Thursday, July 31, 2014

Austen in August - The Reading List

This is one of my favorite reading events each year! I'll be posting most of my updates over at CNJ - JASNA.

Reading list:
Longbourn by Jo Baker (BCD)
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
The List Lovers Guide to Jane Austen by Joan Strasbaugh
Mr. Knightly's Diary by Amanda Grange
Cassandra & Jane by Jill Pitkeathley
Darcy Christmas by Various Authors

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Book Review - Where Fault Lies by Carrie May Lucas

Where Fault Lies: A Survivor's Story of Game, Shame & BlameWhere Fault Lies: A Survivor's Story of Game, Shame & Blame by Carrie May Lucas
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Carrie got in touch with me about reading her memoir, I debated on whether or not it was something I wanted to read.  I don't like reading about difficult situations, but I felt that I couldn't ignore this story.  It was a hard read, it took me almost a month to finish the book but I'm glad I accepted the request and that I pushed myself to finish reading Carrie's story.

Carrie is a single mom who decided to move with her young daughter across Washington State to Seattle. She had gone through a divorce and was trying to find herself again.  She felt that the move would be a good thing for the two of them.  Things seemed to be going great for a while before everything changed.  Carrie had a job she liked, a group of friends, and she finally found a guy who could deal with her idea of what she wanted in a relationship.  Carrie was looking for a relationship that didn't feel like it was taking over her life, a relationship that involved two independent people who were happy to spend whatever time they could together.

When things started to go bad in the relationship, I found myself starting to get angry because Carrie was making excuses for his behavior and their own sexual history. When the major sexual assault happened, Carrie again exhibited behavior of someone in an abusive relationship. It was so upsetting to read because Carrie had been such a strong woman before these events.  This assault just broke her and my heart broke for her.  The strong woman I saw in Carrie came back out when she was able to receive the help she needed to deal with the assault.

It must have taken a lot for Carrie to share her story and I thank her for sharing her story.  I have a feeling that other women going through abusive relationships and suffering after a sexual assault, can use this book to see that others have been there and have survived.

I had a few small problems with the book.  I felt that it could have used a bit more editing. I know Carrie was being true to herself, but she presents her self in a way that found me hard to connect with her. This lack of connection made the first part of the book hard to get into, I found myself not really caring about some of the things that she was writing about and it was part of the struggle in reading the book.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Thesis Project: Sample layout

So the layout for my Thesis Project (I'm not ready to call it my novel in progress or short story collection in progress yet) includes three elements:
  • From the Table:  These sections are like author's notes. They are the stories from real life that kind of tell the background of the fictional short story that will follow.
  • The Short Story: These stories are based on real stories told throughout my childhood.  They are linked together to tell the story of my maternal grandparents. I have set it up so each decade from the time my grandparents met to when my grandfather passed away is shown in two stories. 
  • Recipe: Since we're Italian we have a lot of stories linked with food...or food linked to stories. Some of the stories I'm telling involve food or at least have a strong connection to some kind of food/drink from my life.

Here is a sample of my format.

From the Table – Why I Still Live at Home
Traditionally, in Italian households a child lived at home until such a time as they got married. My grandparents lived with his parents even after their marriage.  My great aunts and uncles lived at home until they got married.  My aunts and uncle lived at home until they got married.  My mother lived at home until she got married.  My brother lived at home until he got married.  I still live at home.

The Doting Father (1980s)
This story is going to be about my grandfather and the way he babbied his baby while she still lived at home. He used to make her tea with honey in the mornings.

Recipe – Tea with Honey
Tea with honey is great on a cold day or to help fight off a cold. In my opinion it's good at any time for any reason, if not for the sugar and honey I'd drink it everyday.

There's no real measurements, I've asked my mom how much of everything she puts in and while she can give me and idea it's more of a 'to taste' recipe than an exact measure thing.

Tea with Honey starts off with a simple cup/mug of brewed tea. Any kind can work, but I prefer a simple black tea. After you remove the teabag you add a few teaspoons to a tablespoon of sugar and about one to two tablespoons of honey. Mom adjusts to taste and once she thinks it's sweet enough she adds just a splash of milk.

It sounds kind of simple right? But I can't seem to master this and I think the thing I'm missing is that I'm making it for myself. I have a feeling it tasted different when my grandfather made it for my mother than when she made it for herself the same way it isn't quite the same when I make it for myself. I believe the difference is making it for yourself you miss adding the love that goes into making it for someone you care about. It's probably why I request tea with honey whenever I'm feeling down or sick.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Tea and a Book: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (mini review)

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. HydeThe Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This summer's Adult Summer Reading Theme is Literary Elements.  We've taken a science/science fiction approach to the theme.  I decided that for July and August my book club would pick two classic science fiction books.

I unfortunately had to cancel our July meeting but I wanted to share some thoughts on the novel.  I couldn't remember if I had read the book or not as part of a school assignment, but it's a story most people at least know the basics of, (at least I hope they do!).

The only thing I really disliked about the book was the point of view Stevennson used to tell the story.  I would have liked to have been with Dr. Jekyll when he tried his experiments and been there after he had woken up from being Mr. Hyde.

I think the story is a great discussion on the ideas of good and evil in humanity.  It was interesting to note that Mr. Hyde was smaller than Dr. Jekyll because Jekyll's evil tendencies were not part of his personality so didn't have the same about of time to grow.  I had also wanted to discuss with the group the idea that people are not wholly good or evil, they are a mix of both at varying degrees.

The copy of the ebook I downloaded had a sample from the new book Hyde by Daniel Levine.  In Stevenson's work the reader hears from Dr. Jekyll his views on the strange case.  In this new book Levine gives us Hyde's view on the situation.  It helps if reader is familiar with the original story and not just the basics of the story as Hyde references things from the original work.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Reader's Workouts - Getting back on track

Reader's Workouts is a weekly event which is hosted over at Joy's Book Blog.

I'm a Fitbit wearer, I like that it helps me keep active and moving during the week.  If you also wear one feel free to friend me!


Things haven't been going good for me on the fitness front, since my gym buddy had her scheduled changed for the summer I found it easier to make excuses to not go walk the track or go walk on the treadmill at the gym.  I still track my food and try to meet my daily step count (I'm a low step count).

Things haven't been great the last few weeks, I've slacked on tracking my food and this past weekend all but gave up on wearing my FitBit. Needless to say, by Sunday night I was sick of me and made myself a promise that I was going to the gym to walk at least a half hour on the treadmill.

I'm happy to say I kept my promise and on Monday morning I went to the gym and put in a solid half hour. I had planned to just walk at a steady normal pace but as I started to go, I felt like I wanted to do a nice cardio speed walk.  I will say compared to the old guy a few machines down from me my speed walk is another person's easy stroll.

I listened to music, but I'm getting ready to download a new audiobook to my iPhone for my gym listens.  I'm thinking of Tony Danza's I'd Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had: My Year as a Rookie Teacher at Northeast High.

My plan is to get back to the gym Thursday after work, barring any disasters, I should be able to hold myself to that promise.

I hope everyone else is doing good!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Flash Fiction 55 - Writing Exercise #12

A man has been murdered. 
Wind the clock back 10 minutes and describe what the murderer sees at this moment.

Gregor awoke in a daze. He yawned and stretched before taking a look at his surroundings. He blinked a few times and realized everything around him was a sickly green. He looked down at his hands and saw massive black paws. The panther roared Mikhal, he thought, was going to pay for this.
I'm having some fun trying to write this writing prompts in 55 words or less.  This one comes in at 53 words but it was a bit longer to start with, about 112 words but I think I cut it down quite nicely.  

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Favorite Books of 2014 - So Far

I've been seeing a lot of picks for favorite book so far in 2014. I don't think I can pick just one, so here are my picks for best book for the first six months of 2014.

The Good Luck of Right Now
Humans of New York
Everything I Need To Know I Learned From a Little Golden Book
Two Boys Kissing 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Today's Post Is Brought to You by the Letter....

Bev over at My Reader's Block participated in this chain-meme which was started by Simon at Stuck in a Book. Bev shared Simon's description of the meme and I'll share that here too!
Here's something that should be fun - and do get involved in the comment section! - I'm going to kick off a meme where we say our favourite book, author, song, film, and object beginning with a particular letter. And that letter will be randomly assigned to you by me, via If you'd like to join in, comment in the comment section and I'll tell you your letter! (And then, of course, the chain can keep going on your blog.)

Bev gave me the letter:

Favorite Book:
I took at look at my Goodreads list of read books and looked at the 5 and 4 stared books that started with 'W' and there were a lot of good ones, but the one I chose for this meme was the one book that was different from all the others. Brian Selznick combines two stories, one written out the other told only through pictures, to create a fantastic and engaging story.

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

Favorite Author:
There are a number of author's I love that have their last names that start with 'W', I chose the author who had more books on my Goodread's list. I just love her Black Dagger Brotherhood series, when a new book comes out I drop everything else to read it!

Favorite Song:
Again, so many to chose from, but being a Jersey girl, I feel I could only pick a song from Bon Jovi so here's my pick:

Favorite Film:
There are so many good movies to pick from but when I saw this one on the list of movies that start with 'w' I just had to pick it, I pretty much will stop and watch it whenever I see it on TV.


Favorite Object:

Does wine count as an object? Cause it was the first thing that popped into my head when I tried to think of something for this category. I like a lot of things that begin with 'w' but I really like wine.

To play along you can comment here, over at My Reader's Block, or over at Stuck in a Book!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Thesis Project - Synopsis/Novel Outline

Around the Table is a collection of fictionalized short stories based on the lives of my grandparents, Carl and Mary. The  'From the Table' sections are the stories I grew up hearing around the kitchen table. The titles with years after them are the fictionalized stories based on the ones I grew up hearing.  Some stories (well most stories) are connected with food and include a recipe.

From the Table – Genealogy
Courtship (1931)

From the Table – Sauce vs. Gravy
Sunday Gravy (1937)
Recipe – Grandma’s Gravy

From the Table - Head of the Family
The Draft Board (1941)

From the Table – Green Acres
From The ‘Burg to the Farm (1945)
Recipe – Tomato Sandwiches

From the Table - Now vs. Then
Close Call (1950s)

From the Table – Break of Dawn
Day at the Beach (1950s)
Recipe – Italian 'Picnic'

From the Table - Letters
Back to Italy (1960s)

From the Table - JFK
A Family Gathering (1963)
Recipe – Pasta Ceci

From the Table - My Grandmother
Untitled Story (1976)

From the Table - We Risk Going to Italy
A Secession of Popes (1978)

From the Table – Why I Still Live at Home
The Doting Father (1980s)
Recipe - Tea with Milk and Honey

From the Table - My Grandfather
Untitled Story (1985)
Recipe – Polenta on the Board

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Book Review - An American Girl in Italy by Aubrie Dionne

An American Girl in ItalyAn American Girl in Italy by Aubrie Dionne
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Carly is a work-a-holic, her music is her life and everything revolves around when she gets to play next.  She is currently on a trip to Italy to play a number of concerts.  While it sounds like a dream trip, things aren't going so great for Carly.  Her best friend and fellow symphony member has focused more of her attention on her currently relationship with the director. Carly is stuck rooming with the diva singer, a woman who is obsessed with the aria the two are preforming. Carly is also missing some lucrative gigs and she's worried about losing her place among go to musicians.  On top of all this, she's got a flirty thing going on with the groups tour guide Michelangelo.

Michelangelo is dealing with a plateful himself. He's not a tour guide, he has no idea what he's doing but he can't screw up this job.  He needs the money to save his family's vineyard. He's got a thing for Carly, but he is also being 'chased' by the diva and nothing is going smoothly.

I liked this book; it was a sweet, quick read. I enjoyed the story and the characters, but something just didn't click for me.  I was invested in the characters and I wanted to see how Carly and Michelangelo worked everything out in the end. I had a problem with some of the secondary plot details that didn't seem realistic and just added to give the story more tension. For example, Carly's story line with the diva just seemed forced. I would have believed that they were struggling with their piece and 'fighting' over Michelangelo without all the forced togetherness.

Even though it didn't completely work for me, I would still recommend this book to patrons who enjoy sweet romances.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Reader's Workouts - Hoofing it to the Beach

So I had no idea what to post today, I didn't have my planned book review written and then I saw this weekly event which is hosted over at Joy's Book Blog.

I'm a Fitbit wearer, I like that it helps me keep active and moving during the week.  If you also wear one feel free to friend me!

This holiday weekend wasn't a great one, but I did manage to get moving, unfortunately I didn't have my Fitbit on me and can't accurately tell how much I moved.  Yesterday (Monday), we went to the beach and got a late start which meant parking in East Bumbble F*ck.  So after hoofing it three blocks a young man (he was probably my age but still) offered us his parking spot, so I hoofed it back to our car to then drove up to park closer. With the walk across the beach, and then back to the car, and then a three hour shift at work, I totally got my steps in for the day!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Writing Exercise #11

write a poem including the word frail

I wrote a hiku about my cousin:
I am many things
in pain, worn out, sick and tired
but I am not FRAIL!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

June Reading Challenges Update

Here's Where I Stand on the I Love the Library Challenge

Books Checked Out and Read:
  • Delicious! by Ruth Reichl
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry (BCD)
  • Palisades Park by Alan Brennert
  • Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry (BCD)
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • It Happened One Wedding by Julie James
Books Checked Out and Currently Reading
  • Divergent by Veronica Roth (BCD)
Books Checked Out and Not Read - Yet
  • Belle: The Slave Daughter and the Lord Chief Justice by Paula Byrne
  • And One Last Thing by Molly Harper
  • Up at Butternut Lake by Mary McNear
  • Beowulf - J.R.R. Tolkien (translator)
  • The Closer by Mariano Rivera
  • The Messenger by Lois Lowery (BCD)
Books Checked Out but Didn't Read
  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Books Checked Out for School Assignments
  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Shakespeare's Kitchen by Lore Segal
  • True Stories: guides for writing from your life by Rebecca Rule

Here's Where I Stand on the TBR Pile Challenge

I read one book from my book basket
  • Matchless by Gregory Maguire
I read one book from my Kindle App
  • Knowing the Score by Kat Latham
I read one book from my Nook
  • Just one of the Guys by Kristan Higgins

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Photo-a-Day Challenge Recap

Day 1 - June 10 - guilty pleasure
Day 2 - June 11 - love
Day 3 - June 12 - summer
Day 4 - June 13 - books
Day 5 - June 14 - friendship
Day 6 - June 15 - childhood
Day 7 - June 16 - food
Day 8 - June 17 - inspire
Day 9 - June 18 - stripes
Day 10 - June 19 - obsession
Day 11 - June 20 - self
Day 12 - June 21- nature
Day 13 - June 22 - home
Day 14 - June 23 - favorite color
Day 15 - June 24 - movement
Day 16 - June 25 - art
Day 18 - June 26 - toys
Day 19 - June 27 - your handwriting
Day 20 - June 28 - looking out
Day 21 - June 29 - dinner/lunch/breakfast or snack
Day 22 - June 30 - hero

I started off strong posting every day but the last few days went by and I had to catch up on the 30th.  I really enjoyed taking new photos and digging back for ones that instantly reminded me of that day's theme.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Book Club Mini-Reviews

Tea and a Book:

Palisades ParkPalisades Park by Alan Brennert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tea and a Book didn't meet, because no one showed up.

I loved the book and was so happy I picked it as our June book.  I became invested in the characters and would get angry when my lunch breaks would end or it got so late I couldn't keep my eyes open to read even one more page.

Mercer County Girls Just Wanna Have Fun:

The Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We had a great discussion with this book, a lot of talk about ethical and moral standings with regard to science.  We also talked about how much has and hasn't changed since Henrietta's life in regards to medical coverage.

We can't wait to see the movie (whenever it gets made).

Forever YA:

The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle, #1)The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
My rating: 1 of 5 stars


I just couldn't get into this story. It felt like I was dropped into the middle of the story and I just couldn't get my footing.