Monday, September 29, 2008

Just One of the Guys by Kristan Higgins

Just One of the Guys is the story about Chastity Virginia O'Neill, youngest child and only daughter in a clan of five children. Standing at nearly six feet tall, she's always just been one of the guys, a tomboy, tagging along after her brothers. A journalist for the local newspaper, Chastity meets a local doctor and things seem to be going pretty well. 

Enter Trevor Meade, family friend and her first love. Though things have seemed to cool down between the two of them, Chastity still loves him, though he still sees her as a friend. Will she find happily ever after, or will she always be just one of the guys? 

I have enjoyed Kristan Higgins previous books, Fools Rush In  and Catch of the Day. As in the previous two books, the setting is the Northeast, in this case upstate New York. Higgins writes a rich setting in a small town, with everyone getting their happily ever after. 

The secondary characters in the story are delightful, probably more so than the main character. My main issue with the book is how the secondary characters are much stronger and tend to overshadow Chastity. I actually wanted to know more about them. The doctor was also painted two-dimensionally, and I had a very hard time liking him. He wasn't a bad guy, he was just a caricature. From the beginning, we know who Higgins wants Chastity to end up with, and it's not the doctor. 

The book reads more like a chick lit than a romance. As with the previous two books, the heroine's love for a certain man seems doomed, but works out fine in the end. 


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Samantha's Lacy Whites

I just bought the above off E-bay for an amount more than it cost before American Girl retired it. Samantha's Lacy Whites include a petticoat, stockings, and a shirtwaist with garters. The petticoat buttons to the shirtwaist. The garters somehow connect to the stockings, but I still can't figure it out. (Which is why I'm thankful for pantyhose.) 

And I'd appreciate any type of clue with the garters! 

I am currently attempting to make this with the patterns I have, but the material I chose was thicker than the fine lawn used in the original one. I'm still working on it, but at least I won't have to figure out how to do garters with that one. 

Friday, September 26, 2008

New Outfits

I've made the next two outfits in the past few weeks and have just had the time to update the blog with the pictures! 

The first is a nightgown from McCall's Crafts 3275.  The patterns are made for Gotz dolls, but they also fit American Girl dolls. I made two nightgowns out of a flannel that Mama Wiebenga gave me over the summer, and the eyelet trim was also from her as well. 

One of the nightgowns went to Hannah and one went to McKenzie. 

The second picture was made using McCall's Crafts 3627.  The outfits do fit the American Girl dolls, though are made for a doll that is a bit thicker in the body.  The material is also from Mama Wiebenga, though the hat and trim is from my own collection. The skirt lies flat because I did not make the "bum roll" that accompanies the patterns. 

This outfit went to McKenzie. 

The Book Store Blues

Florence is not a niche market. There is nothing I'd like more to have a yarn store and a cross-stitch store in town. Instead, I have to go out of town for yarn and buy from Hobby Lobby, which has a little inventory on a lot of items. It's the same deal with bookstores. We have one Used Book Store (UBS) and two chain stores. No independent stores. This if very frustrating for a reader. 

Until as recent as a year ago, we only had one chain bookstore in town. (I won't name names.) I was a captive buyer. The customer service at this store was sketchy to say the least. The help had no clue what the difference between a trade paperback, a mass market paperback, and a hardcover was. I'd come in, looking for a book on its release date, say it was a mass market book, and they'd look with the trades and hardcovers. I told them that it wouldn't be on the tables (Avon Romances generally don't buy table room for their MMPs), I told them the internet said it was out on this date, and they'd tell me that the internet release dates were just for the online stores. 

Don't lie to me. Apparently, I know more about the book industry than these bozos. I know when they're making stuff up because they don't know. I don't make stuff up when a student asks me a question about important stuff, so please don't make up stuff about a book. 

Another issue was the alphabetizing of books by author's last name. They didn't. The history department? Effed up and totally focused on WW2 and the Civil War. The biographies should be shelved according to subject's name, not author's, but half of the section was one way, the other half another way. Is it any wonder I shop online? 

And then the second store opens. Things pick up for a while. Books are alphabetized. Customer service picked up. Sadly, it was not to last. 

And I'd go to the other book store, but it's another ten minutes away through traffic at the mall, and it's too slick. The cafe, the DVDs, the CDs. What happened to a book store? 

Looks like I'll be sticking to the online stores and PaperBack Swap for a while longer. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Widow of the South by Robert Hicks

I'm going to be straight-up honest: the American Civil War is nowhere near the top of my favorite historical periods. I don't have the patience for it and would much rather be slogging through medieval manuscripts. Okay, maybe not manuscripts, but books talking about medieval manuscripts. (I know old paper would be starting my allergies up again, like that thirty year old Antonia Fraser book I have on the Queen of Scots.) I just don't have the patience for a bunch of stupid men , and I hate arguing about how the civil war started (for the record, it's slavery; every other argument leads back to slavery--you're welcome to disagree with me, but I'll still be right). 

Despite this antipathy, I still picked up Robert Hicks' book The Widow of the South. It was on the bargain table at the book store, the cover intrigued me, and the jacket description. Set during and after the Battle of Franklin in Tennessee, the story is based on the true story of Carrie McGavock, whose home was used as a hospital and who later created a cemetery for nearly 1500 dead. 

Hicks weaves history and fiction together in a book that is less about the war and more about the people affected by the war. The Civil War is often seen in military and political terms, with the social impact only being explored in the last half-century. Within the reality of Carrie's story, Hicks created Zacariah Cashwell, a man from Arkansas that spent weeks in the McGavock hospital following the carnage at Franklin. During this time, the two became friends, and an old-fashioned romance blossomed between the two, a link that would hold them together through to the ends of their lives. 

The story is told in alternating points of view, usually either Carrie or Cashwell. The book switches from third person to first person as well, but the transition in voice was so seamless that this did not bother me. Cashwell's first person narrative was very earthy and filled with colloquialisms, while Carrie's narration sounded more from someone who was used to moving in the highest circles. The voices were so different that had Hicks not titled the beginning of each chapter I'd still be able to figure out whose head I was in. When not with Carrie or Cashwell, the narration was various secondary characters either in the army or in town, but only ever enough to move the story forward. 

The characterization was also very good. Each character, even the smallest ones, moved and changed throughout life, the events at the Battle of Franklin marking each person on physical, emotional, and mental levels. Hicks' characters were real, flawed, and likable. When a book is able to capture my emotions (and make me careful about reading it in class, lest I cry in front of my students), I know it's good. Well, unless my emotions tell me to throw it across the wall from boredom. 

But since I was not bored at all with this book, I give it an extra special A+. Thank you, Mr. Hicks, for being captured by the story of the Widow of the South. 

Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris

Dead to the World is the fourth installment in Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse series. The series focuses on a young Louisiana woman with telepathic powers who is pulled into the world of the supernatural. Each book introduces the reader to new parts of the supernatural world, a world that for the most part is unseen to the average human.

It's a new year and Sookie wants to turn over a new leaf, mostly in resolving to stay out of trouble. She thinks this will be pretty easy since her ex-boyfriend, Bill, is in Peru on vampire business. But on the way home from work New Year's Day, she almost runs over Eric, Bill's boss. Eric is half-naked, on the run from someone or something, and has amnesia. This Eric is seductive not through his actions but by the fact that he is so much more likable than his normal undead self. Of course, problems usually come at once in Sookie's life, just like now. 

Eric's condition is due to the fact that he has been cursed by a witch. The witches are on the lookout for him, Sookie's hiding him, and her brother Jason has gone missing. While worrying about keeping Eric safe, she also has to worry about finding her brother. Other supernatural creatures in this book are the werewolves, shape-shifters, and the introduction of Claudine, a fairy. I'm still not sure at Claudine's introduction and hope that Harris has a plan for her. 

I picked up this book because I had just started watching True Blood, the HBO series based on the Southern Vampire series. This book was much easier to get into than it's predecessor, and I enjoyed it so much more. Sookie, unlike Evanovich's Stephanie Plum, has changed over the course of the books and is tired of dealing with what she's gone through. Due to her telepathy, she's hardly normal, but she knows she can't return to her previous life. 

I fully enjoyed the return of Alcide, the werewolf, in this book. I love Alcide, and as far as Sookie's potential and former lovers are concerned, he's right up there for me. That alone made this book a good one for me. The pacing was good, the plot was interesting, and I like how Jason has changed in this book. 


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Project Runway Season 5: Episode 10

I know I've skipped about twenty episodes, and this is probably episode 10 and not 9, but oh, well. That can all be fixed! 

I have really discovered that I love Jerrell. Now that he is interviewed more now that there are six left, his personality shines through. His stories are hilarious! 

I loved when he said, "we were all waiting to see who would get a Hedda Lettuce this time..." 

More later! 

Sunday, September 14, 2008

PS I Love You by Cecelia Ahern

I loved the movie PS I Love You. Love it. The dialogue was snappy, the emotions were real, and it was just real period. Which is why I decided to read the book it was based on, written by Cecilia Ahern, an Irish author. 

I try not to compare things to the source material, but it was so hard here. Having seen the movie first, I kept waiting for those moments I loved to pop up in the book, but they just weren't there. This was the same experience that I had reading the book The Wedding Date was based off of. Both movies are very loosely based off of their source material, and I had a hard time getting off the ground with both books. 

Holly Kennedy just lost her husband after a long battle against a brain tumor. She is having a hard time adjusting to live without Gerry, but she receives a new lease on life when she finds letters her husband left behind. Each month she is to open a new letter with an inspiring message. These letters are his final gift to her, a gift to keep her from merely existing after his death. 

The premise is absolutely lovely and inspiring, but there are some writing issues I can't get past. Ahern rambles as an author, not only showing the reader what a character is like through his or her actions, but telling us in the next paragraph. Most readers are capable of inferring information and don't need to be told as well. And when the reader is told, the reader is told frequently. 
Holly secured her bedsheet onto the washing line with a peg and thought about how she had bumbled through the remainder of May trying to get her life into some sort of order. Days went by when she felt so happy and content and confident that her life would be OK, and then as quickly as the feeling came it would disappear again, and she would feel her sadness setting in once more. She tried to find a routine she could happily fall into so that she felt like she belonged in her body and her body belonged in this life, instead of wandering around like a zombie watching everybody else live theirs while she waited around for hers to end. Unfortunately the routine hadn't turned out exactly as she had hoped. She found herself immobile for hours in the sitting room, reliving every single memory that she and Gerry had shared....

And so on and so forth. Each sentence says the same thing, how Holly wishes to move on but is unable to. I wish the book would move on as well, because it was very hard for me to pick up most of the time. I didn't really care if she moved on or not, because I couldn't get into her character. I'm told there is a depth to her, but for most of the book I see memories of a party girl who loved shopping. 

The book also jumped point of view a lot, and many times I found it difficult to figure out whose head I was in. There were a lot of characters, too, so this was not an easy task at all! 

My grade is a C-. If you want good Irish chic lit,  head for Marian Keyes. 

Saturday, September 13, 2008

My Rap Album

My seventh block is talented. They can freestyle on just about any topic that I throw at them. So, I came up with this brilliant idea: we can make a rap album. 

For each unit, I give them guidelines on what questions their rap has to answer according to South Carolina State Standards (because it always comes back around to the standards--I actually like having standards, but that's another story entirely). Then I'm going to record them and at the end of the year--

We'll have an album. 

They loved the idea. I have a feeling they won't disappoint. :) 

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

Why did the chicken cross the road?

The chicken crossed the road because it realized that this is a time for a CHANGE! The chicken wanted CHANGE! We can all cross the road if we work together. Yes we can!

My friends, it doesn’t matter why the chicken crossed the road; that’s the past. What’s important is that the chicken doesn’t surrender to any ongoing traffic and lose his credibility to those who doubt his commitment to crossing roads.

When I was First Lady, I personally helped that little chicken to cross the road. This experience makes me uniquely qualified to ensure -- right from Day One! -- that every chicken in this country gets the chance it deserves to cross the road. But then, this really isn't about me.......  

The problem we have here is that this chicken won't realize that he must first deal with the problem on 'THIS' side of the road before it goes after the problem on the 'OTHER SIDE' of the road. What we need to do is help him realize how stupid he's acting by not taking on his 'CURRENT' problems before adding 'NEW' problems.  

Well, I understand that the chicken is having problems, which is why he wants to cross this road so bad. So instead of having the chicken learn from his mistakes and take falls, which is a part of life, I'm going to give this chicken a car so that he can just drive across the road and not live his lifelike the rest of the chickens.  

We don't really care why the chicken crossed the road. We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road, or not. The chicken is either against us, or for us. There is no middle ground here.  

We have reason to believe there is a chicken, but we have not yet been allowed to have access to the other side of the road.  

Although I voted to let the chicken cross the road, I am now against it! It was the wrong road to cross, and I was misled about the chicken's intentions. I am not for it now, and will remain against it.

To steal the job of a decent, hardworking American.  

No one called me to warn me which way that chicken was going. I had a standing order at the Farmer's Market to sell my eggs when the price dropped to a certain level. No little bird gave me any insider information.  

Did the chicken cross the road? Did he cross it with a toad? Yes, the Chicken crossed the road, but why it crossed I've not been told.  

To die in the rain. Alone.  

Because the chicken was gay! Can't you people see the plain truth?' That's why they call it the 'other side.' Yes, my friends, that chicken is gay. And if you eat that chicken, you will become gay too. I say we boycott all chickens until we sort out this abomination that the liberal media whitewashes with seemingly harmless phrases like 'the other side. That chicken should not be crossing the road. It's as plain and as simple as that.  

In my day we didn't ask why the chicken crossed the road. Somebody told us the chicken crossed the road, and that was good enough.  

Isn't that interesting? In a few moments, we will be listening to the Chicken tell, for the first time, the heart warming story of how it experienced a serious case of molting, and went on to accomplish its life long dream of crossing the road.  

It is the nature of chickens to cross the road.  

Imagine all the chickens in the world crossing roads together, in peace.  

I have just released eChicken2008, which will not only cross roads, but will lay eggs, file your important documents, and balance your check book. InternetExplorer is an integral part of the Chicken. This new platform is much more stable and will never cra...#!&^ (C%~........reboot.  

Did the chicken really cross the road, or did the road move beneath the chicken?  

I did not cross the road with THAT chicken. This all depends on what the meaning or cross is.

Did I miss one?

Where's my gun?