Monday, July 28, 2014

Don't Breathe A Word


I've been reading up a storm, lovelies.  Do you have a book club?  I do.  It's perfect for me - it's online.  I'm much more articulate about my thoughts and feelings in writing.  It was created by a few fellow bloggers, so if you're interested, I'm sure I could hook you up.  Let me know!


Title: Don't Breathe A Word
Author: Jennifer McMahon
Genre: Adult Fiction, Fantasy > Paranormal, Mystery

Synopsis (on the back cover): On a soft summer night in Vermont, twelve-year-old Lisa went into the woods behind her house and never came out again. Before she disappeared, she told her little brother, Sam, about a door that led to a magical place where she would meet the King of the Fairies and become his queen.

Fifteen years later, Phoebe is in love with Sam, a practical, sensible man who doesn't fear the dark and doesn't have bad dreams—who, in fact, helps Phoebe ignore her own. But suddenly the couple is faced with a series of eerie, unexplained occurrences that challenge Sam's hardheaded, realistic view of the world. As they question their reality, a terrible promise Sam made years ago is revealed—a promise that could destroy them all.


About the Author:  What can I say that Jennifer can't say for herself?  Her bio is on her site, which you can find here, along with all her other books that I can't wait to read!

First Impression:  C'mon, it says fairies.  Fairies!  And there's secrets, which equals mystery, and I can't resist a good mystery.  
Once again we're faced with dual POVs: Phoebe and Lisa.  No, they are not the same person and no, that's not a spoiler.  The author switches between the present and the past, but it's told in omniscient voice instead of from the specific character, so you get a sense of everything that going on, which is always nice.

However.  Yes, there is a however.  Just because you can see more, doesn't mean you actually see everything.  It's a mystery, remember.  A very creepy, strange, infuriating mystery.  Despite the voice in which it is written, you're not going to know everything, so be prepared for disappointment... all the way up to the end.

As I mentioned, the story not only changes characters, but time-frames.  It's not hard to follow - when the switches happen, it's clearly stated - so if you are still having a hard time with books that are written from dual POVs, you're not alone and authors, for the most part, are helping with the transitions. I mentioned this phenomenon on Facebook.
"So, books with multiple POVs seems to be trending, eh? I'm thinking dissociative identity disorder is contagious."
This was in reference to another book I was reading at the time (and will be reviewing later), but the thought applies here.  I'm not knocking the style.  Quite the opposite - I enjoy it immensely.  But from discussions with other people, it's can cause distress and an overall dislike of the book.

However.  Yes, there is another however.  In the case of this book, while inside the different characters omniscient worlds, there are instances where there will be a sudden flashback into the past.  If I remember correctly, this only happens while with Phoebe, in the present.  She has random memories from her own past.  It might also happen with Sam, but he's both in the present and the past, so I could be off.  There is no warning when this happens and can be disconcerting.  Don't let it take away from the essence of the story.  Don't ignore it, but stay in the zone.  For the most part, it pays off.

Final Thoughts:  In the grand scheme of things, it was well written, the characters well-defined, and delivers on everything it promises.  Which is why my final however is: this book infuriated me!  I'm so used to understanding the mystery.  Not so with this book.  It blurs the line between fact and fiction and it will frustrate the hell out of you.  That's okay, though.  It's also what makes this book so great.  I'm still not over it.

My Suggestion:  Don't read it while you have a headache.  Also, don't buy it until you read it.  It is an amazing piece of writing, but the story may just frustrate you enough you want to throw it.  Better a library book than your own, right?

Star Rating:


Like it? Where to Buy:

Amazon →  http://amzn.to/1lC1GYW
B&N →  http://bit.ly/1l044sv
AbeBooks →  http://bit.ly/1nZ9zaL

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, July 25, 2014

Flies and... Basket Balls?

You know what time it is.  No, not Hammer time - Fly on the Wall time!  This week, 14 bloggers are opening their home to you, so you can see what happens when no one is supposed to be looking.  You flies are getting a peek, so wipe your feet at the door and come on in!

At the end of the post are the links to the other bloggers, so stop by and peek in their houses.  I'll be there, too!


You know things are bad when your kids start understanding the dirty jokes you share between adults. Lately it's been all about “balls”... so I asked them if they rather I use the word “testicles”. It went from dirty jokes to dirty looks. I say “well, that's what they're called”. Guess they didn't think that was funny.


Did you know that the Pentagon has a zombie escape plan!?


Dinner conversation with my Dad:
Dad: Are you going to watch that new show coming out? Extant or something?
Me: I want to. It looks really interesting. But I thought you didn't like sci-fi...
Dad: I don't, but I like Halle Berry.
Me to TBG: Help me remember this conversation so I can put it on the blog.
TBG: Ummm... all I heard was Halle Berry.
Dad: See? He gets it.
Doh.


A mother's dilemma: B started a blog of his own. The site looks great and his header is custom (by me). I told him that he needed to have a general focus of what he was going to blog about, so he said “games”. So far he's written two blog posts – each contains 2 sentences and only one has a title. Do I let him figure it out on his own or give him a nudge?


I have this thing I do. I don't do it on purpose – I swear to the old gods and the new – but I do it almost every time. When we watch movies back-to-back, I seem to pick ones that have at least one actor/actress in common. I try not to. I really try not to. The double feature tonight was Grown Ups 2 and The Lego Movie. Seriously. They have nothing in common, so I should be safe, right? Except, well – it's me. I happen. Shaquille O'Neal is in both movies. I wish I was kidding.


This is a bit vulgar, so those not privy to it, move along...
We were in the car and for some reason I found my self calling TBG a dick-licker. There were children present.
LS: I don't think there is such a thing.
Me: As what?
LS: As that thing you just said.
Me: A dick-licker?
LS: Yeah.
Me: Sure there is. They're usually called prostitutes. Or sluts. Either way.
What? We thought it was funny...


I'm reading a book (and trying, in vain, to get the kids to read as well) and out of nowhere...
LMSP: How old is John Stockon?
Me (with a WTF!? Look on my face): I don't know! Maybe, like, in his 50's or something.
No seriously. WTF. #jazznation  (turns out he's 52, in case you wondered)


TBG comes home and get on XBOX to play Call of Duty. He's going through the skins one can download for a gun (basically just an image to make it look different). I was finishing up a blog post and looked up to see one option: a bunch of marijuana leaves, all over the gun.
Me: You know, the fact that having a bunch of marijuana on your gun is even an option says a lot about who plays this game.
TBG: (seriously laughed out loud) Yeah, pretty much!
OMG!! Snoop Dogg is an option for narrator! That is the highlight of my night! << see what I did there?


My hair is so long, I can pull it with my armpits. I don't do it on purpose – that would be gross, but it happens. I mentioned that to my mom-in-law. Her reply? “Wait 'til you can pull it with your butt cheeks.” *sigh* Thanks for that mental image. *shudder*



  
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Monday, July 21, 2014

All Our Yesterdays


Hello lovelies!  I trust you enjoyed last week's review of The Fault in Our Stars.  If you haven't seen it yet, you can do so here.


Title:  All Our Yesterdays
Author:  Cristin Terrill
Genre:  Teen Fiction, Science Fiction, (no Lexile score yet)

Teaser (on back cover):

When I force my eyes open, he has the gun.
He points it at me, his chest heaving.
"Do it," I say. "I'll only come back."
His eyes are bright. "I could never do it. That's not what this is about."
I bow my head, thinking of Marina and how I have failed her.
All the fight seeps out of me.  Does the doctor have her by now?
"You'll feel different someday," I say.

Synopsis:  Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

Only Em can complete the final instruction. She’s tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present–imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside.

Marina has loved her best friend, James, since they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America’s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James’s life crumbles, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. Marina will protect James no matter what, even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it… at least, not as the girl she once was. Em and Marina are in a race against time and each other, and only one of them can win.

About the Author: Imagine this: a drama major from Vassar, with a masters in Shakespeare Studies from the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon.  Sounds serious and, well, dramatic, right?  Her debut novel is science fiction.  Let me repeat that: science fiction.  For teens, no less.  What!?  Don't let her education fool you.  She not only writes, but teaches creative writing classes in the DC area for kids and teens.  She even refers to herself as an "aspiring grown-up".  To learn more about Cristin, see her website here (it has links to all her social media sites, too).

First Impression:  It's science fiction.  Knowing that, the title speaks for itself and it says "time-travel".  That subject can either blow your mind or frankly, just blow.  Bring it on.
For those who are not familiar with the science fiction genre and are unsure if it is the right fit for your reading pleasure, this book is a great place to start.  I have dabbled in science fiction before, but am very picky about what I read.  It's a tricky genre.  When done well, it makes sense and has the tendency to be highly believable.  When it's not done well, you'll have a headache inspired by raised eyebrows and a constant look of disbelief. 

Terrill has clear parameters surrounding her story of time-travel and doesn't stray (too far) from those parameters, so you get a real feel for what's happening and why.  With a controversial subject such as time-travel, the morality of the possible effects - you know, the butterflies and whatnot - is a central issue, even if it's just in the mind of the reader.  You might find yourself picking a side.  When the question of morality came up in my book club, this is what I had to say:
 "If you don't know the consequences, is it really worth the risk? Sure, Hot Tub Time Machine came out just fine, but The Butterfly Effect didn't. Also, if you read 11/22/63 by Stephen King, it goes through the potential risks that could arise if you change the past. Personally, I don't think it's worth it. There's too much at stake and not enough assurance that everything would be okay."
Apart from time-travel, you get love and loss, teenage mini-drama, politics, and more.  Layers, people.  Layers are what make a great story.

It's written in dual POV, meaning there are two narrators: Em, the main character, and Marina.  If you're worried about it being hard to follow, the switches between Em and Marina are flawless.  Each has a distinct personality and voice.  Plus, the author was nice enough to write the current narrator's name before they start talking - so, bonus!

Final Thoughts:  When I finally set my mind to focus on the book, I couldn't put it down.  The characters are engaging and intriguing.  I probably finished it in a matter of days.  It's an amazing piece of writing, especially for a debut novel.

In the end, you'll probably have questions.  I know I did - well, I had one burning question and I'd share, but I don't want to spoil it for you!  Come back and comment when you've read it.

My Suggestion: If you're a dabbler of sci-fi like me, it's a definite buy, but if you're on the extreme ends - never read a sci-fi book in my life or hardcore sci-fi reader - get it from your library or borrow it from a friend.  you won't regret it.  I know I didn't!

[You may notice that I suggest the library a lot.  Funny thing is, I don't go to the library.  I have a library card, but I don't go.  I am a hoarder of books, whether they end up being diamonds or coal and I am aware that it is a waste of money when a book flops.  Which is the exact reason I suggest the library.  I may have been lucky so far to love 99% of the books I buy, but that 1%... I wouldn't do that to you.]  With that being said:

Star Rating:

Like it?  Where to Buy:

Amazon →  http://amzn.to/UgQfPf
B&N →  http://bit.ly/1qlDFgj
AbeBooks →  http://bit.ly/UgQx8J
Many other fine retailers (these are my favorites)

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, July 18, 2014

No Bake Piña Colada Cheesecake Minis

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: bridge, kayak, whip cream, handcuffs
Submitted by: The Momisodes

If you don't know this about me by now, surprise!  I have a dirty mind.  I'm talking, when your brain is trying to float by in the gutter, mine is blocking the way... always.  I have a knack for making pretty much anything sound naughty.  This theory has been tested... so many times.

If you've visited the gutter before, you know exactly what I thought upon seeing a couple of my words.  But I did have a question.  Did you mean whipped cream or whip cream?  Don't worry... I can (and will) use it both ways.

Here we go...

Adventures with Indiana Jones  (oh yes, I did!)

Summer is upon us and with the season, hot, dry days in the pseudo-desert of Utah keep many a housewife away from the added temperature in the kitchen.   I will admit that I will take the desert heat over Southern humidity any day, but hot is hot, regardless of where you live.  It is so hot the swamp cooler, despite its hard work and diligence, can only penetrate the smallest of areas in the home.  Time for an intervention.

Standing in my kitchen, I mentally review the contents of my fridge, freezer, and pantry.  As much as I love cake, I do not want to turn the oven on.  The thought of the extra heat is unbearable.  Light bulb!  A no-bake cheesecake with homemade whipped cream.  Perfect!  Light, fluffy, and best of all - refrigerated.


I start to make the cheesecake, but realize it is missing something, so I take a reading break before heading back into the kitchen to whip up the cream.  With the cream and sugar in the bowl, and my hand-mixer whirring away, my mind starts to wander, thinking of what the cheesecake is missing.

All of a sudden, my back door slides back with a bang!  I look up in shock to see the silhouette of a man in an over-sized fedora and well-fitting khakis standing by my table.  My heart beats faster as he slowly raises his amber eyes to meet mine.

With a lopsided smile and a gleam in his eye Indiana says, "It's a long story.  Better hurry up or you won't get to hear it!"*

Shaking my head, a smile forming on my own lips, I say, "I always knew someday you'd come walking back through my door.  I never doubted that.  Something made it inevitable."*

He holds out his hand and, just when I reach for it, Indy says, "Might as well bring the cream."  I laugh, but leave the bowl behind and take his hand as he whisks me out the door.

"Where are we headed, Indy?" I ask.  We went straight from my house to the airport, where we stood in the customs line.

His answer was short: "Ghana."  Not knowing where to go with that, I cling to his well-muscled arm as we pass through customs and board the international flight to Accra, Ghana.  It took 23 hours, but we land safely at the Kotoka, the simple, yet efficient airport serving both local and international flights for all of Ghana.  We must be on a tight schedule, because Indiana pulls me quickly through customs and finds a place to get a vehicle

"Where are we going?" I ask again.

This time he is more forthcoming.  "First, we head to the Kakum National Park.  There's this great Canopy Walk there that I think you will like."

"Canopy Walk?"

"It's a bridge.  Actually, it's 7 bridges, strung up 131 feet and spans about 360 yards over the rainforest.  Then we will kayak at Miamia and sunbathe on a private beach, where I will attempt to whip cream off your half-naked body with my bullwhip, while you're wearing handcuffs.  After that, the real reason we came here.  To find the perfect pineapple."

All I can do is stare, speechless.  When I remember my voice, I simply say, "Can we skip the rest and get right to the cream?"  Indiana gives me his crooked smile with a twinkle in his eye and...


...there was a tug on my arm.

"Mommy," LMSP says.  "I think it's whipped."  I shake my head to clear it, a smirk on my face, and Indiana disappears with a wink.  I finally knew what was missing.

No Bake Piña Colada Cheesecake Minis

Shopping List

  • 8-10 whole graham crackers, crushed
  • 6 tbsp granulated sugar, divided
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 20 oz can crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1 8 oz tub frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • 1 C heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (I used the clear version, but you don't have to)
  • 1 tsp rum extract
  • coconut flakes (sweetened or unsweetened), toasted
To Create

Crust:
  1. Put crackers in a plastic zipper bag, leaving it partially open for air to escape.  Using a meat mallet or rolling pin, pound the crackers into submission until they are the consistency of sand.
  2. Sprinkle in sugar and drizzle with butter, then stir to combine.
  3. Press into ramekins or other small dish with high sides to form a crust.  If the crust seems too loose, put in fridge to set.
Filling:
  1. In a medium/large, beat together softened cream cheese and 3 tbsp granulated sugar until creamy.
  2. Mix in drained pineapple and vanilla extract.
  3. Fold in thawed whipped topping.
  4. Spoon or pipe filling on top of set crust.
{Rum} Whipped Cream
  1. Put whipped cream and rum extract in a large bowl.
  2. Whip until it forms soft peaks.
  3. Dollop onto the cheesecakes.
Coconut
  1. In a small skillet, add coconut flakes.  Toast over medium-low heat until most turns a golden brown color.
  2. Garnish cheesecake/whipped cream with toasted coconut.

Devour and enjoy! Plus, it's okay for the kiddos, too.

*quotes from the actual Indiana Jones movie series 


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Monday, July 14, 2014

The Fault In Our Stars


So I'm starting with a popular one.  You have to start somewhere...


Title:  The Fault In Our Stars
Author:  John Green
Genre: Teen Fiction, Lexile score 850 (what is this?) 
Synopsis (on back cover):  Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis.  But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.

About the Author:  For one, he's a bestselling author.  Not just of this book, but a few others.  He's won a couple awards, too.  Like the Michael L. Printz Award in 2006 and an Edgar Award winner in 2009.

Ever heard of a nerdfighter?  No, it's not someone who fights nerds (they are called bullies).  It's a community of people that gathered around two brothers (John being one, Hank the other) who stopped texting and started videoblogging each other instead - on YouTube, where everyone can see.  They have quite the following (I'm talking almost 2.25 million subscribers) and are more than just a video community.  Nerdfighters everywhere ban together to raise awareness and money for charities, thus attributing to the goal of "...fight for intellectualism and to decrease the overall worldwide level of suck."
  
If you want to check out the vlogbrothers, do so here.  It may turn out more important than you realize. For John Green's bio, where I got most of this information, go here.

My first impression:  Catchy title; the book as a sort of minimalist cover you'd normally find on the indie scene.  Plus, everyone seems to have read it, is reading it, or wants to read it.  Should be good, right?
Maybe not so much.  I had a hard time getting into the story.  I didn't understand his writing style or sense of humor.  With a book that has both cancer and humor, it's imperative to understand the connection.  That's why I mentioned the vlogbrothers.  If you decide to read this book or have read it and couldn't get into it, their vlog may be the insight you are looking for.

Our society is hardwired to pity those fighting cancer.  There is a stigma that comes with it.  I wish it was not so, but those are the facts.  Cancer is a terrible thing - I'm not saying that it's not; not even close.  But do the bulk of the non-afflicted stop to think before reacting to the news?  Especially if it's only new news to you.  My guess is, probably not.  It's a shock.

Hazel's point of view may have you thinking twice, however.  Her approach to the subject of cancer is refreshing.  Yeah, it sucks, but life goes on.  Not forever, not for everyone, but it does go on.  It's the human condition.  We are born to die.  The question becomes whether you live first.

In my opinion, that is the intended focus of the story.  Once you get past the blasé, yet strangely appropriate approach, to the story beneath, it becomes palpable.  I'll admit there were times when I was really into the story line.  I even cried once... maybe twice.

In the end, it boils down to another tragic love story.  There is love, there is loss, there has to be a moral in there somewhere, right?  I don't know.  Maybe I'm not nerdfighter material.  Maybe I never truly understood what the author was trying to portray, despite repeated trips to YouTube and several discussions with my online book club - which, by the way, is the real reason I picked up this book.  Maybe I was too critical while reading it.  Maybe, maybe, maybe.

Final Thoughts:  Does it deliver what was promised on the back cover?  Yeah.  That blurb sums it up nicely.  Some other stuff happens.  There's a lot of talk about cancer.  The main characters fall in love (shocker! no, not really).  There's a plot twist, then you're done.

I mentioned before that I had a hard time getting into the story.  I pushed my way through to the end and found it mediocre, but still thought-provoking enough I wasn't sorry I read it.  I even tried to defend it when explaining it to someone else, who subsequently tried to read it, but also couldn't get into it.


My Suggestion: Don't buy it.  Get it from the library or borrow it from a friend first. Dip your toes in, test the waters.  Either it sinks or it swims, but read all the way to the last word before making up your mind.

Star Rating:

Like it?  Where to Buy:

Amazon →  http://amzn.to/1txIMvc
B&N →  http://bit.ly/1dyGLkl
AbeBooks →  http://bit.ly/1r53LU9
Many other fine retailers (these are just my favorites)

I'd love to hear what you have to say + any recommendations you have on books I should be reading!  Hit me up with a comment or two.  I'll be waiting...

Disclaimer: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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