Bellman & Black

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If you are expecting something similar to Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale, prepare to be disappointed. There is not really a plot, none of the characters are strong or likable, and Setterfield tries too hard to re-create the hauntingly gothic mystery so effortlessly prevalent in her first novel. I was eagerly anticipating the release of this book, since The Thirteenth Tale held me riveted and chilled me to the bone. Bellman & Black began beautifully with a lot of excitement and promise. There is a dark and foreboding sense of something dreadful about to happen, but the anticipation proves to be greater than any event that actually ends up occurring. The idea was an interesting one, but it was not executed very smoothly. The main premise of the book is that the actions in your past can come back to haunt your future. However, since the characters all seem so distant from the reader, I could never bring myself to care about the consequences they faced. The plot is tediously repetitive, and all attempts at mystery and terror simply feel forced. Setterfield tries to imitate the gothic literary styles of Poe and Dickens, yet she fails drastically. I wanted so badly to love this book, but when I finished all I felt was disappointment. Although The Thirteenth Tale is still a favorite I know I will revisit time and time again, Bellman & Black was a valuable lesson in not choosing a book solely because of its’ author.

The Book Thief

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This was the first book I have read for pleasure in quite some time, simply because I have been so busy with school reading. This is somewhat ironic, since it really isn’t a pleasant book. It is emotionally heavy, the ending is not a happy one, and it will make you feel sad, angry, and helpless at the exact same time. However, the characters in this book will definitely stay with you for a long time. They are all realistically and humanly flawed, making them even more lovable. Your heart will break right along with theirs, but there is just enough goodness in this book to give you hope for a brighter future.

 

This book is narrated by Death himself and tells the story of a young German girl growing up in Nazi Germany. Death, however, is not exactly who you would expect. He has a sarcastic, yet endearing, personality and roots for goodness to win out in the end, right along with you. He describes some gritty things, but will always forewarn you before something truly tragic happens. Rather than spoiling the suspense of which characters are going to die, his foreshadowing heightens the suspense and dread of what is later to come. He isn’t terribly fond of his job and has a difficult time understanding how cruel the human race can be.

 

None of the characters in this book are perfect. They all make horrible mistakes. We hate each and every one of them at one point or another. However, it is their selfishness, vulnerability, and how they deal with things they regret that makes them all the more lovable because they are real. We recognize our own flaws within them and sympathize with them all the more.

 

The thing that makes this book bearable is it’s dry humor. Horrible, devastating things occur within its’ pages, but there is a hope and humor that follows behind, and the heart and hope the characters posses even at the worst of times will keep you smiling through your tears. This is a book for readers and writers, as it constantly emphasizes the importance of words: both in their ability to cause unfathomable destruction, like Hitler’s Mein Kampf, and in their ability to bring people together despite their differences, like the friendship that develops between an Aryan German girl and a Jewish man in hiding, simply because of their mutual love of reading.

 

Read this book. You will laugh, you will cry, you will get goosebumps, you will get mad. But most importantly, you will come away from it with hope and a reinforced belief in the power of literature and love.

a cinderella story

My beautiful cousin Maria is on of the most inspirational people I know. As a matter of fact, she is on the cover of this weeks people magazine and now the whole world can see how amazing she is (she’s in the yellow!).

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When Maria was growing up, she struggled with her weight. She has always been beautiful, but one day she decided she wanted to make a change and start leading a healthier and happier life.

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Maria’s before picture

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Maria now!

After joining Weight Watchers and using diet, exercise, and plain determination, my beautiful cousin lost over 100 pounds. Her goal is to now inspire people who are struggling with their weight like she once was, and I know that she will go on to help a lot of people reach their goals. She not only looks beautiful now, but she is so much happier. I couldn’t be prouder of her and this success couldn’t happen to a more deserving person. She has started a blog (prettylittleloser22.wordpress.com) and will post recipe ideas, workouts, and emotional inspiration. I am so excited to start following it and I know it will have something for everyone: from those looking to make a dramatic weight loss change to those just wanting to begin a healthier lifestyle.

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Me and Maria together last summer…unfortunately, I live in Oklahoma and she lives in Pennsylvania and I miss her so much. I am blessed to have such a remarkable woman in my life, and I know her story will go on to help countless others. So please go follow her blog and buy this week’s People to read her story…you won’t regret it!

rocky mountain high

For our family’s vacation this year we traveled to Durango, Colorado. 13 hours later we arrived at this gorgeous house where we spent the week.

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I am not what you would call an outdoorsy girl, but we spent our entire vacation hiking, fishing, kayaking, and ziplining.

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Of course I had to wear my lululemon athletic clothes to appear comfy and cute.

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Going down the giant mountain slide with my brother at the Durango Mountain Resort

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Ready to zipline

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The purgatory plunge at the Durango Mountain Resort!

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Ropes Course at the Durango Mountain Resort

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Ready to take off on Slippers the horse!

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Where the boys went golfing

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What a view!

I had a fantastic vacation with my family in the beautiful mountains. I would love to go back to Durango again soon!

a tree grows in brooklyn

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The amount of love I have for this book is infinite. It doesn’t feel so much like a book, but more like an old friend. I see so much of myself in Francie; even though I have never experienced the same hardships as she has, I have still felt many of the same emotions, especially concerning books. At first glance, it seems like an easy read: not too long, larger print, easy words. But in actuality this book belongs on the shelf right next to the other classics. Francie is a true literary heroine, making it through countless tribulations, and manages to keep her upbeat attitude, never giving up on her dreams. She is creative, fearless, and bold, yet at the same time is happiest curled up with her books, her dearest friends. There is no real plot in this book, simply “life”, but it is nonetheless a page turner. I have re-read this book countless times, but never get tired of it (or finish it without crying), and Francie truly feels like one of my best friends. The characters all have very real flaws (Francie’s father is killed by his alcoholism and her mother admits to loving her brother more), but that makes them even more lovable. This book is real. This book is timeless. It is one I will never grow tired of reading and hope to pass the love of it on to my children and grandchildren for generations to come.