Photography Friday

May 25, 2012 Photography Friday 0

This past weekend was my second weekend having guests – first the boy two weekends ago and then my sister and her friend last weekend – which has been a lot of fun and also kept me very busy!  Exercising has pretty much not happened and getting work done has been challenging, so I’m happy to get back into my routine.  I will miss getting to go do fun touristy things in Ames with my guests though.  These pictures are from the botanical garden, which was one of my favorite things we did (perhaps after the awesome chocolate store we visited).  I had a particularly nice time because my sister and I both enjoyed taking our time and trying to get some really good pictures.  What do you usually enjoy doing with family when they visit?

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Lost in Shangri-La

May 23, 2012 Narrative Non-Fiction, non-fiction 6

Title: Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of WWII
Author: Mitchell Zuckoff
Source: from publisher for a TLC Book Tour
Fun Fact:  By 1945, New Guinea was home to more missing air planes than any other country on earth.
Rating: ★★★★★
Review Summary: An incredibly engaging story with a great human element supported by well-integrated primary sources.

Lost in Shangri-La was my first experience with narrative non-fiction and I think I may be in love. For those of you like me who haven’t read narrative non-fiction before, I would describe it as a novel in which personal lives are as well researched as the bigger picture and the whole thing is presented as a story.  In this particular story, we learn about a plane crash in New Guinea stranding three service men and women in the jungle with potentially unfriendly natives.  Due to their isolated location, finding them in the jungle was only the first challenge.  A daring and dangerous rescue mission was then required to get them out. Read more »

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Monday Musings

May 21, 2012 Monday Musings 0

This week the Monday Musings question is the following: What do you do with the book before you start reading it?

For a fiction book, I usually just read the synopsis on the cover.  I may also have read a bit of the first chapter when deciding whether to get the book from the library or not.  With a non-fiction book I’m more likely to look at the chapter titles and get a feel for the book before digging in.  And lately with the more history-focused non-fiction I’ve been reading, I may also find a timeline and/or a map to orient myself in the story.

Feel free to answer the Monday Musing question yourself, either here or on the blog of the memes host, Should Be Reading.  What do you do before you start a new book?

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Bookends About A Romance

May 20, 2012 Uncategorized 1

Title: I Never Fancied Him Anyway
Author: Claudia Carroll
Source: library
Rating: ★★★★☆
Review Summary: My first foray into chick-flick romance novels, this turned out to be just what I was in the mood for.  Light, but not too cheesy with believable characters; an interesting twist on the typical chick-flick; and of course a happy ending.

After reading the rather depressing classic, The House of Mirth, I needed something light and I Never Fancied Him Anyway was just the thing.  Set in Dublin, I Never Fancied Him Anyway follows Cassandra as she tries to avoid falling for her best friend’s crush although her never-before-wrong psychic abilities tell her he’s the one.  Complicating matters, she is offered a position as a talk show psychic working for her crush.  This situation is made even more awkward when Cassandra realizes that her psychic powers take a vacation whenever her crush is around! Read more »

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Photography Friday

May 18, 2012 Photography Friday 0

This past week, I got to visit with the boy for the first time in almost two months!  Since we usually visit once a month, it felt like it had been forever.  So we had a great time with our visit, including a fun trip to the Des Moines Zoo.  I was also using my 55-250mm lens for only the second time (the first time was for the parade pictures last week) and the zoom was fantastic!  I do hate it a little that it becomes physically impossible for me to take pictures of anything too close, but I also think it’s a fun challenge to make all my pictures work without changing lenses.  I’ll definitely be using it more often!

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The How of Happiness

May 17, 2012 Uncategorized 1

Title: The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want
Author: Sonja Lyubomirsky
Source: library
Rating: ★★★★★
Review Summary: Really awesome self-help book, solidly grounded in research and with specific, actionable suggestions for becoming happier.

Unlike many happiness and self-help books, The How of Happiness is very solidly based in scientific research.  The author, Sonja Lyubomirsky, is a psychology professor at UC Riverside with a degree from Stanford who does a great job pulling together current happiness research.  The main premise of the book is that 50% of our happiness is inherited, only 10% is determined by circumstance, and 40% of our happiness is determined by our own thoughts and behavior.  Activities presented here are intended to affect the proportion of happiness under our control. Read more »

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A Group Read Review – The Talented Mr. Ripley

May 15, 2012 Uncategorized 2

2247142Title: The Talented Mr. Ripley
Author: Patricia Highsmith
Source: library
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Review Summary: Slightly creepy but intriguing story about a supposedly likable murder, but I found him an unsympathetic main character which made it hard for me to really care where the plot went.

The Talented Mr. Ripley is not a book I would have picked up on my own for fear it would be too dark.  However, I’ve been enjoying doing group reads a lot and this was the next book for the Constant Reader Group on Goodreads.  The book tells the story of Ripley, a man sent to Europe to talk an acquaintance into returning to the United States.  Instead, he begins desperately wishing he has his acquaintance’s life and even murder won’t prevent our amoral protagonist from achieving his goals.  I’m sure you can see why I was worried about it being too dark! Read more »

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Monday Musings

May 14, 2012 Monday Musings 4

This week the Monday Musings question from Should Be Reading is the following: Do you tend to read to the end of a chapter or can you stop anywhere?

Lately I’ve been sneaking in my reading whenever I can, which has included using little snippets of time at the end of which I have to put down the book – no matter where I am.  But when I have all the time in the world, I certainly prefer to reach the end of the chapter or a good stopping point.  Of course, there are also those wonderful books which it’s simply impossible to put down even if you are at the end of the chapter.  With that sort of book, I just try my best to only pick it up if I have plenty of time to devote to reading 🙂

What about you? Are you able to stop anywhere in a book or do you have to finish a chapter?

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Bookends About Graceling

May 12, 2012 Uncategorized 6

Title: Graceling
Author: Kristin Cashore
Source: library
Rating: ★★★★★
Review Summary: Well-written, unique world with magic that obeys believable rules, and great characters.  Brought back fond memories of reading Tamora Pierce’s quartets about strong heroines taking on traditionally male roles.

Graceling is a story about Katsa, a rare individual Graced with a supernatural level of skill – in her case, the Grace of killing.  Although previously the king has used Katsa to enforce his often cruel will on his subjects, in this novel she begins to question her place in his plans and discover her own identity.  There is also a handsome prince (a supporting character who complements but doesn’t overshadow our heroine) and of course an evil villain. Read more »

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Photography Friday

May 11, 2012 Photography Friday 0

This past week I had an awesome opportunity to take pictures at the Pella Tulip festival, although because of the weird weather this year the tulips had already come and gone.  Fortunately the parade involved lots of cute kids dressed up in Dutch costumes, adults also dressed in authentic Dutch clothing, and some other beautiful flowers.  The town as a whole was beautiful and there were lots of cute shops with handmade goods, plus funnel cake and other fair food.  Definitely an event I’d recommend if you’re ever in Iowa!

Do you have any cute regional events near you that you’d recommend to visitors?

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