Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013: A Year in Pictures

January: Lots of Fresh Grapefruit Juice and Vodka Greyhounds Thanks to our Tree and Electric Juicer

February: Pack Walk With Our Big Friends

March: Dinner With Sara and Angi at Gertrude's is Just What I Need

April: We Say Goodbye to Our Friend Strega Nona

Joe Makes Us a Game of Thrones Dinner
and We See Oblivion with Jake

May: Funny Hat Bike Ride with Stephanie et al.

and Corey Meets Grumpy Cat

June: A Day at Rosie's Dog Beach

July: Kathleen and Mark Get Married

and We Go to a Diamondbacks Game to Celebrate Our First Date Anniversary

August: Corey Fixes the Sliding Glass Door

September: We Eat at Venezia's Like We're in Breaking Bad

October: Stephanie and I See The Avett Brothers Again

and We Take the Dogs on a Halloween Pack Walk After the Trick-or-Treat Parade

November: Corey Surprises Me by Reserving the Cotton Club for My Birthday Party

December: Corey Turns Our House Into a Winter Wonderland

and Greg Takes Tito and I on a Volcano Tour

Love and Happiness to All in 2014!

Eclectic Reader Challenge 2014

In the past 2 years I have had fun exploring genres I may not normally be drawn to with the Eclectic Reader Challenge, so I am going to sign up again next year.

2014 looked like the toughest challenge yet; I had to look up definitions for many of the genres and then I wasn't sure I would even have books that would fit. But after going through my shelves I found I had more than a few options.

Here are the categories and some of the books I have on hand:

Award Winning (should be easy - seems like half of my books have some kind of award mentioned on the cover)

True Crime (used to be one of my favorites to read. It will be nice to pick one up again.) - Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi with Curt Gentry, All She Wanted by Aphrodite Jones, The Minds of Billy Milligan by Daniel Keyes, and Killing for Company: The Story of a Man Addicted to Murder by Brian Masters

Romantic Comedy - The Lucky Dog Matchmaking Service by Beth Kendrick, 4 Blondes by Candace Bushnell, and Last Chance Saloon by Marian Keyes

Alternate History Fiction (I had to look this one up. These are "what if" books. What our world would be like if only...) - The Time Machine by H.G. Wells is the closest I think I have, if not I would like to get 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

Graphic Novel - I have tons of Walking Dead graphic novels to read stacked on my headboard

Cozy Mystery Fiction (I had to look this one up. It's like that tea shop murder series, where women who aren't in law enforcement solve murders. I read a few scrapbook ones but they're not my deal. I still have one left that I bought and never read so this will help me get it off the shelf and on to Bookman's.) - Bound for Murder by Laura Childs

Gothic Fiction (another Wikipedia search, I found a lot of elements but the key thing seems to be setting, specifically a castle. I found my book on a Gothic list but it's set in a boys school. A boys school could be a castle right? And it's a thriller so I think it fits.) - Gentlemen and Players: A Novel by Joanne Harris

War/Military Fiction - Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (probably will be this one because I can also read it for Banned Books Week), For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway (my friend Richard has wanted me to read this for a long time), and The March by E. L. Doctorow

Anthology - I have lots of Alfred Hitchcock Presents anthologies

Medical Thriller Fiction (another search needed, "outbreak" stories) - Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland (sounds like it will fit, there's an apocalypse that causes people to sleep but it doesn't sound very "thriller-y")

Travel (Non Fiction) - Travels with Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck (I want to read more Steinbeck in 2014) and Woman Alone: Travel Tales from Around the Globe by Faith Conlon

Published in 2014 - should be easy because of the Early Reviewers program

Does anyone have any corrections or additions to these genre descriptions? Do you recommend any of the books on my list? Have you read one of these books but don't think it fits my genre description? Do you want to join with me?

P.S. The cozy library picture is from the Steward.

Monday, December 30, 2013

What's In a Name Challenge Completed!

Here's what I read:

A book with up or down (or equivalent) in the title: A Good Fall by Ha Jin finished 11/1

A book with something you'd find in your kitchen in the title: Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris finished 12/26

A book with a party or celebration in the title: Annie Freeman's Fabulous Traveling Funeral by Kris Radish finished 8/25

A book with fire (or equivalent) in the title: When You are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris finished 4/30

A book with an emotion in the title: If Jack's In Love by Stephen Wetta finished 7/28

A book with lost or found (or equivalent) in the title: The Lost Dogs by Jim Gorant finished 8/18

My favorites from the What's In a Name Challenge were The Lost Dogs and If Jack's In Love.

P.S. This picture came from Beauty in Everything.

Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

Holidays on Ice is a collection of short stories related to Christmas. My favorite was SantaLand Diaries, where he recounts his time working as Santa's elf in a store. I loved it when Santa made him sing a carol and he chose to sing it like Billie Holiday. I could just hear it in my head which made me laugh out loud.

Some of the other stories I didn't like as much because they were just fiction. Still this book is worth checking out, especially if you're feeling overwhelmed or bitter about the Christmas season.

P.S. This book counts as a Book With Something You'd Find in Your Kitchen in the Title for my What's In a Name Challenge.

Eclectic Reader Challenge 2013 Completed!

Here's what I read:

Translated fiction: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami finished 12/21

Historical mystery: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs finished 9/7

Romantic suspense: Compromising Positions by Susan Isaacs finished 12/24

Made into a movie: The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd finished 3/27

New Adult: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath finished 3/2

Urban Fantasy: Wicked Business by Janet Evanovich finished 7/20

Dystopian: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins finished 1/31

Memoir: The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth finished 2/23

LGBT: The Big Book Of Lesbian Horse Stories by Alisa Surkis finished 7/1

Action Adventure: Dragons of Winter Night by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman finished 3/19

Humor: Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris finished 3/9

Published in 2013: The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan finished 1/11

My favorite from this challenge was probably The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, but more than 1 of these will make my favorites list for the year.

P.S. The bookcase photo came from the Steward.

Compromising Positions by Susan Isaacs

I've read one other book by Susan Isaacs and it made it to my favorite list for the year I read it. I've been scooping up her books as I've come across them since and so I had Compromising Positions on hand when I needed a Romantic Suspense book for my Eclectic Reader Challenge.

Judith is a housewife living her plain life when her periodontist gets murdered. Her neighbor and friend is one of the suspects, which inspires her to begin her own investigation. It's a pretty ridiculous story really, as the police begin consulting her and giving her assignments. And she starts a relationship with the detective even though she's married with 2 kids.

About halfway through the book I figured out this book was written a long time ago. The phones have cords, people smoke all the time, someone said something like "women can be lawyers too," and the sexy detective was wearing a sexy, gold turtleneck. After checking the copyright page I confirmed my suspicion: it was first published in 1978 and my copy was republished in 2007. Tricksters!

I probably wouldn't recommend this even if you're just looking for a fluff book. I won't be reading the next in the series.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami is one of my favorite authors and Norwegian Wood did not disappoint me. It is a coming of age story and love story all wrapped up into one.

This book is the namesake of Norwegian Wood by The Beatles so I made a point to listen to the song before I began reading. It really set the tone. Toru is a young man going to college while managing his unrequited love of Naoko. She was his best friend's girlfriend when he committed suicide. While their connection to his friend brings them together it also keeps them apart. And like all of Murakami's books I feel like that's about all I can say without spoiling your own journey if you choose to read this book.

One surprise for me was that it was unlike the other Murakami books I've read so far. There weren't any talking cats or wells with time travel. It was a straightforward story but beautifully told. It's one of my favorite books I read this year so I think you should read it too! There are also a ton of songs from the 60s mentioned, which inspired me to make a killer playlist that coincides with the book.

For your listening pleasure:

For your gazing pleasure, artwork inspired by the book:

Norwegian Wood is by 99styler.
Norwegian Wood by Megan Barron.

P.S. This books counts as my Translated Fiction (translated by Jay Rubin) for the Eclectic Reader Challenge.

A Good Fall by Ha Jin

A Good Fall is a collection of short stories about life in America for Chinese immigrants. While the stories revealed to me details of the life of a Chinese immigrant I had not considered before, they did not entertain me. There was a very strange momentum to the stories and they all ended without any real conclusion or revelation.

I read it with my book club and none of them cared for the book either, so I would recommend passing this one by.

P.S. This counts as my Book With Up or Down (or Equivalent) in the Title for the What's In a Name Challenge.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

I hope you get as much booty as you can carry today!

P.S. Fun Pirate Christmas Card is from Zazzle.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Happy First Day of Winter!

It's cloudy and chilly and we're both on vacation now. All I feel like doing today is curling up with a good book and a good dog. This morning I finished and loved Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. Next up is Compromising Positions by Susan Isaacs which will complete my Eclectic Reader challenge!

P.S. Story Time is by Arian Armstrong.

Friday, December 20, 2013

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Every year before winter break I read How the Grinch Stole Christmas to my class. The first graders like it so much they don't interrupt or fidget. Maybe because Seuss wrote for first graders, or maybe because I use my years of theatre and teaching to make it extra theatrical, the kids have no option but to sit there and take it all in.

Yesterday I read it with my usual gusto. Sometimes I get a little winded while reading it but yesterday I powered through without any problems, and even felt my own heart growing a few sizes by the end. When I finished reading my kids started clapping passionately, as they only do when they really love a story. That made me feel pretty good but then I saw one of the girls crying with happiness!!! I've never made anyone cry with my reading superpowers before. I felt like a rock star.

But I think I'll stick to teaching!

P.S. Cindy Lou Bullywho and the Bullygrinch is by Mike Holzer.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Happy Full Moon!

Tonight's full moon is the smallest of the year. I told it size doesn't matter.

P.S. Fire on the Mountain is by Raina Gentry.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today we're going to have a mini-feast before Corey has to go to work, but this year we have 2 last minute guests: my dad, who is alone because my mom is still in Connecticut, and my nephew, who is coming off the Air Force base to spend his first Thanksgiving in Arizona with us! It's a Thanksgiving miracle.

Last night I started watching Home for the Holidays. It's one of my favorite movies and my own Thanksgiving tradition. My other Thanksgiving tradition is feeding my friends' cats (their Thanksgiving tradition is going to Disneyland!). I'll be over after the gorging ends.

I hope you all have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Witches of East End by Melissa de la Cruz

I found this book for a bargain at Barnes and Noble and liked the description so in the cart and on the shelf it went. It didn't stay on the shelf as long as most of my books because I quickly realized this is the book the new t.v. series is based on.

Three witches, a mom and her two daughters, are trying to live the life of normal women because they have been banned from using magic. Without telling each other they each have a little slip up. One of the sisters, Freya, makes a special drink while bartending to help out a patron. The other sister, Ingrid, uses a simple spell to help a friend get pregnant. The mom, Joanna, delights a little boy by animating his toys. It's a slippery slope from there.

An easy and fun story to read, Witches of East End left me anticipating the next in the series, Serpent's Kiss.

No shocker, the t.v. show is a lot different from the book but there are some similarities. I like the t.v. show but...the book is better.

P.S. This is the first book I read this year for the Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

beastie boys + girl power = awesomeness

One of the teachers emailed this to me today at school. Love.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Annie Freeman's Fabulous Traveling Funeral by Kris Radish

Annie Freeman's Fabulous Traveling Funeral begins with Annie's ashes being delivered to her oldest friend with a request that she spread her ashes in specific places around the country with four of Annie's closest friends. They clear their schedules and get on a plane, leading them to self-discovery, friendship, clarity, and closure. As a bonus, they all wear red Converse the whole time.

"Annie didn't have many rules for the traveling funeral but we know for sure she wanted us to celebrate her life more than to mourn the loss of it..."

Lately I've been trying not to read sappy books where a character dies because - SURPRISE! - they can really get me down. It was nice for a change to read one that was uplifting instead. If you don't like books where everything is wrapped up a little too nicely at the end you won't like it, but if you're looking for something fun and a little thought provoking this is for you.

P.S. This book counts as my Book With a Party or Celebration in the Title for the What's In a Name Challenge.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Happy Veteran's Day!

My dad is a Vietnam War vet, and I have many other veterans in my family as well. I am so thankful for their service to our nation. I love you Dad!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick's Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption by Jim Gorant

Last year I read Wallace by Jim Gorant and loved it. Since it was one of my favorite books of the year I knew that I had to read The Lost Dogs too.

My concern before starting was that the stories of how Michael Vick and his friends tortured and mistreated the pit bulls they used for dog fighting would be too much to stomach. Although there are some horrific details about what some of the dogs went through, it is mostly presented in a manner of what evidence the police were able to collect. In addition, the main focus of the story is not on what a horrible human Michael Vick is, but on how the amazing dogs rescued from his home were rehabilitated. In fact, Vick is not mentioned much at all after the first chapters.

I knew from watching shows like The Dog Whisperer and Pit Boss, reading books like Wallace, and meeting many sweet and gentle pit bulls throughout my life that these are dogs with an undeserved bad reputation. This book solidifies that line of thinking. I was surprised when the author shared that in a litter of 12 pit bull puppies you would be lucky if you could train one to be a fighter because it works against years of evolving as pack animals. Even though their purpose was fighting, the dogs taken from Vick did not need to be rehabilitated because they were aggressive; they needed to be socialized and trained to live in a house with a family.

The story follows the dogs from rescue to rehabilitation, but we also get to meet the army of people who work to help dogs like Vick's every day. Difficult to read at times, this book left me with a good feeling knowing that for every bottom feeder like Vick in the world there are 100 good ones.

Now, for your viewing pleasure, my vicious pit bull friends:

Obi (may he rest in peace)

and Emma. You can stop being scared now.

P.S. This book counts as my Book With Lost or Found in the Title for the What's In a Name Challenge.

P.P.S. I hope the Packers break a sack record today!

Saturday, November 9, 2013


Each year after I teach my class about bats and how special they are we adopt a Mexican free-tailed bat from Carlsbad Caverns. However, when I went to do it this year I couldn't because of the government shut down. Now that the boys and girls in Washington are done having their temper tantrums I can move forward with my lesson.

Last year my class named our bat Shadow Ninja which I thought was pretty cool. I wonder what they'll pick this year?

P.S. Portrait with Pet Bat is by Emily Martin.

Thursday, November 7, 2013


Today our Palo Verde in the backyard got a trim. It feels a little naked out there but it looks nice.

P.S. Subject to change is by Maggie Taylor.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


Today on my way home from school I saw 3 people riding horseback on the side of the road. I love South Phoenix because it has a bit of farm and ranch left and gives me a taste of home. It's not uncommon to see people riding horses next to a busy street. However, it's still funny to me to see people riding around in the 6th largest city in the United States!

P.S. I found this horse on the Steward.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


Today I went to my favorite library downtown, which at one time we could see from our living room window but now is about 20 minutes from our house. I bought Ranch Schoolteacher by Eulalia Bourne for $2, checked out I Need My Monster by Amanda Noll, Wolf! by Becky Bloom, and Nightsong by Ari Berk for my class, and I made a new friend. I love the library!

P.S. i love the library is by elloh.

Monday, November 4, 2013


It's Fall Colors Week at Poppytalk, which inspires me to share cute things I've found on the internet.

When it comes to golden, I don't know anyone cuter and more golden than C3PO. Not the Droid is by Laura Kate. If you go to her blog you can download C3PO and your other favorites for free to use in your Project Life scrapbook. I also recommend checking out her Project Life pages.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

quote of the week

From a little boy:

I want to be a watermelon when I grow up!!!

P.S. This illustration came from An Awesome Book by Dallas Clayton.

There are place in the world

where people do not dream...

of rocket powered unicorns

and candy cane machines

of magic watermelon boats

and musical baboons

or teeny tiny trumpet players training pet raccoons.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

I hope you get lots of cute trick-or-treaters tonight!

P.S. Kitten Bandit is by Emily Martin.