Monday, October 29, 2012

France: Troglodyte Dwelling

Have you ever stayed in a Troglodyte home? Me either. But I will be!

We have started booking accommodations for France. It’s still about 8 months away, but definitely something to do early. Several of the apartments we were looking at have already been booked. Seems like a lot of people have the same idea. The difference between booking a B&B or apartment from a hotel is the lack of rooms. On average there are about 1 – 5 rooms at a B&B and only one apartment. When there are limited fantastic ones you fall in love with, you book them as soon as you can.

We have booked in the Loire Valley. We wanted to do a B&B in this area and stay outside the city of Tours. We will have a car and will drive to the chateaus rather than do tours. This will give us a little more flexibility  We will be staying in a troglodyte B&B, Les Sentinières. What exactly does that mean? It’s a cave. A really, really nice cave. We booked a suite and it’s stunning! The webpage has a ton of pictures so check them out.

picture from

My hope is that by November we will have all our accommodations booked. Then we focus on Christmas, and brother-in-laws wedding. Other than the accommodations we can’t book much else until around 3 months out. That doesn't mean there isn't research to do and plans to form.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

31/40: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna, #1)Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

From Goodreads: Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead. 

So did his father before him, until his gruesome murder by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn’t expect anything outside of the ordinary: move, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, but now stained red and dripping blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

And she, for whatever reason, spares his life.

From the first page I was hooked. I felt like I was reading an episode of Supernatural which is definitely my favorite TV show. Cas sounded exactly like Dean Winchester, only 18. He was witty, sarcastic, had a way with getting information from girls. Saw people as a means to killing a ghost, getting the job done and then leaving. No ties. No friends.
I liked the candid monologue he would have in his head. I liked the idea of him wanting to avenge his father, but knowing that to do so he must hunt and gain his experience before he knew he was ready. The fact that he was training himself in preparation for killing the thing that took his father showed a lot of restraint and smarts for an 18 year old.

Anna was a creepy ghost. I liked her story as hard as her past was to read about. Her inner struggle was interesting. What would it be like to know you're dead? She went through hell and was more powerful than anything Cas had ever come up against in the past. She was something more than a ghost.

The rest of the characters were good. Fitting perfect stereotypes that made the story feel like a teen horror movie. Carmel, Chase, Mike and Will were your typical popular girl in school and jocks. Thomas was the awkward, yet comes into his own and is a force to reckon with. I actually had to put the book down near the end knowing I wouldn't be able to sleep. Had to save the end to read during the day. Not many books freak me out and make me love it.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Conversation with God

The past 1.5 years has been a blessing and hard at the same time. A lot of happiness and a lot of struggle. A lot has happened in the last year and half.
  • We got married.
  • Both Frenchie and I started new jobs.
  • I started teaching piano.
  • My wrist hit another all time high (or low depending on how you look at it)
  • I lost a close aunt that was also my mom’s identical twin to cancer.
  • I started a home business selling Epicure.
  • A niece was born on Frenchies side of the family.
  • I did The Husband Project and The Marriage Project.
  • Julie and I did a bible study together.
  • Been on and off again with this fitness program or that.

But through it all, the one thing that makes it a hard year is my lack of faith. Before we got married I was in the RCIA program and was very rooted in our church. I may not have had a lot of friends, but I looked forward to going every weekend and seeing those people who were converting with me. We had our own group and it was great. After the wedding, I lost touch with most of them, and then when my aunt passed, I lost my faith a little. I was angry at God for answering my prayers. I prayed she would not suffer for long, but she did for 4 months. She passed while Frenchie and I were on our honeymoon. And I wish more than anything we could have been there for my mom and family. I regret not being there still. I was angry at God because he took such a wonderful person is such a hard way. I was angry because my aunt was also my Godmother and I never cherished that relationship until it was too late.

This has kept me up for a lot of nights crying silent tears. It has kept me from going to church and praying for her safe passage to Heaven. We went a couple times in between the wedding and now and I could never make it through communion without breaking down into tears and crying in the pew. While you’re in church and people are generally good to you, you will always be judged by those sitting around you. It’s one thing to seek comfort, but quite another to have someone look at you when you’re clearly in grief and make you feel like you should leave, like you are interrupting their experience. And granted I probably was.

Last night I had a long chat with God about my aunt and about my faith. The reason I cry during communion is because of its reminder to me of her. The last time I saw her she said she kept thinking of one phrase from church and it helped her be at peace. “Lord I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the words and I shall be healed”. Those words are powerful by themselves, but add an emotional tie and they take on a whole new meaning. While in conversation (or prayer if you want) I came to the realization that although it’s terribly sad to hear those words and think of what they meant to her, I need to think of the experience completely different. It will still be sad, but it’s also an opportunity for me to feel closer to her; for me to remember her. To think of it as a constant reminder she is with Him and at peace and watching over us.
I woke up this morning and made a vow to attend church this weekend. It’s time I come back to the flock and forgive Him and forgive myself for feeling so guilty about lacking faith for the past while. To go and realize that it’s a blessing to be so emotional and to know that I need to get through it and finally have closure. It’s time.

During my coffee run this morning I ran into a fellow parishioner and it felt so good to talk to him. I told him some of my lame excuses for not attending Mass. Things like Frenchie not coming with me, not wanting to sit alone, etc. He told me I can always sit with him and his wife. They go to a mass time that would work for me and they’d be happy to be there with me. They don't know about the great loss I need healing from, but if they asked I would gladly share.

It's amazing when He just lays it all out when you open your heart and accept. 


Monday, October 22, 2012

30/40: The Virgin Cure by Amy McKay

The Virgin CureThe Virgin Cure by Ami McKay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From Goodreads: "I am Moth, a girl from the lowest part of Chrystie Street, born to a slum-house mystic and the man who broke her heart."

The Virgin Cure begins in the tenements of lower Manhattan in the year 1871. A series of betrayals lead Moth, at only twelve years old, to the wild, murky world of the Bowery, where eventually she meets Miss Everett, the owner of a brothel simply known as "The Infant School." Miss Everett caters to gentlemen who pay dearly for companions who are "willing and clean," and the most desirable of them all are young virgins like Moth.

While Moth's housemates risk falling prey to the myth of the "virgin cure"--the belief that deflowering a girl can heal the incurable and tainted--her new friend Dr. Sadie warns Moth to question and observe the world around her so she won't share the same fate. Still, Moth dreams of answering to no one but herself. There's a high price for such independence, though, and no one knows that better than a girl from Chrystie Street

I really enjoyed this one. The only thing I would want different is for it to be longer! Around the last 90 pages I kept thinking that there HAS to be more to the story.

Moth was a good character. Innocent, trying not to be. Trying to survive. As much as she tries to be ruthless or heartless and make herself out to be older than she is, she is still a young girl at heart needing someone to love her. Dr. Sadie was such a sweet woman and I love how her story ended. She had such a good heart and I really hoped that what she did for a living made a difference. Which for Moth, it certainly made life more bearable.

The personalities of Rose, Mae and Alice was fantastic. McKay covered all the bases for girls who would be in a brothel and played their characters just right in the story. It was a struggle to get through some parts and I found myself disgusted with the behavior of the men, but that was the point of the story.

I loved the setting and how well McKay described everything. I could almost feel the grit and dirt Moth lived in. She went into enough detail to disturb you, but left a lot to the imagination. The path that took Moth to Miss Fenwick - one of Miss Everett's girls was a bumpy one, a hard one and ended up being rewarding.

Highly recommend this one for anyone who is a historical novel fan.

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

29/40: Fathomless by Jackson Pearce

Fathomless (Fairytale Retellings, #3)Fathomless by Jackson Pearce
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

From Goodreads: Celia Reynolds is the youngest in a set of triplets and the one with the least valuable power. Anne can see the future, and Jane can see the present, but all Celia can see is the past. And the past seems so insignificant -- until Celia meets Lo.

Lo doesn't know who she is. Or who she was. Once a human, she is now almost entirely a creature of the sea -- a nymph, an ocean girl, a mermaid -- all terms too pretty for the soulless monster she knows she's becoming. Lo clings to shreds of her former self, fighting to remember her past, even as she's tempted to embrace her dark immortality.

When a handsome boy named Jude falls off a pier and into the ocean, Celia and Lo work together to rescue him from the waves. The two form a friendship, but soon they find themselves competing for Jude's affection. Lo wants more than that, though. According to the ocean girls, there's only one way for Lo to earn back her humanity. She must persuade a mortal to love her . . . and steal his soul

Basically I just didn't get this book. Sisters Red made sense to me. Sweetly, sort of.  This one was not what I expected out of the Little Mermaid.

While I love the writing style Pearce gives, the story line for this one was not something I could get on board with. I hate giving spoilers in reviews on my blog, so please go to Goodreads to see why. I just didn't see the connection between what Lo was and what the man was. There was no connection for me throughout the story that explained it. Yes it's fantasy, or paranormal or whatever genre, but it should make a little sense as to why there is one "monster" and then a different kind. With absolutely no explanation the story lost it's meaning to me. I really wanted to love this one. I love The Little Mermaid and thought this was an awesome idea to retell it. Sadly, it just didn't live up to my expectations. Going off the synopsis I really expected more about Lo trying to steal back her soul and there being a struggle between Celia and her for Jude's affection.

I also felt nothing for the characters. There didn't seem to be enough for me to feel that each character really loved who they loved. They all seemed pretty flat. The best character by far was Lo and her inner struggle. That part I totally understood. And Molly was great as a supporting character.

I really wanted to love it. Writing style was great as always. I still plan to read more of Jackson Pearce in the future because I think she's a wonderful writer. Just didn't love this particular book. The other Fairy Tale retellings were far better.

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Let the planning begin! FRANCE

It’s time to start planning for THE VACATION. This is THE VACATION that we’ve been talking about for a while (2 years??). We have finally nailed down dates and I’M SO EXCITED!!!

Frenchie and I are finally going to France. I cannot wait! 2.5 weeks of blissful travelling through France. Yes it’s not going to be all awesome and happy and stress-free. I’ve travelled enough to know that those things never happen. At least not when you’re traveling with me. I can find the stress points in anything and everything. The great thing is we have plenty of time to reduce the amount of pain points as much as we can.

First pain point is always flights. I hate having to change airlines, change planes, go through customs in two different countries, you name it. While I enjoy people watching in airports, there is ultimately never enough time in between flights to do so unless you have a LONG lay over and then it sucks for other reasons. We’ve fixed that: Direct flights from our wonderful city to Paris. Now let’s pick one point of stress that could occur here. It’s a 9.5 hour flight. :O That is a long time to be on a plane! I will most definitely be bringing several books with me, the iPad, iPod and chargers for both. Thankfully, the flight there is over night and we’ve paid a little extra to get a “comfort kit” which includes a pillow, blanket, eye mask and various other things (like wine) to help make the trip that much more enjoyable. (Let’s be honest, am I really going to sleep on the way to France? Excitement will likely get the better of me.)

In our planning prior to booking flights, we have several places nailed down that we want to visit for sure. The places have changed a little since we first started talking about going to this beautiful county, but there are several that have remained unchanged. Loire Valley, Bordeaux, Paris. Those are our Big Three that will not be missed.

We’ve gone from thinking we could do Nice, Lyon, Marseille, Normandy, the Big Three, maybe Lorraine. Then we looked at how far things were, the train/drive time and the fact we’d get a day at most in each place. Now we’ve decided that we’d much rather enjoy our time in fewer places and get to know the areas better. Still have the Big Three in the itinerary, but have added Normandy and Carcassonne and Marseille.


Monday, October 1, 2012

September 2012 Book Recap

What I read and started in September 2012

Books read to date: 28/40
I am 2 books behind my goal.


The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice (audiobook)

Still Reading
Monthly savings: $51.72
Year-to-date savings: $267.71


28/40: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great GatsbyThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

From Goodreads: It's also a love story, of sorts, the narrative of Gatsby's quixotic passion for Daisy Buchanan. The pair meet five years before the novel begins, when Daisy is a legendary young Louisville beauty and Gatsby an impoverished officer. They fall in love, but while Gatsby serves overseas, Daisy marries the brutal, bullying, but extremely rich Tom Buchanan. After the war, Gatsby devotes himself blindly to the pursuit of wealth by whatever means--and to the pursuit of Daisy, which amounts to the same thing. "Her voice is full of money," Gatsby says admiringly, in one of the novel's more famous descriptions. His millions made, Gatsby buys a mansion across Long Island Sound from Daisy's patrician East Egg address, throws lavish parties, and waits for her to appear. When she does, events unfold with all the tragic inevitability of a Greek drama, with detached, cynical neighbor Nick Carraway acting as chorus throughout. Spare, elegantly plotted, and written in crystalline prose, The Great Gatsby is as perfectly satisfying as the best kind of poem.

I've never read The Great Gatsby and I'm very glad I have now. While I did find the language/writing difficult to understand in some parts and had to repeat reading some pages, I loved the story. I think this is definitely one of those books that gets better and better the more often you read it. For a book that was only 191 pages, that could be easily accomplished.

I started reading this book because of the movie coming out next year. Sad really. I'm reading a classic because of the movie. I know a lot of people read this when they were in grade school. I think reading it then and reading it now would be different. However, having to analyze the book for a class would have really got me more involved in it. When I started the book I was under the impression the story was going to be told from Gatsby's point of view. I was a little surprised when it wasn't. It gave it a very different feel.

Gatsby was an interesting character. I liked him, but have to question his level of crazy. I get that people will do anything for love, but I think he went a little overboard. There was such an air of mystery around him until his deepest desires are revealed and then he becomes a simple man, loving a woman from afar, for a long time. He seems like this incredibly secretive fellow, and really he's not. It's interesting to see the change.

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