Thursday, July 28, 2011

When You Give a Brinks a Bone

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

New Year's Un-Resolutions Update

Way back in December drew up this list of goals for 2011.  Half the year is over; it is high time for a status update/revised edition.
  1. Go to Paris. -- Progress has been made!  A new friend and I are planning a girls' day trip next month through Paris Tours.  [!EXCITEMENT!]  The husband has agreed that it's impossible for us to go on an out-of-country-vaca together any time soon, what with him extinguishing his leave reserve for our trip back home to the states.  Though the date of our visit has been pushed back multiple times, we now hope to be back in Kentucky for a few weeks in September.  So a girly Paris trip it is. 
  2. Come up with a reasonable financial plan. -- Progress is sluggish.  Every time we make any headway with a savings plan, some unforseen peril squashes our bank account flat again.  Such is life as newly weds.  However!  We are managing our "going home" fund very well, and I did manage to negotiate a solution to the crazy German billing problems with Vodafone/TKS.  (Seriously, what kind of phone/internet provider refuses to send bills in the mail?) Thank goodness for small blessings.
  3. Apply (and be accepted) to UMUC to finish my degree.  -- No progress.  Picking up transcripts from my previous university whenever we manage to make it back to Kentucky.  (Fingers crossed for September!)
  4. Find a friend. -- Accomplished.  I have about three close girl friends here.  I've also kind of adopted my husband's friends too.  Hanging with the guys is usually entertaining.
  5. Get a cat. --  Adapted to:  "Get a fluffy puppy."  Accomplished.  After two potential cat adoptions fell through, we found our baby Brinks through Angie's Pet Finding Service.  I was terrified that this would be a scam, but was thrilled to discover that it is most certainly not.  Angie Calligan helps military families stationed in Germany find puppies (and kittens, too) from reputable breeders.  Her service was a blessing.  Puppies are so hard to find when you have no connections, and not speaking the native language wasn't helping any either.  (Many German animal shelters are hesitant to let Americans adopt their animals -- military families have a bad reputation for abandoning their pets upon moving.)  Within a week of emailing Angie, she'd already found us Brinks and set us up an appointment with the breeder to come and meet him.  She provided directions to the breeder's home, and offered to translate via phone if need be (though it wasn't neccessary).
  6. Read all the books I put on my 2011 reading list. -- This one was adapted to:  Read fifty books in 2011.  I've been tracking my progress via Goodreads.  I'm nearly done!  Only six more books to go until I reach my goal.
  7. 2011 Reading Challenge

    2011 Reading Challenge
    Carrie has read 44 books toward her goal of 50 books.

The grand tally: 2/6 goals have been met, 3/6 show progress, and only 1 has been neglected.  I'd say those are pretty decent results.

On a side note: Today is mine and Kyle's one year wedding anniversary.  A nifty little known fact -- this is also our dating anniversary.  Today marks three years of our being a couple.

Daily dose of Brinksy-boy cuteness:

Have any of you met your New Year's Resolutions yet?
Did anyone else get married on their dating anniversary?
Any suggestions for my upcoming Paris trip?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Bringing Home Baby Brinks (And also a bit about Creuzburg's Werrabrücke and Liboriuskapelle)

320 miles and 580 Euro later,
we are happy to introduce to you...

...Brinks!  Our adorable little maltipoo just turned two months old today.  He cost an ungodly amount of money, and housetraining him is beyond frustrating, but his big baby eyes and cute squeeky bark make him very much worth all the trouble.  I mean, just look at him!  He is so freaking cute!

We picked him up two days ago in Creuzburg and took him on his very first adventure there, exploring the Werrabrücke and Liboriuskapelle (the Werra Bridge, and Chapel of St. Liborius).  From what I gather via Wikipedia and various tourist signs, construction started on the "new" (current) Liboriuskapelle in the early 1500s.  In 1520 an artist named Kunrad Strebel of Rotenburg decorated the interior with painted frescoes depicting the lives of St. Elisabeth and Christ, and on September 1, 1523, the Carthusian monk Albert of Kempton preached the Lutheran doctrine there for the first time before large crowds, prompting many of Creuzburg to convert to the Protestant faith.  However, in 1528, the Peasants' War reached Creuzburg; the frescoes were painted over and the chapel was closed.  The chapel underwent many changes over the years, notably the addition of stained glass windows in 1840 by Grand Duke Carl Alexander.  The original frescoes weren't uncovered again until restoration during 1932-38.  Then on April 1, 1945, the city of Creuzburg was occupied by American troops and both the chapel and bridge were badly damaged.  It took a decade for these damages to be repaired.

It would have been nice to know that little chunk of history when we visited Creuzburg, but my German is only as good as Google Translate allows.  Our discovery of these landmarks went a little something like, "Hey, Kyle, pull over.  That looks pretty!  We should take Brinks' picture up there."

So what were you guys up to over the weekend?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II

July 13, 2011, as told by photographs:

Thursday, July 7, 2011

An Unabashed YA Book Binge

Some no-nonsense reviews plucked straight from my Goodreads account for your viewing.  Maybe because I'm too lazy/currently uninteresting to type up a proper post.  Or maybe because I feel a deep need to share my YA addiction.  You can decide.

Across the Universe; Beth Revis; 4/5 stars

Summary: In the not too distant future, Earth's economy is collapsing and people are becoming desperate for any kind of financial support. Meanwhile, a new planet has been discovered that has been deemed habitable, and hundreds have put their hope in this new world. Amy's parents are two such people. The catch? It will take three centuries to make the voyage through space, and since Amy's parent's are labeled "essential" to the founding of a colony on the new planet, they are among a group of engineers, military personel, and other specialists who are cryogenically frozen before take off. As if being half-conscious in a coffin of ice for 300 years isn't bad enough, a mysterious mishap wakes Amy up fifty years before the ship is due to land. The only non-functional member on the massive ship, Amy must discover why she was unfrozen early in order to keep her parents and the other "essential" specialists from thawing too soon, or worse, dying, before they reach their destination.

Thoughts: Beth Revis is my new hero. I never thought I'd find myself so enamoured with a science fiction novel. Yet here I am, head over heels for Across the Universe. The story is fantastic; the characters are real, with real motivations; and Revis' writing is both subtle and gorgeous. Most importantly, she avoids the major pitfall of the YA genre: her characters do not fall immediately into passionate love for no apparent reason. The romance featured here feels genuine and believable. Across the Universe is an exceptionally stunning debut novel. This is not an adventure you want to miss.

For those with eReaders: As a Kindle eBook, this was one of the better ones I've read -- clear, consistant formatting, with good editing. The price of the eBook is actually one dollar higher than the price of a hard copy, but the convenience of the eBook format makes it well worth the money.

Wither; Lauren DeStefano; 3.5/5 stars

Summary: In a world free of all major ailments, life should be perfect, but instead, a freak medical accident has reduced the life expectancy of women to 20 and men to 25. All children born to the "new generation" are doomed to die a gruesome death, contracting an undefeatable new virus mere months after their 20 or 25th birthday. To keep the human population from dwindling, young girls are kidnapped and sold as brides to the polygamous weathly upper class, or forced into prostitution. Rhine Ellery is one such stolen girl. She is lucky enough to become the bride of a kind architect in Florida, but unlike her sister wives who were raised as orphans, Rhine has a brother and childhood home. She has tasted freedom. Though no bride has ever managed an escape, the possibility of returning to her life and brother is what Rhine lives for.

Thoughts: Another review called Lauren DeStefano's Wither "The Handmaid's Tale retold for teens." There are certainly strong similarities between the two books; in both women are forced to leave their lives and homes to work toward the "greater good" of repopulating the earth. However, it's not quite fair to think of Wither as a derivation or copy. This is truly a unique story, and an impressive, though not flawless, debut.

Rhine is a strong heroine. That in itself sets Wither apart from the mass of YA novels centered on helplessly besotten girls. From the moment she is taken into captivity, Rhine is resolved to escape, and neither her rich husband's oblivious kindness nor the budding romance she shares with a servant will deter her. Reminiscent of Katniss (The Hunger Games) or Amy (Across the Universe), Rhine's strong will is a welcome break to the YA mold.

Also notable is the relationship between the "sister wives." The expected "competition" never forms. Despite their stark differences and unequal privileges, the girls have surprisingly little animosity toward one another. In fact, they truly begin to form a sister-like bond, protecting each other from the many dangers of their world. Their characters were surprisingly well developed, and their actions always justified. These girls feel startlingly real.

[SMALL SPOILER AHEAD!] My only complaints about this book concerned Linden, the hopelessly blind and doting husband. He is supposedly controlled by his overbearing father, but I found his obliviousness in regard to his wives' pasts hard to believe. Apparently, he doesn't even realize that the girls have been kidnapped -- he is under the impression that they were raised to become wives, and that they submitted willingly to their marriage. Since the girls spend their first few days in his mansion drugged and unconsious, I found this (for lack of a better term) excuse for his character hard to swallow. DeStefano tries to make Linden almost pitiable, but I didn't buy it. Had he known about the girls' plight and been sympathetic or outraged by it, had be been a true prisoner of his father, it might have been beneficial to pen him as a "good guy," but as it was, he read as either incredibly stupid or falsely benevolent. Neither was effective. (Maybe this issue will be cleared up in the sequel?)

Overall, Wither was a well written and fascinating story. I'd definitely recommend it as a fun read, but wouldn't give it any medals.

For those with eReaders: I read this one on my kindle, and it was excellent. The cover (both front and back) and inside flaps were shown, as well as the designs on the opening pages. No errors in editing, as far as I could tell, and no mishaps with formatting. One of the best I've seen so far. Price was about $10, so cheaper than a hard copy.

The Iron King; Julie Kagawa; 3/5 stars

Summary: Meghan Chase is an average American teenager. Except that she's not. Sure, she's unpopular, broke and has no social life, but unbeknownst to her, she's also the daughter of the Summer Court's Faery King. When her little brother Ethan is replaced by a changeling, Meghan must embrace her secret heritage and journey into Nevernever, the land of fey, to save him. Along for the journey is Meghan's best friend Robbie, secretly the famous "Puck" of A Midsummer's Night Dream, who has spent all 16 years of Meghan's life disguised as a human, protecting her from malicious fey who would seek to kidnap the Summer Court princess. Also lending a helping hand is Grimalkin, who bears a striking resemblance to the Cheshire Cat.

Thoughts: The Iron King was a great concept with underpar character development. Almost everyone falls flat, making predictable decisions and exhibiting very little "growth" throughout the book. However, the idea behind The Iron King was a fun twist on faery lore. While searching for her little brother, Meghan learns that there has been a massive change in the balance of Nevernever. Alongside the traditional "Summer Court" and "Winter Court," "The Iron Fey" have sprung into existance: a new species of faery birthed of human imagination and dreams of technology and science. The Iron Fey thrive on iron, the bane of all other faery existance, and threaten to overrun their territory and slowly poison both other courts.

The descriptions of Nevernever are another highlight. Every setting in the book feels realistic -- balancing the beauty and magic with harsher facts of faery life. Even the backdrops in the human world are well established.

For those with eReaders: I read this on my kindle. The formatting was flawless and the price slightly lower than the hard copy's. No complaints.