Friday, October 31, 2014

Book review: The Host

The Host by Stephanie Meyer

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews. Add me on Goodreads!

Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. The earth has been invaded by a species that take over the minds of human hosts while leaving their bodies intact. Wanderer, the invading "soul" who has been given Melanie's body, didn't expect to find its former tenant refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.

As Melanie fills Wanderer's thoughts with visions of Jared, a human who still lives in hiding, Wanderer begins to yearn for a man she's never met. Reluctant allies, Wanderer and Melanie set off to search for the man they both love.

Featuring one of the most unusual love triangles in literature,The Host is a riveting and unforgettable novel about the persistence of love and the essence of what it means to be human.


I am not afraid to admit that I read the entire Twilight series. It and its author, Stephanie Meyer, have gotten a bad rap. (Not saying it’s deserved or undeserved.) But I heard great things about Meyer’s other book, The Host, from many people, including my little sister, so I had to give it a shot.

I LOVED it.

The Host is set in the future, several years after an alien society has taken over earth. The aliens use human bodies as Hosts -- they do not live on their own on earth outside of the human bodies they take. When they take a body, the person inside essentially just goes away…

For most people.
The Host is the story of Wanderer, an alien, and Melanie, the person whose body Wanderer takes -- a person who doesn’t disappear.

It’s hard to say much without giving anything away. The interactions between Melanie and Wanderer are awesome -- Laugh out loud funny occasionally and heartbreaking at other moments. There’s tension and romance and life-or-death suspense. I found myself crying in public as I finished this book on the bus.

It is maybe a liiiiittle long… in the same way as when you leave a movie and think, well that lasted longer than it needed to but still love it. I gave it five stars.

Have any of you read The Host? What did you think?


Friday, October 24, 2014

Book review: Landline

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews. Add me on Goodreads!

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems beside the point now.

Maybe that was always beside the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts . . .

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?



I love Rainbow Rowell because I LOVE Fangirl. So I decided to read all her books. Obviously.

Landline was… ok. I enjoyed it while I was reading it, but I never quite got sucked into it. I didn’t super relate to Georgie, the main character. A huge issue in this book is that Georgie’s husband, Neal, has slowly become more and more unhappy in their marriage. And while I know that happens and I know that it’s not always something fixable or avoidable, there were so many ways Georgie could have been there for Neal and she wasn’t. So when she was suffering through this book because of his unhappiness, I was unsympathetic.

There were pieces of this book I really enjoyed, though. I loved the flashbacks to how Neal and Georgie first got together -- they blended in well with the present-day action and were totally sweet. I also loved Georgie’s relationship with her mom, her mom’s husband, her sister, and their pugs.

In the end, def. not my favorite of Rowell’s, but still enjoyable. I gave it three stars. Now I just need to get my hands on Attachments!

Have any of you read Landline? What did you think?



Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Happy birthday, Mom!

Over last winter break, I spent some time going through our family recipes. I had just gotten a recipe book for Christmas, and wanted to make sure I got all our family's classics down -- the crumb cake we eat every Christmas, the cold Mexican dip that made me and Emily super popular with all the other camp counselors, and others that have led to many special memories.

My mom was so present in the overflowing box of recipes -- her handwriting on the recipe cards and the recipes she copied from friends, saved from newspapers or cream cheese packages, hoping to make someday -- did we ever make them?

Going through the recipes, I felt so much love for my wonderful mom -- my mom who had made all these recipes on so many occasions, working hard in the kitchen while the rest of us slept or lazed or fought. My mom who had created holiday traditions for us out of nothing, since we were so far from family and the traditions she had always known.

My mom who had purchased a million vegetarian cookbooks and saved a million veggie lasagna and veggie chilli and everything-veggie-recipes to try when I up and decided as a freshman in high school that I wasn't going to eat meat any more. My mom who patiently tried recipe after recipe that I turned down because I hadn't learned to like beans yet and because I am famously bad at trying new foods.

My mom who likes mushrooms and eggplant and has all but given up mushrooms and eggplant because she lives in a family that doesn't really like them.

I love my mom for these reasons and so many more. She is the most giving, self-sacrificing, amazing woman I know, and I'm so lucky to be her daughter.

Happy birthday, Mom. I hope it's wonderful!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Happy birthday future husband!

It has recently come to my attention that my favorite human reads my blog.  And today is his birthday!

My poor future husband has two midterms tomorrow and a girlfriend who failed to get him anything for his birthday. And he's also 23948723042398 miles away. Or so it feels. But maybe he'll see this and know I'm thinking of him.

There's lots of mushy things I could say here, but I'll save you and just say them straight to him. :)

Happy birthday, Pat! Miss you lots.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Book review: January First

January First by Michael Schofield

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews. Add me on Goodreads!

A brilliant and harrowingly honest memoir, January First is the extraordinary story of a father's fight to save his child from an extremely severe case of mental illness in the face of overwhelming adversity.

At six years old, Michael Schofield's daughter, January, was diagnosed with one of the most severe cases of child-onset schizophrenia that doctors had ever seen. In January's case, she is hallucinating 95 percent of the time that she is awake. Potent psychiatric drugs that would level most adults barely faze her. January, "Jani" to her family, has literally hundreds of imaginary friends. They go by names like 400-the-Cat, 100 Degrees, and 24 Hours and live on an island called "Calalini," which she describes as existing "on the border of my world and your world." Some of these friends are good, and some of them, such as 400, are very bad. They tell her to jump off buildings, attack her brother, and scream at strangers.

In the middle of these never-ending delusions, hallucinations, and paroxysms of rage are Jani's parents, who have gone to the ends of the earth to keep both of their children alive and unharmed. They live in separate one-bedroom apartments in order to keep her little brother, Bohdi, safe from his big sister--and wage a daily war against a social system that has all but completely failed them. January First is the story of the daily struggles and challenges they face as they do everything they can to help their daughter while trying to keep their family together. It is the inspiring tale of their resolute determination and faith.

I have been intrigued by this book for a long time, but my old library didn’t have it. But my new one does!

January First is the story of the author’s struggles to figure out what is happening in his daughter’s mental health. January, his daughter, is anti social, shows violent tendencies, and is incredibly intelligent. She also has imaginary friends she insists are very real and changes her name daily. After the birth of Schofield’s second child, January’s behavior becomes exponentially worse.

This book was terrifying and fascinating. Schofield catalogs experiences with many mental health professionals, January’s reactions to the various drugs they prescribe, and their inability to find anything that works. It’s so scary to imagine someone you love behaving and suffering the way January does. I definitely got invested in this story, hoping for a happy ending for Schofield and his family.

One complaint/caution I have about this book is that it is only one man’s perspective. He has awful interactions with health professionals and I had to remind myself regularly that the way a person views a situation is not always the whole story. Schofield has a tendency to paint the health professionals as the bad guys. I like to hope they were acting in what they thought was January’s best interests.

Overall, I thought the book was terribly interesting and gave it four stars.

Have any of you read January First? What did you think?


Friday, October 10, 2014

Book review: Roomies

Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews. Add me on Goodreads!

It's time to meet your new roomie.

When East Coast native Elizabeth receives her freshman-year roommate assignment, she shoots off an e-mail to coordinate the basics: television, microwave, mini-fridge. That first note to San Franciscan Lauren sparks a series of e-mails that alters the landscape of each girl's summer -- and raises questions about how two girls who are so different will ever share a dorm room.

As the countdown to college begins, life at home becomes increasingly complex. With family relationships and childhood friendships strained by change, it suddenly seems that the only people Elizabeth and Lauren can rely on are the complicated new boys in their lives . . . and each other. Even though they've never met.

National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr and acclaimed author Tara Altebrando join forces for a novel about growing up, leaving home, and getting that one fateful e-mail that assigns your college roommate.

If any of you lived in a residence hall in college -- do you remember the terror of meeting your roommate?

When I first went to college, Facebook was not a big thing yet. My roommate and I talked on the phone once before moving in together -- the night before I moved, actually -- and emailed a bit about fridges and microwaves. The emotions of walking into that room for the first time are still fresh in my mind, and living with my roommate was a huge factor in how I experienced my first year of college.

Roomies is about that -- about that first contact with your future college roommate, about figuring out if you’ll still be who you are once you move across the country or state or county and live on your own. Figuring out if you can live with this other person who you may not have a choice about living with.

There’s a lot more going on in Roomies too -- each of the girls are dealing with family issues and figuring out what it means to leave the people in their lives behind. There’s romance and friendship troubles and all the wonders of being a teenager.

I enjoyed Roomies! It was a fun story and a story I’d never read before. Full disclosure: I won this book fo free in a contest, but I honestly truly enjoyed it. Four stars!

Have any of you read Roomies? What did you think?


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The family came to visit!

Hello friends!

How is it Wednesday already?

My family came to visit me this weekend and I wanted to share a few pictures. :) They were such troopers. Mom, Dad and Anna drove from Springfield to Emily's in the Kansas City area Thursday night, then they all loaded into Em's SUV Friday morning and drove another NINE hours to come to Colorado.

Friday night we walked around the campus. My mom took pictures of EVERYTHING. This was my, "are you serious?" face.


Then we just hung out in my apartment.

Saturday morning, we went to a bridal shop and I tried on some wedding dresses :) No pictures to share yet. I found a dress I really liked, but thought I would look more to be sure before ordering anything. I'm hoping to look again over Thanksgiving break -- the next time I'll be with my family.

Later on Saturday, we drove up to Estes Park and checked out the Stanley hotel -- the hotel from The Shining. Although the movie wasn't filmed there, the story was set there. Several scenes from Dumb and Dumber were filmed there.



I hope to go back around this time next year for a ghost tour! The Stanley is supposed to be haunted, including a nursery. I'll have to wait till I'm not living alone for that :)

Saturday night we hung out in my apartment again and played Catchphrase. Then they left super early Sunday morning to spend another entire day in the car.

How lucky am I to have a family that would go through two solid days driving just to see me for a day and a half?

Very lucky is the answer.

Hope you're all having a wonderful Wednesday!


Friday, October 3, 2014

Book review: Anna and the French Kiss

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews. Add me on Goodreads!

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris--until she meets √Čtienne St. Clair. Smart, charming,beautiful, √Čtienne has it all...including a serious girlfriend.

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss?




This book has SO MUCH HYPE around it. I’ve seen its picture about a million times on Tumblr. I knew going in that it would be fluffy and romantic and I was not disappointed!

The characters are really fun and the blooming romance made my stomach jump when it was supposed to. The characters are a little shallow -- not too much background or depth -- except for the two main characters, Anna and St. Clair. Their histories are present (while maybe simplified a bit). All in all, I thought the relationships were realistically portrayed -- romanticized a little bit, but still totally believable -- and I got invested in the story.

The book and storyline are simple -- if you’re looking for a story with Life Lessons and Depth, this isn’t for you. But if you want something fun to read on the bus to work, totally a great choice. I gave it three stars!

Have any of you read Anna and the French Kiss? What did you think?


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The best dogs to follow on Instagram

Yup, you read that title right.

I will admit: about half of my Instagram feed at any given moment is pictures of dogs. I counted once, and I followed 32 animal accounts -- mostly dogs, a couple cats, a bird and a hedgehog. I've followed a few more dogs since then.

If it didn't make me so happy, I might be concerned I had a problem.

At any rate, here are my top five dog accounts to follow on Instagram:

ONE.

Leroy is maybe my favorite dog on Instagram. He is scruffy and adorable and exactly the kind of dog I would love to have.


TWO.

I LOVE NORM. Norm is the handsome pug pictured here, but his Instagram is named after his human. His human posts the cutest and most creative pictures of Norm. Love, love, love.


THREE.

The Dogist is like Humans of New York, but about dogs. Kind of a street-photographer, the person behind The Dogist takes pictures of all kinds of dogs all over the place.


FOUR.

Tuna is actually fairly famous for his memes. But I love following this little critter, and his human writes fun captions that really show his personality. She calls him a toodlebrain, which I think increased my affection for him 100%


FIVE.

I think Manny was the first dog account I found. His "siblings" also have accounts -- I don't know how their human manages to post so many pictures, but I love this little dog family!



Plus one bonus account:


This one is a favorite but also isn't. Susie's Senior Dogs posts information on older dogs across the country who need to be adopted. (Older dogs are super hard to get people to adopt.) The dogs are all so sweet, so it's heartbreaking. But it's a good one to follow just in case a dog pops up in your area.


So. If you want to be a crazy person like me and follow a bunch of dogs on Instagram, there are my highest recommendations. They all make me smile on a regular basis. Definitely a good life decision.


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