Saturday, November 8, 2014

Book Review: Wedding Night

Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella

Lottie becomes the queen of bad decisions after any breakup, so when her boyfriend asks her on a business trip, instead of proposing like she thought, she gets mad, meets up with an old ex boyfriend, and they decide to get married right away. But Lottie’s sister, Fliss, has constructed a scheme to stop the wedding night before anything can happen, hoping to make Lottie see reason and annul the marriage.

I just love when a book is truly just an escape from everyday life, and this one is just that. Nothing I had to think too hard about. It’s just a fun, fluffy read that left me feeling refreshed and happy, and ready to take on the heavier stuff.

I give this one a B.

Sophie Kinsella is also the author of the Shopaholic books. The seventh book in that series, Shopaholic to the Stars, is now available. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Book Review: Eleanor & Park

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
It’s 1986, and Eleanor, (Stereotypical “Red-Headed-Stepchild” who comes from an abusive home), is the new girl in school. Park (good  family, good grades, good life) is the only one who feels sorry enough for her to let her share his seat on the bus. Little does he know that when he does, his whole life will change. First love, man.

I read this book in about two days. It was sweet, and smart, and even cringeworthy and abrasive (Warning: LOTS of F-Bombs!) at times. It took me right back to high school, when I thought my clothes and taste in music were what defined me, but eventually realized it really is what’s inside you that truly makes you who you are. Also, if this book had a soundtrack, I’d totally buy it!

I give Eleanor & Park a B+.

Also by Rainbow Rowell:  Attachments, Fangirl, and Landline

Monday, October 6, 2014

Movie Review: Gone Girl

Holy. Moly.

David Fincher's film version of Gone Girl hit theaters this weekend, and since my book club read this book a few months ago (click here to see my review), we decided to go see it as a group.

And oh boy, did Fincher capture the book pretty much perfectly on film or what? There were some aspects that were even darker than the book (Desi's "offing" especially), and only a few differences and characters left out or downsized, probably because of time restraints (the movie is already over two and a half hours), but he pretty much got the twists and turn of the plot down pat. And, contrary to rumors that had been going around prior to release, the ending is pretty much the same as the book. I know many had their hearts set on a new conclusion... sorry guys.

The film stars Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, and Rosamund Pike as his wife Amy, who move from New York to Nick's home town in Missouri after losing their jobs during the recession, and when Nick's mother becomes ill. On their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy goes missing, and Nick is blamed for her disappearance and suspected murder.

Affleck was perfect as the sometimes (or more-than-sometimes) unlikeable Nick, and Pike's "Amazing Amy" was just that. Spot on. Oscar worthy even. And Trent Reznor's score was perfectly haunting.

This film is rightly rated R for very strong violence, language, adult and sexual situations, and nudity. I would definitely recommend it only for VERY mature high schoolers (we're talking the oldest of the senior class here), possibly even college-age and up.

I give this one an A-.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Movie Review: The Boxtrolls

After a fun weekend at a family wedding in Ojai, my parents offered to keep my little man Eli there with them for a few days.

It's been nice (even though I really, really miss my guy!) to have some one-on-one time with my almost-9-year old, Sophia.

We've gone out to breakfast a couple times, gone shopping, planned out and chosen all the party supplies for her upcoming birthday tea party, and this afternoon, I surprised her with a trip to the movies, and dinner and ice cream after, since my hubby had to work late.

After her homework was all done, I suggested we put our cozy jammie pants on, because I had a surprise for her. We NEVER go to movies during the week, unless we're on some sort of break from school, so she was surprised when we pulled into the theater's parking lot.

She's been begging to see The Boxtrolls since she saw the first trailers a few months ago, and honestly I've been pretty antsy to see it myself.

The Boxtrolls comes from the same studio (Laika) that made one of my all time favorites, Coraline, as well as Paranorman, and it took YEARS to make. The story was fun, and original, there was a great message of acceptance and not judging someone before you know them, and the animation was AMAZING! Plus I LOVE anything Steampunk, and there were Steampunk elements all throughout this one. It was happy times!

I'd recommend The Boxtrolls, which is rated PG, for kids first grade and up. There are some somewhat scary elements, mostly having to do with the villain, who is allergic to cheese, eats it anyway, and has major, kind of gross, reactions to it, all the way up until the end. There is also some peril, to the point where Sophia, who is pretty emotional anyway, was crying, for fear that characters had died.

I give The Boxtrolls a B+.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

My Top 10: Books! (Because I was chalenged!)

So this "challenge" post ( you know, the "pick ten books that have stayed with you... don't think too much! Tag 9 friends to find out what their ten books are, and the person who nominated you so they can see your list" one...)  has been floating around Facebook for a few weeks now, and I thought that in honor of Banned Books Week, which it happens to be this week, I'd post my answers here as well as on my page, since many of the books that have made a lasting impression on me have at one time or another been either banned or challenged.

To me, (and I KNOW some of you will disagree), banning books is just silly. I understand wanting to shelter and protect your kids, but do this by making sure the books your kid is choosing are age appropriate, reading the books first, and being open to discussion about the topics in the books. And maybe stop being so uptight about things (I'm looking at you Harry Potter banners! Last I checked, magic wands aren't real, and these books are not corrupting our children's minds! Giving them hope, and instilling a love of reading? Yes! Corruption. Not so much.).

1. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
I didn't have to read this in school, which is probably why I loved it so much. I feel like even though it was written in the 40's and takes place in the early 1900's, the ideas throughout the book (trying to overcome family issues, the importance of education, pursuing dreams, etc.) still ring true today.

2. To Kill A Mockingbird
Again, I never read this one in school. Actually, it wasn't until just over a year ago that I read it for the first time. I love Scout's undying hope and innocence, and the way she tries to see the good in people. Which I'm sure has all to do with the relationships between Atticus and his children, really listening to what they have to say and being respectful of them. An example all of us parents can learn from, I'm sure.
This is also one of very few cases where the movie, starring the impeccable Gregory Peck(whom Harper Lee hand picked for the role.), is just about as good as the book.

3. The Book Thief

Speaking of banned books, this book which has been banned/challenged itself, is about a little girl in Nazi ruled Germany who, get this, STEALS banned books! What!? Liesel is a being fostered by a German couple after her mother can no longer care for her. This family also happens to be harboring a Jew. Such a fantastic, and so very sad, story, which happens to be narrated by Death himself.

The film version of this book also did a pretty good job sticking to the story, and the casting is perfect. I definitely recommend watching it after you read the book, if your heart can handle it.

4. Great Expectations

This one I did read in school! We read this in 9th grade, and I just loved the lively, interesting characters, how visual it was, and the plot twist. I could never understand what Pip saw in Estella, and this is the first time I can remember NOT wanting the characters to end up together. And poor Miss Havisham.

If I were you, I'd totally skip the 1998 movie version. It was so not good, and nothing like the book. In fact, I'm not sure there's been a truly decent film version, and there have been many movies made based on this book.

5. The Bridge to Terabithia

This was the first book to ever make me cry. I was probably going into 4th or 5th grade, and I was at my Grandparent's house visiting during summer vacation. Going to the library was always a highlight whenever I stayed there. She checked this book out for me, and I DEVOURED it! And absolutely sobbed at the end. I've since reread it, and it still gets me. Such a great tale of friendship, love, and tragedy.

6. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
I'm not normally a fan of non-fiction, but this one sucked me right in! Mary Roach keeps it interesting and entertaining, without being disrespectful. And I totally want to donate my body to science now!

7. Harry Potter. ALL of them!
Does one really need a reason to love Harry Potter? After all, there are so many. Adventure, humor, love, loss, friendship. Magic! I first read these when I was in my late teens, and it's the only series I've reread multiple times, just because it's that good. JK Rowling got kids (and adults) to READ! And that is so important. I'd rather have my kids fall in love with reading by reading these books about magic, than never to experience the love of books because I couldn't get past the darkness that is in them. Rowling wrote them to grow with the reader, therefore, when Harry is 17 in the last book, the reader should be of the same mind. (You know your kid better than anyone. If you don't think they can handle it, hold off until they can. But PLEASE don't hold off on these wonderful, beautifully written books forever. Besides, your kids will get to them sooner or later!) 
And yes. I loved every one of these movies as well. Maybe not as much as the books, but they're still some of my favorites to watch as a family.

8. The Fault in Our Stars

The last book I've read that made me sob! Like a baby. I knew what was coming. It was no secret. In a book about kids with cancer, it's never a secret. It still hit me hard. The characters are witty and fun and full of life despite the cancer. Hazel and Gus will stick with you for a long time. Okay> Okay.

Definitely check out this movie. It may not be exactly the same as the book, but man, they did a good job. And Shailene Woodley IS Hazel.

9. The Shopaholic series

Not because they're good, but because they're a fun escape. I've been keeping up with the antics of Rebecca Brandon (Nee Bloomwood) for the past 10 years, and I'm not giving up anytime soon, especially with the next book coming out next month! Becky Bloomwood-Brandon feels like a good friend. A good friend, whom I sometimes want to slap some sense into!

Skip this movie! Although Isla Fisher is adorable, it tries to cram the first three books into one movie, and loses it's charm completely.
10. Pride and Prejudice
But of course. How could I not include P&P?
Once again, I never read this in school, which, again, is probably why I love it so much. I love to get lost in the language. And oh that Mr. Darcy. I even tried to get my husband to name our son Fitzwilliam after Darcy, but no such luck. (I did get to name him after Walt Disney, so it wasn't too sad...). It's funny that even after a couple hundred years, this book is still so true on so many levels. If it's one you didn't like because you were forced to read, it may surprise you to find that if you go back to it now, you might just enjoy it after all.

Honestly, 10 book that have changed my life in some way or another, and stuck with me through the years, is not enough...

So, now YOU can accept the challenge! What are your 10 ten books that have stayed with you or touched you in such a way, that you still think about them?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Book Review: Palisades Park

Palisades Park by Alan Brennert

The 1930's are a time of great dreams for the Stopka family, who own a French fry concession stand at the fabulous Palisades Park in New Jersey. After seven year old Toni Stopka sees a high dive act perform for the first time, she knows that is what she wants to do, even while The Great Depression, WWII, and even the Korean War threaten to tear her family apart.

This book was magical for me! I don't know if it's just this era (Mainly the 1930's through the 1950's), which I absolutely love, or the idea of having such a grand amusement park at your every whim (I could practically smell the fresh French fries and candy floss, and hear the sounds of the rides and their riders!), or even the fact that there's mention of Doc Carver's High Diving Horse and Diver act, which is what my favorite childhood movie, Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken, was about, but I loved this book, and I've been recommending it left and right since even before I finished it.
Alan Brennert is also the author of the books Moloka'i and Honolulu.

I give this book an A.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Book Review: 11/22/63

11/22/63 by Stephen King

When Al finds a portal to 1958 in his diner, he talks Jake Epping, a local English teacher,  into going on a mission back in time to stop the assassination of JFK from happening. But they find you really can't change the past without drastically changing the future.

I'm not usually a reader of Stephen King novels, mostly because he creeps me out. But I actually really enjoyed this book. I loved how King made references throughout to some of his other books (IT, Shawshank Redemption, The Body, etc.) and how I really didn't know what was going to happen next. It was also interesting to know that King spent over a decade researching the JFK assassination for this book. 11/22/63 is a little long, but well worth the 700 pages or so.

I give it a B+.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Book Review: Sarah's Key

Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay
American journalist Julia Jarmond is living in Paris with her French husband and their daughter, when she is asked to write an piece for her magazine on the Vel' d'Hiv, a roundup by the French police of the Jews living in Paris during WWII. When she finds that for the past sixty years her in-laws have been living in an apartment that had belonged to one of those Jewish families, her discoveries threaten to destroy her family.

 I really liked this great work of historical fiction. It really brought to light the terrible conditions of the  Vel' D'Hiv, which I had never heard of before, and the sad, yet hopeful, story stayed with me for a long time after I finished reading the book.

I give this one an A.

If you liked this book, you might also want to try The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Book Review: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?


Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

 Mindy Kaling, one of the stars of The Office and The Mindy Project, tells stories of growing up on the East Coast with immigrant parents, and also of the struggles (and perks) of trying to "make it" as a comedy writer and actress in both New York and Hollywood.

This is a great book for the beach, or when you need a break from heavier reading, as it really doesn't use much thinking, or brain power to get through. It was light, and entertaining most of the time, but wasn't really life changing in any way, other than to realize we might have more in common with quirky celebrities than we originally thought.

I give this one a C+.

If you like this book, check out Tina Fey's Bossypants.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Book Review: Cinder

Cinder  by Marissa Meyer

In this futuristic, Sci-Fi retelling of the classic Cinderella story, Cinder is a mechanic working for her step-mother in New Beijing. She also happens to be a cyborg. As a deadly plague spreads across the world, she must help Prince Kai (this story's Prince Charming) protect the Earth's future from the Lunar Queen, while trying to figure out her mysterious past.

I'm not always the biggest fan of futuristic, Sci-Fi stuff, but I really loved this book.  It's descriptive, and exciting, and I can't wait to start the next one, which is waiting on my nightstand right now!

I give it an A-.

The next two books in the Lunar Chronicles series are Scarlett (#2) and Cress (#3). They are available now.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Book Review: Sharp Objects

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Camille Preaker is a reporter, who, shortly after a stay in a mental facility, is assigned to cover the murders of two young girls in her hometown. But going back to her hometown means having to face her dysfunctional family whom she has not seen in years, as well as face some pretty big demons from her past.
Oh, boy. This book. It is so well written, and yet such a disturbing, creepy read that I had to read nothing but light, fluffy YA books after finishing it, and I still can't get it out of my head. It's got lots of plot twists and turns, as any good thriller should have, but the story has a way of creeping into your mind and settling there for a while.
I give this book an A, though part of me wants to give it a C- for the fact that I'm still creeped out by it.
If you like this one, try Gone Girl, also by Gillian Flynn

Monday, July 21, 2014

Book review: The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson

In 1893, Chicago was host to the World's Fair, where things like Shredded Wheat and the Ferris Wheel were introduced. Daniel Burnham was the visionary behind this huge, obstacle-ridden undertaking. And at the same time, a few blocks from the fair, another man, Dr. H.H. Holmes, has a vision of his own, one of torture and murder, and becomes the first documented serial killer in America.

This was a fascinating read! Although it in non-fiction, it reads like a novel. I did find that Googling images of the buildings and attractions as they were mentioned was very helpful, as there aren't many photos in the book. And as much as I enjoyed knowing how the fair itself came to be, the parts that focused on Holmes, as sick and creepy as he was, were what I looked forward to reading the most.

I give this book an A.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Book Review: The House at Riverton

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
In England in the 1910's, 14 year old Grace goes to work at Riverton, the large country estate belonging to the Hartford family. As she gets older, she becomes the ladies maid, and confidant, to Lord Hartford's daughter. Now, at age 98, Grace must recall secrets she's kept for the family all these years, including events surrounding the night in 1924, when a famous poet committed suicide at Riverton.

If you are a fan of Downton Abbey, this is the book for you. Although some aspects were slightly predictable, I really enjoyed the story, and the relationships between the English upper-class and the people who work for them.

I give this book a B.

If you liked this book, I definitely recommend The Forgotten Garden, also by Kate Morton.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Sweet Gallifrey!! The Doctor is (Almost) Back!!

It's almost here!!

The 8th season of Doctor Who will air August 23 with a feature-length episode called "Deep Breath"! And there's even a tiny teaser trailer!

We are a family of huge Doctor Who fans (except for the Empty Child episode from season 1. That creeped us ALL out! To the point of nightmares even...).

So, needless to say,  we are so very excited to see Peter Capaldi take on the role of the 12th Doctor. We love all the doctors for different reasons, and though we will miss Matt Smith's 11th Doctor (as we missed Christopher Eccleston's 9th and David Tennant's 10th before him), we can't wait to see what he brings to the show.

And of course, we can't wait to see Clara again. She's adorable, that impossible girl!

Who else is as excited as us?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Book Review: An Abundance of Katherines

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

After winning a game show for "Smart Kids", former child prodigy Colin Singleton (who has dated and been dumped by nineteen girls named Katherine throughout his 18 years of  life) and his best friend embark on a road trip with Colin's game show winnings.

Although this is an award-winning book, I'm really torn between liking it and disliking it. I really like John Green's writing style, and the story itself is, for the most part, entertaining and well rounded. But Colin is so whiny, and actually really annoying, especially with his anagramming everything, and trying to predict how long a relationship will last through a math theorem, that it's hard to get through at times.

I give this book a C+.

If you liked this book (or even if you didn't), I definitely recommend The Fault in Our Stars, also by John Green. It is a great book.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Movie Review: The Other Woman

The Housewife (Leslie Mann), the Lawyer (Cameron Diaz), and the Model-Type (Kate Upton) all have one thing in common: they're seeing the same man (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, aka Jaime Lannister on Game of Thrones). After finding out about each other, they team up to get back at him, and hilarity ensues.

There are certain movies that come along, that are by no means "amazing" or "though-provoking", and yet, you could watch them over and over.

The Other Woman is definitely that kind of movie. It will never win any awards. It is not life changing.

And yet I would gladly go see it again (in the theater even!) if someone asked me to go.


Because I laughed so hard in so many scenes, and it was like a great work of Chick-Lit ("Great work of Chick-Lit"? Is that an oxymoron?) for my eyes and I didn't even have to use my brain to comprehend what was happening.

This sounds like a terrible review so far, but believe me. It's not.

Sometimes as a mom, you need a little break where you don't have to think about anything. No one begging for cookies after they've already snuck three, or screaming because they don't want to take a bath to wash off the cookie evidence that is ALL OVER them, or even more screaming because they don't want to get out of the bath.

This is, in a sense, the perfect 2 hour vacation for us moms, who just need to do nothing for anyone else, and relax, though it could also be considered a great ab workout, considering how much I laughed! Especially at Leslie Mann, whose physical comedy style is very similar to Lucille Ball or Carol Burnett. She really makes this film. I don't think it would be nearly as funny without her.

My only regret is that I didn't see The Other Woman in the "fancy" movie theater, where they have 21+ showings where they actually serve YOU. Things like chocolate desserts and cocktails, are brought to you IN the theater by waiters, right to your over size, super plush, leather recliners.

Although, I wouldn't want to risk spitting my $13 drink out from laughing... Ain't nobody got money for that!

The Other Woman is rated PG-13 for adult situations, drinking, mild language, and sexual references. No sexual acts actually occur onscreen, but they are definitely alluded to, so I would only recommend it for somewhat-mature high schoolers, maybe ages 15 and up.

I say somewhat-mature, because apparently I'm part 12-year-old boy and found the poop jokes hilarious!

I give The Other Woman a B+.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Mommy and Me Movie Review: Maleficent

As the school year comes to an end this week for the schools in our area, summer movie time is just beginning!

My daughter, Sophia, and I decided to get a head start on our summer movie viewing yesterday afternoon, after a day of shopping and lunch together, when I surprised her with a trip to see Disney's Maleficent.

We both LOVED it!

Angelina Jolie is breathtaking and perfect as Maleficent, and the special effects, sets, and makeup are beyond amazing. The rest of the cast does a phenomenal job, too. And how cute is Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's daughter Vivienne as toddler-Aurora?! Adorable!

There are a few "holes" in the script, I thought, where things didn't just flow, seemed like they were added as an afterthought, or felt a bit rushed, but I loved that it was a twist on the story of Sleeping Beauty that we all know so well, similar to what Wicked did for the Wizard of Oz story.

 Sophia, who is 8 years old, wrote her own review too, which included tidbits like "Maleficent is a fairy that is human size. She has wings that drag on the ground. Maleficent can not be next to iron. She has a crow that she can turn into animals that are bird like..." and then she goes on to give away the whole movie, so I won't print it here, so as not to spoil it for everyone.

But she gives it an A.

There are some pretty dark and violent moments (for a PG rated film), so I would recommend Maleficent to kids ages 7 or 8 and up, but there were kids in the theater much younger than that had no problem with the somewhat scary elements, so just use your own judgement, as you obviously know your kids better than I. Overall I give it a B+.

So if you combine our ratings, we give it an A-. Not bad Disney. Not bad at all.

And, just for the record, we'd totally see it again.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Fun Times at the Star Wars West Coast Tour!

Author Jason Fry with the Star Wars Cosplayers (Photo Credit: Carlsbad City Library)

Our local libraries have been a really great source of fun and entertainment for my kids lately, having after school events about the Titanic, Shakespeare, and Percy Jackson and the Olympians.

But today's event takes the cake.

The Star Wars West Coast Tour came to one of our library locations in Carlsbad this afternoon, and it was so much fun for kids of all ages (and adults too... there were MANY adults fanning over the Storm Troopers and the Tuscan Raider !)

We started off by getting our Galactic Passports, and from there there were all kinds of fun stations with activities to complete for stickers.

There was the Yoda Soda station, with old Ewoks cartoons that I remember from Saturday mornings when I was, like, 4 years old.

Sippin' Yoda Soda, watching some classic '80's Ewoks cartoons.

Then there were Lego X-Wing Fighter building contests, and coloring and activity pages galore. And adorable Yoda origami!

Outside, in the beautiful children's garden area, they had a "Feed Jabba the Hut" beanbag game, with more stickers and prizes.

Feeding Jabba

The whole time there were cosplayers walking around taking pictures with the kids (And the fun, geeky adults that tried to play it off that they were there just for their kids...). They were fantastic, and great with the kids.

Posing with some Mandalorian Mercs...

Storm Trooper love...

We also got to meet author Jason Fry, who has written the Lego Visual Dictionary books, as well as other Star Wars reference books, and also a few novels for young readers (Including the non-Star Wars related The Jupiter Pirates: Hunt for the Hydra, which looks kind of really awesome, like a Steampunk pirate adventure. It's been added to my to-read list, even if it is aimed at the 8-12 year old crowd.)

Meeting author Jason Fry, and getting our new book signed.

It was a really great afternoon for both my 4 year old son and 8 year old daughter.

And I'll admit, I was kind of fangirling myself... those costumes were really cool!

I know I for one am looking forward to the summer reading program at our library, with events like these, as well as prizes for reading books, all summer long.

You should check your local library for fun events such as this one (which are always FREE at our libraries! Yay free fun!), or summer reading programs. And if they don't already offer these kinds of things, suggest that they do, or even volunteer to lead one about something you or your kids are interested in. It's a great after school activity opportunity, where kids (and maybe even parents) have fun while learning something new.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Book Review: Me Talk Pretty One Day

Me Talk Pretty One Day  by Davis Sedaris

This collection of short stories and essays by David Sedaris, is, for the most part, hilarious. He's one of those authors that seems to remember every part of  his life perfectly, and can convey it to the reader with so much humor, that you think "How did all this happen to this poor guy?!" My favorite of his stories in this book are the ones about his sister, actress and author Amy Sedaris, wanting a fat suit, and not being able to afford the whole thing, and the one where his father wants all of his kids to play instruments and form a family band, like "The Partridge Family". As an added bonus, this book makes one of the best audio books, because the author reads it himself.

I give this one a B+.

If you liked this book, I suggest Naked, also by David Sedaris. You also might want to check out some of his readings on YouTube.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

A Day in Nerd Heaven With My Daughter...

Let's just start off with saying: I am not above bribing my kids to get them to do well with something.

It seems that even though my husband and I are HUGE bookworms, our 8 year old daughter struggles to share our enthusiasm sometimes. It's not that she doesn't like to read, because when she's into a book, she enjoys it. It's that she's an 8 year old who feel like she has better things to do, and gets lazy about reading.

Her school uses the Accelerated Reader, or AR, program, to test kids on reading comprehension, and each test rewards kids with points that accumulate throughout the year. The school sets a certain goal for each grade (The 3rd grade goal is 35 points for the school year, which in my opinion is really low, but I think it's so that it is achievable for all the kids. Most books are worth 0.5-3.0 points, but the bigger the book, the more points it's worth.) and when the students reach their goal, they get a t-shirt and are entered into book an prize raffles at an end-of-year assembly.

So we've started setting slightly higher goals for my girl, and she gets to choose what rewards she wants. When she reached 100 points, I took her shopping and to lunch at the mall. At 125 points, she got to go to an awesome locally owned paint-your-own-pottery place, called Missus Potts.

So for reaching 150 points, she said she wanted to go somewhere to eat that was fancy. She chose The Cheesecake Factory.

And since her earning 150 points coincided with the most awesome Doctor Who craft boutique ever hosted by Whimsic Alley in Los Angeles (brought to my attention by my good friend Kit, owner of Kit's Designs, who was vending there), I decided to take her to the Cheesecake Factory at The Grove in LA, about a mile from Whimsic Alley.

My girl and me, in our Disney-Who mashup shirts.
Mine is Rapunzel and the TARDIS, and hers is Merida and the TARDIS.
They're Karen Hallion shirts. Karen Hallion shirts are cool.
Also notice the TARDIS necklace, made by Kit's designs...

Even though we're still trying to instill that love of reading in our daughter, she's already a lover of all things geeky, especially Doctor Who and Harry Potter.

And, oh my, this store is HEAVEN for us nerdy types!

Whimsic Alley
Geeky T's! Love me some Firefly!

You walk in, and it's like you're walking into Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter series.


There are all kinds of small shops inside, like a "robes" shop with clothes...

Robes Room!

And a wand shop...

The wand chooses you....

She's been chosen.

And shops themed after Game of Thrones and Sherlock and Doctor Who.

Then you walk through a T.A.R.D.I.S. door, and IT'S BIGGER ON THE INSIDE you guys!! It leads into the great hall, which is a large banquet room that looks like the Great Hall from Hogwarts, and is available to rent for parties and such. They even have a Yule Ball at Christmas, and a Time Lords Ball.

And even though the place was super busy, partly because of the Doctor Who boutique/craft fair going on, and partly because people just like to shop there, the staff are all super friendly, and knowledgeable, and just really cool.

Mommy in the phone booth....

Calling The Doctor...

This is the kind of place worth taking a road trip to LA for, even if it's just for the day.

Ready for flying lessons!
About to get a running start onto Platform 9 3/4!

And if you do get a chance to go to Whimsic Alley, check out the little cookie bakery right next door called Milk Jar. Best cookies ever, served with farm fresh milk, in a milk bottle-shaped jar no less! You can even choose whatever 2 cookies you want (and they are huge!) and they will make you a custom ice cream sandwich with their own homemade ice cream.

Talk about a fantastic day trip, making sweet memories with my girl who is growing up way too fast.

We'll so be going back!!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Book Review: Twenties Girl

Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella

In Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella, Lara Lington begins to see the ghost of her Great Aunt Sadie after attending her funeral.  Sadie takes Lara on quite the adventure to find her missing necklace and Lara learns the importance of family along the way.

I love that Sophie Kinsella’s books are light, romantic, fluffy and enjoyable and they don’t take long to read.  This book doesn’t disappoint in all those areas and even throws in a little mystery as well. I found the book perfect for the beach or unwinding after a long day. It's by no means an amazing, life-changing piece of literature, but it's a fun bit of escapism.

I give this book a B.

If you liked this book, I highly recommend Sophie Kinsella’s Confessions of a Shopaholic series, which, in my opinion, is Kinsella's best work.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Book Review: Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler
After a bad breakup, Jane Austen super-fan Courtney Stone wakes up one morning to find herself transported back to early 19th Century England, and in the middle of an Austen-like life.

Being a Jane Austen fan myself,  I was really hoping to love this book. It has some really good elements, like a romance similar to Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett, and of course traveling back to Jane Austen's  time. But the author's writing was a little vague, especially in the end, and I was left wanting a little  more from the story.

I give this one a C.

If you liked this book, or Jane Austen's work in general, I highly suggest the British television mini-series, Lost in Austen, which I discovered at my local library. It was really good!