Sunday, November 23, 2014

Christmas is just dying for me to celebrate it.

I've made mention how I pretty much hate Thanksgiving and it makes me stressed out and angry. Honestly, if I could skip it and go straight to Christmas, I absolutely would. Christmas is, hands down, my most favorite holiday ever.

As it turns out, Matt is indifferent on basically every holiday so I call him the Grinch. It's so fitting because 98% of the time he's super grumpy and hates life. I, on the other hand, am the Energizer Bunny and I will do it all in a day if I was allowed.

But Matt says no to things like, "Let's put the tree up!". Granted, I asked several times since the start of November and he constantly says no. He says things like, "Tradition in this house is we do it Black Friday. We've done it that way every year, we can't change now." And then I think, I could probably haul the god damn tree up myself and figure it out when he's at work.

I fear though, that he would totally lose it and kill my Christmas spirit.

What he can't kill or sabotage is absolute reason. Because as it turns out, I'm right almost all of the time. Except last year I failed us when it came to our visit to Bentleyville and I couldn't feel my face by the time we left because I was convinced it would get warmer than 20 degrees so let's just wait it out despite crazy reports we were going to have a record cold year.

Because coincidentally, the one time the weather people are actually correct around here, is the day we decided to do Bentleyville when it was below zero and I thought we were all going to die waiting to see Santa.

This year? This year was going to be my redemption. When Matt told me that it was going to be 36 degrees out both Saturday and Sunday? I decided we were going. We were going even though I had been up well over 24 hours straight waiting for my niece to be born at the hospital, despite feeling totally out of whack because I forgot my blood pressure medication while at said hospital, despite  not eating because I hadn't eaten in well over 15 hours and now was beyond nauseous. Oh yes, we were going to go.

So we did.

Chances are that you have never been to Duluth, MN so you wouldn't have any idea how completely fun and gorgeous Bentleyville is. It's basically the entire Bayfront Festival Park decorated in Christmas lights. It's a massive under taking, and Matt every year tells me to stop telling him he's capable of this in our yard. (For the record, he IS capable, the problem is he is unwilling.)

But we go once a year every year and it's always a bunch of fun. It's also usually the coldest ever because it's right on Lake Superior and almost always we are dealing with wind of the lake cold enough to make your nipples fall off.
This year, we got there and were the last people to get in line for Santa. He leaves at 9pm every night so they close off the line at some point so he can get out of there. Well we were dead last which is totally fine. What isn't fine, and you can't ever fully prepare yourself for, is standing for two hours in a line to see Santa when you are so cold you want to cry, but don't because you know it'll just freeze on your face. And it was warm, compared to our winter standards, at 37 degrees. But that doesn't matter when you are just standing in the same spot for two hours.

Needless to say, but by the time we got to Santa I was firmly over it.
 Jackson asked him for an electronic keyboard and Olivia asked for Girls World magazines. I appreciate that my kids always ask for reasonable things unlike the brats in front of us who asked for two American Girl dolls, a power scooter, a new bike, and tickets to Disney World. Good luck with that, mom.

And just like every other year where it's totally freezing, I can't tell you what the second half of Bentleyville looks like because we hustle through it with limited movement in our feet because we're frozen to the bone.

The one sweet thing was that Olivia kept saying things like, "Just think, next year we'll have a baby with us." and I thought that was kind of adorable. And I hadn't even thought of it, but it's true. And I refuse to be that asshole trying to push a stroller in snow. So now I have to see if the carrier I picked out on my registry is big enough to accommodate a baby in snow pants and a jacket..

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Someday I won't be plagued by anxiety, right?

I'm sorry I've been kind of missing in action this last week. I swear once I get a few things off my plate I'll be able to sit and just let it all out and talk about the things happening right now.

Largely, the biggest one I've got going on that I'm juggling is that I start a new job tomorrow. I'm going to be the library assistant at my kids' school which is equal parts terrifying and exciting. I'm scared mostly because I haven't ever worked in a library before and I have zero knowledge of it. Well, the only knowledge I have is that I go to the library myself quite a bit but it's not like I have to ever search for something, I basically just grab what looks interesting. Here, I'll have to help kids find the book they are looking for with very vague descriptions.

Should be a total breeze.

My plan had been to work both that job and my job at the college bookstore, at least until the baby was born in May. After that, I'd likely have to give up at least one, and it would probably have been the college job only because I don't have a regular shift, and it often requires me to work an open-close shift and from the few day care centers I've called in town, most of them laughed at me when I asked if this kind of schedule would be possible for child care.

And I get it, it's a nightmare schedule. Which was OK for us for awhile, but the more I try to map it out, the less possible it was becoming. And Matt has been pressuring me for a few weeks to get rid of the job for a few reasons and I couldn't. I couldn't because I actually love the job I did. I love the tedious stuff, I love shelving books, I love returning books, I love interacting with the students, I loved merchandising and trying different ways to get people into the door for sales, I loved my boss, I loved my co-workers, there's just a lot of things I really loved about that place. But once I got my schedule for the school, it's not workable with my other job and I left on Thursday feeling like the worst person in the world because I knew someone was going to get the shaft because I can't do it all.

So on Friday, I put my notice in at the college. I almost vomited when I did because I'm terrified. I'm scared this isn't the right decision though everyone says it is and my gut tells me it'll be OK. I'm scared I won't do well at the new job and they'll not want me back. I'm scared I won't be able to find affordable child care in the fall so I could go back to work.

It's obvious this is just a thing I have inherited from my mother- I can't make a decision without feeling absolutely sick about it for days. I still feel sick about it. I think mostly because I feel like I'm letting everyone down. I feel like nothing I do is right anymore, I feel like nobody really understands what a crap spot I'm in right now. I'm stressed out and I'm sad. I just want to be happy, to enjoy my life right now and be excited about a baby on the way, and I feel like none of that is happening because everyone looks at it like inconvenience to them. And that's not even work related, that's just everything related.

So that's where I'm at. The next two weeks are going to be emotional for me, I have my 16 week checkup on Friday, I'm going to be overwhelmed learning something new and saying goodbye to something I love, and then in the middle of it all, I'm trying to make Christmas as stress free as possible. Which is quickly proving to be a total joke.

The Supernatural Enhancements

I have wanted to read this book since I heard it was coming out and I read a teaser chapter quite awhile ago. Then I tried to win a copy off of Goodreads and SURPRISE! I totally won! It was my first win off of there, so obviously that was exciting. Then I read this right around Halloween because it's nice and creepy, but it is also a mystery/thriller book so you can read this anytime.

The Supernatural Enhancements - Edgar Cantero
The Supernatural Enhancements
What begins as a clever, gothic ghost story soon evolves into a wickedly twisted treasure hunt in The Supernatural Enhancements, Edgar Cantero's wholly original, modern-day adventure.

When twentysomething A., the unexpected European relative of the Wells family, and his companion, Niamh, a mute teenage girl with shockingly dyed hair, inherit the beautiful but eerie estate of Axton House, deep in the woods of Point Bless, Virginia, it comes as a surprise to everyone—including A. himself. After all, he never even knew he had a "second cousin, twice removed" in America, much less that the eccentric gentleman had recently committed suicide by jumping out of the third floor bedroom window—at the same age and in the same way as his father had before him . . .

Together, A. and Niamh quickly come to feel as if they have inherited much more than just a rambling home and a cushy lifestyle. Axton House is haunted, they know it, but that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the secrets they slowly but surely uncover. Why all the suicides? What became of the Axton House butler who fled shortly after his master died? What lurks in the garden maze and what does the basement vault keep? And what of the rumors in town about a mysterious gathering at Axton House on the night of the winter solstice?

Told vividly through a series of journal entries, scrawled notes, recovered security footage, letters to Aunt Liza, audio recordings, complicated ciphers, and even advertisements, Edgar Cantero has written a dazzling and original supernatural adventure featuring classic horror elements with a Neil Gaiman-ish twist.

Seriously, this book is straight screwed up but in the best way possible. I will say that even though I was ridiculously excited for it and it has an amazing cover, I struggled to get through it. It's certainly not a fast read and I think that's because so much information is covered in it. That, and the story flip flops between A's point of view, Niamh's point of view (which is interesting considering she's a mute), letters to A's aunt, transcribed recordings, etc- it's really hard to keep pace with this book. But the story is incredibly odd and it ends up being the perfect way to tell it. Let's put it this way- it's like the Blair Witch of books. 

The best thing about this book is clearly the ending because I can't even tell you how incredibly brilliant and perfect the ending was. A close second is going to be the fact that the author is constantly surprising you. The story starts like a regular haunted house but it quickly escalates into something truly bizarre, terrifying, and flat out creepy and it really isn't like anything you've read before. Honestly, I feel like I was maybe spoiled for any other book in it's genre because it's going to be hard to pass this one up. The entire book is basically a riddle full of weird codes you have to decipher and it's probably a good thing Niamh is a mute because it enhances her intelligence in other areas and she quickly becomes the brains of the duo as A battles with terrible unexplained nightmares and starts going crazy essentially. Which is exactly what happened to the relative that died- he slowly went nuts and killed himself, which is how A finds himself inheriting this house. But once you find out why all of this has happened? It's pretty creative and downright strange. 

I'd have to give this a 4/5 stars. I can't give it that last start because it was cumbersome and rather difficult to get through, but I am very glad I didn't give up on this. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Bitter Greens

You want to talk about a lofty book? This is it. Easily.

Bitter Greens - Kate Forsyth
Bitter Greens
The amazing power and truth of the Rapunzel fairy tale comes alive for the first time in this breathtaking tale of desire, black magic and the redemptive power of love
French novelist Charlotte-Rose de la Force has been banished from the court of Versailles by the Sun King, Louis XIV, after a series of scandalous love affairs. At the convent, she is comforted by an old nun, Sœur Seraphina, who tells her the tale of a young girl who, a hundred years earlier, is sold by her parents for a handful of bitter greens...

After Margherita’s father steals parsley from the walled garden of the courtesan Selena Leonelli, he is threatened with having both hands cut off, unless he and his wife relinquish their precious little girl. Selena is the famous red-haired muse of the artist Tiziano, first painted by him in 1512 and still inspiring him at the time of his death. She is at the center of Renaissance life in Venice, a world of beauty and danger, seduction and betrayal, love and superstition.

Locked away in a tower, Margherita sings in the hope that someone will hear her. One day, a young man does.

Award-winning author Kate Forsyth braids together the stories of Margherita, Selena, and Charlotte-Rose, the woman who penned Rapunzel as we now know it, to create what is a sumptuous historical novel, an enchanting fairy tale retelling, and a loving tribute to the imagination of one remarkable woman.

Yes, it's a re-telling of Rapunzel. Yes, it's really long and it's really hard to get through. Yes, it is absolutely worth it. I will say that because I confess to getting bored with this at several points and wanting to actually give it up. I did not, because I'm kind of a fan of classic stories being re-told and I figured I had already gotten this far, I'm this much invested, I'll keep plugging along. And I'm really glad because though for a good chunk of the book I had no idea how Kate was going to tie three stories (all different time periods, no less) together and make it seem logical to the story of Rapunzel. Somehow, she did it. Do I think chunks could be removed? Yes. Very much so. It's just so boring in parts that I fear a lot of less dedicated readers would give up, especially those who aren't avid readers as it is. 

But we have the store of three women: Margherita, the young girl stolen from her family because her father stole bitter greens from Selena Leonellia (La Strega), we have Charlotte-Rose, who is sent away from Louis XIV court because she basically sleeps around a little too much, and then the story of La Strega. The story is actually Charlotte-Rose learning of the actual story of Margherita, and then she compares it to her current situation, which is living in a home for nuns and it's treated like a prison, essentially. And we have La Strega, who is kind of like Charlotte-Rose herself because La Strega was basically forced into her situation and does whatever she can to fight the awful things that have happened to her in her life. I didn't care so much about her story, and I was highly interested in Margherita, but Charlotte-Rose was maybe my least favorite character. 

What is highly interesting is that after I finished it, I see how each woman is like Rapunzel. All were taken, all were essentially in a tower, all had injustices done to them, yet all of them remain hopeful. In very different ways. The story itself is extremely complex and I can only imagine the time it would take to not only research French history to get the characters and original story correct, but then to weave in fictional characters so it all feels real- that had to be a mass under taking. 

In the end, I actually loved it. It was so hard to read and get through, I wanted to give up but I am so glad that I didn't. I would have missed a really great ending that ties it all together kind of perfectly. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Things are looking up! *knock on wood*

Seriously folks, 2014 can just kiss it as far as I am concerned. I have to be honest and say this has been one of the most difficult years we've had in awhile and I am so ready for it to be over. I'm not one to wish days away, but I've just about had it and I can only think that 2015 is going to be good to us. Surely we can't have a streak continue, right? But here are some things that are happening in the land of Strand this week:

* there is a slim chance that some of our medical bills are going to be re-submitted to insurance. As it turns out, my prenatal appointments from earlier this year weren't actually coded as such, which is why I have been paying on a ridiculously huge medical bill all of these months. There is a chance, if the hospital agrees to re-code them and resubmit them, that they will get taken care of and I'll be paid back some of what I have already paid. Not by Christmas, I'm sure, but hell- I'll take it when I can get it.

* I honestly think I'm done with the nausea. Sure, this morning I threw up a lot but I think that had more to do with waking up with a raging headache. Anytime I wake up with a headache, I will inevitably throw up during the day, not related to anything else with me or what I eat, but that the pain level just gets to the point where I will throw up.

* I'm 15 weeks along this week! Seriously, next week I'll post a picture. Swearsies. I have to stay consistent with when I took pictures with the other two because I can't have that crazy un-evenness in my scrapbooks. Surely you understand.

* I accepted a part time job at my kids' school as a library assistant. It feels like it's going to be a perfect fit. Right now I am hoping I can keep both part time jobs, at least for awhile yet to catch up on bills and get ready for baby, but we'll see. If I can't make the schedules work, I have to make some tough decisions and I don't like that. I feel guilty no matter what, and I know I shouldn't.

* I am getting ready for Christmas and I kind of love it. Christmas is my favorite holiday, my favorite time of year, and no matter how bad things get- I always look forward to it. I'm trying to plan some fun holiday/winter outings with my kiddos to get every bit out of fun I can out of it.

* I don't think I mentioned how great Matt and I are doing right now. Seriously. We have been spot on with our communication, we feel like a team, and I am blown away at how helpful and supportive he is with this pregnancy. I keep telling him that this is amazing and I love it, and I love him. It feels good to know that I made the right decision when I decided to stick it out through the really awful years, because we are at an amazing spot right now.

OK- more soon. I have some picture updates coming for you... just as soon as I remember where I put my camera. As it turns out, pregnancy brain is an actual thing, and the third time is obviously the charm because this is the first time I've had it. (Did I tell you I keep putting random things in the freezer? Like all of the time, yet have no recollection of it at all?) So I'll find it. I have to. Mostly because I need it soon and we only have the one. But I'm going to look again before asking Matt for help- I think he's starting to worry I have dementia or something. HA!

Made For You

I'm going to say it- maybe one of the best books I've read this year? Certainly one of the few who kept me engaged the entire time!

Made for You - Melissa Marr
Made for You
When Eva Tilling wakes up in the hospital, she’s confused—who in her sleepy little North Carolina town could have hit her with their car? And why? But before she can consider the question, she finds that she’s awoken with a strange new skill: the ability to foresee people’s deaths when they touch her. While she is recovering from the hit-and-run, Nate, an old flame, reappears, and the two must traverse their rocky past as they figure out how to use Eva’s power to keep her friends—and themselves—alive. But while Eva and Nate grow closer, the killer grows increasingly frantic in his attempt to get to Eva.

For the first time, New York Times bestselling author Melissa Marr has applied her extraordinary talent to contemporary realism. Chilling twists, unrequited obsession, and high-stakes romance drive this Gothic, racy thriller—a story of small-town oppression and salvation. Melissa’s fans, and every YA reader, will find its wild ride enthralling.

I absolutely have to add Melissa Marr to my to-read-more-of authors because this book was really great. First of all, creepy ass cover, enticing book description, and really interesting writing and story line. All of these things hooked me from the first word and I had a hard time putting it down. 

Basically it's the story of Eva, who is seemingly the town princess only because of her lineage, and her group of friends. She isn't totally happy and feels a bit restless and just wants to do something outside of what is normally expected of her. Very early in the story we meet the cast of characters, all of which we learn more about throughout the book, and Eva is hit by a car. Not just by any car, but by "Judge" who is fixated on Eva and believes he is sacrificing her. 

Unfortunately for Judge, Eva doesn't die. Instead she's in tremendous pain, her face is scarred, and she can now see how people are going to die when they touch her bare skin. Judge only knows that she is alive and takes this as a sign that he was too hasty and now he has to make it up to her. In order to do that, he starts killing off friends and acquaintances and sends "messages" to Eva which do nothing more than terrify her. And to give it a romantic twist, while this all happens, Nate comes back into Eva's life and she has to figure out who Judge actually is, how to save her friends, and how to save herself. 

For someone who doesn't normally write in the YA genre, Melissa Marr really nails her first attempt. It's everything that you want out of a YA novel, and the writing is superior to a lot of the YA authors out there right now, and that is always an absolute treat. The best part is that it's absolutely creepy and she nails the mindset of a sadistic, religious stalker perfectly. It honestly made me think this could be a really great Lifetime movie- you know the ones you decide you will only watch until the commercial and suddenly you're asking people to bring you snacks because you don't want to miss anything and you're stuck to the end. So good. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Guarded Heart

I haven't read a romance novel in awhile and every time I come back I wonder why do I bother reading anything else since I love these so much. BUT, this is one that I won off of Goodreads, so that's even better!

Guarded Heart - Lisa Andres
Guarded Heart
Jesse Dubicki learned to channel all of his pent up rage into his fists. Now, he's just hired one of the best coaches in the world to help him succeed in becoming a top MMA fighter. Carissa Hart is a woman that has seen more in her young life than many people will in their lifetime. She's finally on her own two feet and determined not to let anyone hurt her again. Jesse's been abandoned by everyone that he's ever loved. Carissa has been abused by everyone that she's ever loved. They are inexplicably drawn to each other. Neither of them wants to be hurt again. Will their relationship survive when a shocking secret from Jesse's past threatens to change their life forever? ****** Author's Note: While this book is part of a series, it can be read as a stand alone novel. The book contains graphic sex scenes and is intended for mature readers.

Full disclosure, I have not read the first Dubicki's novel but it's really OK. I am such a fan of a series that doesn't require you to read things in order because it never fails, I find something once it's already started and I hate feeling like I have to catch up to enjoy my new find. But that's not the case here, and that's perfect. Also perfect is that the book comes in at 158 pages so you can easily knock this one out in an afternoon, or a weekend if you are a slower reader (or have multiple interruptions!). 

The story follows Jesse, an MMA fighter with crap luck in relationships and Carissa, also with crap luck but a history of abuse and neglect that has held her back in life. These two get paired up and it's electric. Carissa acts a bit like a caged animal, she's eager, but absolutely terrified because she can only see the worst case scenario, and then we have Jesse who really likes Carissa but unfortunately for him, a secret from his past will threaten it all. The secret? Well even Jesse doesn't know it until 3/4 of the way in and I can't believe I didn't see it coming. I've read enough romance novels to know that this? This is a common secret but damn, didn't see it coming. 

Of course, Carissa doesn't react well (but does any romance novel female character? No.) and it throws Jesse for a loop and he goes into a downward spiral. I get so angry when the female characters act stupid like this because it's frustrating. Though I suppose not everyone is a rational thinker like me, and maybe it wouldn't make for a compelling read if it was all, "Oh- that sucks but I'm 100% sympathetic and supportive and I fully understand why you withheld this information.", right? So I'll let that go as a complaint. The funny part is that some people say they had a hard time visualizing these characters and I did not. You know who I kept picturing? Ronnie and Sammi from Jersey Shore. No, I'm serious. I didn't even watch that many episodes but no joke, when I look at the cover that's what I see and I can't get the imagery out of my head. So there you go. I've helped you out. 

Overall? I liked this book. It was fast, it was fun, I liked the romantic scenes in the book, and it was a good one to get me out of my rut!