Afghanistan where lives were lost was one of my favorite reads of the year, but it was.  It was horrifying and sad.  It was a book that made me stop and think about the things soldiers are facing and how ill-equipped some are to come home. 

4.  Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta - It was one of those books that pulls you right in and manages to capture your imagination and heart within a page or two.

5.  Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick - I loved this book and couldn't believe it took me so long to pick it up.  Why had I waited?  (finished Crescendo on Sunday and will put up review of that soon).

daily gratitude

I am going to make this a habit.  For real.

Roots of She ran a cool giveaway for the chance to win a place in the Blossom from the Heart writing course.  I won!  This is exactly the type of thing I need to help me break through these ruts.  Thank you, universe.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Six Word Saturday - 3/12/11

Horrified and saddened by yesterday's losses.

Reviews: Halo & The Dark Divine

Despite the fact that I haven't been posting my reviews like I should, I have been reading.  Most of the writing I've been doing on my computer has been on my current project.  I'm working on being better with time management.  I'm play catch-up over the next few days.

Both these books are for the 2011 Young Adult Challenge, where I stated I would read 12 books.

Book 2/12

Title: Halo by Alexandra Adornetto

Summary:  Nothing much happens in the sleepy town of Venus Cove. But everything changes when three angels are sent from Heaven to protect the town against the gathering forces of darkness: Gabriel, the warrior; Ivy, the healer; and Bethany, a teenage girl who is the least experienced of the trio. They work hard to conceal their true identity and, most of all, their wings. 

But the mission is threatened when the youngest angel, Bethany, is sent to high school and falls in love with the handsome school captain, Xavier Woods. Will she defy the laws of Heaven by loving him? Things come to a head when the angels realize they are not the only supernatural power in Venus Cove. There′s a new kid in town and he′s charming, seductive and deadly. Worst of all, he′s after Beth.

My Review:  (There are spoilers for this review!)

I'm not sure that I can accurately, let alone eloquently, explain my feelings for this book. We have an angel in human form for a main character and I'm assuming that's why the novel is filled with so much exposition and description. So much focus on it. At first it really annoyed me, until I was able to see that as the main character is experiencing her first trip to earth maybe that is how it would be.  That said,  I ended up skimming large portions of exposition where it seemed to serve no purpose to the plot.

The romance was okay. It falls into the same box of issues that I have with Twilight. I enjoy it, but I think as an adult, I can't buy into the true-love-perfect-relationship-soul-mate, where the guy has no imperfections in the eyes of the girl.  And I hate when fighting with the boy drives the girl to have a complete breakdown.  Maybe if I was a teenager I would think it was incredible and romantic, but I'm not sure. 

The introduction of Jake Thorne (hello obvious character name), the event that proceeded and the ending all happened so quickly that it was almost an after thought. It felt like it was thrown in as something that Bethany and Xavier had to face simply because they were too perfect or a reason for Bethany, Gabriel and Ivy even being on Earth. 

Basically, it wasn't bad, but it wasn't a book I would tell people to rush out to read. I'd probably say, "If you're bored and like cheesy romance, check this out." Liked it enough 

Overall: 2 stars

Book 3/12

Title: The Dark Divine by Bree Despain

Summary:  Grace Divine—daughter of the local pastor—always knew something terrible happened the night Daniel Kalbi disappeared and her brother Jude came home covered in his own blood. 

Now that Daniel's returned, Grace must choose between her growing attraction to him and her loyalty to her brother. 

As Grace gets closer to Daniel, she learns the truth about that mysterious night and how to save the ones she loves, but it might cost her the one thing she cherishes most: her soul.

My Review:  First, I had no idea that the order I was reading the YA books would lead me on some semi-religious theme throughout them.  I was mostly basing it on books that looked interesting and others were talking about.  Second, this is another one of those books where it was quite hard for me to articulate how I felt about the book.  This review might seem almost bi-polar as I really did like the book and want to read more from the author, but I also couldn't overlook some of the issues I had with this book. 

I'm not the most religious girl, but I really enjoyed the use of Grace and her family's religion (and the role within their community that came with it) in the book as it didn't come off too heavy-handed. For the most part, I enjoyed Grace, the main character, but at times she seemed too perfect and never seemed to ask the most basic questions of the people in her life.  It was as though she was purposefully ignorant for no good reason.  The same can be said for her conversations and relationship with Daniel.  I liked the connection the two of them shared, but it was all over the place.  I get that's part of the point of them getting together, but at times it was too much.

My other issue was pacing. It seemed like we had very long lead-ups to the reveals and the ending, and then there was hardly anytime spent on the actual moments as they happened. I didn't get to enjoy the pay off quite the way I wanted to - I felt somewhat robbed of the time to be both happy and sad for Grace and Daniel. 

I still enjoyed it.  It was an addictive read.  I liked the twist of the end for Grace (again, just wish there was more to savor of it) and I'm intrigued to see what becomes of the characters and how they develop.

Overall: 3 stars 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

fear comes in all shapes and sizes...

I just read a wonderful guest blog post at ScoutieGirl, by an online friend of mine, Kathy, who continues to inspire me.  She talks about fear and overcoming it, and it got me to thinking about my own life.  It might not be the same things we fear, but I can relate to those feelings.

For me, there is so much fear and anxiety in my life and I never deal with it in a healthy fashion.  In a way, as my therapist said, it was part of how I was able to survive not only losing my dad as a child, but also to live in a house with an alcoholic mother, who could turn on a dime.  Sometimes she was fine, but most of the time she was cruel and unavailable in the ways I needed her to be there for me.  I know she loved me - I'm still the first to defend her at all times - but she didn't really know how to show love.  She tried to do it with presents and trips, but that wasn't really what I needed. 

My life was all about things.  Abstractions and emotions weren't tolerated or understood.  Dreams were wishful thinking that had no place in my life - I was always told to "grow up" whenever I talked about my love of writing and getting published one day. 

I feel like even in her death, my relationship with her continues to be all about things.  She had so many damn things - I don't believe the woman believed in getting rid of anything - and they are everywhere in the house.  It's suffocating and yet, I haven't been able to bring myself to do anything about it.

It's been two years.  I know it's beyond time, and I get so mad at myself for constantly putting it off, like it's the story of my life thus far, especially since I'm not connected to most of her possessions.  My good memories of my mother are barely attached to any physical items, but still it's so hard. 

There is so much stuff.  Both my parents were crazy pack rats, it seems.  I know, definitely, that my mother was (One of the many problems with a parent who dies when you're a little kid is that I have no idea who my father was as a person.  He was just daddy.)  but there is so much of his stuff I'm willing to bet it was a shared passion of theirs.  I don't even know where to begin with a lot of this stuff.

I'm also torn about nostalgia and attachment I feel that I should have to certain things.  I have none.  There is no attachment to anything because, even if something was important to my mother, she never told me why or the story behind it.  There is nothing in the majority of her things that makes me fondly remember her.  I look at all her stuff and get anxious and annoyed and upset that the only way she ever felt truly able to show love was through shopping and buying me things.  

The things I like to remember about her are how she took care of me when I was sick.  She would let me sleep in her bed, and always pulled out Princess Bride (my favorite) for me to watch and would make me feel loved and protected.  I remember how she took me with her to vote when I was little and shared with me her love of politics, even though later in life she would bemoan that I was a liberal hippy.  I remember the two of us singing in the car (badly) along with Michael Buble, someone we both loved and one of those rare moments where I felt like we had something in common.   Those are things I remember and none of them involve stuff.

Most of all, if I'm completely honest, I continue to avoid her belongings because it causes so much to bubble up to the surface - anger, sadness, loss - and I've made a lifetime of choices that involved avoiding all things emotional.  I'm working on it, but I'm scared that a flood of everything will come rushing out of me if I deal with this.  It's ridiculous and silly and I feel like I should be beyond this.  Why can't I just let go?  Why am I holding onto the sadness and so much anger? 

It's time, though.  I can't move on and allow myself to be happy while I'm clutching onto a past that wasn't even that great and things that don't matter in the end. 

It got me to thinking how much fear controls me in so many bad ways.  It paralyzes me.  I keep myself from going after things I want because immediately I get afraid of what it all means.  Change.  Making mistakes.  Failing.  Just typing this, I get slightly anxious. 

I'm working on it.  I must keep working on it.  Change isn't bad and fear no longer deserves the control over my life I've given it in the past. I've lived through a lot and I'm still standing.  I'm stronger than I give myself credit for - I need to process that somehow and believe in myself.

A good place to start would be with a few boxes of my mother's stuff and donating it to people who could use it.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

daily gratitude

How long does it take to make something a habit?  I will get the hang of this.

I arrived home from a good, but busy day to a lovely package awaiting me.  I won an autographed copy of The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell and some other goodies and it came today.  This book sounds so great and I can't wait to dig into it this weekend. 

I wanna share it with the world!

Today was a good day.   Busy, but good.  I wish I had time before now to get to wishcasting Wednesday, but I still have a few hours to get my wishes in.

Today Jamie asks:

 courtesy of We Heart It

I've always been told that I have a great smile and that it puts people in a good mood. Even on my worst days, I tend provides others a smile - good ripples - because I truly believe that how I treat one person can affect a bunch of people who I might not even have contact with and so on and so on.  While I'm hardly a saint and get rightly-and-not-rightly annoyed with people at times, I always try to leave them with a smile.

I must confess, though, that all of that good will and smiling flies out the window when I drive.  I'm the angry Jersey girl behind the wheel, cursing old people, tailgaters and anyone who doesn't know how to merge.  Such wasted energy.  In most cases, the cause of my ire probably didn't even know it and in if the driver did, what did I accomplish?  Not only was I letting someone else steal my joy on preposterous grounds, but there was a chance I was then putting them into a mood that could affect whoever they came into contact with.


I don't want bad ripples, just good ripples.

My wish this week, as silly as it might seem, is just to be able to continue to smile and be joyful.  To find some calm when I'm driving that has escaped me in the past.

(I probably won't get to each person's individual wishes until tomorrow, so for tonight know, my lovely wishcasters, that as you wish for yourselves, so I truly, truly wish for you also!)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Daily Gratitude

Earlier this week I mentioned that I always post when I'm upset, probably because I've always used writing to help me deal with life, but I rarely truly take a moment to pause and write about the normal good things that happen.  Not only the extroardinary things, but the simple moments that can make me happy.

Today I'm grateful for my co-worker Brandi, who made this for me:

I admit it.  I find the whole thing with Charlie Sheen part-fascinating-part-sad and the fascinating side keeps winning out.  I know first hand how awful addiction is, especially on the people around you, and I sometimes feel guilty about indulging in these media outlets allowing this man to keep going on and on.  But.  But, despite all of this and my conscience trying to sway me, the spectacle keeps making me laugh and waiting for the next thing to come out of his mouth.  In the meantime, my friend and I have decided that there should be a drink with the motto, "I'm not on (insert beverage of choice)!  I'm on Charlie Sheen!" 

Today I'm grateful for my creative friend providing me with a good laugh amidst a lot of unnecessary drama at work.

quite fitting for the day...

Every day I receive Notes from The Universe and Neale Donald Walsch's "Today God Wants You To Know" emails.  Both were so on-the-mark today that I felt that I had to share them.

On this day of your life, Mare, I believe God wants you to know...

....that you have only just begun to discover your magnificence.

This period of your life marks a New Beginning. You can feel it. And you have only just begun to know the treasure and the glory of You. And you have only just begun to make your Real and Lasting Contribution.

So step into this day with zest and zeal! Go now and give your gift. We're all waiting for you. And we need the wonder of Who You Are.

We often have to shhhh'em-up, Mare, here in the unseen. It's because they become so excited when they see a really HUGE dream about to manifest in the seen, they completely forget that from where you are, nothing, yet, appears any different.


The Universe
I'm ready for my new beginning, universe, and I know what I need to do to truly get there.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

going against the grain of the question...

I'm trying really hard not to let someone else's issues mess with my day today.  I got angry, vented to a friend and my therapist, and have just realized even more that I need to get this toxic person out of my life.  The past few days...I don't know what it is, but I'm feeling more at peace with myself.  Not overly-happy per se, but not depressed and down on every single thing I do.

And it's Wishcasting Wednesday!  I love Jamie for her continuous brilliant and in-sync-with-universe questions and I love my fellow wishcasters.

Today Jamie asks:

courtesy of We Heart It

I saw this picture above and had to use it.  It's so perfectly what I need on a list.  Those are things I need to remember.

My immediate answer to this question was I don't want any limits.  As I thought about it more, I realized that remains true.  I know it's probably not the point of the question and I realize  that there needs to be a place where I'm comfortable saying, "enough," but I've spent so much of my life with limits on me - some set by others, most set by myself.  I think for now, at least for me, it's better to be more can-do than to think about the boundaries that need to be set up.  I've always been the "potential" girl.  The one word most often used to describe me throughout my life - she has so much potential.   The unsaid part was that she was just too scared to get out of her own way. 

This past year I've been learning a lot about myself.  I've let fear limit me.

It's time for that to stop.  Sure, there are things I don't want any parts of anymore - toxic people - but I need to more in tune with dreaming big at the moment. 

I wish to stop setting arbitrary limits on myself based on some skewed sense of self that no longer applies.