Life of a Blogger - Favourite Outings

My good friend, Jessi, over at Novel Heartbeat runs this awesome feature as a way for her followers to get to know her better!  Check out the list of upcoming topics here.

Today's topic is favourite outings.  We take Marko out lots of places, but lately my favourite has been the library.  He absolutely LOVES the kids' section!  He climbs on and off the chairs and has been experimenting with the crayons ... although he still can't quite hold them in his little hands.  Plus, they have a tent and puppets that he also loves playing in and with.  Then, after he's tired of the kids' section, he wanders the library, checking everything else out.  When I go in to pick up my hold items, he likes to push a wheeled basket behind me so that I can fill it up with my books and then he'll wheel that basket all over the place.

The best moment happened a couple of weeks ago.  Marko was walking up and down the stacks when he stumbled across some big trees in concrete planters.  He reached into the planter, picked out a small stone and then took it over to the librarian who was shelving books.  She thanked him for the small stone, so he decided to do it again ... and again ... and again.  It was super adorable.

How about you?  What are your favourite outings?  Leave me a comment below!
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Marko Monday [11]

I have always loved Sandra Boynton's books, even before we had Marko.  There's something about the rhymes, the illustrations and the simplicity of the message in her books that has always resonated with me.  I have a few friends who had kids long before I did, and I would always buy a book and tiny socks whenever I was invited to a baby shower.  Most of these friends received a Boynton book or two for their unborn children!

Marko, of course, has a few Boynton books in his library, but his favourite BY FAR is Opposites.  The storyline is very simple, just presenting opposites (i.e. the cover image is "heavy and light") but he just loves the rhymes and the pictures.  Once we reach the end of the book, he presses the book back into my hand and asks me to read it again.  And again.  And again.  And again....

At this rate, he's definitely going to be a reader!

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Friday Favourite - The Shadow of the Wind

It's been a while since I've shared one of these posts, but I've really missed promoting some of my older favourites!

I picked up a copy of this book YEARS ago, and it sat collecting dust on my shelves for several years.  One time, a friend came over for dinner and pulled it off the shelf, exclaiming how much she had loved it, only to be met with my blank expression because I hadn't yet read it.  She was horrified.

Fast forward a couple more years (yup, didn't act on her recommendation at all) and I was packing for our honeymoon.  Anticipating a glorious week of reading time on the beach, plus another week visiting with family that didn't speak English (i.e. I read while hubby chats time), I wrestled with how many books to pack, and which books to pack.  Finally, I chose The Shadow of the Wind off my shelf because a) it was paperback and therefore light and b) I was pretty sure that I was going to love it (there's nothing worse than bringing a book on holidays that you end up not enjoying). Even though it's a gothic-esque storyline, it somehow fit PERFECTLY into my beach reading, and I savoured the storyline while also gobbling it up as quickly as I could.  Just thinking of the book brings back memories of Montenegro and the scent of the Adriatic sea and makes me crave a re-read.  I own the remaining two books in the series, which I would like to read one day.

Have you read The Shadow of the Wind?  Have you read the rest of the series?  Leave me a comment below!

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On Banishing the Blogging Blahs

It was almost this time last year that I had my first bout of blogging blahs.  In all honesty, I nearly hung up my blogging hat because it just wasn't much fun anymore.  A few kind comments from some blogging friends and readers encouraged me to approach blogging in a different manner, which definitely helped to remind me of my priorities.  The biggest shift for me since that time has been to remember that I don't have to review each and every book that I read.  In fact, this year, I've been mainly writing reviews for only my ARCs or books sent to me from the publisher, plus the occasional other book if I feel like I have something that I must share.

Then, my blog design disappeared, and I found myself back in the blogging dumps again.  I found that I just wasn't excited about blogging when I had to look at my awful-looking blog, so the time in between posts was getting longer and longer, especially once I ran out of scheduled posts.  I thought about getting a new design, but it seemed like a big expense to invest in a blog that, once again, I wasn't sure if I wanted to even keep running.

But my wonderful husband convinced me to take the plunge and I am SO HAPPY with the result!  In the past few days, I have honestly logged onto my blog several times, just to squeal in delight with how happy I am that my site looks pretty again.  And, with the new design, I just feel EXCITED again to be back in the blogging community!

I'm sorry that I've been a little MIA for the last little while, both on here and on Twitter, but that will hopefully be coming to an end.  I miss you guys!  So, let's talk ... what have you read lately that's blown your mind?  What else is new?  Leave me a comment below!

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How to Love - Katie Cotugno

Wow.  This book.  Just wow.  When I originally started reading, I hadn't planned to review this one,since pretty much everyone has already read it.  I just finished savouring the last few pages, and lunged straight for the laptop ... this book left me with a yearning to share some words of my own.

First of all, as a relatively new mom, there were a lot of things in the story that I really emphasized with.  There were a few things about Hannah's character that bugged me a little (MY fourteen-month old couldn't have imitated the word "never" for example), but there were also a lot of characteristics that just reminded me of Marko and made me love the storyline so much.

Sawyer: here's a character that you just LOVE to HATE.  He drove me NUTS throughout most of the book, but so did Reena.  I mean, as awful as Sawyer is to her, she sticks by him and doesn't stick up for herself.

The aspect of the book that resonated with me the most is all of the unfinished phrases.  Reena especially, but some of the other characters too, have a tendency to start saying something and then just--  There's so much meaning and significance behind what's not said, and it turns into one of the more heart wrenching aspects of the book.  How many times do we make things turn out the way they do by way of what we don't say rather than what we do say?

If you're one of the few people left who haven't yet read this book, DO IT.  It's a story that will leave you breathless in its simple complexity.

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My New Look!

Hey guys!

Just a quick note to say that, in case you didn't notice, my new design is up!  I just wanted to say a HUGE thank you to the fantastically talented Lea of Lea Christine Designs!  She incorporated my fairy image from my blog's beginning, and the essence of ME and what my blog is about, and made my site sparkle!

I'm going to be making a few changes around the site in the next little while, just some updating and housekeeping stuff, but I feel like this new design has reinvigorated my blogging zeal!

Happy reading y'all ... and have a great weekend!

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Life of a Blogger - Tattoos

My good friend, Jessi, over at Novel Heartbeat runs this awesome feature as a way for her followers to get to know her better!  Check out the list of upcoming topics here.

Today's topic is tattoos.  I don't have any tattoos, nor do I have any desire to get one anytime soon (I am super needle-phobic!) but I am fascinated by literary tattoos.  Should I ever overcome my fear of needles, getting a tattoo with a quote or a literary theme would definitely be at the top of my list!

How about you?  Do you have a tattoo or are you planning to get one?  Leave me a comment below!
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Evergreen - Rebecca Rasmussen

I really didn't know what to expect when I started Evergreen, and what I found was an unexpectedly good story.

The book opens with Eveline's story, a young bride who is on her way to live with her new husband, Emil, in a little cabin in the middle of nowhere, a.k.a. Evergreen.  Their story is a sweet love story as she becomes pregnant and gives birth to their son, Hux.  But when Emil returns to his native Germany to see his ailing father, the story quickly takes a much darker turn.  In Emil's absence, Eveline ends up pregnant again and gives away the baby girl, Naamah.  The rest of the story is told from Hux's and Naamah's point of view, as we learn about this estranged brother and sister who learn how to find a place in each others' lives.

Although the story definitely had its darker moments, I found that the end feeling was of hope.  The message that shone through the darkness was that love can overcome fear and loneliness and heartache.  If you're looking for a read that will show you the lighter and darker sides of humanity, then check this one out!

Note: I received an e-galley of this book from Edelweiss.  The fact that I received this book for review did not influence my opinion of this book in any way.
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Life of a Blogger - Sports I Have Played

My good friend, Jessi, over at Novel Heartbeat runs this awesome feature as a way for her followers to get to know her better!  Check out the list of upcoming topics here.

Today's topic is sports I have played.  I just wrote the fitness post for September, and am laughing to myself now (you'll understand when you read the next post in a couple of months!)  Team sports are not my thing ...

BUT, I did have one team sports experience.  In Grade 6, for some unknown reason, I decided to try out for the basketball team.  At the time, I was just over four feet tall (four and a half feet at the MOST), so I'm not sure what persuaded me to do this.  I'm sure that my elementary school probably had a policy that every student made the team, no matter what skills the student had (or, in my case, lack thereof).

I don't remember much about my first game -- only that I really, really sucked and my team got absolutely creamed.  It wasn't as much fun as I thought it was going to be, and I didn't play again for the rest of the season.  I seem to remember making excuses (Oh, I have piano lessons that day ... guess I can't make the game.  Oh well, next time!) 

And that was the last of my team sports experience!  How about you?  Did you play any team sports -- or are you as team-sports incompetent as I am?  Leave me a comment below!
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Life of a Blogger - Family

My good friend, Jessi, over at Novel Heartbeat has just started this awesome new feature as a way for her followers to get to know her better!  Check out the list of upcoming topics here.

Today's topic is family.  I have a pretty small family and I've always wished that I had a bigger family with lots of cousins!  The family that I do have, well I love them lots!  Here's a list...

My parents.  My mom and day have been married for over 30 years and are still going strong!
My sister.  As I shared in a previous Life of a Blogger post, I have one younger sister, who is 27.
My aunt and uncle.  My dad's older sister and her husband.  They have a son who is MUCH older than me (at least 10 years older), but he lives pretty far away and I haven't seen him since he was much younger.
My aunt.  One of my mom's older sisters.  My mom actually has three older sisters, but we've lost touch with them over the years.  Only one of her sisters has kids and, as with the cousin above, they're at least 10 years older than me and I haven't seen them since I was little either.

And that's it!  See, a pretty small family.  By marriage, I've inherited a much larger family since my husband has a HUGE extended family, although the majority of them are in Serbia.  My father-in-law is the youngest of 13 kids!  And, best of all, my husband's younger sister is 5 years older than me and we get along SO WELL.  She's the big sister that I've always wanted!

How about you?  Do you have a big family or a small family like mine?  Leave me a comment below!
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Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands - Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is a master storyteller.  Although I've only read one of his other books thus far (Trans-Sister Radio, which was INCREDIBLE!), I remember being absolutely captivated and swept away by the story.  The same thing happened to me with Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands.  I wish that I could have sat down and read bigger chunks of this story in one sitting, but I read it the same week that I was finishing up my coursework for school, so I stole small sections of the story while taking breaks from studying.

Emily's story deserves to be digested in one sitting.  It's heartbreaking, riveting and the kind of story that leaves you with an ache in the pit of your stomach because you want to reach into the story and save her.  After a nuclear meltdown at the plant where her parents work, Emily finds herself suddenly homeless.  The system would have taken her in, but she's afraid that she's going to be asked to testify that against her parents, as it's believed that her dad's alcoholism led to the disaster at the plant.  So instead she hits the road, determined to survive on her own.  The journey that she takes is difficult to read at times as she ultimately ends up living in an igloo made of frozen trash bags filled with leaves, with a nine-year-old boy named Cameron as her sole companion.

The narrative of the story is all over the place.  Emily is talking directly to the reader, but she's writing down her story and divides her experiences into B.C. (Before Cameron) and A.C. (After Cameron).  The plot is not told in a linear fashion and, as such, it may seem a bit disjointed to some readers, but I loved that I never knew which part of Emily's story would be told next -- would it be right after the meltdown, or weeks later, or months later?  Perhaps it's also this storytelling method that worked for me, given that I read it in small doses.

I have two more of Chris' novels sitting on my shelves, and I'm even more excited to read them now.  If you're a fan of Wally Lamb, you'll probably enjoy this book -- it's the same type of dark, powerful story with characters that leave a lasting impression long after the last page has been savoured.

Note: I received an e-galley of this book from Edelweiss.  The fact that I received this book for review did not influence my opinion of this book in any way.
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On Sex Scenes

This discussion post has been brewing in my mind for several months, and I was hesitant to share this one because well, as the title suggests, it's a bit on the suggestive side.  But, as I always remind myself, this is MY BLOG and I can share what I want -- so, you're free to skip past this post in your blog reader, or read on to see what this is all about.

Still with me?  Okay, let's go.  This idea popped into my head while I was reading the Article 5 series in the spring.  Without being too spoilery, there are a couple of characters who, after lots of build up, finally do the deed.  They're teenagers and it's their first time.  The book isn't graphic, and doesn't go into the specifics, but instead dances around the issue and portrays the experience as beautiful, and poetic and sunsets and rainbows.  It's everything they hoped it would, and more and absolute perfection and ... blech.

So, this left me wondering if scenes such as this one place an unrealistic expectation about that "first time" on teenage readers.  Obviously, as an adult, I read this scene and rolled my eyes a little bit.  I'm going to be brutally honest here: I'm over 30 and my first time was quite a long time ago.  It's a sweet memory for sure, but I remember it being awkward, with a lot of giggling and uncertainty.  There were no fireworks, no poetry, just two people who didn't really know what they were doing.  But, in my opinion, that's what a being a teenager is all about ... you think you have the world figured out, but really, you're still learning and discovering along the way.  Honestly, as an adult, I still think I have the world figured out, but I am still learning and discovering along the way.

Which brings me back to my original post idea: whether sex in YA novels should be portrayed in a more realistic fashion?  We're very quick to say that teens shouldn't be exposed to pornography, as this places an unrealistic expectation of what sex should be.  So, on the one end of the spectrum, teens should know that sex isn't what's on those DVDs, but I feel like they should also be prepared for some awkwardness and discomfort.  Most of the young adult novels that I've read do a really good job of portraying pretty much every aspect of a teen's life, from complicated parent relationships, to messy friendships to ugly break-ups and everything in between.  So, if we can be realistic and brutally honest about other topics, why not sex?

I hope I'm not the only one who feels this way about sex scenes in YA novels.  How about you?  Have you read any books that portray sex in a more realistic fashion?  Or do you prefer the more sunshine and rainbows approach to sex in YA literature?  Or should sex be taken out of YA books altogether?  Leave me a comment below -- I'm dying to hear your thoughts on this topic!
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