Monday, October 28, 2013

52 Small Changes - One Year to a Happier, Healthier You

Once again as I was checking in books, I came across one that I checked in and then check out for myself.  Fifty-two small changes seemed doable.

52 Small Changes - One Year to a Happier, Healthier You by Brett Blumenthal did not contain any new, earth-shattering information.  What it did do was to break down, in manageable chunks, what I needed to be doing.

I have always been on the dehydrated side and now that I am in Montana which has a very dry climate, I really need to be drinking more water and that's what this book opened up on - drinking water.  So obviously I was on the right path.

Each week is broken down with what the week will focus on, or "The Change".  It includes a "Roadmap for Success" or how to best incorporate the lesson of the week into your life.  There are step by step instructions on how to go about the lesson of the week and hints and suggestions to make it easier to do so.  At the end of each week there is a "Extra Credit" section if you are already doing the thing of the week to take it to the next level.  The chapter closes with a Weekly Change Checklist so you can see where you are with making the changes.

Like I said, there is nothing earth-shattering in the book, but what I liked about it was that it was broken down in nice, neat chunks.  Instead of saying "eat better", you start off one week with starting to keep a food journal.  Then a couple of weeks later, incorporating more vegetables into your eating habits.  A couple of weeks later, more grains.  So you aren't thrown a huge overhaul at one time, but gradually making your way toward the ultimate goal of eating better and thus, as you get to Week 43, Practicing Mindful Eating.

Another thing which I found good about the book was when Blumenthal talked about stretching or strengthening your core muscles, simple illustrated exercises were included.  You weren't just left hanging on finding your own exercises.

The last chapter, or Week 52, was a bit of a surprise after all the other weeks, but it was a great culmination for the book - "Find Your Own Spirituality".  Blumenthal does not advocate any particular religion, but rather finding what gives you peace and connects you to that higher plane.

I have taken notes and will probably check the book out again from the library (or several times).  Breaking things down into small chunks like this fits in well with setting daily and weekly intentions on where I want to go and what I want to do.  

So off to fill up the water jug for the day!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Written in Red - Anne Bishop

Anne Bishop has created another world in which I would like to wander.  However, being human and considered 'meat' by The Others, would make it a short hike.

In Written in Red, an alternative Earth, Thaisia, is the setting for this world and Meg Corbyn is a cassandra sangue, or blood prophet.  By making cuts on her skin, she sees visions of the future.  This practice is both painful and euphoric.  It also means she has been locked up and controlled her whole life, learning about the world by watching videos and looking at pictures, learning so she can describe what she sees in the visions.  To her Controller, she and other blood prophets are a source of a very lucritive fortune.  But Meg manages to escape and make it to a Courtyard where she seeks to hide against recapture.

A Courtyard is a city within a city, controlled strictly by The Others, the terra indigene, and maintained to keep an eye on the humans (or monkeys, as they are called).  When Meg reaches Lakeside, she finds a job as the Human Liaison, despite Simon Wolfgard's, a shape-shifter, unease.  She's human, meat, prey, but she doesn't smell like prey and he and the other shifters can't figure her out.  

From the very first day on the job, Meg is determined to succeed where others have failed.  Mainly because it is only in the Courtyard she is safe from being returned to her Controller.  And from the first, her naive approach to The Others slowly, but surely, worms it's way into their heart and protection.  She makes sure Winter and her sisters has their books, she delivers packages to the Sanguinati (vampires with a twist) endearing herself to the head of their clan, and she gives treats to the ponies, all which in turn means that Meg is "theirs" and they protect what is "theirs".

While there are aspects of the book which are predictable, the overall read is great and Bishop has created a world which is different and fascinating.  This world in which the shifters rule and don't have to hide what they are is engaging.  A world in which a werewolf is the least of a humans worries if they anger an Elemental, or worse.

Murder of Crows is due out in March, 2014 and I am tapping my foot impatiently.  It's on pre-order already.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

City of Dark Magic

One of the worse things about working at the library and checking in books is that the pile of books beside my bed and my list of books to read keeps growing and growing.  A book which recently came through and caught by eye was City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte.  

Sarah is a musicologist working on her Ph.D and is offered a summer job in Prague, coordinating the music section of a soon-to-be opened private museum.  Since this is where her idol, Beethoven, spent some time, this was a no-brainer to accept this job.  That's when things get strange.

First, there is a dwarf who keeps appearing and making odd statements and giving her even odder articles.  There is the current prince, Max, who has inherited the estates in and around Prague and who is setting up the museum.   A young, blind musical prodigy which Sarah mentors.  Two or three murders occur.  Throw in the beautiful, but deadly, other half of Max's family and an American senator with high aspirations, some wild sex and a strange, magical drug and here is a book you can't put down.

One thing I liked about the book was the setting, Prague.  It is not unusual to get books set in Paris, London, Moscow, New York, or some obscure little town somewhere, but you don't often get cities that have been set in cities which have been behind the Iron Curtain for so long.

The best thing is that Sarah is not a dummy nor is she some shrinking violet in need of rescue.  One of the reasons she took the job was that her mentor, Professor Sherbatsky, apparently committed suicide at the palace where the museum is being set up.  She will be taking over where he left off and she wants to get to the bottom of this 'suicide', because she isn't believing it.

A fast-paced book, filled with international intrigue, sex, magic, and music, it is a book well worth reading.  What is also fun is the author, Magnus Flyte, who obviously isn't a 'real' person.  And there is this nice video which gives a little bit more information on the premise of the book. 

On an even better note (no musical pun intended), there is a sequel coming out next month, following the same characters.  I can't wait.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Styxx and Stones...

...may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.  Well, Sherrilyn Kenyon's latest just proved that saying wrong.

I am a Sherrilyn Kenyon fan.  I have several Dark-Hunter novels on my shelf which I go back and reread time and time again.  So when I saw this huge 836 page latest release was coming out, I had my name on the waiting list at the library (one of the perks of working there, first crack at the new books.)

After a painful week of reading, I only made it to page 277.  I actually wanted to stop at about 113, but kept on.  I thought there was no way she could continue to belabor the bad childhood Styxx and his twin had, but I was wrong.  It continued.  And continued.  And continued.  Don't get me wrong, I am not squeamish about a man getting gang raped, but when it happens again and again, the 'horror' of it is lost and it's just 'get on with the story already'.

Then he finds the love of his life, while he is under an assumed name.  And she hates Styxx, so he can't tell her who he is for fear she will be repulsed.  But she is under an assumed identity too.  And her real persona wants Styxx dead.  Can you tell where this is leading?

The only saving grace of this book (I flipped to the back few pages) is that Simi appears, and who can't love Simi, and that the original 1600 pages was cut to the 836 pages.  

Sorry, Simi, but even a liberal dose of BBQ sauce doesn't make this book worth reading.

Friday, July 26, 2013

It's All About Food Porn

I am going to step into a weighty subject - literally.  These two books weight about 5 pounds each.  And while you might think with all that poundage, these are candidates for an e-reader, think again.  These two books need to be savored in all their printed, full-color photographic, splendor.

I call them 'food porn' because the first thing you do is look at the pictures and drool.  Forget reading the material until you have paged through these tomes from cover to cover and back again.  Then you can read the articles.

The first book, and I'll labeled it 'R' rated, is Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel.

And this is how I was enjoying flipping through this book....

sitting on the patio in the morning with a cup of coffee and a pad to take some notes.  Notes like,  (1) I need this book, (2) I need to buy a food scale for the kitchen, (3) I need a thermometer for the oven, and (4) I need to exercise more so that I can make and eat the food made from the recipes in this book.

With brief stories on how each of the people involved in this book got to where they are, Bouchon Bakery then opens up like stepping through the doors of a bakery.  There are the cookies, tarts, cakes and breads all neatly arranged in their places.  A continuation of Sebastien Rouxel's 'cooking clean' philosophy.  

The recipes are to die for and the directions easy to follow.  However, and this is explained and stressed at the start of the book, the recipes are mainly in grams and ounces rather than cups and spoonfuls.  There is a conversion for most of the recipes, but I think I am going to have to get the scale and start measuring in order to make the breads I want to make. 

Color photographs accompany most of the recipes, but not all.  Or there is one photograph showing several different products at one time a few pages away from the recipe.  This is the only negative I have about the book.

Now for the 'X' rated book.  And this one I immediately sent a message to Savvy to get for herself and a friend (who is an avid baker and in training to become a professional baker).  It is on my Amazon wish list (if anyone would care to get it for me---my birthday is coming up you know!)

I happen to know that this book is 5.5 pounds of pure lusciousness, I weighed it.  A hot pink cover, opening this book is like opening the door of a French patisserie, in all it's brass and glass glory.  This is food porn at it's finest.

The recipes are rated according to difficulty, but with the almost step-by-step instructions it would be hard to go wrong.  Macaroons to shortbread, this book has it all and shows it to you in beautifully detailed colored photographs.  It should be illegal to make a book like this.   Little time is wasted on background, but jumps directly into the dough.  Hopefully, I will have this book in my hands, not as a library book, but as MY book by Christmas baking time.

These books make me glad I have saved and purchased two things recently - (1) a Kitchenaid stand mixer and (2) my recumbent bike!  I will be 'kneading' both. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

It's Not About the Sex Anymore

WARNING:  Potential spoilers involved.

I just finished Affliction, Laurell K. Hamilton's latest installment in the Anita Blake series.  Interesting enough, this year is 20 years of Anita Blake.  Wow, how time flies when you are having fun!

At 570 pages, this is not a 'summer read on the beach' type book. And, as usual, with all the action taking place in only 48-72 hours, you are exhausted by the time the book is over, but in a good way.  

Micah, one of Anita's main men, is called home because his father is dying a terrible death from a bite from a rotting zombie.  Anita and Nathaniel accompany him as support, also knowing their presence could cause even more family trauma.  

With a hospital full of cops (Micah's father is a sheriff) and religious zealot family members, this reunion is even more unpleasant.  Not to mention there are zombies feeding on people, people disappearing and the presence of a master vampire causing havoc.  

While Micah sees to his father and a hopeful reunion with his immediate family, Anita and her men are called upon to assist (reluctantly on both sides) local law enforcement officials in solving the latest problem.  Edward/Ted is called in when Anita is hurt (but not for long) and you know, if Edward/Ted is involved, it's going to be good.

As usual, you are lead panting along until the last 50 pages of the book.  I do have to say that while Hamilton writes some of the sexiest scenes around (and has for years - move over Shades of Grey), her story is what it is all about.  In fact, there are times I want the sex to be over (although Nicky and Dev in a shower with me---sigh) and to get back to the action.  That's the sign of a good book in my estimation.

The ending left me wrung out.  As Anita calls on her powers which have been building, you find yourself holding your breath and lending your powers so she will be successful.  Jean-Claude makes an appearance and a surprise revelation.  Some tears will be shed, both in sadness and in joy.  

The downside of this book is that after I finish it, I now want to go back and reread the last few books.  But the good news is that Hamilton is working on the next Merry Gentry book, which will be out next year.  The bad news is that I have to go back and reread those too.  And they are all in storage.

Monday, July 22, 2013

An Embarrassment of Books

Between a couple of trips to Sam's Warehouse Club and Costco and the discovery of the Helena Library I am up to my ears in books - literally......

This doesn't count the two on my bedside table I am currently reading or the ton that I have on my Kindle to read.  And school starts in about 3 weeks, so I will have books there to read.  Now to fit reading time into my schedule....

Monday, June 17, 2013

Not So Beautiful

I enjoy reading young adult fiction.  Some of the best stories are being written for teens.  Think the Harry Potter, the Hunger Game books and the Twilight series (yes I read the books, didn't see the movies--vampires don't sparkle).  However, I do read these YA books with the understanding that there will probably be a certain amount of teenage angst.  So like I did books when I first started reading Harlequin romances as a young teen (when I had read just about everything else in the library), I just skip over all the 'angsty' parts and continue on my way.

I had seen the movie trailer for Beautiful Creatures and was interested, especially since Jeremy Irons was in it.  I made it through the first book relatively unscathed.  Then I started the second and third books.  And I plan on reading the fourth book, simply because I have so much invested in the story not to finish it up.

But the amount of angst going on in these books could have turned 3 books into 1 book if most of it was cut out.  Currently, I am so tired of Ethan and Lena's hand holding (or not) and sighing as they try to not let the world as we know it end.  So I am waiting a bit before I buy Beautiful Redemption as any more 'emo' would probably send me over the edge.

As things stand now, Gatlin (the town the books are set in) is in the grasp of a drought and grasshoppers and things are destined to become worse unless Ethan and Lena can solve the puzzle and figure out how to put things to right which were undone with her claiming on her 16th birthday.  Things are definitely not as they should be and Gatlin has become the battleground between the Light and Dark Casters and all those who know about them.  At the end of book 3, Ethan has solved the puzzle, but at what cost.

The story is good and because of that I will continue the series.  I survived raising two girls through their teenage years, so I know I can survive reading book four.  However, it will be done with a lot of skipped pages as I wade through all the emotion and sighing going on.  Thus is the peril of reading YA fiction. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Frozen Heat Sizzles

I am usually very skeptical about books which are turned into movies or television shows.  Where I am disappointed is when I like the book and the show turns out nothing like what I have read.  Now I will give a nod to "Game of Thrones", the Harry Potter movies, Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.  But normally they fare so-so at best.


Being a big Castle fan (the television show or maybe it is just Nathan Fillion), I had been reluctant to try the books that the show is based on.  Or is it the books that the show is based on the books being written on the show?  

Anyway, needing something to read (like a hole in my head), I picked up this paperback, figuring I would give it a try.  This is book number 4 in the series and the main character is Nikki Heat which in the TV show Kate Beckett is based on.  Or rather Kate Beckett is the person Nikki Heat in the books is based on.  Confusing, I know.  And that was my problem throughout the book.  I kept getting the book and the TV show confused, but not in a bad way.  It just kept flashing through my mind as I was reading. (And Nathan Fillion flashing through your mind is definitely not a bad thing!)

Despite having deja vu while reading and despite starting with book four in the series, this was a great read.  In fact, I would caution anyone reading the book not to get to the last 100 pages or so and have it be near their bedtime.  They are going to stay awake until it's finished and then be up longer with an adrenaline rush.  Remembering to breath is also a requirement as you find yourself holding it because you can't read fast enough.

Much like Kate in the TV show, Nikki's mother was murdered 10 years earlier.  And now a murder of a French national in New York has ties to that murder.  Not only does Nikki have to unravel two murders at the same time, but with each clue she learns things about her mother she never knew.  Her piano teaching mother had been on the edge of a concert career and gave it up, but why?

From New York to Boston to Paris and back, Nikki Heat and Jameson Rook team up to solve the murders.  Jameson, like Richard Castle on the TV show, is a writer and is a pseudo-partner with Nikki. His prodding helps unfold decade old answers to questions and the ending is just the beginning of another question.

By only problem with the I have to go get books 1-3 and wait for the next one to come out.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Too Much On My Nightstand

I am currently in Montana and my Kindle is back in North Carolina.  And while I do have the app on my iPad, it is a little bulky to read in bed with.  Part of me can't give up my good old paper books anyway.  And you would think I would have more time to read these days being retired.  However, having a 1 month old to care for (at least part time) seems to take up a lot of time.

 So this is my bedside table at the present time.  I have a couple of other books I am in the process of reading also, but these were recently added.  Darn Sam's Club and their discounted book prices!
Being a fan of the Castle TV show, I thought I would try an actual book from the show.  Or is that a book the show is based on.  I also really enjoy a lot of the fiction coming out that is label "Young Adult" reading.  Their fantasy books are really good.  Think Hunger Games and the Harry Potter series.  Therefore, the Beautiful Creatures series was added to the pile.  Since I am almost through The Song of Fire and Ice books by George R. R. Martin, I though I would add some of his other writings to the pile.

While part of me says the Stephanie Plum books are getting a bit rote, I still can't give up the giggles I get from reading these books.  I am actually am saving this for later in the pile, a treat for a rainy day.

And to not just fill my head up with 'mush', I have an extensive manual for my new camera so that I can learn all the ends and outs.  I have a LONG way to go on fully utilizing this book.  It will stay at hand for quite a while.

But this is what I am actually currently reading.  Patricia Briggs and Diana Gabaldon I have read before, and it is edited by George R. R. Martin (which I didn't really pick up on until I got the book home with the others).  Very "Urban Noire" as he calls it.  It is dark fantasy in an urban setting.  I think when I saw Patricia Briggs I was expecting a bit more romance in the stories, but not the case.  I have, however, found a couple of authors I now want to go back and read some of their books.

So many books, so little time.  

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Time Untime Not Timely

Sherrilyn Kenyon is one of those authors I follow and have pretty much read everything she has published.  And with the move to Montana and having to sit in a house with no internet and no one else here but me and the dogs, I picked this book up at the grocery store.  And dropped it into the bath as I started reading it.  That should have been an indication of my feelings about this book.  

I love the whole Dark Hunter series and the storyline behind them.  This book was about Dark Hunters, but these Dark Hunters came from North America instead of coming over from Europe.  So there was a lot of Native America and Mayan lore included in the book.  Normally, I would have found all that information interesting, but not this time.  I have missed a couple of books recently which probably set up the characters in the book, so I will have to go back and see what I have missed, but you can read the book without that information.  But it would be interesting to read more about Dark Hunters based on Mesoamerica.  

The first half to two-thirds of the book just seemed to ramble on and on about nothing in particular.  I know it was setting the scene for the crisis of saving the world from ending, but it was just a bunch of 'nothing'.  It did not hold my interest and about three-fourths of it could have been left out and still moved the story along.  The main characters seemed a little flat and their story a bit contrived to fit the plot.

I was really disappointed with this book from Kenyon.  However, I will still read the next book she puts out and reread the older ones.  After all, not everyone can bat a thousand. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Coming Soon!

This is where I will post about what I am reading, good or bad, and what I am writing, good or bad.  So stay tuned for further updates.