Monday, July 23, 2012

Swenson Family Reunion 2012

So we just got back from my family reunion, which is always such a fun trip. I can honestly say I didn't want to come home. This years reunion was at Palisade State Park and it was a blast. It was cloudy a lot and rained a few times, but we didn't really let that dampen our trip. Brad went fishing and golfing, I went canoeing, we walked around the lake and spent tons of time hanging out with the family. I feel like the luckiest girl because not only is my husband amazing, but my family is awesome, too. We shared a cabin with my mom and Glenn, which was so nice because I don't get to see them as often as I would like. We also got to spend lots of time with my Nana and Bampa (grandpa), Aunt Amy and Uncle Dave, Uncle Jer and Aunt Kris, and my whole huge extended family. It was so much fun and a great way to spend the weekend. Here are some pictures of the weekend. Brad fishing, Brad holding my little cousin Kendra, and the teenage cousins who decided to jump in the huge mud puddles fully clothed (yep, they got in loads of trouble from their parents ha ha).

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Books: June Edition

I think June is one of the best months ever! And not just because it includes my birthday and anniversary, it just rocks. The books I read in June were awesome too! So here they are.

First I read Lola and The Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins. I just might fangirl over this book. Here's a quick summary:

Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn't believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit - more sparkly, more fun, more wild - the better. But even though Lola's style is outrageous, she's a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.

When Cricket - a gifted inventor - steps out from his twin sister's shadow and back into Lola's life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

Seriously though, this book was so sweet, down-to-earth, and funny. Lola was hilarious and unique and Cricket (such a weird name. Parents- please don't name your kid Cricket!) was sweet and just a really great guy. I love the transitions that both Lola and Cricket go through in this book. Also, Lola's gay dads were a great addition to this book; they had me laughing so hard. 

I loved this book. Five stars. So go read it! 

Then I had to read Anna and The French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. Probably I should have read this one first, since the main characters are minor characters in Lola's book, but I almost like it better that I read them in this order.  Here's a summary: 

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris - until she meets Etienne St. Clair: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near - misses end with the French kiss Anna - and readers - have long awaited?

I really love the way Stephanie Perkins writes. She's short and sweet, but doesn't leave out the little things. Anna was one of my favorite characters; she's strong-willed, honest, and just your average teenage girl. Then she meets Etienne, who is wonderful and nice and flirty.... and has a girlfriend. My film professor said last semester that the more conflict in a story, the more people get into it and feel connected to it. Well, there was plenty of conflict and emotion in this book! I could not put it down. 

And not to mention it's set in France. I've never been very interested in France, but this book was so bright and vivid that it made me want to go there. Five stars for this book, too, because I just really adored it. 

I also started a new series this month, the Sweep series but Cate Tiernan. I read the first eight books in the series. Here's a summary: 

Morgan Rowlands never thought she was anything other than a typical sixteen-year-old girl. But when she meets Cal, a captivatingly handsome coven leader, she makes a discover that turns her whole world upside down: she is a witch, descended from an ancient and powerful line. And so is Cal. Their connection is immediate and unbreakable; Cal teases out Morgan's power, her love, her magick. But Morgan discovers too soon that her powers are strong, almost too powerful to control. And she begins to suspect that Cal may be keeping secrets from her . . . secrets that could destroy them both.

These books are pretty intense, and obviously there are a lot of them. I'm only halfway through the series. But they definitely drew me in and kept my interest! I don't want to ruin the books for anyone, but I love that the author keeps you guessing, not just about the storyline, but with the characters as well. Morgan grows from an insecure girl to a strong-willed young woman, and I can only imagine what is still yet to come in this series. 

Just a warning, these books aren't a light and fluffy paranormal romance. They are very deep, kind of dark, and quite detailed about the practice of Wicca. I find them very interesting, but if that is not your cup of tea then these books probably aren't what you are looking for. But the compelling storyline, realistic characters, and mystery are also a good reason to read these. I give them four and a half stars overall. 

I also read Beautiful Disaster by Jamie Mcguire. It was different from what I'd been reading. Here's a quick summary: 

The new Abby Abernathy is a good girl. She doesn’t drink or swear, and she has the appropriate percentage of cardigans in her wardrobe. Abby believes she has enough distance between her and the darkness of her past, but when she arrives at college with her best friend America, her path to a new beginning is quickly challenged by Eastern University’s Walking One-Night Stand.

Travis Maddox, lean, cut, and covered in tattoos, is exactly what Abby needs—and wants—to avoid. He spends his nights winning money in a floating fight ring, and his days as the charming college co-ed. Intrigued by Abby’s resistance to his charms, Travis tricks her into his daily life with a simple bet. If he loses, he must remain abstinent for a month. If Abby loses, she must live in Travis’ apartment for the same amount of time. Either way, Travis has no idea that he has met his match. 

That pretty much says it all. I'm not going to say I didn't like it, because I really did. But what I didn't like was the completely dysfunctional relationship between Abby and Travis, almost borderline abusive on both ends. I understand that being in a relationship is not a piece of cake, but their relationship was pretty messed up. I didn't like how they kept breaking up and then suddenly Abby would "see the light" and voila! They were back together. Three stars for this one guys. It's kinda messed up. 

The last book I read in June was Dark Lover by J.R. Ward. Here's what this one's about: 

In the shadows of the night in Caldwell, New York, there's a deadly turf war going on between vampires and their slayers. There exists a secret band of brothers like no other-six vampire warriors, defenders of their race. Yet none of them relishes killing more than Wrath, the leader of The Black Dagger Brotherhood.

The only purebred vampire left on earth, Wrath has a score to settle with the slayers who murdered his parents centuries ago. But, when one of his most trusted fighters is killed-leaving his half-breed daughter unaware of his existence or her fate-Wrath must usher her into the world of the undead-a world of sensuality beyond her wildest dreams. 

Obviously, this book has quite a bit of sex in it, so if you don't like that, don't pick this one up. If you're okay with it, then I thought this book was pretty good. The relationship between Beth and Wrath was a little high-speed, but I was able to not get too caught up with that because I liked the story and the depth of the world the author created. The vampires and the details of their lives, past and enemies was a great part of the story. The characters were wonderful. Four stars for this one. 

Sorry for such a long post, I can go on and on about books! Hope you like my reviews and maybe check out a few of these books!