OSR: November 2011--so close

Eve and the Choice Made in EdenEve and the Choice Made in Eden by Beverly Campbell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Eve gets a bad rap, and we all know it. Even I've had my own qualms with the Eden story because of simple lack of understanding, and this book really cleared so much of that up for me.

The Garden story is now one of my new favorite scriptural stories because I've started to understand it so much better. Eve knew what she was doing, and she was influential and powerful. Not only did I start to gain a deeper understanding of gospel principles regarding womanhood and agency, but I also learned more about our relationship with God and my own personal mission.

I have a better idea of the kind of woman I want to be and realize that Eve is the ultimate pioneer. Every woman should read this book. I know I'll reference mine often.

The Woman in White (Penguin Classics)The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Whenever I read or watch mystery stories, I try to figure everything out, and The Woman in White was no exception. The thing is, though, that I didn't really predict any of the twists in this book. Collins had me hooked the whole time--and I really liked that.

The mystery of the woman in white isn't your expected murder or robbery, but rather involves intricate and crafted conspiracy. The characterizations were thorough, and the web of the mystery solid. The story maybe felt a little long at parts, but the writing was so well crafted that I stayed involved.

I enjoyed this story for its unexpected unpredictability and its winning protagonists. The Woman in White is a great 19th-century mystery that I'd recommend to anyone looking for a thrilling, if not fast, read.

Princess Academy(Princess Academy, #1)Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Princess Academy is sweet, simple, engaging, compelling, and interesting. This was the perfect young-adult book for me to read right now. It's full of good writing, endearing characters, and driving plot. I loved this book and was sad to see it end.

Slathbog's Gold (Adventurers Wanted, #1)Slathbog's Gold by M.L. Forman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Categorized as a young-adult novel, I'd place it as a middle reader book. The story followed the traditional Joseph Campbell hero format and often leaned toward the didactic side. That said, Alex was likable enough, and for a tween needing a wholesome and adventurous read, this will do the trick.

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Jacob T. MarleyJacob T. Marley by R. William Bennett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Dickens's Christmas classic, Jacob T. Marley is perhaps the most important character besides Scrooge. It was interesting to read the story through Marley's eyes, especially when I could see how Marley got to be how he was.

The writing was reminiscent of Dickens's own 19th-century style, but sometimes strayed into the didactic zone. Overall, though, this book is a great support to its classic counterpart and sends a clear and uplifting message of love and redemption. I'd like to read this whenever I reread A Christmas Carol.

A Christmas CarolA Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How could you not love this story? (When I was reading it, I kept thinking of the characters played by Muppets, and that was actually delightfully nostalgic.) You can't help but be inspired by Scrooge's redemption and reclaimed life.

One of my favorite parts of this story is the fact that most characters in the book frankly forgive Scrooge when he seeks their love and friendship--what a beautiful reminder to be kind and forgiving always.

Something I especially enjoyed about this edition was the illustrations. This particular illustrated version is one that I look forward to reading with my family in Christmases to come.

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I made good progress in my annual goal. I finished November with six books left to read in the year. I quite enjoyed my November reading, perhaps with the minor exception of Slathbog's Gold, a book I reviewed for the bookstore. According to Goodreads I'm still one book behind my goal, so it looks like my December reading is cut out for me.


let's leave work at work, okay?

I was grocery shopping in Target this evening and almost asked a fellow shopper if I could help her find anything, as if I actually worked at Target instead of Deseret Book.

True story.


a Wilson Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving weekend went by entirely too fast.

We had chocolate turkeys. And a regular one. Plus stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls, and five pies.

We played some Dominion and lots of Bang! One time I was an outlaw and rocked it. Another game, the outlaws rocked me.

Jeremy and Nicole and Josh were here. (Remember, there are two Joshes.) Estee couldn't come, and we missed her.

She had to work. And so did I. I've never had a job that required me to work on Thanksgiving weekend. So yeah, I've been spoiled. And I'm okay with that.

But working really wasn't the worst. And sometimes, I have to do things I don't want to do. Even on Thanksgiving weekend.

But I still got lots of family and fun time in the mix, time that included some movies. Think theater movies like The Muppets. And couch movies like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2. And don't leave out the nostalgic childhood films like A Muppet Christmas Carol.

I'm sitting here typing this, and real life looms, reminding me that, yes, there are still dirty dishes in the sink from Thanksgiving morning.

I think I'll do them tomorrow. Tonight, I'm going to soak in the last little bit of Thanksgiving weekend I have and deal with real life later. Right now, I have some serious reading to do by the fireplace. In stretchy pants. Obviously.



Monday when I checked the mail, I found this waiting for me.

I was thrilled. I recently took the plunge and took out my own subscription to Cook's Illustrated, and I received this subscription bonus with serious excitement. See, here's the thing: I am devoted follower of the Test Kitchen. I don't have cable and so haven't actually ever watched America's Test Kitchen, but its companion publication, Cook's Illustrated, is everything I could hope for in a cooking magazine. Second only to my own family of cooks and bakers, Cook's Illustrated is my go-to cooking source.

And don't forget the recent gem I found, Baking Illustrated.

I bought this with birthday giftcard money, and I love it. It's my baking bible. It's these editors' job to experiment in the kitchen with things like leavening, eggs, milk-to-flour ratios, and mixing methods; their goal is to find the best, most reliable recipes. When it comes to my recent cake failures, this book is exactly what I've been looking for. I'm converted completely. I will actually hunker down on the couch expressly to read this book. No joke.

You will accurately surmise that much of the holiday baking that will be happening around here will be rooted in these publications--what else could you expect from a firm devotee? Also, please note that no part of this post was sponsored by the Test Kitchen or its affiliates, though if they happen to read this rave review I wouldn't say no to a lifetime Cook's Illustrated subscription, or better yet, a trip to the Test Kitchen in Boston.


kicking off the holidays

:: Christmas bins
:: Christmas music
:: Pumpkin bread
:: Cozy fire
:: Christmas sewing
:: Mistletoe crafting
:: Rainy day
:: Homemade mac and cheese

Yes, I do set up for Christmas at Thanksgiving, and it's awesome.

where to find me today

So my friend Camille asked me to guest post on her series The Heart of Life Is Good, so that's where you can find me today!

You should also check out the rest of her blog--she's pure delight all the way.


comfort food

I've been battling a chest cold this week, and instead of doing anything productive, all I really want to do is plop on the couch with some cream of wheat and hot chocolate and watch some Gilmore Girls.

So that's what I'm doing this morning.

That is, until I have to go to work at 11:00.


the thing about root canals

:: The worst part of a root canal is getting to the point where you need one.
:: I'd rather have a migraine than root canal pain.
:: Root canal pain registers as a 7 on a scale of 9, 9 being the most pain I've ever experienced on a scale of 10. (Follow that?)
:: The Novocain shots put my body into brief shock.
:: I start to feel claustrophobic with more than two implements in my mouth.
:: You can fight a gag reflex by keeping your eyes open, focusing on a specific spot on the ceiling, and breathing through your nose.
:: I'm willing to undergo whatever it takes to avoid another emergency root canal.
:: Even braces.
:: And yeah, braces might just happen.
:: I don't want to talk about it.


OSR: September and October 2011

My reading still hasn't picked up to where it was when I was commuting, and I've accepted that. Even though it takes me longer to get through my books, I've read some really, really great ones lately (some of which won't make it onto the blog until the November OSR post).

Shanghai GirlsShanghai Girls by Lisa See

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Shanghai Girls opened my eyes up to a world I didn't know much about. I found Pearl and May's Shanghai life fascinating as well as their flight from China and their entry into the United States. I didn't know much about Japan's invasion into China or about the Chinese refugees in America. I found it sad and interesting how the immigrants found ways around the system so that they could protect their families.

The relationship between Pearl and May is simple, yet still hard sometimes. They're sisters and share a bond unlike any other in their lives. At the same time, they fight jealousy and bitterness while still remaining inseparable best friends. I just love stories about sisters.

The most meaningful part of this book to me was the message that tragedy doesn't have to define your life. It's never too late to make a fresh start, and while your life may not turn out as you expected, you can still find happiness. Shanghai Girls is a great book that I'd recommend to most people.

Rocket BoysRocket Boys by Homer H. Hickam, Jr.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

September 2011: Rocket Boys is just as enjoyable the second time around as the first. As you turn the last page, savoring each final word, you leave not wanting for any more or less. You come away perfectly satisfied. This is a book about a boy, a father, a town, and their dreams, a book that gives you exactly what you need, even if you didn't know what you needed to begin with.

Note: My Rocket Boys review is amended from its full Goodreads version. The full version includes the review from the first time I read this book in August 2009.

Moloka'iMoloka'i by Alan Brennert

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was an interesting book that introduced me to a world I hadn't known much about. Not only was the insight into 19th- and 20th-century leper colonies interesting, but the character development and depth was compelling. The protagonist, Rachel, was a strong and beautiful woman whose character drove the plot and its emotion forward.

While not making it to my top-favorite lists, Moloka'i is still a well thought-out novel full of lovable characters and emotional plot lines.

DraculaDracula by Bram Stoker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Could there be a more perfect book to read in October? No, there isn't. Dracula was the perfect Halloween book.

Stoker creates the quintessential horror story, one built on suspense, on uncertainty, on the fantastic supernatural. Dracula introduces an eerie elegance to vampire lore, and I found myself captivated by the spookiness of it all.

Dracula combines spooky with literary finesse; it doesn't contain gratuitous gore or violence, but is rather replete with subtle and carefully crafted build-up.

To be completely honest, I loved this book. The only thing that stops me from giving it 5 stars is that it's not life-changing. Dracula just really is an excellent story, one that far surpasses modern horror stories.

View all my reviews

I'm three books, or seven percent, behind in my annual reading goal, and even though the end of the year is approaching fast, I'm holding out hope that I'll finish strong. 

What have you been reading lately? Did you also read a spooky book in October? Are you on track for your 2011 reading goals?


a bookseller

My official title at Deseret Book is bookseller.

I work between 25 and 30 hours a week, and throughout my shifts I do everything from dusting to stocking to involved customer service. A year and a half ago when I graduated with vast editorial aspirations you wouldn't have found me even thinking about working retail. Is that too diva? Maybe it's just that infectious college grad carpe diem.

Let's get real, being a bookseller is something that comes very naturally to me simply because I can talk books indefinitely. Sometimes, though, I wish I were on that other side of bookselling, the side with the deadlines and proofs and manuscript piles.

And here's where this indulgent post-degree monologue takes a turn: I'm okay with all of this.

I was talking to my mom this week and answered some question about work. Then she said, "Charlotte, you seem so much happier than you were a few months ago." And it's true. Contrasting my downtown Portland life with my Lake Oswego retail life, I can't believe how unsatisfied and stifled I was before. I'm so much happier now, and it shows. I'm less stressed and less anxious, more motivated and more purposeful.

So my professional life didn't take me where I thought it would. And I'm content right now in my role as bookseller. That doesn't mean that writing and editing aren't important to me, because they are important--very important. I fit them in where they're supposed to fit, which right now is a freelance gig here and there.

I can't tell you exactly why being a bookseller is working for me right now, but it is. And I'm happy.


yes, it really is Wednesday already

:: Saturday I spent the day on pain meds. Josh drove me to Joann's (since the pain meds prohibited driving) so I could use my coupon. I bought supplies for four Christmas gifts for only $35--score. I was beat afterwards, though, and lazed on the couch all afternoon waiting for the meds to clear my system. Plus side, though? My tooth was feeling better--so much better--and the meds were totally worth it.

:: Sunday we stayed home from church. I was still feeling lightheaded, and Josh was still recovering from a nasty cold. I pretty much stayed in one spot all day and read my book, knitted, and napped.

:: Monday I resolved to rid our home of any and all sickliness. I cleaned the bathroom, changed the sheets, folded laundry, and made cinnamon rolls. This was also the day when Josh started a new project for his job--in Hillsboro. Translation: He went from a 90-second bike ride commute to a 60- to 80- minute car ride commute. Gross.

:: Tuesday I meant to blog and didn't. I celebrated my friend Shari's birthday with her while her husband was working on some school assignments. We went to the Olive Garden, and it was delicious. Josh hung out at home and was more or less still a commute zombie when I returned from the birthday celebrations.

:: As I've been falling asleep the past few nights, I've been brainstorming ideas for a Christmas newsletter that may or may not see fulfillment. Consequently, it's been harder to fall asleep.

:: With Josh's new commute I think I can have some serious empathy. We all know that I hated commuting.

:: I have some Goodreads updates to post. I'm really enjoying my current book, The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins. It's different from what I expected, but in a good way.

:: I have some good Christmas projects happening around here. My dream is to finish the serious Christmas gifting by December, or at least the gifts that I have to send.

:: I woke up earlier than I really needed to today, and I'm loving it. I have time to read my scriptures, eat breakfast, and blog. Awesome.

:: I'll post a real post soon. Promise.


kicking off the weekend

What better way to usher in the weekend than with an emergency root canal??

Oh yeah, I can think of a billion better ways to spend a Friday.

A billion.


about that time

We had our friend Ian over for dinner and a game of Dominion, and he offered to bring dessert.

This isn't Ian. This is Josh. Obviously.

He reminded us that it's about that time, the time for Tim-Tam Slams.

This is Ian. He's Tim-Tam Slamming.

We agreed.


{Tim-Tam Slams}

Tim-Tams, a cookie often found at Target
hot chocolate

Take a Tim-Tam and take small bites out of opposite corners. Dip one corner into the hot chocolate and suck. As soon as you taste the hot chocolate, put the whole cookie into your mouth before it completely dissolves. There shouldn't be the slightest crunch. Allow the sugar rush to wash over you in chocolately, warm goodness. Repeat.

Oh, November, it's good to have you back. We'll have many more Tim-Tam Slam sessions, I can assure you.
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