Thursday, February 25, 2010


My husband emailed this to me from work yesterday. While we've only been in Texas since last May, I must say this makes me proud to be a Texan, even though I still consider myself a New Yorker to some extent. I think I understand the Texas attitude a little better now. The Texas flags everywhere, the occasional bumper sticker advocating Texas secession, and the pride of being a Texan. I will admit though, that trying to get Texas IDs, took us way too long and we went around and around in circles for it. Everything was one step forward, 3 steps back. But we finally have them (or at least we have the temporary pieces of paper and the others should be on their way soon). When I get mine, I want to get my library card and get a book on Texas History. Since I grew up in NY, I took NY history and don't know much about Texas history. I don't want anything too dry, not a textbook, but something that can give me a good crash course on Texas History while being an interesting read. If anyone has any suggestions on a good book, please comment below!


When you're from Texas, people that you meet

ask you questions like,

"Do you have any cows?"

"Do you have horses?"

"Bet you got a bunch of guns, eh?"

They all want to know if you've been to Southfork.

They watched Dallas.

Have you ever looked at a map of the world?

Look at Texas with me just for a second.

That picture, with the Panhandle and the Gulf Coast,

and the Red River and the Rio Grande

is as much a part of you as anything ever will be.

As soon as anyone, anywhere in the world

looks at it they know what is. It's Texas.

Pick any kid off the street in Japan

and draw him a picture of Texas in the dirt

and he'll know what it is.

What happens if I show you a picture

of any other state?

You might get it maybe after a second or two,

but who else would? And even if you do,

does it ever stir any feelings in you?

In every man, woman and child on this planet,

there is a person who wishes just once

he could be a real live Texan

and get up on a horse

or ride off in a pickup.

There is some little bit of Texas in everyone.

Did you ever hear anyone in a bar go, "Wow,

so you're from California? Cool, tell me about it?"

Do you know why?

Because there's no place like Texas.

Texas is the Alamo.

Texas is 183 men standing in a church,

facing thousands of Mexican nationals,

fighting for freedom,

who had the chance to walk out

and save themselves,

but stayed instead to fight and die

for the cause of freedom.

We send our kids to schools named

William B. Travis and James Bowie and Crockett

and do you know why?

Because those men saw a line in the sand

and they decided to cross it and be heroes.

John Wayne paid to do the movie himself.

That is the Spirit of Texas.

Texas is Sam Houston capturing

Santa Ana at San Jacinto.

Texas is "Juneteenth"

and Texas Independence Day.

Texas is huge!

Forests of Piney Woods like the

Davy Crockett National Forest.

Texas is breathtaking mountains in the Big Bend.

Texas is the unparalleled beauty

of bluebonnet fields in the Texas Hill Country.

Texas is the beautiful,

warm beaches of the Gulf Coast of South Texas.

Texas is the shiny skyscrapers in Houston and Dallas.

Texas is world record bass from places

like Lake Fork.

Texas is Mexican food like nowhere else,

not even Mexico.

Texas is the Fort Worth Stockyards,

Bass Hall, the Ballpark in Arlington

and the Astrodome.

Texas is larger-than-life legends

like Michael DeBakey, Denton Cooley,

Willie Nelson, Buddy Holly,

Waylon Jennings, Janis Joplin,

Kris Kristofferson, Tom Landry,

Darrell Royal, ZZ Top, Eric Dickerson,

Earl Campbell, Nolan Ryan,

Sam Rayburn, George Bush,

Lyndon B. Johnson, and George W. Bush.

Texas is great companies like Dell Computer,

Texas Instruments and Compaq.

And Lockheed Martin Aerospace,

home of the F-16 Jet Fighter

and the JSF Fighter.

Texas is NASA.

Texas is huge herds of cattle and miles of crops.

Texas is skies blackened with doves,

and fields full of deer.

Texas is a place where towns and cities

shut down to watch the local

high school football game on Friday nights

and for the Cowboys and the Texans

on Monday Night Football, and for the

Night In Old San Antonio River Parade

in San Antonio.

Texas is ocean beaches, deserts,

lakes and rivers, mountains and prairies,

and modern cities.

If it isn't in Texas, you probably don't need it.

No one does anything bigger or better

than it's done in Texas.

By federal law, Texas is the only state in the U.S.

that can fly its flag at the same height as the U.S. flag.

Think about that for a second.

You fly the Stars and Stripes at 20 feet in

Maryland, California, or Maine and your state flag,

whatever it is, goes at 17 feet.

You fly the Stars and Stripes in front of Pine Tree High

in Longview or anyplace else at 20 feet,

the Lone Star flies at the same height, 20 feet.

Do you know why?

Because it is the only state

that was a republic before it became a state.

Also, being a Texan is as high as

being an American down here.

Our capitol is the only one in the country

that is taller than the capitol building

in Washington, D.C.

We can divide our state into five states

at any time if we wanted to!

We included these things as part of the deal

when we came on.

The world's tallest war memorial

stands at San Jacinto 15 feet taller

than the Washington monument

honoring all those who fought for

Texas's independence.

Texas even has its own power grid.

And every Texan knows the true saying:

You can take a Texan out of Texas . . .

but you can't take Texas out of the Texan!

That's one of the reasons

so many stay right here!

If you are a REAL TEXAN you

won't even need to be told to pass this on!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Books I've read in 2010

I've always been intrigued by the 50 book a year challenge that I see as resolutions during the beginning of the year. Technically, I have read 50 books in one year, if you include the children's books I had to read for my Children's Lit class at Houghton- some of them were picture books, and some chapter books, but you had to read a total of 45 over the semester. But at the time I didn't even know about these types of reading challenges. I may have read 50 books last year, but I didn't keep track.

I'm not really going to be doing a 50 Book Challenge, as I'm already quite behind and it is more pressure than I need right now. With trying to make and sell crafts, watching our friends' one year old during the afternoons, and trying to find a "real" job for steady income (I could probably get one if I wasn't so picky, but I want one I like. I'd hate to go back to retail. ), I don't want the pressure of reading a certain number of books as well.

But this year, I'm going to keep track of the books I've read.

So far this year, I have read:

-Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen- this was a reread for me. The others in my book club (we total only 3 people, but we have fun!) wanted to read all of the Jane Austen books and this was our second one- we read Pride and Prejudice in October or November.
-The Once and Future King, by T.H. White- I liked this- it was my first serious trip into Arthurian legend. I found the first part dragged for me because I knew the story of the Sword in the Stone, but after the first part it picked up. Not my favorite read, but not bad either. If you like knights and quests, it's pretty good.
- Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte- again, a reread for me. We're doing every other book a Jane Austen and then something else between for the book club. We have yet to discuss this one but I'm sure I have much to say. I love Bronte's descriptions and I think this has become one of my favorite books on this second reading (and for me, that's saying something. I don't usually pick favorites when it comes to books- that's like picking a favorite child.
- Daughters of Fortune, By Tara Hyland- This was a first novel for Hyland and Simon and Schuster UK was kind enough to send it to me to review. My review is already on this blog, so if you would like particulars, visit that entry. Overall, I enjoyed this book and am looking forward to more from Hyland.

I'm on another book currently (Though, when am I not on another book? I guess I mean I'm close to finishing my next book), so maybe I'll be able to add to my list soon!

I'm in the middle of a big handful of projects right now for my Etsy and Artfire stores- my mind is filled with crocheted berets, Settlers of Catan lapghans, hooded baby blankets, a baby quilt, coasters and more. Perhaps I should schedule one day as a "finishing project day" and just hunker down and get some things done!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Review: How It Ends, By Laura Wiess

The blurb:

All Hanna's wanted since sophomore year is Seth. She's gone out with other guys, even gained a rep for being a flirt, all the while hoping cool, guitar-playing Seth will choose her. Then she gets him – but their relationship is hurtful, stormy and critical, not at all what Hanna thinks a perfect love should be.

Bewildered by Seth's treatment of her and in need of understanding, Hanna decides to fulfill her school's community service requirement by spending time with Helen, her terminally ill neighbor, who she's turned to for comfort and wisdom throughout her life. But illness has changed Helen into someone Hanna hardly knows, and her home is not the refuge it once was.

Feeling more alone than ever, Hanna gets drawn into an audio book the older woman is listening to, a fierce, unsettling love story of passion, sacrifice and devotion. Hanna's fascinated by the idea that such all-encompassing love can truly exist, and without even realizing it, the story begins to change her.

Until the day when the story becomes all too real...and Hanna's world is spun off its axis by its shattering irrevocable conclusion.

My Thoughts:
I received this book back in December, and though I was busy, I started it one day after lunch. I finished it the next day after breakfast (or possibly before breakfast?). I literally couldn't put it down.

I loved this book. This is the first of Wiess's books that I've read and it probably won't be my last. I loved her characters. Or, I should say, I loved how she wrote the characters, but I hated Seth and doctor Boehm, which I think is exactly what Wiess was going for with those characters. Having had friends in similar relationships as Hanna and Seth, I can really appreciate the mixed feelings Hanna has and her inability to just leave him even though he's an absolute jerk. I've seen friends go through the same thing and I know that this is as realistic as it gets, especially at that age.

Overall, I guess that sums up my thoughts on this book- realistic. The situations, the feelings, the characters. It all feels down to earth. Any one of my friends could be Hanna, telling me this story of their life.

But it's not just about Hanna. Wiess is a master at the story within a story within a story type of writing. Some authors attempt this and it falls flat- you get confused and frustrated. But not so with Wiess! Hanna starts volunteering at her elderly neighbors' house for school credit (Helen and Lon have always been close to Hanna and her family, sharing holidays and whatnot and Hanna gets special permission to help take care of Helen as her Parkinson's gets worse and worse as volunteering in private homes is not usually allowed). While there, Hanna puts in audiobooks for Helen to listen to, a couple of chapters at a time. Helen, before her condition got really bad, started typing out her and Lon's story- she had previously lied to Hanna about it because she was ashamed of some of the things she had been through and didn't think it was what Hanna would want to hear. So, determined to set things straight, she types up the story and they send it to get it made into an audiobook so that they could get Hanna to listen to it while taking care of Helen. The tie in between Hanna's life and Helen's story is great. Hanna thinks it is fiction, but she still takes a lot from the story- and when she finds out how true it was, she finally has the strength to see that Seth doesn't love her and that there is a much stronger and purer love out there. I definitely cried. Quite a bit in fact. There are some real tear-jerker moments in this book, so I recommend if you get teary with books, have some tissues handy. Also, The ending is a shock, but it was a well written twist. I was satisfied with the ending, satisfied with Hanna's growth and the book left me with a smile.

There were a couple of things that bothered me. One was the ages. You are never expressly told how old Helen and Lon are or when they were born. We are given a few clues though:

Louise is Helen's middle name and the name she uses in the story Hanna is listening to. Likewise, "Peter" is Lon. Louise's mother had a whirlwind romance of 3 days ending with a marriage to a GI behind the club where she worked and they met. There was a one day honeymoon before he was shipped out, and he was killed in the war before he knew he was going to be a father (pg. 167). This gives me the idea that Louise, aka, Helen, was born around/during a war- so either between 1914 - 1918 or 1939-1945. Other historical clues lead one to believe it was WWII, not WWI.

Later, we meet Peter- when Peter and Louise meet at the Boehm's, Louise is 15, and we're told "He was younger than I'd thought, in his early twenties perhaps" (pg 224) So from this, we know that there is most likely a 5-10 year difference between Helen and Lon (That would cover Lon being 20-25 at that time).

A bit later in the story, we find out that Lon "had left Holland and come over to America alone at fifteen, two years after surviving the Hunger Winter of 1945" (pg. 275). If I'm reading that correctly, that means that Lon was 15 in 1947. That means Lon was born in 1932. So Louise must have been born between 1937-1942 (5-10 years after Lon), which does fit with th previous story, so long as she was born in '41 or later (Thats when the US was in WWI).

Until typing this out I was actually unsure if the dates worked, but I'm glad to see that they do. I was very frustrated while reading, trying to figure out when things were happening. So if anyone else is frustrated as me when it comes to that kind of thing, there's the breakdown.

The other thing that bugged me was the end of the story Helen wrote. Towards the end of the audiobook it says, "I worried about all the things I'd wanted to tell him in our golden years that now I couldn't form the words for or even remember....I would tremble with outrage when this happened, and my involuntary movements would grow agitated and spastic....and then Peter, eyes gleaming would release my hand and let it flail, inevitably knocking over my drink cup or sweeping my plate from the tray..." (Pg 318-319). Farther down on 319, Louise narrates that she can no longer move or speak, etc.
My question is- then how on earth is still still able to type? At this point in the story, Helen/Louise is getting towards the tail end of her Parkinson's- she narrates her thoughts, how desperate she feels, not being able to say Thank you or tell Lon/Peter that she loved him, how she cannot move on her own, how her limbs move involuntarily, spastically. This is the only real glitch in the whole book that I found, but I cannot come up with a single excuse for her being able to still type out the book. Lon could have typed it if she was able to speak, but she cannot. And the audiobook is entirely from her viewpoint, so certainly no one else finished it. Compared to how brilliant the rest of the book was, this one little thing was disappointing.

But don't get me wrong, the book is still worth reading. I still loved it. I still laughed and cried. In fact, the last time I cried so much reading a book, it was a Nicholas Sparks book. How It Ends was a great read, just don't over analyze the being able to type when she can't move thing. Other than that, I highly recommend.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Review: Tara Hyland's Daughters of Fortune

The blurb on the back:

William Melville's daughters are heiresses to the world's most exclusive fashion dynasty. Beautiful and rich, they are envied by all. But behind the glittering façade of their lives, each girl hides a dark secret that threatens to tear their family apart.
Smart, ambitious Elizabeth knows how to manipulate every man she meets, except the one who counts: her father.
Gentle, naïve Caitlin, the illegitimate child, struggling to fit into a world of privilege while staying true to herself.
Stunning, spoilt Amber, the party girl with a weakness for bad boys; more fragile than anyone realises.
As each of them seeks to carve out her own destiny, Elizabeth, Caitlin and Amber face difficult choices, which will take them in wildly different directions. But as old wounds resurface and threaten to destroy the foundations of the Melville empire, their paths will cross again. Because the simple truth is that, no matter how far you go, you cannot escape the claims of family.

My thoughts:

I received this book in the mail unexpectedly from the lovely people at S&S UK. I had other things to do on my to do list and meant to only start this book because I felt like reading at the time, and put it down after a couple of chapters. No such luck.

At 567 pages, this book seems imposing. It is Tara Hyland's first novel, but does not read like a debut. Hyland knows her characters, and she's done her research. While I don't know much about fashion, I found myself enjoying even the business aspects of the plot and you know she knows what she's talking about. Her characters are bold, realistic, and enjoyable. Her plot has twists and turns you don't expect. Her descriptions give the impression of glamor, focusing on colors and textures but allowing enough room for imagination.

I adored these characters. Unlike some debut novels, none of her characters are stereotypical (with the exception of Johnny Wilcox and some other side characters if you want to go as far as analyzing minor characters). An example: Elizabeth is ambitious and manipulating, but she longs for love, from her father and from her husband. Even though she is stuck up at first, she is also one of the first to reach out to Caitlin. Each character is multifaceted. Just like people in real life, everyone in this book makes mistakes- big mistakes- and they all face up to the consequences. They all say things and do things that they don't mean and they have to ask for forgiveness or try to change things. And, you love them anyways- because they're just like you and your family and friends and Hyland makes you love them.

Hyland knows how to keep you on edge- she writes from many different viewpoints so you can get a feel for the different thoughts of the characters. The viewpoints change quickly sometimes but it is not hard at all to follow. I found myself saying "just one more section" so many times but I could never keep to that because the writing was so compelling.

My one qualm was that there was so much sex. But, I suppose that is more of a qualm with our culture than with the book itself. People do have affairs, people do visit prostitutes, people do have relations outside of marriage. And, in regards to this, Hyland is realistic- she stays true to the culture though I personally would prefer the sexual content to be more subtle. There is a large chunk in the middle where it seems that all anyone is doing is...well.... each other.

Opening the book for the first time I was a little dubious- fashion? Affluence? Glamor? If you're like me, you don't know anything about these topics. But we all know people- lots of people, different kinds of people. And that's all you need to know in order to enjoy this book. Even though the fashion industry runs through this book as a common thread, the book is really about the people involved, their relationships and how they deal with situations and each other. And for that, I give Hyland an A+. Daughters of Fortune has great realistic characters, love, family, suspense and a truly compelling and original plot. I'm looking forward to seeing more from Tara Hyland.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Book giveaway link

Anyone who knows me know that I love books- especially if they are free, or cheap. I often walk to the Salvation Army and Goodwill nearby on nice days to go browse the books and sometimes buy one or 2 books with only the pocket change we leave to collect on the shelf (especially now that I don't have to save the quarters for laundry- it is so good to have a washer and dryer again!).

Well, I just became acquainted with a new book Giveaway. To support the Macmillan authors whose titles you are currently not able to get off of, Jawas Read, Too! is giving away a copy of John Scalzi's Zoe's Tale at . The contest is open until March 11th and there are several ways to get additional entries. And yes, I am shamelessly promoting this giveaway to recieve 2 extra entries myself. The up side- You can too! That's right, blog about the giveaway and post the link when you enter the contest and you get 2 extra entries. Or, tweet about it or link to it elsewhere and get one extra entry for each. It's quite simple.

A Big thanks to JRT for her great reviews and awesome giveaways!