Feeds:
Posts
Comments

June Books (3)

This month was all about time management.  Unfortunately, reading got muscled out of the way for some more important things.
City of Fallen Angels (The Mortal Instruments #4) by Cassandra Clare

Goodreads’ synopsis:

City of Fallen Angels takes place two months after the events of City of Glass. In it, a mysterious someone’s killing the Shadowhunters who used to be in Valentine’s Circle and displaying their bodies around New York City in a manner designed to provoke hostility between Downworlders and Shadowhunters, leaving tensions running high in the city and disrupting Clary’s plan to lead as normal a life as she can — training to be a Shadowhunter, and pursuing her relationship with Jace. As Jace and Clary delve into the issue of the murdered Shadowhunters, they discover a mystery that has deeply personal consequences for them — consequences that may strengthen their relationship, or rip it apart forever.

Meanwhile, internecine warfare among vampires is tearing the Downworld community apart, and only Simon — the Daylighter who everyone wants on their side — can decide the outcome; too bad he wants nothing to do with Downworld politics. Love, blood, betrayal and revenge: the stakes are higher than ever in City of Fallen Angels.

We all know that TMI was originally going to be a trilogy, but then–after massive success with the first few books–Cassandra Clare decided to extend the series. Which was a move we TMI fans weren’t really complaining about, right?

Don’t get me wrong–I’m still not complaining, I enjoyed CoFA, and I’ll continue to love CC and TMI. BUT. CoFA is 4th on my list of fav TMI books, mostly because it just didn’t have that “can’t put it down” quality that the first three books possessed. I love me some Jace and Clary, but in CoFA a bunch of secondary characters became a whole lot more likeable and/or interesting than Mr. & Mrs. Broody McBrooderson. Simon was (unsurprisingly) central to the plot and I’m sure we’re going to see him continue to gain importance. Sullen Alec became downright sweet and come on, you gotta feel for the guy! And of course I still enjoy some Luke here and there throughout the story. He’s just such a GOOD guy, you know?

I eagerly await City of Lost Souls, due 5.1.12, and hope it lives up to the standard set by the first three TMI books.

I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali

Forced by her father to marry a man three times her age, young Nujood Ali was sent away from her parents and beloved sisters and made to live with her husband and his family in an isolated village in rural Yemen. There she suffered daily from physical and emotional abuse by her mother-in-law and nightly at the rough hands of her spouse. Flouting his oath to wait to have sexual relations with Nujood until she was no longer a child, he took her virginity on their wedding night. She was only ten years old.

Unable to endure the pain and distress any longer, Nujood fled—not for home, but to the courthouse of the capital, paying for a taxi ride with a few precious coins of bread money. When a renowned Yemeni lawyer heard about the young victim, she took on Nujood’s case and fought the archaic system in a country where almost half the girls are married while still under the legal age. Since their unprecedented victory in April 2008, Nujood’s courageous defiance of both Yemeni customs and her own family has attracted a storm of international attention. Her story even incited change in Yemen and other Middle Eastern countries, where underage marriage laws are being increasingly enforced and other child brides have been granted divorces.

Recently honored alongside Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice as one of Glamour magazine’s women of the year, Nujood now tells her full story for the first time. As she guides us from the magical, fragrant streets of the Old City of Sana’a to the cement-block slums and rural villages of this ancient land, her unflinching look at an injustice suffered by all too many girls around the world is at once shocking, inspiring, and utterly unforgettable.

At under 200 pages, this is one of those simple, yet emotionally charged reads that every woman should pick up at some point in her life. Facing the injustices Nujood experienced is painful, but her quiet determination is awe-inspiring. This 10-year-old Muslim girl has a better sense of self than most 20-something American women I know, including myself.

Like a few other reviewers, I had a problem with the narrative. Nujood–who had painfully little education prior to her saga–told her story to journalist Delphine Minoui, who then penned the book. It feels like Minoui tried to keep her writing style authentic to the 10-year-old’s first person narrative; however, at times it seems that Minoui couldn’t help injecting adult and/or Western ideas and phrases into the story. This discord detracts from the simplicity of Nujood’s account.

Overall, I highly, highly recommend I Am Nujood.

The Dark and Hollow Places (The Forest of Hands and Teeth #3) by Carrie Ryan

Goodreads’ synopsis:

There are many things that Annah would like to forget: the look on her sister’s face before Annah left her behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, her first glimpse of the Horde as they swarmed the Dark City, the sear of the barbed wire that would scar her for life. But most of all, Annah would like to forget the morning Elias left her for the Recruiters.  
Annah’s world stopped that day, and she’s been waiting for Elias to come home ever since. Somehow, without him, her life doesn’t feel much different than the dead that roam the wasted city around her. Until she meets Catcher, and everything feels alive again.
But Catcher has his own secrets. Dark, terrifying truths that link him to a past Annah has longed to forget, and to a future too deadly to consider. And now it’s up to Annah: can she continue to live in a world covered in the blood of the living? Or is death the only escape from the Return’s destruction?

Fantastic final book in the series!! I heart me some Carrie Ryan and want a boxed set of the trilogy for my bookshelf–the best compliment I can give any book or series! I highly recommend THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH trilogy to just about anyone.

~

Tried and failed:

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

Just not my kind of book.  I gave it 50 pages, but it wasn’t growing on me in the least.

Bumped by Megan McCafferty

I couldn’t get around the futuristic language.  I also gave this one until page 50, but couldn’t go any further.

Sometimes, when I’m really bored and have nothing better to do, I pose random questions to myself.  Questions like, “If I were a Hollywood starlet, what would my wardrobe style be?”
(See guys, there is a small, but very present girly bone somewhere in my body!)
How very tween-ish can I be?  But, you have to admit it’s kind of fun.
 
And then I realize…that there’s not a whole lot on the red carpet that I would want to wear.  In fact, I was able to find exactly three:
Freida Pinto in Chanel Haute Couture
 This dress–with the tie–is so fabulous I can’t even put it into words. Love it!

Jennifer Hudson in Vera Wang

 

Elizabeth Banks in Tommy Hilfiger

Thoughts on Summer

~Yesterday was the 4th of July.  Holy mackerel, where did summer come from so fast?  Although I’m looking forward to vacation next month, I’m so NOT ready for summer to speed along out of control like this.  This being my favorite season of the year, I’d like to enjoy it a bit.  Please?

~Both my horses have been sold in he past few weeks, each to fantastic homes with wonderful people.  Selling Pea and Beau was necessary to allow me to go back to school, but it still hurts my heart.  Saying it’s bittersweet doesn’t even begin to cover the range of emotions.  I feel like a little piece of me has been ripped away.  But, as a horsey friend so wisely said, I’ll always be a horsewoman–it’s in my blood.  And when horses come into my life in the future, I’ll appreciate them that much more.

~Two very dear women to me have gotten engaged in the past few weeks, my cousin and one of my closest friends.  Add that to my brother and his girlfriend (now fiance)–who got engaged in January–and it seems like everyone I know who wasn’t hitched is about to take the plunge!  I’m honored and excited that A asked me to be in her wedding.  It’ll be my first stint as a bridesmaid!  (Girliness I didn’t know I had is popping up!)

~Since it rained here from March through May, I didn’t plant a garden for the first time in years.  I feel a little rotten about it, actually.  (Hehe)  To make up for it, I’m planting my own hanging baskets.  More on that project later…

~Salsa, corn on the cob, peaches, sangria, and grilling out may just be the very best parts about summer time.

~Poison Ivy is the very worst part about summer.  Especially when you have it in areas that it’s typically socially unacceptable to scratch in public.  (Yes, I know you’re not supposed to scratch it anyway, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do!)

~This summer is all about home improvements for us.  Currently, my kitchen ceiling is down to the bare bones…which means EVERYTHING from the kitchen is chillin’ in the dining room.  (Have I mentioned how I loath clutter, chaos, messes, things in the wrong place, etc?)  This is going to be an exercise in being a little less OCD…

~Work is all about change, change, change these days.  I’m being reminded that first impressions are usually spot on, but being open-minded is golden, on a daily basis.  Also, pre-conceived notions are just plain worthless.  (We have a new hire from Richmond, VA and–since I love what I’ve seen of Richmond and have a fab friend who lives there–I got this notion that  New Girl A would be T’s clone.  Of course, the reality is that the city doesn’t make the person, just as the person doesn’t make the city.) 

~I up and decided to creatively fill my tragically boring wardrobe and have had a blast doing it!  Plato’s Closet and the thrift store have been my best buds, with a trip to Kohl’s, another to Old Navy, and an e-trip to Victoria’s Secret’s semi-annual sale thrown in for good measure.  I can now say that I’m (finally) happy with my summer closet!  Winter clothes are coming along, but I *may* need to do a little more tweaking to get it just right.  (I plan on posting pics some day!)

~I started college (again) two weeks ago.  (Yay!)  Class has been…interesting.  It’s a 5 credit hour class that meets once a week–which works fabulously for me, but makes Tuesday a long day.  Class is supposed to be 5:30-10pm, but our prof moved our start time to 6.  We’re talking about psychology during the life span–so from birth to death–which is fascinating.  What major theme have I learned so far?  That it’s very, very easy to screw up your kids.  Definitely enough to make me think twice about ever wanting any!

~I read an amazing book a few weeks ago.  It’s called I Am Nujood: Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali.  It’s a short, easy read, but emotionally draining.  Definitely worth reading, though.  That girl has more cojones than just about anyone I know.

May Books (7)

This Side of the Grave (Night Huntress #5) by Jeaniene Frost

Goodreads’ synopsis:

Danger waits on both sides of the grave.

Half-vampire Cat Crawfield and her vampire husband Bones have fought for their lives, as well as for their relationship. But just when they’ve triumphed over the latest battle, Cat’s new and unexpected abilities threaten to upset a long-standing balance . . .

With the mysterious disappearance of vampires, rumors abound that a species war is brewing. A zealot is inciting tensions between the vampires and ghouls, and if these two powerful groups clash, innocent mortals could become collateral damage. Now Cat and Bones are forced to seek help from a dangerous “ally”—the ghoul queen of New Orleans herself. But the price of her assistance may prove more treacherous than even the threat of a supernatural war . . . to say nothing of the repercussions Cat never imagined.

I wrote a nice review of this book, but then internet-land ate it. Grrrr!

Suffice to say, This Side of the Grave renewed my love of Jeaniene’s sarcastic wit, ability to craft passionate, yet epic love scenes, and write a damn good story. I love Cat and Bones and am always impressed at their growth as a couple. Jeaniene proves that there’s much, much more story to tell even after the tension and build-up of the “lets get together” stage is over. In This Side of the Grave, Cat and Bones learn more about each other, meet some spooky supes (teehee), and the supporting characters just get better and better.

Hex Hall (Hex Hall #1) by Rachel Hawkins

 Goodreads’ synopsis:

Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It’s gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie’s estranged father–an elusive European warlock–only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it’s her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.

By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire student on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect.

As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.

Eh, I gotta say Hex Hall didn’t do that much for me. It reminded me a lot of Marked (House of Night series by P.C. and Kristin Cast) and Fallen (by Lauren Kate) and Need (by Carrie Jones). I obviously dig YA fantasy books, but this formula (high-school-chick-gets-into-trouble-and-gets-sent-to-boarding/far-away-school-and-doesn’t-fit-in-with-popular-girls-but-falls-for-hottie-boy(s)-and-then-gets-wrapped-up-in-some-sort-of-supernatural-danger) is so stinkin’ overdone it’s just not even funny anymore. I wanted something unusual to happen so badly that I finished the book, but–seeing as nothing particularly unique occured–I won’t be reading the sequel.

As a total aside–and just to prove how neurotic I am–it also really bothers me that there’s a cat sitting next to Sophie on the cover when the author made a point to say Sophie is allergic to felines. Also, wouldn’t that mean she’s allergic to the mountain lion shifter girl, too?

Nightshade (Nightshade #1) by Andrea Cremer

Goodreads’ synopsis:

Calla Tor has always known her destiny: After graduating from the Mountain School, she’ll be the mate of alpha wolf Ren Laroche and fight with him, side by side, ruling their pack and guarding sacred sites for the Keepers.

But when she violates her masters’ laws by saving a beautiful human boy out for a hike, Calla begins to question her fate, her existence, and the very essence of the world she has known. By following her heart, she might lose everything— including her own life. Is forbidden love worth the ultimate sacrifice?

Nightshade is an intriguing read that draws you in and becomes very difficult to put down. Especially now that the YA fantasy genre is being flooded with new books as fast as they can be written and published, Andrea Cremer’s book is refreshingly original and well-written.

Calla, the heroine, is both unique and complex, while the supporting characters are well-fleshed out and multi-dimensional. The love triangle is frustratingly well done. And by that I just mean that Calla doesn’t know whom she prefers and neither did I as the reader. Both boys have a lot going for them, so there’s no clear front runner. Since her relationship with each boy develops simultaneously, there’s also no “timeline advantage” given to either one.

I found the first few chapters slightly confusing, because Cremer drops you in the middle of Calla’s world and you have to figure out the details as you go. Thus, it takes a little while to figure out what’s going on. (It was actually a little refreshing to have to figure details out on my own. I’m tired of YA lit “writing down” to the reader. I’m a big girl, I can think for myself!) Overall, I thought Nightshade was a captivating story and am looking forward to getting my hands on the sequel, Wolfsbane.

As an aside, I’m pretty sure I have cover-lust…and whoever designed Nightshade‘s cover deserves a serious end-of-the-year bonus.

Magic in the Blood (Allie Beckstrom #2) by Devon Monk
Working as a Hound-tracing illegal spells back to their casters-has taken its toll on Allison Beckstrom. But even though magic has given her migraines and stolen her recent memory, Allie isn’t about to quit. Then the police’s magic enforcement division asks her to consult on a missing persons case. But what seems to be a straightforward job turns out to be anything but, as Allie finds herself drawn into the underworld of criminals, ghosts, and blood magic.
Perfect beach reading, Magic in the Blood was a fun, enjoyable read. The issues I had with the first book (constant use of the expletives “good loves” and “sweet hells” and problematic memory loss) are toned down a bit in the second book. We learn a little more about Mr. Jones, Allie’s father, and the world of magic/Hounds that Allie moves in.
Wither (Chemical Garden #1) by Lauren DeStefano

 Goodreads’ synopsis:

What if you knew exactly when you would die?
Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb — males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.
When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden’s genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape — to find her twin brother and go home.
But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden’s eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limited time she has left.

If Cassia of Matched and Katniss of The Hunger Games had a love child, it would be Rhine of Wither. (Yes, I dig the YA dystopian fantasy scene.) I pretty much read Wither in one sitting, and was sad to see the last page.

DeStefano’s strongest skills are her character building and character relationships. Her weakness is in her world building. Let’s face it, she doesn’t appear to have put a whole lot of time and effort into developing her dystopian society, or the cause of said society’s downfall. That said, she is mighty good at the things she does well. It’s Rhine’s relationships that drive the story. And DeStefano’s prose is fantastic. She uses the pages of her book to create and shape her readers’ emotions, and it’s a beautiful thing.

Magic in the Shadows (Allie Beckstrom #3) by Devon Monk

 Goodreads’ synopsis:

Allison Beckstrom’s magic has taken its toll on her, physically marking her and erasing her memories-including those of the man she supposedly loves. But lost memories aren’t the only things preying on Allie’s thoughts.

Her late father, the prominent businessman-and sorcerer-Daniel Beckstrom, has somehow channeled himself into her very mind. With the help of The Authority, a secret organization of magic users, she hopes to gain better control over her own abilities-and find a way to deal with her father…

Magic to the Bone and Magic in the Blood (books 1 and 2 of the Allie Beckstrom series) were just OK for me. Enjoyable reads, but nothing to write home about.

Book #3, Magic in the Shadows, is the one that hooked me. Loved it! I have some others at the top of my TBR pile, but once I’m done with them I’ll definitely be back for books 4-7 of the series.

Where She Went (sequel to If I Stay) by Gayle Foreman

 Goodreads’ synopsis:

It’s been three years since the devastating accident . . . three years since Mia walked out of Adam’s life forever.

Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Juilliard’s rising star and Adam is LA tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia’s home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future–and each other.

Told from Adam’s point of view in the spare, lyrical prose that defined If I Stay, Where She Went explores the devastation of grief, the promise of new hope, and the flame of rekindled romance.

I’m torn over how to describe my feelings about Where She Went. It wasn’t If I Stay, and I didn’t connect with the characters in the same way as with the first book. Perhaps it was the change in narrator, or maybe it was just that Adam experiences a different kind of agony than Mia did. Regardless, I didn’t feel the same awe I felt for If I Stay after reading Where She Went. That said, it’s still an amazing and well-written story. I highly recommend both books!

posted the other day about the excitement (and trepidation) associated with going back to school.  Here’s the rest of the story…

I originally planned to go back to school for a Master’s in Equine Reproductive Physiology, with the goal of working for a private equine repro firm, or breeding farm, or possibly in research.  I was very close to doing this immediately after I graduated from undergrad–I had met with the program director at Ohio State several times and thought I was ready to go–but at the last minute I found out I was missing a bunch of pre-requisite classes.  (Neither the program director nor my academic advisor had thought to check on that.)  That development combined with a few other factors (i.e. life) convinced me to put off grad school until a yet-to-be-determined later date.

Last winter I contacted the new program directors at OSU and, over the summer, trekked to Columbus a couple of times a month to shadow their research lab and clinical patients.  Towards the end of the summer, I had a bit of an epiphany: I was bored to tears about 80% of the time I spent there.  Around that same time, I did some additional research into the profession and found some key new bits of information.  Namely, that the economic slump hit the tiny little equine repro industry hard and had turned it into a contracting career field.  Also, the repro world now values hands-on experience above extended education, the average starting salary is about $40,000/year (not worth 2 more years of student loans), and I could go to a tiny handful of locations that *might* be hiring at the same time I’d be job hunting.

Can you blame me for reconsidering my chosen career path even before I’d really started down it?

So, I made a list.  (I’m really, really good at lists.)

~

What I want in a career:

1. Intellectual stimulation

2. Emotional fulfillment

3. Financial freedom & the ability to support my hobbies (travel, horses, etc.)

4. Expanding job market

5. Multiple job location choices

~

Shortly thereafter, I stumbled across the Physician Assistant profession and began researching it.  I met with the admissions advisor at the KCMA program here in Dayton, did a lot of reading & research, and went on some job shadows. 

And the PA profession and I…well, we just clicked.

I sort of feel like I’m divorcing the equine science/animal health fields.  But, you know what?  I’ve paid my dues and it’s my right to walk away.

You know, I’ve never been particularly afraid of tornadoes*.  Amazingly enough, the logical part of my brain prevails when it says, “you have better things to stress out over than the minute chance you’ll get killed by a tornado.”  Fortunately we don’t get a ton of them here in Ohio. 

But last night I learned what a pain in the ass tornadoes (or lack thereof) really are.

Here’s my tornado countdown from yesterday:

T-6 minutes: Arrive home from work via “the back way” because the highway was backed up for miles.

T-5:30 minutes: Let dogs out to pee.  Say silent prayer for dogs that pee on command.

T-4 minutes: Put confused dogs back in house in order to drive car through back yard and into barn.  Promise horse he will get fed in a few minutes.  Unfortunately, neither of you know it yet, but that’s a lie.

T-2 minutes: Run back to house, closing gates on the way.

T-1 minute: Feed dogs so anti-anxiety drugs can be administered in anticipation of thunder and lightning.

T-0:15 minutes: Begin running back to barn when the dreaded tornado siren begins wailing.  Pause.  Decide shutting barn doors is more important than not getting blown away.

T: Close barn doors and chicken house door.  Ignore hungry horse.  Run back to house.

T+1 minute: Tornado sirens still going off.  Turn on TV.  Watch 45 seconds of weatherman high on “tornado buzz”.

T+2 minutes: Satellite TV goes out.  Same with Clearwire satellite.  (No internet.)  Sky is green.  Decide it’s time to hunker down.

T+4 minutes: Gather essentials (pillow, cell, dog treats, book, book light, Triscuits, ice tea) and dogs in center of house.

T+6 minutes: Get bored.  Glance out window and decide that a beverage run is both warranted and safe.

T+6:30 minutes: Settle in with red wine in a penguin sippy cup (don’t want it to stain the carpet in case of an actual tornado, right?), book, and dogs.  Set a routine: pet dogs, read book, check cell, sip wine.  Repeat 1,000 times.  Waste most of evening, besides the wine & little bit of the book.

~

End result?  No tornado. 

~

*Disclaimer: I’m fully aware that tornadoes pose a serious threat and have been responsible for horrendous destruction and loss of life.  I in no way intend to downplay these painful realities, nor belittle the awesome power of wind being blown in a circle.  In this post I intend to sound cynical, but deep down I respect the raw, unleased power and scariness factor that is the tornado.  I talk big, but I have no desire to face one of those monsters down in person.

Back to School I Go!

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to job shadow a Physician Assistant in the ER of one of our local hospitals.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see a whole lot of action, but I’m tentatively scheduled to go back in June and hopefully I’ll get to see more then.  This was the second PA I’ve shadowed (the first was at my neurologists office) and a very different setting from the other experience.  I love that I leave excited and ready to learn more about the profession!

I’ve been struggling with the “what I want to be when I grow up” question for quite some time now.  Now–finally, finally!–I have a plan.  On Tuesday, May 10th, I officially became a college student again when I registered for class at Sinclair Community College.  I’ll have 9 prerequisite classes to take before applying to Kettering College of Medical Arts’ Masters of Physician Assistant Studies program

For now I’m planning to ease myself back into things by taking a “soft”(er) science class–psychology–this summer.  Starting in the fall though, it’ll be all chem, o-chem, and bio for me!

And so the journey begins…