Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Fox and Phoenix

So I started reading fox and Phoenix by Beth Bernobich, and I was a little lost, right off the bat. So I'm like, okay, it's a fantasy novel, I'll give it some time. But it just never kicked in. I was halfway through the book and I didn't understand anything. It was super scattered and everything was new and nothing was explained as far as her invented terminology and world, and there were references to a past adventure of sorts. So I start to think, "Hey, did I pick up a sequel?" and scan the cover. Nothing. The back of the book. Nothing. Look inside the book. Front flap. Back flap. Also written by. Nothing!! So I gave up. I didn't like it and I didn't understand it because I didn't know this world. Then internet research let me know that it is a sequel. TO A SHORT STORY PUBLISHED ONLINE. For real? Maybe do a better job of letting people know next time you write a book, Beth. Cuz this was just lame. 


Welcome to Grati-Tuesday!
Today I am grateful for:

1. my lover and eternal families

2. This great big crazy family of mine! 
[as well as all my in-laws but I have no photos of everyone together]

3. Disneyland

4. Friends

5. Dance . . . especially this beautiful piece!

And, of course,  6. BOOKS! 

What are YOU grateful for today?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Steinbeck's Ghost

Steinbeck's Ghost is a cute YA novel about a young boy who lives in California, near the John Steinbeck house as well as the Steinbeck library. The library is going to close, and it's up to him, and his fellow library patrons, to save the library!  Buzbee makes lots of Steinbeck references, which is neat if you're a Steinbeck aficionado, but makes a narrow demographic for a young adult novel. That is, of course, unless his goal is to encourage today's youth to delve into Steinbeck, but it's really too specific with certain novels. I really can only recommend this book if you love, and are well-read of, Steinbeck. However, it did encourage and inspire me to read more Steinbeck! So look forward to new Steinbeck posts from me! 

The Last Days

More of a companion novel than a sequel to Peeps, The Last Days tells the story of new characters: Moz, Zahler, Pearl, Alana Ray, and Minerva, as they form a band in apocalyptic New York. The vampires from Peeps continue to occur, under the guise of them going mad, the sewers are gushing black water, and the earth is shaking. Randomly, it reminds me of the Duck Tales episode when they're in the Bermuda Triangle. Overall, I had similar feelings for The Last Days as I did towards Peeps, but with the additional sex and language in this it's much more of an older YA novel than, say, a middle school YA novel. So, don't expect too much, but no need to hate. 
Peace out!

Friday, July 27, 2012

The First Princess of Wales

After I read The Irish Princess, I thought it would be worth it to look into more books by Karen Harper, and I found The First Princess of Wales. I thought it sounded super neat! An earlier time period than I've read and new characters; I'm always up for that! So I checked it out from the library and started reading it, when I realized that the original title was Sweet Passion's Pain. If I had known that in the first place, I don't know that I would have picked up the book. It sounds a little like a harlequin novel! But I was already into the book and liked it so far, and it didn't seem naughty, so I kept reading. 

The First Princess of Wales is a historical fiction set in medieval times about a young girl, Joan of Kent, who is brought to Queen Phillipa's court and meets and falls in love, and lust, with Edward the Black Knight, Prince of Wales, who returns her lusty feelings, and perhaps her love. However, the Queen and King do not find Joan to be a suitable match for their son and she is quickly married off to someone else., despite the fact that Edward and Joan have become lovers and intend to stay that way. [Their lovemaking is not described in awkward detail.] It felt a lot like that game we used to play: Do, Date, or Marry. Or was it Do, Dump, or Marry? Either  way . . .

This novel just didn't read the way I thought it would. It wasn't what I thought it would be. [I also came into the novel thinking it was about the York/Lancaster split. My bad! But I'd love to read a book like that if anyone knows of one!] What I thought would be at least the middle, if not earlier, was the end! It took so long to get there, and then there was nothing after! I wanted to read more and was disappointed that it was already over. If I wasn't so determined to finish the book though . . . it's just that Harper's books take soooo long to read! They draaaag on and on! Both of hers that I've read have taken me much longer than I would have though given the number of pages and subject matter. I feel like I should like her work, but I just really don't. I kept finding myself thinking that it would have been more exciting if Philippa Gregory had written it. She's much more of a captivating author. Gregory also includes a family tree when necessary, which Harper didn't. I really needed one, because Joan and Edward are related, probably third cousins given my reading, but sometimes they talked and made it sound like a much closer relation. A family tree would have been helpful. Gregory, as most historical fiction writers, also adds an author's note or a historical note at the end to explain what was truth and where liberties were taken. Harper did no such thing. So I went to my easiest and closest resource: Wikipedia. And Wikipedia makes Joan sound so much more interesting than the book ever did!  It talks about her plotting to get even with the king for her fathers death, as does the back of the book, but that was hardly present compared to her pining over Edward and their illicit rendezvouses!  Harper clearly took liberties with her characters, especially their ages in relation to one another and when events happened, and was inconsistent throughout. 

Really, it was like Karen Harper took some characters from history and instead of writing a historical fiction, she wrote a romance. And it was a very strange romance at that, given that *ahem* force was often used. Anyway, there were some good parts, but I expected a much higher caliber of writing and, frankly, research about the subject. The First Princess of Wales was a bit of a let-down for me. 

The Whipping Boy

For the sixth graders medieval unit, they were put into different reading groups with classmates on similar reading levels. The Whipping Boy was the book I read with my group. It's about Prince Brat and his whipping boy, Jemmy, and how they run away from the castle & encounter some real characters! 

It was a cute little book with a good moral, but the students thought it was pretty lame and I tend to agree a little. It was written to a much younger audience. I think Jordyn would like it much better than my students did. It's much more for a younger audience, and I didn't think it was that great for a Newbery. I expect a lot when I see that seal, and The Whipping Boy, while cute, didn't quite live up to that standard. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012


As I started my journey into the world of Peeps, I thought I was seeing how Westerfeld has matured as an author, how Peeps can easily lead into Uglies, but then I saw that all of his novels are published in (or near) 2005. Crazy. He must have had them all stocked up before he got a publisher. But back to the story: Peeps is an apocalyptic novel centered on parasites which cause people to become Westerfeld's version of vampires. Our hero is Cal, who is trying to save the world. 

Being a lesser book of Westerfelds, it was a neat read, though, because Westerfeld likens vampirism unto parasitical infestation in a very plausible and understandable manner. One caveat: this novel is geared towards middle and jr high schoolers, but there's lots of "horny talk." So read it before you hand it to your child and decide for yourself if it's appropriate for your kiddo. It's written for them & a decent read. 

Now enjoy this quote from Westerfeld on Peeps
"Maybe there are too many vampire novels, I thought. But that was part of the challenge, to see if I could do something that felt new and interesting, while still being full of bitey goodness. (Unsurprising confession: I am a Buffy fan.) So the book had to be original, but also icky, scary, funny, tragic, and (ahem) not sucky.
Besides getting a new take on the sunlight-impaired, my other big concern was that my vampires should actually make some sense as far as science goes. So I started doing some vampire research, reading a bunch of books about ratsparasitesbites and stings, and biology.
After consuming all there was to know on these subjects, I came up with the four important features that any vampire novel (of mine) had to include:
natural selection,
sexual attraction,
parasitic infection,
and Elvis memorabilia."
Read on, my friends! 

So Yesterday

So there's this really hip dude, Hunter, and he's a cool hunter. He finds and 
sells new trends to his corporate sponsor. He goes to 'cool tastings', or product testings. 
He finds what's cool, before it's cool, and then the sponsors make it cool. Until Hunter
meets Jen, a real-life Innovator. And together they go on a crazy adventure which
begs the question: Is cool real or not real? Is it real because we make it real?
Because we think it's real? Or is cool really cool on its own? 

The whole time I was reading So Yesterday, it felt like I had read it before. But it felt super current, so that couldn't possibly be true. So I checked the publication date. 2004. Wow. Guess not too much has changed. And it's possible I've read it. I don't think I have, but whatever. I digress. Back to the book. It was okay. A little predictable. No engaging characters. And let's be real: kind of a lame plot. But, you know, if you're bored and there's nothing else around, give it a go. You won't hate it. 

The Night Dance

"A person's fortune may rise or fall as the wheel of fate spins,
 but a person's character remains constant"

The Night Dance is Suzanne Weyn's version of "The 12 Dancing Princesses." She felt the original story was missing something, missing the why, so she wrote her own. Weyn places her tale in Arthurian times and it includes the legends of that time as well, especially of Lady of the Lake, as well as elements of a romance novel. It was a cute little story, but not anything special. I would have just as much enjoyed reading the picture book I had of "The 12 Dancing Princesses" when I was a child. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Tent

The Tent  is set up like a book of short stories; Atwood prefers to call them "mini-fictions", but to me, they almost seem like brainstorming blurbs, spurts of inspiration, or trains of though. This is definitely the weirdest and least favorite of my Atwood reading so far. I did like the following: "Three Books I won't write soon", "Bring Back Mom", "Tree Baby", and "But it could still". I especially like that in "But it could still" it gives the message that despite everything, it could still turn out alright. "Tree Baby" was also very touching. 

These little redeeming gems, though, didn't overcome the rest of the drudgery that just didn't work for me. 

Cat's Eye

Of all of Margaret Atwood's novels, Cat's Eye is most close to The Robber Bride. It's got a similar setting and similar characters, but it's more of a coming-of-age story. To be honest, I kept expecting a Jodi Picoult-style twist, and it never came. Like The Robber Bride, Cat's Eye is mostly told in flashbacks, starting with WWII, as it approaches the present of the 1980s, and discusses many of the cultural changes at that time, especially feminism. 

I really liked Cat's Eye, but at the same time, I kept waiting for the twist, waiting for the "so what?" of the story. It was good, but not my favorite Atwood. It was the Atwood version of a mean girls story, and how one must work to overcome it, but I didn't really like or need the grown up point-of-view. I felt like it didn't add too much to the story, but at the same time, we couldn't see the growth and change without the difference of time. 

So, it didn't really live up to my expectations, but at the same time, I don't feel like I wasted my time reading it. I did enjoy it and I recommend it as a coming-of-age or coming-to-terms-with-life novel. 

Read on! 

Pioneer Day

SUU Athletics put on "Thunder at the Beach" up at the res for Pioneer Day, and Cass and I thought it would be fun to go and get out of the house. Plus, they were giving out free shirts with a picture of Cam Levins, an SUU athlete who gets to run in the Olympics this summer, on them to the first 500 attendees. 

We left early, expecting a big crowd, but when we got to the res, there was hardly anyone there. We got out of the car and it was super windy! 
It wasn't quite noon yet (starting time) so we read our books despite the wind and the very cloudy sky. 

"Thunder at the Beach" turned out to be quite a foreshadowing name. Within a few minutes we were making a mad dash to the car & deciding if we should leave or if the rain would let up. The rain quickly turned into a torrential downpour. We decided to head home. Lame day! 

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Robber Bride

The Robber Bride is a different sort of novel than what I was expecting from Margaret Atwood, but it was still a hard book to put down! The title references 
the Grimm Brothers' fairy tale: The Robber Bridegroom which I had never heard of before, but you can read here

Atwood is writing to her age group in this tale, which is an older deomgraphic than I usually read, but it was still intrinsically an Atwood novel.  The narrative rotates between three old friends, Tony, Charis, and Roz, as well as the past and the present.  The three women are tied together by one more woman, Zenia, and the university the four attended.  Zenia, the dead and the vil, ties these women together as she destroys their lives, betrays them completely, but she never gets a chance to tell her story (though I would have loved a Zenia point-of-view!). 

The women think they have moved past Zenia and the pain she has caused, until they see her while they're out to lunch, or at least, they think they do. Is Zenia still alive? And how can she hurt them now? 

As I already said, I could hardly put this down.  This was a great novel. I loved it. Read it & read on!

Distant Waves

Well, folks, now that I'm caught up on blogging about my life, I think I'll start blogging about books again :) 

Distant Waves by Suzanne Weyn tells the story of a young girl named Jane as she comes to age in a world of mysticism, Tesla, and the Titanic. Jane's mother, a medium, is down-on-her-luck, and after a strange encounter with Tesla, she moves her family to the town of Spirit Vale, which is fully of mediums. Jane's mother and twin sisters are quite sold on the idea of mysticism, but Jane isn't quite convinced. 

Jane and her older sister are working hard to make it on their own, outside of Spirit Vale.  Jane encounters Telsa again, she even has a little crush on his assistant, and makes Tesla the subject of her article for a journalism contest. 

Thanks to mysticism, Jane and her family end up on England, and then the Titanic. Disaster, obviously, ensues, and Tesla may be involved!

I found Distant Waves  to be an interesting YA Historical Fiction read, though it was a little more speculation than actual history when you come right down to it. It was a cute book, nothing amazing, but I liked it well enough. Plus, Tesla's pretty awesome!

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Since we were already up north for Michael's homecoming, we made plans to see Morrell 
and Carma on Monday night for dinner. We ate at Z'Tejas and it was delicious! And then, since we were already that far up north, we figured we could meet up with Cass's
friend Forbes. We decided to to meet at Trafalga, and since it's only in Lehi, Cass thought we
should invite Jordyn, because it's so much more fun with a kid! Jordyn thought it was a
great idea, too, and had a blast playing with us!
(and I just used "since" waaaaay too many times in this paragraph!)

We raced go-carts, played mini-golf while we got to catch up with Forbes and Jenni. We had a great time, even though we all suck at mini-golf. But I did beat Forbes at the go-carts, or, at least, run into him and almost pass him, so we had a fun day!

we raced in the batmobile go-cart

"I'm Doctor Gregory House!"

trying really hard to get the balls in the hole!

Forbes and Cass doing the same thing as the kiddos!

Jordyn just got a little nervous on the frog hopper,
 but she rode it three times!
The Forbes Family had to head back up north around four, but we stayed and played a little bit longer. We rode the go-carts again, went on the water-spraying boats, played some arcade games, and made a 10x return on our tokens for tickets, which we used to get "sticky hands." Jordyn's choice, obviously. I would have picked candy, but they didn't have anything good!

Jordyn almost always gets upset when I leave, especially when she doesn't know when I'm coming back up. So when we were getting read to leave my mom's house and head back to Cedar for who-knows-how-long, we had this little exchange:

"We had such a fun day today, don't ruin it by throwing a fit."
"Don't ruin it by leaving!"

I couldn't help but laugh, especially when she followed it with, "Ooooh, burn!"

We had a great day at Trafalga and loved playing with Jordyn and the Forbes Family!

Michael's Home!

My little brother Michael got home from his mission last week, and while we 
weren't able to make it to the airport, we came up the next day to spend
time with him & the family and attend his homecoming.

 After running some errands with everyone, we picked up Jordyn from Art Camp. 

Proud artiste Jordyn
We had a great weekend with Michael home and the whole family together! Two of our cousins, Whitney and Tara, trekked down from BYU-I for the fun. We hardly ever get to see each other, so it was great for them to come visit. We played lots of games (I royally lost at Five Crowns), ate lots of food, and spent lots of time just hanging out and catching up on Saturday.

Michael's talk on Sunday was really neat. He shared some great stories 
and I really felt the spirit! It was great to see some folks from the old 
neighborhood, too, who I don't ever get to see. Homecomings are the best!

And now, of course, for the pictures! 

Matthew, me, Whitney, Cassidy
the whole gang! 
crazy face!
Whitney & Jordyn "being puppies!"

We had such a good weekend and I loved seeing everybody!
Welcome home, Michael!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Whitaker Visit!

Because of Cass's job duties this summer, it's been hard for him to get out of Cedar. So a few days after I got back from Darci's wedding weekend, Chris, Nathan, Pyper, and Dylan came down to visit us! Dylan is a just a *teeny* bit of a workaholic, so they came down Tuesday after he got done at work. Wednesday we played at the park and had Cass give us a tour of campus. That night Chris and Nathan went to Les Miserables at the Shakespeare Festival, so Dylan and Pyper came to chill with us. Luckily for Cass, Pyper wanted to watch his favorite movie: How to Train Your Dragon. After that, Cass picked The Borrowers, which I didn't think I had watched but it felt super familiar. Plus I just love John Goodman, even when he's the evil villain! And Hugh Laurie! So young! And, apparently, it's a great flick for Harry Potter fans: Arthur Weasley, Draco Malfoy, and somebody named Slughorn are also in The Borrowers.

On Thursday we went to the Parowan Gap to look at the petroglyphs. Some people think they're just old graffiti, but I thought they were super neat! 

the "zipper 'glyph"

"I'm king of the rock!!"

Pyper by the 'glyphs

Dylan in his cave

After our field trip to Parowan Gap, we went to the res. Who knew that Cedar City had a res?

Dylan went further out than anyone else

Pyper had a blast playing in the water!
We loved having the Whitakers (and Dylan!) come and visit!
You're welcome to visit any time! 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Of Bachelorettes and Bruises

July has been a super busy month for me so far!
So while I haven't blogged in a bit, I do have lots to blog about!

Two weeks ago was Darci's wedding weekend. Cass was on-call and had lots of work responsibilities, so I drove myself up. It wasn't a bad drive, and I got to listen to my nerdy podcasts, until it started raining. Turns out the driver's side windshield wiper isn't very effective! 

The bachelorette party started with a pole dancing class at Onyx Pole and Aerial Fitness Studio. As you can see from the name, the focus is more than just looking sexy. And WOW! It is hard work! I found myself thinking, "Gosh! I can do all this stuff without a pole in dance, why is it so hard now?!?!" Plus, I have absolutely no upper body strength! Hard stuff, ya'll!

All sweaty after class!
Natalia, me, Whitney, Jessie, Darci, Jill

Jill's baby, Kylie
Darci, showing off her new abilities!
"Go upside down!"

You can't see it very well, but I got an awesome bruise on my calf and shin!
I got more little purple bruises on my inner thighs, but I thought I'd keep those out of sight . . .
We played some crazy games after the pole dancing class and Jill made us dinner. It was delicious and we had a great time, and Darci gave us some super cute stuff! 
bridesmaids presents: including self-made earrings and necklaces!
the note she included
The wedding ceremony was on Saturday and we were all to get ready together at Darci's apartment. However, I woke up super sick that morning. I slept as much as I could before it was time to go up to Darci's, but I still felt gross. Unfortunately (for everyone!), I kept throwing up at Darci's and they sent me home! I'm sad I missed out on all the wedding fun, but Darci and Tyler had a great wedding day and it was great to see Darci! 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Girl Time!

This past week my mom and sisters came down to visit, and this is the only picture I got!

Ammon had football camp down here at SUU, and my mom, being the good chauffeur that she is, drove Am & his friends down to Cedar. Jenn and Jordyn came along for the ride so we could have a little girls vacation! 

They got down here Sunday night. Jordyn was super hyper after the car drive and all she wanted to do was run around! Jord  slept on our couch that night, probably so she could have poptarts for breakfast :) 

Monday morning Jord and I headed over to the hotel & we played in the pool with Jenn.  Mom just hid in the shade. After Cass got off work, we all went to the theater to see Brave. It was a cute movie. Not what I was expecting from the commercials, but I liked it.  Jordyn, of course, LOVED it! After dinner we went back to the hotel to play in the pool again. We practically had to force Jord out of the pool when we got cold! 

Tuesday we went down to St George to do some shopping. Mom got some really good deals on clothes for Jord and some non-gender specific baby clothes. Gap was 40% off on top of them already being marked down, so I was able to get Cass some jeans without holes in them! Yay!

Wednesday we went to Park Discovery so Jordyn could play and then headed back to the pool that afternoon. Jordyn even got brave and quit requiring her floaty! After dinner we had a little nail painting party & then Mom made funnel cakes. Delicious! 

It was great to have some girl time & I loved having my mom and sisters down to visit! We had a great time!