Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Book Review: If Only by A.J. Pine

If Only (Entangled Embrace, #1)If Only by A.J. Pine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received an advanced ebook copy for an honest review from Netgalley.

Jordan Brooks is headed to Scotland for a year to study abroad.  Her best friend Sam has convinced her that she needs to have a fling since it's been two years since her last serious relationship.  As luck would have it, she quickly meets the perfect Mr. Right Now in Griffin on the train from London to Aberdeen.  Griff takes the seat next to her on the train and the flirting is instant.  Jordan and Griff hit it off right away and in any other story they would have been the stars of our story.

However, shortly into the trip A.J. heads to the loo and gets stuck in the compartment with Noah, who is also a student heading to Aberdeen.  Jordan also hits it off with Noah, he's the perfect match for her English major self (he carries around a worn and self annotated copy of The Great Gatsby).  Plus they share a quick kiss that knocks her for a loop. Could he be her Mr. Right?

Once in Aberdeen Jordan meets a cast of friends that will guide her through this year of fun and discovery. 

I really enjoyed this book and read it in about a day. I thought the characters were great, the story was wonderful and I got sucked into everything which is how I like to read.  

I really would recommend this book!

Me Being Nitpicky

My one complaint is the mention of Jane Austen being a Victorian-era author.  As a huge Jane Austen fan, this always bothers me because Jane died about 20 years before the start of the Victorian Era. Victorian literature roughly starts around 1830, Austen died in 1817 and her novels were all published before 1820. 

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Book Review - Slices of Life by Leah Eskin

Slices of Life: A Food Writer Cooks through Many a ConundrumSlices of Life: A Food Writer Cooks through Many a Conundrum by Leah Eskin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm a sucker for cookbooks.  I have an ever growing collection and nearly no space for them.  Slices of Life is a collection of columns that Leah wrote for the Chicago Tribune. Some were really interesting, some were okay, and some I barely glanced at, I did however read every recipe and bookmarked at least 10*.

Last night was one of those days when The Jojo and I had just enough time to whip up a quick dinner before running out of the house.  Pasta is always a great option for that, and since I had just finished reading this book, I remembered one of those bookmarked recipes. You have to be careful when reading an unedited copy of a cookbook or book with a recipe or two in it, because there could be errors but Leah's Emergency Pasta seemed perfect to whip up and adjust to our tastes.  The recipe calls for olive oil, red pepper flakes, salt and garlic to be sauteed while the pasta is boiling. We adjusted the amount of red pepper flakes from a "fat pinch" to a "tiny pinch" and instead of using 4 cloves of thinly sliced garlic we used about 2 cloves finely chopped.  After you mixed the pasta in with the sauteed mixture you top with grated cheese and parsley.  Both Jojo and I swore we had parsley, but nope, none to be found.  Even with our adjustments this was a yummy and quick meal.

This recipe goes along with a story that talks about a busy day: typical school day followed practices and lessons and the need to run your child(ren) to and from these events.  Only, now you arrive home and there is no dinner so you need to whip something up quick and all you find is "dried pasta, hard cheese, and garlic." I think everyone has had one of these days, those with kids and those without kids.  It seems were always on the run, so having one of these emergency meal plans is always great.

I can't wait to try more of my bookmarked recipes including: Cheerful Risotto, Herb Butter, Coffeehouse Scones, Challah, Carrot Puree, both Classic and Berry Smoothie **,  Banana Bread, Ricotta-Stuff Focaccia, Runaway Pasta, Eggplant Involtini, High-Speed Shrimp and many more!

I received an ebook ARC from Netgalley for an honest review.

*This means I can buy the book and bring it into the house!
**I'm always on the hunt for new smoothie recipes.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Peanuts Movie!

Honestly I didn't have any post for today, but then I saw the teaser trailer for the Peanuts movie that is due out next year.  I love the comic strip and could re-read some of them numerous times and still chuckle. I love the holiday themed movies and watch them whenever they are on TV. So I'm really excited about the movie and this teaser is just wonderful!

Writing Exercise #6

I haven't been to a Writers' Group meeting in some time and haven't been keeping up with the writing prompts.  Schools been getting in the way of my writing!

Prompt: Write about what is secret

When I read this prompt, I had a few story ideas, but every time I sat down to write them, I couldn't write anything worth sharing.  To take my mind off the prompt, I started to go through my creative writing folders from college.  I found a writing exercise that I enjoyed doing, and thought with some editing would be perfect for this prompt.  The writing exercise was to take a work of Edgar Allen Poe and edit it to tell the story in our own way.  I did a little bit more editing and here's my story about what is secret

Edited by Amelia Rodriguez

“Can you state your name for the record?”
“My baptismal name is Edward; that of my family I will not mention. Yet there are no towers in the land more time-honored than my gloomy, gray, hereditary halls. The recollections of my earliest years…”
“Sir, enough.” The nurse placed her hand on his shoulder. “His name is Edward Willard Alfred Gracechurch the Fourth.”
I nodded my thanks.
“I was told you could tell me about a woman called Berenice.”
“Berenice and I were cousins, and we grew up together in my paternal halls.” His voice took on a dreamy quality and he stared off at a random fixed point on the wall. “Yet differently we grew --I ill of health, and buried in gloom --she agile, graceful, and overflowing with energy! Ah! vividly is her image before me now, as in the early days of her light-heartedness and joy! Oh! gorgeous yet fantastic beauty!”
He paused, and I was about to interrupt him but he went on.
“And then disease --a fatal disease –“
“Yes,” I interrupted him now before he went off on a tangent. “I know about her sickness.  She had epilepsy.”
“She had a species of epilepsy not infrequently terminating in trance itself --trance very nearly resembling positive dissolution, and from which her manner of recovery was in most instances, startlingly abrupt. In the mean time my own disease, grew rapidly upon me, …”
“Mr. Gracechurch,” his name came out with more exasperation that I meant to reveal. “If we could stay focused on discussing Berenice that would help move this discussion along.” He went on as if he didn’t hear me.
“It might appear a matter beyond doubt, that the alteration produced by her unhappy malady, in the moral condition of Berenice, would afford me many objects for the exercise of that intense and abnormal meditation, …”
“Mr. Gracechurch.” I leaned forward in my seat, hoping to grab his attention. His nurse put her hand on his shoulder and he stopped talking and seemed to remember I was there. “Mr. Gracechurch, I have been told my time with you is short, as much as I would enjoy the full story you are trying to tell me, I have to get to the information about the disturbance in your family tomb. I hopped you could tell me of your relationship with Berenice.” I looked down at my notes. “I’m told you two were closer than just being cousins.”
“During the brightest days of her unparalleled beauty, most surely I had never loved her. In the strange anomaly of my existence, feelings with me, had never been of the heart, and my passions always were of the mind. Through the gray of the early morning --among the trellised shadows of the forest at noonday --and in the silence of my library at night, she had flitted by my eyes, and I had seen her --not as the living and breathing Berenice, but as the Berenice of a dream. And now --now I shuddered in her presence, and grew pale at her approach; yet bitterly lamenting her fallen and desolate condition, I called to mind that she had loved me long, and, in an evil moment, I spoke to her of marriage.
And at length the period of our nuptials was approaching, when, upon an afternoon in the winter of the year, --one of those unseasonably warm, calm, and misty days, --I sat, (and sat, as I thought, alone,) in the inner apartment of the library. But uplifting my eyes I saw that Berenice stood before me.
Was it my own excited imagination --or the misty influence of the atmosphere --or the uncertain twilight of the chamber --or the gray draperies which fell around her figure --that caused in it so vacillating and indistinct an outline? I could not tell. She spoke no word, I --not for worlds could I have uttered a syllable. An icy chill ran through my frame; a sense of insufferable anxiety oppressed me; a consuming curiosity pervaded my soul; and sinking back upon the chair, I remained for some time breathless and motionless, with my eyes riveted upon her person. Alas! its emaciation was excessive, and not one vestige of the former being, lurked in any single line of the contour. My burning glances at length fell upon the face.
The forehead was high, and very pale, and singularly placid; and the once jetty hair fell partially over it, and overshadowed the hollow temples with innumerable ringlets now of a vivid yellow, and Jarring discordantly, in their fantastic character, with the reigning melancholy of the countenance. The eyes were lifeless, and lusterless, and seemingly pupil-less, and I shrank involuntarily from their glassy stare to the contemplation of the thin and shrunken lips. They parted; and in a smile of peculiar meaning, the teeth of the changed Berenice disclosed themselves slowly to my view. Would to God that I had never beheld them, or that, having done so, I had died!
The shutting of a door disturbed me, and, looking up, I found that my cousin had departed from the chamber. But from the disordered chamber of my brain, had not, alas! departed, and would not be driven away, the white and ghastly spectrum of the teeth. Not a speck on their surface --not a shade on their enamel --not an indenture in their edges --but what that period of her smile had sufficed to brand in upon my memory. I saw them now even more unequivocally than I beheld them then. The teeth! --the teeth! --they were here, and there, and everywhere, and visibly and palpably before me; long, narrow, and excessively white, with the pale lips writhing about them, as in the very moment of their first terrible development.”
He had gone off on a tangent, but this one greatly disturbed him.  His nurse stepped in front of him and blocking my view proceeded to calm him down. A few minutes passed before she moved away from him and things seemed calm again. She gave me a nod.
“Mr. Gracechurch can you tell me about Berenice’s death.”
“I was buried in meditation. At length there broke in upon my dreams a cry as of horror and dismay; and after a pause, the sound of troubled voices, intermingled with many low moanings of sorrow, or of pain. I arose from my seat and, throwing open one of the doors of the library, saw standing out in the antechamber a servant maiden, all in tears, who told me that Berenice was --no more. She had been seized with epilepsy in the early morning, and now, at the closing in of the night, the grave was ready for its tenant, and all the preparations for the burial were completed.”
For once Mr. Gracechurch was silent. I waited a moment or two for him to speak, but he said nothing, just stared at the fire.
“Can you tell me what happened next?”
“I found myself sitting in the library, and again sitting there alone. It seemed that I had newly awakened from a confused and exciting dream. I knew that it was now midnight, and I was well aware that since the setting of the sun Berenice had been interred. But of that dreary period which intervened I had no positive --at least no definite comprehension. Yet its memory was replete with horror --horror more horrible from being vague, and terror more terrible from ambiguity. It was a fearful page in the record my existence, written all over with dim, and hideous, and unintelligible recollections. I strived to decypher them, but in vain. I had done a deed --what was it? I asked myself the question aloud, and the whispering echoes of the chamber answered me.”
“What had you don’t Mr. Gracechurch?”
He didn’t speak, he just pointed in my direction.  On the table beside me laid a little box and a book. The box was of no remarkable character, and my eyes at length dropped to the open pages of a book, and to a sentence underscored therein. The words were the singular but simple ones of the poet Ebn Zaiat, "My companions said to me that my troubles would in some measure be relieved if I would visit the tomb of my sweetheart." As I perused them, the hairs of my arms stood on end.
I picked up the box and Mr. Gracechurch spoke. He spoke to me in a voice tremulous, husky, and very low. He told of a wild cry disturbing the silence of the night --of the gathering together of the household-of a search in the direction of the sound; --and then his tones grew thrillingly distinct as he whispered me of a violated grave --of a disfigured body enshrouded, yet still breathing, still palpitating, still alive!

As he spoke my attention was divided between opening the box and what he was saying. But I could not force it open; and in my tremor it slipped from my hands, and fell heavily, and burst into pieces; and from it, with a rattling sound, there rolled out some instruments of dental surgery, intermingled with thirty-two small, white and ivory-looking substances that were scattered to and fro about the floor.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Tea and a Book: My Bloved World by Sonia Sotomayor

My Beloved WorldMy Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was a hit! We liked that it was about her life leading up to her appointment on the Supreme Court and not just a brief biography and then a detailed about her time on the bench.  We enjoyed being able to see similarities between our diverse backgrounds and her family, it really connects that no matter what the nationality/ethnicity families are similar.

When the evening book club read this book, I heard a lot of comments like, "Wow, I can't believe how much she overcame" or "to think she grew up in the projects."  I was expecting a story somewhat similar to From Homeless to Harvard, but that's not really Sonia's story. As I read I realized, that if my family hadn't settled in the suburbs, portions of my life would have mirrored her life. In our discussion we talked about how it doesn't matter the where a person lives, they can accomplish great things with the right support from family and friends and Sonia had that support.

For the last Winter Book Club, we read Lean In and I found myself not really being able to relate to a lot of the situations that Sheryl Sandberg talks about, but My Beloved World kind of put some of those ideas into perspective.  A big one was the idea of mentorship.  Sheryl says that you shouldn't ask someone to be a mentor, but that sometimes you find a mentor in a co-worker or a contact while networking.  Sonia seemed to find mentors as she progressed through school and into the workforce. She made good contacts, and they guided her along her path, helping to open doors and presenting opportunities.

This was a great read for Women's History Month.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Mini Reviews - Wild and 1914

19141914 by Jean Echenoz
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

For a little book this took me a while to get into it (about half way). It was an interesting writing style, no quotations but sections that were dialogue. Also it had a sort of bluntness that I wasn't used to reading.

The story, itself, was great. A quick tale about boys from the same town that went off to war not thinking it was any big deal. They all quickly learned just how big a deal it was. There was also Blanche who was waiting back at home for Charlie and Anthime.

I can't talk too much about the story without giving away something important so I'm just going to say it is worth reading. It's a quick and realistic look back 100 years to the French experience in WW1.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest TrailWild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
My rating: 4 of 5 

I had tried to listen to this book back in March, but could barely get through the first CD. Cheryl just didn't give me much to care about, why would I want to keep listening. This time around I forced myself to give it two CDs before deciding to give up listening. I again struggled through the first disc, but by the end of the second I was pulled into the story.  Still not really caring about Cheryl or her life, but interested in her journey.

I found myself really enjoying the book and at times almost convinced myself that I could take up hiking. Not a full journey like hers, but shit the Appalachian Trail isn't that far off, I could totally manage day hikes.  Those thoughts were quickly followed by ones of realizing I was completely crazy and could never do something like that.

I'm glad I force the relisten.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

February Summary of Reading Challenges

Here's Where I Stand on the I Love the Library Challenge

Books Checked Out and Read:
  • Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup
  • The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
  • Boy21 by Matthew Quick
  • Cordina's Royal Family: Gabriella & Alexander by Nora Roberts
  • Cane by Jean Toomer
  • Cordina's Royal Family: Bennett & Camilla by Nora Roberts
  • My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor (BCD)
Books Checked Out and Currently Reading
  • Wild by Cheryl Strayed (BCD)
Books Checked Out and Not Read - Yet
  • Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton
  • The "I Hate to Exercise" Book for People with Diabetes by Charlotte HAyes, MMSC, MS, RD, CDE
Books Checked Out but Didn't Read
  • Sorta Like a Rockstar by Matthew Quick
  • Yoga XXL by Ingrid Kollak
  • I Love Coffee! by Susan Zimmer
Books Checked Out for School Assignments
  • Once Upon a Time by John Barth
  • House Calls with William Carlos Williams by Robert Coles
  • Made in America by Lisa Malin Steinman
  • Something Urgent I Have to Say to You by Herbert A. Leibowitz
  • The Poetry of William Carlos Williams of Rutherford by Wendell Berry
  • William Carlos Williams, Poet from Jersey by Reed Whittemore
  • William Carlos Williams' Paterson by Joel Conarroe
  • The End of the Road by John Barth
  • Three on the Tower by Louis Simpson

Here's Where I Stand on the TBR Pile Challenge

I've had to edit the original list, I found that there were some books on there that I had read and just forgot about. I think only 2 or 3 books came off the list.

In my book basket:
  • I haven't read anything from my basket, new books keep finding their way to the top of basket. 
Book from my Kindle App
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  • More Than One Night by Marie Tuhart
Books from my Nook:
  • Never a Bride by Amelia Grey
  • Married by Mistake by Abby Gains

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Mini Reviews: Two Hits and a Miss

Waking Up PregnantWaking Up Pregnant by Mira Lyn Kelly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the follow up to Waking Up Married. This story follows Connor's friend Jeff after the two part the night Connor meets Megan.  Jeff stays at the bar and meets bartender Darcy who can't wait for her last night in Vegas to be over. She's ready for a fresh start! She spends the evening with Jeff exploring Las Vegas and against her initial ideas they end up back at Jeff's hotel room.  When Jeff leaves to go into the bathroom Darcy bolts and Jeff can't tell her about their little problem.  Jeff's not surprised when Darcy shows up 3 months later pregnant.

Like the couple in the previous book, Jeff is willing to manipulate the situation to suit his needs. That's the only thing I didn't like about the book. Yes, he does it with everyone's best interest in mind, but ugh. Also Darcy is just a little bit too much with her independence kick, so maybe she needs Jeff's interference.

Both books are worth reading!

TT: Full ThrottleTT: Full Throttle by Nicole Winters
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I checked this book out because I'm always looking for new books for the reluctant readers (or boys) in our library. I really enjoyed reading this book. It felt like The Art of Racing in the Rain for younger readers. While it's not told from a dog's point of view, the theme of basing life lessons on lessons learned from racing are there.  Similarly, I was at a loss for all the technical talk of working on racing bikes and what the races are like, but it didn't really matter. I was still pulled right into the story and into the excitement of Scott's team as they near the big race.

While I don't think this book would work at our library, it might work at other branches.

Picture MePicture Me by Lori Weber
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I thought it was a good story idea, but the execution was not good. I struggled with the multiple view points in each chapter. I would have liked it more if each girl had her own chapter and told a different part of the story. I tended to skip over the parts from Chelsea's point of view. Also I had to keep reminding myself they were only 13 years old, it really threw me that they were going to Bio lab, I'm not that far out of high school and I didn't a bio lab until I was in at least 10th grade (15/16 years old).

All three books were advanced e-book copies provided by Netgalley for honest reviews.