Saturday, April 05, 2014

The Tale of Two Orchids and Two Cats

My in-laws went to Longwood Gardens earlier this week, and they brought home some gorgeous orchids, and I was the lucky recipient of this gorgeous yellow orchid:


 And this absolutely beautiful magenta orchid:


 My friends laughed at me when I asked whether orchids were poisonous to cats (they aren't) - but you see, we have an intrepid hunter in this house. Nothing is safe - Piper's little stuffies, hair scrunchies, yarn...


 "Mama, they look so pretty! And they move in the wind!"


 "I will smell them a little bit. They smell so pretty!"


 "Why am I licking my lips? No reason..."


 "Hey big brother, come here! Check out these things! Mama calls them 'ORKIDS.'"


 "Come on! You have to smell these things!"


 "Chomp! Mine!"


 Hermione is going to even lessen the survival rate of any plant brought into this house. My Christmas cactus has teeth marks in it. I don't even get why these are things she would want to bite!

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Book Review: The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

The Here and NowThe Here and Now by Ann Brashares
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received this ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I don't think I have ever read a book before that has made me more afraid of mosquitoes. Prenna is a 17 year old immigrant, who belongs to a community of fellow immigrants, all of whom live quietly and do their best to not interact with outsiders. Like other immigrants, Prenna watched TV to learn American ways of speech and pop culture - but unlike other immigrants, Prenna didn't come from a different land, but rather a different time. She and her community are refugees, really, from a time of Blood Plagues, ecological disasters, and food shortages - sent back in time because they were immune to the diseases of her time, and in hopes that the immigrants would be able to somehow fix what went wrong before it happened.

But in truth, that wasn't what was happening. Five years into her new life, Prenna sees that nothing is getting fixed. The immigrants have strict rules hanging over their heads - no outside medical care, no telling people where (when!) they are from, stay out of the public eye, no unnecessary fraternizing with outsiders - and people are being bullied and disappearing. Prenna is doing her best to keep her distance from Ethan, a school mate, but Ethan has no intention of staying away - and he knows much more than Prenna can imagine.

I really enjoyed this book. Once Prenna opened up and started describing what life was like in her natural time, and what had lead up to all the diseases and disasters, I was transfixed. It really wasn't too far into the future, and you can easily draw lines from where we are now to how Prenna's reality came to be. I found myself trying to tie the rules that subjugate the immigrants to what happened in their natural time, and not always making the connection (Why no organized religion? To take the temptation of confession away?). Prenna and Ethan's romance was both innocent and enticing, and the moments that they were together had me holding my breath and wishing the scenes was in slow motion. Their plans to fix the timelines and stop horrible things from happening seemed a bit incongruous and convenient at times, but I let that slide because I was too interested in finding out what was going to happen next.

I would recommend this book to young people age 15 and up. Now, off to buy myself some mosquito netting and DEET.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Piper and Lucky Snuggling

IMG_1715, originally uploaded by jochibi.

Lucky has been a grumpy old man cat of late. We're not really sure if it is just him - we adopted him as an adult cat, and the vet said he could be as old as 13 years old now. Or, maybe it is just the comparison to having a teenage cat running around like a crazy girl. Once he is in a good spot now, he doesn't want to leave - even if it means having the three year old curl up next to him and pulling a blanket over him.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Book Review: Undone by Shannon Richard

Undone (Country Roads #1)Undone by Shannon Richard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received this ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I have to say up front that I am giving this book 3/5 stars more because I would love to travel to Mirabelle, FL, than to give the rating because of the writing. I requested this book to read because I like fish out of water stories, and the fact that Paige was from Philly (where I am now) piqued my interest. Paige is a young artist who has experienced a series of setbacks - her best friend and roommate moved away for a new job, she lost her own job, her boyfriend broke up with her - and all of this has cumulated in Paige moving in with her parents, who have retired to a small town in Florida. Paige is miserable there; simply put, she does not fit in. She wears bright colors, goes running in short shorts, and spends so much time in her parents' shed-now-art studio that the neighbors think she is having illicit parties in there. It has come to the point that people in town are inviting her to job interviews just so they can laugh at her. She meets Brendan, a local man who has had own problems fitting in despite being from Mirabelle, and the two fall in love.

One of my issues with this book is that Ms. Richard has a grand vision for this series, and as a result the storytelling is not very tight. As this is the opening book, she has to introduce you to so many characters and places and events, that somehow the main characters get lost in the shuffle. So many times in the course of the story I found myself wishing there was a cast of characters listed so I could follow along with who was related to whom. There are many hints as to who will be paired up in future additions to this series, and I think maybe I would like those stories better, partly due to the characters up for pairing, and partly because the world and character building will have been established.

Another issue for me was the lack of closure with certain events, and I hope that these issues get resolved in future books. One of these issues was the local gossip blog - I don't understand how that character could get away with such flaming defamation and the local police say there is nothing they can do about it. Some characters were so downright nasty (Verna and Missy, I'm looking at you!), a reader really has to hope they get what is coming to them. My personal wish is that we find out that the two of them have been embezzling from the funeral home and they end up going to jail.

When I finished reading the book last night, I found myself feeling rather meh about Paige and Brendan. They were sweet together and good for one another, but I had a hard time getting excited about them. As I mentioned at the beginning of the review, the location was another matter altogether. I think Ms. Richard did a fabulous job of imagining Mirabelle - the beaches, the boardwalk, the cafes, the festivals - even the funeral home!

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Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Pretty Hermione

DSCN1257, originally uploaded by jochibi.

Hermione is fitting in well with our family. She is having none of Lucky trying to assert dominance, and he has the scars to prove it. She loves snuggling in bed, and doesn't make a peep all night until the alarm goes off. She reminds me a bit of a dog my parents used to have - she likes nibbling on your fingers when you pet her.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Book Review: Heart of Stone by Christine Warren

Heart of Stone (Gargoyles, #1)Heart of Stone by Christine Warren
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received this ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I requested this book because I don't think I had ever read a gargoyle paranormal romance before, and the idea intrigued me (and as you can see by the lovely man on the cover, he isn't always in gargoyle form). A few pages into the story, I was doubly intrigued because the story takes place in Vancouver, and I always love reading about places I know. I think Christine Warren really knows the area, because she mentions places like the Peace Arch, the Sunshine Coast, and Sechelt that a casual reader may not know.

As you can see, I gave the story 4 stars - I enjoyed the story, even if there were a few nitpicky things had me questioning things and pulling me away from the story. Warren has done a good job of building a conflict between the Guardians (the gargoyles)and the Seven Demons of the Dark, and I am looking forward to reading future books in this series - especially since it looks like she is keeping the story in Canada for the time being.

I had issues with Ella, the heroine of the story - to me, her personality was all over the place. I understand there is a certain amount of growth when she receives long-neglected training and she finds out her role in the conflict - but the evolution seemed jumpy. I wanted to like her - and when I liked her best was when she would get angry and snarky - but overall it fell short. Kees Livingston (Ha! I did like that pun!) seemed emotionally stunted - and I had to keep reminding myself it was because he didn't have emotions!

What distracted me the most from the story were unrealistic situations with Kees. At the beginning of the story, he saves Ella, and takes her to her home when she gives him her apartment address. Does he have GPS? He admits himself that he has been in his stone form for 65 years. Vancouver has changed a great deal in 65 years! He explains that his slumber is light and he hears things while asleep, but I can't accept that the snippets of conversation he hears while people walk by his statue who fill in all of these blanks. This is even confirmed later in the story when Kees and Ella are looking for the Guild in Paris - Ella considers just getting the street address but then admits to herself that "Cities, especially major ones, had changed over centuries."

I would recommend this story to people who like paranormal romances and perhaps are tiring of vampires and shifters. The gargoyles are a different path, and I am interested to learn more about where the Guardians come from, and how that connects to where the demons come from.

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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Book Review: Picture Perfect by Alessandra Thomas

Picture Perfect (Picturing Perfect, #1)Picture Perfect by Alessandra Thomas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cat, a college student and former model, suffered a horseback riding accident, and was laid up for 10 months with surgeries, PT, steroids, and in that time, managed to gain 60 pounds. She is no longer comfortable in her skin anymore, and is suffering from some very emotional body dysmorphia. I started out with the book a little jaded - oh, boohoo - you are a gorgeous college student who is tall and a size 12. What drew me in was Cat's pain in her recovery - physical pain, not emotional. It wasn't just that she was now a heavier version of herself, but that her wounds, surgeries, and scars even prevented her from even trying to get back to her former self, so she needed to learn to love the body she has now. She starts seeing a therapist, who sets her on a couple of tasks of body acceptance, the first of which was to pose nude for an art class. She meets a young man with previous body issues of his own, and the two of them fall into a whirlwind relationship. I am not entirely happy with how the book ended - I felt the therapist's role in the story was sort of cut at the end, and it seemed to me the book ended abruptly. This book was a little difficult for me to read. As a plus size woman myself, some of the things that Cat went through in the book - especially that issue of someone only being interested in you when he is drunk, really struck home and I found myself crying at points while reading the book. I wished more of Cat's friends had been accepting of her new form - her friend, Joey, was a goldmine - but seems that many of her other sorority sisters stepped back and didn't seem to care what she was going through.

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