Book #45: The Nourished Metabolism

Title: The Nourished Metabolism

Author: Elizabeth Walling

Genre: Nonfiction/Self Help

Length: I forget and I’m too lazy right now to get my Kindle and look it up.

Read: mid-September

Summary: It’s basically a book on how to improve your health through balancing your diet, exercising, and reducing stress.

New or re-read? New read

Why did I pick it up? I got it as part of a Kindle book bundle on “healthy living” that I purchased, and it looked like a good overview-type book to start on.

Rating: 5/5

Would I read it again? Probably mostly in pieces as a reference, but yes.

Other notes: I’ve seen books and blog posts on healthy living before, but I quickly get turned off by authors that are really preachy about what you should and shouldn’t eat/sugar and gluten are Satan’s favorite foods and you should never eat them/etc. (What can I say–bread and chocolate are two of my favorite foods!) This one seemed a lot more doable to me, since it was more about balancing your diet on an overall basis while still being able to eat the things you enjoy most in moderation. I also thought the part about managing stress was really useful, since I am not a calm person by nature and stress is something that happens to me quite easily.

Book #44: The Gauguin Connection

Title: The Gauguin Connection

Author: Estelle Ryan

Genre: Mystery

Length: 436 pages

Read: Early September

Summary: From Amazon: As an insurance investigator and world renowned expert in nonverbal communication, Dr Genevieve Lenard faces the daily challenge of living a successful, independent life. Particularly because she has to deal with her high functioning Autism. Nothing – not her studies, her high IQ or her astounding analytical skills – prepared her for the changes about to take place in her life. It started as a favour to help her boss’ acerbic friend look into the murder of a young artist, but soon it proves to be far more complex. Forced out of her predictable routines, safe environment and limited social interaction, Genevieve is thrown into exploring the meaning of friendship, expanding her social definitions, and for the first time in her life be part of a team in a race to stop more artists from being murdered.

New or re-read? New read

Why did I pick it up? Since I was gearing up for the France vacation, I was looking for something I already had that had a connection to that and was shorter than, say, Les Miserables. I actually started a different book that I’d gotten free on the Kindle first, but got bored partway through and quit. (That’s my rule with Kindle freebies–if it doesn’t grab my interest by about 20-30% in, I give myself permission to move on to something else.) This one was set in Paris, though, so it fit that craving pretty nicely.

Rating: 4/5

Would I read it again? Probably not, but I enjoyed it enough to say I’d read further in the series if the opportunity comes up.

Other notes: For me, one of the most intriguing things about this book was that it was written first person from the perspective of the autistic protagonist. Autism isn’t something I’ve had a ton of experience with, other than regularly watching The Big Bang Theory and a couple I’m friends with that has a son with Aspergers’. So it was interesting for me to get a glimpse inside the mind of someone who has to live with something like this.

Books 41-43: In which I read non-fiction stuff.

Not so exciting as fantasy by a modern master, obviously, but I still read them, so I’m still posting about them.

41. Advanced Penny Pinching, by Tabitha Philen

42. 100 Financial Tips from the Proverbs 31 Woman, by Shari Popejoy

43. Your Grocery Budget Toolbox, by Anne Simpson

I read all 3 of these at work sometime in early September (possibly in the same day)– my husband and I were discussing trying to crack down on the budget stuff once we got back from the vacation we’d planned for the end of September. I’ll be honest and say that we haven’t actually done any work together on that yet–life gets crazy, and just trying to keep it real here–but I was trying to glean some tips that might help me figure out some ways that I can cut back in the spending areas I have a little more control over. Especially since I do normally deal with most of the cooking and grocery shopping that goes on around here.

I’ll be honest and say that I don’t really remember a whole lot of what I read in these, but they were all on my Kindle, so I’m sure I highlighted things that I might want to go back to later.

On to the next book…

Book 40: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

I am SO late with this review. So late, in fact, that I actually read this before several of the other books I’ve already mentioned on here and somehow overlooked it. I’m at the point now where I have over a dozen books I’ve read and haven’t written up, so it’s time I got back on the ball and started reviewing some of this stuff before I forget what it all is!

Title: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Author: Neil Gaiman

Genre: Fantasy

Length: 259 pages

Read: Somewhere in the vicinity of early to mid-August.

Summary: From Amazon: Forty years ago, our narrator, who was then a seven-year-old boy, unwittingly discovered a neighboring family’s supernatural secret. What happens next is an imaginative romp through otherwordly adventure that could only come from Gaiman’s magical mind. Childhood innocence is tested and transcended as we see what getting between ancient, mystic forces can cost, as well as what can be gained from the power of true friendship.

New or re-read? New read

Why did I pick it up? Because Neil Gaiman, obviously.

Rating: 5/5

Would I read it again? Yes

Other notes: The book is described as an adult fairy tale, and elements of this definitely wouldn’t fall under the category of kid-friendly, even though much of this happens when the protagonist is 7. It was a beautifully crafted story, though.

Catching up

It’s been a really busy last couple of weeks. The great thing was that my husband and I took a vacation to France! I’d never been to Europe before, and aside from a few hiccups (which every trip has), we had a great time. I may have more to say later about that. We’ll see.

For now, I’m trying to ease my way back into my normal life, and started back to my usual work schedule yesterday. I’m still trying to get over the jet lag, which has been a little rough. Everything I’ve read said that it’s usually easier to adjust when traveling east to west, which we did on the way home, but it seems I’m having the opposite experience! I think it’s passing, though. This is the first day all week that I haven’t felt non-stop nauseated. So it’s a start.

In the meantime, I’m terribly behind on books, and have been winging it all week on food. Today’s the first time I’m cooking again. (And by “cooking”, I mean “throw a bunch of things into the crock pot so that it will hopefully turn into a passable chicken tortilla soup”.) We spent most of the week living off of pasta that my husband was kind enough to make while I was teaching a lesson, and pizza that we ordered because I was too jet-lagged to cook ground beef for the intended tacos. Seriously.

Hopefully I’ll get back to the books soon. I’ve got a dozen books I need to add–though, to be fair, one is a book I’d read before the last batch of posts and somehow skipped over, and several of them were quick non-fiction ones. (Still counts.)

Speaking of pizza and books, how cool is this? I’d love to register for that, since I loved Book-It! as a kid. I’m currently getting error messages about having problems with my city and/or state, which is sad. (And weird, because I checked their map and there is one pin dropped for my town! Which isn’t me.)

It’s autumn baking time!

Several of the food-related blogs I follow/pins that pop up on my Pinterest are way into the healthy eating thing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it really does seem like a lot of people are pushing for “clean” eating and gluten free and eliminating everything resembling sugar from one’s diet. I know that there’s some people who have to live that way for health reasons– my mom is one of them. But it’s hard sometimes to not be made to feel guilty if you’re not overhauling your entire diet to match these trends. I’m realizing that a better approach for me is baby steps and moderation. While cutting back would probably be good, I’m not at a point where I’m ready to, or even have a desire to, cut sugar and gluten completely out of my life.

That being said, I’m feeling pretty good about the dessert I made for my family gathering at my grandmother’s house today. The majority of my mom’s side of the family definitely has a sweet tooth, and when we get together, there’s usually plenty of desserts to pick from. And now that it’s unofficially fall, though not quite late enough in the season for the really good pie apples, I figured that kicking off pumpkin everything season would be the way to go. I tried this Pinterest recipe out last fall, so I know it’s good. And since it has pumpkin and all of the flour is whole wheat, I feel like this can be considered relatively healthy.

You can find the recipe for this chocolate chip pumpkin bread on recipegirl.com. And it was pretty easy to make!

All of the ingredients, minus the butter. I let that soften so long that it was starting to ooze onto the stovetop, so I just dumped that in my mixer bowl instead.

See that one random brown egg? I had to steal it from my mom–I went ahead and doubled the recipe, so I could use up the entire can of pumpkin. (It’s about half a cup short of what the recipe calls for, but it’s also hard to use up 2/3 of a can of pumpkin, so I was willing to make the trade.) But that left me one egg short, and I don’t use up eggs quickly enough to buy another half-dozen for just one egg.

The other nice thing about doubling the recipe is that I was also able to use the entire bag of chocolate chips. Of course, I needed to use the entire bag in the bread, so I didn’t have any left to sprinkle on top of the bread. So I grated a little piece of a candy bar that I had in the fridge on top of it. It melted right into the bread, so we’ll see if it makes any difference or not. But still–yay for no partially used bags of chips that aren’t even full enough to make cookies!

And here’s what they looked like after baking. Yum. I’m bringing the second loaf to Bible study tomorrow night, since we usually do a potluck-style dinner and Sunday afternoon rehearsals usually leave me scrambling to see what I can find already prepared at the grocery store. But I’ll be quite happy to eat any leftovers from both loaves for breakfast this week. If there are any leftovers. This one was pretty popular the last time I brought it to Bible study.

Books 37-39

As of writing this post, this catches me up again. Hurrah!

Title: Griffin’s Daughter (#37)

Author: Leslie Ann Moore

Genre: YA/Fantasy

Length: 334 pages

Read: 8/28-9/1/14

Summary: From Amazon: Seventeen year old Jelena Preseren has lived her entire life as a social outcast because of her mixed human and elven blood. She labors as a servant in the household of her uncle, the powerful Duke of Amsara. When her uncle tells her she is to be sold as a concubine to his wealthy neighbor, rather than submit, Jelena makes the decision to flee and strike out into the unknown on a quest to find her elven father. Accompanied by her human cousin, Jelena’s journey takes her to a strange and beautiful land whose people live in the shadow of impending war. There, she encounters a fate she never anticipated—one of magic, danger, and most startling of all, true love.

New or re-read? New read

Why did I pick it up? It was a previously-bought Kindle freebie. At the time, I just wanted a quick airplane read that my brain could handle at 6 AM. If I hadn’t been distracted by the amazing time that was DragonCon, it would have been done sooner.

Rating: 2.5/5

Would I read it again? No

Other notes: There were elements of this story that I found interesting, like dealing with the different racial tensions and the description of elven culture, which had more of an obvious Asian influence than what I often read. But the foreshadowing was about as subtle as a freight train, which meant that there were very few surprises in the plot. I also couldn’t help reading this through the lens of wondering if it was something I could recommend to a friend’s teenage daughter, since I do have at least one in my circle of friends, and her daughter loves to read fantasy stuff. Given the extremely permissive view/glorification of premarital sex portrayed in this book, it’s not something I would feel comfortable suggesting to any girl at my church. There was also a rather graphic sex scene (surprisingly so for me, given the intended audience and the fact that the raciest reading I did as a young teen was Sweet Valley High). Yes, I know many teenagers do this sort of thing, but it really doesn’t have to be described in nitty-gritty detail of who touches who where and how, and this is possibly the only time I will compare something to a Stephanie Meyer book and have Bella and Edward come out on top. Because yeah, they did stuff, but at least she had the decency to leave the details to the imagination. (Also, they were married by that time anyway.) Ok, rant over.

Title: For Darkness Shows the Stars (#38)

Author: Diana Peterfreund

Genre: YA/Sci-fi/Romance

Length: 448 pages

Read: 9/1/14 (another one-day read, because I had airport/flying time.)

Summary: Somewhat based on Jane Austen’s Persuasion. From Amazon: “

It’s been several generations since a genetic experiment gone wrong caused the Reduction, decimating humanity and giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology. Elliot North has always known her place in this world. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family’s estate over love. Since then the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress, and Elliot’s estate is foundering, forcing her to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth—an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliot wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she let him go. But Elliot soon discovers her old friend carries a secret—one that could change their society . . . or bring it to its knees. And again, she’s faced with a choice: cling to what she’s been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she’s ever loved, even if she’s lost him forever.”

New or re-read? New read

Why did I pick it up? The author was at DragonCon, and is a friend of a friend. So I bought this and another one of her books at Faith’s recommendation. (And got them signed!)

Rating: 5/5

Would I read it again? Yes

Other notes: While it definitely bore a resemblance to Persuasion, it had its differences, too– Elliot was a much stronger person than Anne, for one. The portrait of her society was crafted well, and left me wanting to know more about the Reduction. And I would feel much more confident in recommending this to the teenage girls in my life than the previous book.

Title: The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet

Author: Bernie Su & Kate Rorick

Genre: Fiction/Romance (sort of)

Length: 377 pages

Read: 9/2-9/4/14

Summary: A companion to the Lizzie Bennet Diaries web series, based on Pride & Prejudice.

New or re-read? New read

Why did I pick it up? Because I loved the LBD, so I impulse-bought this at the bookstore recently.

Rating: 5/5

Would I read it again? Yes, though when I have time to take it slower so I can re-watch the videos in conjunction with this.

Other notes: I’ll admit it was better than I thought it would be– I was half-expecting your typical film-to-book novelization, where the story is retold on the page. It was that to some extent, but a lot more of things that you don’t see in the videos. It was particularly good to see more of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, since they only show up in the “costume theater” portions, and some of the off-camera interactions. Like Darcy’s letter, and every awkward dance scene, and the list of what makes an accomplished woman. I should have had more faith in you, Mr. Su.

Books 34-36

Continuing my catch-up.

 

Title: Tell Your Time (#34)

Author: Amy Lynn Andrews

Genre: Non-fiction/Self-help

Length: 30 pages

Read: 8/21/14

Summary: Another time management book

New or re-read? I think I may have skimmed it once, but let’s say new read just in case.

Why did I pick it up? a) It was part of an e-book bundle that I bought, and b) I still suck at time management.

Rating: 5/5

Would I read it again? Yes

Other notes: Out of the 3 time management books I’ve read recently, this one made the most sense to me and seemed to be the easiest to work into my own life. I’m going to have to go through this one more in-depth and actually go through the exercises (hey, something else to blog about!), but I read it in one sitting because I finished Master of Verona and still had time to kill at work.

Title: The Giver (#35)

Author: Lois Lowry

Genre: Children’s Lit/Sci-Fi

Length: My copy is 179 pages.

Read: 8/22/14

Summary: Everyone in 12-year-old Jonas’s community has a place, and everyone seems content to leave it that way. But when Jonas is chosen to be the new Keeper of Memory and begins spending time with a man he knows only as The Giver, he learns the truth about his world and it will change him forever.

New or re-read? New read

Why did I pick it up? One of my favorite childhood books was Lowry’s Number the Stars, so I picked this one up awhile ago. I just never got around to reading it, but figured I’d better do it soon before hearing about the movie spoiled the ending for me.

Rating: 4/5

Would I read it again? Probably.

Other notes: Yes, I read this in one day. It was a very quick read.

Title: Death Comes To Pemberley

Author:  P.D. James

Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery

Length: 291 pages

Read: 8/25-8/26/14

Summary: A continuation of Pride & Prejudice, where Captain Denney is found dead, presumably murdered, in the woods near Pemberley. And George Wickham is the #1 suspect.

New or re-read? New read

Why did I pick it up? Because, as stated before, I am a sucker for all things Austen-esque.

Rating: 5/5. The book did keep me guessing, which is always a good thing with a murder mystery.

Would I read it again? Yes, though I’d probably wait awhile. The problem with mysteries is that you always know whodunit when you re-read them.

Other notes: Oddly, I ended up having the opportunity to watch the mini-series with some friends later that same week. There were some definite changes from the book to film, mostly a condensing of characters, but I thought it was a well-done adaptation. Even if Darcy wasn’t Colin Firth.

Books #32-33

 

 

 

I’ve fallen behind a little bit in the last couple of weeks, so I’m going to do two books in today’s post. Here’s #32 to start.

Title: Wildwood

Author: Colin Meloy

Genre: Fiction/Children’s

Length: 576 pages

Read: early to mid-August

Summary: A girl named Prue and her classmate Curtis discover a magical world in the wilderness near their Portland home, when they go to rescue Prue’s baby brother from the murder of crows that kidnapped him from the park.

New or re-read? New read.

Why did I pick it up? I enjoy listening to The Decemberists’ music, so naturally, I was interested in reading another story by their main songwriter.

Rating: 5/5

Would I read it again? Yes.

Other notes: Much of what I enjoy about the music is that their songs tell stories, and often use less common vocabulary words. Reading this felt pretty much like that, except in prose. Since this book is aimed at children, nice English lesson!

And #33.

Title: The Master of Verona

Author: David Blixt

Genre: Historical Fiction

Length: 562 pages

Read: Mid-August

Summary: From Amazon: “A sweeping novel of Renaissance Italy, THE MASTER OF VERONA follows Pietro Alaghieri, eldest son of the poet Dante, as he’s caught up by the charisma and genius of Verona’s ruler, Cangrande della Scala. Pietro risks battles, duels, and murder to impress his new lord. At the heart of the story is an infernal plot against Cangrande’s bastard heir, and the rivalry of two friends over the affections of a girl – a rivalry will sever a friendship, divide a city, and spark a feud that will someday produce the star-cross’d lovers.

Based on the plays of William Shakespeare, the poetry of Dante, and the history of Italy, THE MASTER OF VERONA is a novel of brutal warfare, lost friendship, and dire conspiracy, combining to create an epic journey into the birth of the Renaissance.”

New or re-read? New read.

Why did I pick it up? It was free for the Kindle at the time, and I was intrigued by the idea of combining actual historic character’s with Shakespeare’s. (Yes, those two friends sparking the feuds are based on the Capulets and Montagues, though they’re called Capuletto and Montecchio in the book.)

Rating: 4/5

Would I read it again? Probably not, though I know there’s at least 2 sequels to this, and I would happily continue on with the series.

Other notes:  This one isn’t necessarily good for the faint of stomach, since it does go into some rather gritty descriptions of medieval warfare. But, having read most of the Divine Comedy before, I did enjoy how Dante’s writing of that wove into the plot, as well as the cameos from other familiar Shakespearean characters, like Katherine and Petruccio. (That’s not a spoiler, since they’re listed among the cast of characters in the beginning of the book.)

 

Building Bookshelves

I didn’t want this to be entirely a blog about books, although obviously the written word is something I enjoy. I realized recently that I’ve completely lost track of those 14 goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year, and I don’t want to completely throw in the towel on this project. (Oh, hi, goal #7 that says “finish what I start!”) The intelligent thing to do would be to pick up this project in earnest again in about a month, because I have two out of town trips coming up within the next 4 weeks, and I know that much of this time is going to be getting ready for those. But it still doesn’t hurt to do what I can now, so I wanted to highlight a recent project that my husband and I did together that touches on several of those goals.

In brief, we built a bookshelf. And, despite what a lot of the stereotypes say about doing home improvement projects with your significant other, we didn’t fight about it!

IMG_1522This is what we started with–the middle bookshelf was the one I brought from home, and the other two are just cheap bookshelves from Target. He already had the one, and we bought a second one when I was moving my stuff in, because I more or less quadrupled the number of books he had in the house. (I’m really not exaggerating.) It was working, but since the Mister is very big on having things streamlined, organized, and as efficient as possible, he hasn’t been very happy with this setup. But then a month or so ago, we were hanging out with some friends at my bestie’s new place for some board gaming, and he spotted her bookshelves and pretty much fell in love with them. They’re simple, just a series of stacked boards and skinny cinder blocks that she’s had since well before I knew her. If I’d known he would have liked them so much, I probably would have told him about them sooner! But it didn’t take him long to decide that he wanted to recreate this look at our place.

Some hilarity ensued in the form of us driving up to just outside Philadelphia to load down the trunk of his car with cinder blocks, because it was the only place we could find anything similar to what she has, driving around with them all day because we already had a couple of other commitments, and then hauling 32 bricks into our house when we finally got home that night. We decided to make things more complicated for ourselves, too, by staining the bricks and painting the boards. I’m not sorry, because I like the way the colors turned out.

IMG_1523This is what we ended up with! It took pretty much all of last Saturday morning to build them, because we were taking safety precautions like anchoring the boards to the wall every few boards up. Plus we had to move all of the books, and figure out what to do with a few other things that were on the shelves. (Mostly my scrapbooks.) We also ended up completely reorganizing the books when we put them back–some of them are categorized, like we have the children’s books and all of our Christian-ish books and his finance books separated out, but aside from that, everything’s alphabetized and much, much neater than when it started. There are some gaps, like where my Empty Shelf books/Dresden Files books that are currently on loan to my sister-in-law go, and the Mister ended up shuffling a few shelves around so that all of the fiction could be together on the left side since I took this picture. But he’s much happier, and I have to admit that it’s going to be much easier to find what I want to read next!

IMG_1524The Empty Shelf has a new home, too–we had leftover bricks and he had measured it out well enough to know we’d have some extra space, so he built a mini-bookshelf to go near the corner. So the top shelf of that is where all the books that we’ve both read this year are currently residing–he’s informally playing along, which I think is great, because it means he’s reading more too! And then we have things like my music-related books and travel books beneath that.

We’d originally thought to maybe try to sell the cheap bookshelves on Craigslist or something. But then, in the spirit of trying to use what we have, he had the idea to use the adjustable shelves to reinforce the wire shelves in the kitchen pantry that he doesn’t like. My original larger bookshelf is currently residing in our basement, and holding most of the scrapbooks (except the green and blue ones in the above picture, which are the ones I’ve been putting together for the time since we’ve been married. The green one is our first year and is mostly finished, while the blue one is for year 2 and barely has anything in it, given that I haven’t printed any pictures since May. I figured it would be better to wait and do one bigger order after the trips to cut down on shipping, so…)

So, yeah– organization, quality time with my husband, doing something kind of creative, and finishing a project all in one! I think altogether, it cost us about $200 in supplies, which sounds like a lot. But considering that the particle board shelves were already bending under the weight of the books after only a year, and that this is a shelf we can easily disassemble and take with us wherever we end up living next, we both agree that it was a worthwhile project.

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