Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Hello November

November is always such an interesting month in our lives. Lots of projects and ideas floating around, and never enough time to complete it all. Each November, I try to tackle NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) by writing at least 50,000 words during the month. It is a challenge every year. Some years I get several thousand words, but most years I don't get that far and end up giving up. I've "won" twice, with one of those being last year, so I'm riled up and ready to go for this year. I've been thinking about it for months and set up some Pinterest boards with character sketches and ideas. Another thing that I do every November is 30 Days of Gratitude. Being thankful every day for 30 days. This year, I volunteered to host the project at The Lilypad and provide guided (prompts) for the 30 days to help people create an album if they would like to.


 I'm also trying to improve my picture taking and photography. So...


 And I'm going to be hosting a monthly challenge at The Digital Press... BINGO

 Then there are all of the typical November things like Thanksgiving, shopping, errands, cleaning, and helping my grandma. Yikes. I think it is going to be a crazy-busy month for me. What about you???

Saturday, August 13, 2016

A Cold and Broken Hallelujah

A Cold and Broken Hallelujah (Long Beach Homicide)A Cold and Broken Hallelujah by Tyler Dilts
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a really quick read for me, and I enjoyed it for the most part. The characters were interesting, and I felt drawn into their stories. The characters felt a little familiar and put me in mind of a Michael Connelly (Bosch) book.

I liked the premise of the plot. There were a couple of times I felt that the plot was too compressed and/or there wasn't enough information or detail as to how they arrived at a certain point. Twice I found myself thinking that I must have skipped ahead somehow and missed something (on my Kindle) because I thought the story could have used a little more meat.

All in all, I'd probably give it a 3.5, wishing there was a bit more to the plot/story.

View all my reviews

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The New Love Triangle

The New Love Triangle: Your Practical Guide to a Love-Filled Life!The New Love Triangle: Your Practical Guide to a Love-Filled Life! by Allen Vaysberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a super-quick read, but provides an important way to shift your thinking about yourself and your relationships. With a few easy suggestions and simple action plans, you can start to make a difference in your life on day one. It references a great book The Five Love Languages, which is a good way of examining your life and relationships.

I really liked the author's example of Dr. Masauru Emoto studying how words can positively or negatively impact water crystals. It is a concrete image that really gets his message across and sticks with you, especially when dealing with others.

I also liked the idea of planning an activity every day that you enjoy. Even if it is only 10 minutes. I think this is a good way to get pleasure into your life and create a nice habit.

View all my reviews

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Animators

The AnimatorsThe Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to NetGalley for letting me read/review this book.

This book started out slow for me and really didn't grab me at first, but I pushed through and was so glad that I did.

The story revolves around a complex friend/partnership between two women who combine to make a kickass animation team. There are uncomfortable moments and a lot of struggles through the years. Each woman is battling their own issues, family stories, and histories while creating art that will both heal them in some way and speak to others with meaning.

For me, reading this book at this particular moment was an experience of synchronicity. My best friend and I had met up two weeks ago, and we'd both been talking about childhood, teen years, experiences we'd encountered, things we'd seen that we couldn't unsee, and how those things had an impact on our trajectories and future lives. That is the main theme of the book. Sharon, the main character, grapples with that very issue, similar to what my friend and I had experienced during our childhood. It felt strange and almost eerie to read those pages and see myself and my recent conversation in them.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Likeness

The Likeness (Dublin Murder Squad, #2)The Likeness by Tana French
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Even though this started with a crazy and nearly unbelievable premise, I found myself liking the book and trying to get to the bottom of the mystery. I thought I knew who had committed the crime, and at the end of the book, I was pretty much right with my first thought, but it didn't bother me because there were enough questions surrounding alternate suspects... and there really wasn't a clearly-defined resolution because there were still questions remaining.

I like books like this where someone is drawn into an odd friendship, and the process shows more about their character as the relationship(s) unfold. Especially when there is such a high level of dysfunction. LOL.

On a whole different level, there was a wonderful moment in the book when Daniel is talking to Lexie, and it is something that I've been thinking a lot about lately. About fear. And how it controls us on so many levels...

Daniel said, "Part of the debtor mentality is a constant, frantically suppressed undercurrent of terror. We have one of the highest debt-to-income ratios in the world, and apparently most of us are two paychecks from the street. Those in power -- governments, employers -- exploit this, to great effect. Frightened people are obedient -- not just physically, but intellectually and emotionally. If your employer tells you to work overtime, and you know that refusing could jeopardize everything you have, then not only do you work the overtime, but you convince yourself that you're doing it voluntarily, out of loyalty to the company; because the alternative is to acknowledge that you are living in terror. Before you know it, you've persuaded yourself that you have a profound emotional attachment to some vast multinational corporation: you've indentured not just your working hours, but your entire thought process."

And this is what happens here in the US, probably even more so than what happens in Ireland. We're also indentured to "stuff" and commercialism... and fear of others... don't even get me started on that.

I'll be interested in reading her other books, especially now that I'm over the language differences. Hahaha.

View all my reviews

Monday, July 04, 2016

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth

The Most Dangerous Place on EarthThe Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson
This novel is set to be released in 2017. My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I would give this 3.75 stars, rounding up to 4.

This book makes me realize, as I've thought before, how thankful I am that I didn't go to junior high/high school now, with the current technology. It was hard enough in the 80s, I can't even imagine now. The worst we had to deal with was someone getting hold of a handwritten note that contained all of our secrets, but even if they did, it wasn't usually worth broadcasting, or to share the information wasn't as simple or permanent.

I thought this was an interesting look at a group of teens as well as the teachers who have the opportunity to influence them. I remember thinking that teachers seemed so old when I was in school, when in reality, they probably weren't that much older (in many cases). I remember being sixteen and in love with a 23-year old soon-to-be-teacher. We'd talk about how he could come to teach at my school and we could have a secret relationship. I look back at that now and just shake my head. It goes to show, people are people and then often don't think about what is wise or harmful. There are teachers who are passionate and want to help students learn and grow, and then there are those who take advantage. But the line can blur, as one teacher finds out in this story... even with the best intentions.

I like how the kids in the book were portrayed. A lot of people say they are stereotypes, but stereotypes surface because they exist. But like The Breakfast Club I think that this went beyond stereotypes to show that each kid had more than one side. The kids were impacted by family relationships. They weathered the friendships that changed over time. They flinch and bruise at the horrible way young people treat each other even while they were in the midst of perpetrating it onto others. And they survived difficulties or tragedies that kids face. And they dealt with the secrets they keep or spill. There is so much complexity going on in their lives, it is a wonder they are able to make it through the work of school at all.

My only complaint about the book is it would have been nice to have some of the loose ends tied up. To have resolution or more information about some of the stories.

View all my reviews

Saturday, June 25, 2016

One-Hundred-Knuckled Fist

Thanks to NetGalley for letting me preview this book. It is a good one.

Publication Date: September 1, 2016

One-Hundred-Knuckled Fist: StoriesOne-Hundred-Knuckled Fist: Stories by Dustin M Hoffman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This isn't normally a book I would have picked up, but I'm loving it. Short stories about working-class men that are bittersweet and memorable. The prose flows with rhythm and is filled with strong metaphors, imagery and interesting descriptions. These are stories about men (and a couple of women) who want to provide for themselves and their loved ones, no matter what the work requires of them. So many people and jobs that you don't think about on a regular basis, telling their stories and sharing their lives between the pages of this book.

Icecream Dream was one of my favorite stories from the book. One of the quotes from the story... "Life is full of lemon givers, and a smart man takes his fate and makes more than just complacent lemonade."

Lots of good reading.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Forgetting Time

The Forgetting TimeThe Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved this book. I would actually probably give it 4.5 stars because of the concept. I read it straight through, in just a few hours. I've always been interested in the idea of reincarnation. I also have a beast nugget of a grandchild (with his own set of quirks) who used to tell us that he had another family before... so it touched me on a deeper level.

It is ultimately a story about wanting to understand ourselves and others. How we connect, how we move in and out of people's lives, how we love and how we search for meaning. And then it is also a story about motherhood. What it means to feel the overwhelming love for a child, and how we deal with uncertainty and loss that can be unimaginable.

The writing was smooth, and the story unfolded in a way that kept pulling you forward, wanting to know more.

View all my reviews

Monday, June 13, 2016

Sweet Tooth

This week, I was lucky enough to get two new/upcoming cookbooks to review from NetGalley. Both were intended for baking.

The first, Cake Magic! was an amazing book filled with tons of eye candy and pages that had me drooling over almost every image and description. I gave the book 5 stars because I wanted to drop everything and immediately start baking.

While there are only eight cake recipes in the book, there are enough creative variations and exquisite flavor combinations to keep you in cake for weeks and years to come. There are cakes, syrups and frostings galore! If you can't find several amazing ideas for cake in this book, you are crazy.

I absolutely love the idea of using a syrup to kick up the flavors in a cake. It is an added surprise that goes a long way to make the cake atypical. Not only does it add flavor, but it adds moisture, which is so important to me when I'm eating a piece of cake. Who wants a dry, uninteresting dessert? When compared to a boring, store-bought cake, these are easy recipes will floor friends and loved ones when they taste one of your creations.

My daughter is a bake for a casino, and I can't wait to wow her with the cakes I'm going to be making with this book.

This also has a simple make-ahead mix that you can make and have on hand for the times when a cake is needed. Perfect!

The second book, Sweetness, is a great 4 star book if you are in the mood for some good ol' fashion comfort food.

It goes beyond cakes to cover cookies, cobblers, pies, puddings and more. There are so many recipes that bring back Americana and old family memories. I'm not from the South, but a lot of recipes are familiar and seem easy to whip up.

The Cookie Jar section had to be my favorite, although there were other recipes like funnel cake, pound cake in a jar, and cream cheese divinity that definitely caught my eye and were bookmarked for later baking/making. This book would make a great selection or even a gift for anyone who likes to indulge their sweet tooth on occasion.

Now I'm totally hungry and thinking about baking something sweet to eat.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Oh, To Be Popular

I think it is interesting that we may hear a lot of buzz about a particular book. We may see it mentioned in several different places as a "must read" for the summer. We may end up on a huge waiting list at the library if we can practice patience and not rush to buy it as soon as possible. And then the time comes... to finally settle in and start reading. Does the popularity of the book carry through? Do we ever feel disappointed after reading it?

I had mixed feelings about The Nest. That is one of the books that has been hyped everywhere I look. I was on two different library waiting lists. One of them, I'm number 48 out of at least 96 other requests. But I happened to be *in* the library the other day, and The Nest was proudly standing stock still in the "Lucky Day" section. I snatched it up, brought it home, and started reading as soon as I could. The writing was fine, and the characters have a lot of different personality quirks and interests. I kept getting this nagging feeling that it was sort of a typical Manhattan-family story about a group of family members who are plagued by wealth or the lack thereof. Each of the family members has a different relationship to money and the importance/influence it has on their life. They have all sort of been in a holding pattern, waiting to see the day when they'd get their inheritance. It felt like even though they were adults, none of them had fully grown up. The stories in the book seemed like they took a long time to unfurl. There were a lot of characters and interactions between them. But then, the last forty or so pages, everything just sort of wraps up in a tidy ending... but the action is lost, and there is just telling about each character as the book comes to a close. It put me in mind of a movie or tv show where the last couple of minutes is a montage that has fast forwarded and showed how everyone ended up. So I felt a little bit disappointed. I ended up feeling like I wanted more or that the ending was sort of an easy out or the novel would have dragged on for awhile longer. The climax of the book just wasn't really there for me or felt a little shallow. It was a good quick summer read, but ultimately, I felt disappointed.

On the flip side, I read a book from NetGalley, called The Summer That Melted Everything. I had heard no hype about this book. I hadn't seen any reviews of it or even heard of the title before. But after reading the description, I thought it sounded mildly entertaining. I almost expected it to be humorous. But wow... was I wrong. This was a powerful book, so beautifully written, that is made me wish I could have written it. The language is dreamy and there is a certain rhythm to the words and phrases that adds to that feeling. It is mesmerizing, and it is definitely a book that will stay with me for a very long time. The characters are odd and have quirks like others in a small community, but the writing, scenes and situations are rich and almost have a mysterious/mystical quality to them. Unlike a shallow motivation surrounding money, this book deals with unbelievable tragedy in unusual ways.

Both books have a character coming to terms with being gay. Both have tragedy/loss, but The Nest sort of glosses over it like it isn't as important as the family coming to terms with their ideas of betrayal and financial hardship. The Summer That Melted Everything deals with a lot of darkness and pain, and you feel every bit of it.

Obviously The Summer That Melted Everything isn't a typical mainstream novel, but it is a shame that it won't be seen that way. It should receive the hype and the popularity and have people wait-listing to get it at the library.

Get the book as soon as its released. Read it. Savor it. Cry in the parts that will make you cry. Feel the rage. Let the book carry you on its emotional tidal wave. Let it become part of you. You won't regret it.