Saturday, August 20, 2011

Here, Home, HopeHere, Home, Hope by Kaira Rouda
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This review is going to be a bit of a ramble, but that may be appropriate since the book was as well. I realize that I was reading an advanced reader's copy, but it read more like a second or third draft. Kelly is a mother of two teen/tween boys and is in the predicament of trying to 'find her purpose'. She makes an ever-growing, rambling list of Things to Change, or T2C as she puts it. I felt like this could have been a great book if her editor had handed it back to her and said 'Great! Now polish it up, give your characters some depth and insight and make your main character likeable.'

Kelly doesn't seem to have any real connections to her friends, past or present, and she just flits from one topic to another. One minute she's obsessed that her husband is having an affair, and the next she's off on another shopping spree with confrontation number 354 with her arch-nemesis, Rachel.

Honestly, the most likable character in the book was probably Charlotte, who was not necessarily intended to be your character of choice.

The only interpersonal conflicts in the book (aside from Rachel) are all tidied up swiftly with an 'aw shucks' chuck on the shoulder and Kelly, though she has almost zero insight save for the five thousand Oprah-esque a-ha moments, deems herself a very worthy counselor to all of her friends. It's definitely the Kelly show, which I like because it is supposed to be about her finding who she wants to be, but all the characters are so wooden and one-dimensional. They have these revelations that are supposed to be shocking, but I couldn't bring myself to care about them because the reactions by the other characters were so formulaic it was almost silly. I felt like I was reading a fast-talking parody of a women's fiction novel.

Also, could she throw in any more Lifetime Movie of the Week topics? Anorexic teen, adulterous friends who've put her in the middle of their secrets, making amends with high-school friends who you abandoned/bullied and then CONTINUE to call her Bony Beth, becoming a self-made woman, death of a loved one, divorce...seriously, pick 1-2 serious topics and actually explore them instead of having your main character come off as a completely shallow and self-involved twit. It made me a little sad because, and this may be reading too much into it, but I had to wonder if Rouda has a lot of close friends herself. If so, she didn't do a great job of drawing on her experiences with them to create dialogue or set-up of characters.

The woman is food-obsessed and, again, completely shallow and lacking insight when it comes to other people. She has her clothes sorted into weight-gain phases, talks about the benefits of 'having an anorexic around' and says other pretty callous things that drove me cra-zy as I read.

Would you really have your heroine do nothing but bring a bouquet of flowers to a friend whose estranged husband JUST DIED in a motorcycle accident. Really? You'd have to call your mother to see if you should bring a casserole to her, and the consult your friend to see if you're needed at the funeral? Um, how about you just show up and go? But that's just me.

The commentary on stay-at-home moms and their cattiness was about to make me send a little tweet to Miss Twitter Queen. Since it's clear Rouda is not an at-home mother, it made me wonder if this is her little soap box to talk about them? Yes, she is a proponent of women empowering themselves, but what if the way that we do that IS to stay at home? Is that not enough?

After finishing the whole book, I realized I should have read the 'about the author' section first. Really? Two pages? I don't need to know every class you've taken, or that you have a big twitter following. It is awesome that she is a great businesswoman, and strives to empower other women to realize their potential, but stick to what you are really good. Not everyone can write a novel. Or, I guess, not everyone should. Look out, folks, she's got another one coming out soon! You can find out all about it on her twitter feed, her facebook page, her blog or by emailing her. All of which is included in her biography. Which is clearly an autobiography.

Maybe I was just no in the best frame of mind to read this, but it's hard when you compare it to other women's fiction like Jennifer Weiner, who takes more care in creating characters and conflict resolution. While still beach reads, they're more sophisticated and well-crafted. And with that, I will end my rant. If you've read the actual released copy, am I missing something?

View all my reviews

Friday, August 5, 2011

Lighten the Load

I was reading a post on Our Humble A{Bowe}d about 'green laundry' the other day and I was a little pleased with how much I'd already implemented in our own laundry room.

When we moved, I bought the Electrolux Perfect Steam Front-load Washer and Dryer Set which I reviewed here, and since we were using cloth diapers I was using Country Save Powder to launder them(which is HE friendly). When I ran out of my All Free and Clear for our regular laundry, I decided to start using the powder for all of our laundry. It doesn't just do a great job getting the clothes clean, but it leaves them smelling fresh and clean without a strong perfume. We do a lot of laundry, and the large capacity of our washer and dryer has cut down on the number of loads I do immensely. I do as full of a load as possible each time, and when I can't I love my 'fast wash' small load setting.

I knew that the boxes of powder felt like they were lasting a long time, but a quick check of my amazon account shows that I ordered the four pack of boxes in January and I'm just now about a quarter of the way from the bottom on the second box. It was 68.60 for the case, which is 17.15 per box. Calculated over the months, that's just over $3.50/month that I'm spending on laundry detergent. That seems pretty impressive! 

On the dryer side of life, I never have gotten around to installing a clothes line.  That will hopefully be a project for next Spring/Summer, or whenever our HOA decides that they're not an abomination. Anywho, I realized after reading the comments that the one thing I hadn't converted to 'green' in my laundry was the dryer sheets.  Several of the comments referenced wool dryer balls; What in the world? After all my time spent trolling cloth diaper sites for green laundry tips, how had I never seen mention of these before? And, I had never thought about the fact that dryer sheets would be adding chemicals and toxins to my laundry...I love clean smelling, soft clothes, so I was loathe to sacrifice that! Turns out, I didn't have to.

A quick search on etsy showed that these things were a hot item! I ordered an 8-pack of undyed dryer balls first from a vendor just to see if I really liked them. I'd have ordered just one, but most sites said that for very full loads, they keep about 12 in the dryer. It's the same principle as having tennis balls in the dryer, but without the awful smell and, allegedly, without the racket. (The larger loads buffer the sound better, and as the clothes get dryer, the sound lessens. The second set I purchased are larger and loftier and make significantly less noise.)

When I got them in the mail, I could see that, essentially, it's wool yarn that's been wound into a ball and then felted (probably 2-3 times). I could totally make them myself, but there is little I hate more than winding yarn into a ball. In the future, if I need to add a couple to the mix, I'll make them myself, but for now, I'm happy to support other etsy artists.

What I liked best about them is that you can either get them unscented, or choose from a wide array of scents. How are they scented? Just a couple drops of essential oils. I chose lavendar and vanilla for half the balls, and half unscented (just in case it was too strong). The scent can easily be refreshed, or you can add a totally different scent when the other is gone, by dabbing a couple drops of the essential oil of your choice on the balls.

In addition to replacing the function of dryer sheets, they also cut drying time because the wool helps absorb moisture. I've had each load come out completely dry on the 48 minute setting-that's towels and jeans and everything.

The best part is that this is something that will last for years. You just leave them in your dryer after each load is removed...well, you put them back in your dryer after you've chased the ones that jump out with your clothes and roll across the floor as you hastily warn your giant beast of a dog that these are not his to play with, and they're ready for the next load.

I wanted to wait until I'd been using them for awhile before I reviewed them-the jury is in and I love them. I ordered 5 more from another vendor on etsy because I wanted to see if there was a difference, and because it would get me to lucky number 13 for my mega loads of laundry. I'm glad I did because I like them better. The Sitting Tree has a set of 5 for $25 and the first thing I noticed was that they were bigger, and not wound quite so tight so they don't make very much noise in the dryer. 

Plus, I just plain like her shop-and the divine samples of her soap that she included. I love her blog and she's a knitter after my own heart. I purchased some of her yarn as well to go with my new blue bedroom, and it's gorgeous! A bold skein of teal and yellow; perfection. I'm totally addicted to her super soft wool and have several shades to make smooshy hats with now. But I digress...

If you want an eco-friendly alternative to traditional dryer sheets, that you won't have to replace for a long, long, long time-check out her etsy page and click 'add to cart'.

Even my husband, who sometimes is a little leary of my claims that 'it'll be just as good as using x' when I introduce a new eco-friendly alternative, has noted that our clothes are every bit as soft-maybe even, dare I say, softer as they were when we were using dryer sheets. Give 'em a whirl or, maybe more apt, a tumble.