Sunday, June 26, 2011

Review: Cool Beans by Erynn Mangum

I've found a new series to go on my list of favorites! Here's my review for "Cool Beans" by Erynn Mangum.
What do you do when your roommate unknowingly starts dating your ex-boyfriend....your ONLY ex-boyfriend, the one that you (a. dated for 4 years, (b. looked at rings with, and (c. thought you'd marry? And what happens when the guy doesn't even recognize you? Sure, you broke up 5 years ago, but before that you had dated for FOUR YEARS! Do you announce it to your friend and the guy, risking the demise of the relationship before it even begins, or do you keep your mouth shut and act normal? This is the beginning of Maya's super-fantastic-amazingly-awesome and story!

I have to admit: Before I started reading, I wasn't sure if I'd like Cool Beans or not. The synopsis on the back of the book makes it sound like just another take on an over-used sitcom plot. But to my incredible delight, as soon as I started reading I found that I was immediately hooked! The characters are so real and loveable, they truly became my friends, and I really felt for Maya and the awkward situation she got put in.

Maya in many ways reminded me of myself, at times I couldn't even believe it... she thinks so much like I do that if she were real, I feel like we'd be friends! Her sense of humor is awesome, and that allows her to have some amazingly great banter and dialogue with other characters. Jack is great as well; I couldn't help but be amused by his parrot problem! He is such a nice and fun guy, I loved his pet-names for Maya, and also the way he encourages her to do the right thing even when it's difficult. Of course I have to mention Maya's family: they are amusing and authentic, the dynamics between them all are realistically strange! Oh, and Calvin, Maya's pilates-loving beagle...I loved how she talked to him and he always responded with variations of "Roo?" or "Roo!" So funny!

If anyone saw me while I was reading Cool Beans, they must have wondered what was going on, because half the time I couldn't keep the grin off my face. It seems I have the same sense of humor that Erynn Mangum does, because Maya's banter with Jack, and also with Andrew (her pastor) had me cracking up; the fun-slightly-sarcastic tone is just awesome! There were several movies and tv shows mentioned, and I've seen almost all them so I was able to picture the exact scenes that were mentioned, which was really cool. (FYI: Don't worry, if you haven't seen any of the movies, it doesn't matter, it's just a bonus if you have. There were a couple mentioned that I hadn't seen, and I still thought Maya's comments about them were funny.) 

For some strange reason this series seems to be marketed towards teens. (I actually had to go to the children's floor of my library to find it, because it's classified as "Young Adult"!) I don't quite understand this, because it technically isn't much different from other Christian Chick-Lit books... the only thing I can figure is that Maya is 24, which is a bit younger than most Christian Chick-Lit heroines. I definitely think teen girls would enjoy it, but the appeal certainly doesn't stop there. I'm 24 and I loved it, and I'm certain that older gals would enjoy it, too. The writing, style, and dialogue do not seem young or simple, and honestly I really feel like it should be grouped with the rest of the Christian fiction in the main adult section. So, to the Teens: yes, you'll like this. And to the Adults: You'll like it too, don't let the "teen" marketing scare you away!

To wrap things up: This book is so fun, I loved it, and I'm anxious to find out what happens in the sequels. Another reviewer mentioned this, but I want to point it out again: As Maya goes through her difficulties and is seeking guidance, the spiritual truths she learns are embedded so masterfully that you actually learn these truths right along with Maya. Some of the stuff really does make you stop and think about things and the way you live your life. One thing in particular that stood out to me is that we are a witness "all" the time, not "only" when we are sharing the gospel, which is a reminder we all need. Yes, I'm serious, there's really some solid content here, and it's all contained in such an amusing and entertaining package. I highly, highly, highly recommend Cool Beans! It's just so "cool!"

Friday, June 10, 2011

Dealing with the Three Unknowns

As promised in my last post, I'm going to share the solution I discovered to dealing with the "three unknowns" of the library. In case you need a reminder, I am a clean-freak, and the "three unknowns" are:
The unknown number of unknown people that have read the books in unknown places.

You just don't know who has held those books, where they were, or what their habits are. I like to read before I go to sleep each night, and the thought laying in bed holding one of those books....let's just say it was not going to happen. I realized the solution would be to find a removable cover that could slid on and off, but I didn't have any idea where to get something like that, or if anything like that even existed.

You've probably heard of or seen those BookSox...the stretchable fabric covers kids are putting on their schoolbooks now. I originally thought those might be the answer, but they are designed for hardback books, and most of the fiction titles at the library are paperback bound. After doing some pondering, and a few internet searches, I came across an awesome tutorial on wikihow that describes how to make a removable cover for paperback books!! The perfect solution!

I followed the tutorial to create a book cover, and then promptly went to my local library to pick up a book I had reserved online. I brought the book home and immediately put on the cover, which worked great. I'll put the link to the instructions for making a cover below, but first I want to show a few pictures of the cover I made.

Kinda cool, right? All it takes is contact paper, and some manila folders or something similar. What's neat is that you can personalize it by picking a contact paper design that fits your personality. If you don't have any contact paper, or if you don't like the designs you've seen in stores, check out a 2nd hand or thrift shop. Alot of times they have partially used rolls (cheap!) with different designs than walmart or wherever might currently have.

Here's the link to the complete instructions:

So if you're like me, and you don't like to think of the "unknowns" of the library, you might consider a cover like this. It completely covers up the front and back covers (which are the areas I feel are most likely to have germs, etc), so you only end up touching your slipcover and the inside pages of the book. This nifty cover has made me a frequent visitor of my local library, without (much) fear of the "unknowns"!

For anyone who's curious, the book I used in the pictures is "God's Handmaiden" by Gilbert Morris, which I borrowed from the library. I very much enjoyed the book, and I'll be posting a review of it soon!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Libraries, the Unknown, and Me

Libraries and me: we don't have much experience with each other. I remember checking a book out one time when I was in 3rd or 4th grade. I had to do a paper or something on a president, so I chose George Washington, I got a library card, and I checked out a book about him. That's the extent of my library experience, at least until recently...

I go through quite a few books (about one a week), and it gets expensive to constantly be buying books, even when you get them at discount/closeout places (which is what I do). I don't keep many books that I read, only the only the ones I really like, so when I finish a book I generally try to sell it online. But eventually I found that I was selling old books slower than I was reading new ones, so my "already-read, trying-to-sell-online" stack was getting increasingly bigger. I finally decided I had to do something...both to cut costs and also to cut down on the number of "already-read" books laying around.

With a bit of hesitation I started looking up libraries in my area, and cautiously I looked at the details of exactly how it all worked. Hesitation and caution. Yep, that describes it...mainly because I'm a bit of a clean-freak, and the thought of reading a book that an unknown number of unknown people have read in unknown places just freaked me out. (Which shows why up to this point I had been so keen on buying 'new', unused, unread books.)

I was surprised to find that libraries have come a long way from what I thought they were like, and the one by me is unbelievably modern. You can look at all the books online, see if they are available or checked out; if another patron has a book checked out, you can see when it's due back. If a book is available, you just punch in your library card number and voila, that book is on hold and waiting for you at the front desk. There's also these cool self-check systems everywhere, which let you check out books on your own, sort of like the self check-out systems in stores like Wal-mart, etc. Plus, the library is hooked up with email, so they send email receipts for check-outs, and reminders when books are due. And one of the best things: if you need to renew a book, it's no big deal. Just hop online, click a few times, and presto, your book is renewed for additional time!

All of this is great, you may say, but what about that original problem? The unknown number of unknown people that have read the books in unknown places. Yes, I admit, that was still a problem for me. But I was desperate to change my situation, and unwilling to cut back on my reading. I did some online searches, and I came up with a solution... but in the famous words of tv and movie psychiatrists, "Our time is up." I'll share my discovery of the solution to the "three unknowns" in my next post. Pictures will be included!

Thursday, June 2, 2011


Well, I've never had a blog before, but I thought I'd try it. Every once in a while I come across something, or I get an idea, or I see something cool, etc, that I think others should know about, and I thought this would be a good place to post things of that sort. And no, I don't mean things like viral videos or spammish type things, as that would be most un-cool.

I already have a few ideas for posts, so I do actually have things in mind. Topics will be varied, but I can guarantee there will be book reviews and some photo discussion (I'm in the process of digitizing all my old photos). I can also envision possibilities of internet & slightly tech-y stuff, and probably talk of tv or movie topics.

Coming up with a blog name was pretty difficult...honestly, I wanted to start this blog a couple days ago but I couldn't because I didn't have a name for it. Many of the names I tried were already in use, which only added to the difficulty. I finally came up with a name I really liked, and to my delight the name was available on blogger! BUT......then I decided to do a search for non-blogger blogs with that name. Turns out there was a nice girl over at wordpress that had a blog with the exact name I wanted. Sure, since hers is at wordpress, and mine is here on blogger, I obviously could have used the name. But then I thought how I would feel if I had an original blog name and someone started up a blog on a different host with the exact same name: I wouldn't be thrilled. So, I eventually gave up on that particular name and came up with this one. It's kind of plain, but I sort of like it. If I'm suddenly struck with an awesomely spectacular name, maybe I'll change it.

Anyway, I'm not sure how frequently I'll have stuff to post, it certainly won't be everyday, maybe not even every week. But I would imagine I'll probably have something to say at least once or twice a month. I read quite a few books, and I've been reviewing some of them over at amazon for a couple years now. I may start posting some of those reviews here, just to get things rolling.