Tuesday, May 31, 2016

ABC Reads: May 2016


Hellooo friends and welcome back to the ABC Reads link up! We're linking up to share the books we've read in May 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 you covered: 

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. 

Pretty easy, right? And if you didn't get a chance to link up last month - no worries at all. Feel free to jump in with us 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 (May 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
J
K
L: (The) Last Song, by Nicholas Sparks. Completed January 2016. 
M: (The) Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, by Mitch Albom. Completed February 2016.
N
O: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. Completed January 2016. 
P
Q
R: (The) Revenant, by Michael Punke. Completed March 2016. 
S
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 City of Mirrors is the third book in The Passage trilogy by Justin Cronin. I loved the first 2 books (The Passage and The Twelve) and this one was great, too. I already posted a review about it, so I won't duplicate it again here, but I did want to share a favorite quote from the book: 

"It's children, he thought, that give us our lives; without them we are nothing, we are here and then gone, like the dust." 



I was so happy to find a Z book at the library that sounded intriguing. This was an audiobook and I really enjoyed the narrator and the story. Here's a synopsis of the book: 

In this wry take on the post-apocalyptic horror novel, a pandemic has devastated the planet. The plague has sorted humanity into two types: the uninfected and the infected, the living and the living dead. 
Now the plague is receding, and Americans are busy rebuild­ing civilization under orders from the provisional govern­ment based in Buffalo. Their top mission: the resettlement of Manhattan. Armed forces have successfully reclaimed the island south of Canal Street—aka Zone One—but pockets of plague-ridden squatters remain. While the army has eliminated the most dangerous of the infected, teams of civilian volunteers are tasked with clearing out a more innocuous variety—the “malfunctioning” stragglers, who exist in a catatonic state, transfixed by their former lives. 
Mark Spitz is a member of one of the civilian teams work­ing in lower Manhattan. Alternating between flashbacks of Spitz’s desperate fight for survival during the worst of the outbreak and his present narrative, the novel unfolds over three surreal days, as it depicts the mundane mission of straggler removal, the rigors of Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder, and the impossible job of coming to grips with the fallen world. And then things start to go wrong. 
Both spine chilling and playfully cerebral, Zone One bril­liantly subverts the genre’s conventions and deconstructs the zombie myth for the twenty-first century

 I compare this to The Walking Dead, but more believable. It's funny and sad and disturbing all at once. Somebody on Goodreads described it as "the thinking man's zombie novel" and it's a very apt description. It makes you think about survival, of course, but also about humanity and bureaucracy and materialism. I gave it 4 out of 5 stars.


OK, now it's YOUR turn! Come link up and share what you've read, Andrea and I can't wait to hear all about it. Don't forget to visit other posts and leave some love. Happy Reading!






Saturday, May 28, 2016

Things Are Always Better in the Morning


Sunshine purifies my soul. Admittedly, I'm not a morning person whatsoever. But I can appreciate the beauty of the sunrise. The way it symbolizes hope and a fresh start. I like sitting outside, reading a good book and basking in the sunlight like a cat. 

It has rained in Virginia for the past month it feels like. And now the sun has come back in full force and I feel like a fog has lifted from my mind and spirit. 

The beginning of summer always feels exciting, like the beginning of an adventure. My first instinct is always to stay home. Maintain the status quo. But the sunshine always beckons. It calls to me and whispers sweet nothings in my ear. I answer the siren song every time. 

I have so many lovely memories associated with sunny days:
  • Traipsing all over town with my dad when I was a kid. We walked everywhere, exploring, laughing. 
  • Falling in love with the boy who got under my skin. 
  • Lazy days at the beach. 
  • Getting married in paradise.
  • Our first family vacation where both kids were old enough to enjoy it. 
I'm excited to create more memories this summer with my loves. Now that hubs is off on weekends, we plan to do little mini trips as much as we can. 

I don't know if it actually is always sunny in Philadelphia, but right now, in this moment, the sun is shining in my heart.


*This post was inspired by the weekly prompt from The Figment writing community. Check us out!


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Read All About It: The City of Mirrors


I really enjoy Justin Cronin's books. The depth of his characters and the worlds he builds with his words draw you in completely. It's like visiting an alternate reality - you really feel like you're there, right in the middle of the action. The City of Mirrors is the third and final book of the The Passage trilogy. In my experience, the second and third books of a trilogy never seem to hold up as well as the first, but this is NOT the case with The City of Mirrors. It is every bit as heartfelt, heart-wrenching, and heart-pounding as The Passage and The Twelve. I like to compare this trilogy to The Stand by Stephen King, but on steroids - in the best way possible. 

Here's a description from the publisher to give you a better idea of what the book is about: 
In The Passage and The Twelve, Justin Cronin brilliantly imagined the fall of civilization and humanity's desperate fight to survive. Now all is quiet on the horizon - but does silence promise the nightmare's end or the second coming of unspeakable darkness? At last, this bestselling epic races to its breathtaking finale.
 
The world we knew is gone. What world will rise in its place?
 
The Twelve have been destroyed and the hundred-year reign of darkness that descended upon the world has ended. The survivors are stepping outside their walls, determined to build society anew—and daring to dream of a hopeful future.
 
But far from them, in a dead metropolis, he waits: Zero. The First. Father of the Twelve. The anguish that shattered his human life haunts him, and the hatred spawned by his transformation burns bright. His fury will be quenched only when he destroys Amy—humanity's only hope, the Girl from Nowhere who grew up to rise against him.
 
One last time light and dark will clash, and at last Amy and her friends will know their fate.

In the first two books of the trilogy, we got to meet Amy, an orphaned girl who is very special and wise beyond her years. She holds the key to saving mankind. We also met the families of The Colony - those who had trained to protect its people from the virals (vampire-like creatures who are sensitive to light and water and feast on the blood of humans). Peter and Michael and Alicia and Sara and Hollis and all of our favorites have been through so much and are trying to pick up the pieces. Their defeats and triumphs and their sheer will to survive were the main focus of the those two books. In this book, there's been peace. No viral sightings. People were beginning to finally relax and rebuild because they thought that the virals were wiped out. But they soon find out that this is not really the case. The final showdown kept me up way too late because I couldn't stop reading. It's just so good.

I don't want to give too much away, but I guarantee that you won't be able to put the book down. I also highly recommend going back to re-read the first two books if you can before reading this one because it will just give you the full effect of the amazing characters and their growth on this long, life or death journey.


My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication date: May 24, 2016
Hardcover, 624 pages


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


Monday, May 23, 2016

I Talk to Myself


I'm a very good listener. People will tell me all kinds of things. I guess I seem trustworthy. Most of my conversations consist of people telling me their life story and me just sitting there, nodding, being encouraging. This happens to me all the time. And I'm usually too polite to tell them to shut up. 

I'm not a talker. It's not that I don't have anything to say. I just usually have too many things going on in my brain at one time. Plus, I'm just better at processing written words than spoken words. Is that weird? I don't know. 

You know what's funny, though? I talk to myself all the time. At home. Laying in bed. In the bathroom. I have to remind myself not to do it in public bathrooms, though, because I have definitely gotten some strange looks. 

The best place for talking to myself, though, is the car. I do it so often that my boys will sometimes stop their own conversations and ask, "Mommy, who are you talking to??" Um, the best listener in the world, duh. 

Sometimes I practice important conversations that I want to have. Sometimes I finish conversations that I've already had. Sometimes I tell silly jokes. Or I change the lyrics to songs on the radio and make them totally ridiculous ("This is my white thong!" is one of my favorites.)

So yes. I'm one of those weirdos who not only talks to herself, but also answers back. Whatchoo talkin' bout, Willis?? 

"A man speaking sense to himself is no madder than a man speaking nonsense not to himself." ~Tom Stoppard


Sunday, May 22, 2016

Coffee Always Helps


I was getting coffee earlier this afternoon and I was struck by the quiet comfort of the coffee shop. People talking in hushed whispers, just enjoying their coffee and their companion, or book, or laptop. It felt nice. I haven't ever done it - gone to a coffee shop to just sit and enjoy myself. 

Why do I always feel guilty about taking time for myself? Being away for an hour at a coffee shop will not end the world. But I always make excuses about why I shouldn't do it. 

Excuses and guilt are like the kissing cousins of douchebaggery. 

I need me time. I need time to be alone with my thoughts. I need time to blow off steam. I need to be my own person, before going back to being the person who is needed by several other people. 

Feeling guilty about being yourself is like feeling guilty about breathing. It's stupid. 

Bottom line is - listen to your inner voice, but sometimes take the conversation with a grain of salt. We program ourselves with a ton of negative bullshit, so your first instinct isn't always your best one. 

P.S. Drink lots of coffee. Coffee always helps. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Waiting Game is Over

The Waiting Game is Over. I'm tired of not living life to the fullest. | www.thechroniclesofchaos.com

I don't have a lot of patience. I think of something and then I want to do it. Immediately. It's like instant gratification on steroids. And when I can't do it, which is like 99% of the time, I get antsy. My mind jumps from one thought to another. I get stressed out. I don't sleep. I eat wayyyy too much. It's just all around not fun. 

People always say that good things come to those who wait. Well, clearly I'm screwed. I don't understand why we have to be bound by a certain path in life. A certain set of rules. Who makes up these fucking rules? I want to make my own rules. Forge my own path. I don't even know what that looks like. But I'm chomping at the bit to get there. 

I was in my car today and I wondered what would happen if I just kept driving instead of going home. There's no place in particular that I want to go. But what if I just drove until I didn't want to drive anymore? Where would I end up? What would happen? What stories would I have to share? What interesting people would I meet? Would I hate every minute of it? Who knows.

I feel like I'm always waiting for something to happen. But that something never comes. Or the something mutates into another something and then I start waiting for that. I'm probably not even making sense. But the point is - I'm tired of being patient. I'm tired of doing what I'm told. I'm tired of living by other people's rules. 

The waiting game is over. I won't do it anymore. Which is scary and exciting all at once. 

What are YOU waiting for? 



*This post was inspired by the weekly writing prompt at The Figment forum. Looking for writing inspiration? Check us out. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

My Biggest Fear...


My biggest fear... 

...is failing my children. 
...is never realizing my dreams. 
...is never being good enough. For myself or anyone else. 
...is never finding inner peace. 
...is always wondering, What if?  
...is living in a world torn apart by hate.
...is stifled creativity and extinguished sparks. 
...is unhappiness.
...is being crippled by fear. 


*** 
This post was inspired by the weekly writing prompt from The Figment. Looking for your writer squad? Come join us and check out our brand-spanking-new website



Sunday, May 15, 2016

Down the Rabbit Hole - Part 2

Catch up on part 1 of the story here

Alice in Wonderland retelling

Allie squinted in the darkness. It smelled dusty inside. Her eyes began to adjust and she could make out some tables and chairs strewn around, and a hallway that led to more darkness. 

"Tim," she whispered. "Tim!"

"Shh. I'm right here," he responded quietly. "Come on." He led her towards the hallway. 

"What is this place?" she asked. He didn't respond. 

As they made their way down the hallway, Allie could hear a voice. It got louder and louder as they approached. At the end of the hallway, there was a room and a soft light spilled out. That's where the voice was coming from. 

"I don't care what happened. Just find him. Or I'll have your head!" the voice yelled, and then slammed down the phone. Allie and Tim stood silently in the doorway. The voice belonged to a woman, who was huffing violently. She whirled around and pierced them with her angry glare. "Oh. Hello, Tim. Where have you been? My guys have been all over town looking for you." Her tone had changed, from angry to menacingly sweet. 

Allie felt Tim squeeze her hand reassuringly. "Hey, Regina. I'm sorry I'm late. I came as quick as I could." 

Regina inhaled sharply. "Keep your 'sorry'. I've told you a hundred times that punctuality is important to me. Very important." She paused. "Who is this?" She pointed at Allie. 

"This is my girlfriend, Allie." 

"Girlfriend, eh?" Regina chuckled dismissively. "Hello, Allie. You're a pretty girl. What are you doing with this loser? He's in a lot of trouble with me, did you know that? And now you are, too." 

Allie felt a cold chill down her spine. She wasn't sure what the hell was going on, but she knew it wasn't good. "I don't understand. I haven't done anything. I don't know what you're talking about," she answered nervously. She saw Tim imperceptibly shake his head. He was trying to tell her something. 

"Oh, you don't know. I see. I guess you expect me to care what it is that you do and do not know, is that it?" Regina stepped closer to Allie. She began to laugh, her large belly shaking in her too-tight shirt. It had a picture of a playing card with the queen of hearts on it. Allie thought that was a little ironic, as there was nothing at all loving about this woman. 

Allie realized Regina was waiting for an answer. "Um. No, I suppose not," she stammered. Tim squeezed her hand again. Regina looked at her for a brief moment and then turned her attention back to Tim. 

"So. Little rabbit. You care to explain where you've been? I ask you to do one simple thing, and you can't even do that. You know what I do to people who don't follow my directions?"

Tim nodded. "I know. I'm prepared to accept the consequences." Allie could feel his arm trembling. 

Regina seemed disappointed. "Hmm. No fight in you, huh? You think you're a martyr or something? What's the fun in that? Now this one," she gestured at Allie, "she's got a pretty little neck. Maybe I'll take your punishment out on her. How does that sound?" 

Allie, still utterly confused as to what was happening, blurted out, "No, please. I don't know anything. I have no idea who you are or what's going on. Please don't hurt me. Just let me go." 

Regina smiled dangerously. "Oh yes. This will be fun," she whispered.


To be continued... 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

What I Do Not Say

A poem about what I do not say


There's so many things that I do not say. 
You couldn't hear me anyway from that other page. 
My silence speaks volumes, is how the saying goes. 
The gap gets ever wider and yet you just froze. 

I scream in my head and beg for you to hear. 
But you dance around my cries like an expert puppeteer. 
One day the silence will be all that's left. 
Perfect for ears that are deaf. 

I can't describe how miserable I feel. 
I could try, but I have tried, so what's the appeal? 
The rain keeps falling every single day. 
It's the soundtrack of our lives, the perfect shade of gray. 

What I do not say
Could fill the pages of a Shakespearean play. 
Of this I am 100% certain. 
Will you open or close the curtain?

My sadness grows little by little. 
It's as useless to me as a nickel. 
I've lost my way somehow. 
I wish you could fix me now. 


*Original poem by me

Monday, May 9, 2016

Jinx


Two steps forward. One step back. 
It's not about a Paula Abdul song.
Just life not cutting me some slack. 

The rain keeps falling - drip, drip, drip. 
I walk endlessly, getting soaked to my soul. 
Inevitably, life sticks its foot out and I trip. 

Face first, down into a puddle I go. 
Muddy, angry, sad - I don't know how to feel. 
But it doesn't matter, this tale of woe. 

I send out love.
It sends back a laugh.  
And just for fun, a great big shove. 

Water everywhere, I can feel it in my bones. 
It's dragging me down, so far, so fast. 
Dumping behind me a box of stones. 

It's bound to happen - triggered by a jinx. 
Keep a careful eye on life,
Sending out its cruel winks. 

Two steps forward. One step back. 
I don't even know anymore, 
A great many things I lack. 


*Original poem by me


Friday, May 6, 2016

The Evolution of Touch



The Evolution of Touch

Snuggle. Comfort. Warmth. Reassurance.  

Clumsy. Determined. Brave. Exploratory.  

Tolerated. Embarrassed. Technological. Independent.  

Electric. Sparks. Magic. Constant. 

Familiar. Loving. Routine.  


***
This post was inspired by the weekly writing prompt from The Figment. All writers are welcome to join. 





Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Fragile - Handle With Care

Do we shelter our children too much?

Do you think kids these days are too sheltered? Coddled to the point of being unable to function in real life situations? Fed a steady stream of positivity and cartoons and "nothing bad will ever happen"? 

The other night, hubs and I were watching a movie with the kids. Some stupid movie about bears, I don't even know what it was called. Clearly I was paying attention. But it was a children's movie, live-action, not cartoon, and my hubs loved it as a kid and wanted to share it with the boys. Anyway, there was a part of the movie where the mama bear is killed by falling rocks. And the baby bear is understandably sad and snuggles with her body and doesn't really know what to do. There's another part of the movie where a bear gets hurt and is bleeding. 

The boys were terrified. They couldn't handle it and begged us to turn it off. Dom was in tears, Will was hiding under his blanket. Hubs and I tried to explain that it was just a movie. That the blood wasn't real, the bears in the movie were "actors" and that they were just fine. And what I wanted to say, but didn't, was: "Bears get hurt. They bleed. They starve. They get hunted and killed. This stuff happens in real life." 

I do want to keep my children as innocent as possible. Protect them from some of the harsher truths in the world - like some people are douche-canoes and are going to say or do things to hurt you, or animals (and people) die every day, or... you get the point. I don't want them to be traumatized or to be preoccupied with things to the point that they live in terror. 


But I don't want them to not be able to handle LIFE. Violence happens, as much as we wish it didn't. People and animals bleed and/or die. Some diseases have no cure. Planes sometimes do crash. It sucks and it's heartbreaking sometimes, but you have to be able to live your life. 

I don't remember being upset by things I saw in movies when I was a kid. And I watched all kinds of stuff. Stuff I probably shouldn't have. But it never really bothered me. A healthy dose of fear/reality keeps your wits about you. Too much just debilitates you. How do I walk that line? What's OK to expose them to, and what isn't? And when?   

This parenting stuff is the hardest thing I've ever done. It's a huge responsibility to try and not screw up these kids for life, man. To find and maintain that balance of when to lead the way and when to step back and let them learn for themselves. It's a work in progress, y'all.


 "We have not journeyed all this way because we are made of sugar candy." -Winston S. Churchill



Monday, May 2, 2016

Coffee Thoughts


Coffee Thoughts is exactly what it sounds like... the thoughts I have during my morning coffee. I like to sit and just let my mind wander for a few minutes. Here are some of the thoughts I had lately: 

*  Why do people feel like they can say anything they want when they are hiding behind their computer screen? I saw this video the other day of men who were reading tweets that these women sports writers received on a daily basis (the men reading the tweets were not the ones who wrote them). It made me cry. I was so angry that anyone on this planet would think it was OK to tweet "I hope you get raped" or "You need to get hit in the head with a hockey puck and killed". For what? Writing a story about sports? Are you kidding me? 




*  Does Mark Wahlberg even age? I was watching Daddy's Home the other night and DAGNABBIT that man is hot. He didn't wear a shirt most of the time, so clearly it was Oscar material. 

*  How many times can the guys on ESPN say "I really like that guy's ball skills"? #NFLDraftProbs #I'mStill13YearsOld #Giggle

*  Why do writing contests charge so much? I don't want to pay a $50 "reading fee" in order to MAYBE win $200.       

*  Why can't National Poetry Month just be National Poetry Year? Every year. I like writing poetry. It's mah fave. 

*  I have a 50% off coupon for Michael's. Trouble will ensue. 

*  I need more coffee. That is all.  


----

Did you check out ABC Reads, the alphabet reading challenge? Come check it out and share what books you've read lately. It's never too late to join!