Monday, August 18, 2014

Unwind (Unwind Dystology #1)

It's amazing how great minds think - alike, that is.  How cliché.  However, I'd like to think I have a great mind, muddled and confused though it may be, and I know there are many great minds out there; some of them are even friends of mine.

Like my bloggy friend Michele, from Follow Me Home. . . - she recommended this book to me and, amazingly enough, it was already in my collection.  So, Shellybean - this one's for you!

Title:  Unwind (Unwind Dystology #1)
Author:  Neal Shusterman
Genre:  Teen Fiction, Science Fiction, Fantasy

Synopsis:  The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child "unwound," whereby all of the child's organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn't technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive.

About the Author:  To be honest, I didn't read his whole bio.  It was grandiose.  Started writing at a young age - yeah, me too.  Had great schooling - good for you; allow me to clap.  So successful and special and, well, cocky.  Winner of this, that, and everything else.  Blah blah blah.  Did he write that or his publisher?  You want to read it, you can find it here - just don't let the inflated ego ruin the writing, which is excellent.

First Impression:  Wow.  Tackling the debate on pro-life versus pro-choice - sure, why not?  It's not like reality has any solutions for that one.  What have you got?
Despite my biting sarcasm, I did enjoy the book.  I'm one of those people who sees both sides of the argument, so I don't choose sides, for the most part.  Shusterman didn't, really, either, in the controversy of life vs choice.  Instead, there is a concession on both sides:  abortion is illegal (score one for pro-life), but when a child comes of age at 13, the parents can choose to "unwind" them, but only until that time which they are legally an adult, age 18 (score one for pro-choice).  Unwinding is a process in which every part of the child in question is dissected and donated.  Every part - so the child never actually "dies" (again, score one for pro-life).

There are three central characters: Connor, the male lead; Risa, the female lead; and Lev, the incidental character with main character potential.  Each voice is distinct.  Oh.  Did I forget to mention that each chapter is told from a different POV?  Don't worry, it's easy to follow.  All the characters intersect and their stories intertwine.

I'm finding that I enjoy reading books that are based off the male perspective.  It's refreshing, after growing up reading books from a female protagonists POV, to see things from the other side.  However, Shusterman's technique is so flawless, the characters have a tendency to become androgynous.  It's what allows the story flow seamlessly, since the perspective switches between male and female views.

In my eyes, the only thing keeping me from giving this a five-star review is the politics.  I hate politics.  Like I said, I can see every side of a situation and I wasn't pleased with the way certain things were handled.  Funny enough, it wasn't because of the author, per say - it was the characters fault - which, I guess, in turn makes it the author's fault... never mind.  That was the whole point: to make me feel something, to take a side.  I didn't appreciate it.  This quote sums it up for me: "Every truth has two sides; it is as well to look at both, before we commit ourselves to either."  -Aesop

Final Thoughts:  I can't wait to continue the series. The characters are amazing, well-voiced, and solidly conceived.  Plus the whole premise of the series is intriguing.  I'm afraid, so much so, it may provide someone, somewhere down the line, a blueprint to the future of mankind - an illogical attempt to solve the unsolvable.  Science says, not in my lifetime.

My Suggestion:  Give it a read, even if you're not into science fiction.  I know that throws some people off, but trust me when I say it's more fiction than science.

Star Rating:

Disclaimer: I have not been compensated in any way for this review and all opinions contained herein are my own and in no way reflect the ideas or opinions of people or sites I may reference.  This is intended for entertainment purposes only.

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Chai-Spiced Buns w/ Honey-Infused Icing

It's another Friday, so you know what that means!  Blogging Challenge!  This week is Use Your Words, where participating bloggers pick 4 - 6 words or short phrases for someone else to use in a post.  The blogger must use each word/phrase at least once and each post will be unique, as each blogger gets their own set of words.  

Here's the twist: no one knows who got their words, until now!  At the bottom of the post, you'll find the links to all the other blogs featuring the challenge.  Make sure you stop over and see what all the fuss is about!

baking in a tornado

My words are: philosophy, cinnamon buns, shower gel, infuse, joy, generous  
Submitted by: Confessions of a part-time working mom (thanks, Tamara!)

I have this philosophy that so many good ideas begin in the bathroom.  Not in a weird, gross way - it's a thinking platform.  I'll get up to use the toilet and remember things I needed to tell TBG.  He thinks it's hilarious!  Hey, you have to take the ideas however, whenever, and wherever they come to you, right?

What do you think of when you think of cinnamon, just as a spice?  Just off the top of my head, I think pumpkin, apple cider, apple pie, and horchata... but nothing jumped out at me, so I headed to the "think tank".

I had an idea that I could do a recipe (or describe the time a hairstylist gave me a Princess Leia hairdo for my uncle's wedding.  I wish I was kidding.  Over 200 bobby pins - just saying), but I didn't want to do plain cinnamon rolls.  As delicious as they are, there are more than a fair share of recipes on the Internet and I don't want to get lost in the search. 

Also, I can cheat - a little.  I have a bread machine to do most of the work for me.

I was mulling over my words (and trying to remember where I put my bread machine) while soaping myself up with shower gel the other night, trying to think how it would all come together.  Sometimes it comes together easy; other times, not so much.  I mean, how to you write something that includes shower gel and cinnamon buns, unless your shower gel smells like a cinnamon bun (in which case I would not be allowed to buy it; I am not edible, despite what TBG thinks).

Anyhooo ---

Cinnamon.  Cinn-a-mon.  Chai.  Ding ding ding - we have a winner!  Cinnamon is used in chai tea.  Duh.  Thus the flavor palette was conceived.  But what goes with chai tea, besides milk?  This is when the shower gel came into play (not literally - ewww).  My kids' bath soap was sitting on the edge of the bath and it happens to be a shea butter - honey blend.  Honey!  Yesssss.

My brain has decided to be generous with the ideas recently, for which I am grateful.  And nothing fills a morning with more joy than homemade cinnamon buns.  Hee hee - buns.  No, that wasn't the first time I giggled - just the first time I let you know I giggled.

Awww... did you think I was forgetting a word?  Nope.  I plan to infuse the traditional cream cheese with honey.  Full circle.  Boo-yah!  Now, for the recipe:

Chai-Spiced Buns w/ Honey-Infused Icing

Shopping List:

  • 1 C milk, room temp/warm
  • 2 large eggs, room temp
  • 1/3 C butter, melted
  • 4 1/2 C bread flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 C granulated white sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp bread machine yeast (active dry yeast)
  • 1 C brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp allspice 
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 8 oz pkg cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/2 C powdered sugar (confectioner's sugar)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, clear (if possible)
  • 1/2 C honey, more or less, to taste and consistency
To Make:
  1. Put ingredients into bread machine in the order listed.  If you do not have a bread machine, go here for a basic sweet roll recipe from Food Network.  *please note that the ingredients and directions for the handmade dough are different and you'll want to follow the directions over there - for the dough only
  2. Set machine to dough setting - should take about 1 hour 30 minutes.  Nothing to do but wait at this point.
  3. When it has finished its cycle, plop dough out onto a floured surface.  Cover with a clean dish towel and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, mix together brown sugar and spices in a small bowl.  Cover and set aside.  Butter/spray a 9x13 baking dish.
  5. After the 10 minutes, roll dough out with a rolling pin until it is roughly a 10x16 rectangle.  Spread softened butter onto the surface of the dough.
  6. Sprinkle and spread out sugar/spice mix over buttered surface.
  7. Starting with the long side, roll dough tightly into a pinwheel.  Using a sharp knife, cut pieces from the end that are roughly 1-2 inches thick.  Place pinwheels in buttered dish.  (I had enough for 5 rows of 3)

Preheat oven to 400°F
  1. If baking same day, wait 30 minutes to allow dough to double in size.  If baking the next day, cover dish and place in fridge; take out 30 minutes before baking, to allow the dough to rise. (I found the best way to do this is heat oven to lowest temp setting, then turn it off and place rolls inside)
  2. The minimum recommended baking time is 15 minutes, but if you find the rolls haven't cooked thoroughly, you can leave them in for a total 20-23 minutes.  To avoid over browning of tops, once they have reached the golden color we're looking for, take out and tent a sheet of tinfoil over the dish for the remainder of baking.
  3. While the rolls are baking, beat together cream cheese, powdered sugar, salt, vanilla, and honey. Spread over warm rolls before serving. 

Om nom nom.  Happy Breakfast!

My heart goes out to Stacy Sews and Schools.  She is unable to participate in today's challenge for personal reasons.  My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family, Stacy.

For those who are able to participate, here are their links.  Go check them out - one of them has MY words!

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Eating Sarah

This one is going to be a little different.  Okay, a lot different.  So hang on to your hats.  

Title:  Eating Sarah
Author:  Jaret Martens
Genre:  Teen Fiction, Horror, Suspense/Thriller

Synopsis:  Ever since Sarah was young, all she could dream about was participating in The Hunt -- a monthly event in which her people sneak into the nearby cities and villages to gather food. And in Sarah's world, the food they feast on most is human flesh.

In the deep forests of the Rocky Mountains, Sarah lives in a community of man-eaters. With Fall ending and hunger running rampant, Sarah and her cannibalistic community are forced to change the rules of their Hunt. And with these changes come new risks. When her first Hunt ends in catastrophe, and one of her only friends is lost, Sarah is sentenced to work in the slaughter shack.

Among the dead and dying, Sarah is introduced to Troy: a man she knows she will be forced to kill. As her life crumbles around her, her feelings for Troy grow, along with the knowledge that, if anyone discovers her secret, she will find herself in his place.

With nowhere to turn, and Troy’s time running out, Sarah becomes set on leaving. But, in accordance with their laws, to leave would be to dishonor the family name and, in turn, cause their deaths. As suspicions of mutiny within the colony rise, everyone is watched and every move Sarah makes could be her last.

And then there are the bodies--the ones that are unmistakably their own, complete with missing limbs and markings that oddly look like bite marks.

Boundaries are pushed, allegiances broken, and the very question of what it means to be human is called into play.

About the Author:  Jaret seems like a cool guy.  I follow him on Twitter and we had a couple conversations, so don't feel jealous; I am just really lucky!  You can find his bio on his blog here.  You can follow him on Twitter here.

First Impression:  What the %!#$ did I get myself into?
I had the honor of obtaining an ARC (Advanced Review/Reader Copy).  The publisher sent me an e-mail with a PDF and I got to reading.  I'd like to point out that, by reading the synopsis portion of this post, you knew more than I did going in - mainly because I was so excited to have an ARC I didn't read the rest of the e-mail, which had the aforementioned run down.  My bad.

I really enjoyed the perspective from which it's told.  You have your main character, Sarah, who lives in a community of cannibals.  There.  I said it.  Not one-eyed, one-horned, flying, or purple.  Humans eating humans in a post-apocalyptic world.  Read the title - it really could only go two ways.  A relative asked if it was horror or porn (I was 15 pages in); I replied, "Neither, so far".  Not your average POV.  I think that was my point.  Oh!  And surprise - only one person's view.  No dual POV in this one!  It's omniscient, but... well, you get the idea.

Overall it was well-written, yet understated, though I'm unsure of why it's being marketed as 'teen horror'.  To be honest, it's not all that scary.  It's just cannibals.  From Sarah's POV, it's completely normal.  Suspense, yes.  Thrills, yes.  Horror?  I guess it depends on your definition.  It even has mystery, which, as you know, I can't resist.

You will spend most of the book confused, but in a totally good way that keeps you reading well into the night. There are so many layers! You think you've finally understood something, then BAM! Nope. You were wrong. Or you were right, but you were hoping you were wrong. Either way.*

I'd like to point out that this is Jaret's debut novel, so for him to step out of the box like this is even more impressive.  Raw talent. Since this is his first, I'm excited to see how his writing progresses!  Especially since there's a rumored sequel...

Final Thoughts: It was reminiscent of M. Night Shyamalan's The Village, but in a less confusing way. For those of you out there who actually understood that movie, you'll dig this book. The rest of you... well, you'll just have to trust me. Read it!*

My Suggestion:  This book isn't set to release until sometime in August this year (2014), according to the publisher's website.  Keep an eye out for it.  You won't regret reading it!

Star Rating:

*excerpt taken from my Goodreads review, found here.

Disclaimer: I have not been compensated in any way for this review (with the exception of the free ARC) and all opinions contained herein are my own and in no way reflect the ideas or opinions of people or sites I may reference.  This is intended for entertainment purposes only.

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Friday, August 8, 2014

Summertime and the Living is Easy

It's Friday and you know what that means!  Time for a blogging challenge: Secret Subject Swap.  This week 15 bloggers braved the unknown by coming up with a secret subject for another blogger, while getting one in return.  No one knows who got what... until now!

Secret Subject Swap

At the end of this post, you will find links to the other participating bloggers.  Don't miss out on the fun.  Visit them all and see what the fuss is about!

Your prompt is:  Turn back the clock to your favorite summer. What was it? Now... embellish it to make it even more perfect!         
Submitted by: Evil Joy Speaks 

I'd love to tell you about my favorite summer.  Really, I would.  But I can't remember it.  There have been 32 summers in my life (including this one) and all I have are pictures and vague memories.  One of the less desirable side effects of brain surgery - memory loss.

So instead of telling you about one summer, I will share pictures from summers past that I love the most. Starting from the beginning...

The summer...
I fed Mountain Dew to a lamb, causing it to split into two identical animals, due to the overwhelming influx of Yellow-5.  Score one for mitosis cloning.  Dolly has nothing on me.

The summer... 
I spent running the dunes in Death Valley, thinking I was Princess Leia in her slave suit.

The summer...
I graduated valedictorian from a prestigious boarding school, surrounded by my favorite people.  (Only partly true)

The summer...
We traveled back in time to visit someone we lost.

The summer...
Three irrevocably became four and we couldn't have been happier.  Except for B, who didn't talk to me for 2 weeks after bringing LMSP home.  True Story.

The summer...
LMSP taught her first dance class.

The summer...
We sneaked onto Isla Sorna and met the local wildlife.  The T-Rex didn't see us, but the Spinosaurus sure was friendly!

The summer...
We met a beautiful mermaid.  Too bad we couldn't keep her.

The summer...
The boys climbed Mount Everest, with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

Now I must be getting on with this summer!  Enjoy the rest of the stories...

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Monday, August 4, 2014

Come, the Dark: Cordovae's Journey

I'm taking a break from my latest read, so what better time to discuss a book?  Besides, SyFy is having a B-movie marathon, so I get the much needed "white noise" without all the distractions.  Although... Colin Ferguson is in the current one and he's pretty distracting.

*stares at television*

Dammit.  He just proved my point.  Ha!  Enjoy...

Title:  Come, the Dark: Cordovae's Journey; Forever Girl: Volume Two
Author:  Rebecca Hamilton
Genre:  Teen Fiction, Paranormal Romance, Fantasy

Synopsis: Rose was a teenage girl carrying her father’s baby. A teenage girl who desperately wanted to escape. Womanhood in Salem, Massachusetts 1692 wasn’t what she had in mind.

As Rose attempts to save her newborn daughter, Anna, from both her father and the dark spirits that haunt her life, she is thrust from Georgia, 1962, into the era of Salem’s infamous witch trials, leaving her daughter hopelessly out of reach. Here, the townsfolk call her Abigail, while a strange man in the woods calls her by the name she gave herself as a child: Cordovae. She’s never shared the name with anyone.

She needs to find her way back to her daughter . . . but going back isn’t an option. Not until she faces certain death to banish the dark spirits that plague Salem. These dark spirits, if she doesn’t move them in time, will destroy civilization and trap her in this strange new place, ages away from her daughter.

Even if she can complete the task in time to return home to save her daughter, there’s still one problem: she’s falling in love with a man who can’t return with her. Achieving her goals will force her to choose between the only man who’s never betrayed her and a daughter she can’t quite remember but will never forget. 

About the Author:  This is yet another author that I found through Twitter, then had the pleasure to read afterward.  She's an amazing person and bestselling author of the Forever Girl series.  I have had several pleasant conversations with her via Twitter and e-mail.  You should follow her (@InkMuse).  For her personal bio, visit her site here.

First Impression:  Woot woot!  The series continues!
Here's where this one is different - it's a sequel and I haven't reviewed the first for you.  Sorry about that.  When I read the first one, I wasn't doing reviews.  In fact, I wasn't even doing proper reviews on Goodreads.  How things have changed!

I was on Twitter and happened to tweet Rebecca, wondering when the new book would be out, and she gifted me with an ARC (Advanced Reader/Review Copy).  What!?  My first.  Talk about exciting, especially coming straight from the author!  Having already read Forever Girl: Sophia's Journey {Forever Girl: Volume One} (blurb here), plus the companion novella, Her Sweetest Downfall (here), I was so ready.  

Fair warning: there is a taboo topic presented in the novel - that of incest.  I remember Rebecca being a little apprehensive, as it is one of those topics that can be really offensive.  She handles the topic well and doesn't dwell on it, if it's something you're worried about.  That's how it starts.

Then you find yourself in Salem during the witch trials.  As far as the history goes, I'm not sure of the accuracy, but she paints a picture so vivid, you might as well be there.  Living in the world of the paranormal is always a wild ride.

I did categorize this under romance, but there isn't much, to be honest.  The other two, yeah, but not so much in this one.  Enough to put it in the category, though, so don't write it off.

Final Thoughts:  If I had to surmise the theme of the book, it wouldn't necessarily be the paranormal, though that is the overwhelming option.  It would be faith.  Just... faith.

My Suggestion:  Familiarize yourself with the series by reading the first volume + the companion novel.  You have plenty of time - this book isn't set to be released until sometime next year.  I know, I know - why would I do this to you!?  Because the entire series is worth the read.  I just happened to read this one recently.  Have a little faith! 

Star Rating:
Disclaimer: I have not been compensated in any way for this review (with the exception of the free ARC) and all opinions contained herein are my own and in no way reflect the ideas or opinions of people or sites I may reference.  This is intended for entertainment purposes only.

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