Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Jen's Book Club...not as good as Oprah's, but who could compete with Lady O?

Ever since I can remember, I have read on average a book a week. I read very fast, soaking it all in and enjoying every word, which is a blessing in many ways. Yet because of the ferocity with which I devour literature, I am ashamed to admit that I don't have the best retention. Hence, the blessing...I can read books over and over again and still enjoy them!

A recent Facebook conversation prompted me to write this list of the books I have been reading. We have been here for 15 weeks and I have read 14 books, so I am still on target. Here are the fourteen books that I have eaten up so far this summer, and my picks on which ones are worth the read(in red and starred**)!

In order of consumption...

1. **Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen
I started reading this one on the airplane heading to the UK. I couldn't stop reading it. It is a fantastic story and very well told. David encouraged me to head to town one afternoon after I finished to watch the movie. While it's always nice to see R.Pat, the movie was just okay. I'll assume you saw the trailers, if not the movie itself, and save the synopsis. If you did see the this book. It is so much richer and the characters are much more complex than the screen version let's us see.
Image via

2. **Every Last One, Anna Quindlen
This novel got me from the beginning because it is about a mom with teenagers and she was describing how she felt like the time has gone so quickly. Kind of like I feel every day: "Where did my babies go?" I can only imagine how much harder it will be to see the baby stage slip farther and farther away. Her family is dealt a devastating blow, and this is the story of how she recovers from that. I felt like the climax of the book was in the middle, therefore the action obviously falls from there. Worth the read, but I did feel like it built up steam and then fell toward the conclusion.

3. Theodore Boone, John Grisham
I used to read Grisham novels all the time. Pretty sure I am a bit behind on his newest titles, but this one was quick and easy to read, and a joy all the same. Theodore Boone was Grisham's first novel for young readers. Theo is thirteen years old, and the son of two lawyers. He gets himself caught up in the middle of a murder trial and has to use his sharp legal skills to "save the day." I think I read the whole thing in about four hours. :o)

4. Cross My Heart, Helen Slavin
At the market in town there is a stall where they buy and sell used books. I stocked up, so the next three are books that I found there. And I have to confess, I basically judged them by the covers. 3 for £ can do that when they are that cheap.
Cross My Heart was the first book I read by an English author after we got here. It is funny the little things that I had been wondering about that cropped up in this book. It is about Grace, a young girl who tells lies so convincing that she convinces herself they are reality. But the Big One is just too big, and it eats her up inside and rightly so, impacts the rest of her life.

5. My One and Only, Kristan Higgins
This is a chick-flick type of book. Girl is divorced. Her sister gets married to her ex-husband's brother. Girl and ex get stranded after wedding and have to drive cross country together. Can you guess what happens? Meh...

6. It's the Little Things, Erica James
Another one of the English books. When they kept mentioning different towns and places I kept finding myself on google to see how far they were from me. This one was decent. I hated the characters I was supposed to hate, and loved the ones I was supposed to love, but other than that it was fairly predictable.

7. **Sing You Home, Jodi Picoult
I just love Jodi Picoult. She has written about a dozen novels and I have loved them all. I get hooked and pulled into the story and can't stop reading. I still think My Sister's Keeper is my favorite, but that may be because I like the real ending of the book so much better than the stupid Hollywood adaptation. Sing You Home is about a couple who are trying to conceive via in-vitro and end in divorce. The wife ends up falling in love with someone else and wants to use the embryos. A legal battle ensues; it's captivating. It's clear to me all along who should win, but how could a judge be forced to decide which parent has the rights to that unborn child? Awesome book.

8, 9, 10...Okay, I really need to start going for quality. I picked up three books by Linda Kelsey at the shop because they were 3 for £3 again. I think I overpaid. I am surprised I made it through them all. Blah. Here they are nonetheless:
The Twenty Year Itch
Fifty Is Not a Four Letter Word
The Secret Lives of Sisters


11 & 12. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows & Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, JK Rowling
Yes, I read them in that order. :o) In preparation for the movie that came out last month, I watched all seven DVDs over the course of a couple weeks. Of course I LOVE Harry Potter. I used to re-read the books leading up to a new film every time it came out. Now that is too much, so I just watched all the movies. But after I saw DH Part 2, I left feeling so sad that it was over. So I started reading the book. Then when that was done I was sad it was over. So I read book 6. That's enough for now, but I may go back to see the film again (for a third time...)

13. The Help, Kathryn Stockett
Yes, yes, yes. Go read this book. It is horrible, funny, sad, warm hearted and just plain good. I felt a teensy bit disappointed at the end that there was all this "What's going to happen??" build-up that never really amounts to anything. But that's okay because the book as a whole is so good. Can't wait to see the film adaptation, although we don't get it here in the UK until October. Boo.

14. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot
Wow. This biography is amazing, to say the least. I learned so much from reading it and I am still thinking about it all, days after finishing. I got a little lost with some of the deep science stuff, but it is still fascinating. Henrietta Lacks was a black woman in Baltimore who died of cervical cancer. Her doctors took samples of her tumor and cultured them in a lab, which they were able to grow indefinitely and do research. "HeLa" cells are still cultured today, and they have played a vital role in the research for cancer and AIDS treatments, the polio vaccine, and so many other scientific achievements I can't even think. My mind is still spinning from all of it.

So. Those are the books that are on my book shelf so far since we moved. Next is One Day by David Nicholls, mainly because I saw the trailer for the new Anne Hathaway movie and it looks decent. Of course whenever I see a movie trailer that says based on the novel...I ALWAYS have to read the book first.

What are you reading? I need to take your recommendations rather than buying books with cute covers that don't make me think. :o)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Family Time

I love my family so much. The littles who are sleeping upstairs as I type, the hubby who is currently traveling, but normally would be chillin' with me here, the puppa dawgs living at Nana's house, and all of you! My sister and her wifey and adorable babies, my "other" sister and brother-in-law, my mom and dad and David's p's, my Grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins...and all of our friends, who are like family to us. We are so lucky to have so many wonderful people in our lives.

And that, my friends, is the only thing I don't like about England. That none of you are here.

Yes, there are things here that I could do without (rain and bugs at the top of that list), and there are also things that I really miss (washer/dryer and my nice, big kitchen). Yet those inconveniences are tolerable, because there are so many new, fun things for us to go do and try! But not having the people we love here to share it with us sucks. No, it SUCKS. Big time.

On that note, I am so excited to say that our next visitors are on their way! Brenda and Dewey will be here at the end of the week, bringing David back from New York with them. And with them brings the tide of the beginning of more adventurous things for the Ingham Family! While Brenda and Dewey are here in August/September, we will take a mini break to Bath, and do lots of fun stuff around Oxford. Then at the end of September we are heading to Spain for our first big trip while living abroad. Luckily, there is more family there, and we will be able to see my cousin Marie while she is studying in Barcelona!!!

It really is more fun to explore and share all this with people we love, so this is an open invitation for guests. :o) We'd love to have you come stay with us and experience England. The more the merrier!! So keep your eyes on Expedia for good prices to come over.

We'll be waiting anxiously!!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Funny Things Kids Say (and Do!)

Here's a little update on how funny and wonderful our kids are, in case you had forgotten.

Maxwell is so articulate and has the best memory of anyone I know. How is that possible at three? He remembers things that happened a year ago. I can't believe it. Right now he is obsessed with a couple things: Cars and coloring. A week ago he was obsessed with Thomas, but then we took him to see Cars2 on Saturday and I bought him the cups with Mater and McQueen on top. So long, Thomas. It was fun while it lasted. He has been playing with those cars nonstop for the past three days.

His speech still surprises me with how much of a conversation you can have with him. And with how much he remembers! He has several new patterns.
Number one, he constantly wants to "make a deal."

Maxwell: Mommy, let me make you a deal. You go in there and get Darian, and then I will come down.
ME: Okay.
Maxwell: That's a good deal.

Number two, he shocks me with his memory.

Maxwell to Daddy: Daddy, you remember when we went to Grandpa's house and ducky went up in the tree and you climbed up to get him? That was a good deal.

*Note to readers: This happened when we were in Pennsylvania for Christmas last year!!!

And just tonight, while I was getting her in her chair for dinner, Maxwell went up to Darian and said, "Darian! Daddy is coming home with a surprise!!! Do you know what it is??? LUIGI SHEETS!!"

*Note: Dave told him last night that he was going to print new coloring sheets.

Continuing on....while eating dinner it starts to rain.

Maxwell: It's raining!
Me: Yeah, Daddy is probably getting wet.
Maxwell: Are the Luigi sheets getting wet?????

And as soon as Dave walked in the house, Maxwell asked him if his Luigi sheets were dry. Whew! They were safe and Maxwell finished up his dinner and colored one right away!

This kid is crazy smart!!

Darian is in a mimicking phase, where she will repeat things that you ask her to say. Her big brother thinks this is hilarious. Good thing he is only three and doesn't make her say anything bad! We have a Dr. Seuss book that is her current favorite and it is called Hooper Humperdink? Not him! Darian just loves this book right now and asks for it all the time. She says, "Da Dink" and if we say "Hooper Humperdink" she says, "Not him!" It is totally cute, and Dave and I have laughed at it so much, that Maxwell now tries to get her to say it all the time.

When I am doing random tasks around the house, sometimes I will catch her out of the corner of my eye pretending to do whatever I am doing. The other day I had just changed the toilet paper roll and tossed the empty one in the hall to take down to the recycling bin. I was at the sink putting my contacts in and deodorant on. I turned around, and she was doing this:

(it's hard to see but she is putting toilet paper roll deodorant on!)

I am trying to get over my guilt about not having the alone time with Darian that I had with Maxwell, but he is doing such a good job of teaching her things so it makes it easier! He is teaching her letters, numbers, and colors. It really helps for long car rides; they certainly keep each other busy!

These kids have become such good friends. They play together all day long, and I only have to break up minimal fights or cries. I don't need a monitor, because when Darian is napping, Maxwell hears the first sound she makes and immediately runs upstairs to go get her to play! Recently they have been having a lot of tea parties. Particularly yesterday because we all have colds and I had a cup of tea in the morning and told Maxwell it is good to drink tea when you are sick. They proceeded to "drink" about 200 cups of tea yesterday.

They are just so wonderful. I miss my family and friends back home, but being here with them and David and having extra time to just watch and be present is pretty amazing. They are growing up so fast!!
Darian 21 months

Maxwell, 3 years 4 months