Monday, January 31, 2011

like monet was meant for black and white

Look at this picture. Look at this picture and tell me what you see. Claude Monet is one of the most accomplished, talented artists that has ever graced the surface of this earth. Claude Monet uses color -- vivid, vital color. But without it, his artwork is just blobs. Depressed, sunken, upsetting strokes of paint. They are no longer beautiful. They are nothing.
Sigh...well you saw this rant coming. I talk about boys (a lot) and usually they stem off of the frustrations and delights I experience with them (him) every day. I've been single since September, and I haven't been drowning in my own misery or anything, but I've been relatively unhappy. It's not just about the boy I guess. One of my best friends moved to North Carolina. My mom got a professorship at Ajou so she moved -- taking my little sister with her. It's me and my dad now, which I want to so much believe is not too bad. I know for sure it isn't fun. The last bit of 2010 really sucked, especially without a guy in my life. It's hard going to school, not seeing his face (he's a college) but expecting to. It's hard trying to meet new people because I hate feeling obligated to be attached to someone.

Seth (I'm using his middle name for the sake of anonymity) is only my third or fourth real boyfriend. I've dated guys in the past and since Seth and I broke up, but not enough to be comfortable with associating them as my "boyfriend"s. It's different. Just a guy you're seeing, and a guy you want to be with.

I would really love to say I'm one of those girls who doesn't need a boyfriend, but to be honest, I hate being single. I tell myself every day of my singleness (singularity? solitariness?) that I should be happy to not be tied down to one guy, and to not have to worry about him. Yeah, guys create drama, but I'm like this drama-whore and I invite all the drama in. I love it. I breathe it. Actually, no. I hate it. I want to slaughter it over and over again with a sharp object. At the same time, I would be nothing without it. Does anyone know what I mean? Life would be so much simpler without guys. Without heartbreak. But in a world without boys, there would be nothing really to live for in the first place.

Yes, Seth  and I are back together. I am not quite sure what "back together" really means but something is happening. We were "together" for less than a year last year, and it was incredible. It was everything a beautiful relationship should be, and more. Late 2009, we were together, and we had everything. It was the first time I learned that one plus one did not equal one. One plus one should equal One. Always.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. What we had was worth a million.
Things, like they will do over time, got rocky before the 2010-2011  school year began. We spent about one month of the summer together, but then we parted ways (I went to Calgary with my family in July, he moved to Baltimore for med school). Obviously since I'm still in school, we knew it would take a toll on our relationship once he was at his new school. So we decided we would end it with mercy and with peace.

But suddenly he's back in my life -- after a semester of almost no contact (besides when he texted "Happy New Year!!" on New Year's Eve...I didn't text back) -- he shows up at my goddamn DOOR. I was eating yogurt in my rugby sweats at the time. The last thing I wanted was to see, to touch, him. He was all "I miss you so much" and I was like "It's been a while, Seth" and after an hour, it was time for him to leave because -- look, my dad's home. But it ended with a kiss.

It always ends with a kiss.

The hardest part was telling Vick (also using middle names...well it's Victor but that sounds odd). Vick was the guy I was seeing (define "seeing". I see people everyday) before this miraculous disaster (oxymoron!) happened. Like I said, I went out with guys after the Breakup, but Vick was probably the closest to "boyfriend" I had, out of all of them. He's a nice guy; cute, funny, goes to my youth group, and is on the Boy's Rugby Team at school. Perfect for me, right? Wrong. Because he's not Seth.

I felt uncouth saying to him: "Yeah, we should see that movie tonight. Oh by the way, Seth and I are back together". It sounded like something straight out of The Maury Show (only...not involving paternity tests). I mean, you can't just dump a guy you're with -- too distant to call your boyfriend, too intimate to call a date -- because you're back with your ex. Well, you can, but I can't. It kind of went like this:

Vick: You should put on your coat, it's chilly.
Me: Yeah. Listen.
Vick: Do you need a ride home?
Me: [seriously contemplating] Yeah, but can we talk?
Okay, first of all -- is "can we talk?" an old line? I've never officially broken up with anyone before so I wouldn't know. Does it sound stupid? Ominous? Overused?
Vick: Yeah sure. [opening the car door for me] Hop in.
Me: Thanks. Um. So I had lunch with Seth yesterday.
Vick: Yeah?
Me: Yeah. [painfully long pause] Nothing happened.
Was that my first mistake? Would you call getting back together with an old flame nothing?
Vick: I believe you.
Me: But we were thinking...I mean...he's going to be back for spring break.
Vick: ...
Me: And he told me he still has feelings for me.
Vick: ...
Me: And I might still have feelings for him.
Overrated? Overused? AM I AN IDIOT??
Vick: Are you two back together?
Me: ...sort of.
We didn't talk for the rest of the car ride, which was not only awkward, but also a little sad. Vick is usually talkative. He's the one that always tries to break ice. Once we got to my house:
Me: Are you cool with it? Me and Seth?
Vick: [drawing out this huge whoosh of air] I'm not sure what I think.
Me: I'm really sorry.
Did that sound insincere? Overrated? Overused?
Vick: Well. I hope you know what you're getting yourself into.
Me: Me too.

And then I hugged him. For a really long time. I don't know what I was thinking. The worst part is, I had the hardest time letting him go. I just didn't want to go inside my house, say hi to my dad, get ready for bed, wake up for school the next morning. It seemed unnatural. Cruel. He didn't pull away or anything but he didn't exactly hug back. It was a brief squeeze, then his arms went slack.

It always ends with a hug.

That was a week ago. Seth came over for the weekend, but I haven't seen Vick around. And I feel awful.


I've never been happier in my life. Seth and I aren't the kissy-kiss deliriously ecstatic couple the second time around, but we seem so right. I've never every wanted or needed anything or anyone more.

I am just so confused. Content, but confused. I hate boy drama. I love it.
And of course you can count on me to over-analyze all of this and ramble on and on and on about it to someone who could care less: the Internet. But I need to vent somehow.

Why do boys do this? Why do they ignore you, why do they steal your heart -- only to come back with it after an excruciating long time? I was finally starting to find myself again; myself as a strong, independent girl. One who didn't need a boyfriend.

I also found out that Seth's been with this girl since September -- one whose name I won't mention (mainly because I'm not sure what her middle name is). He admits to cheating on her a few times, though. I should be really concerned. But I'm thrilled.

I am a selfish, rotten person.

I am loved.

If you've ever been in love, I hope you understand that I really am not trying to be selfish. If you haven't, then I really hope you find it sometime. I hope everyone finds it sometime.

I don't know if you've ever loved someone as much as I do. I don't know if you've ever lost someone you've loved, only to get a second chance. I sound old for my age, don't I? Still. I may be naïve, inexperienced, and oftentimes foolish, but I know that I'm doing the right thing for me. For us. No doubt I am setting myself up for another heartbreak, but it's a risk I'm willing to take.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

more winners!?!

Oh. And I forgot about the Elaine Cantrell giveaway I hosted a few weeks ago.

librarypat was the winner of Elaine's BEAUTIFUL bookmarks. Hurray!
Britney won a copy of Pulse of Power by Anne Elizabeth for leaving a fabulous comment on my review of Purple Heart. Woohoo!!
Bye now. I think. Oh, and check out all my new reviews :)

awaited no more

I KNOW. This is embarrassingly late. But today we had no school so I finally got to make a trip to the post office. You know how I roll.

WINNERS of my Dreaming of Books giveaway hop!

Jessie won the TEN romance books from my big box :) Congrats, girl!
BJ won the USO Mug full of tea and other goodies! Way to go, BJ!
And yeah...I decided to have another surprise contest. Not too big of a surprise is it? Sigh...I just love giving books away.
Stacey won The Dangerous Viscount by Miranda Neville. Woohoo!!
Nicole won Case File: Canyon Creek, Wyoming by Paula Graves. YAYY!
Everyone else who participated in my surprise giveaway won swag packs full of bookmarks, ebook CDs, posters, stickers, and more! Note: I still have not mailed all of the swag packs out, just the books. I will get my butt on that as soon as possible, guys. Thank you to all who entered; glad to see some new faces here. Be prepared for an EXPLOSIVE contest I'll be holding soon.

love and xx,

Friday, January 28, 2011

♥♥♥♥♥♥: Song of Renewal by Emily Sue Harvey

Song of Renewal
Emily Sue Harvey

Page Count: 300
Release Date: 22 February, 2011 (expanded reprint version)
Publisher: The Story Plant
Source: Complimentary copy provided by publisher, via Romancing the Book, in exchange for an honest an unbiased review (thank you both!)

The Wakefields seem to have everything. Garrison is a hugely successful graphic artist. Liza is an active member of the community and a patron of the arts. Their 16-year-old daughter Angel is bright, beautiful, and a gifted dancer. At the same time, though, they have traded away many of their dreams. Garrison gave up a future as an accomplished painter to make money. Liza suspended her own dancing career to raise a family. And Angel is setting aside her ambitions to live her mother's dream.

When Angel gets into a car accident that kills her first love, the Wakefields' lives turn on a dime. While Angel lies in a coma from which even the best prognosis is devastating, Garrison and Liza sit by her side, their once-passionate marriage in tatters. As their heartache over Angel builds, Garrison and Liza struggle to rediscover who they once were—and who they were meant to be. They come to realize that it will take everything they have within themselves to heal Angel, heal their hearts, and renew the power of their love.

At once romantic, inspiring, and empowering, Song of Renewal is a rare bauble of a novel, one with something to say to every family.

What Stephanie Thought:
The premise of this book had so much potential. Even the blurb was heartbreaking. But the blurb is pretty much the best thing that happened.

It wasn't that I didn't want to enjoy Song of Renewal. Honestly, it wasn't. But the character development was so weak, that it sort of happened on its own.

Angel in the story, who the reader doesn't really get to know since she is comatose for the majority of it, is under the impression that her father doesn't love her. Emily Sue Harvey tries to make the point through Liza, Angel's mother's words, that he is just stoic in nature, and that he loves Angel very much. But to me, Angel seemed pretty spot-on. In the prologue, is the scene of Angel's birth, and the first thing Garrison thinks when he sees the newborn is: Godammit, I wanted a son! That sort of tells you what his attitude is like throughout the entire book. No matter what he argues ("I DO love you, sweetheart") it makes it rather hard to believe.

And then there is Liza. Harvey attempts to create Liza as a beautiful, ethereal mother-figure, but she's just about the last person I would want as a mother. Just about as egotistic as Garrison, possibly even more, she forces Angel to become a "dancer" (read, bulimic) her whole life, failing to see the reluctance in the child's eyes until AFTER she is on her deathbed.

The characters were too self-absorbed and oblivious for me to really enjoy this story.  Nonetheless, I finished it because it was an easy read. It drew out seemingly unimportant scenes (4/5 of the novel was Liza and Garrison's inner battles that involved them talking to themselves a lot) but it wasn't painful to finish or anything. I really expected to like it, and for the most part, the plot was really genuine, but Harvey's writing style and her poor characterization both disappointed me.

Stephanie Loves: "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them." (quote by Henry David Thoreau)

Radical Rating:
 6 hearts: Satisfying for a first read, but I'm not going back. ♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥: Remember Why You Play by David Thomas

Remember Why You Play
David Thomas

Page Count: 262
Release Date: Tyndale House Publishers
Publisher: 1 October, 2010
Source: Complimentary copy provided by publisher (Tyndale Media Center) in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you!)

If you enjoyed Friday Night Lights, this book is a must-read. Remember Why You Play documents the lives, struggles, and triumphs of the players and coaches of Faith Christian School in Grapevine, Texas.

Sports columnist and author David Thomas followed the team for a full season, recording a story that will inspire readers to understand that relationships are more important than winning.

One of the key events was a game that Faith Christian played against the Gainesville State Tornadoes, a school for convicted juvenile offenders. The story of this spectacular game is being made into a movie, titled One Heart, with an anticipated release in November 2010. Reminiscent of Hoosiers and Remember the Titans, this true story makes a strong statement about the impact of compassion and sportsmanship.
Remember Why You Play  is one of the few books I've read that really make me stop and think about my life and count my blessings. David Thomas's page-turning prose has the ability to both make me cry, but also keep me at the edge of my seat. As a lover of football, I really sympathized with all of the players in this unbelievable memoir.

With a smooth, journalistic style and shocking reverberations instilled with tender emotional discoveries, Remember Why You Play is an important read. If you like sports reads with strong Christian values, be sure to pick this one up. 

Stephanie Loves: "He cried on the field as he waited for the cart that would take him to an ambulance. That night he lay in his hospital bed, asking God, 'Why me? Why would You do that to me?' He later recalled, 'I was distraught because I felt like everything had worked out and God had just slammed me back to reality. I guess I had been getting too big of a head. God tends to do that.'"

Radical Rating:
 8 hearts: An engaging read; highly recommended. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Saturday, January 22, 2011

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥: The Kama Sutra by Madelyn Carol Dervos

The Kama Sutra
Vatsyayana and Madelyn Carol Dervos

Page Count: 176
Release Date: 2000

For the first time in 120 years, a refreshingly modern version of Vatsyayana's Kama Sutra. This 176-page book keeps the wisdom from centuries ago, but in the language of today.

Included in this Japanese silk-bound edition, are 21 graphic, hand-painted illustrations of the original Kama Sutra love-making positions. This brand new edition makes a beautiful gift for couples who want to learn about the ancient art of making love and provides a perspective on lovemaking that is often lost in the west.

Considered one of the great works of ancient Indian literature, the Kama Sutra offered the people of that time a complete approach to one of their pillars of life; KAMA, the principle of love, pleasure, and sensual gratification. It is a timeless message—those same principles apply equally today.

What Stephanie Thought: Okay, honestly, I don't think the blurb or the book cover really does this book any justice. I got the opportunity to read and review The Kama Sutra Book, which typically in our society is said with a small gasp, or in means of taboo. I know it's a sex book, you guys, but it's not just smut or pornography or anything. It's a book about love and relationships too, not solely the physical stuff.

The Kama Sutra is divided into eight convenient chapters: Love Principles, which describes dharma, artha, kama, and the types of women; Intercourse, which details on sexual union, embrace, kissing, contact, positions, gender roles, and other circumstances; Acquiring a Wife, which lists the ideal marriage and the confidence of women in relationship to men; About a Wife, which explains the virtues of women and conducts of wives; About the Wives of Other People, which analyzes gender characteristics, states of mind, and authority; About Courtesans, which is the "woman's" chapter of the Kama Sutra; Attracting Others, which construes aphrodisiacs, personal adornment, desire, and conquering hearts; and The Illustrated, which displays 20+ original love-making positions in exquisite and breathtaking detail.

So really, the only explicit stuff in the entire book was one chapter out of the complete eight, meaning it was an important, but not a fundamental portion of the book.

With an interest in relationship psychology, I found it really fun to be able to read about the feeling of attraction men have towards women. I loved being able to establish "love" principles, and the end with the detailed illustrations were helpful too ;)

The only thing that irritated me was how it was clearly originally written in a patriarchal society, demeaning women and referring them as "courtesans" often. I understand how in ancient India, that was the social norm, but it was still, from a girl's point of view, slightly insulting. For instance, there was a list from "Acquiring a Wife" containing the types of women that were ideal wives because they were easily won over (whatever that means); these women included women who hated their husbands, women who looked sideways at a man, sociable women (read, sluts), widows, poor women, women fond of sex, vain women, women with many younger brothers, jealous women, cowards, lazy women, and women neglected by their husbands. Ancient India was probably a polygamous society too—but still, that list was just awful to read. A lot of the material in The Kama Sutra was like that, purely macho and undermining, but overall, it was an informative, enjoyable reference read.

Where Stephanie Got It: is an online store that sells not only sex toys, but also other sensual products such as oils, love games, and lingerie. I received The Kama Sutra book from its adult bookstore for free in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Check out's blog for exclusive deals, tips, and information!
Radical Rating: 
9 hearts: Loved it! This book has a spot on my favorites shelf. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥: What I Learned Under the Sun by Kyle L. Coon

What I Learned Under the Sun
Kyle L. Coon

Page Count: 234
Release Date: 10 June, 2010
Publisher: self-published
Source: Complimentary copy provided by author, via LibraryThing, in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you!)

People go through life and wonder, what if I had? What if I opened that door? What if I had gone right instead of left? What if I had more time? Where would my journey have taken me if I had made another decision?
Is it a mystery or is our journey all part of God's plan that will lead you to your final destination under the sun? In What I Learned Under the Sun, the only requirement is to have faith even against seemingly insurmountable odds.
So many things happened in my life where the odds of them happening were inconceivable, virtually impossibly; my journey could have come only from a Higher Power, because my life is truly unbelievable. I learned Under the Sun you have to live by faith and when the Lord opens doors for you and gives you a sign... walk through it! That door will change your life forever.

What Stephanie Thought: Kyle L. Coon presents an incredibly touching and simply unbelievable memoir in What I Learned Under the Sun. In exquisite precision and detail, he describes the things he has done—and hasn't done—in his lifetime, and in the end, shows the reader how blessed he is to have a life under the sun that he has grown to love through thick and thin, warts and all.

Beginning from his early adulthood, Coon displays the young and carefree innocence exhibited within himself. Living in sin with his then-girlfriend, Brenda, he realizes that not always are two perfectly nice people meant to be together. He then goes on explaining marriage to his beautiful wife, Marlene, and details the success and happiness he achieves then.

However, that's the end of the happy-go-lucky story in Coon's life. Soon, he discovers even under God, Satan will always find its way to shine through, when it is revealed that Marlene becomes irresponsible, going to bars at night, and randomly hooks up with other men. It's all turmoil from there, including severe bankruptcy and divorce conflicts. For three years, he describes how he was unable to see his two daughters, due to Marlene's false accusations that he was an abusive dad. Battling custody rights, Coon is able to hold his head high without ever giving up, because he knows the Lord's power is by his side.

The inconsistency of grammar and spelling is heavy, which made reading dreadful. I could not go a sentence without finding some sort of mistake, including "your/you're", missing punctuation, unnecessary punctuation, random symbols like ~ and ,,, and THIS that should never be seen in a book of text, and incorrect usage of quotation marks, bold, and italics. It was extremely annoying that Coon did not bother to edit the text. The story itself was very profound and had potential, but its illegibility made it just impossible. 

I found myself rooting for Kyle because he seems like such a kind, generous man, which I am sure he is. His life is an amazing one, and I really enjoyed reading about his struggles—and what he went through to overcome them. However, he seriously needs an editor. I know he has a follow-up memoir coming out called What I Did Under the Sun, that will detail on what happened after he gained custody of his daughters from his malicious ex-wife, so I look forward to reading that.

Stephanie Loves: "What I Learned Under the Sun is people come into your life [and] leave a lot of happy memories that last forever."
Radical Rating:
 4 hearts: So-so; reading this book may cause wrinkles (from frowning so much). ♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥: The War of the Worlds, Plus Blood, Guts and Zombies by H.G. Wells and Eric S. Brown

The War of the Worlds, Plus Blood, Guts and Zombies
H.G. Wells and Eric S. Brown

Page Count: 306
Release Date: 14 December, 2010
Publisher: Gallery Books (Simon & Schuster)
Source: Assigned by Paranormal Haven (thanks, ladies!)

The classic science fiction tale that will eat your brains! Never before in the history of warfare had destruction been so indiscriminate and so universal.

Panic descends upon planet Earth once more as H.G. Wells's terrifying cosmic invaders blaze a path of fiery destruction across Victorian England, leaving thousands of undead in their wake. Our adventurous narrator must survive the apocalyptic alien threat while fighting off raging, bloodthirsty zombies. Who will triumph when man, Martian, and flesh-eating monster meet? Packed with fearsome supernatural creatures at every turn, Wells's original masterpiece is scarier, gorier, and more suspenseful than ever!

What Stephanie Thought: I haven't read the original The War of the Worlds, so when I picked up The War of the Worlds, Plus Blood, Guts, and Zombies, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. Maybe if I had read the rudimentary novel, I could have enjoyed it more, but not having done so, I found much of this book disappointing.

I normally am a fan of science fiction because of the element of the gory and of the unknown. I was excited to read this because I knew it would involve zombies, but the zombies played very minor roles in the plot.

I'm not sure why this had to be drawn out to 306 pages, but the best way I can explain what happens is that a mysterious cylinder carrying Martians appears, containing a Heat-Ray gun that zaps dead people into zombies. A few days later, another cylinder appears, containing more Martians, and another gun. Then a THIRD cylinder appears... and it's pretty much self-explanatory from there. Aside from the three cylinder appearances, nothing actually happened within the book, making it really hard to finish. In terms of style, it wasn't difficult to get through, which was pleasant because usually classics take a little more analyzing than usual. The quality of the writing however, was very bland and unmoving. There's this one scene with the zombies that attempts to be extremely bloodletting: "Their brains must have cooked inside their skulls like eggs frying in a pan." Okay, "eggs frying in a pan"? Real original. Real horrific. Nothing particularly motivated me to keep reading. It took me a while to finish the whole novel, and though it was a pretty facile read, in the end, I felt like I didn't get anything out of it.

The War of the Worlds, Plus Blood, Guts, and Zombies wasn't the worst I've read, but it definitely isn't something I'd be interested in reading again. The monotonous way the author writes seems to drone on and on, and the action never presents itself as suspenseful or the least bit amusing, even.

Stephanie Loves: "I crouched at the foot of the staircase with my back to the wall, shivering violently. Then I heard the screams from outside, down the road. The voices I heard belonged to the living and now the dead had found them. I shuddered and prayed for their souls."
Radical Rating: 
5 hearts: Doesn't particularly light any of my fires; I feel indifferent about this book. ♥♥♥♥♥

Friday, January 21, 2011

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥: Save the Date by Jenny B. Jones

Save the Date
Jenny B. Jones

Page Count: 320
Release Date: 1 February, 2011
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Source: Complimentary copy provided by BookSneeze in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you!)

You are cordially invited to the wedding of the year with the most unlikely bride and groom.

Save the date... and say your prayers.

When the funding for Lucy's non-profit job is pulled, she is determined to find out why. Enter Alex Sinclair, former professional football star and heir to Sinclair Enterprises—the primary donor to Lucy's non-profit organization.

Both Lucy and Alex have something the other desperately wants.

Alex has it all... except for the votes he needs to win his bid for Congress. Despite their mutual dislike, Alex makes Lucy a proposition: pose as his fiancée in return for the money she desperately needs. Bound to a man who isn't quite what he seems, Lucy finds her heart—and her future—on the line.

Save the Date is a spunky romance that will have readers laughing out loud as this dubious pair try to save their careers, their dreams... and maybe even a date.
What Stephanie Thought: Who said Christian fiction had to be boring? Certainly not Jenny B. Jones. Her acclaimed novels may not contain the spice most romance novels nowadays do, and yet Save the Date is probably now one of my favorite books ever.

The initial plot is a little stale: handsome rich man, beautiful lower-class girl. The two make a contract to "marry", only to fall in love with each other en route. Basically the storyline for any Harlequin Presents book.

But what separates Jones's writing from trashy romance novels (aside from the obvious—the sex) is how she unbinds the cliché, making Save the Date nothing like I expected it to be.

Growing up and going to high school with Charleston's toniest elite doesn't sound too bad. That is, if you aren't Lucy, whose mother cleaned the houses of her classmates. Taunted and scarred from the memories of not fitting in, not being one of them in high school, Lucy Wiltshire is an independent woman. She doesn't need a husband (because fittingly, her boyfriend dumped her on the day she thought he would propose), and she doesn't need rich friends—her true friends stick with her and love her no matter what her socioeconomic status. What she does need, is for her charity organization, Saving Grace, which helps house and assist homeless girls and young women by giving them shelter and a second chance, to keep its head above the water. But without enough funding, that doesn't seem very likely. For the first time ever, Lucy is forced to admit her weakness, finding refuge within none other than the son of her (former) biggest benefactor: Alex Sinclair.

It all makes sense for Alex. When he is seen with Lucy one platonic night, the paparazzi goes crazy, and the polls top the charts. If he creates a little relationship, nothing harmless, just a make-believe story that he and Lucy are to wed soon, wouldn't that help his numbers drastically? Of course.

And it does. Until news bearing the tragedy of his missing twin brother Will, the good one, the kind one, the one everyone loved, strikes. Along with the struggle Lucy is going through to keep Saving Grace alive, both she and Alex realize that maybe life can't be so perfectly planned—at least not by deceit

I loved Lucy and Alex's journey to find their true selves because of how real, how heartwarming, and how giggle-out-loud-on-the-bus (note to self: do NOT read on the bus or else fellow passengers will stare at you bizarrely) funny it was.

What I love most though, is the characters. Lucy is delightfully charming and self-sufficient. She's the kind of woman I want grow up to be, with the snappy comebacks and headstrong ambitions, and all. Alex... don't get me started. If there was such thing as Mr. Perfect, it would be him. Sure, he's a little confident, but that's so entirely sexy. No one wants to date a wimp. Julian is the adorable gay guy friend every girl needs. And Clare, the presumed antagonist aka snooty rich woman who I started off hating for the aloofness and malice she presented towards Lucy, is just the funniest character ever. A 70-something year old woman SPOILER (who is Lucy's grandma!!) who gets fussy about losing a round of Guitar Hero and who has only just discovered the magic of Mac&Cheese; too cute. Too funny.

My final verdict? You MUST get to reading this book as soon as you can. Jones has such a brilliant way of crafting words to make them interesting, but not over-the-top flowery.

You'll certainly enjoy Alex and Lucy's hilarious banter throughout the novel, as well as the moving values Jones emphasizes, including family, love, and friendship. You won't want to put this one down, and you'll read it cover to cover within a matter of hours, making you wish in the end, you yourself, were in Lucy's shoes.

Stephanie Loves: "Closing her eyes, Lucy cursed her stupidity. She adored a man who would never love her back. One who had an agenda that didn't include a wife and family. 'Is something wrong?' Yes, she thought miserably as Alex pulled her close. Something was wrong. She had gone and fallen in love with her fiancé."
Radical Rating:
 10 hearts: I'm speechless; this book is an extraordinarily amazingly wonderfully fantastically marvelous masterpiece. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

the essence of intimidation

Rugby. You gotta love it. I'm playing this spring, and we've started conditioning for the winter. Which wasn't so bad, til I found out I needed to be freakin' fitness certified to be able to join. I mean, I'm a runner and a swimmer AND I have a membership to the YMCA. You'd think they'd let me start lifting with the team. But nope.
To be truthful, I love sports. I love working out. The adrenaline, the sweat (gross, but it means you're really working hard), the surge of power you feel when you know you've really pushed yourself. But fitness centers are so...intimidating. See, the "fitness certification" course I've been enrolled in for the past five days took place in the school gym (not gymnasium where they play basketball...oh, I wish). A guy who looked exactly like him
went around telling us how to handle the machines and benches properly. Not bad. Until he made us actually use the machines and benches. For five days, our workouts involved:
  • 20 minutes of striding on the elliptical
  • 8 minutes of abs (basically just doing crunches for eight minutes straight....ahhhhh)
  • 16 reps of arm curls, arm extensions, leg curls, leg extensions, leg presses, pull-ups, dips, back extensions, ab crunches, lat pulls, rows, chest presses, and overhead presses. Each.
I wouldn't have minded it so much, if everyone in the gym hadn't been exercising like this:
Whereas my idea of working out is this:
So tranquil.
Anyway, expect the surprise (and horror) that dawned on me when I realized I was going to be sharing the gym with the Fitness Club from now on. Ughh. Not to mention, I can't feel a single muscle on my body right now. During dinner, I reached over to take the plate of carrot toss from my mom, and my legs hurt so much, I groaned. I was like "Mooooommm" and she was like "You shouldn't be reaching at the dinner table anyway," and proceeded to scold me on table manners. What a woman. And then I had to go to youth group. An unfortunate guy who I'll call "Mike" was sitting next to me on the floor, where we usually gather. I was enjoying his presence...until it was time to leave. Meaning, everyone was starting to stand up.
Me: I can't...feel my legs.
Mike: What? Why?
Me: Uhh. Twenty minutes on the elliptical. That's what.
Mike: Ouch.
Me: Help me up.
Mike: Okay.
Me: Ow OW OWW. Stop stop stop.
Mike: *giggle* Are you all right?
Me: No, fool. Help me get up again.
Mike: Okay.
Me: OW you jerk! Stop.
Mike: I'm not doing anything.
Me: You're pulling me up too hard!
Mike: You're ridiculous.
Me: It hurts!
Mike: I'm hardly even pulling you. Try to go slowly.
Me: What does it look like I'm doing?
Mike: Okay, ready? Sloooowly.
Me: Okay you aren't funny, big boy. Stop. It hurts a LOT.

Mike: Maybe you're out of shape.
Me: Maybe you should stop talking.
Mike: Why are you being such a baby??
Me: My quadriceps! My quadriceps!
I mean, I feel so great right now, but so utterly pathetic at the same time. And though I am now officially fitness certified (hold the applause) and don't have to attend that dreadful course anymore, it just means I'll be spending more time in the gym. Doing this:
Oh dear.
On the plus side, if this is what all rugby players look like,
it might not be so bad after all.

1/20/11 EDIT:
And I thought yesterday was bad. Today was the official start of rugby conditioning and lifting which consisted of a grueling 50-minute Indian run, followed by an hour and a half of bench pressing, curling, boxstepping, abs, and my favorite: rugby stunts! Fun, but very very draining.

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥: Two Faces, One Life by Margaret West

Two Faces, One Life
Margaret West

Page Count: 14
Release Date: 6 April, 2009

Publisher: Eternal Press
Source: Gifted by author (thank you, dear!!!) in no way expecting a review, let alone a positive one

Sarah's world is shattered when she is badly disfigured after a house fire. After months of physiotherapy, her old friends have melted away and she decides that there is no longer a place for her in the world. No one will love a woman whose face is hideous scarred and whose body is just a canvas that advertises the damage that flames can do. When Sarah goes to the park to take one last look at the world she wants to leave behind, she bumps into Ted. Blind from a young age, the young man strikes up a conversation with the lonely girl. He doesn't need his eyes see Sarah's beauty. He can hear it in her words. But can he convince Sarah that life is for living and that is possible to view life from a very different angle?
The storyline is tragic: a girl who can't be seen, and a boy who can't see. It sets up the perfect romance. Having lived her entire life with vain beauty, it's extremely difficult for Sarah to recover emotionally from her accident. Suddenly, her pretty face, which was really all she knew, is gone, and with it, she slowly begins to fade too. She withers to a point where she believes she can't take it anymore, that she would be much happier without her horrible life. And so the story begins, with the rustle of tissue paper, the clatter of pills. 

Ted on the other hand, who's lost his vision, views life in a more optimistic way; he can't see, and therefore he gets to choose to see only true beauty. And he finds that within Sarah. Determined to make her find it too, his kind, encouraging words turn out to be what Sarah really needed all this time. 

With poetic prose and gentle, yet completely enduring characters, West creates a heartwarming story about true attraction, true brilliance, and most importantly, true love.

The only problem I had with the story was how quickly it moved—I wish it had been drawn out a bit more! The essence of the story happened all within an hour or so. But then again, it isn't a complete novel, so that in consideration, it's absolutely the best it could have been for its length... or lack thereof.

Radical Rating: 7 hearts: Not without flaws, but overall enjoyable. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Thursday, January 13, 2011

❤ dreaming of books giveaway hop!

books books books We all love them! (and if you dare defy that, you shouldn't be reading this in the first place. tsk tsk). My bookshelf isn't overflowing, (because that would be cliché). No, my bookshelf is freaking obese. I definitely need a bigger one but there's no room for a bigger one! Which is unfortunate for me because I've seriously begun to stash books under my bed. And that's sort of a fire hazard for my baby sister who sometimes like to crawl under there. A girl can dream though, right? Riiight.
Oh, I wish.
Oh, I wish.
I think I've made my point. (But if I haven't, check THIS bookshelf out -- unless you have a poor imagination. Don't say I didn't warn you).
the hop The Dreaming of Books Giveaway Hop, hosted by Kathy at I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and Martha at Reviews by Martha's Bookshelf will run from 12:01 AM Friday, January 14th to 11:59 PM Monday, January 17th. Clearly for us booklovers, isn't it? I don't know about you, but this is just a weekend in heaven, for me!
the giveaway I've got some great books, and I'm super excited! One lucky winner will win a set of ten romance novels!! You heard me, ten!!! Below are the listed titles the winner gets to choose from. Thanks to all the authors who donated the paperbacks for this event.
A second winner will win a beautiful USO mug filled with goodies like black tea from Hawaiian Tea Company, Hawaiian swag, and military swag! Perfect for those cold January days where you want to curl up with a nice mug of steaming tea :)
additionally if more than 100 people enter, I'll throw in TWO more books! I've Pulse of Power by Anne Elizabeth and Case File: Canyon Creek, Wyoming up for grabs; two more romance stories I know everyone will be able to enjoy!
the specifics That's not one, but FOUR marvelous prizes being given away. To enter, all you have to do is:
  1. Follow my blog through Google Friend Connect.
  2. I usually don't like extra entries because they're really tedious, but since I have two other giveaways going on currently, I will. I'll make sure all the extra entries will be rewarded with more points than I usually give :)
    By doing all the extra entries, you have a 5x higher chance of winning!!
    Make sure you comment on this post saying "I'm following" or "I'm entering" or whatever INCLUDING YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS. Indicate any extra points (including Twitter username), if applicable. I WILL be validating all of these entries, so please make certain you are following!
    Because of shipping costs, this giveaway is open only to those residing in the US. If you're international and want to enter, you'll have to pay for shipping.
    the end Be sure to enter all of the other giveaways going on for this hop; there are so many great prizes being given away! Happy reading! :)
    Stephanie xxx