Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What I've Been Up to...

I have a couple of projects under way, one is a quilt and a new tutu for Ava.  Once I am finished, I will have to post pictures and a tutorial!  What I have mostly been up to this past week though, is reading.  Sometimes I get obsessed with a series or book, and I just can't stop... not even to post on my blog!  Between last week Wednesday night and Saturday night, I read 6 books.  The good news, is that means I am back on track with my Goodreads challenge!  The bad news is that although I really loved this series, a lot people I know would not be into these because they are considered paranormal fantasy.  I am an indiscriminate reader, however, and I enjoy pretty much every genre of book.  It is rare that I find a book I do not like.

With that disclaimer, I will review the series as a whole, rather than each book separately.  The series I read was the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning.  I would classify this as a paranormal/supernatural fantasy series, also as a supernatural romance, although the romance part is different from your typical romance novel.  The series also has a apocalyptic edge to it.

This series surrounds MacKayla, or Mac for short, who travels to Ireland to try to find out more information about her sister's murder after receiving a frantic voicemail from her the night that she died.  Upon arriving in Ireland, Mac starts asking questions that land her in a bit of trouble, and she meets Jericho Barrons.  Jericho becomes a mentor of sorts, and begins to show Mac the way of the sidthe seer or a person who is able to see the Fae.  Ok... now don't roll your eyes... yes I said Fae.  Not the tinkerbell fairies, but the Fae of Irish lore.  I told you this is a fantasy novel.  Anyway, throughout the series, we follow Mac as she finds our more about the Fae, and about herself as one who can see the Fae.  We watch Mac as she grows from a sorority sister type who wears pink to someone a little more grown up, with the weight of the world on her shoulders.  We watch her struggle to find a way to save the world from a growing population of Fairy who are threatening her world, while trying to wade through a web of lies, deceit, and hidden agendas.  Barrons grows in his ability to trust Mac, and as someone with a hefty dose of... shall we say, "tension" with how he feels about Mac.  Throw, V'Lane in there as the Fae who is also competing for some of Mac's attention, along with an undercurrent of suspicion for all of the characters and their motives, and you have a series that is hard to put down.

I thought Moning did a good job developing characters.  The characters grow and change throughout the series, so the people you see in the beginning of the series are not the same characters by the fifth book.  She also does a great job with world-building, so you feel like you can see the Dublin that Mac is living in.  Moning is a master of plot twists and turns galore, you are kept on your toes and wanting more.  The story line is interesting and involving.  That being said, these are not young adult novels... they are adult fantasy fiction, so there are some elements of the book that some might find disturbing.  There is quite a bit of sexuality throughout, as apparently this is part of who the Fae are.  Now I did not have a problem with this, but I know some people do not like books that have this in there.  I suppose one could also make an argument against the sexualization of Mac, and what another reviewer called the "romanticizing of an overly aggressive alpha male" in Barrons, but really I felt that Mac was smart, despite her looks, and Barrons always had an undercurrent of "otherness" that sort of made me look past all of his alpha male-ness.  That and the description of how good looking most of the male characters in this book were, made me look past all of the potential negatives  :)  I really enjoyed this series, and am glad I picked a book that was one of the top books in the Goodreads Choice Awards 2011 (it was # 2 out of all the books, and rated the #1 best Paranormal).

So having enjoyed the Fever series so much, I also picked up the first book of her Highlander series.  It was supposed to have an element of paranormal in it, some time travel, and romance... so I thought it would be right up my alley.  Unfortunately, after reading the Fever series, this book really sort of fell flat for me.  I have heard that beginning with the fourth book, these series pick up, so I may go back... eventually.  I rated this as two stars.  Mostly a typical romance novel with not too much substance... lacking character development and a bit of a boring story line.  Overall not the type of book I usually read unless I am out of books and it is free :)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The 2012 Goodreads Challenge & my first book reviews this year.

I love to read. LOVE. So this year my goal is to read 65 books by the end of the year.  I know, crazy!  But last year I read 52 books, and I actually thought it was a little too easy for me, so I thought I should step it up a bit this year.  I have a little widget over on the side to track my progress on here.

I am not going to lie, I sort of regret putting 65 down... because that is 13 books more than I read last year... and 13 is a lot!  Especially because I usually have weird rules about what I read.  For example, I don't like to read books that are less than 300 pages.  Obviously I make exceptions, but to purchase a 200 page book is a waste of money, because I am done with it in an hour.  Another reason I am regretting the 65 is because I have been reading the Game of Throne series by George R.R. Martin, and it is holding me up! I am about half way through A Dance With Dragons, but it is taking me forever.  I had to put it aside to read a few books so I didn't look like such a slacker.

So what have I been reading? Well, this past week I have finished three books:
The first is The Winter Sea, by Susanna Kearsley.

I rated it with four stars.  This book was right up my alley:  Love story, historical fiction, Scottish people... what wouldn't I like about that?  As I said, this is a historical fiction- centered around one of the lesser known Jacobite Rebellions (think Scottish-British throne wars in the 1700s, trying to restore the House of Stewart).  I liked that it was a dual love story, and that it covered a dual-time period (not really time-travel as some have called it).  The story is told by an author, Carrie McClelland, who herself is writing a novel about the Jacobites, and travels to Scotland for some inspiration.  While there, she a has visions (or memories) of the event through the perspective of a woman named Sophia, and weaves the tale of her love story into her novel.  Carrie and Sophia's stories become intertwined and really come together nicely in the end.  I thought Kearsley did a great job with the historical research for this novel, so fans of History will not be disappointed. Although I really enjoyed this book, there was one part of the novel that I completely hated!  It made me lie awake at night thinking about it because I just could not fathom it.  I won't say more than that, but if you read this book, I bet you will agree :)  Altogether I would recommend this book, and plan to read other works by this author.

The second book I finished was Smokin' Seventeen by Janet Evanovitch

This is the 17th installment in the Stephanie Plum series, and boy does it show!  I loved these books at first... in fact, I often find myself reading the stories over through about number 12 when I am out of new books to read.  But after 12, the series has really tanked.  Yes, there are a couple funny parts, but Smokin' Seventeen has been the least humorous of all of the books.  I am personally a bit of a Ranger fan, and there is a little bit of Ranger-Stephanie action in this book that held my interest for a few pages, but other than that I was sort of bored.  Evanovitch literally uses the same lines and explanations in all of her books... so once you get to number 17... you are like, "yes, I know Joe Morelli is a cop with an attitude" and "yes, I know Ranger has a dark side" and "yes, I know Ranger might use less than legal means to get his cars"... I could go on.  Honestly I think Janet writes these books in an hour there are so many repeats.  And as much as I have enjoyed the majority of this series, I think it is time for it to come to an end.  I recommend the series, but I would get this book from the library... there is nothing so earth shattering that one would need to run out to get this one until it hits the bargain stacks.

Finally, I finished The Witch's Daughter by Paula Brackston last night.

I rated this book 3 stars.  I have to say that it really took me awhile to get into this book.  For me it picked up when Elizabeth begins to tell her story.  We learn of Elizabeth in modern day, when she befriends a teenage girl named Teagen.  Elizabeth herself is on the run from her one time mentor, Gideon, the one who helped her transform into the witch she has become.  Elizabeth's story begins in the 1600's when her village suffered from the plague.  Then known as Bess, she was spared due to her mother's witchcraft, something her mother made a bargain with Gideon in order to learn.  Bess' mother was found guilty of witchcraft, and asks Bess to survive... Bess' story brings her through different time periods, all during her struggle to remain free of Gideon.  Overall, I did eventually enjoy this book.  It is a bit on the dark side, and I would not characterize this as a love story.  I would recommend this book to those who enjoy books about the Salem witches, and those interested in paranormal.

I will keep plugging away at A Dance With Dragons, but plan to also begin another book later tonight.  Stay tuned for my next book reviews next week!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Motivation Monday- Steering Myself in the Right Direction

I have brains in my head, and for once I used them today to make a smart choice about my lunch.  Because when it all boils down to it, that is really what weight loss is all about.  Making smart decisions.

I had gone out seeking Chinese food for lunch, and was going to go to Panda Express... I know... might as well have gone to McDonald's.   And yes, I know that there are Chinese food places around that steam your food, or will omit cornstarch... and you can choose the vegetarian dishes and opt for brown rice.  But I forgot my coat at home and it was 35 degrees out, so I wanted to drive through.  When I pulled up to the Panda Express, it reminded me that a Fruitful Yield had gone in next door.  Full of organic foods, and much better options than mystery meat.  So, as I began to pull into the drive though, I said to myself, "make the better choice".  And I did.  I whipped my little car right around, parked, and walked into Fruitful Yield where I bought myself a frozen organic lunch that was about 300 calories.  Just think of what it would have been if I had chosen the double entree at Panda!

I know I have just not been in the mood for working on my weight loss lately... I have been hungry, and tired, and cold!  But today I used my brain to steer myself in the direction of my choosing.  The smart direction, the direction that will lead me down the path to losing weight.

Friday, February 3, 2012

New Look- How to Create a Banner

Since I haven't been doing such a good job on improving myself lately, I thought maybe my blog could use a little face lift!  I have wanted to make a new banner for my title for awhile now, but still don't have the pictures taken for what banner design I had in mind, so I thought I could do something EVEN BETTER, and make my banner be all pictures of Ava for now :)

It is really easy to change your banner... I used Picasa in order to create it.  All I did was use the collage function, and resized the pictures to only take up about the top quarter of the space.  You have to stretch and scale them a bit to make them the right size.  I then used the text box function in order to add my blog's title under the photos... they have an amazing selection of fonts to use.  You can also edit in Picnik (FYI Piknik is going away in April) to add words, effects, but I just used Picasa itself.  You then crop your image to just your banner and save it. When you save it to your computer, you will likely need to choose the export option.  Make sure your size is 1024 pixels if you have a regular template for Blogger, if you have a smaller template, you may have to re-export and try the 600 or 800 size pixels.

To change your title on Blogger, you select Design, and go to your header.  When you click Edit, you will have the option to check "instead of title and description", and then can upload your photo that you just exported.  Make sure you do not do any resizing or select shrink to fit.

Wallah!  A new banner for your blog that looks a little more fancy and a lot cuter :)  Once I have more pictures I can change up my banner however and whenever I would like!

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Whew! I feel like I have been in a backwards slide this past week!  I keep forgetting to weigh myself in the morning, so have not been able to post my weight this week.  According to the night time reading last night, it appears I have not lost any weight... which in no way surprises me.  I am in a huge funk!  I just don't want to exercise, I have been really craving sugar... sugar... and more sugar, and then salt... salt... and more salt!  I am not kidding, the night before last, I had pop corn and ice cream for dinner. (Yes... I know, this is not good.)

Something to think about: