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Book Review: The Italian Lover

29 Jun

If you have a moment, please take some time to go and vote for my Mamavation application!  You can see my application video here, and you can “vote” for me by heading to Twitter and tweeting this: Hey @bookieboo! I want @SkinnySushi to be the next #Mamavation Mom. She has my support! The finalists will be chosen on July 5, after which point I will stop harassing you with these messages… unless, of course, I AM a finalist… in which case I will harass you with new messages.  And cookies?

Robert Hellenga’s The Italian Lover, which you can buy (and I get a few pennies from) by clicking on the book cover, was my latest one-chapter-per-night read.

And… it was alright.  I was reasonably interested for the first few chapters.  After that, it became one of those books where a new, totally unrelated (yet) character is introduced with nearly every new chapter.  So for a while it was confusing, disjointed, unbalanced, and I very nearly stopped reading it several times.  In the end though, a book has to be totally horrible for me to stop reading it, so I soldiered on.

I guess I’m glad I did.  It was an interesting enough story, though I thought the women in the book were not convincingly written.  The ending was predictable and felt a little forced.  The characters were… common.  However, the story itself was relatively interesting, and the Italian setting and the use of the language are probably what kept me going when nothing else was peaking my interest.

So, if you really like Italy (you know I do!) and you have some time on your hands, it might be worth a read.  If you can read for more than a half hour at a time, it might be better and less disjointed too.

Verdict: C+


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Book Review: Truly, Madly

14 Jun

The sudden reappearance of book reviews on the blog should not suggest to anyone that I suddenly have free time because, ha!  All it really means is that I love to read and I have really been missing it, so I sacrifice a little bit of sleep every night to read a chapter.

Fortunately for me, the last book was a quick, easy read and I really enjoyed it.

Heather Webber's Truly, MadlyTruly, Madly: A Novel by new author Heather Webber was (I think?) sent to me by GoodReads, since I had an advanced reading copy.  The book is a little bit of a murder mystery, a little paranormal, a little romance…

I thought it was a great, easy read that was fun and relaxing.  The writing style was easy and approachable, and I cared enough about the characters that when I was finished I logged on to Amazon and put the next book in the series (due out in August) on my wishlist.  So I guess that’s a good sign, right?


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Book review: La Bella Lingua

7 Jun

I’m embarrassed to admit that I only finished this book, which I won in November, last night.  Honestly, I wish I’d finished it sooner, as it’s easily one of the best books about the Italian language that I’ve ever read.  It’s full of great, interesting facts about the language and it’s development.  It talks about the way the language affects and expresses the nature of the Italian people.  It shows Dianne Hales’ clear love of the language, and it taught me some fun new words as well.

Reading La Bella Lingua has me even more motivated to keep learning Italian.  I loved the easy, relatable writing style and the great stories of the language and the author’s own adventures with it.  This is a fantastic book and it would make a great gift for anyone learning Italian, going to/coming from Italy, or just for someone you know who loves Italy and all things Italian (like me!)

Thanks again to Dianne for the awesome giveaway last fall.  I hope she’ll be writing more soon!


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Saturday Speculations

4 Apr

In no particular order, here are the things I am thinking about today:

  • Last week, while laying on the couch, (laying? lying?) I heard someone yelling outside.  When I looked out, I saw a man walking away from the water’s edge (we live one house away from the bay) with one dog on a leash and another in his arms.  He was being trailed by two large, black dogs and a yelling woman.  She was yelling at the dogs, who she habitually walks without their leashes.  This is a problem, since we technically have laws here that you MUST leash your dogs.  Also, she walks with the leash in her hand, so I have no idea why she chooses not to use the thing.  Her dogs are nice, but big and young, which means they are full of energy and frequently overwhelm other dogs… especially smaller ones like the one the (clearly annoyed) man was carrying as he left.  Anyway, the woman was clearly frustrated with her dogs, and so commenced to whip them with the leash!!!  For being, you know, DOGS.  If she had followed the law and kept them on the leash, there would have been no issues.  But instead, this amazing piece of work decides that the dogs should be rather viciously punished for doing only what comes naturally to them when uncontrolled.  I would like to use the woman as kindling, and take her dogs from her.  I have NO patience for animal abusers.
  • I finished A House Somewhere.  It is a collection of travel essays about not just visiting a foreign country, but living there for an extended period of time.  I was interested in it in part because I just love travel, but also because I was drawn to the essays about foreigners living abroad in the US.  I wanted to see what America looks like through the eyes of a non-citizen.  The book is mostly made up of excerpts from previously written travel books by various authors, but also includes some original essays written specifically for the book.  Authors include Isabel Allende (writing about the US), Lily Brett, Simon Winchester, and Frances Mayer (Under the Tuscan Sun), so I was reasonably impressed.  Overall I thought the book did a great job of covering stories in more than just Western Europe, including essays based in China, Morocco, and Thailand.  The writing spans all sorts of styles, yet still manages to convey a sense of overall scope to the essays as a whole.  Although I enjoyed the book, I still felt a sense of heavy American/British influence in terms of the identities of the writers.  Ideally, I would have been even happier with the work if it had included some authors whose homes were based in non-Western cultures, and I would have liked to see some essays on living in less popular places like Eastern Europe, the South Pacific, or southern South America.  Verdict: B-
  • This morning, I finished The Alienist.  I am not normally a mystery reader, and definitely not generally a fan of 19th/20th century American history… so I’m not even sure why I chose this book to read. However, I was pleasantly surprised. The book is well researched, well written, and entertaining enough to have kept me interested throughout several hundred pages. Though the ending was probably a little bit predictable for mystery fans, I was reasonably engaged by it all the same. I enjoyed quite a bit of the character work, and I really liked the discussion of early psychological and scientific techniques in criminal investigations.  It took a little bit of getting into in the beginning, probably thanks to a personal aversion to all things American history related, but in the end made a small beginning struggle well worth it.  Verdict: A-
  • Our crib (in honey oak) has officially shipped, and it should be here sometime next week!  Should be just in time for Evi’s arrival, though she won’t be sleeping in it for a while still.  I am pleased, since I like the idea of having that room all finished by the time she is here or soon after.  Here’s a pic of the stuff for the tiny nursery room… we have everything except the glider and the frame for her hand/footprint.nursery1
  • I would KILL SOMEONE for a pizza margarita right now.  And no, a cheese pizza will not do.  Specifically, I want one from Carpaccio“the classic Neapolitan pizza, zesty tomato sauce, fresh basil & fresh Mozzarella.” Unfortunately, it’s a half hour away… so Aaron has offered to MAKE me one tomorrow!  How much do I love him?  MORE THAN WORDS, and almost as much as pizza.  🙂

34 and Counting

28 Mar

I can’t believe I am 34 weeks along today.  It seems like a total miracle, especially when I consider how many times I thought I might not make it.  Evi continues to grow strong and big, and yesterday she discovered the joy of trying to dislodge my ribs with her feet.  Painful, yes, but I don’t really mind.

These coming weeks seem like some big adventure to me now, these days I worried would never come.  Now here I am, facing the last few weeks of what seems to be a happy, healthy pregnancy.  I am excited, terrified, overwhelmed, and so in love.

Now I just have to manage to stay sane for another 2.5 weeks until the stitch comes out and I am reintroduced to mobility!  Until then, thanks to some lovely birthday gifts, I still have some reading to do!

The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs is a memoir of his adventure to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica from cover to cover.  He spends about a year doing it, and in the process shares all sorts of insights about his own learning, his life and family, and the contents and history of the great encyclopedia.  Overall I thought it was a pretty good read, though a little slow at times.  He’s a reasonably funny guy, and there was a lot of pretty interesting information in there.  I doubt I will remember any of it, which is amusingly something he talks about as well.  Verdict: B

Now, speaking of literary genius…. please go and review the first 17 pages of my book!!!  For those who already have, I LOVE YOU!  For my beautiful Canadian friends, you’re apparently not able to review… which makes me SAD!


21 Mar

Man, I have been terrible about blogging lately!  Since it’s been a while, I think I’ll make use of some bulleted listing.

  • Book Review #1 — Marlena De Blasi’s A Thousand Days in Tuscany — Just like her book on Orvieto, I really enjoyed this one.  I like her writing style, her way of looking at Italian rural living, and I love the imagery.  Verdict: A
  • Book Review #2 — Marlena De Blasi’s That Summer in Sicily — This one was more of a narrative of someone else’s story than the usual documenting of De Blasi’s own adventures.  Though I loved the story, I didn’t enjoy the style of this one quite as much as I did the others.  All the same, still a beautiful story with great Italian imagery and beautiful prose.  Verdict: B+  Now if only I could find her book about Venice in the library, I would finally be able to complete the series!
  • Book Review #3 — Jonathan Harr’s The Lost Painting — I loved this one.  It tells the (presumably nonfiction) story of the discovery of a lost Caravaggio painting.  The writing is extremely compelling, the story is complex enough to keep you interested, and I really enjoyed the discussion of the details of the painting and of the restoration process.  Verdict: A
  • We’ve started to get some presents from our baby wishlist, so I wanted to say thank you if you’ve sent one.  I am trying to send out written thank you notes as the presents arrive, but we all know how tough that sometimes is.  So, if you’ve sent something, THANK YOU, and I promise you’ll get a note in the mail sometime soon.
  • I’ve gotten five reviews so far on my Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award entry.  It’s pretty exciting, especially since at least one of the reviews is from someone I don’t know, and the editorial reviews are pretty positive too.  If you have time, and any interest in reading a fantasy type novel, I’d love for you to wander over to the site, download the first seventeen pages (it’s FREE) and leave a review for me.  They will choose the top 100 entries on April 15th, so I am hoping to have lots of positive reviews by then in the hopes of impressing the publishers!
  • Today, I am officially 33 weeks pregnant.  There have been so many days leading up to this where I wasn’t sure I would ever get this far.  Now, with every new day passing, I am feeling more and more hopeful about the chance to really be taking this little girl home with me sometime soon.  In all likelihood, I will be bringing her home sometime in mid to late April.  We’ve put together her stroller and car seat, the hospital bag, and her going home outfit.  It’s making it all feel so… real.  I am SO excited about it, so ready to meet my little girl!
  • Of course, all of this talk about preparing for Evi’s arrival has also brought with it a lot of thoughts about my sweet Aodin.  I sure do miss my little man.  A good friend said yesterday that she knew Evi would be a good baby because she will have learned so much from her big brother.  I told her how touched I was at this, since honestly very few people outside of my parents really talk about Aodin much anymore.  I understand why though.  That being said, she told me that she never thought of me without thinking of Aodin, because he is a part of who I am now.  I loved hearing that.  It made me proud (again) to be his mother, and so happy for the little moments I got to share with him.  I can’t wait to tell Evi about her brother, and to see what she has to tell me.
  • Speaking of pregnancy, I cannot get enough MILK lately.  MILK MILK MILK.  I am not a huge fan of milk in general, and will only drink skim, and even then only with a super rich brownie or cookie or cake.  Otherwise, I like to drink water, juice, or diet sodas.  For the past couple of weeks though, I am downing a gallon of milk every four days or so all on my own!  I guess some baby needs the calcium, so I am happy to drink it.  Now if only I could find some cheap but good scallops, and someone would bring me an avocado, I would be utterly content.

Eggs and Dragons

12 Mar

I had my first truly bizarre pregnancy craving last night when I decided I would not be happy unless I had a peculiar sandwich for dinner.  In true gestational bliss, I was extremely content with my tuna salad and fried egg sandwich.  Mmm….

I also finished another book yesterday.  My husband, who prefers sci-fi books that mostly deal with utopian and post-apocalyptic societies, has been trying to get me to read There Will Be Dragons for a long time now.  Since I have no excuse not to read everything now, I finally did read the book.  It wasn’t too bad.  The story kept me interested.  The style wasn’t quite up my alley, and it was a little heavy on science/warfare details, but overall I thought it was pretty entertaining.  Plus, the half-nekkid girl on the cover made me laugh every time I picked it up.  Verdict: B-