Saturday, December 31, 2016

ABC Reads December 2016



Hi, friends! Here we are, at the end of our ABC Reads journey. Andrea and I really hope that you've enjoyed the link up and the reading challenge. It was fun for me to get out of my comfort zone a little bit and pick up a few books that I probably wouldn't have otherwise, and get to check those letters off. 

So, we are doing our final link up to share the books we've read in the month of December and the letters we can check off our lists. 

Are you new around these parts and have no idea what I'm talking about? No worries, here's what the ABC Reads challenge was all about:  

What does the challenge entail? Well, I'm glad you asked. There are 26 letters of the alphabet and we challenge you, during the course of 2016, to read a book that starts with each letter. For example, Atonement (A), The Bell Jar (B), Catching Fire (C), and so on. Makes sense, right? You don't need to go in order - if you want to start with S, go for it. We're easy to please around these parts. On the last day of each month, we'll host a link-up for you to share your ABC Reads.  We will award one point for each letter you review AND a bonus point for linking up with us!  At the end of the year (or when the first participant reviews a book beginning with each of the 26 letters), the winner will be awarded a $30 Amazon gift card.  Congratulations to Jessica at Frikken Duckie for completing the challenge and winning the gift card! Go visit her and say congrats! :) 

Alrighty then, let's get to it. What did you read this month? How many letters did you check off? Here's my progress (December books in blue): 

A: (The) Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. Completed March 2016. 
B: Better Than Before, by Gretchen Rubin. Completed February 2016. 
C: (The) City of Mirrors, by Justin Cronin. Completed May 2016. 
D:  Dark Witch, by Nora Roberts. Completed April 2016. 
E:  Europe on 5 Wrong Turns A Day, by Doug Mack. Completed April 2016. 
F:  Finders Keepers, by Stephen King. Completed January 2016. 
G: (The) Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown. Completed January 2016. 
H: (The) Hereafter, by Jessica Bucher. Completed April 2016. 
I:  I Will Find You, by Joanna Connors. Completed June 2016. 
J:  Julia, by Peter Straub. Completed July 2016. 
K: Keeping Faith. Completed July 2016. 
L:  (The) Last Song, by Nicholas Sparks. Completed January 2016. 
M: (The) Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, by Mitch Albom. Completed February 2016.
N:  Night Film, by Marisha Pessl. Completed June 2016. 
O: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. Completed January 2016. 
P:  (The) People of Sparks, by Jeanne DuPrau. Completed August 2016. 
Q: Queen of the Tearling, by Erika Johansen. Completed October 2016. 
R: (The) Revenant, by Michael Punke. Completed March 2016. 
S:  Some Kind of Fairy Tale, by Graham Joyce. Completed June 2016. 
T:  Tiny Beautiful Things, by Cheryl Strayed. Completed April 2016. 
U: (The) Unit, by Ninni Holmqvist. Completed September 2016. 
V:  Violin, by Anne Rice. Completed November 2016. 
W: Warm Bodies, by Isaac Marion. Completed February 2016. 
X: The X in Sex: How the X Chromosome Controls Our Lives, by David Bainbridge. Completed Dec 2016. 
Y: Year of Yes, by Shonda Rhimes. Completed October 2016. 
Z:  Zone One, by Colson Whitehead. Completed May 2016. 



It was so hard for me to find a book that started with the letter X that sounded interesting to me. Most of them were these strange sci-fi/fantasy books called Xanadu or something. So I finally settled on this one because, 1) I needed a book that started with X and 2) I'm heavily into a nonfiction phase so I thought this book would just flow nicely with my reading groove lately. 

Before I get to my mini-review, let's check out the synopsis: 

A tiny scrap of genetic information determines our sex; it also consigns many of us to a life of disease, directs or disrupts the everyday working of our bodies, and forces women to live as genetic chimeras. The culprit--so necessary and yet the source of such upheaval--is the X chromosome, and this is its story. An enlightening and entertaining tour of the cultural and natural history of this intriguing member of the genome, The X in Sex traces the journey toward our current understanding of the nature of X. From its chance discovery in the nineteenth century to the promise and implications of ongoing research, David Bainbridge shows how the X evolved and where it and its counterpart Y are going, how it helps assign developing human babies their sex--and maybe even their sexuality--and how it affects our lives in infinitely complex and subtle ways. X offers cures for disease, challenges our cultural, ethical, and scientific assumptions about maleness and femaleness, and has even reshaped our views of human evolution and human nature.

And well, the book is exactly how it sounds. I give props to the author for writing the book in easy-to-understand layman's terms. But... it was still a little boring, I'm not going to lie. Though, the book does answer some great questions about color blindness, identical twins, hemophilia, and more. The Y chromosome gets no love in this book, as they essentially refer to it as a fossil chromosome whose only purpose is to determine gender, whereas the X chromosome has many different, interesting attributes.

So if chromosomes are your jam (never thought I'd be typing that sentence!), then you'd probably enjoy this book a lot. If you're a casual reader who just needed to check off a letter on their list, then this one is as good as any, but it's not going to be the best thing you've ever read, in my opinion.

I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars. 

So, there you have it, friends. The complete ABC Reads journey, from A to Z. Don't forget to link up with us below. And I'd love to hear about the books you read in 2016. I read other books outside of this challenge, so you can check those out at my reading list page

ABC Reads won't be returning for 2017, but you can always hit me up for all things books. I'm planning to read my way through the complete Oprah's Book Club selection list in 2017, so stay tuned for that journey. :)

Hope you all have a wonderful and safe New Year's Eve! See you next year.. ha, that never gets old! ;)




Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Serious Thoughts... on a Tuesday



"Mommy? Are you going to die one day?" 

Dom asked me this at dinner the other day, his face about to crumble. We were in the middle of eating fried chicken and his question caught me off guard. I replied, "Yes, baby, I will. It happens to everyone at some point. And it will be OK." 

He was quiet for a moment and then he said, "I know." And he went back to arguing with his brother about which game they'd play after dinner. 

It's hard to explain big, scary concepts to your children. Kids are curious creatures. I am not sure what prompted his question, but it made me a little sad that he was already thinking about mortality at the ripe old age of 8. He asks me often about his "grandpa who is in Heaven" (my father-in-law) and if his grandpa is really an angel who watches over him. I tell him yes and he seems comforted by the thought.

My other son, Will, always knocks me back with very grown-up sentiments from his tiny little 6 year old body. He tells me all the time, "Mommy, I love you so much. I will love you forever and ever and always and never stop no matter how big I get. You're my only mommy in the whole world." What do you even say to that? I squish him with all my might and smell his sweet boy smell and try not to melt into a puddle of tears. 

Sometimes I forget that as a kid, I had those same big, scary thoughts mixed in with my thoughts about toys and cartoons. I used to picture what my future would be like. I used to wonder if dying would hurt and what happens to me after and how will I know what happens to the world if I'm no longer here to see it and experience it? And why does my milk turn different colors after I eat my Fruity Pebbles? You know, normal Saturday morning stuff. 

And now that I'm older, I just tell myself, no matter what happens, I'll be OK. I've gotten through all the big milestones in my life so far and I'm OK. It's all a matter of controlling what you can, and trying to be at peace with what you can't and spreading as much love and joy as you can in between.

What serious thoughts are YOU having today? 
  



Wednesday, November 30, 2016

ABC Reads: November 2016

ABC Reads: An alphabet reading list challenge

Hello hello again, friends! Welcome back to the ABC Reads link up! We're linking up to share the books we've read in the lovely month of November and the letters we can check off our lists. 

Need a refresher on what the ABC Reads challenge is all about? Never fear, we've got your back: 

What does the challenge entail? Well, I'm glad you asked. There are 26 letters of the alphabet and we challenge you, during the course of 2016, to read a book that starts with each letter. For example, Atonement (A), The Bell Jar (B), Catching Fire (C), and so on. Makes sense, right? You don't need to go in order - if you want to start with S, go for it. We're easy to please around these parts. On the last day of each month, we'll host a link-up for you to share your ABC Reads.  We will award one point for each letter you review AND a bonus point for linking up with us!  At the end of the year (or when the first participant reviews a book beginning with each of the 26 letters), the winner will be awarded a $30 Amazon gift card.  Congratulations to Jessica at Frikken Duckie for completing the challenge and winning the gift card! Go visit her and say congrats! :) 

If you didn't get a chance to link up last month - no worries at all. Feel free to jump in with Andrea and me anytime between now and the end of the challenge on Dec 31st. 

Alrighty then, let's get to it. What did you read this month? How many letters did you check off? Here's my progress (November books in blue): 

A: (The) Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. Completed March 2016. 
B: Better Than Before, by Gretchen Rubin. Completed February 2016. 
C: (The) City of Mirrors, by Justin Cronin. Completed May 2016. 
D:  Dark Witch, by Nora Roberts. Completed April 2016. 
E:  Europe on 5 Wrong Turns A Day, by Doug Mack. Completed April 2016. 
F:  Finders Keepers, by Stephen King. Completed January 2016. 
G: (The) Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown. Completed January 2016. 
H: (The) Hereafter, by Jessica Bucher. Completed April 2016. 
I:  I Will Find You, by Joanna Connors. Completed June 2016. 
J:  Julia, by Peter Straub. Completed July 2016. 
K: Keeping Faith. Completed July 2016. 
L:  (The) Last Song, by Nicholas Sparks. Completed January 2016. 
M: (The) Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, by Mitch Albom. Completed February 2016.
N:  Night Film, by Marisha Pessl. Completed June 2016. 
O: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. Completed January 2016. 
P:  (The) People of Sparks, by Jeanne DuPrau. Completed August 2016. 
Q: Queen of the Tearling, by Erika Johansen. Completed October 2016. 
R: (The) Revenant, by Michael Punke. Completed March 2016. 
S:  Some Kind of Fairy Tale, by Graham Joyce. Completed June 2016. 
T:  Tiny Beautiful Things, by Cheryl Strayed. Completed April 2016. 
U: (The) Unit, by Ninni Holmqvist. Completed September 2016. 
V:  Violin, by Anne Rice. Completed November 2016. 
W: Warm Bodies, by Isaac Marion. Completed February 2016. 
X
Y: Year of Yes, by Shonda Rhimes. Completed October 2016. 
Z:  Zone One, by Colson Whitehead. Completed May 2016. 


Violin by Anne Rice - a book review

This book gets a great big NOPE from me. Oy vey. But first things first, here's the synopsis from Goodreads: 

Anne Rice's Violin tells the story of two charismatic figures bound to each other by a passionate commitment to music as a means of rapture, seduction, and liberation. At the novel's center: a uniquely fascinating woman, Triana, and the demonic fiddler Stefan, a tormented ghost who begins to prey upon her, using his magic violin to draw her into a state of madness. But Triana sets out to resist Stefan, and the struggle thrusts them both into a terrifying supernatural realm. 
I have previously read other books by Anne Rice - her vampire series, her Mayfair witch series, and I truly enjoyed them all. They weren't my most favorite books ever, but I did really like them. This one, to me, had no redeeming qualities whatsoever, other than my appreciation of music and reading things about classical composers such as Beethoven and Tchaikovsky. 

But the main character, Triana, has some serious issues. She has unresolved grief from the death of her mother, father, her daughter, and her husband (all at different times), along with the disappearance of her younger sister. It feels like too much already at the beginning of the story and her descent from deep grief into madness was very, very painful to read. She is visited by Stefan, a ghost who plays the violin. Apparently everyone can see Stefan and talk to him. And Stefan and the violin help her to re-experience painful moments from her past and she just gets more and more upset and mentally unwell. 

There are too many flashes between her hazy memories, and her strange conversations with Stefan, and back again to real life when she is talking to her sisters about practical things. 

I gave this book 2 out of 5 stars. But I think it's probably more like 1.5. 


So, there you have it. 25 letters down. I have one left for next month, eeekk! :) How are you all coming along on your challenge? Link up with us below!




Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Fade to Black


I've struggled with my words and thoughts today. I feel like yesterday and today went by in a blur and I felt very lost. I felt frozen in place. And so I write these words to document how I'm feeling right now. So, if you're tired of political posts, or don't want to hear from another sad voter today, this post is not for you. 

----

As the world knows by now, Donald Trump has been elected as the 45th President of the United States. 

I'm not writing to protest the election or call anyone any names or spread any kind of hate. Trump won the Presidential election, there's no question about that. We all had our chance to vote and make our voices heard. This post isn't about that. 

I'm also not writing to say that Hillary Clinton was the perfect candidate or even that she was my candidate per se. 

When I cast my vote on Tuesday, November 8th, 2016, I voted for the Democratic Party. Because it represents the values and beliefs that I, and many citizens across our nation, hold dear. 

I voted because I am a woman. I am a mother who worries about her children's future. I am a minority. I have a diagnosed mental illness. I have been sexually harassed and assaulted. I am the daughter of a veteran. 

I voted because I believe in tolerance. I believe in equality. I believe in unity. I believe in helping your fellow man. I believe in love. I believe in choice. I believe in a world where differences are welcomed. 

When I cast my vote on Tuesday, November 8th, 2016, I voted against a candidate whose words and actions do not represent my beliefs and values. One whom I feel will take our country in a direction that I do not wish for us or my children or their children. I voted against a party in which I do not, and have not ever, felt welcome. 

In Hillary's concession speech, she said: "Our constitutional democracy demands our participation, not just every four years but all the time." And after I heard that, I felt a sense of shame because she's exactly right. Showing up in November every 4 years isn't enough. Putting all of my hopes for change and action into one person in an election isn't enough at all.

The only thing that I can do from here is speak up and put my beliefs into action. Whether it's donating my money to a cause or organization that I believe in, or volunteering my time to help my local community. I will use my voice and speak up with our local or state officials. I will no longer sit back and wait and hope for something to happen. 

I joked with a couple of my close friends that I was going to wear black every day for the next 4 years, as a sign of mourning. But I am no longer joking, because I *am* in mourning. Saying goodbye to the naive, quiet girl I used to be. She is gone. The woman who remains will be loud in her quest to make a difference. One who vows to do all she can to spread love, hope, joy, and equality wherever she goes. One who hopes to finally see our country free from hate and discrimination. 

Alas, the election is over and the United States starts a new chapter in her history. Let's fill those pages with light.


Monday, October 31, 2016

ABC Reads: October 2016



Well, hello, friends! Welcome back to the ABC Reads link up! We're linking up to share the books we've read in October and the letters we can check off our lists. 

Need a refresher on what the ABC Reads challenge is all about? Never fear, we've got your back: 

What does the challenge entail? Well, I'm glad you asked. There are 26 letters of the alphabet and we challenge you, during the course of 2016, to read a book that starts with each letter. For example, Atonement (A), The Bell Jar (B), Catching Fire (C), and so on. Makes sense, right? You don't need to go in order - if you want to start with S, go for it. We're easy to please around these parts. On the last day of each month, we'll host a link-up for you to share your ABC Reads.  We will award one point for each letter you review AND a bonus point for linking up with us!  At the end of the year (or when the first participant reviews a book beginning with each of the 26 letters), the winner will be awarded a $30 Amazon gift card.  Congratulations to Jessica at Frikken Duckie for completing the challenge and winning the gift card! Go visit her and say congrats! :) 

If you didn't get a chance to link up last month - no worries at all. Feel free to jump in with Andrea and me any time!

OK, so let's get to it. What did you guys read this month? How many letters did you check off? Here's my progress (October books in blue): 

A: (The) Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. Completed March 2016. 
B: Better Than Before, by Gretchen Rubin. Completed February 2016. 
C: (The) City of Mirrors, by Justin Cronin. Completed May 2016. 
D:  Dark Witch, by Nora Roberts. Completed April 2016. 
E:  Europe on 5 Wrong Turns A Day, by Doug Mack. Completed April 2016. 
F:  Finders Keepers, by Stephen King. Completed January 2016. 
G: (The) Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown. Completed January 2016. 
H: (The) Hereafter, by Jessica Bucher. Completed April 2016. 
I:  I Will Find You, by Joanna Connors. Completed June 2016. 
J:  Julia, by Peter Straub. Completed July 2016. 
K: Keeping Faith. Completed July 2016. 
L:  (The) Last Song, by Nicholas Sparks. Completed January 2016. 
M: (The) Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, by Mitch Albom. Completed February 2016.
N:  Night Film, by Marisha Pessl. Completed June 2016. 
O: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. Completed January 2016. 
P:  (The) People of Sparks, by Jeanne DuPrau. Completed August 2016. 
Q: Queen of the Tearling, by Erika Johansen. Completed October 2016. 
R: (The) Revenant, by Michael Punke. Completed March 2016. 
S:  Some Kind of Fairy Tale, by Graham Joyce. Completed June 2016. 
T:  Tiny Beautiful Things, by Cheryl Strayed. Completed April 2016. 
U: (The) Unit, by Ninni Holmqvist. Completed September 2016. 
V
W: Warm Bodies, by Isaac Marion. Completed February 2016. 
X
Y: Year of Yes, by Shonda Rhimes. Completed October 2016. 
Z:  Zone One, by Colson Whitehead. Completed May 2016. 



It took me the entire first half of the book to get into the story. Here's a synopsis from Goodreads: 

On her nineteenth birthday, Princess Kelsea Raleigh Glynn, raised in exile, sets out on a perilous journey back to the castle of her birth to ascend her rightful throne. Plain and serious, a girl who loves books and learning, Kelsea bears little resemblance to her mother, the vain and frivolous Queen Elyssa. But though she may be inexperienced and sheltered, Kelsea is not defenseless: Around her neck hangs the Tearling sapphire, a jewel of immense magical power; and accompanying her is the Queen’s Guard, a cadre of brave knights led by the enigmatic and dedicated Lazarus. Kelsea will need them all to survive a cabal of enemies who will use every weapon—from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic—to prevent her from wearing the crown.
Despite her royal blood, Kelsea feels like nothing so much as an insecure girl, a child called upon to lead a people and a kingdom about which she knows almost nothing. But what she discovers in the capital will change everything, confronting her with horrors she never imagined. An act of singular daring will throw Kelsea’s kingdom into tumult, unleashing the vengeance of the tyrannical ruler of neighboring Mortmesne: the Red Queen, a sorceress possessed of the darkest magic. Now Kelsea will begin to discover whom among the servants, aristocracy, and her own guard she can trust.
But the quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun—a wondrous journey of self-discovery and a trial by fire that will make her a legend . . . if she can survive.
The second half did make up for it, though. I thought there was too much emphasis put on how much Kelsea didn't know. Like, we get it, she was raised far away from the kingdom, she has a lot to learn. But ugh, they just kept belaboring that point over and over. I did really enjoy her friendship with Lazarus, who is the head of her Queen's Guard. He kept it real, and wouldn't shy away from telling her what she needed to hear, whether she liked it or not. 

Anyway, if you're a patient person, then I'd recommend reading it. The second half really pulled me in and I got the 2nd book from the library because I have to see how it goes. I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars. 


I really enjoyed reading this book! Here's the synopsis from Goodreads: 

With three hit shows on television and three children at home, the uber-talented Shonda Rhimes had lots of good reasons to say NO when an unexpected invitation arrived. Hollywood party? No. Speaking engagement? No. Media appearances? No.
And there was the side-benefit of saying No for an introvert like Shonda: nothing new to fear.
Then Shonda’s sister laid down a challenge: just for one year, try to say YES to the unexpected invitations that come your way. Shonda reluctantly agreed―and the result was nothing short of transformative. In Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes chronicles the powerful impact saying yes had on every aspect of her life―and how we can all change our lives with one little word. Yes. 
I could really relate to a lot of Shonda's aversion to saying yes. When you say no, there's less anxiety and fear and you don't have to put yourself out there. But eventually, you do realize that you're missing out on a lot. I enjoyed reading Shonda's journey of empowerment and allowing herself to be open to fear and knocking it out of the park. Definitely read this if you're looking for something inspirational, uplifting, and funny. I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars.


So, there you have it. Another 2 letters checked off my list. Only 2 more to go! :) What did you read in October? Link up below and share with us. Happy Halloween, friends!








Friday, October 14, 2016

Blog Tour: You're the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened by Arisa White


Hello, friends! I'm back with a new poetry book to review. This one really struck me with its beauty and its fearlessness. I had the wonderful opportunity to review "You're the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened" by Arisa White and I absolutely loved it! 

First, here's a little synopsis of the book: 

Angular, smart, and fearless, Arisa White’s newest collection takes its titles from words used internationally as hate speech against gays and lesbians, reworking, re-envisioning, and re-embodying language as a conduit for art, love, and understanding. “To live freely, observantly as a politically astute, sensually perceptive Queer Black woman is to be risk taker, at risk, a perceived danger to others and even dangerous to/as oneself,” writes poet Tracie Morris. “White’s attentive word substitutions and range of organized forms, lithe anecdotes, and disturbed resonances put us in the middle of living a realized, intelligent life of the senses.” You’re the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened works through intersectional encounters with gender, identity, and human barbarism, landing deftly and defiantly in beauty.

White captures love, sensuality, identity, grief, fear, and gratitude in this powerful collection of poems. I was moved by her imagery, by her appreciation of the female form, by her word choice, by her rhythm. 

2 particular passages from the collection stood out to me:

From "Warm Water": 
I am at your doorstep. Each tear opens us up to our promise—
bring the wake of your hand to my cheek. What I need today is
your sunshine that pulls me from earth.
                                              
From "Kokobar":
Oh,
I was teenaged, searching for a face
to reflect my own who would call me beautiful
enough to make me think it’s possible she’s not lying.

I definitely recommend reading this book; it's one of my favorites of the year. It releases on October 21st. 

About the Poet:

Photo credit: Nye’ Lyn Tho
Arisa White is a Cave Canem fellow, Sarah Lawrence College alumna, an MFA graduate from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and author of the poetry chapbooks Disposition for Shininess, Post Pardon, and Black Pearl. She was selected by the San Francisco Bay Guardian for the 2010 Hot Pink List and is a member of the PlayGround writers’ pool; her play Frigidare was staged for the 15th Annual Best of Play Ground Festival. Recipient of the inaugural Rose O’Neill Literary House summer residency at Washington College in Maryland, Arisa has also received residencies, fellowships, or scholarships from Juniper Summer Writing Institute, Headlands Center for the Arts, Port Townsend Writers’ Conference, Squaw Valley Community of Writers, Hedgebrook, Atlantic Center for the Arts, Prague Summer Program, Fine Arts Work Center, and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Nominated for Pushcart Prizes in 2005 and 2014, her poetry has been published widely and is featured on the recording WORD with the Jessica Jones Quartet.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Paperback: 100 pages
Publisher: Augury Books (October 21, 2016)
Available on: Amazon

*Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

This review was coordinated by Poetic Book Tours.


Friday, September 30, 2016

ABC Reads: September 2016


Hi everyone! Welcome back to the ABC Reads link up! We're linking up to share the books we've read in September and the letters we can check off our lists. 

Need a refresher on what the ABC Reads challenge is all about? Never fear, we've got your back: 

What does the challenge entail? Well, I'm glad you asked. There are 26 letters of the alphabet and we challenge you, during the course of 2016, to read a book that starts with each letter. For example, Atonement (A), The Bell Jar (B), Catching Fire (C), and so on. Makes sense, right? You don't need to go in order - if you want to start with S, go for it. We're easy to please around these parts. On the last day of each month, we'll host a link-up for you to share your ABC Reads.  We will award one point for each letter you review AND a bonus point for linking up with us!  At the end of the year (or when the first participant reviews a book beginning with each of the 26 letters), the winner will be awarded a $30 Amazon gift card.  Congratulations to Jessica at Frikken Duckie for completing the challenge and winning the gift card! Go visit her and say congrats! :) 

If you didn't get a chance to link up last month - no worries at all. Feel free to jump in with Andrea and me any time!

OK, so let's get to it. What did you guys read this month? How many letters did you check off? Here's my progress (September books in blue): 

A: (The) Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. Completed March 2016. 
B: Better Than Before, by Gretchen Rubin. Completed February 2016. 
C: (The) City of Mirrors, by Justin Cronin. Completed May 2016. 
D:  Dark Witch, by Nora Roberts. Completed April 2016. 
E:  Europe on 5 Wrong Turns A Day, by Doug Mack. Completed April 2016. 
F:  Finders Keepers, by Stephen King. Completed January 2016. 
G: (The) Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown. Completed January 2016. 
H: (The) Hereafter, by Jessica Bucher. Completed April 2016. 
I:  I Will Find You, by Joanna Connors. Completed June 2016. 
J:  Julia, by Peter Straub. Completed July 2016. 
K: Keeping Faith. Completed July 2016. 
L:  (The) Last Song, by Nicholas Sparks. Completed January 2016. 
M: (The) Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, by Mitch Albom. Completed February 2016.
N:  Night Film, by Marisha Pessl. Completed June 2016. 
O: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. Completed January 2016. 
P:  (The) People of Sparks, by Jeanne DuPrau. Completed August 2016. 
Q
R: (The) Revenant, by Michael Punke. Completed March 2016. 
S:  Some Kind of Fairy Tale, by Graham Joyce. Completed June 2016. 
T:  Tiny Beautiful Things, by Cheryl Strayed. Completed April 2016. 
U: (The) Unit, by Ninni Holmqvist. Completed September 2016. 
V
W: Warm Bodies, by Isaac Marion. Completed February 2016. 
X
Y
Z:  Zone One, by Colson Whitehead. Completed May 2016. 


This book was a little strange. Here's a synopsis from Goodreads: 

"One day in early spring, Dorrit Weger is checked into the Second Reserve Bank Unit for biological material. She is promised a nicely furnished apartment inside the Unit, where she will make new friends, enjoy the state of the art recreation facilities, and live the few remaining days of her life in comfort with people who are just like her. Here, women over the age of fifty and men over sixty-single, childless, and without jobs in progressive industries--are sequestered for their final few years; they are considered outsiders.

In the Unit they are expected to contribute themselves for drug and psychological testing, and ultimately donate their organs, little by little, until the final donation. Despite the ruthless nature of this practice, the ethos of this near-future society and the Unit is to take care of others, and Dorrit finds herself living under very pleasant conditions: well-housed, well-fed, and well-attended. She is resigned to her fate and discovers her days there to be rather consoling and peaceful.

But when she meets a man inside the Unit and falls in love, the extraordinary becomes a reality and life suddenly turns unbearable. Dorrit is faced with compliance or escape, and...well, then what?"

I think this book had a really great premise, if the main character, Dorrit, was different. She seems to face every challenge with the most infuriating calm. When some really unfair things happen to her, you see her kind of be like - "Hmm. Well, I don't like it, but OK." Like, what the heck, woman? You're basically being harvested for your organs. What do you have to lose? Fight! But I guess she is just resigned to her fate. The ending was really unsatisfying to me. It was just more of Dorrit being completely accepting of a bunch of really shitty things. And I want to shake her! 

Again, I think the premise is good, but the execution of the story sucks. 2 out of 5 stars. 

Come link up with us and share what you've read! 





Guest Post: George HS Singer, Poet and Author of Ergon


Hello everyone! You may remember from a few weeks ago that I shared a review of "Ergon" by George HS Singer (if you missed it, you can read it here). And I'm excited to share with you all a guest post written by the author himself in which he shares what poetry means to him. Take it away, Mr. Singer!

****

Probably anyone who is reading this remembers a first experience as a child of reading a poem or a passage that really spoke to them. For me this happened in 6th grade after the death of my best friend. It seemed to me that everyone around acted as if death was not real or should not be talked about. Psalm of Life by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow with the phrase “foot prints in the sands of time” struck me like lightening one day in class. I realized that I was not the only one who had thought about mortality. This seems almost risible now but for a boy feeling very cut off from meaningful engagement with others who could understand his recent raw encounter with death, it was profound. 

I started finding that literature was a balm for isolation and that it offered a way to touch upon, if not enter into, other people’s minds and that there were extraordinary writers who offered this communion. So, I hold onto the ambition that one of my poems might serve this purpose of dispelling loneliness for someone else who might be in need of communion with another mind concerned about some of the basics. I also find that when a reader or listener “gets” one of my poems, I feel briefly part of a community of the heart. 

If I have a credo in my poetry, it is the notion that nothing is unmixed — that life is inexpressibly wondrous and terribly painful and both arise together at the same time. I also know that the experience, which is most fundamental to me, is wordless and so there is an inevitable limitation in trying to write about what is most important. To me the toolkit available through the art of poetry allows the possibility of at least hovering over that which I wish could be said, if not to enter into it. I am forgetting who said that language does violence to experience but that poetry is the language that does the least of such violence.



****

Thank you so much, Mr. Singer for sharing your beautiful words and thoughts with us. 

Ergon is available on Amazon



Monday, September 19, 2016

Bridge the Gap



The days get longer
And our patience wears thin
There's never enough hours in a day
I think to myself again

Life is complex
It's gone so far beyond busy
My memories bolster me
Keep me from feeling dizzy

Why do so many other things 
Grab our attention
And pull it in so many other directions
I guess you just got forgot to mention

That there's a lull in every story
A period when the distance grows
Sometimes I wonder 
If we'll ever truly know

What to call this place
I just want to be near you
And smell your sweet smell
Hear you say you love me, too

They say it's not the destination
But the journey that matters
So grab my hand and let's go
Bridge the gap before it shatters

The wings have fallen off
And the wind has died down
But we'll keep holding on
In the heartbeat of this ghost town


*This post was inspired by the weekly writing prompt from The Figment Forum, a writing community for those with words in their heart. Click here to join.*

Friday, September 16, 2016

Blog Tour: Ergon by George HS Singer


Hello, it's me again, back with a new poetry book to review. Do I need to mention again how much I love poetry? No? OK, let's move on. I received the opportunity to review "Ergon" by George HS Singer and I loved it! 

First, here's a little synopsis of the book: 

George Singer’s Ergon is precise, delicate and fierce in its engagement with the world.
George HS Singer, a former Buddhist monk, has written a debut collection of poems about his life as a monk and in the monastery and about his life when he left to marry and have a family. As he tries to balance his spiritual principles with every day life as a husband and father, these poems utilize nature as a backdrop for his quest.

Singer is an absolute genius at incorporating nature and natural imagery into his poems. The phrasing and the tone and the pace of his words were just perfect to me. I also enjoyed his sense of humor, especially in some of the poems about his wife and married life.

One of my favorite poems from the book is "Reprieve" where Singer writes:

                                                Sometimes
mercy resides in the way things vanish,
and grace in not being visited.

In the poem he is referencing his father, but the sentiment speaks to me on a more generalized level about life. Sometimes it's good to forget things (or just not remember them, yes, there's a difference).

So, if you like poems about life, marriage, love, death, childhood, and just about everything else in between, I think this would be a perfect book for you! Go check it out.

About the Author:



George HS Singer, a former Zen Buddhist monk and student of Rev. Master Jiyu Kennett, lives with his wife of forty-two years in Santa Barbara, Calif., where he works as a professor at University of California, Santa Barbara. He was educated at Yale, Southern Oregon University, and the University of Oregon. He wrote poetry in college but took a twenty-year break before taking it up as a regular discipline. He has been a long term student of Molly Peacock and has had the opportunity to work with other marvelous poets through the Frost Place in Franconia, N.H.  He writes about life in and out of a Zen monastery, trying to live mindfully in a busy and troubled world, his love of nature and of his wife. The arts have become more central to his life.  Singer’s poems were published in the Massachusetts Review, Prairie Schooner, and Tar River Poetry.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Paperback: 85 pages
Publisher: WordTech Editions (2016)
Available on: Amazon

*Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

This review was coordinated by Poetic Book Tours.



Tuesday, September 6, 2016

VCRs and Faded Memories


Do you remember those little old TVs that had a VCR built in? I had one of those in my room growing up. And every summer, I'd watch VHS movies every single day. I'd give my mom a list of movies that I wanted to watch and she'd get a few from Blockbuster and bring them back home for me after she got home from work. And I'd spend the next few days glued to the TV. And the cycle would repeat. 

I undoubtedly watched a lot of things that I shouldn't have at the age of 11 or 12. But hey. It was an interesting education, to say the least. Lots of serious dramas, gory horror movies, and inappropriate comedies. It was the BEST time ever. I'd make popcorn and just sit and bask in the movie glory. 

I watched so many movies all the time that we bought one of those special VHS rewinders. You remember those? Be kind, rewind. Ha! I was such a nerd, even back then. 

I read an article that the last VCR manufacturer ceased production in July. So there will be no more VCRs made in the world ever. It's kind of sad in a way. I know that everybody is all about DVDs and Blu-Rays and On-Demand. It's quicker, it's shinier, it's easier. But I kind of miss my VCR and my VHS tapes. That satisfying "thunk" when you push the tape in and press play. The whirring sound as the movie starts up. 

Those devices are obsolete now. Just like those summers I spent watching movies as a kid. Time marches on, folks. Technology evolves. Memories fade. I read that an estimated 50% of VHS movies were never transferred to DVD. That's crazy. If anybody still has a VCR and some VHS tapes, you should totally make a time capsule. Or save it and one day it will be worth a ton of money. All old things become new and in fashion again if you wait long enough, right? :) 

Anyway. That was my trip down memory lane this week. Ciao. 


*This post was inspired by the weekly writing prompt from The Figment Forum, a writing community for the word-lovers out there. 



Friday, September 2, 2016

Blackberries On My Mind


I remember the warmth of the sun shining down on us. I remember the sound of the bees buzzing. I remember the taste of the cool, crisp water from the water fountain. Mostly, I remember the sweet, wild blackberries growing on their vines and the joy I felt picking them with my dad. We'd savor our juice-stained fingers with pride. 

I can't think about summer without thinking about blackberries and the memories we made each summer when I was growing up. But it's not really about the berries themselves, as delicious as they were. But more about how safe and comfortable I felt spending time with my favorite person in the whole world. Carefree. 

The way we'd laugh together all day long, making jokes and creating new words for our "language" that nobody understood but us. The way we'd water the blackberry plants each year to make sure they'd come back again. The long, bumpy ride over the gravel road to leave the park. Listening to music in the car and singing along, doing our silly shoulder-shrug dance. The silent thanks we gave to the inventor of air conditioning and whomever it was that thought to put it in automobiles. 

I was in the grocery store a few days ago and noticed that there weren't any blackberries for sale anymore. It made me sad, not only because that means summer is just about over, but also because it reminded me of those summers. 

I miss them. I miss not having a care in the world. I miss the promise of a hot summer day and looking forward to the joy it brought me. 

Blackberries. Little morsels of sweetness, big buckets of memories. 


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

ABC Reads: August 2016



Hi everyone! Welcome back to the ABC Reads link up! We're linking up to share the books we've read in August and the letters we can check off our lists. 

Need a refresher on what the ABC Reads challenge is all about? Never fear, we've got your back: 

What does the challenge entail? Well, I'm glad you asked. There are 26 letters of the alphabet and we challenge you, during the course of 2016, to read a book that starts with each letter. For example, Atonement (A), The Bell Jar (B), Catching Fire (C), and so on. Makes sense, right? You don't need to go in order - if you want to start with S, go for it. We're easy to please around these parts. On the last day of each month, we'll host a link-up for you to share your ABC Reads.  We will award one point for each letter you review AND a bonus point for linking up with us!  At the end of the year (or when the first participant reviews a book beginning with each of the 26 letters), the winner will be awarded a $30 Amazon gift card.  Congratulations to Jessica at Frikken Duckie for completing the challenge and winning the gift card! Go visit her and say congrats! :) 

If you didn't get a chance to link up last month - no worries at all. Feel free to jump in with Andrea and me any time!

OK, so let's get to it. What did you guys read this month? How many letters did you check off? Here's my progress (August books in blue): 

A: (The) Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. Completed March 2016. 
B: Better Than Before, by Gretchen Rubin. Completed February 2016. 
C: (The) City of Mirrors, by Justin Cronin. Completed May 2016. 
D:  Dark Witch, by Nora Roberts. Completed April 2016. 
E:  Europe on 5 Wrong Turns A Day, by Doug Mack. Completed April 2016. 
F:  Finders Keepers, by Stephen King. Completed January 2016. 
G: (The) Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown. Completed January 2016. 
H: (The) Hereafter, by Jessica Bucher. Completed April 2016. 
I:  I Will Find You, by Joanna Connors. Completed June 2016. 
J:  Julia, by Peter Straub. Completed July 2016. 
K: Keeping Faith. Completed July 2016. 
L:  (The) Last Song, by Nicholas Sparks. Completed January 2016. 
M: (The) Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, by Mitch Albom. Completed February 2016.
N:  Night Film, by Marisha Pessl. Completed June 2016. 
O: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. Completed January 2016. 
P:  (The) People of Sparks, by Jeanne DuPrau. Completed August 2016. 
Q
R: (The) Revenant, by Michael Punke. Completed March 2016. 
S:  Some Kind of Fairy Tale, by Graham Joyce. Completed June 2016. 
T:  Tiny Beautiful Things, by Cheryl Strayed. Completed April 2016. 
U
V
W: Warm Bodies, by Isaac Marion. Completed February 2016. 
X
Y
Z:  Zone One, by Colson Whitehead. Completed May 2016. 



"The People of Sparks" is the second book in the Book of Ember series. Here's a brief synopsis: 

When Lina and Doon lead their people up from the underground city of Ember, they discover a surface world of color and life. The people of a small village called Sparks agree to help the Emberites, but the villagers have never had to share their world before. Soon differences between the two groups escalate, and it's up to Lina and Doon to find a way to avoid war!

In the riveting sequel to the highly acclaimed The City of Ember, Jeanne DuPrau explores the nature of conflict and the strength and courage necessary to overcome it.

I really liked The City of Ember, the first book. But this one was a little disappointing. It was pretty predictable from beginning to end. And any "conflicts" that happened in the book were resolved in like 0.2 seconds with solutions that were way too easy. It was just anti-climactic for the most part. 

But it wasn't all bad. There were some moments, especially from Lina, that I enjoyed reading because of her courage. 

Overall, I gave it 3 out of 5 stars. 


So, there you have it! What letters did you check off this month? Come link up and share with us! See you back here next month. Ciao! 





Friday, August 26, 2016

Blog Tour: Saris and a Single Malt by Sweta Vikram


I don't think it's any secret around these parts that I love poetry. It's beautiful to me and it's something that I think everyone should read because it evokes so many emotions. When I received the opportunity to review Saris and a Single Malt by Sweta Vikram, I was thrilled to check it out. 

Here's a brief synopsis of the book: 

Saris and a Single Malt is a moving collection of poems written by a daughter for and about her mother. The book spans the time from when the poet receives a phone call in New York City that her mother is in a hospital in New Delhi, to the time she carries out her mother’s last rites. The poems chronicle the author’s physical and emotional journey as she flies to India, tries to fight the inevitable, and succumbs to the grief of living in a motherless world. Divided into three sections, (Flight, Fire, and Grief), this collection will move you, astound you, and make you hug your loved ones.

This book was hard for me to read emotionally because I have not lost a parent and the thought of it terrifies me. One of our first relationships is that between parent and child and it's disconcerting to think about no longer having that connection. So I read most of the book with tears in my eyes and a frog in my throat. I felt for the author very much because of her grief and sadness.

One of my favorite poems from the book is "It's Not Easy" where Vikram writes:

It's in our silence
that you hear goodbye.
It's in our tears
that you see the marks your absence left behind.


It's beautiful and sad at the same time. And it hurts my heart to think about what she went through. I don't handle difficult situations well, and in trying to put myself in her shoes, I just felt this gaping wound. I appreciated reading her beautiful poetry and I only wish there was more of it. More of her and her mother's backstory, more of their memories together.

About the Poet:


Sweta Srivastava Vikram, featured by Asian Fusion as “one of the most influential Asians of our time,” is an award-winning writer, five-time Pushcart Prize nominee, Amazon bestselling author of 11 books, writing coach, columnist, marketing consultant, and wellness practitioner who currently lives in New York City. A graduate of Columbia University, she also teaches the power of yoga, Ayurveda, & mindful living to female trauma survivors, creative types, entrepreneurs, and business professionals. Sweta is also the CEO-Founder of NimmiLife, which helps you attain your goals by elevating your creativity & productivity while paying attention to your wellness.


My rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Modern History Press (2016)
Available on: Amazon
Author's Website: http://swetavikram.com/


*Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

This review was coordinated by Poetic Book Tours.




Monday, August 22, 2016

Don't



Don't let life pass you by
Don't let regrets take over
Don't settle
Don't postpone
Don't minimize your self-worth
Don't doubt your abilities
Don't sit on the bench
Don't be afraid of love
Don't shy away from inspiration
Don't worry about eating cookies
Don't let the important people go
Don't live small
Don't dwell in your comfort zone
Don't look back
Don't forget to explore
Don't lose sight of what's important
Don't dull your light
Don't hide from who you are
Don't be afraid or ashamed
Don't listen to the haters
Don't shy away from praise
Don't stand by and do nothing
Don't ever ask is that the best I'll ever be


*This post was inspired by the weekly writing prompt from The Figment Forum, a free Facebook group for writers. Click here to join.