Saturday, January 31, 2015

Book Review #8

Okay - I have a problem.  I admit it.  I am a read-a-holic.  Is that a word?  It is winter and the weather is terrible, and my kids entertain themselves, so I am given time to read.  This weekend we didn't have many plans besides Arlington's last regular season basketball game, so I had a chance to read.  Plus TV is really terrible, so there is that.

So another book down.  This reading challenge is going well - I am proud of myself.  Even Arlington is knocking off quite a few on her list.

Well, in between posting pictures of people she sees on TV and puppies that is.

Today's review is for the book Night.  I actually read the whole trilogy of these books - Night, Dawn, The Accident (or as it was renamed - Day)- because in all those three are only 300 pages.

It was in the category Something you should have read in school but didn't

This book is actually a true story of the author - Elie Wiesel.  (He won the Nobel Peace prize in the 80s).  It is a story of his survival as a teen in a concentration camp in Auschwitz.  It starts with how they are taken from their homes, and moved to the concentration camps.  How they had no idea where they were going or why.  As a teenager, he didn't know what to think - just that he didn't want to get separated from his father.  Elie spends the whole time he is in the concentration camps with his father, until his father succumbs to an illness and dies.  He never sees his mother and sisters again.  He does escape the concentration camps but never really gains a life.  He spends his life constantly remembering what happened to him and in a constant state of believing he did not deserve to live.  The story is depressing to say the least, and gets more and more depressing through the third book.  But if nothing else - read the first one- Night.

The story is amazing.  It is always hard to read stories of people who recount their time in the concentration camps.  How they ate snow to stay alive.  How much they walked.  How little they were cared about.  You never get less angry about their situation no matter how many times you read about the Holocaust.

There was a quote at the end of the book that I liked "I was once more struck by the truth of the ancient saying:  Man's heart is a ditch full of blood.   The loved ones who have died throw themselves down on the bank of this ditch to drink the blood and so come to life again; the dearer they are to you, the more of your blood they drink."

A little morbid?  Maybe.  But it is very true.  Made me think of my grandmother - she is in every part of me every day to the point that tears still come when I think of her and how much a miss her.  This quote speaks to me about the hole loved ones leave when they die.

I give this book 4 1/2 stars.  I loved Night and liked Dawn - the second book.  I didn't really like "The Accident".

Friday, January 30, 2015

Book Review #7

I appreciate the readers of this blog in humoring me during my Reading Challenge 2015.  My guess is soon I will be slowing down the reading.  As the weather starts to get nicer (uh.....when that will be it is hard to say), I will be outside in my garden and inside reading less.

I finished another book.  Mostly because I disliked it so much I just wanted to get through it.  Shockingly (not really) it was a recommendation from my husband, Mat.  No, he doesn't read terrible books.  He reads book I think are terrible.

There is a difference.  And he will tell you I have no taste.  Moving on.

The book I just finished was Short Stories by Philip K Dick

Philip K Dick is a renowned Science Fiction writer.  I get that.  I understand that many movies such as Paycheck, Minority Report, Blade Runner, Total Recall, and The Adjustment Bureau are based on his short stories.  But it should be pointed out that they are LOOSELY based on them.  As in - maybe a word or two.  The rest was made up by Hollywood.

These stories were nothing but torture for me.  I have to admit it.  I am sure Sci Fi lovers will frown at that statement, but I need to tell the truth.  I didn't enjoy it.  Some of the stories were fine.  But nothing was great

But, I read it.  I checked it off, and so it is over and I can move on.

I can't really do much more of a review for you because there were 20-30 stories in this book and they were all different.  They all had made up words of things Philip K Dick thought the future would be like.  He was wrong on a lot of levels.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Book Review #6

The Northeast was hit with a historical winter storm - over 30 inches of snow we received - so we are stuck inside.  So that means......lots of time to read.

I finished off another book during that down time called "Down and Out In The Magic Kingdom"

This was part of my 2015 Reading Challenge Category: A book by an author I haven't read before

This book was pretty strange.  It is another recommendation from my husband (and something we already had on our shelf).  I think I need to stop listening to his suggestions.

It was a quick read - I will give it that.  At just 200 pages, I was able to finish it up in a little more than a day of reading.  It is set far into the future - people actually live in Disney World.  The cast members that run the rides run the park, and there is a "war" that goes on among part of the different lands.  The rides that we all know and love are still there, but have been made a bit better with time.  But they try to keep the rides true to themselves.  The park still operates as a park, even though people actually live there full time.

That was the interesting part of the story.  IT would be cool to have the park be in existece in 2400 and the beloved rides still there.  But that is where the interesting part of this story stops.  There is strange language that is never explained to the reader (which Mat tells me is the beauty of the book.  "The characters know what it is, so they don't need to explain it"  yeah yeah).  Money is no longer a way you get things in life - it is social status, which is automatically uploaded to you through a chip that ever person has installed in their brain.  You never die - you just get a new body when the old one wears out (or you are accidentally killed).  You have to upload your memory continually into a database so that if you need a new body, you can pick up where you left off.

It was a neat enough idea, and I - knowing my husband well - can see why he liked this book.  He warned me it was strange, and it was.  But I read it, and now I can move on.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Snow. Lots of it

Yesterday we got hammered with a snow storm.  A blizzard.  We get at least one big storm a year here in Massachusetts, but this one made history.

Massachusetts is a little state, but weather can pack a punch on us up here.  The city of Boston got it bad, but the worst is the coast.  They have power outages, flooding, 2 feet of snow, and just a total mess.

We are a little north/west of Boston, and we were in a thick band of snow.  Our little area of the state got the most snow.  Aren't we lucky?  Yeah - I can feel the love.

In the end we got about 35 inches of snow in less than 24 hours.  Crazy.  It is so much snow that every time we went out to deal with it, we couldn't decide where to start.  The dogs sunk in and we couldn't even see them.  It was almost up to my waist in our back yard.  The snow drifts are 4-5 feet high.  Just crazy.

Luckily, we didn't lose our power.  It is a light and fluffy snow, so that made a big difference.  IT blew everywhere, though - just causing all kind of wind and snow drifts.  And the temperatures were very low - in the teens with wind chills in the minus numbers.


It took Mat the better part of the day to clear the driveway.  And it just kept snowing.  The kids went out in short burst - enjoying the depth of the snow.

I took a few pictures, so enjoy!

Trying to walk though the back yard:
 Sitting in the snow on the back porch

 The back porch - crazy.
 Mat getting ready to plow the driveway.  We had to dig a little path to get the tractor out first!
 The garage

 Trying to walk through the yard:

 Snow on the back porch just keeps getting higher:

 I stayed inside while these nutballs went out to play

 Snow was higher than our dogs

 Snow bunnies

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Book Review #5

I am flying through these books!  We have had some bad weather - and I have hurt my shoulder - so I am stuck doing not much else right now.

This book review is for "Y The Last Man"

The category was Graphic Novel

Since I have never read a graphic novel in my life, this recommendation came from my husband.  He has quite a few in his library, so he thought this one would be good for me.

It was.....interesting.  Kudos for a book with pictures - really brought the story to life.  Personally, it would be nice to see more adult books like this.  Ha ha.

The story was about the last man on earth.  One day, all the males of not just humans, but of all species, just died.  At least that is what everyone thought.  Come to find out there was one man left and one male monkey.  The job of some of the women is to keep him alive.  And in the end - they succeed.

Since I am pretty sure that 95% of my readers of this blog will not be picking up this - or any other - graphic novel, I will leave the review at that.

It was an interesting enough story, but it does not make me want to read more like it.

2 1/2 stars.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Book Review #4

Today I am going to review the book "All The Light We Cannot See"

This book was from my 2015 Reading Challenge category: A book set in a different country

This was a great book.  I had a hard time putting it down, and  - even though it was over 500 pages - I finished it in a few days.  Did I ignore a few house chores to read instead?  Yes.  Yes I did.

The story is about a young girl  - Marie-Laure - from about the age of 6-16 who is blind and living in France (first Paris and then Saint Malo) during WWII with her father.  The other major character in the book is a boy named Werner who is an orphan from Germany.  It covers his ages from about 6-18 as well.  Their paths never cross until the very end of the book.  They don't speak the same language, they have very different lives, but yet - they meet each other.

It was pretty powerful.

The story isn't a hard read, and will hold your interest.  Marie-Laure and her father must flee Paris when the war starts, and they end up in beautiful Saint Malo living with her great-uncle (who is an agoraphobic) and his house keeper.  Werner, on the other hand, is discovered to be a brilliant engineer from an early age (can fix about any radio he comes across) and is quickly admitted to a science academy for Hitler youth.  It covered the span of their young life, and then jumps in the end to the year 1974 and then to 2014.  I love a book that shows what happens to the characters when the "worst" is behind them and how it shaped their lives.

I wish I would have read this before we traveled to Paris this summer.  I could see some of the places they talked about, and I think I would have tried to include Saint Malo into our trip.

I give it 5 starts.  Good read - don't miss it!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

First Snow of 2015

It is January 24th, and we are getting our first snow here in northern Massachusetts.  Am I sad?  Heck no.  I could have gone the whole year without snow.  But I guess that is too much to ask.

We were supposed to get 1-3 inches, so we got like 6-8.  Way to go weatherman.  Accurate as always.

The kids were really excited to wake up to snow this morning, so after lunch, they got dressed and went out to play.  Mat plowed the driveway and they built snowmen, and spent the afternoon rolling around outside.

Now they are good and tired.  Amen.  Point for snow.

Enjoy the pictures:

Cainan playing in the snow:

 Finley in the snow

 Even the dogs had a good time.  They love the snow:

Arlington shoveling a ramp to sled:

 House in the snow
 Mat plowing the driveway:

 Scooby ate a lot of snow:
 And tried to catch even more in his mouth:
 Mat and Cainan built a snowman:
 Cainan said "I need to go in a get a carrot for his nose"
 See that little orange dot?  That is the baby carrot Cainan got for the nose:

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Book Review #3

I swear this will be the last one.......for a few days.

Today I am reviewing my 3rd book on my 2015 reading challenge - Redshirts.

This book was under my category: A book with a color in the title

It came recommended to me by my husband.  He has been trying to get me to read it for over a year.  But knowing the kind of books he usually reads, I kept putting him off.  As I was making my reading challenge book list, the man tried to put this book in every category I mentioned, so I caved and read it.

And I didn't hate it.  It was actually quite an enjoyable read.  And quick - as you can see.

For those of you who like shows such as Star Trek, or any show/movie where you see something happen to D rated characters (extras) and mumble to yourself "I saw that coming a mile away" - this book is for you.  It is a story of a group of people on a ship called the Intrepid where bad stuff happens to all the expendable characters, and the captains always come out of the battles either mildly hurt, or unscathed.  BUT - if you are traveling with them - you are doomed.  The people on the ship have learned to hide from these captains knowing that if they get picked to go on a mission with them - they will not be returning.

It is quite silly, and quite true when it comes to shows like Star Trek.  I was tortured watching that show on TV with Mat, and characters in the redshirts always bit it.  You would catch yourself saying, "oh look - there is a character in a redshirt.  He is done for".

I won't go much further with this book because it takes a fun spin that I think you should read for yourself.  If you are looking for something light and easy to read, give it a try.  You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Book Review #2

I finished a book on our 2015 Reading Challenge book last night, so I wanted to review it for you.

The name of the book was "The Master and Margarita" by Mikhail Bulgakov.  It was under my reading challenge category: Book that was originally written in a different language.

This was by far the most challenging book I have ever read.  Ever.  It was recommended to me by a friend and it is on the list of "100 books you should read before you die".

This book as a cult following - a serious one.  Bulgakov was a famous Russian writer but he died before his book ever got published.  He lived in the early 1900's and died in 1940, but with Russia at war  - and what he printed would have put him in jail for sure - it never saw the light of day until the 1960s.

I have never read a Russian novel before and this one was hard.  VERY hard.  Thank goodness it had a commentary section in the back of the book that broke out some of meanings of the Russian words.  That helps a great deal.  But it still took me over 2 weeks to read its 335 pages because I could only do one or two chapters a night before I needed to take a break.

If you are looking to challenge yourself this year - I suggest reading The Master and Margarita.  The premise of the book is.......all over the place.  Really - it is the story of how Satan visits Moscow and how he wreaks havoc on a group of writers who were atheist.  They don't believe in God or Satan, and this doesn't make Satan very happy.

The Master (whose real name we never learn) is a writer.  He doesn't actually enter the novel himself until about 1/3 of the way through the book.  Bulgakov died before the book went to print, and people speculate that he might have called it something else had he lived to see it printed.  The Master is writing a story about Pontius Pilate and his crucifixion of Yeshua - who the reader believes is Jesus.  But this is never told.  This manuscript of the Master is intertwined between the "present" story of these writers in Moscow and what happens to them if they cross Woland (who is Satan - but again, not really said).  Margarita is The Master's love of his life.  She is a beautiful woman who leaves her husband to be with the Master and encourage him to write his story of Pontius Pilate.

Is your head spinning yet?

The writer lived in a very tumultuous Russia.  The 1930s in the Soviet Union were very unsafe - especially when it came to writing.  There is a line in the back of the book that says "All of Bulgakov's literary energy and creative will were concentrated on proving something that his enviornment contradicted:  that manuscripts don't burn, that art outlasts the tyrants, that entropy doesn't triumph over the creative spirit."

I can't give you much more because this book goes is so many directions that it would be impossible to really give you a feel for it.  I do suggest you reading it.  I would give it 4 stars, and hope that someday to read it again to see what I missed and to better understand it.

**The picture above is the translation that is recommended.  Apparently this book has been translated several times  - sometimes very badly**

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Book Review #1

Today I am going to read the first book I completed in our 2015 Book Challenge.

The Book was called "Undivided" by Neal Shusterman.  It was under the Challenge category "A Book Set In The Future".

Undivided is the 4th book in a Dystopian Future series called "Unwind".  I love, love, love Dystopian Future books and have read series after series this past year.  This one was pretty good.  In this book - the Pro-Life and Pro-Choice armies have come to an agreement.  Every kid under the age of 18, but over the age of 13, can be unwound by their parents if their parents choose to.  According to the folks who made up the rules of unwinding, the child's life doesn't really end because every part of the child is transplanted into various recipients.

Crazy, right?  So basically, your kid gets on your nerves, you sign an order and they are taken away and unwound to people who need organs.

The books were easy reads.  The hero of the books is a kid named Connor who escapes his unwinding.  It follows his journey - and all the people he meets along the way - and.....well - I don't want to give it away, now do I?

If you like Dystopian Future, this would be a good choice.  It got a 4 1/2 star rating on Amazon.  I would probably give it a 3 1/2 or 4.

Monday, January 19, 2015

2015 Book Challenge

This year, Arlington and I are doing a book challenge.  I love to read and I am determined to get Arlington to read more.  She is intrigued by the idea, and we have had fun this weekend finding books to fill out the challenge spots.  We still are working on ONE MORE for her list - having a little trouble with that one, but our list is almost complete!

Now to stick with it........

We have already been reading this year, and she has a few books under her belt.  She started her own blog, and she will be blogging about the books she reads and giving some reviews.  In return I told her she could blog about other things, but fair warning - she loves TV and cats.  So.......there will be a lot of that.

Her blog is called A Little Bit of Everything and you can find her here:

So here are the list.  FIRST MINE  I will put the category next to it.   I set my own rules to this list in the fact that I am not re-reading anything I have ever read before.  I also tried to stay away from books where I have seen the movie, but not read the book - that kind of thing.  I wanted to have some surprises left.  I have linked all the book names below so that you can check them out if you want.  Just click on them and they will take you to their pages.


A Book that has more than 500 pages - The Diviners
A Classic Romance - Pride and Prejudice
A Book that Became a Movie - The Giver
A Book Published This Year-The Last Time We Say Goodbye
A Book with a number in the title - NOS4A2
A book written by someone under 30 - The Bell Jar
A book with non human characters- Too Many Curses
A funny book - a Carl Hiaasen Book (haven't decided which)
A book by a female author - Eleanor and Park
A mystery or thriller - Kite Runner
A book with a one word title - Choke
A book of short stories - One by Isaac Asimov
A book set in a different country - All the Light we cannot see
A non-fiction book - Brain on Fire
A popular author's first book - Gregor the Overlander
A book a friend recommended - Defending Jacob
A book from an author that you love but haven't read yet -
                            Songs of the Humpback Whale
A book based on true story- Not What we were Expecting
A Pulitzer Prize winning book - Olive Kitteridge
A book at the bottom of your "to read" list - We are Water
A book your mom loves - Sarah's Key
A book more than 100 years old - The Dubliners
A book that scares you - Creed
A book based entirely on its cover - Still Alice
A book you were supposed to read in school but didn't -
A memoir - Yes Please
A book you can finish in a day - Fahrenheit 451
A book with antonyms in the title - Big Little Lies
A book set somewhere you have always wanted to visit -
                              Room with a View
A book that came out the year you were born - High Rise
A book with bad reviews - Catch 22
A trilogy - The Moon Dwellers
A book from your childhood - Wait Til Helen Comes
A book with a love triangle - Unearthly
A book set in the future - Undivided
A book set in a high school  - Before I Fall
A book with a color in the title - Redshirts
A book that will make you cry - A Child called "It"
A book with magic - The Night Circus
A graphic novel - Y the Last Man
A book by an author you have never read before -
               Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
A book you own but never read - The Given Day
A book that takes place in your home state -
             Please Ignore Vera Dietz
A book that was originally written in a different language -
                           The Master and Margarita
A book set during Christmas - Gabriel's Gift
A book written by the author with your same initials -
                         A  Book by James Patterson
A play - Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe
A banned book - The Golden Compass
A book based or turned into a TV show/movie -
             The Ninth Life of Louis Drax
A book you started but never finished - 1984

From my list - I have already read (since the beginning of January):  "Undivided" and I am almost done with "The Master and Margarita".  I will review both in another blog post.

Here is Arlington's list.  I had to tweak a few of the categories, but not many.  For example - she wasn't going to read a love triangle book.  So I changed that to friendships.  And a book set in high school - she is only 11 1/2.  So we went with middle school instead.  That kind of thing.  Stuck with the same idea, but made it a little more age appropriate.  Some of the books on her list she and I or her dad will read with her.  Her list is like mine - no books she has read before.  I made links to the books - so just click on the titles and it will take you to their descriptions.


A Book that has more than 500 pages - The Book Thief
A Classic Romance - The Princess Bride
A Book that Became a Movie - The Giver
A Book Published This Year - Dork Diaries 9
A Book with a number in the title - Guinea Dog 2
A book written by someone under 30 - Hitchhikers Guide
A book with non human characters - Guardians of Gahoole
A funny book - I Funnier
A book by a female author - The Summer Before Boys
A mystery or thriller - The Puzzle of the Paper Daughter
A book with a one word title - Rules
A book of short stories- Wayside School Gets a little stranger
A book set in a different country - Pardon My French
A non-fiction book - Girls Think of Everything
A popular author's first book - Because of Winn Dixie
A book a friend recommended - Public School Super Hero
A book from an author that you love but haven't read yet -
                         I Are Funniest
A book based on true story - Animal Farm
A Newberry Award Winning Book -
                       Inside Out and Back Again
A book at the bottom of your "to read" list - Barry Trotter
A book your mom loved - The Babysitter's Club
A book more than 100 years old - The Blue Fairy Book
A book that scares you - The Babysitter
A book based entirely on its cover - Artemis the Brave
A book you were supposed to read but didn't -
                      The One and Only Ivan
A memoir - Helen Keller - the Story of My Life
A book you can finish in a day - The Long Haul
A book with antonyms in the title - A Big Little Life
A book set somewhere you have always wanted to visit -
                      Dallas Doc Country Critters
A book that came out the year you were born -
               The Case of the Best Pet Ever
A book with bad reviews - TBA
A trilogy - The Hunger Games
A book from your childhood - The Cat in the Hat
A book with a boy girl friendship: Finally 12
A book set in the future - Cyberia
A book set in a middle school - How to Survive Middle            School and Monster Bots
A book with a color in the title - Where the Red Fern Grows
A book that will make you cry - The Bridge to Terabithia
A book with magic - The Magic Thief
A graphic novel - Rapunzel's Revenge
A book by an author you have never read before -
                 The Sinister Sweetness
A book you own but never read - Dive Right In
A book that takes place in your home state - Dorrie's Book
A book that was originally written in a different language -
                 The Never Ending Story
A book set during Christmas - The Christmas Toy Factory
A book written by the author with your same initials -
                 Tails from the Alamo
A play - Our Town
A banned book - To Kill A Mocking Bird
A book based or turned into a TV show/movie -
                                     Jurassic Park
A book you started but never finished - Among the Imposters

From the list above, Arlington has read the "Long Haul" book this year, and she and Mat had read "Hitchhikers Galaxy".  Tonight she should also finish "The Puzzle of the Paper Daughter".  She 3 down!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Christmas Catch Up

We went away for the Christmas Holiday - visited our families in Pennsylvania.  And then we came back and jumped right back into a busy school week.  So I haven't had time to post the last of our pictures from our vacation.

We had a nice time.  It was a nice break and the kids had fun with cousins and family, and we got to relax......some.  We are now back to the daily grind until mid-February when the kids will be off for their Winter Break.

Enjoy the pictures!

The first set are pictures from my parent's house - getting presents from them:

 Quilt I made my mom - it has the hand and foot prints of all her grandchildren, and their names and birthdates
The next day, we had my brother, sister in law, and two nephews over to open presents with them.  My kids were so excited to be able to play with their cousins.  Especially Cainan who was desperate for some boy time:

 Mat and my nephew work on one of his new science kits:

The next day we went into Pittsburgh to see the Santas from around the world, and handmade gingerbread houses, and the beautiful flowers at the Phipps Conservatory:

 The Christmas Witch from Italy:

 France Santa

 Chinese Santa:

 Outside at the ice rink:
 Large nativity
 Phipps Conservatory:

Glass flowers:

Then the next day, we headed to Mat's parents to have Christmas with them:
New Year's day in Mat's dad's birthday - so we celebrated the big 72 with him:

 We got to spent time with my niece, Olive - who celebrated her first Christmas:
 More presents!

 My mother in law made a quilt out of all of Finley's race shirts.  It is beautiful:

She wanted Julie this year
I made my mother in law a quilt like I made my mom.  She has 14 grandchildren, so it is much bigger!
Playing a card game with the family:

the full quilt:

The girls going through my grandmother's jewelry box