Friday, June 28, 2013

The Winter Rose by Jennifer Donnelly

IThis is the second installment in Jennifer Donnelly's Tea Rose trilogy.  The first was mostly about Fiona Finnegan and she still plays a part in this one, but the focus of the book is on India Selwyn-Jones.  India is fresh out of medical school (a rarity for a woman in 1900).  She works with a male doctor who is very set in his old-fashioned ways.  India dreams of opening her own clinic to help the impoverished women and children of London.  India's parents are well off and would prefer she marry her ambitious fiance, Freddie Lytton and forget about the clinic.  He also feels that her career as a doctor would be a detriment to his career as an MP.  Freddie is ambitious and conniving and will stop at nothing to get what he wants - including murder and framing others for it.

Freddie's main opposition in Parliament is Joe Bristow - Fiona's husband.  Joe represents the working class area where he and Fiona grew up.  Fiona has two brothers Seamus and Charlie (aka Sid Malone). Seamus is adventurous and is always looking for new expeditions to join - traveling to Antarctica, or climbing mountains.

Sid Malone is a gangster who runs a large syndicate in Joe's district.  India meets Sid when tending to her patients and he helps her get some of the things she needs to help her patients.  While both try to fight their feelings they eventually become secret lovers.  

Fiona worries greatly about her brothers sometimes to the detriment of her relationship with her husband.  As with any good epic novel, there are many other story lines and characters and I definitely enjoyed this.  I even preferred to the Tea Rose and I don't think you have to read the first to enjoy this one.  I look forward to reading the third (and I think final) installment but am taking a break to try some other authors.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Dork Diaries - Tales of a Not-So-Popular Popstar

My daughters LOVE these books.  When the new one was recently released they begged me to buy it on the release day - lucky for them Costco had it.  Since they love them so much I figured I should I should read one and see what all the excitement was about. Also, technically my daughters are on the young side to read these books (9 and 7 years old) and I when I heard them talking about the main characters crush I figured I should see how far things went with this crush.  I asked them which one was their favorite and they agreed on this one.

Anyway, very quick read since it is written as a diary and includes lots of pictures.  Overall it was a lot of fun.  The main character - self proclaimed dork is Nikki.  She attends a private middle school in Westchester New York.  Her family is not well off, she attends the school because she got a scholarship - her Dad is the exterminator for the school.  She is terrified that anyone at the school will find out her secret including her two BFFs - Chloe and Zoey.  The main mean girl is Mackenzie who does anything and everything she can to humiliate Nikki.  To her credit Nikki does stand up for herself sometimes and fires some zingers right back at Mackenzie.  

There is a talent show happening at the school and the main prize is a scholarship to the school.  Nikki believes that she lost her scholarship due to a letter she got from the school canceling her Dad's contract and revoking her scholarship. She's terrified to tell her parents so is determined to win the scholarship instead.  After a few setbacks due to Mackenzie she gets a band together and they come up with a song that they are proud of.  

I can see why my daughters like these books. Aside from my kids using a few too many OMGs in their regular vocabulary, there was nothing inappropriate for them to read.  Also while Nikki is a self-proclaimed dork it's not something she's ashamed of.  She is who she is.  She knows she'll never be one of the CCPs (cute and cool people) but doesn't really seem to mind, which is a nice change.  So many other books for this age focus on wanting to/needing to be popular (or at least they did when I was in middle school - when I was admittedly a dorky bookworm who wished I was more popular)

Monday, June 24, 2013

Tall Pine Polka by Lorna Landvik

I read Angry Housewives Eating Bonbons ages ago and enjoyed it so when I saw this one at our library book fair I figured I'd give it a try.  Like the previous one it is set in Minnesota and includes a whole bunch of characters.  The main ones are Lee O'Leary - the owner of Cup O'Delight - the town coffeeshop and main hangout for the group of friends, Slim Knutson - a Vietnam war vet who works for Lee and suffers from PTSD, Fenny Ness - who works in one of the stores in town and seems content to stay in Tall Pine forever and Big Bill - who is half Hawaiian, half Native American and after being raised in Hawaii comes to Minnesota.

The main plot line is that a movie is going to be filmed in their small town of Tall Pine and when the writer, Christian Freed, is in town scouting locations he sees Fenny and ask her to do a screen test to be the leading lady.  After much debate she flys to LA for the test, and gets the job.  Because the movie is being made in such a small town, everyone ends up getting involved in some way or another, and they usually end up back at the Cup O'Delight to talk about it all.  

Along with the foursome mentioned above the regulars at the Cup O'Delight include an older lesbian couple - Miss Penk and Frau Katte (Miss Penk is the town's only black citizen and Frau Katte is from Switzerland), Mary Gore (who fancies herself a poet but doesn't have any talent and the rest of the bunch all make fun of her) Pete (the local shoemaker (who has a couple of sweet secrets).

Then there are the "Hollywood" characters - Harry Freed (the producer who spends most of the time in LA but is still an important part of the story), Christian Freed (the writer is trying very hard to make it big in Hollywood), Boyd Burch (the lead actor in the movie) Malcolm Edgely (the tyrannical director) and Grace Aisles (a supporting actress who becomes close friends with Fenny

It's a fun book with lots of great characters who are all very well developed.  No one really feels like a minor character cause you get to know them so well. 

While maybe not a traditional summer read (since it takes place mostly in the fall and winter of Minnesota) I would recommend it. As the author says in the interview in the back of my copy, "i prefer character-driven novels, especially when they take you on big, full rides" and she definitely delilvered that with this book 

Saturday, June 22, 2013


For the next ten days I will be on vacation here ^^^^^^ and won't have time to blog.

In the meantime I've scheduled a few of my way overdue book reviews to post.  When I get back I'll fill you all in on our trip.  Until then happy summer and GO HAWKS!!!!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Doctor Vacations

Any spouse/s.o.of a doctor knows there is no such thing as a spontaneous vacation.  In residency we had to pick our weeks off up to a year in advance and now calendars are set in November for the full upcoming year.  Want to take a week off after the call schedule has been established  - be prepared to meet the wrath of your partners.

I grew up in Europe and while my parents visit yearly I haven't seen my extended family in 6 years.  Understanding how doc schedules work my parents invited us (they pay airfare) to visit this summer (actually this week).  Of course we said yes, and back in September my husband notified his office that he would be taking ten days off.  

Fast forward 9 months, another partner planned a trip with is family with some overlap which leaves 2 partners to handle a few days of q2 call.  Admittedly that sucks for them, but too bad.  Especially because what I think that they are most annoyed about is ....
1. Blackhawks are in the Stanley Cup finals (to which the practice has season tickets) and no one will be able to attend one of the games
2.  For those of you saying - but it's q2 so one could go to the game - well no, because one has a member/guest golf event at his golf club that they are both attending preventing from seeing a Stanley Cup final game.  

Leading up to the week of travel means my husband has been on call 4 of the past 6 days, so I have to take care of everything. All my husband needs to worry about day of is packing.  Lucky for him he married someone whose premom career was group travel. 
- rental car booked and confirmed at destination
- passports have been taken out of our safety deposit box
- $100 of local currency procured
- additional cash withdrawn to convert onsite 
- all credit card companies have been called and advised where and when we are traveling to avoid declined charges 
- mail and newspapers stopped
- home security company advised of our plans
- packed my own stuff
-supervised kids packing

If we had stayed in town maybe (just maybe) those tickets would have trickled down to us.  Instead we'll be watching the Hawks hoist the Cup tape delayed in Europe.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

T - 3 days til Vacation

The past week and a half I've been busy getting ready for our upcoming vacation.  In between prepping, errands and cleaning house, I've also taken the kids on a couple of excursions so we all don't go completely nuts.

We took the train downtown to check out the Ledge on the Sears Tower (I refuse to use the new name) which the kids really enjoyed.  I didn't think being out on the Ledge would affect me but I have to admit I got back on regular floor as quickly as I could.  

I also took them to the Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg for a picnic in between errands one day.  It's a nature center and a farm set to look til the 1880s when Schaumburg was a German farming community.  They have people in period clothing who will show you around.  When we were there there was a new calf - Schmidt - who was very cute, and we also saw horses, pigs, chickens and roosters.  They kids thought it was fun (but smelly :)  There are a few picnic tables and we brought our lunch.  There are two parking areas - one close to the farm and one closer to the nature center.  We parked by the nature center so had to walk about a half mile to the farm area.  It's mostly paved but not really well marked so we took a couple of wrong turns but since it's not a big place never got truly lost.  

The only rough part about this past week though is that with all three kids home I haven't been able to run, and as much as I never would have thought it, I miss it.  I saw this on my new favorite Facebook group - Favorite Run - and it made me miss it even more.  

I got up a couple of times to go before he left for work but lately he's been leaving too early.  I am not getting up to run before 6am.  Sorry not that dedicated, especially when staying up late to watch multi-OT hockey games.  He's taking the day off on Friday so I plan to do one last long run that morning and have already mapped some routes around my parents house so I can go while we're there.  I signed up for a 10k 3 days after we get back to make sure I don't slack off completely.  

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Christmas Letter to Troops

Before Christmas, I told Little Reader about organizations that send holiday greetings to the troops stationed abroad.  She said that she wanted to send cards to them as she felt bad that they were away from their families.

I hate to admit it but I dropped the ball and we missed the deadline.  Until now I forgot about it completely.

Today I was cleaning out their homework area going through papers and notebooks and found this letter in one of her notebooks.  I feel bad that this letter was never sent as it was very well and sincerely written.  I told her that and she said it was no big deal she'd send one next Christmas, but I just wanted to share it here.  

She signed her name, 3rd grade student

Monday, June 3, 2013

International Travel with Little Kids

We're gearing up for our summer vacation - heading to Europe to see my parents and extended family.  Check out my tips for international travel with kids, and feel free to share your tips as well

Chicagoland Moms Blog - Traveling with Little Kids

Sunday, June 2, 2013

I Am A Runner

Last July I started running.  I had run some in high school but in Nikes and not very long runs.  Once I got to college (with all the hills on campus) I stopped.  I was a wimp.  Let's face it, while running is great exercise it's annoying.  Having a good run takes planning.  You have to think about what you eat before you run to avoid cramping up.  You have to hydrate before and after.  You need to stretch before and after. The right shoes make a HUGE difference - I finally got properly fitted at a running store and said goodbye to Nike, and have had much better runs.

In the past 11 months I have run a few 5ks, a 15k and a 10k. I have run in 35 degrees and 100 degrees.  I am currently training for a half marathon.  I used to bring my running shoes and shorts on vacations on the off chance I would find time to run.  This time I am determined to run - I have registered for a 10k 3 days after We return to keep me on track. 

Other exercises are much easier - sign up for classes and follow the teachers' direction, join a gym and use the bikes or elliptical machines.  I don't want to belittle  those who choose other forms of exercise, I've done all those and you will burn calories and feel better about yourself, but I know I feel much better after a run than after a class or a session at the gym. A good run proves that I had the motivation and dedication to go for a run just because I wanted to, not because someone else told me to, or because I signed up for a class and don't want to waste the money. I used to see people running in bad or cold weather and think they were crazy, now I'm jealous I don't have the same motivation.

I am a runner.