Monday, December 19, 2011

A Christmas Memory I'll Never Have

Christmas time is a time for making memories. Yesterday, my family made a memory without me.

See, my 3rd grade son made a gift for me at school and brought it home last Friday. He was so excited about it, but didn't want to give it to me in the form in which it came home. So, he asked his Dad to help him.
I was promptly told to leave the house so they could 'work'. I took advantage of the time and went Christmas shopping. On the last Sunday before Christmas. It was quite overwhelming.

But not as overwhelming as what my husband experienced.

The project took place in the kitchen, a foriegn, forbidding land for my husband. It brings to mind the chef from Ratatouille.
Maybe anyone can cook, but not everyone is successful.

While I was out, I got a call asking how to cream butter. This, to me, is a how to make a bowl of cereal or boil water. It took a while for me to think about and then walk my husband through the steps, including locating the correct handmixer and beaters.
While trying to park my van in the overly-crowded Target parking lot, I listened to the commotion in the background. As I pulled into the parking spot, I heard the mixer turn on, my husband yelp, and the phone clatter to the ground.

My daughter picked up the phone and sounded frightened as she checked to see if I was still there. Afraid my shopping excursion was over before I'd even begun, I asked if her Dad still had all his fingers. Her voice shook with uncertainty as she said, "Yeah, I think so. But I have to go now." And she hung up. The entire time I was out, I kept wondering and worrying about what was going on in my kitchen.

I kind of wish I'd been 'a fly on the wall' to witness the catastrophy in progress. Three sticks of butter and one volcanic explosion of flour (which was "amazing" to witness) later, the project was complete. It took all five kids to help clean up. But, when I got home, my kitchen was clean and
a lovely tray full of M&M's and White Chocolate Chunk Cookies awaited my taste test. My son waited expectantly as I bit into the perfectly golden cookie. It was surprisingly tasty. He then explained to me that the project at school was to make a gift which would require me to bake the cookies. He didn't want to make me have to work in the kitchen, so he wanted to make the cookies for me.

His thoughtfulness was even sweeter than cookies.

Oh, and my husband did not remove his fingers in the mixer, but we still aren't sure if he broke something or not.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Check It Out: New L.J. Kentowski Book & Giveaway

L.J. Kentowski's Guardian of Fate is out now! My cyber-friend and fellow writer's book is now available, and to celebrate the release of the first book in her Fate series, she's giving away 3 copies. I am so excited for her and look forward to reading her book. In fact, I'm trying to win one of those copies. Read the blurb below and click the link at the end to enter the contest. Don't forget to add Guardian of Fate to your Goodreads To-Be-Read list. Oh, and the first chapter is online too. Check it out!

Guardian Of Fate (Fate Series Book #1)
Fear of death is all too common. Visions of it chill the bones and skip heartbeats. Seeing it coming and knowing only you can rescue the soul of the victim from the fiery bowels of hell…that’s downright life-altering.

Cassandra Cosgrove’s life was altered at the age of sixteen when she found out that it was her responsibility to save the lives, and ultimately the souls, of innocent victims targeted by Hell’s demons. As impossible as it seemed at first, she was able to live a fairly normal life, while secretly fulfilling her obligation as a Guardian of Fate.

But years later Fate has its own plan when her visions begin drastically changing at the same time two mysterious men appear in her life. Cassandra suddenly finds herself caught in a battle between good and evil, with her own soul on the line. When it seems everyone in her life has a secret they’ve been hiding from her, who can she trust to be the Guardian of her Fate?

To enter the contest, click the link below and fill out the form. Good luck!

Guardian of Fate Giveaway

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Audiobook Review: Middle School The Worst Years of my Life by James Patterson

Middle School, the Worst Years of My LifeMiddle School, the Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Have you ever picked something up just because you've been told the author is amazing, and then after you start reading/listening to it begin to wonder if the world is crazy or if you just have no taste? That is what happened to me when I first started listening to this middle-schooler geared audiobook. Patterson is supposed to be a genius. So many people in my town rave about how amazing his stuff is. So what's wrong with me? Why can't I get into his stuff?

I knew I was in trouble when the intro music (an annoying electric guitar piece) continued even after the narrator started the story which made it difficult to focus on the words. The reader's voice (Bryan Kennedy) was beyond annoying, but I'll say more about that in a minute.

I picked this book up because I have 2 middle-schoolers; my oldest son (who now loves to read) has been stuck in the high fantasy/middle-ages genre. I was hoping this story would be suitable for him to read to get him out of the reading rut. Not that there is anything wrong with fantasy, just I'm running out of options for him at the library. I'm not sure if this book is actually in print or if it is only in audio format (I'm guessing the latter as the main character references the fact that he is talking to me-his listener-through his story on an audiobook--a device I found quite annoying personally) but it doesn't matter. I won't be getting this book out for him. It wasn't anything like what I expected.

What did I expect? Well, this is a James Patterson story, so I expected super short chapters. Score one for me. One chapter was only 1 sentence long. I also expected some cheesy, cliche-laden scenes and dialogue. Two-for-two, go Samantha! What I didn't expect was just HOW cheesy and cliched this story would be. I absolutely HATED the plot. The main character is annoying. Just about all the characters are annoying. Maybe it was the reader's voice that made them that way, but I have a feeling it was just the way the characters were written.

I think there are a few points I should make to explain why I feel this story is so bad.

1) The story is about a boy who is bored in school and decides to play a game he created to make school more fun. The game is to break every rule in the rule book. I know it's a work of fiction meant to entertain our youth, but could you send a worse message? Yeah, you could, but this one was bad enough. And the ending made it even worse.

2) The game the boy creates (Operation RAFE) is ridiculous. My 6th grade son started listening to this book with me and he looked at me and said, "Is this writer for real? Does he actually think a sixth grader would be like that? The kid seems more like a third or fourth grader to me." My 6th grade daughter chimed in her agreeance. I just about fell over at that. My daughter AGREED with her brother! And what they agreed on was that this book was ridiculous. She opted not to listen to it any more after disc 1 and asked me to turn it off when she was in the car with me. This from the book's target audience guys!

3) More about the game...the point system. ????? Really? And the rewards for a million points(?) are absurd. To be honest, I can't even remember them as they were only mentioned once and were so off-the-wall, over-the-top insane, it's just crazy. At this point, even my third grader was scratching his head trying to understand the point system and just what the point was for earning the points.

4) The reader's voice. Oh, the reader's voice. Grating. Annoying. I could say more unpleasant things, but I'll leave it at that. My first grader said the voice reminded him of Shaggy from Scooby Doo. I disagree with that but found it an interesting comparison.

5) If you look past the idiotic game (plot) and were able to suffer through the sound, you come to my next big issue...the ending. Okay, so the kid is a delinquent who is failing out of school, getting into fights, and trying to break rules. So, what should we do with a kid like that? Let's REWARD him with art school. Sure, he gets a punishment of getting expelled and has to complete sixth grade in his mother's diner, but he gets a huge reward with minimal punishment. The supposed authorities let a family tragedy which happened nearly a decade before excuse the kid's behavior and bad choices. I just feel this is giving a really bad message to our kids. Do whatever you want and, no matter how bad/illegal your choices are, everything will work out.

I wasn't the biggest James Patterson fan to begin with, but after this story, I'm even less of a fan. I listened to his Witches & Wizards story (The One Who Is The One - my hubby and I still joke about that) and read a couple of his adult books, but am just not impressed. I think this may be the last J.P. book I pick up.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Book Review: Ella Bella Ballerina and Cinderella by James Mayhew

Ella Bella Ballerina and CinderellaElla Bella Ballerina and Cinderella by James Mayhew

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I know, this isn't my typical genre to review, but as a childcare provider, I read A LOT of children's books. I don't really mind least I'm reading! And I felt I owed this book a review, after all, it's become a treasured story in my house.

One of the latest trends in fiction (especially Young Adult fiction) is to take the fairy tales we grew up reading and reinvent them. Examples of this include Sisters Red & Sweetly by Jackson Pearce, Beastly by Alex Flinn, and the various movies/tv shows filling the screens these days. Why shouldn't children's books follow suite?

I babysit a couple of girls who LOVE Cinderella. The have me read the same Disney story just about every single day.
It has gotten to the point where I've memorized the questions they will ask about each page and can answer them before they even ask. Three weeks ago, I was tired of reading the same story and suggested we go to the library to pick out a new book. The girls were thrilled when they found Ella Bella Ballerina and Cinderella...the combination of the two things they love most...ballerinas and Cinderella! At first, I groaned inside at the thought of having to read this book every day for the next three weeks, but after starting it, I found I really enjoyed the story too. The pictures are sweet and the story is adorable. I had to return the book today...and now we have a new Cinderella book (Cinderella's Dress by Nancy Willard). I hope the new book is as lovely as Ella Bella Ballerina & Cinderella.

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Monday, December 12, 2011

Book Review: The Hidden by Jessica Verday

The Hidden (The Hollow, #3)The Hidden by Jessica Verday

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Well, the end of yet another series. Maybe I just don't like endings, but this book just didn't seem to hold the same charm for me as did The Hollow.

To start, the book picks up directly where book 2 ended, and (being that I read it half a year or more ago) I felt totally lost. There were several characters (the Revenants) introduced in the later part of book 2 and their involvement in the book 3 continued strong. Only problem was I couldn't remember who they were or why they were there. Details from book 2 weren't reiterated much at all to remind the reader either. So, I had a difficult time just getting into the story.

Then, a new character is introduced and all these things happen and it felt like a whirlwind of inactive activity. Basically, a lot of things happen and not for any real point. Like an overnight trip to an Insane Asylum. Who would do that?? And as any reader of book 1 & 2 could tell you, Abbey anxiously awaits the anniversary of Caspian's death day when he would be 'alive' again and they could touch, so of course that happens...right after 'Senior Prom' on Halloween. (???not even gonna go there!!!) Wouldn't be a teen book without it, right?

And the end? I won't spoil it for those who plan to read the book, but all those whirlwind things end up meaning basically nothing. I'm still confused about the ending too. I guess, somehow, there was time travel involved (some revenant superpower not previously mentioned?), but I'm not really sure how that worked or anything.

SOOooooo, I guess you can tell I'm not a huge fan of The Hidden. I wish that wasn't the case. I mean, I even kept the book out for several days past it's due date and incurred a huge late fine. I really hoped to like this book. I remember really enjoying The Hollows, a lot more than I expected to enjoy it. I remember thinking The Haunted was okay, not as good as book 1 but still worth reading. Book 3? I'm honestly glad I read it, but mostly just so I can take it off my TBR list.

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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Book Review: Saving Zoë by Alyson Noel

Saving ZoëSaving Zoë by Alyson Noel

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Okay, so I just finished SAVING ZOË by Alyson Noël, like literally…one minute ago. I’ve been thinking about the review I would write for this book a lot. Before I was even half-way through. There are several pros and cons to mention, and I’m still not really sure what rating I would give this book because I’m so torn between those pros and cons. But, as a story goes, Saving Zoë is pretty freaking amazing.

Alyson’s words bring Echo and Zoë to life, which is no small feat seeing as how one of them is already dead. Really. But Zoë’s diary entries bring her back to life so well that not only does Echo feel like she’s close to her sister in a way she never was before, but so does the reader. It’s like, I knew she was going to die, but I kept hoping somehow that it was all just a big mistake. That Zoë wasn’t really dead. So, I guess any story that can do that to the reader, that can pull you in so much that you hope for what you know will be impossible but still…any story that can accomplish such a feat must be pretty darn good.

So what’s my problem with this story? What did I think were cons when I’ve just raved about how awesome the story is? My first issue was just the tone of the narrator. I’ve read two of Alyson Noël’s other series (The Immortals and The Radiance series following the two Bloom sisters) and the narrators sound so similar, I had a really difficult time falling into the characters at first. For the Bloom sisters, it was understandable that they would sound similar. But Echo? Echo sounded so much like Ever and Riley that I found myself kind of angry at Alyson for not giving Echo her own voice. And that’s probably not really fair. It could just be Alyson’s writing voice. That’s how the story comes out of her and it is what it is and I can read it and love it or leave it and not come back for more. But I’ll come back. Because, while the voice may be too similar to other characters for my liking, the story telling is really well done.

This brings me to the next con…my biggest issue with this story. It’s a young adult book which means it’s supposed to be geared toward teenage readers. Again, the voice is definitely achieving that goal, but the content I think is meant for the older YA group. Much older. See, my tweenage daughter started reading this book first and had enough good sense to put it down when it got too heavy, but I’m kind of mad it even went there. The use of drugs and drinking and partying, and the talk about sex being so casual and common, it really upset me. Maybe that’s because I’m a mom now. Maybe that’s because, while I like to believe I’m still 18, I’m really not. I’ve lived that part of my life, made my mistakes, and (hopefully) have learned from them. It pains me to hear about or read about teens going through that crap. And it really makes me mad that the whole scene is glorified and lusted after by the protagonist in this book. I think it sends a really bad message to our girls and boys. Yeah, so in the end, things get semi-straightened out and it seems like the kids realize the dangers of drug abuse and promiscuity, but the message heard loudest and clearest is that it was fun for a time. So that is my biggest issue with Saving Zoë. Maybe I’m way off base getting so prickly about it, but I can’t put aside the fact that I am a mom now (granted maybe a little overly-protective) and always will be. It’s the only job title I’ll never be able to change.

Because of that issue, I can't give this book a 5 star, or even a 4 star. And I highly recommend only those ages 17+ read it. It really is a great story with some good lessons but only if your brain isn't still just impressionable mush.

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Book Review: Firelight by Sophie Jordan

Firelight (Firelight, #1)Firelight by Sophie Jordan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this book earlier this year in April.  I loved it so much that I gave it to my daughter to read, and she loved it too.  I recently got book 2 for her from the library (which she devoured in a day) and, upon her recommendation, re-read book 1 before starting book 2.  Not that the reader needs a refresher for book 2, but because book 1 is  just so amazing.  Now, I normally don't like to re-read books, especially not when I've read it so recently and have such a long list of to-be-read books already, but I'm so glad I did!

Sophie Jordan is an amazing storyteller.  The tension she created between Jace and Will is swoon worthy.  Jace's own confusion regarding her feelings (what they mean for her and what she's willing to do for them) leaves the reader anxious to find out what happens next.  And the world of dragons and hunters she introduced is fascinating - ancient and mysterious yet so believable as to seem real.

Every decision Jace makes has consequences, some good, some bad, some really bad.  The decision to break a rule and fly in the morning sky starts the action in this story.  It acts as a snowball released at the top of a mountain, gaining volume and velocity as it speeds down, causing an avalanche with truly devastating effects.  I loved the cliffhanger at the end of book 1.  It left me heartbroken, hopeful, and anxious to read more.  I'm so glad I have book 2 (Vanish) to start right away, as I'm looking forward to learning more about the world of dragons and what Jace's decisions mean for the pride.  But my daughter says Vanish's ending will have me dying to get my hands on book 3 (Hidden), which Sophie just finished revising but won't be available until next year sometime.  She also claims Vanish will have me changing teams, but I'm devoted to Will.  I mean, he made her breakfast!  We shall see...

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Oddities & Factoids #1

As promised, here is the first little bit about me.  I decided, since this is the first one, to tell you something personal but not private, something that may be considered odd but not too embarrassing, and something which has some humor even though I'm really not funny.

So here I go.

Oddity #1:  I collected scabs.  Most, but not all of them, were mine.

Okay, so let me explain this rather gross collection of mine which I (thank Heavens!) no longer own.

Back when I was in...oh...grade school (yeah, long time ago), I was quite the tomboy.  Of course, I still played with girl stuff; I am, after all, the middle child of three girls.  But the only kids on the block to play with were boys, and I loved to play outside with them.  We'd play ball in the street, see who could climb walls the highest, and have bike races in the alley racing each other as well as the cars driving on the street parallel to our raceway.  My activities led to more than a few scraped elbows and skinned knees.

And I hate scabs.

I hate how hard they are, how dark and ugly they can be, and how the skin around it becomes red and puckered.  To this day, the sight of a scab makes me want to scratch it off.  Even if it isn't my own.  I don't.  Go scratching at other's scabs that is.  But when I was a kid, I'd scratch mine off as soon as it was formed well enough to pluck, and I'd ask my playmates to give me theirs too.  Most of the time they didn't, but a couple of times I was able to convince the younger neighbor boy to give me his.

I kept all of them in a used (but washed) jelly jar on my shelf.

The one I was most proud of was about the size of a silver dollar and came from my knee.  I still remember how I got the wound.  I was at a summer camp.  We were outside playing on the playground and there was this awesome, oh-so-high, plastic slide.  It was ginormous and looked like a giant green tube going practically vertical from the top of the play set to the wood chips below only turning and flattening out right before you'd hit bottom.  It was awesome.

Well, being the type of kid to try to be better at everything than anyone else, I decided to race some boys on the playground.  The path led all over the playground.  We walked along the top of the monkey bars.  We hopped along the length of the wood bridge.  We jumped over swings.  We ran up slides.  It was so much fun.

Tied with a bigger boy (probably all of a year or two older, but he seemed huge to me at the time) for the win, we approached the last obstacle in our course: the monster green slide.  He got to it before me and started the impossible climb up.  I followed only a foot behind.

Did I mention this was in the Baltimore City, where I grew up?  And it was summer?  And it was sunny and hot?  For those who don't remember playing on slides in the summer heat, the plastic absorbs heat almost as badly as the metal slides.

We, the boy and I, struggled and fought our way up the slide.  I was squeezing past him (the benefit of being smaller) when he must have decided he wasn't about to take the chance of being beat by a girl.  He pushed me.  I lost my footing, fell to my knees, and slid all the way down the scorchingly hot plastic slide.  By the time I fell out of the tube, my palms and one knee were burnt.  My hands only turned red and felt sore for the rest of the day.  But my knee?  My knee was not okay.

The skin over most of my right knee blistered, becoming the grossest shades of green and yellow before bursting and revealing the tender, pink skin beneath.  It was disgusting and painful, but it gave me the BEST scab for my collection.

So, in 2nd grade, when my teacher Mrs. Lepew (really, that was her name) announced our first Show & Tell, I knew exactly what to bring in.  Everyone else brought in the usual: stuffed animals, memorabilia from sports or trips, baseball cards, etc.  Me?  You guessed it.  I brought in my scab collection.  I even took the scabs out and offered to let the kids pass them around.  A frantic Mrs. Lepew made me gather them up and put them back in the jar before too many kids touched my prized possessions.  The most unfortunate thing about that Show & Tell, besides grossing out every person in the class, is that my silver-dollar sized scab got broken in the commotion.

Okay, enough about that.  My collections are more normal now; my favorite being salt & pepper shakers.  Do any of you have unusual items that you used to, or still do, collect?

Monday, November 7, 2011

My Least-Favorite Favorite Phrase



Yeah, I know. The phrase loses meaning if you utter it too often and for nonsensical things. It was a big issue for me a few years ago. I apologized for everything.

Your parent/child/pet died. I'm sorry.
You lost your job. I'm sorry.
You don't feel well. I'm sorry.
You spilled the milk. I'm sorry.
You can't find your sock. I'm sorry.
You have a booger. I'm sorry.

You get the idea. "I'm sorry" comes to mean nothing...especially when you aren't responsible for nor willing to change whatever it was for which you apologized.

But that's why I'm willing to say it to you now.

I'm sorry.

I'm sorry this blog has been so lame. I'm sorry I haven't updated it or improved it or kept my promises to do either of those things these past few months. I have had great intentions but lousy follow-through.

I could make a ton of excuses (all completely valid I assure you (in fact, most of you would be in awe of what I have to deal with everyday)), but I'll save you from the bore of listening to my laundry list of daily to-dos.  Know that I'm sorry, and I'm going to try to do better. Much better. Or as my kids like to say, "much more better."

So, to start things off, I thought it'd be fun to have you guys get to know me a little bit better and (if any of you feel so inclined) to get to know some of you a little better too.  This should be something that I can do every week as I don't have to become creative to tell you something about myself.  I think I'll call this segment...Oddities & Factoids.  Feel free to share your own quirks and tales in the comments if you'd like.  I'll be posting the first one tomorrow.  Really.  It's already written and ready to be queued up.  It'll be here tomorrow, Tuesday, and (hopefully) you'll feel like you know me a little better after you read it.

Thanks to those who've stuck by me even though I've been absent forever. To my nine GFC followers, I LOVE YOU! Seeing your icons on the sidebar makes my day. Seriously. And I hope to 'see' you all tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Show & Tell

A few days ago, I wrote a review for Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. I did, for the most part, enjoy this book. My enjoyment came not from the wild and unforgettable things that happened in the story but from the beautiful language used to share the story. Libba Bray is a master of showing rather than telling, something many writers – myself included – struggle with from time to time. The following is an example of her incredible ability to show her story:
“By the time the Lost Girls returned to the beach, the sky was the color of wet slate and an army of angry clouds massed along the horizon, awaiting further instructions.”
-Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, page 18

Absolutely beautiful writing! This sentence happened early on in the book and it was this sentence which won my desire to finish the story regardless of how it turned out. I think this is one of the aspects of a good novel which GLOW was missing for me. Too much telling and not enough showing sucks the life out of the story.

I can imagine Bob Ross (the PBS painter who always found a happy little bush or tree to brighten a painting) painting this picture and using similar words to explain what was happening in his creation as he loaded the canvas with oil.

Had I been the one writing this story, I might’ve overlooked this opportunity to paint in the readers mind by simply saying, “By the time the Lost Girls returned to the beach, a storm was brewing.” How blah and boring and completely flat! Instead of a Bob Ross masterpiece (or Libba Bray for that matter), it comes out looking (and sounding) like this:

What a prime example of my nonexistent talent with drawing! It's also a depiction of the lost depth and lack-luster feelings TELLING rather than SHOWING elicits for the reader.

As a writer, I will try to remember the way Libba Bray chose to show the storm (an important plot device) developing rather than just telling the reader a storm was brewing so I too can find The Joy of Painting with words instead of a brush.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Book Review: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Beauty QueensBeauty Queens by Libba Bray

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Libba Bray is truly a gifted and talented writer. The beauty of the words she selects and puts together is amazing. Beauty Queens does not disappoint when it comes to engaging prose, the use of several plot lines exquisitely woven together, multiple characters fleshed out enough to imagine they're real, and comical situations which have the reader laugh out loud.

The story begins with a plane having crashed on an island already. Right away, you are given the feeling like this is all being filmed, thanks to the commercial breaks and advertising footnotes. I couldn’t help but think of the first episode of Lost as I read the first chapter. In fact, I can imagine the source of inspiration: Husband and wife sit down to watch TV together. Wife wants to watch the Miss America pageant, but hubby keeps flipping between Lost and Survivor. Blur all those story ideas and characters together and you end up with Beauty Queens.

As the story progresses, you are introduced to several (12/13) beauty queens who survived the crash. At first, I had a very difficult time keeping them all straight. Some of the girls developed unique characters quickly, but several just kind of got lumped together, and I had to keep thinking back to remember who was who and how they all related. Less than half-way through the book, that feeling of character confusion settled for the most part.

With the understanding that this story is supposed to pull on all our stereotypes and the ridiculous nature of reality tv shows, the plotlines are funny even though a bit predictable at times. My least favorite part of the whole book was the end. I could visualize the cheesy ending to a cheesy movie, but it was just too over-the-top for my taste.

The reason I gave Beauty Queens only 3/5 stars is not for anything lacking in this story, because honestly the story is phenomenal. It’s just I’m tired of teen books feeling the need to engage in political correctness. I get the need for it in this book; it’s a semi-farcical satire. Of course it’s going to utilize political correctness just to make fun of it. Only, I’ve read so many books recently where the political correctness was there because the author had an agenda or was trying too hard to appeal to a certain group rather than to develop the story. But the main reason I gave this book only 3 stars is because my daughter picked it up from the library and began reading it before I could get around to it (Thanks GLOW). Thank goodness she knew to put it down before the sexual stuff got real heavy. I wish there was a larger selection of clean or mostly-clean books available to our teens. I would recommend this book to a reader in the 18+ group looking for an over-the-top comedy.

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Book Review: GLOW by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Glow (Sky Chasers, #1)Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan

My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Before I get started on my review, I want to thank St. Martin's Griffin and Sarah Goldstein for sending me a copy of GLOW to review. I was so thrilled when I opened my mailbox and found it waiting for me. So, thank you!

Now, I'm about to do something I hate doing...something I never, ever do, especially when it comes to books I'm reading.

I'm quitting.

I'm sorry, but I have to. I only made it to page 117 in this 307 page book, but I have to stop.

Ahh... Already, I feel lighter and freer.

I've been struggling with reading this book for nearly two months. I put all my library books aside to read this, figuring I'd have it done lickety-split-quick since it's so short. I’ve had to renew my library books so many times they won’t let me renew them anymore.

I seriously planned on having the book done in two days or less when I first started it...and I was sooo excited to start it too! This was one of only two ARCs (Advanced Reader Copy) I've ever received. With that honor came the understanding that I would review the book before it's scheduled release date...tomorrow! GLOW sounded like a story I would love and I couldn't wait to read it, give it glowing (hehe) reviews, and have St. Martin's Griffin love me and send me more.

Not. Gonna. Happen.

I'm hard pressed to find anything really nice to say about this book at all. Oh, I know! I liked the cover. Simple but intriguing. I’m guessing the girl in the porthole is supposed to be Waverly. Anyway, so that’s my nice thing, decent cover.

Now on to the book’s insides.

The writing style was un-enjoyable for me. The narration is very much telling rather than showing, something that’s okay occasionally but becomes drab and boring page after page after page. Also, I understand wanting to help me, the reader, get what's going on, but I'm a smart girl. You don't have to spell everything out or tell me three times. I can figure things out.

Then there's the ridiculous dialogue. Holy, head-slapping, pile of ouch. If any of you have ever watched Avatar: The Last Airbender (the cartoon series - not M. Night Shyamalan's crappy movie version), there's this episode when Sokka is lost in a cave with a group of hippy people. By the time they make it out, Sokka has a bright red mark on his forehead. Aang asks him what happened when, at the same time, the leader of the group comes over and says something entirely stupid. Sokka hits his forehead with his palm making the cause of the mark known. I tell you this because I found myself constantly doing the same thing while reading this book: "Really?!", "Duh!", "Okay...", and head slaps.

And the love triangle? I feel silly for even calling it that. There are no real emotions between the girl and her two love interests. The romantic struggle is so far-fetched and under-developed that I found myself wishing some new guy would come into the picture - even if it is some old, crippled man from the enemy ship.

I will say that the story idea has promise. I love sci-fi. What could be better than a long journey through space to begin life on a new world? GLOW #1 takes place aboard two sister ships. I was okay with the whole used-to-be-teammates-now-we're-enemies idea between these two ships carrying humankind's last hope for survival. I'm not crazy about the hinted-at reason for leaving Earth, but that's my personal belief and I know other people will find the theory completely plausible. I also get that people's ideals and moral codes are rarely black and white, right or wrong; however, I found the anti-religion undercurrents forced and overdone.

If I was to continue reading this book or this series, it would be in the hopes of finding out more about New Earth; whether it was already inhabited, how well the ships' crews were able to cohabitate and make New Earth their home, and how some relationships (both romantic and not) would develop. Maybe that's to come in the future books in this series. I don't and won't ever know.

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

MIA - My Chaotic Life Begins

I know. I know. I'm a bad, bad girl.

I haven't written ANYTHING at all on my blog in weeks. I haven't even read a book cover to cover recently. I've just been so dang busy! All five of the munchkin bunch started school last week, and I began babysitting for three new clients at the same time. Once we get used to the new schedule, things will calm down and return to a normal state of chaos. Then, maybe, hopefully, I'll have the time to keep up with my reading and all my writing projects.

Since I had the day off unexpectedly, I decided to catch up on some of my emails and found a blog post offering me an opportunity to practice my short-story writing skills with a prompt. Here's the challenge:

Can You Save This Goober?

Just because she absolutely, positively very much ever loved ice cream, didn't mean he he every which time she went to buy won, had to remind her it wood make her fat. She exorcised regularly every mourning, newn and nite, like going bicycling, doing lots of skating all over the place, going around jogging every time she could get a really good chance to be able to do so and even parked her car far at the mol so she could walk too it for getting even more greatly needed wonderful exhilirating exorcise.

Hear he wuz making funn of her but he wasn't sew grate himself, just looking at his puffing when he was walking wuz enuf to loose her breath. Y did he pick on her? Was he thinking he was even better than she was? Wear was he getting that idea, coming off as being such a very great hunky marvelous one when he he never ever followed every each thing he was always and everyday, over and over, two many times for her to llisten without screaming very loud whenever she heard him saying it, told her to be paying attention to her diet.

She just new he wuz being two much of a criticisor, just wait and in some more very soon minutes she was going right up standing real close to him and and she was telling him off real good.


Bad, wasn't it? Well, here's my attempt at improving the story. My idea? Scrap everything but the basic plot of a woman wanting ice cream but being denied. So, here you go. Hope you enjoy! Oh, and click this link The Blood-Red Pencil: Save The Goober if you want to post your own or read what others came up with.

The light flickers on as we enter the aisle shivering in delight from the forbidden treasures resting frozen in their temporary holding docks and from the chill drifting through their glass enclosures.

My hand runs along the cool barrier protecting me from my weakness. My mouth salivates.

I sneak a peek in his direction; he isn’t looking. I fling the door wide and, as if the cold air billowing out has the ability to flash-freeze, I become paralyzed; only indecision is the cause of my immobility.

Coffee. Chocolate. Cinnamon Buns. Chocolate Fudge Brownies. Boston Cream Pie. Cherry Garcia.

Too many choices.

“Close it,” he says, noticing my condition. “You know you can’t eat that; it’ll go straight to your thighs.” His damp sausages squeeze my bony arm and he pushes the door shut with his dimpled knee. “Your treat is in the next section – pharmaceuticals. Come on.”

My feet refuse to cooperate as he tugs my away from my desire.

“Come on, fat-ass,” he repeats, pulling me down the aisle. Breathing heavily from the effort of dragging me, he puffs out, “You’re. Making. A. Scene.”

He thrusts me into the rack of boxes promising miracles. “Which will it be? Cleanse your system? Speed up your metabolism? Dissolve the fat with a pill and glass of water?”

The pig slaps my rear, startling me out of my dream of bananas and cherries and whipped cream.

“Why don’t you get all three? You need it.”

I imagine forcing him to swallow the poison while I devour spoonful after spoonful of Neapolitan ice cream; my size six fat-cells rejoicing at the end of their starvation. As I pick up the box guaranteeing my success at becoming his Barbie doll, the light flickers off down the vacant freezer aisle.

The End

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Book Review: Angel Burn by L.A.Weatherly

Angel Burn (Angel Trilogy, #1)Angel Burn by L.A. Weatherly

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Angels have there wicked schemes, and L.A. Weatherly takes them to new extremes. The angels exist and have come to help...themselves to humankind as their food source. And there's only one alive who can stop them. That sounds like a great story to me! I really, really wanted to love this book. And, at first, I did. Then, things got so predictable and repetitive, my budding love for it died.

Don't get me wrong, this is a great book (funky font type aside) and a truly enjoyable read, especially for the younger YA group as it is mostly clean and wholesome. The romantic scenes are sweet and chaste. The male character, Alex, occasionally uses foul language but doesn't seem to make it a habit. Also, the story idea is unique. Angels are a hot commodity in books these days, as are the half-breed Nephilim.

Angel Burn takes angels to a whole new plane…literally. They exist on the ethereal plane as angels but in human form on the non-ethereal plane. But the coolest thing about these angels is that they're actually aliens. They are fleeing their home world and entering earth via a gateway (I think of Stargate when I imagine the gateway, only without the ring). The bad thing about these angels is that they aren’t here to protect us; they’re here to feed off of us. The side effect of their touch, if it isn’t instant death, is Angel Burn – either a cult-like love for the angels or a wide variety of diseases which will eventually lead to death. And this is only the beginning. One wave of angel refugees has come through already, but more are on their way.

Enter the need for the protagonist, Willow, and her love interest, Alex. Willow is a misfit. A teenage girl who fixes cars, wears thrift-shop clothes, and happens to be psychic. Alex is a hunky teenager who happens to be an angel assassin, one sent to kill Willow. But he ends up unable to complete his task once he discovers that she isn't what he thought she'd be. The two end up on a road trip, which I personally found hilarious thanks to Kiersten White’s recent blog post about rules of the YA genre & their basic plots. Kiersten, you were right on the nose for this one! The road trip ends with Willow risking her life to save all humanity. I won’t spoil it any further by telling you how this book ends, but I will tell you it was left wide open for a sequel, one I don’t plan on buying or borrowing any time soon.

To end this review on a happy note, I will say that I loved how the story was told. The reader sees the story through Willow’s first-person point of view part of the time. We also get to see the story in third person omnipresent pov primarily through Alex’s perspective and occasionally through a few other characters. The switches were handled extremely well and made the pace remain enjoyable enough to want to finish the book.

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Saturday, August 6, 2011

Contest - Short Story Entry

One of the facebook pages I follow Young Adult Reads Discussion Group has a free contest going on right now. The rules are simple. Be a member, new story with Young Adult content, <7,500 words, posted by today.

The majority of my time for the past six months has been revising my first book. Each revision makes it better and I'm thrilled with the improvements, but I was getting bored. I thought participating in this contest would be fun. I needed to make writing fun again. It was and did.

I went for something out of the ordinary for me. I wrote from a boy's perspective instead of a girl's. It's still first person, but looking at the world as I imagined it would look through a boy's eyes was thrilling. I also tried using present tense instead of past tense, which I've never done before. That was fun too.

So, this short story I'm titling REFLECTIONS is now done. It hasn't been revised more than one quick read-through. No one else has read it - none of my normal beta readers at least. And I'm posting it on the site for all the member to read and critique. I don't know if you have to be a member to read the docs, but here's the link if you're interested!!/groups/YAReads/doc/?id=228995517143076

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Audio Book Review: Carrie by Stephen King

CarrieCarrie by Stephen King

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I love Stephen King. His stories are so unique and he really knows how to pull the reader in to his world. Carrie didn't disappoint. I'd read the story years ago (when I was in middle school - what were my parents thinking?!) and remembered being in awe the first time. The movie was ho-hum like most Stephen King movies, in my opinion. The three stars on this review aren't so much for the story itself but for the audio presentation of the book.

Sissy Spacek is the reader and she does a good job. I think the way the book is written, presenting parts as excerpts from other books/articles makes it difficult to listen to in audio format. I don't mind the occasional AP report or quote from a book, but it was hard to stay 'in' Carrie while listening to it.

So, as far as audiobooks go, this isn't one of my favorites. I much preferred Dolores Claiborne in audio over Carrie. But, the Carrie audiobook also is not the worst I've listened to before.

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Book Review: Wings by Aprilynne Pike

Wings (Wings, #1)Wings by Aprilynne Pike

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Yay! A good book...finally! It made me giggle. It made me laugh out loud. It made me grip the book with anticipation of what would come next. It made me sigh with happiness, tear up with worry & sorrow, and gave me the same sense of torn confusion that Laurel experiences. I LOVED IT!

I'm so glad to see there are more books in this series and plan to request them from the library right away.

The world Aprilynne Pike created is simple and beautiful. The writing is clear, concise, and enjoyable in ways I haven't felt from the last few books I've read. Wings is likely to become one of my favorite series.

I'm so torn between being a Team David or Team Tamani girl. I like them both so much and for such different reasons. I'm sad that Laurel will one day have to choose and it means someone's heart will be broken.

The only complaint I have is the name dropping of characters from other myth stories (Oberon, Arthur, Merlin, Hecate) and while their involvement in the faerie world was briefly explained, I felt like it was out of place and unnecessary. Maybe we find out more about them in the next book. Maybe not. Either way, it's such a minor thing that I don't really mind it.

This is a book I would definitely recommend. I think readers probably 15 and up could read it as it has clean language and while sex is mentioned/alluded to, it doesn't happen in the story.

Oh, wow. I just read some of the other reviews on Goodreads for this book, since I liked it so much, and I must say I'm surprised! So many people seemed to think this book was just terrible. Most of them also thought Twilight was terrible. While I'll admit that Bella Swan could be annoying and whiney, I still thought the story was enjoyable.

As far as Wings is concerned, I thought the main characters were well developed and believable. I mean, come on - she's a faerie plant creature. Of course she isn't going to eat greasy burgers and milkshakes. It gives a plausible explanation as to why that is too. I did think it was really weird that Laurel would think to tell the boy she started crushing on about the growth on her back when she wouldn't talk to her mom about it - especially since they were supposed to be so tight of a family. Also, I was kinda 'ewed' by the mention of touching her petals inappropriately by Tamani, but I chalked that up to his attempted 'bad-boy' image. I personally really enjoyed reading a book where the author didn't use words I had to look up the definitions for just to understand the sentence. This is the Young Adult genre. If you want to read more complex sentence structure and enhanced vocabulary, you're reading the wrong genre. From now on, I will try to only read a review of a book on Goodreads AFTER I've read the book. Had I read all those negative criticisms, I might not have read the book and I'm really glad that I did read it.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Book Review: Hereafter by Tara Hudson

Hereafter (Hereafter, #1)Hereafter by Tara Hudson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hereafter was an enjoyable read. After the first chapter, I was hooked! The story (in the beginning) is mysterious and very interesting. Even though this is a ghost story, it is presented in a way that makes it believable. I loved how well we got to know the protagonist (Amelia), her love interest (Joshua), the antagonist (Eli), and the secondary characters of Ruth and Jillian.

I did feel like the book slowed down in the middle and lost it's "can't-put-it-downness", but the writing was beautiful nonetheless and the story interesting enough to pull me out of the slump. The ending, while a little less believable than the rest of the book thanks to the arrival (and subsequent quick departure) of 'the boss' demons, was satisfactory.

I haven't verified this information, but I read elsewhere that Tara Hudson might do a sequel to Hereafter. I'm kind of hoping she doesn't. Yes, there are several questions that were left unanswered and bad guys left undefeated, but I'm not curious enough to keep wondering about them or to read a sequel to find out the answers.

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Another Awesome Giveway Contest

Here is the link to another great contest to win 3 ARC books. All three sound incredible. I read Stephanie Perkins: Anna & The French Kiss and it was good. Not my absolute favorite because of the predictability of it but other than that, it was great. I'd heard of The Eleventh Plague and thought that it sounded interesting. After reading Carolina Valdez Miller's review for The Girl of Fire and Thorns, it is definitely one I'm adding to my TBR list! As promised...
CVM's 3 ARC Giveaway

Good luck everyone!

Writing Advice From Another Blogger

I loved this blog and the advice it offers is bound to be helpful.

After I create my own 25 word pitch, I'll post it here. Any critiques (good/bad/suggestions) are welcome.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Awesome Giveaway From RmBmLm

Read Me Bookmark Me Love Me is one of my favorite blogs. This awesome site posts reviews of books and other interesting book related info. I get so excited to find out what new book they have discovered for me whenever I get an email update in my inbox.

Currently, they're having a great giveaway for hitting 850 followers (a number that seems so daunting to me at this stage of the game). Click either button on the left (they're after the countdown widgets for 2 books I'm dying to get my hands on) to take you to their blog or the contest form. I suggested heading over to their blog first and taking a look around before you enter the contest. They have some great stuff posted! Good luck to you all, but I hope I win!

Audio Book Review: Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

Linger (The Wolves of Mercy Falls, #2)Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At first, the telling of the story from 4 different points-of-view irritated me. I thought the first book with 2 povs was enough. But, now that I've finished the story, I'm glad Maggie Stiefvater did choose to write from the perspective of four different characters. It was good to get to know each of the characters so intimately. I liked Isabel in the previous book and getting to hear the story from her made me like her all that much more. She is such a complex girl! I didn't care for the Cole character that much but was glad when he started to be good, even though I feel that the change in him from the jerk to the caring guy was a bit unbelievable. Grace and Sam kind of annoyed me. They should've been more open and honest with each other...after everything they went through to be together in book 1, I couldn't believe Grace wouldn't be honest with Sam about her fears or that Sam would so willingly blind himself to her illness.

The story ended with not so much a cliff-hanger as a promise for more to come. I look forward to getting my hands on a copy of Forever and finishing the trilogy. And I am so glad that it is meant to be a trilogy and won't be dragged out for book after book so the series can end well and on a high note rather than being dragged on forever just to market on the fact that the author has an audience now.

As far as an audiobook goes, Linger was much better than Shiver. The voices of the readers worked well together and were no where near as annoying/aggrevating as the ones used in Shiver. I thought the voice of Sam went a little too extreme into being the soft, tender, artistic type after being so gravelly and emotional in book 1 but I did like the reader better. Coles voice fit his personality well. Both girls did a great job too.

I look forward to finding out the conclusion to the story about the wolves of Mercy Falls!

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Book Review: Bite Club (Morganville #10) by Rachel Caine

Bite Club (The Morganville Vampires, #10)Bite Club by Rachel Caine

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I love the Morganville vampires but this was by far my least favorite in the series. I didn't care for the insight into Shane's head - it felt like cheating. There was all this build-up for a great big war and then it was over in a couple pages without any real action. The big cage match fizzled and the bad guys died way to fast. I didn't feel like anyone's character really grew in this story and the only thing that progressed was the fact that Claire could've left but chose to stay. I gave it 3 stars because I love the town of Morganville and how twisted it is, but I think I might be done with this series now.

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Monday, May 30, 2011

Funny One-Liner From 39 Clues

I was reading to the kids after dinner tonight, like I try to do every night, and tonight's book was book 11 of the 39 Clues.  This book, unfortunately, doesn't have true chapters.  It has 4 short stories within one book and dot-dot-dots.  Normally, I'd stop reading at the end of a chapter, but as this one has none, I tend to stop at the dot-dot-dots.

Now, it's become my children's favorite thing to ask me to read one more page, one more paragraph, one more sentence!  And I obliged tonight.  Here is the scrumptious morsel they heard:

"Goat manure, though no one's favorite substance, had the benefit of being soft."


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My NaNoWriMo 2011 story

Synopsis: Haunted
Twin sisters, Rita and Cami Skotadi, are very different. Best friends who share almost everything, there's nothing one wouldn't do for the other. They also happen to be witches. Well, sort of.

For seventeen years, the Skotadi twins lived in Georgia. But, the summer before their senior year, the Skotadi family was forced to move to the small town of Waxhaw, North Carolina to escape the fallout of Cami's witchcraft fiasco.

Making friends in a new town is never easy.

Sparks fly and history attempts to repeat itself when Rita meets her soulmate only to find out he's dating her sister. Rita must break the cycle or lose her soulmate forever.

Excerpt: Haunted

“Do you really think that?”

He was staring at me intensely, waiting for me to answer. I couldn’t speak while looking at him. I frowned and looked down at our entwined hands. I yanked mine free.

“Think what?” I tried to play dumb. Not waiting to hear him say it, I grouched, “It doesn’t matter what I think or feel. You chose my sister over me…even though we have this spark…this connection between us. And I know you feel it too. But she’s claimed you and now you’re hers.”

I felt his hand on my chin, turning my face back to his, but I wouldn’t look at him. I couldn’t.

“Maevarete, look at me,” he said gently, caressingly.

I couldn’t. The sound of my name on his lips made my heart pound. It wasn’t fair. I felt the tears budding in my eyes and tried to pull out of his touch. The next thing I knew, his other hand cupped my cheek and his lips were on mine.

I'm a winner!
28 days = 50, 958 words and counting