Wednesday, May 30, 2012

9 Months of Expectations, 3 Months of Disappointment

Where do I even begin?? I guess the start is a logical place to begin.

Here is my journey thus far...

I arrive at the University of Maryland after taking 2 flights, a bus, 2 metro rails and a cab. I have never been more excited to stop traveling. I meet up with my awesome roommate Lisa, and we discover happy hour at Applebees.

*Friday* Lisa and I trek across campus for our first day of pre-departure orientation. We meet the group there are 13 students, 2 translators, and a group leader. We immediately get the shit scared out of us by a guest speaker who insists that we will: be robbed of all our possessions, get roofied by aggressive men who, best case scenario, just want to date rape us, and be followed by government officials and turned into sleeper agents for the KGB. The entire class immediately regrets signing up on the trip. After orientation, we have hours to kill so Matt, Lisa, and I eat at a local diner, smoke hookah,and watch the weather channel.

We sweat our way towards our last day of orientation (thank you Maryland for 80% humidity) and the professor convinces us that Russia is not as sinister as our guest speaker made it out to be. After it's over we have nothing left to do, so Lisa and I get our nails done and eat dinner. I then find out my study abroad friend from Ireland is still living in DC so we take the metro and go visit him, he shows us a few bars and then we stumble back to Maryland to go to bed and finally get ready for the big day of traveling.

A shuttle picks us up at the hotel and takes Matt (who is also from Indiana I might add!), Lisa, and I to the Dulles airport nearly an hour away. We get their several hours early and kill time till the rest of the group arrives. Then we take a nearly 8 hour hop across the atlantic and arrive at Copenhagen. From their we head on another plane and arrive at st. Petersburg! More tomm. gotta run, sorry for the typos, writing this on my nook is hard!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My Letter to the Editor

I wrote a letter to the editor in favor of the library and have already received to seething responses. Since you have to be a member of the Daily Journal to access it online I'm copying and pasting it and putting it here. Below that I'm including the first two rebuttals and my responses to them. Enjoy!

Letter: Voters missed chance to improve community

To the editor:
I, for one, congratulate the Johnson County library board for trying to move forward with the Franklin library plan.
After conducting numerous studies and surveys over many years, they, along with many, believed that the residents of Franklin were ready to move forward on the building of a much-needed new library.
Unfortunately for us, the majority of Franklin backpedaled when they realized that a new library would mean a slight increase in taxes. How shameful and cowardly.
Libraries have proved time and again to have a powerful return on investment for communities, but the 74 percent sure showed us that Franklin is not ready to look toward the future.

I would love to know how many of the residents opposed to the library members are actually card-holding members of the library. My guess is that most aren’t and because of their campaign, a vital part of the community is in jeopardy.
I hope that the library can come up with some sort of solution (imagine if the 74 percent weren’t allowed to use library resources — heck, that would sure save us money).
I implore everyone to use the library and see what a positive impact it has on our lives and on the community. We all need to work together and find a way to enlarge and improve our library and not hinder what small resources it has now.
As Eleanor Crumblehulme stated, “Cutting libraries in a recession is like cutting hospitals in a plague.”
Erin Cataldi

Todd Jeffcoat's Response:
No one backpedaled.  The community was very clear in their message up to and including the vote.  The problem was that the library administration did not want to listen - thus wasting our time and money on their pet project.
I carry a library card.  I used to use it often.  I live minutes away from the Franklin Branch.  The circulation manager, the building manager, and the adult services manager are rude and unhelpful.  I no longer use the library system because of that fact.
I also used to work for the Franklin branch, for almost 9 years.  The building manager and the adult services manager...well...let's say I don't believe they correctly followed policy or procedure. I also believe, based on my long experience with them, that serving the public was not a high priority with them.  That's a big reason, I believe, that the public voted against them. That's why I voted against the referendum - because the people who would use the money would misspend it (in my ever-so-humble opinion).
Nothing was 'cut' from the library, Ms. Cataldi.  They still have the resources they had before the referendum.
Your statement "imagine if the 74 percent weren’t allowed to use library resources — heck, that would sure save us money" smacks of segregation, class warfare, and the years of private libraries used by only the privileged few.  If that is indeed your solution, I wish you well, but there's a reason they don't exist - they don't work.
For every one of you who voted for the referendum, there were 3 that voted against.  I guess you missed the point of why the referendum failed. That's your loss, and it's sad.
Jackie Brockman's Response:
 I do not believe anyone backpeddled!Everyone I talked to before the election was very straight forward about their feelings on this and the percentage should show that.If a new library is needed then let those that actually use it help pay for it, I have not been in the library since the internet came along!Does anyone realize what $30,000,000 would do for the fire and EMS services in this county and that is something everyone needs!
My Response (again...)
To Miss Brockman,
First off, it was not going to be $30,000,000 it was only going to be $25,000,000 but no one seems to get past the fact that the total project cost is not the amount that people would be taxed on. Private donations were also not factored in.

Second off, major loss on your part Miss Brockman for not using the library. You may have firemen to keep your house and property safe, but you aren't doing your intellectual side any favors by not utilizing one of the best resources in town. The internet only provides so much. Google can bring you back 1 million answers, but a librarian can bring you back the right one. Everyone needs a library as much as they need proper EMS and fire services.

To Mr. Jeffcoat, 
Many people did in fact backpedal, I'm not talking about in the past few months, but in the past few YEARS. I honestly don't even want to respond to your condescending rebuttal. I'm sorry you haven't had a great library experience but shutting out the library isn't the way to handle things. The referendum failed because people only saw dollar signs and refused to look at the benefits of the project. Correct me if I'm wrong but out of that 74% you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who actually knew any of the members on the board were or carried a library card. 

I personally have a great experience at the library, the staff is phenomenal, and I have never once seen them mistreat a patron or do anything but go above and beyond. It might be your bitterness and cynicism towards the library that makes your experiences sub par. I encourage you to use the library before the people of Franklin hold another referendum to disband the library in order to save their pocketbooks.

2 Reviews for the Price of One

So I was in reading mode and I knocked out a young adult novel and a graphic novel in one day, rather then write two blog posts I'll just combine them both on here. Enjoy! Oh, and I leave for my study abroad trip tomorrow so I won't be posting any book reviews for a few weeks, possibly just trip updates. Wish me luck!

Phew, what a read. I was hesitant to read this book at first. I think I assumed that it was going to be like all the other teen paranormal romance or something and I have never been happier to be proved wrong.

"Born Wicked" is the first in the Cahill Witch Chronicles Series and I know I'm going to have to read the others when they're published. The book ends in such a cliffhanger that it'a maddening and you have to, HAVE to, know more!

The story follows Cate, the oldest of three sisters who has cared for and raised her younger sisters since the untimely death of their mother some years before. There's only one complication. They're witches just like their mother was, but they can't let anyone know. The Brotherhood hunts witches and in order to stay together and stay safe, they must keep their magical abilities cloaked and hidden from everyone, no one can be trusted with their secret. Things start to get tricky however, when Cate's childhood friend, Paul, comes home from the university and wants to marry her and a governess from the sisterhood moves into the house. Cate has less than six weeks to decide if she'll marry or join the sisterhood, if she can't make a decision the Brotherhood will for her. Cate tries to make the best of the situation and decide what will be best for her and her two younger sisters but the choices are few and the outcome unpredictable.

I LOVED this book, really and truly. I really identified with Cate (although thankfully I'm no witch... I'm sure some people may  argue with that statement though, lol) and the unfairness of her life. I sympathized being an oldest child and I understood her frustration towards her sisters when they acted out and refused to take her seriously. The characters are very well developed and believable, you're sure to have a favorite or two by the end of the book. A must read, full of suspense, intrigue, and plot twists more crooked that a witch's nose.

I received this book for free from GoodRead's giveaway in return for my honest, unbiased opinion.

I didn't hate this book, but I didn't love it either. For a graphic novel, it is merely so so.

The story follows a young woman, Chase, who has a condition that sucks the life out of the men that love her. She doesn't mean to but she leaves a trail of bodies in her wake. She needs love in order to survive, but the longer she stays with a man the more they age until she has sucked every last bit of life out of them. Chase goes on the run when her boyfriend of nearly a year dies (because of her love) and the authorities think that she was responsible for it (yes). The Man, a real life super hero who is more like Chase than either of them could imagine, starts to track her down, what will happen when the authorities catch up with her?

Like I said so so, but some of the graphics were really amazing. Which is probably the only reason I'm hanging onto this and not selling it back to Half Price Books where I bought it.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Dream Lake

Having just read the first book in Lisa Kleypas' Friday Harbor Trilogy last week, I was eager to continue the series. So eager in fact, that I read this book in half a day. Fun, fast, easy, and romantic, not necessarily something you would re-read but a nice way to pass the time and put you in a better mood.

Unlike the last novel the story focuses on Zoe, Lucy's friend and minor character in "Rainshadow Road." Zoe's grandmother takes a turn for the worst and Zoe wants to bring her to the island as soon as possible to care for her personally. In order to do that she has to restore her grandmother's long neglected cottage so she has a safe place to care for her grandmother. Enter Alex Nolan, Sam's youngest, unruly and alcoholic brother. Having recently gone through a divorce that emptied his bank account, Alex is hard pressed for money and he renovates Zoe's cottage to get some cash and get away from booze. Things get interesting when a ghost starts following Alex around, the ghost remembers nothing of his former life but relies on Alex to help him remember. They form an unlikely duo and the ghost helps Alex rid himself of his drinking addiction and realize what a catch Zoe is.

The ghost aspect of the story sounds cheesy, but surprisingly it's not. I love how this story subtly ties in with "Rainshadow Road," I would highly recommend that they are read in order to get the full effect. I eagerly await the third installment, "Crystal Cove," which will be released in February of next year.

I received this book for free from GoodReads Giveaways in return for my unbiased honest opinion.

And the Bride Wore Blue

This book was literally a breeze to get through. Mona Hodgson ( continues her Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek series with this third installment. 

The story follows young Vivian Sinclair as she moves from Maine to the "wild west" to join her three older married sisters. On the train ride over, bandits break onto the train and steal the cash box, but not before Vivian accidentally trips one of them. Her accidental heroics lead her to meet charming young Sheriff, Carter, who is immediately impressed with her sass and charm. Although she begins to develop feelings for him, she tries to avoid him by working hard at finding a job designing gowns. She "soiled" herself in Maine and doesn't think that she will ever find joy in family life like her sisters because no man will take a tainted woman (a secret that haunts her). The story grows more intriguing as the bandits bring havoc to the normally quiet town and Vivian is forced to take a job that no real lady would ever consider. Will Vivian ever forgive herself and move on? Will Carter ever catch the bandits and the girl? Read on to find out!

The story (like many historical Christian romances" was slightly predictable, that being said it wasn't a bad read. It was fast and easy (like Vivian? haha, I couldn't resist)and will be a perfect beach read. 

"I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review."

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Are You LISTENING to Me?!

So I got a "job" as a freelance audio-book reviewer for "The Library Journal" and I received my first audio-book in the mail 4 days ago. I said surprise me with a suspense/thriller and I got David Baldacci's, "The Innocent." I was all excited until I realized it was 10 discs long and 12 hours and 15 mins. I could have read the whole damn book in 3 or 4 hours! Woof. So after 4 grueling days of listening I finally got it finished. Audio-books would be great for road trips and stuff but it's hard to fit into a normal schedule. I painted my nails, attempted to write a letter (but then I stopped concentrating on listening), cleaned the basement, and laid on the sofa staring wistfully at the radio. It's tough work doing all that listening! I'm hoping the next audio-book they send me is a lighter, shorter listen. Gosh I'm a cry-baby. 

"The Library Journal" has very specific standards and word counts so here is the review I submitted to them (Also, I don't have the copyright to it anymore... I think. So that's my disclaimer, lol. I'll let you all know if it get's published in their magazine anytime soon!).

Baldacci, David. The Innocent. 10 CDs. 12 hr., 15 min. AudioGo. 2011. ISBN 9781611131680. $89.99.
David Baldacci’s ( twenty-fourth novel introduces agent Will Robie into his best-selling world of crime and suspense. Will Robie, an assassin for the US government, finds himself fleeing from his own agency after a seemingly routine mission goes badly. While on the run he forms an unlikely alliance with a fourteen year old girl whose parents have been brutally murdered. Together they try to stay one step ahead of the people trying to kill them and attempt to put together the pieces of the nasty entanglement they find themselves in. The action is fast and non-stop and the narration by Ron McLarty and Orlagh Cassidy is crisp and realistic.  They switch between characters with ease and keep perfect pace with the ever quickening plot. Of interest to Connelly and Grisham fans. – Erin Cataldi, Indiana University, Indianapolis, IN.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Breathtaking Beach Read

I was due for a light-hearted sappy romance and this definitely fit the bill. I've never actually read anything by Lisa Kleypas so this was my first foray into her brilliant realm of romance and I wasn't disappointed. Romance novels aren't on the top of my list to read but every once in a while you just gotta give in.

"Rainshadow Road" follows glass-maker Lucy as her life starts to spiral out of control. Her boyfriend of two years breaks up with her and announces that he's been sleeping with her sister, Alice (a character you love to hate!). Lucy is heartbroken and turns to her stained glass art and two best friends. When she finally "stumbles" into good looking Sam Nolan, a vineyard owning islander, she backs away and hides because she can't take anymore heartbreak, even though he is really interested in her.

The story is beautifully crafted with well rounded characters who are admirable while still being realistic by having faults. The scenery jumps alive on the page and I would pay money to see some of the stained glass that Lisa Kleypas so beautifully brings to life.

A good quick read perfect for the upcoming beach season. This is the first novel in the Friday Harbor Trilogy  so there will be good reading all summer long!

I received this book for free from GoodReads Giveaways in return for my unbiased honest opinion.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"The Mule Tamer II: Chica's Ride" by John C. Horst

Wowsers. I thought the first book in this series was great, but it had nothing on this intense sequel. "The Mule Tamer II: Chica's Ride" is action packed from the get go. It's all up in your face and makes the the first novel in the series look like a bedtime tale.

The story starts off with the abduction of Arvel and Chica's eight year old daughter by a bunch of merciless Mexican bandits. Chica hatches a plan to get her daughter back and enlists Arvel's mother, Alice Walsh, to help her. Arvel surprisingly isn't the hero of the story. Having just suffered a stroke, he is bedridden and heartbroken . He wants to rescue his daughter but he can't get out of bed.

Rebecca suffers along with other captives as they're toted deep into Mexico. The gang is known for the ruthlessness towards women and to life and Rebecca's good looks and youth save her from initial raping, but "the gold hat" wants her to be part of her harem. Will Chica rescue her in time? Read this story and find out. I promise you won't be able to put it down. I can't wait to read the third installment!

I received this book for free from the author in return for my unbiased, honest opinion.

Monday, May 14, 2012

“In America you can always find a party. In Russia the party always finds you.”

In less than two weeks I will be in St. Petersburg! Ahh! Excitement, butterflies, panic, vodka, anticipation, nervousness! I should follow up by saying that I HOPE to be in Russia in two weeks. Everything is banking on the Russian visa that I have yet to obtain. I'm hoping to get it in the next week, if I don't get it I am shit outta luck because those airfare tickets are non-refundable. Woof. Keep those fingers crossed people! I have a lot of money riding on this!

So far I haven't met anyone that I'm traveling with. I've been in correspondence with my soon to be roommate Lisa (if you're reading this you're awesome and we're going to have a blast!) and I can't wait to meet her in person. We're going to be a pretty diverse group of library science students. We've got people from Texas, Indiana, Maryland, and New York, should be a good group! Orientation starts next Friday in Maryland and then we all fly over to "the motherland." We'll be there about two weeks and well get to do loads of awesome stuff. We're going to visit the Hermitage, the Marinsky Theater (to see a ballet!!!), multiple libraries and universities, book shops, cultural sites, and the countryside. I can hardly contain my excitement!

Here are my goals for this trip:
1. Get my damn visa in time so I can actually go
2. Take a picture with at least one tall, sexy, Dolph Lundgren look a like (best case scenario, take him home with me!)
3. Drink vodka with a Russian and live to tell the tale
4. Buy a Harry Potter book written in Russian
5. Go to an underground nightclub
6. Buy at least three nesting dolls to add to my collection
7. Learn a few Russian curse words
8. Pass the class I'm taking so I get my 3 credits

For once I'll be using this blog to do more than write book reviews. Stay posted to hear all about my exploits!!

Friday, May 11, 2012

James Bond + A Cane - English Accent = Thrill Ride

"The Corruptible" by Mark Mynheir is easily one of the best "thriller" novels this year. Admittedly, it started off a bit slow but once the plot began to thicken I was entranced. The characters are highly likable and the plot has more twists and plot turns than a Patterson novel.

The story follows Ray, a retired Orlando police officer turned private investigator, as he tries to solve a case involving a stolen hard drive. Ray takes on the powerful Armon as a client and tries to locate some "highly sensitive" data that was taken from a disgruntled employee. The case sounds simple enough but gets messy when the employee, Logan (an ex-cop that Ray worked with), is found dead in a seedy motel room. Trying to find out who killed Logan and stole the hard drive turns out to be harder than Ray ever expected. Crevis, Ray's trusty partner and roommate, is always at Ray's side protecting him from the never ending stream of bad guys that seem to want to hurt them (a motorcycle gang even comes into play!).

The story is more about solving a case however, Ray starts to realize that he has to face his inner demons as well as helping people solve theirs. Too often he drinks in order to numb the pain of his hip (he was injured in the last novel, causing him to use a cane and retire and start a business of his own) and his friends Crevis and Pam try to warn him. They care for Ray as an employer, but their relationship goes beyond that and they care for him as a friend too.

Definitely a must read if you want to find out how this case ends. Will Ray ever solve Armon's case and discover who killed Logan and stole the hard drive? Will Ray overcome his addiction to Jim Beam? Read to find out!!

"I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review."

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Another Teen Romance....

I'm going to be honest, these "paranormal teen romance" books are not my cup of tea, so please bear that in mind when you're reading my review.

"The Temptation" is a novel about a beautiful young girl, Shane, who falls in love with an ethereal being. Travis, a smoking hot young cowboy rescues Shane from a hideous car wreck and the two become practically inseparable. The only problem is Shane can't explain Travis and all the mystery that follows him to her family and friends so everyone starts to think that maybe the car crash messed with her brain. As she get's closer to Travis, 
Shane realizes that the forces of evil are closing in around them. If that sounds cheesy, that's because it is. It wasn't that it was badly written or anything, I just am NOT a fan of this genre. What is it with young girls falling for supernatural creatures all the time? And it's not like there's a drawn out romance either, they instantly fall in love (think Twilight). 

That being said, if you're a fan of this genre, then you will most definitely love this book. If not, pass it over!

I received this book for free from GoodReads giveaways in return for my unbiased honest opinion. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Middle School Has Never Been Funnier

Even though this book is intended for 3rd to 7th graders I still laughed out loud and plowed through it. "Planet Tad" follows a 7th grade boy's day to day activities as he updates his blog. It's filled with great illustrations and hilarious scenarios. Tad is an observant young boy and the questions he brings up are hilarious. The author, Tim Carvell, is a writer for the Daily Show with Jon Stewart which is evident through his funny and insightful prose. Stephen Colbert reviews it best saying, "This book will make you laugh. If you're not into that sort of thing, consider yourself warned."

I received this book free through GoodReads Giveaways.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

"Fifty Shades of Grey" by E L James

Wow. I don't even know where to start on this one. My first comment is on the highly misleading award on the back, "A GoodReads Choice Award Finalist for Best Romance." This book is not exactly what you would call "romantic." Erotic, check. Sensual, check. Sexually charged, check. Romantic, no. That being said I did enjoy the book and knew what I was getting myself into. After no less than three of my close friends chastised me for not reading this book I knew I had to make it a priority. 

It's definitely a compelling read, you have to find out more. You can't stop reading. It's maddingly addictive. The story follows young Anastasia as she falls head over heels for sexy billionaire Christian Grey who wants to do nothing more than punish her. They form an odd relationship that is quite erotic (as fitting with Christian's tastes) and Anastasia struggles to come to terms with their different notions of love and what makes an appropriate relationship. Of course I will be reading the next two in the trilogy. It's too damn good to put down. This is a great book, but not a light read or for those faint of heart. If you embarrass easily please don't read in public, you'll find yourself blushing every other page. Enjoy!!