Monday, March 31, 2014

A Reading Life (13)

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A Reading Life...hosted by Michelle at The True Book Addict, and also inspired by Lisa at Lit and Life--Life: It Goes a meme where we get to talk about other stuff we're doing in our lives along with reading!

It was a crazy week! My in-laws stayed with us for about a week. We had my mother-in-law, brother-in-law, his three young kids, their 2 cats and 1 dog. We literally had a zoo! It was fun, though, for Gabe. He enjoyed having his cousins over and playing til they all dropped.

Listening To:

The Universe Within: Discovering the Common History of Rocks, Planets, and People by Neil Shubin.

Books Finished:
  1. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  2. Monster by Walter Dean Myers
  1. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. Yes, I'm still reading this one. It's huge but I'm almost finished. Another couple of weeks and I should be done!
  2. Bad Pharma: How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients by Ben Goldacre. I'll be finished with this one this week. It's really depressing and has changed everything on how I think about drugs and the drug companies.
  3. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. This one has been on my shelf for awhile and am excited to finally work my way through it. It's a chunkster so I'm planning on taking a few months.
  4. Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil by Paul Bloom.
Looking Forward To:

Vacation! We headed down to Zion's National Park Thursday and staying down there for a couple of days. We are going with some friends and their kids and doing a lot of hiking and relaxing after :) It's been along time since I've been there. Very, very excited!


I've been catching up on Modern Family, The Blacklist, and Bones this last week. And I'm halfway through season 7 of Dexter.

Grateful For:

Slightly chillier than normal temperatures so help me relax indoors and watch TV and read without feeling too guilty about not being outside!

Fun Times:

Fruit rainbow! I win!

I made a rainbow of fruit for St. Patrick's Day! Gabe helped and it was a lot of fun. We topped it off with green pancakes for dinner :)

Fun with the cousins!

Fun at the Dinosaur Museum with his cousins!



Bear cubs :)

We had a blast!

Last week we also got to see Neil deGrasse Tyson come speak at the University of Utah! It was amazing. The man is pure genius both in science and speaking about science to the layperson. One-in-a-lifetime experience!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Fiction Mini Book Reviews

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White:

I read this one aloud with Gabe. He really enjoyed it. He asked questions and we had some good talks. Then we watched the movie.

It's an excellent book on friendship, love, life, and death and everything in between. A wonderful children's classic.

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan:

This was a really funny read. Brennan is pretty humorous and I liked her witty female protagonist. But it wasn't a book that really stood out (paranormal young adult fiction). It was cliche all the way through and slighted other characters that didn't need slighting. It didn't hold my interest enough to finish the series but I enjoyed the few laugh-out-loud moments.

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi:

Now this is a fabulous young adult dystopia/sci-fi fiction. Rossi brings out her characters in this and that makes all the difference for me. She doesn't focus too heavily on the whys and hows of how this dystopia wasteland Earth came to be and I appreciated her even more for that.

I mean there are the few undertones of saving the environment but not too heavy-handed and I think that's important anyway. It's a character-driven novel without the teen love triangle drivel that permeates so many YA fiction nowadays. Love.

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman:

I really enjoyed Stedman's overall story. It's an ethical and moral one that is supposed to make us think. She mainly focuses on Tom and the ramifications his choices make in the future.

The main reason I didn't love it was I felt Stedman didn't appreciate Tom's wife enough. She made her a mad woman stereotype. I didn't identify with her at all and I wanted to. So it made the story a bit too breezy and settled than I feel it should have been.

But overall a really beautiful novel.

Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi:

This is the second book in the Never Sky trilogy. The first half was a bit slow. They had to set some plot up and break apart our two lovers. But once it got going it was as excellent as the first.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston:

I read this for my feminist book club. Hurston was a brilliant writer. She loved her characters and she loved her people and she treats them so real and tenderly in her story about Janie, a black woman living in Florida during the 30s. We follow her as she learns about who she is and how she finally learns to love. So much more to say. It's a classic and should be read by everyone.

Monster by Walter Dean Myers:

A 14-year-old black teenager is on trial for his life. He's been accused of being complicit in the murder of a store owner during a robbery.

We see all things through Steve Harmon's perspective. He decides to make a movie about his trial, so we read the trial as a script for a movie. We also get to see his journal notes that are spread throughout.

The title and thus the book, including our protagonist Steve want us to think about what constitutes a real monster. Is he one? Is he innocent? Is he still a monster even if he made some bad choices not knowing the results? It's a fascinating look at our criminal justice system and how it effects those who are just in the wrong circumstances.

We had a very fascinating discussion in our book club. I really enjoyed it.

The only problems I had with it were the miniscule details. It seems like there was also a few stereotypes that were played into in order to move the story line along.

But I think the main point was to provoke discussion and it does.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Non-fiction Mini Book Reviews

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman:

Kahneman is a psychologist who also focuses on behavioral economics. He's been around for awhile and has done many studies on how our brains work.

Basically, we have two systems. One is fast and one is slow. The fast one is our intuitive side; it makes fast decisions since our slow system is too lazy. Our slow system is our rational and logical side but it takes more energy to work through it so many times we rely too heavily on our fast side and end up making blundering errors.

An excellent book on how our brains think. Him and Tversky pioneered these studies. Amazing.

NutureShock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman:

The authors focus on some interesting studies that make us rethink our ideas about children and how we rear them as educators and parents.

The ones that stuck out to me were:

Chapter Two: The Lost Hour:

Kids need their sleep even more than adults do to keep those brains growing and learning properly. We need schools to start later. Yes it messes up working adults' schedules but it's serious stuff and needs to be done. Even just an hour seems to help significantly.

Chapter Three: Why White Parents Don't Talk About Race:

White parents don't know exactly what to say and are afraid they'll say the wrong thing but that ends up making kids not knowing what their parents think and make up their own biases. They don't go into any details about how to do that but emphasize that it needs to be done. It's helped me think about how to do that with my own son.

Chapter Seven: The Science of Teen Rebellion:

Studies showed that parents who set boundaries and were able to renegotiate with their kids about rules and boundaries were the ones with the least rebellious teens. So communicating and listening to their kids and allowing them to make a case for an exception for a curfew or whatever really influenced them to be more honest and to rebel less. Fascinating.

All of the chapters were fascinating but I chose my top three. I highly recommend this for anyone.

Container Gardening For Dummies by Bill Marken:

I have no yard since I live in a town home but I've been wanting to try my hand at planting a few flowers during the Spring and Winter months. So I picked this one up to help me!

It's a great one for beginners and I definitely fit that category. It's still a bit too chilly around here for me to pick up flowers to plant but I am prepared! I'm hoping only a couple of more weeks!!!

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Reading Life (12)

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A Reading Life...hosted by Michelle at The True Book Addict, and also inspired by Lisa at Lit and Life--Life: It Goes a meme where we get to talk about other stuff we're doing in our lives along with reading!

It's been another crazy couple of weeks. I've another sinus infection that I'm just barely starting to get over. But we've been having fun hiking and enjoying the first thralls of Spring!

Listening To:

More podcasts :)

Books Finished:
  • Container Gardening for Dummies by Bill Marken
  • Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi
  • The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (I'll finish this one off for my feminist book club this week)
  • Monster by Walter Dean Myers (Another book club pick)
  • A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (This is a big and beautiful book but I'm over halfway through!)
  • Big Pharma: How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients by Ben Goldacre (This one is for my skeptic book club)
Looking Forward To:

We have a mini vacation coming up the first weekend in April. We are heading down to Zion's National Park to do some hiking and exploring for a couple of days with friends and their two kids. So excited! I haven't been down there since I was a kid.


The Cosmos reboot with Neil deGrasse Tyson. Caught the first one last week and will enjoy the second one tonight with the family. We also finished up the original Carl Sagan Cosmos a couple of weeks ago. Always amazing.


I made cashew chicken the other night. It was actually pretty good. My devoted husband told me to put it on the permanent list!

I also had a few girlfriends over for some cocktails and chatting this weekend and I made this for them. The Scooby Snack shot.

It was amazing :)

Grateful For:

My Utah mountains. We got some fabulous hiking in this weekend!

Our Fun Times:

We hiked the snow Sunday! I had no idea it was still so snow-packed in the mountains. Ha ha! But we were able to get to places you wouldn't normally be able to get to due to the snow. So we got to see the mountains from a whole new perspective. Just a bit sun-kissed but other than that it was a success!

Donut Falls hike in the winter!

Sunday snow hiking!

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Cat Thursday (25)-- St. Paddy's Style

Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite LOL cat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! Enjoy! Hosted by Michelle of The True Book Addict.

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Happy St. Paddy's Kitteh Style!




Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

I'm finally getting some book reviews up! Go me! Between sickness, gaining new skills (programming), life, and catching up on some reading, I haven't had as much time to blog like I want to. Hopefully I can find some good life balance and get my posts up more often.

I finally got around to reading The Handmaid's Tale back in January for my new feminist book club. I saw the movie with Natasha Richardson way back when I was a teen and it really disturbed me. I knew the book wouldn't be any different and so I waited.

It's a powerful novel. We see the world of Offred through her eyes. We catch little snatches of how things were before and how Offred has slowly grown accustomed to her way of life.

She lives in a future where rival religious sects have plundered the U.S. government and are warring with each for their own brand of totalitarian theocracy. Women are property, have no rights, and are only useful based on how useful their uteruses are.

The excuses given are women need protecting from men who can't control themselves. Don't give them too much freedom or they'll get raped or murdered. Even Offred's partner when the fall of the government happens and her money and property are put into his hands, seems nonchalant about the whole thing. He seems to love being in control and telling Offred it's all going to be all right.

It's a book that is just as relevant today as it was in the 80s. Separation of church and state allows all to benefit and Atwood describes so tellingly of what can happen when that isn't the case.

It's disturbing but it should be. It should make us all sit up and do something. Many women and children and other minorities and misfits in the world have something like this being done to them daily.

Freedom to be who we want to be, freedom of consciousness, freedom to believe or not to, freedom to doubt and dissent is so important in any society.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

One Line Move Reviews (18)

1. R.I.P.D. (2013): I am dumber for having watched this, really.

Rating: F

2. Captain Phillips (2013): Astounding performances all around and had the ability to humanize the kidnappers.

Rating: A-

3. The Lego Movie (2014): "Everything is awesome!" is right!

Rating: A-

4. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014): Those damn Russians keep trying to take over the world; it's a good thing we have Jack Ryan to save us ;)

Rating: C+

5. Lee Daniels' The Butler (2013): Fantastic look between maintaining the status quo and fighting for one's rights.

Rating: B

6. Prisoners (2013): A hard and disturbing look at what a person is willing to do to save a loved-one.

Rating: B-

7. Blue Jasmine (2013): An interesting and well-acted story on the destruction of one's way of life.

Rating: C+

8. Gravity (2013): Absolutely beautiful cinematography and special effects but there was no story and that was disappointing.

Rating: C

Monday, March 3, 2014

A Reading Life (11)

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A Reading Life...hosted by Michelle at The True Book Addict, and also inspired by Lisa at Lit and Life--Life: It Goes a meme where we get to talk about other stuff we're doing in our lives along with reading!

It's been a busy couple of weeks. I've been working hard on learning some programming and getting my feet wet. And then Gabe, devoted hubby, and I all got sick this week and weekend. So it's been busy and crazy and all that and I haven't gotten much up over the last couple of weeks, which makes me really sad. So I'm glad I found some time and energy for this post!

Listening To:

Stuff Mom Never Told You, a podcast, of course! The last one I listened to was on female firefighters and all the tough stuff they have to put up with for venturing into the field.

Books Finished:

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi.

  1. Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi
  2. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
  3. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  4. Container Gardening For Dummies by Bill Marken (still, but almost done)
  5. A few more here and there as well....

Looking Forward To:

Spring! We also do the Festival of Colors put on by our local Krishna temple. It's a yearly tradition now and we all really enjoy it.

My crocuses are starting to bloom!


I also have a couple of big weekends of programming classes and seminars so there's that this weekend and next :)


I wish I were watching the Oscars tonight but I have no TV signal since I live in the boonies and I don't have a strong antenna. And I could find no one to watch it with :(

But I did just buy and finish The Cosmos: A Personal Voyage with Carl Sagan. It came out back in 1980, I think. And it's still relevant and beautiful today. Neil de Grasse Tyson's newly updated version is coming out next week! Can't wait to see that.


I made some delicious lasagna soup the other day! I also have plans for a new recipe to try out some cashew chicken in the crockpot. That's the one thing I miss about Spring and Summer, the soups.

Grateful For:

Minecraft...sometimes I need a really good babysitter to get things done aka my programming classes and this works perfectly!

Fun Stuff We Did This Week (and last):

Frozen yogurt night!

Frozen yogurt this week. This place even has a fireplace!

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My cat Shadow was in heaven on Gabe's lap :)

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I bought this for Gabe and we both loved it. I love all of his books and this one was another beautiful one.

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With the nice weather we've been having, we've been getting Gabe out and trying out his new birthday bike!

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We also headed up on a little hike right by our house earlier this week. It was a gorgeous view. I love my Utah mountains!