Friday, October 27, 2017

At Wave's End

I picked an incredibly fitting time to read the novel At Wave's End by Patricia Perry Donovan. We have seen some horrific devastation caused by hurricanes this year, and my extended family have been hit hard in previous when the author wrote me asking if I'd be interested in reading her book, which has a plot line centered around a hurricane, I jumped at the chance.

The novel centers around Faith, a chef in New York City. Her eccentric mother, who spends most of her time entering contests and sweepstakes, wins a B & B after writing a prize-winning essay about her struggles being a single mother and raising Faith. It sits on the Jersey Shore, so Faith takes Connie to go see the fabulous Inn she's won, and make sure it's all that it appears. When they find a slightly ramshackled  old Victorian, Faith wants Connie to give up on her dream and go back to the safety of her factory job. Connie says she'll spend a few days getting to know the place, and then make up her mind. So Faith goes back to work.

But when a deadly Hurricane hits the East Coast, Faith rushes down to her mother, afraid for the mess she may have got into. In the aftermath of the storm, Faith is left with no job in Brooklyn, and decides to stay with her mother and help the displaced residents of Wave's End get their lives back in order. Little does she know that, in helping them, she may find the family she's always wanted and reconnect with her mother in a way that she never thought possible.

I really enjoyed this feel good novel. I think the author did a great job of handling both the complicated dynamic between the mother and daughter, and the story of a community hit hard by a natural disaster. To me this book was all about community and family...and how your family isn't always the people you were born into. You see strangers helping people out, and bringing out the best in each other...struggling to rebuild and have a normal life again. The barriers that people put up around themselves being torn down, and the building of friendships that are stronger because of the common endeavor they have faced together.

During the last two hurricanes to hit the states, what really stood out to me were the stories of folks helping each other out. Of people coming in from all over because they felt compelled to do what they could for their fellow man. Donations being sent, food being cooked, animals being reunited. I choose to look at the good that comes out of the destruction. At Wave's End stands out to me for being such a feel-good novel that really focuses on that resiliency. I think we need more of it in the world!

OH, and I also have to comment on the food!! With the main character, Faith, being a chef...this book is filled with yummy food and menus being described in detail. The author has GOT to be a major foodie because I was drooling all over my Kindle while I was reading. It wasn't over the top, it was just enough to make me hungry for some home-made gourmet goodness!

So, if you're a fan of feel-good women's literature, you'll probably enjoy this one. There is also a domestic violence subplot that might interest folks. And if you like to mix your hobbies of reading and eating, this book should be right up your alley. There is also a smattering of romance for the oooh-la-la among you.

A huge thanks again to the author for sending me a copy of this book!! I apologize that it took me eons to get it in my rotation. Once again I will state that I'm a bad book blogger. 😁

Thursday, October 26, 2017

How I Changed My Life in a Year Review

A lot of folks have very different ideas about New Years Resolutions, but the majority of people I know make them in one form or another. The classic "style" was to pick one BIG thing you'd promise yourself you were going to work on or do better in the upcoming year. And then, for most folks, within the first couple weeks you'd have forgotten about it...or flubbed up enough that your well-intended goal becomes a thing of the past.

Recently I've noticed an upswing of different ways of going about the whole Resolution trend. Author and Blogger Shelley Wilson details her idea for doing it a little different, and her results, in the book How I Changed My Life in a Year and on her blog. As most of you know, I'm a big self-help fiend, and I found the whole idea intriguing enough that I had to buy the book and see what it was all about.

What the author did was pick twelve different things she wanted to work on in the new year, and devote a month to wholeheartedly working on that one resolution. Some she broke down even farther into weekly tasks. For instance, in the month that was focused on exercising more, she picked a different type of exercise for each week as a means of keeping from being bored, and finding out what she loved enough to keep doing after the month was over.

I really love the idea behind this book, and spent most of my time while reading it searching my brain for what I would pick if I decided to do this project for 2018. So for me, maybe I'd pick working on becoming better at speaking French one month. During that month, in addition to dedicating time daily to language practice, I might add in watching French movies and cooking a few classic French meals to the make that focus even more fun and all encompassing.

One of her month's focus involved NaNoWriMo, which I plan on taking part in this year. For those who have never heard of it, it's National Novel Writing Month and your goal is to write 50,000 words during the month of November. I am actually going to try my hand at writing fiction, and have devoured other's blogs involving their prep and experiences participating in previous years. So, her chapter about writing a book was intriguing to me.

But, although loving the idea behind this book and a lot of her ideas for each month...the transition from blog post to book didn't go as smoothly as I'd hoped it would. Some of the sections still felt a little too much like the blog post it originally was...full of links and pacing that work well in a one off on a personal website, and not as well in a book chapter. When I hit those parts, I found myself skimming a lot more than I'm comfortable admitting.

So, in the end I only liked this one. I loved her ideas and her passion for the subjects she was writing about. I found it all incredibly inspiring, and I believe it could really be a great way to change how you execute resolutions in the future. But as for the actual book, I think it could've probably used a little more tweaking to take it from blog to bound pages.

With my curiosity heavily piqued, how do y'all feel about New Year's Resolutions? Do you make them? Do you keep them? One big one, or a few little ones? I'd love to know in the comments!!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Get To Know Me...

Remember a few years back, when every other week someone would share a note on Facebook promising to tell you Ten Things You Didn't Know About Me...or Song Titles on My Ipod That Describe These Moments In My Life?? For some reason I've had those floating around in my mind. I think it's because a few friends have shared posts that are similar, stating neat details about their marriage or their kids. I've always found them fascinating, although I know others who hate when they appear in their feed.

I continually want to know more about my friends and extended family, and will gladly consume every little tidbit they're willing to share. I'm very particular about who I'm friends with on FB, so my feed is mainly filled with people I really care about. And my memory is not what it used to be, so these list type posts are occasionally a good way to fill in important I actually have notes for a few friends on my phone, to help when buying future gifts. (For example, my Aja list includes these gems: Purple, dark chocolate and aloe juice) I'd recently thought about mailing my friends a form to fill out to help me in the future...a fill in the blank that had things like Favorite color, flower, collectible, fandom...but I worry they would think I was weirder than they already do.

Sorry for the tangent y' point, and I honestly DID have one...was that I thought it might be fun to write a little post of some goofy info that would help y'all get to know me better, in the vein of those old FB notes. I figure if I enjoy them, there has to be a few of you out there who enjoy reading them also. I've tried to find the most off the wall and random questions possible, because I'm me...and I thought it would be more fun that way. So here goes...

1. Are you named after anyone?

When my mother was in high school and she went out, she would tell people her name was Christina...that way whatever she'd done didn't get back to either her parents/siblings or her boyfriend (my father)!! So, I guess you could say that I'm named after my mother's alter-ego. 

2. What is your favorite food?

Okay, maybe not the most random question ever...but I LOVE Pizza. When I say that I love pizza, I mean that on my wedding and my husband ate pizza in a hotel room. We ate pizza on prom night. We have gone for pizza on what many would deem to be "important" anniversaries. I am a fan. 

3. What is your favorite way to pass time?

Putting reading a book in here would be silly. My biggest guilty-pleasure time waster would be watching makeup tutorials on YouTube. I had casually watched them in the past, but became a serious viewer with favorite Gurus when recovering from a surgery. I thought I would read while off work, but instead I watched tutorial after tutorial, clicking madly on the affiliate links in the description, buying VIB Rouge amounts of product off of Sephora. I have tamed the purchasing beast, but still love the videos. I am a big fan of a good Chit-Chat Get Ready With Me. 

4. What is something you are gifted at?

This is the sort-of question I find impossible to answer, so I'm going to go for the ridiculous. I can sing virtually every Disney song up until about the mid-2000's...with a few exceptions. I love Moana way more than Frozen, and will belt out Shiny at any possible opportunity. But what I really love are songs from things like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Hercules. I am a HUGE fan of that era of Disney films, and will sing my favorite songs whenever I can...still. It was much worse when my kids were small, but I even made mix cd's for the daycare I worked at, and would sing to my room of munchkins. I have passed on my love to my kids, who include the songs in their random Spotify playlists...which makes me proud. There's nothing like a good Mulan song popping up in the middle of a car trip to keep your spirits up. 

5. What is your favorite nickname?

We are a family of nicknames. I rarely call my kids by their given name...and my husband goes by his middle name (although we both just call each other baby, which is pretty nauseating really). I have one major nickname that most friends and family call me. But if I had to pick a favorite for the list, I would have to go with the name my father calls me to this day. Grunt. I am old enough to like it, although if you'd have asked me between the ages of 12 and 16, I would've told you I despised it...mainly because my Dad had a habit of calling me that around boys. And I was all about the boys when I was young. I have embraced the fact that, to my Dad, I am Grunt and will always be matter how old I am. 

6. Do you have a tattoo?

I wanted a tattoo from childhood, but had refrained from getting one for YEARS because my husband isn't a fan. BUT, a couple years back, I had the absolute joy of getting my first and only tattoo with two of my favorite women in the world. AND, my daughter designed it. I have a very simple bird and flower on my right ankle, and it means a lot to me. Every time I look at it, I'm reminded of the special bond I have with these 2 ladies that I love. And the fabulous times we've had over the years. 

7. What is the last thing you bought? 

Next week, my husband and I will be celebrating our 24th anniversary. So, the last thing I purchased was his gift...which I debated over for DAYS. I love buying him things, but he's very hard to shop for...and would hate pretty much every thing that shows up on those gift guides for anniversaries. He tells me not to buy him stuff, or spend a lot of money on him, but the man still puts butterflies in my belly when I look at him...which is pretty damn good considering we've been together since I was 15 and he was 17. Hopefully he'll like his gift. I'll let you know. 

8. Who is your role model?

I would have to say my biggest role model would be my mother in law, who passed away in 2005. To this day, I still measure my actions by the incredibly high standard that she set. She raised 11 wonderful people after being an only child, and was my best friend for years. I miss her horribly, and regularly wonder what she would think about things that are happening in and around my life. 

9. Who is a current celebrity crush?

I had to answer this one, as I haven't mentioned Michael Fassbender on the blog in a bit. My celebrity crushes wax and wane, but this one has been going strong for quite a few years now. That man is sex on a stick, and I occasionally go on a Fassy tangent that gets a bit out of control. As a matter of fact, I would like to take this opportunity to publicly apologize to my daughter's two best friends who were forced to listen to me talk about my feelings for this man while watching Alien Covenant, after drinking a couple glasses of wine. It was bad...just thinking about it makes me hang my head in shame. Oh I'm thinking about the movie Shame. 😳

10. Where is the farthest you've been from home?

Okay, because I'm technically a military nomad still...I had to do some mileage calculations. I based them off where I'm currently located, as that's home for the time being. Measuring from where I'm at in Northern Virginia, Turkey is the farthest I've been from home. Over 20 years ago now, I went on a shopping excursion to a base in Turkey with some girlfriends. We hopped on a plane, shopped, dyed our hair over alcohol in our hotel room (sorry ladies), and then flew back home. It was fun...and tiring. I'm fairly sure we spent more time in airport security than we did anywhere else. 

So there ya go...basically a Throwback Thursday Get To Know Me...which told you everything and yet nothing about me. Just like those glorious Facebook Notes of yore. I hope you enjoyed it!! Tomorrow I promise to have another book review for you. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Throwback Thought on Being a Little Nuts

This post would probably be better for a Throwback Thursday or a Flashback Friday, but in keeping with the topic, I figured Wednesday was as good a day as any to share some thoughts with y'all.

After disgustedly turning off the news the other night, I had a short but sweet conversation with my oldest about how...depressing the world appears currently. You will probably never hear me write anything even remotely political on here, as that's just not my thing...but everything going on in the world right now is all a bit much for me. There is so much negativity and bad juju floating around, and we both decided...after laughing over how silly a Disney-themed Dancing With the Stars episode was...that maybe what the world really needs right now IS some silliness. A few light-hearted and joyful stories. A little goofiness, and less drama.

It reminded me of an e-mail I'd sent to my mother and sister 15 years ago, that I stumbled upon when sorting out my tiny rubbermaid box of mementos I've carried around from base to base (which includes such important things as a love letter to my then boyfriend, now husband, discussing how bad I wanted to kiss him after French Class, and a biography I made in 8th or 9th grade with an interview of me done by my good friend and stationery lover K!). I must've felt the e-mail was important because I'd printed it out. It's really one of the first bits of "writing" I'd ever done.

I'd like to share it with y'all, because I really think the idea I was trying to express is both a good one, and one that we maybe need to embrace a bit more. Plus, it will give you yet another example of the woman you've been reading. (and a reminder that I have always loved Disco) I will try very hard not to edit it whilst transcribing. 😁
My Craziness
I just had a thought, an epiphany really, and I felt I should share it with the two women I love the most. It came to me really last night, as I was dancing while cooking spaghetti in front of a very large window facing a fairly frequented street, and numerous strange foreign neighbors who I'm sure like to look out of their windows every once in awhile. As I was gyrating like a banshee while seasoning the ground meat I thought...I enjoy being a little crazy, a little eccentric. I mean, who wants to be boring and normal really? People associate craziness with all sorts of bad and nasty things, but really...who would want to be the opposite? Personally, I'm the first one to raise my hand and say...I know, crazy old mom at it again...but from now on I'm going to take PRIDE in that. I mean, if I weren't a bit "off" (for lack of a better word) I wouldn't get to spin my son around the living room while singing old Doobie Brothers songs at the top of my lungs, when he should be eating his lunch. And personally, the only way I can tolerate mundane household shores is by putting a little fun into it. So, if you were a fly on the wall in my house this morning you might have found me doing the funky four corners to the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack while simultaneously folding my laundry and bathing my 2 dirty munchkins. My fat butt pretending to do a strip tease, while folding socks that I know were once supposed to be white. So, the next time you find yourself moaning, or begrudging yourself for doing things a little different than the average woman...instead I ask of you to take PRIDE in the fact that you can see the world around you in much brighter colors than everyone else...and smile. Think of me, having my own personal disco in the kitchen while the Germans whisper about how odd that woman who just moved in next door is. And I will sign off this letter with a poem from one of C's millions of books: My Mother Has Gone Crazy by Suzanne Wunder. (from the book I Invited a Dragon to Dinner
My mother has gone crazy. I think she's lost her head. She toasted all my socks. And she washed a loaf of bread. She put jelly on my toothbrush and said, "Scrub between your toes.". Then she gave me her best tablecloth and said, "here, blow your nose." She put my little sister in the yard and told the cat, "Don't go out unless you're wearing some mittens and a hat." She kissed the dog good-bye two times, and told my dad to stay. My mother has gone crazy but...I like my mom this way. 
When T read this he said "That sounds like you Mom!!" to which I replied, "You're right, it does!"

So, without analyzing my writing skills, I just want to remind everyone to make sure you're putting a little fun in your daily life, especially right now. When the world feels the most dark and insecure, it's even more important to keep some light and silly in your routine...especially if you have little ones at home still. Buy that silly coffee cup. Make pancakes piled with strawberries and whipped cream for dinner. Put that Jon Snow or Batman Funko Pop Toy on your desk at work. Wake your teenager on their birthday by obnoxiously playing The Beatles You Say It's Your Birthday, while screaming the lyrics! Whatever it may be...I really think it's something the world needs more of right now.

Or just be like me, and have regular dance parties at your house. I find dinner to be the PERFECT time for one...and it's a time when most people are uber stressed out. Grab your kids, or your spouse, and spin them around the room...while singing crazy (that's the most important part!). I recommend I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor. 😁

Because there's certifiably crazy (the bad kind) and then there's socially acceptable crazy (the good kind), and we all need a little more of that in our lives. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Retrograde Review

This review needs to start with a few apologies and asides, which most might not deem necessary...but I'm occasionally neurotic and not "most people".

First off, for regular readers of the blog, I will start with my apologies that I have a tendency to read a lot of books that are eerily similar. I have always said that I will read anything, regardless of genre, as long as the story sounds interesting. But, occasionally I become hyper self-aware, and start to wonder whether the reason that last grief-filled book of loss didn't strike a cord is because I've read SO many books recently with similar plots that they've got somewhat boring, no matter how good the writing is. Some of it is because I have been reading a lot of books recently that I didn't pick out. And some of it is because I am prone to ruts. I find something I enjoy, like thrillers...and then I read them to death. But I need to remember that variety is the spice of life, and has always been my reading motto. So, I will strive to add a better mix in the future. (Right now some of you might be thinking, but it IS a mix Christina?!? In which case, I say thank you, and you now have a small taste of the crazy lady that my husband has lived with for almost 24 years.)

Now the second has more to do with this review. I don't read very many Science Fiction books. As I said in my review of Dark Matter, it's just not a genre I regularly pick up...not for any particular reason really...but when I do read one, I'm never analyzing the science in it. So with Retrograde by Peter Cawdron (which was sent to me by the publisher, thanks!!), I devoured the book with lightning speed...and then wanted a second opinion.

I had recently been discussing books with one of my daughter's best friends at college, an extremely intelligent cutie of a guy with a wry sense of humor. In fact, I believe he was at the house when I received Retrograde in the mail. Anyway, he mentioned that he'd read quite a few Science Fiction books, and enjoyed them. So, as soon as I finished this book, I shoved it into my daughter's hands and asked her to please give it to R so I could hear what he thought of it. (after grilling her to be sure it wasn't too weird...)

But, I hadn't taken my photo of it yet. 😢 And despite it vexing me at times, I really do enjoy taking my own photos of any books I have physical copies of. So instead, you guys get my first try at making my own backdropped cover photo. I'm reasonably happy with it...reasonably.

And now to my actual thoughts about Retrograde...finally.

Retrograde is a fairly small (256 page) novel about an international colony on Mars in the near future, filled with scientists, engineers and medical personnel, who are forced to deal with the repercussions of a massive nuclear war on Earth. It is told in the first person, through American who is in a relationship with a Chinese doctor. There is something of a twist in the plot, which I don't want to spoil in any I'm going to keep the details sparse.

Mars is a popular place in Fiction, with the book/movie The Martian being enjoyed by just about everyone. A big difference between the two stories is that in Retrograde we have an entire colony that is unprepared to sustain itself for the long haul, and may never have help from an Earth that has been plunged into chaos. And this book really made me think about what would happen with an international group of colonists, who regularly work together in harmony (for lack of a better word), if a war broke out between the nations that were forced together in the group. Would the discord travel to the colonists? Should it impact them? I know that this is a quandary that has been in play probably since people have been around...but the Sci-Fi element just amplifies it to a much higher degree. Because a massive War is taking place on Earth, does that mean it also needs to happen on Mars? (My second opinion agreed with this, I think.)

But then, about halfway through the book, you realize there is something else at play. And although I read this book incredibly fast, totally intrigued, I honestly feel that this is where the size of the novel negatively impacts the story. Things get very complicated, and in a way it felt like there was just too much jammed into too small of a space, if that makes sense. The plot was a bit much for less than 100 pages. Hopefully R won't hate that I'm quoting him here, but he said "It's a pretty short book, and he tried to do a lot with it, so it felt a bit convoluted at points." And I agree, wholeheartedly.

My only other, somewhat minor issue, is that with the book being told in the first person, I didn't really feel like I got to know any of the characters very well...including the main character, Liz. For loss to have much of an impact, you have to care about your characters, and that requires more than a little time, attention and background. Although I think an effort was made, I didn't have as big of an emotional response as I might have if it weren't told in the first person. But I also know that's more a personal preference thing.

So, I enjoyed Retrograde...and a huge Thank-you to the publisher (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) for sending it my way! From what I can tell, I think it was very well-researched...which isn't so important to me but I'm sure is important to others. It was a fast-paced, entertaining read that definitely kept me thinking. If you're a fan of Science Fiction, I would add it to your reading list. My second opinion said "It was a really interesting book, with a pretty well built world." and I agree with his sentiments. Today you got two reviews instead of one!! (Thanks again R for humoring me, and finding the time in your busy schedule to not only read this book, but to also let me know what you thought!)

But in the end, I'm really just curious if anyone else gets in a reading rut, and finds that they've been reading too many of the same type books?!? Let me know in the comments!!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Love Reconsidered Review

I have another Booksparks Fall Reading Challenge selection for you today, and a HUGE thank you again to them for letting me be a part of their program. While I'm convinced I will never unbury myself from the reading hole I got in when we moved, I am so appreciative that they...along with others...have faith in my abilities, and continue to send me books! 😁 What I really need is a vacation that involves me with no smartphone or television, sitting in a comfy chair with my stack of To Reads and zero interruptions. A girl can dream, right??

Love Reconsidered by Phyllis J. Piano is a story of love, loss and grief. Sunny and Stu are high schoolers in love. When Stu's parent, Ted and Gerrie, sit him down and explain that they are divorcing...he is devastated. But his mother's confession of her love for Sunny's father Durk sends Stu rushing out of the house on his motorcycle, where he's promptly struck by a car and killed. Sunny, who has had the same conversation with her parents, has hopped in her car to see her boyfriend...but finds him dying on the side of the road. Filled with grief, she blames her father and Stu's mother for her boyfriend's death. Ted, and Sunny's mother Aleen, come together to help each other heal. What follows is a tale of people trying to find their way following a tragedy.

Honestly, the description sounds a little like a soap opera...and at times, the book felt eerily similar to one. Or maybe I've read too many books recently with people grieving, but I don't think that's my issue with this book really. I've been racking my brain to figure out why I didn't connect with it, and I'll try to work my way through that for you, while being sensitive to the fact that this book is someone's baby.

I think a lot of my feelings stem from the dialogue, because I have read books with way more drama and coincidence than this book have, but haven't felt as schmaltzy. But the conversations between characters in Love Reconsidered felt unrealistic and at times overly saccharine sweet, even during arguments. It just didn't read realistic. So when you have a very optimistic character like Ted, he ended up coming off as more Ned Flanders from The Simpsons than a genuinely great guy. And this became a problem, because this is a highly emotional, dialogue heavy book...and the conversations between a heartbroken father and his philandering wife should tug at your heart, and not leave you analyzing your lack of feeling.

BUT...this book does have a few good things going for it. I loved how Ted and Aleen were there for each other, and forged a friendship that pushed each other to grow and get some good out of an extremely difficult situation. They realized that although they weren't the ones stepping out on their marriage, nothing happens in a vacuum...and so gently nudged each other to work on becoming the people they truly wanted to be in life. It showed a loving relationship between a man and a woman that stayed purely platonic, and was better for it.

So, not my favorite read of the year...but I find you get something out of every book you read. Even the ones that don't make your top 10. Dialogue is super tricky...and I think writing believable conversations has to be one of the hardest things when writing fiction. I believe it has to be a tweak, tweak and tweak some more task. And it's also probably extremely subjective, because everyone talks in a different fashion. So, what sounds normal to me may not sound normal to my neighbor. I'm an odd duck, and conversations in my house occasionally border on Whedonesque, so in the end my issues with dialogue might just be ME.

But, if you are in the market for a feel good, hope-filled dramatic book about getting over loss...maybe check this one out from the Library. 💛

Friday, October 13, 2017

Dark Matter Review

For the first time in quite a few months, I can write a review for a book club selection! You have no idea how happy this makes me. A few ladies from North Dakota have moved here within a couple weeks of each other, and decided to form a displaced "DC by way of ND" book club as a means of keeping in touch! Of course, I missed our first get together...but I DID read the book (of course). We are all fans of thrillers, so decided to pick from that genre initially. I'd had Dark Matter by Blake Crouch on my To Read list for quite some time, so figured this was the perfect opportunity to give it a read...and for some reason the rest of the ladies went along! 😁

Dark Matter is one of those thrillers that probably reads more as Sci-Fi than I'd originally realized when I picked it out...and I don't read many books of that genre. So, just know that I'm never analyzing the science behind anything, as that's just not me. I read for enjoyment, and rarely do I let plausibility get in the way of my entertainment!

And now to try and review this without any dreaded spoilers...

Jason Dessen loves his wife and son, and the life they've built together, but has always had the niggling 'what if' thoughts in the back of his mind. Years ago he chose to work as a college professor and devote his time to building a family instead of following the path of his old best friend, and becoming a dazzling celebrity scientist whose name is recognized by others. He was the smarter of the two, but now that his old buddy is winning prizes and the accolades are piling up, he's starting to wonder if he made the right decision. Following an argument with his friend, he wanders the city internally debating his life choices, when he's accosted by a man whose identity is hidden. When he wakes up, he finds life isn't as he remembered. There is no son...and he's the famous scientist. Is it all a dream? And if it's not, is there any way for him to return to his old life? And does he even want to??

This book was a total binge read for me. Once I started it, I had to keep reading until the end...and spent a good deal of the time scratching my head, wondering whether I was mentally keeping pace with the plot as it does get a bit complicated. In high school, I read a book with a slightly similar premise, although for the life of me I can't remember what it was called...and can't seem to find it online with my stilting description of "parallel universes and airplane". But this book took it all to such an extreme level that it hits a point where you're wondering if it could get any more messed up!

But in the end, this book is all about your choices in life, and owning them. Being present in your life, and not spending it looking back and constantly analyzing decisions you've made and wondering how you could've done it differently. If you take all of the science out, that's what you're left with...which makes for a compelling book club read. I'm super irked that I missed getting together with the other ladies who read it, because I'd have loved to pick their brains and see if they felt the same way, although I'm pretty sure they all at least enjoyed the book.

Don't get me wrong, this is a fast-paced thriller, filled with a scientific premise that I'm sure loads of people analyzed. There were a couple of sections that had me literally holding my breath! But, broken down and stripped of the science and suspense, for me it was about owning your decisions.

I would most definitely recommend this book, for a big ole cross-section of people. I think it will appeal to fans of science fiction, suspense, mysteries, thrillers and psychological/philosophical dramas. It was a very quick read for me, but at 354 pages it's not teeny-tiny. And it's just compelling and dark enough that you won't want to put it down.

I'd love to know if I'm the only one who doesn't analyze the science in a science fiction...who could care less if Dan Brown is telling the truth or not...who normally reads for entertainment, without delving too much into the analysis (beyond good discussion). Let me know in the comments!!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

All Over The Place: Adventures in Travel, True Love, and Petty Theft review

I'm trying desperately to play catch-up with my book reviews, and I have one for you today which has probably made Netgalley ponder whether it's worth granting books to me. I believe that I am the world's worst Netgalley-er, even though my intentions are good and I'm always super excited to read the books I request. But, I'll stop with the self-flagellation and get to the good stuff.

All Over The Place: Adventures in Travel, True Love, and Petty Theft by Geraldine DeRuiter has to be, hands down, one of the most quotable books I've ever read. And I'm talking, Sarah Knight sarcastic...had me laughing out loud in my bed at midnight trying not to wake up my husband level laughably quotable. Because I was reading this on my Kindle, I kept highlighting and sharing on Twitter from my bed. OH, and then there was my sharing of the butthole quote on Instagram, because it really needed to be seen immediately by a bunch of  people who were going to question following me.

The book is labeled a travel book, but I'd say it's more anecdotal essays with travel thrown in. After being laid off, Geraldine starts following her husband on his business trips and writing about her adventures. She is directionally challenged, and most of her adventures would be better categorized as misadventures, but throughout the entire book you're entertained with wit and wisdom from a woman who feels no shame writing about her poop clogging the low-flow toilet in an environmentally conscious hotel or how dealing with the aftermath of a brain tumor can throw a chink in your best-laid plans.

DeRuiter is quirky and intelligent, and the writing definitely shows that off. As someone who has done her fair share of travelling outside of the United States, I feel her assessment of certain places was spot on and I could relate to a lot of her shenanigans. For years I'd have the theme song for the old National Lampoons movies going through my head anytime our family left for a trip because if it could happen, it inevitably would happen. So this book was right up my alley and totally fit my travel experiences.

I would definitely recommend giving this one a read if you're into traveling, sassy women, nonfiction memoirs and laughs. It's not going to help you find a great hotel the next time you travel to New York or London, but it will definitely make you laugh over the mistakes we've all made when we've gone on those trips. But what she really does best is ponder and assess family and upbringing, and how the place one originates can forever impact their lives.

OH, and I almost forgot!! There are entire chapters of this book that center around Ashland, Oregon...which is actually the city I was born in!! I'm not sure how I could've possibly written a review without commenting on this. DeRuiter visited Ashland with her husband and loved it so much, it's where they got married! AND she visits Crater Lake!! So, bonus points go to any book that centers around a locale that I hold dear to my heart. And Ashland has always been an incredibly cool place...and one that I would definitely like to visit again as a fully grown woman.

So, many thanks to Netgalley, Geraldine DeRuiter and PublicAffairs for sending me a copy of this book to procrastinate over. I really enjoyed it, and wanted to make graphics of a crap load of the quotes I saved because they were so share-worthy.

Okay, sorry...had to throw this one in for good measure!! LOL I've basically decided I'm going to make a quote graphic for every Vegan joke I stumble across...mainly to give one of my favorite people in the world a hard time. I love you Aja.

Friday, October 6, 2017

The Bad Dream Notebook Review

This book review is going to be a hard one to write. And I'm going to be super honest and transparent with you on why...and we'll see what you think when I'm done.

The copy of The Bad Dream Notebook by Linda Dahl that I received from Booksparks to read and review is an Advanced Reader Copy...or what people in the sphere of bookish things refer to as an ARC. It's an uncorrected galley proof, which means this copy may not be the final finished product...they may still be tweaking the book some, and there might be mistakes inside.

Now, this is not my first ARC...but it's the first one that felt like an ARC. I commented on another blogger's Instagram photo and said "I have to find a way to remove the fact that this copy put the Uncorrected in the phrase "Uncorrected Proof" from my assessment of the content"...if that makes sense. But I think that the mistakes were more glaring because the book just didn't seem like a finished product. To me the whole thing had the feel of a rough draft, and I find that sad because the story is something I would normally find really interesting.

But I'm going to try and review the story, leaving out the fact that I was bothered the entire time I was reading by the fact that she referred to her dog by the wrong name in a paragraph about 1/4 of the way into the book...because I'm sure the copy you would buy in a store would NOT have that glaring mistake! But I'm human, people...and sometimes when I try really hard to forget something, it just screams louder in my head.

The Bad Dream Notebook is a story of addiction and grief. Erica Mason-Grey is struggling. Her husband John just passed away after a long battle with cancer. And now her teenage daughter Mona is falling deep into a pit of drug addiction. Although Erica knows what Mona is going through, as she's been a long-time member of AA, she can't help but get sucked into a cycle of enabling, bartering, ignoring and hopeful thinking when it comes to her baby girl. The two women continually circle each other, while despair and heart-ache keeps them from making any progress in their lives. Will Mona be able to take control of her own life? And will Erica find her verve, vitality and lust for life again?

This book definitely shows what I feel is a fairly accurate portrayal of addiction and it's impact on your loved ones. Try as she might, Erica just can't cut her daughter off...mainly because she feels that Mona is all she has left in the world. So Mona continually lies and steals from her, causing one heartache after another...and Erica just takes it. They argue, make up...and then it starts all over again. It is not a lighthearted story, and if your life has been touched by addiction at all, it will probably hit close to home and might not be an easy read.

But the novel didn't move me in the way I thought it would. I expected to have an emotional response, and instead I found myself nitpicking dialogue and I never quite got fully immersed in the story. It just didn't suck me in like it should have...and I love reading dysfunctional family stories. It had the feel of a first draft, and not a finished product. And I feel like a horrible person putting that thought out there for the world to read, but the idea was great...plot was just wasn't executed as tightly as it should've been, in my opinion.

I hate writing less than stellar reviews. I'd much prefer to tell y'all how magnificent I thought something was.

But, if you find the story line interesting, I'd definitely give this book a shot. It's not a bad book by any means, I think maybe my response has more to do with how much I LOVED the books I read around this one than anything else. And I would still give it a 3 out of 5.

A huge thank you though to Booksparks for sending the book my way! I can't wait to read the next selection.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Good Me, Bad Me Review

Hello hello people!! I hope this week is getting better for everyone. The temperature is falling, the leaves are changing colors, and we have family in town for an epic college football showdown this weekend. It's the Navy vs. Air Force, and for us that means a house divided! I really wanted to get a shirt made for the game that said something like "Air Force Wife and Navy Mom" but instead I will be sporting my Navy Mom attire...sitting next to my career Air Force husband. Just thinking about the game makes me get all excited!! It's the simple things really... 😁

But on to the good stuff!! 

Booksparks has killed it again with another incredible page-turner for their Fall Reading Program. This bestseller is being talked about all over the interwebs, and for good reason. 

Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land tells the story of Milly, a 15 year old girl whose mother is a serial killer. We meet Milly as she's turning her mother in to the police. Her mother has crossed a line, so much so that Milly's risked everything to sneak off and tell what's been going on in her home for years. Now she's being sent to live with an affluent family, given a fake name, and going to a fancy private school while awaiting her mother's trial...where she is to be the star witness. But Milly is really struggling with whether she is a good person, or bad like her mother. 

There are problems in the new foster house from the beginning. Her new foster father, Mike, is working as her psychologist...monitoring the meds she pockets, and regularly holding therapy sessions to try and help Milly prepare for trial. Her foster mother, Saskia, is distant and flakey, choosing to spend her days sleeping with her yoga teacher. But the biggest problem is her new foster sister Phoebe, who is a classic mean girl, resentful of this new gal taking much needed attention away from her. It's the perfect setting for Millie's internal struggle.

She is plagued by her mother's voice in her head, and although she knows she was abused and knows that she was treated horribly...she still loves her mom. She longs for a maternal figure to take care of her. And she is so damaged, you're left to wonder the same thing she she good, or is she bad??

I, literally, could not put this book down. It was intense, and messed up on so many levels...but completely and utterly captivating. You are in Milly's head for the entire novel, and at times she's not quite honest with you're unsure of what's really going on. Once I started it, I didn't put it down until I'd finished the last page. This book contributed to my lack of sleep, big time. 

I want to compare it to Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, but yet not quite. Sharp Objects bashed you over the head with how fucked up it's characters and situations were, whereas this book is more nuanced in it's dysfunction. (I'm trying to be good, but I can't talk about that book without using the F word) There is a certain finesse and almost poetic quality to Land's writing that sucked me in and wouldn't let me go until she wanted to. But in the end, it's still a messed up and disturbing story.

So, there's a reason you're seeing this book everywhere, and it's much deserved. This book was amazing. If you are a fan of thrillers, and darker fiction, definitely put this on your To Read list. But, if you're anything like me, be prepared to keep flipping pages until the wee hours of the night.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Upcoming Reviews

Hello Everyone!!! 

Today, October 2nd, I had big plans for catching up on my review writing...and hoped to start my week off with a bang. However, I spent my morning glued to the television in shock over the events that happened in Las Vegas last night. My struggle to unplug from the 24 hour news cycle and focus has been monumental. And now that I've pulled myself away and moved to my computer, I am just having an issue coming up with the right words to write a compelling post. 

So, rather than write something I will be unhappy with at a later date, I thought I'd be honest and tell y'all that I just don't have it in me today. 

I have finished every book in the above photo, and should have a full review for you soon. 

A couple were amazing, and I couldn't put them down.

One restored my faith in the writing of a woman I admire.

One was so full of quotable passages, I had to fight the urge to share the whole damn thing from my Kindle. 

Another spurred thoughts of grand schemes for my future. 

One tested my ability to remember that uncorrected proofs are indeed uncorrected, and you shouldn't hold it against the end product. 

And another I passed along to a young friend to read because I knew he liked the genre, and wanted to know his opinion...forgetting that I hadn't yet taken a photo of it for my blog post! 

So, if any of the above piques your curiosity, I should have full reviews up soon. 

But for now, I'm going to go back to watching the news, and pondering why this hideous event among the many has got me so unnerved.