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.

View all my reviews

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.

View all my reviews

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.

View all my reviews

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.

View all my reviews