Friday, June 27, 2014

Flash Fiction 55 - Writing Exercise #10

He sent the letter in a hot air balloon.

It had taken him days to write the letter.  He needed it to be perfect. Once he was sure it was perfect he secured the letter in the envelope.  Tomorrow his father would place the envelope into the sky lantern and they would send it up to heaven so his mother could read the letter.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Book(ish) Trailer Thursday: Unbroken Official Olympics Preview Trailer

I can't wait to see this movie!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Book Review: For Renata by B. Robert Sharry

For RenataFor Renata by B. Robert Sharry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've been struggling for a week now to write a review of this book, but I can't clearly put into words what I feel. This book started out kind of slow and I was scared that I wasn't going to like it, and I hate not finishing a book and author asked me to review. While it started out slow, before I knew it I was sucked into this book and the story. It is a beautifully woven story of multiple story lines all revolving around a small group of people who live in Cape Ann, Mass.

We are taken along for the journey as Mark tries to discover why his uncle disappeared all those years ago by reading his journal. Mark's Uncle Peter was one of the many men who came back from war a broken shell of his former self.  He takes the job of tending the light house and while he's there he meets Renata.  In his journal is this story a long with a letter for Renata.

Mark finds Renata but she denies the events in Peter's journal.  This is was captured my attention when I was asked to review the novel.  That slight idea of mystery in a story that sounds like a romantic drama is always a draw.  When I finally got to that part I couldn't read fast enough to see how it all worked out in the end and I wasn't disappointed.

I can't recommend this story enough. The Portuguese singer Am├ília Rodrigues is mentioned throughout the story and I also suggest looking her up and listening to some of her music.  She's a wonderful fado (blues) singer and it adds a great soundtrack to the story.  NPR did a piece on her - Amalia Rodrigues: The Voice Of Extreme Expression.

Thank you to the author for providing a copy of the ebook.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Writing Exercise #9

It was clear to see he was a thug.

“He ain’t look like to thug to me.” Anna walked around to stand behind Robert’s computer. “I mean, look at him, I could take him.”

“Robert,” Anna let out an exasperated sigh, “you are supposed to be looking up pictures about what you want to be when you grow up.”

He looked up at her, “I was. I typed in thug. See.” He pointed at the search box on his screen. He had typed ‘thuge’ and Google had done a search instead for ‘thuggee’.

“First off thug isn’t spelled with an ‘e’.  Second, that is not a viable career option in either spelling.”

“Ms. Anderson, I have a question.” Anna looked up to see Robert’s hand in the air waving widly.

“Robert you don’t have to call out, just raise your hand.”  Anna made her way over to his computer station.  He now had the Wikipedia article up for Thug Behram, the man whose picture he had criticized   a few minutes earlier.

“Robert I said” Anna started but was quickly cut off by him.

“I know, but I wanted to know what a thuggee was and it took me to this page to this guy who is King of the Thugs.” Anna wanted to get mad at him, but the child was researching and not just playing games on the computer.

“Do you remember where you are supposed to look for information to do research?”  Robert looked at Anna like she was stupid as he held up his folder. “Follow those instructions and instead of writing your paper on what you want to be when you grow up you can write your paper on the Thuggee cult.  All the same rules apply to this paper as to the other one.”

“I can do that.”

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Book Review: Only with You by Lauren Layne

Only with You (The Best Mistake, #1)Only with You by Lauren Layne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Was it enjoyable? Yes!
Was it predictable? Yes!
Did I care? No!

Just read the description of the book and you can understand why I said it was predictable. You already know going in that Gray and Sophie meet in less than ideal circumstances so when Gray shows up as Sophie's sister's date to a family dinner you know things can only get worse before they get better.

Besides being a fun romance this book is also a coming of age story for Sophie.  When we first meet Sophie she's adrift in her life, and we learn how much so as the book goes on.  It's Gray's initial perception of Sophie that starts her on a path towards what she really wants out of life.  She quits her job as a waitress and it's at the aforementioned family dinner that Gray is put in a position to offer Sophie the job as his executive assistant.

This is where any seasoned romance reader knows things are going to get dicey and funny. These two seem to just want to insult and irritate each other.  This can also be said of Sophie's sister and Sophie's best friend which is great build up to book #2!

As their time together progresses they go back and forth between hot and cold with each other, or in the case of Gray luke warm and cold.  At one point Sophie compares Gray with Mr. Darcy and he has no idea who she's talking about, but Gray is a perfect modern Mr. Darcy (though he's not as prejudice). Just like Mr. Darcy, it may be tough but he has to admit that he's not a cold as everyone assumes he is, and he does have the hots for his leading lady.

There are some great scenes in this book and some really funny moments. I can't wait to read more in this series.

ARC provided via NetGalley in exchange of a review 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Book Trailer Thursday: "One More Thing" by B.J. Novak

I haven't posted a book trailer in awhile. Then I saw this one and had to share!  I have the book on my TBR List and I can't wait to read it!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

MCG - Thrive by Arianna Huffington

Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and WonderThrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianna Huffington
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Thrive, Arianna Huffington makes an impassioned and compelling case for the need to redefine what it means to be successful in today's world.

Arianna Huffington's personal wake-up call came in the form of a broken cheekbone and a nasty gash over her eye -- the result of a fall brought on by exhaustion and lack of sleep. As the cofounder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group -- one of the fastest growing media companies in the world -- celebrated as one of the world's most influential women, and gracing the covers of magazines, she was, by any traditional measure, extraordinarily successful. Yet as she found herself going from brain MRI to CAT scan to echocardiogram, to find out if there was any underlying medical problem beyond exhaustion, she wondered is this really what success feels like?

As more and more people are coming to realize, there is far more to living a truly successful life than just earning a bigger salary and capturing a corner office. Our relentless pursuit of the two traditional metrics of success -- money and power -- has led to an epidemic of burnout and stress-related illnesses, and an erosion in the quality of our relationships, family life, and, ironically, our careers. In being connected to the world 24/7, we're losing our connection to what truly matters. Our current definition of success is, as Thrive shows, literally killing us. We need a new way forward.

In a commencement address Arianna gave at Smith College in the spring of 2013, she likened our drive for money and power to two legs of a three-legged stool. They may hold us up temporarily, but sooner or later we're going to topple over. We need a third leg -- a third metric for defining success -- to truly thrive. That third metric, she writes in Thrive, includes our well-being, our ability to draw on our intuition and inner wisdom, our sense of wonder, and our capacity for compassion and giving. As Arianna points out, our eulogies celebrate our lives very differently from the way society defines success. They don't commemorate our long hours in the office, our promotions, or our sterling PowerPoint presentations as we relentlessly raced to climb up the career ladder. They are not about our resumes -- they are about cherished memories, shared adventures, small kindnesses and acts of generosity, lifelong passions, and the things that made us laugh.

In this deeply personal book, Arianna talks candidly about her own challenges with managing time and prioritizing the demands of a career and raising two daughters -- of juggling business deadlines and family crises, a harried dance that led to her collapse and to her "aha moment." Drawing on the latest groundbreaking research and scientific findings in the fields of psychology, sports, sleep, and physiology that show the profound and transformative effects of meditation, mindfulness, unplugging, and giving, Arianna shows us the way to a revolution in our culture, our thinking, our workplace, and our lives.

We read this book as a follow up to Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. I feel I got more out of this book than I did Lean In.  Both shared valuable information on how to balance your life, but I felt this one spoke more to the average woman (person).  As a community we focus on how to gain success and money and we put our own well being on a back burner (sometimes completely forgetting it's there until it's too late). I've done this myself during the last weeks of a semester, struggling to fit more hours into my day to finish a research paper. You come out of these experiences drained, tired and sick.

Arianna shares the easiest and most important piece of advice - we need sleep. If you don't sleep you can't function at the top of your game. If you can't function at the top of your game you can't grow in life and in work. We had a great conversation about sleep and well being and taking time to focus on ourselves.  We all agreed we were headed in the right direction that we were meeting after work on a Thursday night. Many of the women even confessed to almost backing out due to work stress.  We are taking the time to meet with each other and spend some time to unwind.

This Meetup group does things like yoga in the park, 5k run/walks, and other things that encourage a focus on something besides work and stress.  Our conversations do touch on those topics but really as more of a social, how are things, kind of way.

The one thing I really liked about this book as the list of apps and websits in the back of the book.  Some of the women are already using them and a lot of us were downloading more as the night went on.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Fiction Fundamentals - Short Story #5

For Short Story #4 we had to write in a point of view we hadn't used in the pervious three stories. I had wanted to write in second person, just wanted to try, but I couldn't get started.  With this last story of the semester I wanted to try writing in the style of a frame tale with each layer of the frame in a different point of view.  Here's a sample of what I submitted:

You want to keep reading, but you need to eat something, with the manuscript in hand you head into the kitchen.  You prepared a quick meal before sitting down to read some more. You want to know more about your grandfather’s military career and you’re finally getting a peek into the childhood of your father.  You remember him talking about his family driving across country when his father got stationed in Hawaii and he would only occasional mention what life was like on the island.  You’ve just started reading about that trip and want to see what your grandfather writes.

The storm from the night before had gone east and the weather was clear ahead but we were still hitting small patches of rain.  The bad tire on the car was still wheeling.  I could see the threads on the darned thing.  That evening, before settling for the night we killed a pheasant with the car.  We stopped to pick it up.
Hector pulled the car to the side of the road after Carmen had insisted he stop to see what they had hit.  He pulled the collar up on his jacket and hustled from the car. He could barely make out the lump in the road, but knew it was an animal of decent size.  Carmen was hoping for something she would be able to use in their dinner.  Just as he reached the animal another car pulled up and the driver rolled down his window.
“Everything alright?” The driver looked down at the animal and then up to Hector.
“We’re fine. Just hit the animal, my wife thought it might be nice to add to our dinner.” Hector leaned down to pick up the animal.
“You all got a license to hunt in the state?” The driver asked when he saw that it was a decent sized pheasant that Hector had picked up.
“We’re just driving through.” Hector stood up the pheasant in hands and started to walk back towards his car.
“We’ll then you can’t take that bird.” The driver yelled out his window. “Why don’t you just had it over-“
“Why don’t you report me to the police?” Hector opened the back door and put the bird into the back seat with his son.  If the driver said, anything Hector didn’t hear as he got back into his car.
Hijo,” Carmen turned towards the back seat, “start drying that bird with that blanket.”
In the back seat, Fernando started to rub the bird.  “Like this mama?”
She tells him he’s doing a good job and then turns back around.  She turns the heat up, hoping they can have it dried out by the time they reach their stop for the night.  Carmen opened her purse and counted what little money they had left. She would need a few things from the store if she was going to cook this bird properly. If they were lucky, it would last them a few days and save them some money.
“Hector I need to stop at the store.” Carmen said as they entered the main part of town.
“For what?” Hector didn’t sound happy, like Carmen he knew how much money they had left.
“I don’t have the right spices for the pheasant.” Knowing her husband Carmen quickly followed up with, “I only need one or two, it shouldn’t be too much and they will last us until we get to our new housing assignment.”
The fact that it wouldn’t be a lot and that it would last them until they reached Hawaii satisfied any objection Hector would have with stopping.  The small grocery was just getting ready to close when they pulled up out front.  The employee allowed Carmen to run inside to grab the spices since she only needed a few things and knew just what she needed. When she got back into the car, she handed the bag back to Fernando.
“Is the bird dry hijo?”
Si, mama. I’ve been drying it the whole time.”
“Hand me the bird.”  Carmen turned around to grab the bird from her son.  It wasn’t fully dry, but she could start to pluck it on the way to the motel. Once in the room Carmen set up her two burner hot plate and set up her makeshift kitchen.  She started her rice before heading outside to finish cleaning the bird.  It wasn’t easy, but she was determined to cook this bird perfectly.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

May Update on Reading Challenges

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

Books Checked Out and Read:
  • The Public Library: A Photographic Essay by Robert Dawson
  • Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman (BCD)
  • The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith
  • Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
  • The Collector by Nora Roberts
  • Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom by Amy Chua
Books Checked Out and Currently Reading
  • Delicious! by Ruth Reichl
Books Checked Out and Not Read - Yet
  • Palisades Park by Alan Brennert
  • The Closer by Mariano Rivera
  • Belle: The Slave Daughter and the Lord Chief Justice by Paula Byrn

Here's Where I Stand on the TBR Pile Challenge

I read one book on my Nook
  • Cowboy Dad by Cathy McDavid
  • Beauty and the Wolf by Marina Myles

Austen in August
I'm getting ready for this reading event held by Roof Beam Reader. I've 'competed' the past few years and while it doesn't take a special event for me to read Austen it's always fun.

This year I plan on reading

  • Mansfield Park 
  • Mr. Knightley's Diary by Amanda Grange 
  • Cassandra & Jane by Jill Pitkeathley 
  • The List Lover's Guide to Jane Austen by Joan Strasbaugh 
  • Truth about Mr. Darcy by Susan Adriani