Monthly Archives: February 2012

House Rules

 

By Jodi Picoult

 

After the disaster that the last Picoult novel I read (Harvesting the Heart) was, I really didn’t want to read another of her novels anytime soon, however, I found this novel in a stack of unread books & thought I’d give it a try. I’m pleased to say that Ms. Picoult has redeemed herself & is back on the list of my favorite authors (I’m sure she’s beside herself with joy over this exciting news, haha)

“House Rules” is the story of a teenage boy, Jacob, who has Asperger’s syndrome (a type of autism). When Jacob is accused of murdering his college-aged tutor, its up to his single mother, Emma, & rookie lawyer, Oliver, to prove his innocence. In typical Picoult style (which I like) each chapter is told through a different point of view; Jacob, Emma, Oliver, Jacob’s younger brother Theo & the police captain Rich.

Prior to reading this novel, I didn’t have a clue what autism REALLY was, let alone ever even heard of Asperger’s syndrome. Picoult did a fantastic job of explaining the syndrome (almost to the point where it became text-book like) & I loved that through Jacob’s narratives, the reader could feel what his episodes were like for him; the blackouts, the violence, the completely losing control & being unaware of his surroundings…I just can’t imagine living a life like that. Although I bounced in between feeling sympathy & being annoyed by Emma, I’d be lying if a part of me hopes I never have to experience being the parent of an autistic child. She was a brave, tough character, & you can’t help but respect her tenacity.

Okay…a quick summary of the book.

Jacob is an 18year old high school student who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome. He lives his life by routine-waking up every day at the same time, watching CrimeBusters TV show everyday at 4:30, only eating certain colored foods on specific days. He’s also a bona fide genius who happens to be obsessed with forensic science & crime scenes. His mother, Emma, is a single mother raising 2 boys on a tight income. She has alienated herself from friends, family, & the world, due to the demands of Jacob & his illness. Even putting her youngest son, 15year old Theo, second place. When Jacob’s tutor, Jess, comes up missing & then is found murdered, Jacob is the #1 suspect. Enter in Oliver, the 28year old rookie lawyer, who takes Jacob’s case. Between trying to convince the jury that the reason Jacob shows no empathy or looks the jury in the eye is because he physically CAN’T (symptom of Asperger’s) & not because he’s guilty & Jacob “stimming” in court, Oliver has his work cut out for him.

If you’ve read any of Picoult’s novels in the past, you will most likely be able to figure out the ending pretty early on. And it won’t come as a shock when Oliver & Emma fall in love (as in most of her novels the “victim” & lawyer/cop end up getting together). What might come as a shock is Jacob himself, his selfishness. Now I understand that it was intentionally written like that, due to his Asperger’s, but this novel was a constant tug of war for me. Asperger’s or not, he might not have killed his tutor, but he certainly wasn’t innocent in her death. And Emma spent her whole life trying to let Jacob live a “normal” life, but then was quick to play the Asperger’s card in court. And I found it hard to believe that with Asperger’s (and its apparent inability for sufferers to lie) that not one person actually came out & asked Jacob if he killed Jess, that wasn’t believable to me. What bothered me most was, once the truth came out, that the novel just ended. There was no resolution for the reader…it just ended. Jacob & Theo might not have KILLED Jess, but they both withheld information from the cops, were both doing wrong, & should’ve been held responsible for their part in her death. The reader never finds out what happens after they tell the judge the truth, the novel just ends. Huh??? Talk about being left to hang. Also, I thought the relationship between Emma & Oliver was ridiculous & completely unnecessary, but I was expecting it.

Overall, I did really like this novel. It follows the theme of ALL of Picoult novels, so nothing was a surprise. A good book is one where you can connect & get involved with the characters, & its very easy to do so with this one. It’s almost an exact replica of another novel of hers, My Sister’s Keeper, so if you liked that one you’ll definitely like this one.

On the Goodreads grading scale I’ll give it a 4/5 stars. 4 stars because it was easy to follow, the characters were believable & it was easy to become passionate about them & the storyline. I would recommend this one for anyone looking for a quick, easy read, that really doesn’t require much thinking on your part.

 

houserules

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All things “girly”…makin’ some homemade body wash!

 

This past Christmas I tried my hand at making my gifts homemade. For my Grandma Martinez I made her a basket filled with items to pamper herself with, one of the items was homemade body wash. I’ve got terrible skin allergies, I actually had an allergy test done a few years ago & it showed 197 allergens present! Almost 85% of them were skin related allergies. So needless to say I have to be very careful about what lotions, body wash, detergent, pretty much anything that comes in contact with my skin, I use. Making this pampering basket for my Grandma was the perfect opportunity to whip up a few extra batches of goodies for myself to see how it works with my insanely (annoying) allergic skin. I have to be honest, I really didn’t have to much faith in the body wash working out. I’ve tried countless “all-natural”, holistic, “pure”…(blah blah blah) products & still had problems with them. Through doing research, I learned that even “all-natural” products still have some chemicals in them due to the preservation need. I spent many hours reading articles online- comparing different ingredients to see what combination/recipe worked for me. I wanted to mix the least amount of ingredients possible, but a finishing product that still held up in the moisturizing department (since I also have extremely dry skin). After many failed batches, adding a little more of this, taking away a little more of that, I came up with a recipe that works for me. Since I’ve been bragging about how much I love my homemade body wash, I’ve had quite a few people ask how to make it, so I’ve decided to not be stingy & share Smile 

It’s simple & easy…hope it works out for ya’ll!

Homemade Body Wash

What you’ll need:

water (approximately 1qt)

1 bar Castile Soap (I use Kirk’s-its made with coconut oil, no preservatives & not tested on animals)

4oz liquid Glycerin (again, no preservatives, all natural…its nature’s moisturizer)

scented essential oil (optional. Most are vegetable based & extracted with little preservation involved)

soap coloring (I rarely use this-just not necessary for myself, however, if you’re gifting out might want to add a pretty color.)

 

001

Step 1: Boil water in large pot & add bar of Castile soap. Let water boil until soap is completely broken down. Should take about 15min’s-you can also use a food processor to cut soap into small shavings. I tried this & it did make this step a lot faster, however, I was worried it would dull my food processor blades. Also, the first time I made this I used distilled water & skipped the boiling process. It took a lot longer for the soap to completely dissolve (hours instead of minutes), but the body wash was softer. Not enough to matter to me, but might be important to others.

002

Step 2: After soap is completely dissolved, let it cool down enough to be warm & not scolding, add 4oz. of liquid Glycerin. If you choose, you can add your scented oil at this time (use “essential” oil). I like the lighter scents (lilac is my favorite). I just add it until I can barely begin to smell it.  This is the step where you would also add your soap coloring if you want color. I used orange so it would show up better in the pictures.

003

Step 3:  I used empty body wash containers to store my homemade body wash. They’re the perfect fit & you can fill about 2 bottles using this recipe. Using a funnel pour liquid body wash into containers (about 3/4 way full). This step can be messy so make sure you put your body wash containers in another container to catch any overspill.

004

Step 4: Make sure the bottles are only 3/4 way filled. The Glycerin & soap will coagulate together & harden up (takes about 4hours). Prior to use you’ll need to add water & shake to mix together. The body wash will look lumpy & gloopy, but once it mixes together it will have the consistency & look of the store-bought body wash that you’re used to seeing.

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“When God Was A Rabbit”

By Sarah Winman

 

Okay, I’ll start off with the positives about this novel:

    1. I love animals & for a very brief amount of time there was a talking rabbit in it named God. Short being just a few chapters, despite having the novel named after him.
    2. I liked the “child” version of one of the main characters, Jenny Penny.

That ends all the positive things that I liked about this novel. Not impressive at all for a 324page book. Frankly, I didn’t understand this novel & even after completing it, I seriously, have no idea what its even about. I just didn’t get it.

The novel had way to much going on! It was almost like the author wanted to include EVERY SINGLE CONTROVERSIAL TOPIC POSSIBLE, as well as, including all major historical occurrences that have happened between the late 1960’s up to today. People read books to believe in them, this would’ve been the most UNLUCKY family EVER, if it was even remotely believable. In my opinion, it would’ve been better for the author if she had focused on one or two topics & developed that situation/characters, instead of jumping all over the place with no real direction.

I’m, truly, not even sure where to begin in describing this novel because its like describing a train wreck. It’s got pieces & parts all over the place with no real beginning or ending. So, I’ve decided to stick with giving short summaries on the main characters, since the novel had a lot of “stuff” happen to the characters.

    • Elly: the main character. She starts the novel as a young girl who was molested by her Holocaust-surviving neighbor (a character & situation which I thought was completely unnecessary to have in the novel…fit no where & made zero sense) & this “secret” served as the basis for her whole screwed up life, a secret that she shared with her brother, which made them extremely close (weirdly close). The actual truth about the “secret” was never revealed to the reader, it was assumed & heavily hinted at, but never actually stated. To help her develop a “healthy” relationship with someone, her brother buys her a rabbit which she names, God. This rabbit talks to her & (apparently) is a big part of her healing, however, he only lasts a few chapters before meeting his untimely death after being run over by a car (I would guess if he was such a big, key figure in the novel the author would’ve made him stick around a little longer). She grows up to be a columnist & then a novelist, where she writes about her childhood (fuzzy on these details). Really all I know about this character is that she says, “F*@K” a lot & has sex with random people all the time.
    • Jenny Penny: Elly’s childhood friend. She was raised by her drunk, prostitute mother & eventually loses contact with Elly when they have to move, change their identities & join the witness protection program due to Jenny Penny’s mother’s crazy ex-boyfriend. Elly & Jenny Penny eventually reconnect as adults while Jenny Penny is in prison serving a sentence for murdering her husband.  Oh’ and she can also hear God talk (the rabbit…not actually “God”).
    • Joe: Elly’s older brother. He realizes he’s gay at an early age & that makes him socially awkward & withdrawn as a teenager. The author created him to be the stereotypical “gay” man (which I thought was kind of offensive & pathetic). He liked to wear glitter & sang in a glee club when he moved to NYC as an adult. He developed amnesia on September 11th, 2001, although, it wasn’t from being involved in the World Trade Center attacks. He went for a walk in the early morning, after partying & drinking at a club all night long & was beat up, mugged, and left for dead. The family assumes he was killed in the attacks because he was supposed to be in the south tower that morning (why a glee singer would be doing business at the WTC I don’t know), only to receive a call that he’s been in the hospital for 3weeks after suffering from amnesia. He has no idea who he is, who his family is, his memories are gone & he’s basically an empty slate. But, yet again, the amnesia (like everything else in this novel) only lasts a few chapters & his memory completely returns after he has sex with his childhood sweetheart. Apparently sex can perform miraculous feats! We, the reader, never learn what happened the night he was mugged & the amnesia was never talked about & subsequently forgotten (amnesia…forgotten…har har har) after the recovery.
    • Charlie: Joe’s childhood love. He developed a relationship with Joe as a teenager, but that was cut short when he was kidnapped by a Muslim terrorist group, went off the radar for a few chapters & then reappeared as an adult in NYC when he ran into Joe one night at a party. We never learn what happened to him during the kidnap & how he ended up in NYC.

That’s really the big main characters. There’s other, smaller ones-like Elly’s parents, who transport their children from a poor life living in a poor part of England (which I didn’t even realize the novel took place in England until 100pages in) to eventually run a posh B&B in the English countryside (after winning the lottery, of course). The dad happens to be a lawyer who can’t get over a case he lost where the result was a young girl being killed, & the mother who is a closet lesbian & in love with her sister-in-law…which the husband thinks is okay (again…weird!). Nancy, the lesbian aunt (and object of Elly’s mother’s lust) is a famous, film actress. And there’s Ginger & Arthur, who I really don’t know what their role in the story is other than they lived permanently at the B&B.

This could, quite possibly, be one of the WORST books I’ve ever actually finished (and that’s saying a lot because I suffered through “Forrest Gump” by Winston Groom). On Goodreads (www.goodreads.com , an online book club), most readers rated it 3 (outta 5) stars, which I think is being VERY generous, however, considering I did actually finish the novel, the lowest I will go is 2 (1 is reserved for novels I just can’t finish). I think this novel was a New York Time’s bestseller, so I’m sure at some point it’ll be turned into a movie.

On the other hand though, if you cast Jessica Alba as Elly & Nicholas Cage as Joe, their acting might bring out the terribleness (is that even a word) of this novel to its true depth.

 

whengodwasarabbit

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:) :) :) 2012 Motto’s :) :) :)

Quite possibly the best advice I’ve ever heard. These are my two themes for the rest of the year!!!

 

lifemotto

 

thinkhappybehappy

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Those of us with a chapstick addiction should get an award for not crying when we throw an empty tube away! Just saying…

 

 

chapstick1

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The best thing to teach little girls…and old girls too :)

 

 

howyouseeyourself

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Smartest things heard in…January!

I love the New Year! It’s a new beginning, a chance to start fresh, make amends & move beyond the mistakes of the previous year. It’s a blank slate that’s waiting to be filled. The excitement of the new year was vanished when my family made the tough, but brave, decision to transfer my grandma into the hospice program. She has been battling cancer strongly for 2years & sadly we discovered there wasn’t anything left for the doctors to do. Although the end is near, the new year has given our family a chance to enjoy whatever time we have left with her. It truly is a blessing to be able to sit down, in the comfort of my grandparents home, & be able to hear stories & lessons direct from grandma herself. This year will be tough, but it will be good!

1/5-“Do you drink alcohol?”(nurse at hospital when asking my grandma health questions), “No, but I’m tempted to start.”-my grandma’s answer, if you knew my grandma you would find this insanely hilarious. She’s only touched alcohol once in her life & it was wine from a Dixie cup when she was in her 20’s-what a wild girl!- Smile

“Over-thinking ruins you. Ruins the situation, twists things around, makes you worry, and just makes everything much worse than it actually is. “-my friend, Betty Barker’s Facebook status-

“Awwww…tomorrow you’ll be a beautiful butterfly!” (comment I made to my dad when I saw him cocooned up in blankets on my parent’s couch), “Well, look at you big time college grad coming up with that all on your own.”-Dad’s response back…why is it Dad’s always have a way of making your super funny moments seem really stupid???-

1/10-“Invisible tears are the hardest to wipe away.”-Adabella Radici-

“Faith is believing in something you cannot feel, touch, or see. It’s knowing that its never to late to fight for what’s important. It’s hope & love combined.”-didn’t catch his name, but a Catholic priest said this on the news, I don’t even know what the story was about, but I was lucky enough to catch him say this-

“If you pinch the pennies, the dollars will pinch themselves.”-some financial guy on the same news episode, apparently it was a really quote-filled news hour for me-

1/12-“I love you, Carey”-my grandma. This was a day after she had one of her strokes. She was having trouble walking, struggling to talk, & I had just got done brushing her hair & pampering her. It brought on the tears & is a moment that I will hold onto forever-

“If you’re doing things right, when you’re born you come into this world crying & everyone else is rejoicing. And when you leave this world, you’re rejoicing & everyone else is crying.”-my Uncle Rick…I don’t think I’ve given him enough credit, who would’ve thought that UNCLE RICK would come up with a little gem like this one-

1/13-“Remember, there is a great God in Heaven, a great God. And when he calls, we must go. We must go because He only calls when we’re ready & at our very best.”-Mother Angelica-my good friend, Kaitlin King, sent me this quote after hearing about my grandma. How can this not bring you comfort??? Smile

“Swallowing your pride won’t give you indigestion.”-Caroline Ingalls, on Little House on the Prairie-I haven’t had a LHOTP quote in awhile, so had to throw one in the mix.

1/15-“Church shouldn’t be a museum of good people, but a hospital for the broken.”-Guy on the radio-

1/17-“Even the darkest night will end & the sun will rise.”-from the Lion King-

1/19-“Wishing you were someone else is an insult to God.”-Joel Osteen-

“Live your life so you can stand right before the Lord.”-Joel Osteen-

1/23-“I kill everything I touch.”(hospice nurse), “Perhaps you need to find a new profession.”-me, even though she was talking about houseplants, not what you want to hear the nurse say, good thing she knew I was joking & she just rolled her eyes-

1/24-“Any compliments that you received on earth will one day be gone & all that will be left for you is the truth. All that matters is the reality of who you are before God.”-Francis Chan, from the book Crazy Love-

1/25-“No smile is stronger than the one that holds back all the tears.”-Quotes & Scriptures 101’s Facebook status-

1/29-“As long as there is breath there is hope for healing.”-my great-uncle Earl.

winter-scene

Our winter hasn’t been very snowy & cold-this is how winter is supposed to be!

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