Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Heroine's February 2012 Reads

"It's Leap Day. Real life is for March."   -Criss from 30 Rock

I'm at a total of 10 books so far this year, which is a surprise that I kept up with last month's numbers. It has been a whirlwind of a month celebrating my 30th birthday and finding out what we are able to move to San Diego (25 days!). I'm curious what March will bring! Now onto this month's reads!

The Veil by Cory Putman Oakes Hidden parallel worlds. Changed identities. High school crushes. There are two big reasons why I like this book:

1) The setting of San Fransisco. The author knows the setting well, and it shows. It also gives her an advantage in telling the story. You can really see the city and get a sense of what it is like to live there. I found it easy to see the parallel world behind the veil.

2) An ordinary main character. Lots of books try to pull this off, but this one does it the way the rest should. I like that she has regular friends and an ordinary life. And, when it comes to the romance, it isn't about everyone trying to attain her. It is about her and him, and no one else. He sees that she is beautiful, and by doing so, she believes it too. By doing this, the author gives their love a much stronger bond rather than every guy in the world fighting him for her. She isn't an object, but an every day person (despite that she really isn't).

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake I have always loved horror movies and urban legends. There is even one by where I grew up called White Lady's Lane where you drive down this long, dirt road and turn your car around. You park at the bottom of this hill, turn off your car, and you wait for a white light to appear (and it does!). This book captured those feelings perfectly and the author used a perfect balance of awe and gruesome detail throughout the book. I like the perspective of a ghost hunter (they jokingly compare him to a ghostbuster, which is a better term honestly) and the beginning throws you right into Cas's world and I bonded with him right away. He is smart, brave, and determined. I can't wait to see what awaits him in the next one in the series.
Vanish by Sophie Jordan I enjoyed the first book, Firelight, and couldn't resist seeing what happened next with Jacinda, Will, and her family. There is a lot of conflict in the books that comes from being stuck in between the human and draki world, and Sophie Jordan uses this as an advantage to the story arc. There isn't much kissing in this one, but I'm thinking the next one will heat things up a bit. 

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness Each chapter of this book felt like an experience. The artwork matched up perfectly with the written word. I dreaded the ending, honestly, since I knew what the truth the monster sought out. When I finally reached it, however, it felt more like a sigh of relief. I was reminded of the difference between adults and children when it comes to going through a hard time, and it was captured in such a profound manner. 

Reread and Currently Reading
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins The movie comes out next month so I had no choice but to pick up this book again. And it is that good. I am really looking forward to watching the movie as our last big event living in Fargo. 

And those are my February reads! Any recommendations you can make for me?
Natasha

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What to Expect When Moving: Packing Edition


I would think that I would feel more nervous than I am, but for some reason, those times are quite fleeting. We have put up our home on the market this week, and hope to finalize our new home base in San Diego sometime this week. We have started going through our things, and I have realized some things while examining everything as I shove them into tubs and boxes.
Do I really need this cassette tape?
(The answer is "yes". It is the only one I kept.)

      Sometimes things aren’t as important as you once thought they were. I had this little plastic koala that I found while going through a box. I’ve had it since I was a kid and still smelled like some type of Avon perfume (the name of which was on its little foot). I have moved it every time over the past eleven years for some odd reason. I stared it probably longer than I should have, but I knew it was time for us to part. There was no reason to keep it except that it has been in my memory for as long as I can remember. It has no purpose, or use. It just existed. I took a deep breath, and it went into the garbage pile. In that moment, my whole perspective of packing and this move changed.(Another note: I hate throwing stuff when I move. We recycle as much as we can. I have a tub full of paper and piles of old cardboard ready to go in my car.)

        Does this item have a purpose? This is an extension of #1, but whatever. Sentimentality has its place, but I decided it was time for a cleanse. I have no clue if this has something to do with turning 30 years old, moving from the Midwest to California, my back problems requires me to wear a corset, or the loss of space. I am going with it being a cleanse so I can have a fresher start with things. I mean, do I really need multiple copies of my high school Senior Book filled with hopes, dreams, wills, and prophecies? No, I don't. 

3      Sometimes it is good to visit the past. And sometimes it takes a while to move onto the next piece to pack. Clutching onto old stuffed animals. I bought this book ten years ago and haven’t read it yet. Will I ever read it? Probably not. The worst is clothes when the realization hits that I will never fit into that ever again. The best is when you realize that you are happy that can’t fit into that anymore (overalls, anyone?). My first stories written on candy cane shaped paper can stay, but an obsolete paper on The Roswell Incident goes into the recycling.

      Pizza turns into the only food group when it comes time to clean out the fridge. It is perfect when you don’t want too many dishes, and to keep the oven clean. It is safe, tasty, and convenient.

        Challenge accepted: Staying organized while destroying your house. I like being organized. Last night I had set aside three different tubs for three different things while in the spare room. I realized that it wouldn't work since a pile of the things needed to go downstairs, and then passed onto the garage for it to be filled. So, I set the stack aside to just take downstairs rather than waste a tub or box. That created clutter. My priority tonight is to fix the clutter. Clutter can work, that is, if you close the door so you don’t see it.

          If you have three tubs of something, can you make it into two? I have three tubs of books with stuffed animals on top from the spare room (to help balance the weight). I think I might go through the books again to see if I can get it down to two. I already have two tubs in the garage, and possibly three or more from the dining room. It goes back to the question of how long ago did I read this, will this become a good reference, and the reminder that I am not exactly college age. Some questions (and realizations) are harder than others.

      Cleaning as you go. I am a firm believer in dusting as you go. I blame my mother, but it makes sense. Having a dust rag or the vacuum nearby can help clear the area of dust so you aren’t sneezing over and over, and it is one less thing to do later on. And do you really want to move something dusty into your new clean home? Having Q-tips nearby can help too for those small nooks and crannies.

        Open the windows. If you can. It is February in North Dakota here, so it isn’t that much of an option for a long period of time. I like open windows when I pack and clean since it brings in that fresh air. I now know why it is called “spring cleaning” since that is when we can open the windows again finally.

        Don’t just throw. Give it away! We are making piles for people to go through of DVDs and books where they can pick or choose. Otherwise, we might try to pawn some things off. We have bookshelves that we are posting on Facebook and other big items we know won’t be coming with us. Craigslist is also your friend or a local place that takes items for charity.

       Lists are your friend. Make lists of things you want to go rid of, or take pictures for easy access. Don’t forget to make lists of things you might need to replace or for your new space. I’m looking at getting a new desk and chair so I need to keep that in mind for space and money. Pinterest has become part of that list process where I pinned the desk I want from IKEA. Having an online list and a visual is nice so I won't lose it during the chaos.Trust me, you will lose something. One time we lost a Pizza Corner pizza. It was never found.

I moved to Fargo in 2000 to attend college after living in the same little town and house for the first eighteen years of my life. I have moved seven times in ten years, and this is my eighth time and obviously my biggest ever. I used to live with apartment managers so I learned the tricks of the trade, and know what is necessary to make it easy for everyone. I'm sad to leave our first real home, but excited for our new one. I can’t believe we are doing this. Looking at this list, I can see why I am not freaking out. It is like I have been preparing myself for this next adventure.

Any tips you want to share?

Natasha

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

30th Birthday and Favorites

Joey and I went to see Brother #2 and his family. We went to pick up pizza at the local café, and as we waited, we played “The Favorites Game” with our eldest niece. My 30th birthday is today, and I was going to write “30 Random Things About Me”. I started the list and realized that 30 things is a lot to share! Instead, I figured I would play the Favorites Game with my 10 year old self. It was easy to do so since I had a diary that helped answer some of these questions.

Here we go!

10 Year Old Me
Favorite Book Series: Babysitters Little Sister, Sweet Valley Twins, Boxcar Children
Favorite Authors: Ann M. Martin, Beverly Cleary
Favorite Movies: My Girl, Three Men and a Baby, Space Invaders, Home Alone
Favorite TV Show: Full House, Dinosaurs, Ducktales, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Little Mermaid
I am around 10 in this picture. I remember
Brother #1 taking it.
Favorite Disney Princess: Ariel
Favorite Color: Blue       
Favorite Place: Seattle
Favorite Things to Do: Read, play with my best friend, ride bike
Favorite Animal: Kittens and Cats
Favorite Food: Pizza, burritos, ice cream
Favorite Holiday: My birthday and Halloween
Favorite Game: Super Mario Brothers 3
Favorite Comic: Darkwing Duck
Favorite Candy: Snickers

30 Year Old Me
Favorite Book Series: Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Bayern series
Favorite Authors:  Laini Taylor, JK Rowling, Neil Gaiman, Juliet Marillier, Shannon Hale
Favorite Movies: Star Wars, The Princess Bride, Back to the Future, The Muppets, Beauty and the Beast
Favorite TV Show: Firefly, Stargate, Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, Parks and Recreation
Favorite Disney Princess: Belle
Not quite 30 here. With the husband
on our 6th year anniversary.
Favorite Color: Blue       
Favorite Place: England
Favorite Things to Do: Read and write, spend time with my husband and cats
Favorite Animal: Kitties
Favorite Food: Pizza, vegetarian cooking
Favorite Holiday: Halloween, wedding anniversary
Favorite Game: Mario Kart, Munchkin
Favorite Comic: Runaways
Favorite Candy: Aero bar

It is strange to see how close some of these answers remained! Already at that age I knew I wanted to be a writer, as well. And I do have a fondness for a lot of the previous things mentioned.

So, here's to another 30 years of life!

Natasha

Monday, February 13, 2012

Life’s a Happy Song

“Everything is great everything is grand
I got the whole wide world in the palm of my hand
Everything is perfect its falling into place
I can’t seem to wipe this smile off my face
Life's a happy song when there’s someone by my side to sing along
–from The Muppets Movie (2011)

My husband and I always talked about moving. We travel a lot and have seen lots of fantastic places. However, it was hard to imagine leaving home and being able to survive somewhere bigger. We decided that since we couldn’t leave a few years ago when we had the moving discussion. Instead, we knew we had  to make the best out of Fargo as the city we wanted to live in. We joined CoreCon, I started a writing group, and he joined a swordsmanship (Iaido) dojo. We also went places we hadn’t visited before like museums, neat places to eat, and attended plays. We made the best of our situation, and even bought a wonderful condo.

Hanging out in Del Mar. Celebrating with my birthday dinner
and some tasty gelato (salted caramel!!!).
Last April, on one of the few perfect weather days in Fargo, I convinced Joey to go on a walk with me. I love our neighborhood with its old towering trees, rich greenness, sprawling parks, old houses, and the north bound Red River. As we talked, it became apparent that this wasn’t enough. That we needed a place to grow even further since this was it. There was no other place to go. We talked of cities, and I was adamant about it being someplace we love. London, obviously, was out of the question. When Joey said “San Diego”, my face lit up. I love that city, we have good friends there, and there is so much to do there (and the weather is always perfect).

La Jolla beach to dip our toes in the cold ocean...
in February!
Last October, we went on a trip to make sure that we wanted to move there. We wanted the correct vision of what our future could hold. And we fell in love with the city again. I could name all the reasons, but trust me, they are perfect for us (okay, one of the big ones is our friend Sue lives out there--- she is in the photo with me). We decided to start searching for jobs for Joey. He is in IT and the software he works with has lots of good opportunities for him. And we were right!
The perfect position opened up about a month ago and he applied. They called the following week and interviewed him twice, and flew him out last week. We went to San Diego, and at lunchtime on Friday, they hired him (I’m so proud of him!!!!).

Yes, we are moving to San Diego! We both have lived in North Dakota all our lives and this will be a big change, and we will miss our family and friends. I’m ready for the challenges, but I know the rewards will prove worth it. In our visit, I dipped my toes into it in February (back home it was like -7F, -30 windchill!) so that is a beginning to new experiences!

I can’t wrap my brain around that this is actually happening!

 Natasha

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Heroine's January 2012 Reads

I decided to try something new this year. I wasn't able to keep up with my book review schedule. This year I decided to list the books I read each month by giving them a mention and little tidbits that I see appropriate. So, here's the first post!

Faeries of Dreamdark series by Laini Taylor
Silksinger
Blackbringer

Sophie loves Laini Taylor's books too!
These books blew me away. As you know, Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone was one of my top picks for 2011. These books are more appropriate for younger readers, but I recommend them to fantasy readers. Her writing shines and the story is as original as Daughter. You get to know her characters in such detail and it isn't hard to keep track as the cast grows. An extra bonus, Taylor's husband does drawings that are included in the books and the colorful cover art. Taylor has definitely climbed the list to become one of my new favorite authors.

Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett
My husband is reading the Discworld series. Once in a while, he will tell me that I should read this one or that one. It is easy to do so since some characters pop up in the books (like Death-- my favorite), but sometimes there is just a completely different cast. Some of the books have movies based on them and this happens to be one. It is definitely worth checking out both.

A Million Suns by Beth Revis
This is the second in the series and every bit as good as Across the Universe (and possibly better). I would love to see more science fiction books like this published for young adults. Now to wait a year for the third one!

Unreleased book to add to your TBR list:
Flame of Justice by Rhiannon Paille
I was fortunate enough to critique this book and was given a sneak peak of the cover. If you want to see the cover, or meet the author, Rhi is going on tour in Canada! Her first book, Flame of Surrender, is available everywhere right now so go check it out.

What was your favorite read?

Natasha

Currently reading: The Veil by Cory Putman Oakes