January 28, 2009

Book #14: Things I Learned About My Dad (In Therapy)

I went into Things I Learned About My Dad, not really being able to relate. I didn't grow up with a father, so I don't really understand the complicated relationships people have with their fathers. I do have a good step-dad who's a good father to my little sister. But when he first started dating my mother, I was nearly 17 years-old and I'm pretty sure he wondered why her annoying roommate was forever bumming rides and money.

Heather Armstrong, of the wildly popular Dooce.com, assembled the essays for Things I Learned About My Dad from amongst tons of other popular bloggers. They come from all different points of views, from mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. I especially enjoyed the ones about being a new dad to a newborn, since I've witnessed that particular phenomenon myself. The essays written by adults looking back on their fathers' lives were particularly moving.

One thing I can relate to in this book, is how much new parents become obsessed with bowel movements. I don't think a day goes by without us talking about dirty diapers. Rob and I never discussed bodily functions until we had a kid. Wait, that's not entirely true. He did reveal to me once that when he was little, he learned going number 1 (snicker) was "pee-pee" and number 2 was "going potty". Which boggled my mind, because I always thought "potty" referred to the actual toilet. Though in truth, I grew up saying "I'm going to the bathroom", no specifics necessary. I don't think I started saying "I've gotta pee" until I was a drunken teenager at summer camp. (Just kidding Mom! That totally never happened.)

One thing I have learned about fatherhood is that sons adore their daddies. Every morning I go wake Cooper up to get him ready for daycare, and the first thing he says is "Daddy?" and then he keeps up a running commentary about Daddy for the rest of the morning. Sometimes I wonder if babies are hard wired to think of mama as a given. But somehow they know that if they have a daddy, well that's something special.

Book #13: Letter to My Daughter

My grandmother gave me Maya Angelou's Letter to My Daughter for Christmas. I've been a huge Maya Angelou fan forever. My mother took me to hear her speak at Bass Concert Hall when I was in high school. She was amazing, simply the most lyrical woman who's ever lived. I bet she can make ordering a cheeseburger sound like a poem.

"You may not control all of the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them."
That was just in the first couple of pages. In truth, the entire thing is quotable. It's a series of vignettes written as a letter to the daughter she never had. Her thoughts on honesty, vulgarity, charity, her relationship with God, and friends that have passed. She also has some advice about not whining, but with all due respect to Ms. Angelou, some of us may skillfully use whining to bring about the change we wish to see.

It's a really quick read. In fact, I finished it in one evening. And before you make fun Sally, this kind of thing is why we're months behind on our television shows.

January 27, 2009

Book #12: The 5-Minute Face: The Quick & Easy Makeup Guide for Every Woman

Sorry, this may seem like cheating on my list. But it's yet another book that I get to put in the "completed" pile and get off my nightstand.

Okay, this isn't so much a novel as a really large beauty magazine. But hey, no ads! The 5-Minute Face: The Quick & Easy Makeup Guide for Every Woman provides some interesting tips from Carmindy of TLC's "What Not to Wear".

I love beauty products. Love buying them, love playing with them, and love reading reviews. So I don't necessarily need instructions on how to choose a foundation or what to do with my eyebrows (though this book did make me realize that I need to work on my eyeliner application). But I actually know a lot of women who are somewhat clueless about what products are best for their skin (or, ahem, age). So this book could be helpful for someone who needs some tutoring on products as well as a step-by-step guide for the basics (Carmindy's infamous 5-minute face routine), plus some popular special occasion looks.

My biggest problem with the book, and this was voiced by Amazon reviewers as well, is that there aren't any photos of regular women. Don't get me wrong, there are tons of photos. Many photos of the lovely Carmindy, as well as whichever model she uses to illustrate the technique on. The problem is, we know those women can be made to look gorgeous, because you know, they're models. It would be a lot more helpful to have before and after photos of those techniques used on average women, to see what a difference proper makeup application makes.

I did actually get a few ideas about some new products and tools to try. Though Carmindy also gives plenty of trade tips for quick fixes that don't require a toolbox full of professional cosmetics. There's some color guidance for all skin types and ages. And at the back of the book, she gives a product guide including her favorite high end products, as well as their inexpensive counterparts.

January 26, 2009

Book #11: Be Still My Vampire Heart

Thank God this book was available in Kindle edition, because Be Still My Vampire Heart is not the kind of thing I'd like to be seen reading in public. If just for the corny title alone. Kerrelyn Sparks third novel in the Love at Stake series focuses on Emma Watson and Angus McKay, both introduced earlier in the series.

Emma is yet another member of the CIA "Stake Out" team we've heard about before. Her parents were murdered by vampires in Moscow and now she considers it her personal mission to eradicate the vampires. She's a world traveling vampire slayer. (Though they leave out all references to Buffy, which I found to be somewhat antithetical to this very modern series.)

Angus McKay is a 500 year-old Highland warrior who now owns his own security firm. He wears kilts and carries a giant broadsword but is apparently also perfectly comfortable with the internet and synthetic blood. He sees Emma as a warrior just like him. But of course he has to work pretty hard to get past her natural vampire prejudices.

I didn't find this book to be quite as much fluffy fun as the first two in the series (How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire, and Vamps in the City). Sometimes reading a series can get stale if each novel feels like a repeat of previous stories with just the characters names changed. Luckily this one somewhat redeemed itself with a little twist at the end.

January 25, 2009


I don't think I've ever celebrated a blogiversary before, but today is five years that I've been blogging. I'm not sure how long I've been at Blogger. I started out at LiveJournal, but it was weird, full of kids, and it kept wanting to know my "mood".

I've accomplished quite a bit in my 505 posts. There was the time I talked about my boobs, the time I managed to make up 100 things all about me, the time I was plagiarized by a teenage girl, the time perfect strangers judged me for choosing not to breastfeed, the time I barely posted for months because I gave birth to a tiny needy human, and then there was the time our house imploded, and it's possible I've mentioned shoes once or twice, my controversial post about the now closed Parmer Lane Curra's, and I might have said something about my TV addiction, then there was that string of months where I didn't shut up about Twilight, and of course the time I accused the entire Republican National Convention of not understanding the definition of patriotism.

But mostly, I think I just talked about junk food.

January 24, 2009

Book #10: The Stolen Bride

The sixth book in Brenda Joyce's de Warenne Dynasty, The Stolen Bride takes place in Ireland in the early part of the 19th century.

Eleanor de Warenne had a crush on her step-brother Sean, from the time their parents married when she was a very young child. Eleanor helped Sean rebuild his ancestral home, dresses in men's breeches to ride horses, and tells whichever brother is currently doing her a favor that he is her very favorite brother. After Sean leaves home and doesn't return for four years, Eleanor finally agrees to marry a very wealthy British lord, though she doesn't love him, because she's still got this kind of sick thing for her step-brother.

Sean O'Neil was always a good sport about tolerating Eleanor's spying, hero worship, and rescuing her when she got into trouble. In the four years he's been away, he married, lost his wife and step-son under very tragic circumstances (and of course he blames himself) and spent two years in isolation in a British prison. He's a very anguished criminal on the run. Sean shows up on the eve of Eleanor's wedding and all kinds of madness takes place. These two are some ridiculously tortured lovers.

As much as I enjoy these silly romance novels, I would never survive as a character. I'd be all "Sorry, I can't handle this star-crossed shit. I'm just gonna marry the rich guy." See? I wouldn't even have the vernacular down.

January 22, 2009

Girl Scout Cookie time! Nom nom nom!

It's that very special time of year, when we celebrate with family and are thankful for the blessings in our life. Cookie blessings. This year my sister is a Brownie Scout and I think I'll be ordering by the case.

January 21, 2009

Book #9: Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture

Okay, to tell the truth, I started this book last year and got about halfway through. Then I put it down for months (I'm slow with non-fiction) and didn't pick it back up until this week. So it feels a little dishonest to include it on this list, but I'm just so excited that I finished it and can take it off the nightstand stack.

Ariel Levy's Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture "is a bold, piercing examination of how twenty-first century American society perceives sex and women." (from the Amazon review)

You know who the female chauvinist pigs are. They're the ones who grew up wanting to be in Playboy, the ones who think it's empowering to flash the Girls Gone Wild cameras, and the ones who will make out with their girlfriends at bars because they know that it turns guys on. It's like they're a whole generation of women who's mamas didn't raise them right. The interviews with women in the book were really interesting because they all seemed to reveal that their sexuality was so much more about performance than pleasure. There were also some interesting ideas about how much women's sexuality and "hotness" prevail in our culture and media, yet by comparison, we tend to fetishize virginity.

I don't feel like I learned anything new from this book, but then I'm a daily Jezebel reader. So I know all about women and sex in culture and media. But I did think that the chapter when Ariel Levy travels around with the Girls Gone Wild production, was fascinating (oh, and also revolting), and worth buying the book for.

January 20, 2009

Book #8: Vamps in the City

Vamps in the City is the second novel in Kerrelyn Sparks' Love at Stake series which I gleefully began earlier this month.

Darcy Newhart has only been a vampire for four years, and she's not very good at it. She can't teleport, she refuses to use mind control, and she doesn't even like the taste of blood- without chocolate in it. Anxious to get back into her previous career of journalism, Darcy applies to work at the Digital Vampire Network. In order to get her foot in the door, she pitches an idea for a vampire reality show (I know, right?). It's pretty much a knockoff of "The Bachelorette", but instead of one bachelorette, the lucky winner gets a whole harem (it's a long story).

Austin Erickson is a CIA agent working undercover for a secret operation called Stake Out, who is assigned to infiltrate the reality show in order to investigate vampires, and kill them if necessary. Of course he immediately lusts after Darcy, and takes a ridiculously long time to figure out she's not human. And of course by then they're both in love and beating themselves up over how they can't be together.

Like the previous book in the series, this is fluffy candy. Or maybe like one of those reality shows that you're embarassed to admit that you watch ("Tool Academy" anyone?) but that you simply can't miss. It's crazy silly, but highly entertaining.

January 17, 2009

Book #7: Shakespeare's Counselor

The fifth novel in Charlaine Harris' Lily Bard Mysteries, Shakespeare's Counselor is also the last in the series. This was a somewhat difficult book to get through. Lily the heroine, joins a rape survivor's group. We've already learned about her attack previously in the series. Learning about the other members of her counseling group is equally hard. And then of course, one of the members of the group is murdered. So Lily and her new husband, private investigator Jack Leeds, are on the case- unofficially.

Lily is also training to be a private investigator. She spends some time undercover at a gym, and staking out a worker's comp claimant. About a third of the way through the story, we realize that Lily is pregnant, but that she doesn't realize it herself. In fact, she doesn't seem to have any clue at all, until she's in the midst of miscarrying. Afterwards, she's understandably weaker and more vulnerable than we've previously seen her.

I don't feel like the series ends on a completely satisfying note, but maybe that's because there's no big flourish. Lily and Jack will just go on living in their small town, private investigating, and apparently stumbling over bodies with disturbing frequency.

January 15, 2009

Book #6: Shakespeare's Trollop

Shakespeare's Trollop is the fourth book in Charlaine Harris' Lily Bard Mysteries. Her books are always a quick read, sometimes they're even over before I'm ready. Lily Bard survived a gang rape and now lifts weights and takes martial arts three times a week. She has turned herself into one ass-kicking house cleaner in the tiny town of Shakespeare Arkansas. Lily solves mysteries with the sometimes help of her private investigator boyfriend, Jack.

In this case, the murder victim was the Deedra, the local girl who's been around (she being the trollop in question). Being that Deedra was Lily's neighbor, and one of her customers, Lily feels invested in figuring out the killer's identity. She also happened to be the one that stumbled upon the body. That kind of thing seems to happen a lot in mysteries.

As a heroine, Lily is a little hard to embrace. For obvious reasons, she's not comfortable getting close to people, and she's discreet to the point of nearly being mute. However, she's very passionate about self defense, and she's a tidy soul. Okay, that might be an odd thing to care about, but it's actually one of my favorite things about all of Charlaine Harris' heroines. They all like to keep their homes spanking (or in Sookie's case, "spanky") clean. And being someone who also needs to have things in their proper place, I appreciate that aspect of their characters.

January 14, 2009

Book #5: The Masquerade

The Masquerade is the fifth book in Brenda Joyce's de Warrenne Dynasty series. Set in Ireland, in 1814, Elizabeth Fitzgerald is impoverished gentry who falls in love with the future Earl of Adare, Tyrell, when she's very young. Eventually Elizabeth comes to Tyrell's attention as a teenager at a masquerade ball. However, due to a ridiculous series of events, Elizabeth's skanky sister Anne, winds up pregnant with Tyrell's baby. Elizabeth helps her conceal the pregnancy, then instead of giving the baby up for adoption as planned, Elizabeth decides to keep the baby for herself (passing herself off as an unwed mother), thereby forever ruining her reputation. And because of that, she eventually ends up as Tyrell's mistress, while he's engaged to someone else.

As required for all romance novels, there are the requisite misunderstandings that lead the two main characters to spend pages and pages longer getting together than is really necessary. I think this is why I'm beginning to prefer mysteries. Please people, just talk to eachother and you could be together within 150 pages instead of 300 (or in this case, 560 pages).

Okay, but I liked it anyway and will be continuing on in the series.

January 07, 2009

Book #4: How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire

Can you believe it? How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire? That is seriously the title of the book! Based on my previous purchases, Amazon thinks I'm Vampire Girl, so it kept recommending this one to me every time I logged in. And upon actually taking a look at it, I realized the cover model is wearing my wedding dress. So obviously, it was meant to be.

This book is extremely silly, totally sappy, and faintly ridiculous. I could not put it down.

Shanna Whelan is in the witness protection program, hiding from the Russian mob, after seeing something she shouldn't have. Hey, it could happen to anyone. She's a dentist working the night shift at a 24 hour clinic. They don't get many customers, which is just as well, since she's afraid of blood anyway.

Shanna is a curvy size 12 (like my home girl Sookie Stackhouse- the literary one, not the HBO one). She has perpetually dyed hair, carries a Marilyn Monroe purse, orders pizza every night, and fantasizes about brownies. I kind of love her.

Roman Draganesti is a former monk, current millionaire scientist who's invented synthetic blood. Which is super handy, since he's a 500 year-old vampire who would prefer not to feed off humans. Roman is all tortured about his sins and his eternal damnation, which is apparently required for all male vampire leads. He also uses "God's blood!" as an expletive about eleventy times per page.

Of course they fall in love, but along the way, there are Scottish warriors in kilts, bombs going off, harems, creepy psychotic Russian vampires, a digital cable vampire TV station, teleporting, telepathic sex, a covert CIA team called Stake Out (get it?), a minor vampire war, chocolate flavored blood, and yes- brownies.

The best part? It's the first in a series! That's like crack to us borderline OCD types. You mean I get to read them in tidy sequential order with establishing storylines and character backgrounds? Can you guess what the series is called? Love at Stake! Of course it is.

January 04, 2009

Book #3: Dead Over Heels

Just finished the fifth book in the Aurora Teagarden Mysteries series. Dead Over Heels is also the last book in the series available in Kindle edition. (Amazon, get on that, would you?)

The story starts out with a dead man falling from an airplane and landing in heroine (and part time librarian) Aurora's front yard. The fact that the dead man was a cop, and one who was known to be openly hostile to Aurora, compounds the issue. Various odd occurrences throughout the story lead the reader to realize that someone is stalking Aurora and trying to win her affections in a seriously bizarre way. Aurora is a lot slower to come to this conclusion.

Again I find myself irritated by Aurora's relationship with her husband, and how little time they spend together, and how little they communicate. Sookie Stackhouse would never put up with that crap.

Wonder how I'm plowing through these books so fast. They're all around 240-300 pages, and I'm a bit of a speed reader. Also, my kid naps for 2-3 hours a day on the weekends, and is usually in bed by 7:30 at night. Oh, and my husband is pretty understanding about my penchant for burying my head in a story for hours at a time. I'm a lucky girl.

Book #2: The Julius House

Fourth book in Charlaine Harris' Aurora Teagarden Mysteries, The Julius House is fairly engrossing.

Heroine Aurora Teagarden settles into married life with her dashing older husband Martin. As a wedding gift, Martin buys Aurora the Julius House, site of a local family's mysterious disappearance. Aurora is of course unable to leave the mystery unsolved. She also spends some time wondering what secrets in her husband's past necessitate two on-site bodyguards. There's a lesson there kids: don't marry someone you barely know.

I enjoyed trying to unravel the mystery, but also spent a lot of time irritated at Aurora for being so clueless about the man she married.

January 03, 2009

Book #1: Three Bedrooms, One Corpse

Three Bedrooms, One Corpse is the third book in the Aurora Teagarden Mysteries by Charlaine Harris (known for the Southern Vampire Mysteries, basis for HBO's wickedly entertaining "True Blood", the Harper Connelly Mysteries, and Lily Bard Mysteries) . This is the fourth Charlaine Harris series I've read.

The heroine, Aurora Teagarden is a former librarian, who due to an unexpected inheritance, is now a lady of leisure. Score! Short, nearsighted, and heavily into true crime, she tends to stumble upon a lot of dead bodies. In this third novel, she begins an affair with the mysterious new older man in town, while also trying to figure out who keeps murdering local realtors.

I think this is Charlaine Harris' first mystery series, which would explain why Aurora Teagarden is the least clearly drawn of her heroines. Aside from her bookishness, lack of height, and fascination with murder, she doesn't have quite as much personality as her literary mystery solving sisters.

That aside, the books are entertaining, and I'll be devouring them as fast as my Kindle can download them.

100 Books for 2009... or something

I've been toying with the idea for a long time of trying to read 100 books in a year. Or at the very least, posting about the books I read just to see how many I generally read in a year. However, I've always hesitated because sometimes the books I read are embarrassing. You're saying "[gasp] You? No!" But for serious. It isn't just the vampire kick I've been on lately. (And believe me, I never had any intention of becoming that girl.) Sometimes... I read bodice rippers. Yep, heaving bosoms, tight breeches, with ridiculous titles like Her Forbidden Pirate or Love's Brazen Fire. I own books with Fabio on the cover. It's humiliating. But now that this is a known fact, let's get to it.