30 week blog challenge – week 4: favorite books

New Bookshelves! :)

I’m a little late answering this link up… I was in Ohio this week and not only was there limited internet time, I was busy visiting my family and friends!

This week, Marie asks us what our favorite books are!

Now, to know me is to probably have a vision of me with my nose stuck in a YA novel, especially if it’s a love story. I LOVE to read and I’ve been an avid reader ever since I COULD read, really.

I like to tell about how, when I was younger, my mother and father would go “heavy shopping.” That’s the big grocery shopping, when they’d both get a cart and fill it to overflowing and come home with all sorts of great things to eat. My mother would always get me a stack of books, so not only did I have all the treats in the world, but I had new books to read while munching on said treats. It was pretty awesome.

I became a huge bookworm when I was in the fourth grade. Every time I had downtime, I was reading. My mother never grounded me by taking away books. I’m so glad for that. I got in trouble in fourth grade once and the teacher wouldn’t let me read. I hated it. I mean, her idea of a good punishment was for students to just sit there. So stupid.


I love lots of books. Lots and lots. No, you have no idea. I have a BOOKCASE IN MY BATHROOM. Actually, every room in the apartment has at least one bookcase. Between me, Adam, and Aidan, there have to be nearly a thousand books in this place. I love to read that much.

The funny thing is that I’m probably not well-read by academic professor standards. I haven’t read a lot of classics. I just read what I like.

It’s really hard to pick favorites. I do know this. I reread them at least once, and often multiple times, a year. They’re familiar. They’re worn. Some of them have had to be replaced more than once. Some of them I have multiple copies of for various reasons. A few of them are even inscribed to me which makes them even more special. My friend Julie (Ivy) has a very extensive and exhaustive list of her favorite books on her site, but I am not that thorough! Still, this entry is going to be long, so settle back and hopefully get some good book recs!

And with that said, on to the list!


One summer night many years ago, I was at Target. I was in the book section, and there were Harry Potter books on palettes (Target totally had a different look in the early 2000s). By now, the books were way popular. The movies had been out for a while now, and there were toys and games and costumes. I was just kind of oblivious to it all even though a few of my friends had been suggesting that I get the series a try. I decided to finally see what the hype was about. I picked up HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE. I read the first paragraph and knew I needed to buy that book. I also gauged the size of it and picked up CHAMBER OF SECRETS as well.

That was a good decision. I remember feeling very certain that it was a good decision.

I blew through both of them in a day. I was at Target the next night looking for THE PRISONER OF AZKABHAN. And GOBLET OF FIRE. I know I had trouble finding one of them but I can’t remember which one. I think it might have been GOBLET OF FIRE, although my brain wants to say it was PRISONER. Anyway, I finally got ahold of the elusive one and managed to get them all read in time for ORDER OF THE PHOENIX. Which I didn’t (and still don’t like as much as the others). So now I was caught up and had ot wait for the last two with everyone else. I bought Harry Potter toys and DVDs and saw the movies in the theaters. I was officially a fangirl and loving every minute of it.

I could go on and on why I love the series so much, but this entry is already long and I have a bunch of other favorite books to list.

Screen Shot 2013-09-27 at 9.37.43 PMANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins
A love story, set in Paris. How much more awesome can you get… except the AUTHOR TOTALLY MAKES IT EVEN MORE AWESOME. It’s an easy book to read, and I don’t mean it’s “fluffy” or a “beach read”… Anna’s voice is just that relatable. She’s someone I LIKE reading about, and I love the way she expresses herself. The other characters are just as complex as Anna and Etienne/St. Clair, which a lot of love stories don’t do. They mostly tend to focus on the main couple… so it’s nice to know that these other people have things going on in their lives, they have full personalities and aren’t there just to accentuate the couple. On top of that, the descriptions of Paris are so vivid, I feel like I’m there.

I want to write stories that people love as much as I love this one.

Screen Shot 2013-09-27 at 9.38.06 PMSWEET REVENGE by Nora Roberts
I got this book as part of a book club. I was in a couple when I was in college. Both romance. One of them used to send a pile of books along with a wine glass. I still have some of those wine glasses! Anyway, this was a different book club, one that sent hard covers. It wasn’t cheap, but I really enjoyed trying out authors I never would have otherwise. And this book… it was so intriguing. The language in it is definitely dated and would probably not pass the PC police these days, with is narrations regarding Middle Eastern culture… but Adrienne. Oh, Adrienne. She inspires FEELS. So many feels. It’s a very different sort of book, with mystery and romance. I was attracted because the story was so unique and I still love it for that reason.

Screen Shot 2013-09-27 at 9.38.15 PMTHE GIVER by Lois Lowry
I read this book when I worked at Zaner-Bloser. I was new, and there wasn’t a lot of work for me. Someone suggested I read the books that they used for their Voices Reading material, which was actually a brilliant idea. What, get paid to read? SIGN ME UP PLEASE.

I read THE GIVER at my desk. It didn’t take me long–I was instantly hooked. Lois Lowry does an amazing job with descriptions and when the big twist happened, well, let’s just say I was sitting at my desk bawling. Because it is that emotional and gut-wrenching. THE GIVER is a true dystopia.

Lois Lowry and Me
Me and the writer of this brilliant book, Lois Lowry

Screen Shot 2013-09-27 at 9.38.25 PM by Sarah Dessen
I became a Sarah Dessen reader back in 2005. I first read KEEPING THE MOON, then I read THE TRUTH ABOUT FOREVER. I liked them both a lot, I remember really enjoying them. But then I picked up DREAMLAND. That book made me fall in love with Sarah and her work. It’s a book about a relationship turning violent. But it is so beautifully written. It’s called DREAMLAND and the book definitely has a dreamlike feel to it. The best part is that you’re in her head, so you can completely understand why she stuck around, and why some women don’t leave right away. I was so engaged in this book that I actually got a speeding ticket because I was rushing home so I could read it. It is that good. I finally got home and emailed Sarah about it. She’d put on her website that she read all of our messages but probably wouldn’t respond. So WHEN I GOT AN EMAIL BACK FROM HER THE NEXT MORNING I WAS THRILLED.

Years later, I was lucky enough to have met her more than once and now she knows who I am and gives me hugs when she seems me. This fangirl over here LOVES THAT SO MUCH.

My favorite author @sdessen and me!!!! #sarahdessen #lilrongal
Sarah and me, earlier this year

Screen Shot 2013-09-27 at 10.23.23 PMCONFESSIONS OF A SHOPAHOLIC
Oy! What can I say about this awesome book that kicked off the “chick-lit” revolution a few years back? Becky Bloomwood is a fun character to read. Not because SHE’S always fun. She’s not. Often I wanted to shake some sense into her. OK, a lot of times. She’s frustrating! I mean, to the point where I don’t see how the people in her life put up with her…but then, you do realize that she does have good intentions at heart. Things just go all awry. A LOT. There were so many times that I related to her so much. I understood those feelings, those insecurities, the compulsion to buy a bunch of stuff to cheer myself up, the worry about how I was going to PAY for all of that shopping. It’s simultaneously sobering and funny.

Here are some other books that I love just as much as I love the ones with the fancy covers and things, but I’d like to finish this post sometime… ;)

THE WILD CHILD by Mary Jo Putney
POP PRINCESS by Rachel Cohn
SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson (another amazing author and another friend of mine!)
SMALL TOWN GIRL by LaVryle Spencer
THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins

And that’s not even close to all of them. Click here to see the list. And just in case you’re interested, here are more pictures of me with authors.

And hey, add me on Goodreads, why don’t ya?

OK, FINALLY signing off. :)

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so much.

Happy July 4th, you crazy cats! It’s been a while since I’ve last posted, but I hope to have time to post more often soon. Aidan is currently playing with a whoopee cushion. You can imagine how that’s going.

Since I last wrote, I’ve been sick (we think norovirus), I’ve been working a lot (I’m talking 12-14 hour days), meeting a lot of authors, and trying to maintain my sanity in the midst of all the craziness. My cat, Helena, has decided to hell with the litter box and has pooped in the following places: the bathroom (behind and in front of the toilet), a bag of potatoes, the rug in the living room, the kitchen floor, Adam’s hat, and Aidan’s clothes. I told Adam to get her to the vet ASAP while I am out of the house tomorrow because she could be seriously sick even though otherwise she’s acting totally normal. I think he wants ME to take her but I won’t have time for weeks and she may need help now. I don’t want to wait too long. We lost Lucy because I waited too long.

Honestly, this all started when Adam put in the cat door, which none of the cats seem keen on using without a massive amount of prompting. Our cats are divas.

Anyway, I’ve gotten to do some cool stuff even though I’ve been so busy. Like these:

Me and Judy Blume!!!!
I met Judy Blume!

Us And Weird Al :)
And Weird Al
(I totally asked him what he used on his curls.
He said whatever’s in the hotel bathroom.)

I got to meet TONS of authors at the American Library Association (ALA 2013) conference, including….

Lois Lowry and Me
Lois Lowry!!!

Along with Elizabeth Scott (!!!), Marie Lu, Ally Carter, Mike Mullin, and tons more. I saw Veronica Roth from a distance (Aidan: You wanted to go down here just to LOOK at her?), and I saw Tanya Lee Stone but didn’t want to interrupt her while she was chatting. I also chatted with Mari Mancusi a bit, and I got to see and hug Laurie Halse Anderson and Sarah Dessen. Guys, if anyone had told me that I’d be friends with Sarah Dessen and Laurie Halse Anderson, or get a hug from Elizabeth Scott, I’d have never believed it.

Being there, around all those authors and books and book lovers was so inspiring. :)

I’ve been bitten badly by the travel bug and I want to go ALL THE PLACES. I am more than halfway considering a solo trip to Disney World in September. I have until the end of July to decide to get the deal that’s being offered, but I’m like 65% there. I do worry I won’t have as much fun when I’m alone, but on the other hand, I want to experience the freedom of going alone at least once in my life. I also want to visit friends everywhere. All of that will probably have to wait until the fall or later, though. We’ll see.

Summer has been very cool here, to my disappointment. It makes me worry that winter will be hellishly cold. You all know how I hate the cold. I think I’m going to try to go to 2-3 warm places to get away. But on July 2, we had a high of 65F. What kinda crap is that? Today’s high is supposed to be 80F, which is way more reasonable, but I still need to sit in the sun to feel any bit of warmth. *sigh*

That’s all for now. Funny, when I write it out, it doesn’t SEEM like I’ve been all that busy, but believe me, I have. Happy to have today to do nothing!

Till next time….


Full Life, Full Heart

Ashley Turner and Me Skull Shores Frankie Stein
Mmmmmm Rainy Night on May Street
Pretty Day in Naperville Pink!

The weather has finally warmed up in Chicago. But I’m not being fooled again. I’m still keeping sweaters and hoodies at the ready, because I know that in two weeks it could be the 30s again.

It always confuses me when people on TV or in movies are like “What, we’re going to talk about the weather now?” Like it’s a bad thing. I mean, weather is a big part of our lives, especially for people like myself, who is so sensitive to temperatures. So, I’m OK with talking about the weather, until someone in a movie or a TV show starts scoffing at that particular topic of conversation. Then I start to doubt myself.

Well then. That was a tangent.

Wednesday, I got to see one of my favorite authors, Laurie Halse Anderson, again. This is one reason I love living in Chicago. So many authors come through and I get the chance to meet them! Laurie is an inspiration beyond inspiration. This woman loves writing, she works damn hard on it, and she’s damn good at it. She gives everything to her books and to her readers, and that makes her amazing. She’s just an awesome person. I adore her!

Here we are:

Laurie Halse Anderson & Me

So far this week, I’ve learned some serious shoulder strengthening yoga vinyasas, attended a marketing meeting and dinner at Moksha’s owner’s home, cried over Make It or Break It, visited Naperville, and got my Skull Shores Frankie Stein doll (now I have them all).

I ate lunch at an amazing place called Prasino, and enjoyed a very delicious but expensive juice. I got a pedicure, a really cool new bag from Katmandu Imports (I didn’t even notice it had an Om on it until yesterday!), read two books, and cuddled with the kitty cats.

It might be Friday, but I have a full weekend scheduled. Teaching, volunteering, apprenticing. I’m going to see Maya Tiwari speak Sunday morning. Lots of yoga-related stuff to keep me busy. Not to mention that I have homework and library books to read. On top of all this, there are some exciting things happening in the Mickey Mouse Club world and I’m so eager to see what happens next! So many Mousketeers are talking again and sharing their memories of the show with us fans and it’s SO FREAKING COOL. Love it!

Tonight, I’m going to take it easy and prepare for the busy weekend. Adam’s watching Ironman, which is way more violent than I like, so I’ll be watching something sweet and/or funny to counteract it when he heads out to work. Or maybe a few episodes of Downton Abbey, that first season. We’ll see.

So yeah, I’m busy, but it’s a wonderful busy. I’m making new friends, meeting new people, and learning so much. Summer is coming! Farmer’s markets are starting up. Flowers are growing everywhere. AND Aidan will be here before long!

I am happy. :)

May the 4th be with you!

"It's Fun To Stay At The ..."

‘Til next time! :)


Busy Bee (Pictures)

So, I’ve been pretty busy the past few days. In addition to two really big deadlines (that I made because I AM AWESOME), there were two very limited edition dolls I had to procure. And there was social stuff, some cleaning involved. I’m ready to be done for a while! Just a little while, though. Gotta make that $$!

I never thought that working from home would make me more busy than working full time AND working from home. But it’s OK. I love it this way. My commute is awesome, and sometimes, my “cube mate” is this:

Little Lena
Little Helena

Plus, I get to do the work I love.

Last Wednesday, Adam and I headed out to The Morton Arboretum to look at the trees. I was shocked to see that a lot of them had not peaked yet, but there was still plenty of brilliant color.

Autumn in The Morton Arboretum Autumn in The Morton Arboretum
Autumn in The Morton Arboretum Autumn in The Morton Arboretum
Autumn in The Morton Arboretum Autumn in The Morton Arboretum

Sunday, we headed out to Naperville to see the Dark Days of Autumn author tour, but mainly because Claudia Gray was there, who we hadn’t seen since July, when she packed up and moved to New Orleans. *sad*

It was SO FUN to see her and hang out again! (Ignore my hair in these pix. It was a TERRIBLE hair day.)

Claudia Gray & Kierstin White Me & My Friend :)

What was really funny is that I was talking with some really young girls in the store as the event was winding down. They were 12. To be honest, preteens tend to scare me, and I’m not sure why. But these girls were super sweet. I’ll talk to teens all day every day but preteens? Not so much. It’s weird. Anyway, Claudia came over to hug me again and to make arrangements for hanging out after the event was over. The girls freaked out. “OH MY GOD. YOU KNOW HER? YOU’RE FRIENDS WITH A REALLY, REALLY, REALLY FAMOUS AUTHOR!” Claudia goes “I’d take off a couple of those ‘reallys’.” Ha.

I bought her new book FATEFUL (werewolves on the Titanic! HELLO!) and because Kiersten White was so adorable and funny, I bought her book PARANORMALCY because well, it sounded awesome. I’m reading that one now. I really need to stop reading that one and read the remaining four library books I have before Monday. But I’ll do that once I take care of my remaining deadlines tomorrow (why do I get the feeling something more is going to come up, though?). I’ll go on a BOOK READING BINGE. OR I’ll just try to renew the books I have to buy me some more time. In fact, I should do that now…..

Monday morning, I got up SUPER EARLY because I wanted one or more Disney Designer Princess dolls. There are ten dolls total. The first three dolls sold with no fanfare. They were being released once per week in the stores and online. Only a few people knew or cared about them, apparently. Some of them were in the stores for weeks before selling out. I hadn’t found out about them several weeks ago, when I ventured into The Disney Store and saw the display and went HOLY MOTHER OF GOD THESE DOLLS ARE AMAZING I MUST HAVE ONE. Then suddenly, it went to a fever pitch! The dolls were selling out within hours and showing up on eBay just a few hours later at nearly 7x their retail price. And unfortunately, the ones I wanted? Tiana and Jasmine? They hadn’t been released yet, so although I had a chance to get them, I knew I’d have to fight for them. The dolls are very limited edition, and the eBay dealers are being jerkwads about it by snatching up all they can and then jacking up the prices. Suck. So, Disney decided to put the remaining five on sale AT THE SAME TIME. Which meant, if I had any chance in hell of getting one, it was going to be about early morning rising and standing in line.

I got to the Disney Store at Block 37 at 7am. There were already more than 20 people ahead of me. Turned out the most of any doll they had was 20. They passed out cards at 9am. Guess who lost out? BUT. My darling, darling awesome husband was standing in the cold at the Michigan Ave. store. For an hour and a half, he froze, and when they go to him, well Tiana was sold out but there were still Jasmine dolls left. He got the card, and I squealed and ran out of the mall and caught the first bus to North Michigan Ave. I joined him in line, got the card, and told him to go somewhere and warm up. By now it was about 9:20. Forty minutes til the store opened. I didn’t get my doll til nearly 11am because they were letting people in one by one or two by two or something like that, to pick up the dolls and pay for them. Fortunately, I was standing near some really nice people, and talking to them (although they were so obviously frozen) helped. It was cold!

But I got my Jasmine.

Princess Jasmine

She’s still in her case–it’s so pretty, plus I need to clean the hell out of this apartment first before I even think of displaying her. (The cleaning is supposed to take place this weekend.)

This morning, I had to get up to try for Tiana. Because honestly, I couldn’t NOT try. She’s my favorite princess! The site came up at 11 CST, and I got in, managed to get TWO Tianas in my cart somehow. Took ages to get one of them out (they were only allowing one type of princess per person–I didn’t want to screw ANYTHING up). But then I couldn’t go any further. Checkout button was like NOPE. THANK YOU! The site was a mess. It kept crashing and freezing and doing all sorts of bad things. But AGAIN, my awesome husband came through. He was on his computer and HE MANAGED TO GET THE ORDER TO GO THROUGH. I got a confirmation email and everything. Tiana didn’t sell out on the Web site until at least an hour after Adam placed my order, so I’m hoping and praying I don’t get an “order cancelled” notice. I am eager for Tiana to arrive. I feel extremely lucky in so many ways and I will love these dolls forever.

I bought Adam brunch for standing in line, but it seems I owe him again!

I’ve been neglecting my yoga. :( I won’t be going tomorrow either. Stuff to do, stuff to do. But Thursday I should be able to go back. YAY.

And that’s all for now. Til next time….


Break Time! (Pictures, Long)

I love the Friday nights of a three-day weekend because I still have the entire weekend ahead of me. Three days of freedom. Sweet. :)

Life’s been pretty good lately. Those work weeks from hell are now in the past (there are more coming up but not for several weeks–we’ll let Future Ronni deal with that). I’ve discovered new music, met new cool people, and eaten a LOT of sushi! The weather is still acting way too wishy-washy. I wish it would break already. But fortunately, it’s been nice on the weekends and crappy during the work week, which is how I prefer it.

I’ve still been working out. These days, I alternate between yoga, the bike, and The Firm stability ball workout. I also toss in some New York City ballet and Denise Austin power kickboxing from time to time. I’ve also been lifting weights a bit. I’m thinking of getting and starting the 10-Minute Trainer. I work so many hours it’s sometimes hard to get motivated to work out when I get home. But I can spare ten minutes, right?

I’ve had the past two Tuesdays off from work, and they’ve both been amazing. On May 17th, I got up and did a great workout on the bike. Then I met with my Plurk friends Jon and Rho for brunch! We ate at Horizon Cafe, my favorite diner in Chicago. This is what I had:


Jealous, aren’t ya? :) After brunch, we came to our place and hung out, and of course, took pictures!

Hanging with J and Rho

It was so much fun hanging out with them. I didn’t want them to leave. We play all day every day on Plurk, but it was totally better when I got to talk to them in person.

After Adam and I dropped them off at their hotel, we headed out to Naperville to Anderson’s bookshop so I could meet Sarah Dessen again! I’d met her during the summer of 2009, but I was not going to pass up the chance to meet my favorite author again. I was #31 in line, and when I got to her, she looked at me and said “I totally know you. You always comment on my blog.” She gave me two hugs! Oh my God, y’all. As if my day wasn’t already awesome, right?

Sarah Dessen | Anderson's Bookshop Naperville Sarah Dessen | Anderson's Bookshop Naperville

Sarah Dessen | Anderson's Bookshop Naperville

Sarah is a great speaker. She’s very entertaining and down-to-earth and honest. I really enjoyed listening to her read from her newest book WHAT HAPPENED TO GOODBYE and having her share life tidbits with us. She’s very relatable and I think that’s what I like best about her. And of course, her books continue to be incredible. She really is an inspiration.

So, it was back to work for four days, then an evening with Jen, eating sushi and hanging out. I took her to her first kirtan, which she enjoyed. There was a kid there who was about 8 years old. He was clapping, singing and dancing, ALL WHILE HULA HOOPING. What! Yeah, that was pretty awesome. It was a great kirtan. I’m VERY much looking forward to Rich Logan’s Acoustikirtan on June 11th!

Jen came over again Sunday and we watched Twilight with RiffTrax. We need to make a date to watch New Moon with RiffTrax as well. Good times.

Crookshanks turned ten last weekend! Can you believe he is ten? And look how handsome he is:

Happy Birthday, Crookshanks!

I took this past Tuesday off because I wanted needed a break, and also because my s00j was in town! She was performing with two other tremendously talented women named Bekah Kelso and Ginger Doss at the Life Force Arts Center. The three of them together is known as The Traveling Fates and you guys, they are amazing. Their harmony is so tight you can bounce a dime off of it. I enjoyed every single song they sang. I could tell they were having a great time and enjoying singing together and singing for us. I ended buying both of Ginger’s CDs and the one Bekah had available, and I’ve been listening to them non-stop. I even made a “Traveling Fates” playlist in my iTunes at work, and will need to do so on my iPod. If you go to the Traveling Fates site (linked above), you can download a free compilation of some really great songs. DO IT.

But first, look at my pictures. :)

s00j Ginger Doss Bekah
s00j Ginger Bekah

s00j, Me, Bekah
s00j, me, and Bekah. Watch out now!

Seriously, it was a great show, performed in a great space, and attended by great people. It was a very good night.

Dancing the Night Away

Oh, and I have to share the picture of the meal I had before the show.

Mixed Grill
Mixed Grill. I couldn’t decide on which kabob to get, so I got this one which was a sampler of sorts. Super yummy.

And just randomly… The lilacs are finally starting to bloom! YAY lilacs!


Oh so today, I went to The Disney Store. The one in Block 37, on the corner of State and Washington, smells amazing when you walk inside. Today, I found out that they’re actually offering the scent, called IMAGINATION, for purchase. I got the home fragrance and the body lotion. So, not only can my apartment smell like Disney, but I CAN TOO.

You’re so jealous. Admit it. Hee hee. Just kidding. It does smell really good, though. Woodsy and fresh.

Randomly, my upstairs neighbor is blasting O.P.P. What.

That’s all for now. I will leave you with a quick Friday Five, then Imma be out.

FRIDAY FIVE: In The Mood (4)

What puts you in a creative mood?
Reading a really good book. Looking at pins on Pinterest. Good music. Movie scores.

What puts you in a silly mood?
I’m almost always in a silly mood. Also, playing with Aidan. And watching funny stuff on TV.

What puts you in a contemplative mood?
Vivid dreams. Feeling unsettled or unsatisfied or discontent.

What puts you in a competitive mood?
Not much these days.

If you’d call yourself a talkative person, what puts you in a quiet mood? If you’d call yourself a quiet person, what puts you in a talkative mood?
I’m probably in the middle. Bringing up a subject I am passionate about, like Aidan, books, writing, yoga will make me talk a lot and loudly, too. I get quiet when I am upset, puzzled, or tired.

And that’s all, folks. PEACE!

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