Monday, April 7, 2014

A Quick Notice

Hey guys,

I have injured my wrist and am going to need to bow out of the A to Z challenge. I will be back and posting stuff as soon as I can--thanks to A to Z I have tons of topics I want to discuss and books I want to review.

Thanks for your time. Talk to you soon! :)

My Five Favorite Fast Food Fixes

So, this was suppose to be a review of Frozen. But I didn't get a chance to get the DVD, so I'll improvise.

Some of you probably already know that I *love* fast food. But I thought today, since I need a quick and easy post since the one I had planned didn't happen, that I'd share with you a few of my favorite things.

#5: KFC's Toasted Wrap

It's a small, straightforward thing. A chicken strip, lettuce, and pepper mayo wrapped in a toasted tortilla. I like to add bacon and cheese to them. I think I pay something like $2.50 each. If I grab a few of these and a drink, they make a nice meal. Plus, we have a KFC locally that will deliver to my house, so they're convenient.

#4 McDonald's French Fries

As long as they are hot, I think that McDonalds have the best fries around. Crispy, satisfying and capable of making me want to eat just one more, they are one of the things that I most look forward to when I go to McDonalds for food. Clearly there's a reason those golden arches are such an iconic part of their business.

#3: Orange Julius Berry Pomegranate Smoothie

I actually discovered this on accident. I normally order strawberry banana smoothies when I get one from any store, but when I heard that Orange Julius (via Dairy Queen here) had a smoothie with pomegranates, I was curious. Pomegranate seeds play an important role in Sealer's Promise, so I wanted to get an idea what the fruit tasted like. Well... I still can't attest to pomegranate (since there are other berries here, too.) But I can tell you I'm totally hooked on this smoothie. My parents went out of their way on our trip to Watertown to find a store that sells these when we went across the border last month.

#2: Dairy Queen Chocolate Covered Strawberries Waffle Bowl Sundae

First up, I won't lie: this thing is expensive. But it's big, it's absolutely decadent, and if I had to pick an item on this list that you all need to try NOW, this would be the one. I've only had this Sundae once. I was out with Shawn, Kate, and Jay. But oh my God I want it again (and I'm sure I'll get to have it when Jay visits.) The flavors here make sense and I suppose it could be argued that this Sundae plays it safe. But when you add the fact that you get to eat the waffle, which is covered in vanilla, chocolate, and strawberries at the end, it just takes this whole thing to another level. Yum!

#1: Wendy's Junior Bacon Cheeseburger

I know what you're probably thinking: "Really?!". The JBC is one of Wendy's value items, not one of their (admittedly delicious) premium high end burgers. Yet 9 times outta 10, if I'm ordering Wendy's this is the burger (well burgers--I usually get two) that I want. Why? I hate messy burgers and the JBC keeps things manageable while still giving me all my favorite things. Plus, I'm more likely to eat the veggies on a JBC, where I'll usually order without or pick 'em off any other burger. Lastly, since I tend to buy two of these, I get to enjoy the actual flavor of what I'm eating longer--again, without worrying that it's getting all over my hands. For me, the JBC is the hamburger equivalent of Baby Bear's porridge. It's just right.
So, what's your favorite fast food, and why? Feel free to share! 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Review: Eternal Rider by Larissa Ione

*This is not YA.

I've looked at the Lords of Deliverance series several times in the past couple years, thought, "Gee, I should read that.", and then went "Nope, not until Sealer's Promise is written." Well the good news, for you and me, is that I caved.

The first book in the series, Eternal Rider, isn't the one I really want to get my hands on. But I'm very much a "start at the beginning" kinda girl when it comes to series. Yes, I realize there are book prior to this from the Demonica series, and now that I'm done this I'm tempted to go back. But still... Starting here was smarter than starting with Lethal Rider or Rogue Rider, right?

Curious what I thought of Eternal Rider? Read on and find out. :)
(Summary from GoodReads)
They are here. They ride. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

His name is Ares, and the fate of mankind rests on his powerful shoulders. If he falls to the forces of evil, the world falls too. As one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, he is far stronger than any mortal, but even he cannot fight his destiny forever. Not when his own brother plots against him.

Yet there is one last hope. Gifted in a way other humans can't-or won't-understand, Cara Thornhart is the key to both this Horseman's safety and his doom. But involving Cara will prove treacherous, even beyond the maddening, dangerous desire that seizes them the moment they meet. For staving off eternal darkness could have a staggering cost: Cara's life.
When I sat down to read Eternal Rider, I did so with two questions in mind. (1) How long will it take me to get to the book that made me want to read this series? and (2) Can this author write? That may sound really cold, but I've read a LOT of PNR, and it is my "home" genre. It's what *I* write. So yeah, I won't lie: I'm tough on books I read here, just as I (hope) I am on my own work. 

The good news? Eternal Rider totally rocked. Of the four books I've read by this author, I actually liked Cara the most out of the heroines I met. And while Ares was not my favorite hero, he was up there and I did enjoy him. Plus, the way that the rest of the horsemen, and a wide variety of other characters, were intermixed into the story added a level of richness and 'life' / 'world' / 'lore' that really kept my interest. 

Oh, and I loved the Hellhounds! They play a really cool role in this book and I found it refreshing and interesting. It goes very well with the concept that this series seems to spin around, which is pretty much the idea that any creature--angels, demons, humans, etc--can be good or evil. I won't tell you what our furry, slobbery friends actually do here, but I will say that if you love stories where animals--mythological or otherwise--play a great role, this is a book you'll want to read. 

On the other hand, if you're not a fan of scorching hot sex scenes, this is probably best avoided. It's a crying shame since the book was both really thrilling and really fun, but the truth is the truth. Further, this is one of those books where the sex was, in many cases, there for sex's sake. It wasn't *too* bad, but it was noticeable. 
Original, sexy, and fun, Eternal Rider was a book that I could not put down. If you are a paranormal romance fan and haven't read this yet, I'd highly recommend that you check it out. Please be aware that the Lords of Deliverance series is a spin-off of the Demonica series. I jumped in and did okay, but I'm pretty sure certain things would have been even better if I had read from the very beginning. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Discussion: Do You DNF Books?

DNF. These three letters, used together, are something I often see cited as a book blogger mark of shame. In the book blogger world they stand for "did not finish", and when we use them we are talking about not completing a book we have started. Scandalous!

I'm going to tell you all something shocking: I DNF books. A lot. And I'm in absolutely no way sorry.

There are a million reasons that I might decide not to continue reading something. A few examples:

-- A love interest is seeking romance while still in a relationship.

-- A book is about something other than what I thought it was, or it isn't delivering on the aspect of what I thought it was about that I started reading it *for*.

-- The writer's style and my tastes as a reader totally clash, making me unable to get sucked in.

-- The lead character(s) unintentionally annoy me or bore me.

-- A book has extreme, repetitive, and pointless cruelty to small animals.

-- A book comes across as 'preachy', 'propaganda', or 'manipulative'.

-- I think I need to pin my eyes open if I want to stay awake and keep reading. (Again, I'm bored!)

As a blogger, I can somewhat empathize with why others have issues with quitting a book. Especially if it's an ARC. But at the same time... How are you going to know you will like that book when you approve it for review? If you reach a point where you already know you hate the thing, what are you really gaining from reading more? If you wish you didn't have to finish, are you even the right person to be reading it?

And the gray area becomes much less apparent when I think as a writer. Having people read my work is a gift, an honor, and a privilege. At the same time, one of the first things anyone who wants to write has to learn that some people--hell, maybe even most people--with either not like your work or flat out won't care. That probably sounds kinda callous and disrespectful toward my work, my characters, and other writers. But the need to develop thick skin about this aspect of writing is absolutely crucial.

So, are you curious to see a few of the books I've DNF'd since starting I Write, I Read, I Review? I've picked out three that stand out. (Ironically they are all varying takes on paranormal, which is what I write. Go figure.)

Alice In Zombieland by Gena Showalter -- This one kinda breaks my heart. Gena Showalter is one of my favorite authors. Has been for years. So to not like her YA title, much less not to finish it, was almost devastating. There is a very pivotal shift in Alice's character that actually made me literally wall-toss this book. I think I've maybe, actually, done that three times in my entire life. I'm tempted to go back and see whether there is eventually an explanation for the shift that made me so angry, but I haven't had the courage to yet. (DNF'd at approximately 25%)

Splintered by A.G. Howard -- I was so sad when I didn't end up finishing this one, but it did something that made me unable to like the heroine. She's going totally batty for her already-taken friend. I don't care if his GF is the biggest bitch on earth. I just couldn't muster any respect for a girl who is hanging onto feelings for someone she cannot have. Move on! Seriously! (And my money says they'll get together. Her weakness + the cliche bitchy gf + my theory = pass!) (DNF'd at between 25 - 30%)

Indelible by Dawn Metcalf -- How did this graduate from being a Kindle sample to a full purchase? I'm sorry if that's harsh, but I really wish I could remember *why*. You see, that's the problem. I actually cannot remember a single thing about this book, except that I DNF'd it because I was bored. So very, very bored. (DNF'd at approximately 20-25%)
So, do you DNF books? Does it bother you when you do? What things will make you stop reading something? I'd love to know! 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

I Love Contemporary YA!

There are two genres that make up the largest bulk of what I read and I'll be covering both this month. Since Contemporary starts with a C, it gets to go first.

Why I Love Contemporary YA: 

What makes Contemporary novels so compelling to me is that sometimes, things that could happen in real life are even more fascinating to me than things that happen strictly in the realms of fantasy or paranormal. Further, as a writer who mostly focuses on speculative fiction, I feel that my own work is enriched by an enhanced awareness and sensitivity to the things people face every day. Hidden demons that might not get as much time as vampires and werewolves but which are much more frighteningly real.

Then, of course, there is the opportunity to, though a book, essentially borrow a character's life. To experience what it would have been like to have a date for prom. To see how someone else's pre-college preparations may have differed from my own. Through contemporary, I can insert myself into any social group, situation, etc. without the need for a time machine or even having to leave the comfort of my chair. Pretty powerful stuff, I'd say.

So today I'm going to post a few trios of books. I'll list my top three contemporary recommendations. I'll share three books by beloved authors that I can't wait to read. And I'll list three books by new-to-me authors that I'm totally dying to check out.

My Must Reads:

I've read tons of contemporary YA that I totally love, and if I tried to list all of it I'd be here all day. Since neither of us have time for that, I've narrowed it down to these three.

Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles -- While I love the entire Perfect Chemistry series, Carlos and Kiara's book was my favorite. Probably because Carlos is a bit of a rebel, and Kiara reminded me a bit of me.

Waiting For The Storm by Marie Landry -- A beautiful story of surviving the worst and learning to truly live again. Love, family, friendship... This book has many of the things that make contemporary such a compelling genre.

Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens -- This book is equal parts harrowing and hopeful. I absolutely loved the characters (and damn did I ache for them!). Despite all that happens in this book, it is one where I did not want the story to end.

My Most Wanted:

This is kinda unfair, since these are all from authors I've read and loved. I was going to do a category for authors I want to try, but I'm behind on this and I want to go to bed!

After The Storm by Marie Landry -- The next book in the Angel Island series. This one is from Ella's point of view. Considering how she was in Waiting For The Storm, I can't wait to see how she will be here and whether she will be able to win readers over.

Played by Liz Fichera -- Sequel to Hooked, which was one of my favorite contemporary novels last year. I've been waiting a LONG time for this one and I absolutely cannot wait to read it!

I'll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson -- Jandy's first book, The Sky Is Everywhere, isn't just one of my favorite contemporary novels. It's one of my favorite novels *ever*. So when I discovered that she has a new book coming out this year, there was no way it wasn't getting on this list.
So, what are your favorite contemporary YA novels? Which ones are you excited for this year? I'd love to know. :) 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Top 5 Book Buying Habits

My book buying habits have changed a lot from when I started as a blogger, to various milestones I've had in the time I've written my blog, to where I am today. As part of the A to Z challenge I thought it might be fun to share five things about my current book buying habits, as of right here, right now.

1. My Kindle is my go-to device. I never thought that I would EVER feel this way, but after buying a copy of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell in November and then realizing I couldn't see it properly to read it, I got very serious about what I actually bring home from a bookstore vs. what I buy off . I love having the ability to alter the font. It saves me from unwanted surprises.

2. Summaries / back blurbs decide whether I will buy a book or approve a review request. I'm all for a good cover and a catchy title, but it's what I read on the back of the book that will make or break my decision. Especially for people contacting me for reviews. I'm sure as heck not a back blurb guru, but it's something I've spent time learning about and something I've gotten pretty good at using to spot books I'll want to read--and books I won't.

3. Now that I buy digitally (mostly) I buy my books one at a time. I use to buy gigantic hauls of books going to chapters, and on rare occasion I still will. But for the most part I prefer to buy a book, read a book. I found that having too many books unread on my shelves actually made me feel like I was under a lot of pressure to get to them, even when they weren't ARCs. So I'm trying to get that a lot more under control.

4. I've finally remembered that I read for me. You'll probably notice that I have four reviews from books in one series this month. I read all four of those in less than a week. Why? Because that's what I wanted to read. If I want to read, the whole reading thing goes a LOT faster than if I'm trying to analyze what should go up on my blog next. Reading to review, rather than reviewing what I read, nearly destroyed my interest in reading. I'm being very careful how I proceed and I take getting the order right (read > review) very seriously.

5. Despite all this, I have not lost my appreciation for print books. I still think they are totally beautiful. I still cannot wait to hold a copy of my own book in my hands. I still buy certain types of books in print, and I still buy print copies of books I love. I'm just a lot more choosy about what goes on my shelves.
So, what are your book buying habits? Have they changed since you started blogging? During your blogging journey? I'd love to know! 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Music Review: Artpop by Lady Gaga

It took me a while to get into Lady Gaga. I think it was six months or so after her last album, Born This Way, released that I actually bought it. After loving songs like "Born This Way", "Judas", "Fashion of His Love", "You and I" and "Electric Chapel" I was ready to see what Gaga's new album would have in store.

For the most part, Artpop does not disappoint.

Unlike Born This Way, which had an underlying religious theme which Gaga toyed with in some way during pretty much every song, Artpop's most standout feature, right at first listen, is definitely sexuality. But to simply say that and walk away would be to sell this album short. I can't speak for everyone--music is a really subjective thing--but this is either as good as Born This Way, or even better, as far as I am concerned.

My favorite tracks on the album are "G.U.Y.", "Mancure" and "Swine".

"G.U.Y." had me at it's opening. I initially thought it was "Greetings from Eros..." but the lyrics are actually "Greetings, Himeros / God of sexual desire / son of Aphrodite..." . How can you knock a song where, rather than being about or from a God or Goddess, the piece actually addresses the deity point blank? I don't actually care that I, who have done my fair share of Greek myth studies, didn't recognize him. When I'm working on Sealer's Promise, where many of my ladies are mortal and my guys aren't, this song becomes a pretty much add to playlist instant choice.

"Mancure" was the song that immediately made me decide to buy the album. It's not an extremely deep piece of music, but it's high energy and within ten seconds it produced a scene in my head that ended up leading me to write the entire outline of one of my novellas. Some people might be annoyed by lyrics such as "put your hands all over my bodyparts", but if you can try not to take it too seriously, the song is catchy and a lot of fun.

As for "Swine", what makes it great is the strong beat going on underneath it and the way that it works with the lyrics to put forth a really angry but energetic aura--both anger at a person *and* self anger. Not every time we are attracted to someone, or have someone be attracted to us, is a good thing and while Swine doesn't go too into that, it captures a raw and honest reaction very well.

The rest of the album isn't a slouch, either. "Aura", "Venus", "Do What You Want", "Artpop", "Donatella", "Dope", "Gypsy" and "Applause" are all varying levels of great and for the most part I can listen to this whole album without needing to skip...too much.

What songs bring it down? "Jewels and Drugs" is Gaga with some rappers in a trainwreck of a piece where she sounds like she is guesting on her own album. It doesn't go with anything else. Pass. "Sex Dreams" isn't entirely horrible. I think it's kinda clever how it could be interpreted as being two bi women attracted to each other because of how she does the song in two pitches making it sound like they are singing to each other. But it's not my kinda thing. As for "Fashion"? A beautiful intro leads to a song that does absolutely nothing for me. And the same goes for "Mary Jane Holland"--even a reference to Apollo can't save this one, folks. :p

Overall, I'm extremely pleased with my purchase of Artpop and I',m really glad that I bought it. If you like Lady Gaga and have her other albums, I can see no reason why you wouldn't want to add this to your collection.

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