Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Sunday Salon: Goodbye July

Outside my window: Hey, I'm actually writing on Sunday this time, and I think I see, out my window, the afternoon thunderclouds arriving. They are subtle today, unlike some other days this week. Just barely threatening.

I am listening to: We have a Pandora station blasting at the moment... I think it's a Kristen Chenoweth station, because we are getting lots of Broadway, Glee songs, Disney songs, and even Josh thrown in here and there. It's a really fun station.

I am watching: Yesterday we finally got to Super 8! In the nick of time too, because I think it's out of the theaters soon, and I really wanted to see this on the big screen. It was really fun! What awesome kids they got for this movie! They did such a great job. I wish Kyle Chandler had had a bigger part, but he was great too. The special events were amazing, and it was fun to be at a movie that was equal parts funny, scary, and heartwarming.

I am thinking: nothing much really. Ummm, I must be thinking something. I'm hungry? I should be reading? Is it time for a nap yet? See.... not really thinking much today.

I am grateful for: haircuts. Boy, can they sure make a difference!

I am reading: MIDDLEMARCH! It makes me crazy to have these little check ins every week and I'm still on the SAME book! This week I'll be starting The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson for a read along. So then I'll have the both going. It's crazy.

I am photographing: These new books that I got at a sale yesterday ($3 per brand new hardback!) :

and I went to Costco and got this one book by local author Heather Dixon:

Meanwhile, I just keep reading and reading and reading these big fat books while I stare at these stacks and wish I could jump right in to one of them.

Oh, and I also filmed the girls doing the National Dance Day dance, if you want to go see that and give them a nice lovely comment! Here's the link.

I am listing: Blog stuff,  mostly. I seem to always be listing blog stuff.

I am creating: I can't think of any creations this week. Gosh, I need to create something!

On my iPod: I finally got some Boston on there. But that was a post for a different day.

I am hoping and praying: that we survive summer.

Around the house: I got a new Swiffer and mopped/swiffered under our kitchen island, which sits up above the floor just enough to get crap caught under there, but just low enough that you can't get a broom or mop under it. But the Swiffer seemed to work okay. So we'll try that for now. Are you so impressed? :)

From the kitchen: Oh, I've been whipping things up there this morning! A strawberry pie for dinner, and some really yummy rolls that I'm craving, and pork chops are in the crock pot. Dinner is later this afternoon, but I'm already starving.

Some of my favorite things: strawberry pie, and going to movies, and chatting about books and blogging with book blogging cousins, and reading big fat books. I guess it's been a good week!

The children this week: Toto got a Herbst appliance in her mouth and it has NOT been fun so far. Hopefully things will settle down be normal soon. Click here if you want to know what I'm talking about! It yanks her jaw forward to correct the overbite... an overbite she didn't have until they started doing the orthodontic work! Love it when that happens! And at the moment, her back teeth don't meet together, which means she basically can't chew anything. And the elastic she has to wear at night kills her, so she is not sleeping well, which means neither am I. Yeah, it's been fun.

Oh, and the new/old car that we got last week... already in the shop! Love it when THAT happens too! Not. So the children this week may be back to their fighting for the cars routine.

Plans for the week: First week of August? Wow. I think this week I'll just go to work, and try to read a lot, and maybe clean out some cupboards that are making me crazy, and watch more Dr. Who if I find time, and figure out a project for bored kids.

On this date: Last year I was stressing over my book stacks, as usual. In 2007, I did a post about NOT reviewing the last Harry Potter book. Interesting now that things are really over.

Thanks to Ibeeeg of Polishing Mud Balls for the inspiration for this post's layout.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Music Stuck In My Head: Boston

I heard this song on the radio this week, and wondered why it was not on my iPod so I could blast it at will. I knew we had to have the cd floating around our house somewhere. Finally, it was found, and finally I've got it on my iPod and finally I could blast it in my car, which, for some reason is more fun than blasting it in the house. Know what I mean? And now, this song is so very stuck in my head.

My other favorite Boston song:

This one reminds me of sixth grade, dancing, puppy love, the late 70s, being a kid. I love it so much!

Are you a Boston fan? Does it bring back memories or are you way too young? Do these these songs say "play me loud" to you?

Happy weekend! Two more weeks! :)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Review: A Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan

Review: A Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan (Wheel of Time book 7)
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Rating: A-
For: personal quest to read this series
From: I got this copy from Paperback Swap

I must have not truly been in the mood and ready for another go at this story when I started, because it didn't grab me at all at first, and I was worried. Then I got very very stuck around page 200-300 when a certain character was narrating and she was just not at all interesting. But once that bit was over, things started happening again and luckily the rest of the book pretty much flew by.

So, if you haven't been following my reviews on these or haven't caught on, this seems to be my biggest problem with them... that they start slow... like really dragging slow. Why? Why can't we just get right into the action again from the beginning? Argh, it makes me crazy to have to plod through the beginnings to get to the good stuff.

That being said, my favorite dude, Perin, had his section at the beginning of this book! What's up with that?! Well, not much happened with him I guess, so there you go.

My new favorite for this book was Mat, a guy who up until this point seemed to exist for comic relief and silliness. But now, he seems to be getting some substance and is becoming really quite fascinating. I love being in his crazy mind. Poor Mat, he didn't have much fun this particular book with some awful queen chasing after him. I couldn't quite decide if he deep down liked that, or if it was truly seduction at it's most disgusting. After all that, we left him with a MAJOR cliff hanger... a hundred or so pages before the whole book ended! So now I really hope the next book has his story and doesn't just leave him in such peril!

This book also changed a bit from previous books and became a bit more steamy.. just a bit. Everything is left up to our imaginations still, but more "stuff" seems to be happening! Our boys are growing up or something. But Rand has some definite issues that need resolving as far as that particular subject is concerned!

Anyway, so the story goes on! And on and on and on! :) Rand is continuing his rise to power, the Forsaken continue to try and thwart that, the rift between the Aes Sedai continues to get more and more complicated and crazy, and our heroes grow and learn more and more each book. And as I've said each review, I'm so invested in these characters that I am totally committed to finishing the series. I've heard that perhaps Brandon Sanderson won't have the last book done until November of next year. That would be great! So much more time it gives me to get caught up and be part of that final excitement! I guess we'll see.

Bottom Line: After that first slumpy bit, I really enjoyed it a lot.

Other Reviews:

Adventures in Reading
The OF Blog

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

How Do I Know What to Read?

Last week my friend Jenny over at Alternate Readality talked a little about reading book synopses (you know those things on the back of the book, on the jacket flap, over at Goodreads and at the beginning of every review) and how she likes to make up the rest of the story in her head, or try to figure out where it might go. When I said to her I don't even read them, she wondered how I knew if I wanted to read a book or not. So, here's a post to answer that question.

Interestingly I think this is one of those things that's changed since blogging.... let me 'splain.

First of all, it's not that I don't EVER read them, but rarely. Sometimes I'll skim them, or read parts, or glance over them. But mostly, I'm scared of them. It used to be that I would read the back of the book, but that was in the days where I knew nothing about the book at all. Now it seems like the books I am reading I've heard of a little bit at least, and know of some reaction from people (aka bloggers) about what they are thinking. And it's THAT which helps me decide whether or not to read the book.

Also, I seem to be less tolerant of spoilers now and I feel like there's almost always a spoiler to be found there. In fact, I think I really really hate spoilers. I don't want to be led down any direction at all really, I want to discover everything for myself. Make sense?

So how DO I know if I want to read a book?

* I will consider whether someone whose bookish likes I'm familiar with liked it or hated it
* I will read anything written by certain favorite authors
* I will read anything written by my awesome local authors
* I will usually finish a series or trilogy (eventually, it may take awhile)
* I will read things based on reviewer reactions
* I am very swayed by buzz
* I will read pretty much anything, no matter the plot.

All that being said, I actually enjoy writing them, because I find it fun to figure out how to write very short ones, that give away absolutely nothing except for the very very basics, yet still give you a feel for the book.

So what think you? Am I crazy? Should I be reading these things? Should I not rely so much on what you all are saying? Am I giving you way too much control over what I'm reading? :)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Social Issues

Today over at The Broke and the Bookish we are listing books that highlight tough issues. Wow, there's a TON that fit this category! Here the first ten that popped into my mind:

1. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (rape)
2. This Is What I Did: by Ann Dee Ellis (witnessing a crime)
3. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalid Hosseini (conditions in Afghanistan)
4. The Help by Kathryn Stockett (racial issues)
5. No Going Back by Jonathan Langford (on being gay)
6. The Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr (depression, among other things)
7. any Jodi Picoult book... you choose!
8. North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley (self esteem, abuse)
9. Room by Emma Donoghue (rape, abuse, depression)
10. 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher (teen suicide) I really need to read this one!

It that list could go on and on and on and I'm sure I've forgotten some really very obvious ones. Feel free to point them out!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Review: What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

Book: What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen
Genre: YA Romance
Rating: A-
For: Fun
From: the library

My daughter brought this one home from the the library the other day, so I "snuck" it into my reading line up. It was a guilty read because I have so many things I NEED to read for this that and the other. But it was a fun one and I should do it more often!

This was a typical Sarah Dessen book about a girl who is struggling because her parents divorced (an ugly public thing) and she chose to be with her dad which means moving around a lot. At every new place, she picks out a different name and personality for herself. That is, until she got to this latest new place and suddenly she finds she is being herself, or at least trying to.

I found this one to be a good mix between the romance (because of course you know she meets a cool guy) and the problems she is dealing with, especially where her mom is concerned. It wasn't overly depressing regarding the problem (which sometimes they are for me) or overly dwelling on the romance (and this one actually seemed to be very low key.) Mostly it's about this girl trying to find herself since she seems to have forgotten who she was.

One of the things I found myself thinking most about while reading this book was could I change who I was if I could start over fresh every now and then? I think I couldn't no matter how hard I wanted to. I would still end up the same person. I would maybe start out different, but would shake down right into the same old rut.  I found that whole idea pretty interesting because I really do get sick of myself some days and wish I could be different. Know what I mean? Anyone else feel this way?

Bottom line: I enjoyed this book a lot.

Other Reviews:

Becky's Book Reviews
Walking Brain Cells
Bubble Gum Book Reviews
He Followed Me Home... Can I Keep Him?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Sunday Salon: Nothing New

Nothing much new this week. Oh, there's a new (old) car for one kid, but other than that, not much else is new.

Outside my window: Dark and breezy (yes it's Saturday night again...have you started to figure out my routine yet?) You know, there's a breeze nearly every night here. I love it.

I am listening to: The above mentioned breeze, peppered with a firework now and then. Yes, it's a state holiday this weekend and those fireworks (illegal and otherwise) continue to go off and on every evening.

I am watching: We just finished watching Source Code, which was much better than I expected and had that mind bending ending which I so enjoy. Other things I've been watching: Harry Potter 7.2, Falling Skies, the finale of Friday Night Lights which was whoa so good, a couple of Dr. Who episodes and..... perhaps that's about it....

I am thinking: that next year I may try to have book club during the summer and see what happens.

I am grateful for: book stores and I wish they'd stop going out of business.

I am reading: Middlemarch! It's for book club in September. It will probably take me that long to read it. But I wanted to get it done in time to watch the movie at the end of August instead. What I REALLY want is to get it done before The Way of Kings buddy read starts up soon! And I finished The Crown of Swords. I really enjoyed it! On with the Wheel of Time! It shall keep turning! On and on and on and on it goes....

I am photographing: Nothing this week sadly. It would be fun to be able to go out and take a picture of something cool every day, wouldn't it.

I am creating: mini movies from our trip to put on YouTube. Well, at least I've started with that project.

I am hoping and praying: that all the weird news stories from terrorists attacks, to drowning scouts and missing persons, to heat waves that kill people.... just stop. Please. Make. It. Stop.

Around the house: Did I tell you I switched up wash day? Yes, I'm trying out Wednesdays instead of Mondays. This may turn the world on its head, but we'll see how it goes. So far, so good.

From the kitchen: Guacamole. That's because I bought one of those bags of avocados from Costco, and boy are they ever good!

Some of my favorite things this week: Snape. Live John Green shows on YouTube. Chocolate muffins. A girls' night out.

The children this week: One went on a scout camp and survived. The other one started a new job and survived. That was the boys. The girls just did their same old same old, and are pretty bored to death. I've noticed that the girls are content to be at home, and the boys are not and want to be anywhere but. What does this say? This is a taste of things to come, right? Ugh. I think boys should want to be at home sometimes too, really. I just don't get it.

Plans for the week: Wow, last week of July? Hmmm... I think there's a reunion this week, I may check that out on Friday. I want to see Super 8 before it leaves the theater, so maybe I'll fit that in. Lots of Middlemarch reading is on the line up. No work on Monday, so that will be a playish sort of day, but that means there'll be lots to do on Tuesday. Maybe we'll grill hamburgers one day. I should weed the garden and pick some stuff out there.

That's all I've got this week.

Thanks to Ibeeeg of Polishing Mud Balls for the inspiration for this post's layout.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Harry Potter Thoughts and Etc.

We (me and the girls) finally saw the movie yesterday, nearly a week after everyone else. I guess it could be worse, right? And it was nice and calm and not crowded and we didn't have to fight for a seat or anything. However, I know those midnight/first day out audiences have GOT to be more fun. I bet there was some clapping and cheering and sighs going on with them! (I'll tell you where below in a spoiler section.) So, I do feel like I'm missing out on that when I don't participate in the first day excitement. Maybe one of these times I'll try it.

So first of all, let me explain my Harry Potter position. I'm a fan, but not a fanatic. Make sense? I loved the books, I got them all from #4 on, on the day they came out and read them in a few days time. I've enjoyed the movies a lot, though there have been moments where I thought they were really slow.. and some awkward moments too. But I'm not one to re-read the books over and over, and I didn't watch all the movies in preparation for this final one, and I don't stalk Daniel Radcliffe or anything. I'm just a simple fan.

Anyway, the movie.  I really enjoyed it! Very intense and emotional. They all did a great job I thought. I felt weepy during lots of parts and the end was very.... shall we say... final feeling. It was good and fitting. It will be fun to see what these kids do now with their future careers, don't you think? I hope good things.

So some more detailed discussion that includes SPOILERS:

The parts I wanted to clap and cheer and wished the audience would have joined me:

** when Neville chopped off the snake's head!
** when Weasley Mum obliterated Beatrix!
** when Harry threw the wand away.
** when Luna sat down by Neville.
** when Prof. Dumbledore's brother joined the fight.
** when all those bits and pieces were floating everywhere. THAT was cool 3D going on.
** at the end when the kids were all just standing there on the bridge and they zoomed slowly out.

The parts I wanted to cry:

** the whole Snape segment... and when he was crying! Oh, boy. That got me good.
** when one of the twins died (see, I don't even remember which one it was!)
** when Harry was with his dead family and he said "stay with me" and his mum said "always."
** when they showed a close up of a teary eyed baby Harry
** when Harry walked away from Ron and Hermione to face his fate
** at the end when the kids were all just standing there on the bridge and they zoomed slowly out.

How about you? Have you seen it? Did you cheer or cry or both?

Next, I would like a book/movie about Snape and his story, please. What do you think? Agree?

P.S. And now a word (or more) about the previews!

I love previews, and often I will be amazed at what is coming out that I haven't heard of yet! (Sheesh, I read EW and everything you know!) So here's my thoughts on the previews I saw:

** HUGO CABRET! Awesome! I was so excited about this one. Looks great.
** More Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr I should say) which looks very fun too
** The dude from Friday Night Lights (Taylor whatsisname, no not Lautner! Kitch) in a new movie, but now I can't figure out what the movie it is, and it's not coming up under his name, so maybe I was totally off in thinking it was him and am now so confused. Ugh, that's going to make me crazy now!
** I find it interesting to see how popular mythological movies are these days. Many of those types coming up! They look so very epic!
** The new penguin movie looks really funny.

And that's all I can remember. Did you see the same previews? Any you are looking forward to?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

State Impressions and Book Requests

I threatened to do this post awhile back, and since the thoughts aren't leaving my head, it simply must be written! Even though I fear it's going to be way way too long.

So, this past month when we drove back and forth across the country, I was extremely impressed with the different and unique personalities I felt as we drove through each state... even the ones that we did just that.. drove through. And so I thought it would be fun to write those thoughts out, especially since many of you are from those states, and it would be fun to get your reaction to my impressions. Don't you think? I may even figure out a way to make this a bookish post, just you wait!


Ah, I have to say this one boring state to drive though, at least along I-80. All brown and dead looking. This is strange since it's the state that has Yellowstone! One of the most beautiful national parks ever! BUT, Wyoming also has these:

There were hundreds, all over the place, and we called them windmill farms. I'm fascinated with them. They scream high tech space age science fiction to me! Oh, they are so cool and other worldly looking! Book I need for this state: something like cowboys and aliens! Or I know,  a cowboy space opera like Firefly! Ah, that would be one fun book!


Landscape-wise, not much better than Wyoming, though we now have grass instead of dirt. Lots and lots of grass. Nebraska is what I think of when I hear about the plains, or the prairies or the grasslands. It was also in Nebraska that we saw a beautiful sunset, then minutes later turned around and watched an impressive moonrise. I took a video: (beware the music, it was my son's turn to drive so he go to choose! You'll also see in this video that Nebraska wins the prize for most bugs killed on the windshield!)

We don't see stuff like that so much here where the mountains get in the way. Book I need for this state: a pioneer book for sure.... Little House on the Prairie for big people? With lots of romantic sunset scenes!


Oh boy, this state seems to have the monopoly on beautiful farms! We wondered if there is a code between them all to have not a weed, or a piece of junk in sight. And all green and perfectly groomed! I loved driving through this state for sure. Book I need for this state: a farm story, but not a depressing one (Like A Thousand Acres), a happy one please.


One of my good high school friends came to college here, and so we were excited to drive through Champaign Urbana so we could finally say we'd been there! And I also thought much about Ibeeeg while driving through Illinois, even though she was still far from where we were. Book I need for this state: a college/friends sort of book perhaps? One about enduring friendship/sisterhood, yes?


Indianapolis gave us lots of traffic, construction and a wrong turn! But that wrong turn lead us right past the speedway, so that was cool.  And then today while watching John Green live on YouTube (dang that was fun!) I remembered he's from here so... Book I need from this state: a racing book by John Green! Ha! Maybe just a racing book then.


This state was our destination for the weekend. It was fun to meet the Latino/Hispanic people that my son lived and worked with while he was here. I loved the state! I loved the people! Ohio also has lots and lots of trees! Book I need for this state: something about Latino people coming to the States to make a better life for their family.


Horses! Yes, we were thrilled that this state actually truly had miles of rolling white picket fences surrounding huge horse farms! And beautiful horse race tracks too! I don't know why, but it was so cool to see a horse race track. I'm not even into horses that much, but they are cool I must admit. Book I need for this state:  a horse racing book along the lines of Seabiscuit.


This is the state where we started to really notice the heat and humidity. Sorry Tennessee! And Gatlinburg was such a tourist trap that all I wanted to do was get out of there! But then the Smoky Mountains were cool and so was walking on that famous trail. Book I need for this state: An Appalachian Trail story perhaps? Like A Walk in the Woods. However, I also saw lots of signs about the Hatfields and McCoys, so I'd love a book about them too please.

North Carolina

After coming out of the park and trying to find our way back to the freeway, we drove through a lot of small quaint mountain towns in North Carolina. They looked like fun restful places to stop and stay awhile. It also made me think of back country Appalachian places and stories. Book I need for this state: A bed and breakfast story (think Lorelei Gilmore's inn) or a book about people living in the back country... remember that book Christy?

South Carolina

We experienced an awesome thunderstorm while here. I took some video:

Other than that, all we saw here were trees. The freeways were like a tree tunnel! That is so not like Utah! Book I need for this state: a good treehouse book! Or perhaps, a tornado book because that thunder storm made us feel like one was heading our way for sure!


Ah, it was all about Savannah for us in Georgia. Savannah was hot, but cool. How can that be? But it was! Full of history.... including pirates, and the Civil War and something about some dude that killed someone? Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil! That was it! Book I need for this state: one on EACH of those subjects!


My impressions of Florida.... hot, humid, lots and lots of rain, very green, and Orlando which seems to be all about theme parks, you know? Book I need for this state: is there a novel set in a theme park? Please, let me know!

Alabama and Mississippi

We drove through the bottom teeny tiny bits of these two states, so they just sort of blended together, and FLEW by! We stopped for a moment near Mobile for a fast geocache, but it still wasn't even enough to give much of an impression. I feel bad about that. But these states for sure make me think of the deep deep south. I wish I could have experienced that a bit more. Book I need for this state: something about the deep deep south!


Here we had New Orleans and lots and lots of water. It was fun to walk around the French Quarter of New Orleans for an hour or two. Then, once we were back on the road, it was like one long never ending bridge! Were we crossing rivers? Or lakes? Or a bit of both? That was memorable. Book I need for this state: anything historical about New Orleans I would love. Then maybe a book about living on the water here?


We drove through Texas two different times... just before OK and just after. The first bit was mostly about the big city of Dallas. Yes, we survived it. It took us forever to go around that belt loop though, to start heading north and find our hotel in Denton. But even with the accident and traffic jam, we survived. The second bit was very desolate, and not any big cities in sight. It felt depressed and like something from The Grapes of Wrath. I'm not sure we had a very good first impression of Texas, though we did take this cool cloud/sun picture.

Book I need for this state: a BIG book! :) (No scratch that, I don't need any more of those!) It was after I got home that I remembered Friday Night Lights takes place in Texas, so I think I just need to read that book once and for all.


All I could think about while driving through this state was cowboys cowboys cowboys! In fact I even had to look up where The Cowboys lived, and found out it was just a little way off our freeway. But, dang, we didn't go visit. Book I need for this state: a cowboy book of course! I'm a sucker for these, really.

New Mexico

Suddenly, the landscape turned deserty... and we were finally out of the humidity! Yeah! Things were brown, but beautiful. Very southwestern, and lots of Indian influence here. From cowboys in one state, to Indians in the other. This is what I loved so much! Book I need for this state: Something Indian, like an experience living on a reservation (An Absolutely True Diary etc. etc. type) or even a cowboy/Indian book. I like those too. Dances With Wolves or something.


We went over the border, and bam, we had green mountains! Driving through these small Colorado mountain towns was lovely. I could retire here, except for the winters I suppose. Book I need for this state: something about a skiing trip perhaps? Or mountain cabin location?


Yay, home again! And things went from green to brown again. But a nice national park, cool formations sort of brown. Did you know Utah has tons of national parks? All that driving through the country and only one national park did we come across! Book I need for this state: hmmm... a national park experience? Aron Ralston had one here!

Well! I hope that was as much fun for you as it was for me! Did I drive through your state? Did I get a good impression of it? Or am I completely off? Do you have some good suggestions for books I can read about any of these states? Have you driven across the country and thought the same thing, how every state is so different? What was your favorite? Least favorite? Would you do it again?

I would so do it again!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Review: The 2011 Book Blogger's Cookbook compiled by Christy Dorrity

Book: The 2011 Book Blogger's Cookbook compiled by Christy Dorrity
Genre: NF/Cookbook
Rating: A
For: Review for book tour
From: an ebook gifted by the author

Now here's a fun book project! Local blogger/author Christy Dorrity decided to combine several of her favorite activities into one book....reading, blogging and cooking! The end result is a fun look at several popular books (complete with simple summary) along with a recipe connected to that book (complete with beautiful pictures) followed by a handful of short reviews by bloggers (and even a few of mine included!) Great idea, no? Yes!

It was very fun to get my hands on (scratch that...I should say EYES on...welcome to my first ebook review!) this lovely book. It's simply laid out, simply put together, with simple fun recipes and simple, but beautiful pictures. I loved looking through it, reading about all the books that are highlighted, and deciding what recipes to try.

Some of the highlighted books include: Princess of the Midnight Ball, The Clockwork Three, The Maze Runner, Shiver, Before I Fall etc. Some of the recipes included are: Seven Layer Dip, Tadpole Soup, Calico Brownies and I Hate Chocolate Cake!

As part of my review, I decided to try a recipe.... actually two recipes because we (we meaning the kids and I) couldn't stop at just one. First, we made Frozen Hot Chocolate.... basically a chocolate smoothie. I was hoping it would be a little like a Frosty, but it turned out to be a bit thinner. I think, though, my problem was that I doubled it hoping to make enough for the whole family, which probably threw my ratios off a bit. But still, it was really refreshing and yummy and perfect for cooling down on a hot summer night. This particular recipe was connected to Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater.

Here's the recipe if you'd like to give it a try:

Frozen Hot Chocolate

3 ounces chocolate
2 teaspoons store-bought hot chocolate mix
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cups milk (divided)
3 cups ice
Whipped topping (I use lite; I like to think it cancels out the rest of the calories)
Chocolate shavings

Chop the chocolate into small pieces. Melt the chocolate in a microwave-safe container, stirring every 30 seconds until melted. Transfer the chocolate to a small saucepan. Add the hot chocolate mix and sugar. Stir over medium heat until completely melted. Remove from heat and slowly add ½ cup of milk until smooth. Cool to room temperature.

In a blender, place the remaining cup of milk, the room-temperature chocolate mixture and the ice. Blend on high speed until smooth. Pour into a giant goblet and top with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.

And because I love everything chocolate, and because these sounded so easy, we also made Time Stopping Chocolate Truffles, a recipe to go along with The Hourglass Door by Lisa Mangum.... of course! So easy, simply melt chocolate chips, mix them with cool whip... let it get little hard in the freezer. Roll them in balls and roll them in cocoa. Here's my daughter having fun with that part:

They are really yummy, though quite rich. We made ours with dark chocolate chips (darker than semi-sweet even) and found that freezing them for eating works really well.

Bottom Line: A very fun cookbook with fun and simple recipes. Not to mention the great blogger comments about some awesome books! :)

If you are interested in this book, it's only .99 on Amazon right now! Also, be sure to check out this post on Christy's blog for an awesome contest she is hosting as part of this book tour. Just comment for a chance to win a Kindle!  (But hurry and click over now, because today is the last day!) On that page, you can also see the list of other reviews that are part of this blog tour.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Required Reading

I thought the prompt this week over at The Broke and the Bookish was particularly fun. I had no trouble listing books that I think should be required reading for teens. Here's what I came up with:

Proposed Required Reading

1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.... because of its powerful message about the power of words, not to mention a look at Nazi Germany from a whole new point of view.

2. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck.... because its a great way to learn about another culture, to learn about family relationships and to learn about strength of character

3. John Adams by David Muccullough.... because its the perfect book to learn about the birth of America, despite its size.

4. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens... because its such a powerful French Revolution book.

5. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck... because it depicts an often forgot about period of US history in such a unforgettable heartbreaking manner

6. Life of Pi by Yann Martel... because it would teach kids that books can be about anything, and mess with your mind and that authors don't have to follow any sort of formula.

7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.... because this book says so much about so many things that everyone, students and otherwise, should read it.

8. Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien... to introduce kids to the fantasy genre which teaches them that they can learn much from a "pretend" world just as much as they can from a real life one.

9. Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.... because its another wonderful book that shows a controversial time period in American history, has been challenged because of that, and should thus be therefore KEPT on the list.

10. The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank... because it shows that even an ordinary kid can make a huge impact on the world, just by keeping a diary.

Do you agree or disagree with my list? What would you put on your list?

P.S. So I just watched this lovely video posted yesterday (Monday 7/18) of John Green talking about The Great Gatsby... a book I've never understood and have always thought should NOT be on the required reading lists! However, after watching this, I'm thinking that if John Green was my English teacher, I could handle reading anything! Bring it on!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Review: The Forgotten Locket by Lisa Mangum

Book: The Forgotten Locket by Lisa Mangum
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: B+
For: Support Local Authors and Review Request
From: sent by publisher (Shadow Mountain)

This book marks the end of the trilogy which started with The Hourglass Door (when Abby and Dante meet), continues with The Golden Spiral (when Zo makes a mess of everything) and now finishes where that mess needs to be fixed!

For those that haven't read this trilogy, it's about a couple of brothers and their "friends" who get sent through a time machine from daVinci's Italy and end up here in the modern world. I won't go into the circumstances of why they were sent through, but let's just say it's not for fun. Then Dante, one of the brothers, meets Abby here in this time and they connect. Soon Abby is mixed up in all their drama and before she knows it her whole life and the very existence of her family is in jeopardy.

In this concluding book, Abby finds herself through the time machine and back in Italy during Dante's time. Zo is still causing all sorts of havoc and in fact has managed to mess with the river of time to the point of imminent destruction. Between the two of them, Abby and Dante must figure out how to stop him and fix time itself.

I enjoyed this book simply for the trip back in time. It was fun to meet Dante's family and to get to know his brother Orlando a bit better, though I think I had forgotten some of the circumstances behind his story and was wishing for a refresher!

But once again, as with the second book, the bits that took place on the bank of the river of time had me confused. I have a hard time visualizing this river and what's going on and how the characters fit into the action. Maybe I'm just especially dim,  I don't know.

Speaking of action, there's a lot of it! Much page turning craziness going on! It was all very exciting at times. I also enjoy the relationship between Dante and Abby and there's a lot of that fun romantic mushiness going a lot too.

Bottom line: I enjoyed this book and it's trilogy, though I wouldn't consider it one of my favorites. The first book remains my favorite of the three.

Other Reviews:

Scooper Speaks
LDS Women's Book Review
A Bookworm's Haven
Getting Your Read On

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Sunday Salon: And So It Goes

Are you still enjoying this layout for a Sunday post? I have fun doing it, but I still wonder if it's fun to read, or very boring. You'd let me know if it's boring, right? :)

Outside my window: Just now getting dark on a Saturday night. It's been another lazy Saturday for me. I read a lot, and baked a lot.

I am listening to:  Josh... specifically the song "Straight to You" in honor of the fact that four weeks from this very right now I'll be in the middle of what I know will be a fabulous concert. Can't wait! Ah, please let my seats be good!

I am watching: So we got Netflix the day before the big price raise scandal! Can you even believe it? But I didn't get the DVD bit anyway, so whatever. Anyway, I've only watched one episode of Dr. Who... but other family members have been watching all kinds of things. And no, I haven't seen Harry Potter yet. Maybe this coming week.

I am thinking: Does school really start in just over a month? That is insane! I'll have two kids in two different, rival colleges, and two kids in the same 7th-12th grade charter school. It's going to be so different.

I am grateful for: the girls that took care of our grandma cat for three weeks while we were gone and that she was alive and well and still here to greet us when we came home, even though she drives me crazy.

I am reading: Finished The Forgotten Locket this week, read much (now half way done) in A Crown of Swords, read three pages in Middlemarch, and read on my PC version of the Kindle The Book Blogger's Cookbook! Review to come this week. (Oh, and I started What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen.... shhhhh don't tell anyone... I'm sneaking this one in!)

Another trip picture.
I am photographing: Hmmmmm.... nothing new but still pondering what to do with all my trip pictures. What fun thing I can do with them.... I need to print some for sure. But I want to figure out what new software to get for editing my HD movies.... not an easy thing to figure out.

I am listing: Bookwords! Remember those? Stay tuned and you'll see why soon.

I am creating: scrapbooks! We need to put together scout stuff for the son who just got his Eagle, to show at his Court of Honor. And then Toto needs to start making her 4H portfolio! Trying to figure that out too. It's complicated and makes my head spin.

To live my faith:  I WILL stay positive. I will. Why is this so hard?

I am hoping and praying: That my oldest son finds a good cheap car to buy, and a good decent place to live once school starts, with good nice roommates.

Around the house: Remember last week when I mentioned my big goal was to vacuum this week? Well, so the vacuum gave me fits again, like it always does. And it's a brand new one even. So I changed the belt, which took me an hour and didn't look like it needed changing anyway, and once that was done, it still smelled like something was burning. So, I put it in the closet and gave up. I will deal will it another day, Scarlet O'hara style. I really hate vacuums.

From the kitchen: ZUCCHINI! Yes people... it's time. I made fried and bread. Up next... soup. I also made two chocolate things from The Book Blogger's Cookbook, which you'll see this week in the review. Gosh, lots of teasers today!

One of my favorite things: breakfast for dinner! I think I said that once already. I'm saying it again.

The children this week: Well, one kid got a job! So that's good. The rest walk around wondering what to do. They don't like my suggestions.

Plans for the week: Harry Potter I hope. And keep reading, because I have lots of fat books that need attention. Then more scrapbook work. And that's about all I'm concerned about for this week.

On this date: It was this week last year that I got sick of reading supernatural stuff... remember that? The year before I wondered about reading being a luxury or a necessity. That was quite a fun discussion. In 2008 I reviewed my first Janette Rallison book... ah that was fun too. And in 2007 there was much Harry Potter excitement, just like there is this year!

And so it goes.....

Thanks to Ibeeeg of Polishing Mud Balls for the inspiration for this post's layout.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

More New Books!

And suddenly I find myself with another stack of new books! How does this happen? This is how:

From Amazon:

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson... because Ibeeeg and Carl are leading a buddy read and dang, it was too tempting and I just couldn't be left out!

Under the Dome by Stephen King.... because Jenny wants to also do a buddy read and I'm ready to try more Stephen King!

From Ibeeeg:

A Soldier's Wife by Margaret Leroy.... because she thought I needed to read this book so bad that she simply sent it to me! You must go and read her post about it here. Deanna you are the best.... thank you so much!

From Armchair BEA... which I won during the Twitter parties:

The Fox Inheritance by Mary Pearson.... I loved all things I've read by here, so that's a good sign for this one.

All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zavin... I loved Elsewhere, excited to try this one.

Ten Rules for Living with my Sister by Ann Martin... this arrived on the day that my girls were driving each other crazy. I thought that was very appropriate. We giggled quite a bit.

A random book in the mail from the publisher (Simon and Schuster):

Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans.... this sounds like something different from what he usually writes, don't you think? I'm intrigued.

Isn't that just a lovely pile of books? It makes me happy. And stressed, because I also need to finish A Crown of Swords and start and finish Middlemarch for book club sometime this summer! And not only that, I seem to be in a slump... because I just don't feel much like reading. This is a problem I better soon fix!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Go Read!

I saw this license plate while on our trip, and so I had to quickly take a picture just for you all. Can you see it? (Click on it for a big view.) Love it! I want one!


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