Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Book Review: Colin Preston Rocked and Rolled by Bert Murray

Hi everyone!

I've had a super productive day today, so I thought I'd add a blog post as the cherry on top!

Seriously, though. It's been ridiculous. I signed up for a boot-camp type class at the college where I work. WOW. I am extremely out-of-shape and sore, but it feels so good when I'm done! The class meets on Wednesdays and Fridays from 6-7 am. So, I got up at 5:20 (because I make the 8-minute trek to the college by foot) and got ready for the class. We did stations, and I got quite the workout! I came home, showered and got ready for work. Then I decided to fold a large load of laundry before running off for work. During my lunch break, I did my grocery shopping/couponing for the week and ran a few more errands. I went back to work, and came home at a decent time. I rested for a bit, then took a 90-minute exam for one of my classes. And now? I'm still energized. Darn it! That's where this blog comes in.

Earlier this week, I completed Bert Murray's Colin Preston Rocked and Rolled. I have to admit that I entered the Goodreads giveaway for this at least 5 times, and was a little frantic about finding a (reasonably priced) copy as soon as possible. I was convinced this was a book I had to have. I came across the Kindle version one day on Amazon for only $0.99, and didn't even blink before hitting "buy". This was, I believed, the book for me. Here's the Goodreads description:

Meet Colin Preston.
19 years old and a student at Elerby University in upstate New York.
He drinks too much.
Lives for the Beatles, John Lennon and classic rock.
Falls for the most beautiful sophomore on campus.
His life is about to change forever.
Funny. Moving. Honest. Raw.
An entertaining coming of age novel about friendship, music, first love and betrayal. 

I know the description sounds vague, but I really love coming-of-age novels centered around the personal growth and development of college students, regardless of generation. Therefore, I had to have it! 

This was a quick enough read. It's gotten great reviews. But to be honest? There was nothing remarkable about it. It's so unremarkable that I didn't even know what to put in my review. The characters are so-so. Slightly under-developed, but not to where it ruins the story. The storyline is predictable and typical, but the epilogue was lacking. Overall, my low rating is simply because this book was nothing special to me. It was an OK read, but I'll likely have forgotten about it within a few weeks. And unfortunately, this little paragraph is all I have to say about it; it was that lame. Would I recommend it? To put it in current college student terms: "meh"

Here's what I've got for numbers:
Colin Preston Rocked and Rolled by Bert Murray
Rating: 2/5
Pages: 251
2012 Reading Goal: 5,640/15,000 

So, readers, aside from running around like crazy and playing catch-up (like I always somehow happen to do in the spring), I'm squeezing a bit of reading in here and there. I'd love to view your input in the poll below, so I can blog more about things YOU are interested in.

Scrat is basically my favorite Ice Age character. LOVE! :)
In the meantime, have a great rest of your week, readers! And remember, it's almost Friday! :)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Book Review: The Rain Before it Falls by Jonathan Coe

Happy Saturday, readers!

I hope you're all having a lovely weekend so far! The weather here yesterday was a BEAUTIFUL 75 degrees and sunny. Today it's been on-and-off overcast, so a good day to get some reading (and cleaning!) done.

Last week, I started on The Rain before it Falls by Jonathan Coe. I received this book as a gift for Christmas 2010 from my brother and sister-in-law. They gifted me a lovely stack of about 14 books, which is the perfect gift for a book lover like me! I also believe reading the variety of books is good to get me out of my comfort zone, which I often need. I love Patterson, King, and Picoult, but I really need to get out there and expand my literary boundaries.

Anyway, I picked this book up after scrolling through my TBR-bookshelf list, where my mouse cursor landed on it. Here's the description from Goodreads:

As a young girl, Rosamond is sent to Shropshire to escape the Blitz. Here, in the countryside, she forms a close bond with her older cousin, Beatrix, a young woman haunted by anger and resentment.

Sixty years later, just before her death, Rosamond records her memories on cassettes, addressing them to a distant cousin—a near stranger-named Imogen. As Gill, her beloved niece, listens to these tapes, a heart—stopping family saga is revealed. In this masterful portrait of three generations of woman, Jonathan Coe exposes the profound reserves of hope and loss within the lives of ordinary woman.

 I found myself really drawn by the premise of this novel. The reader meets Rosamond through her voice, just as Imogen would have done, as she is blind. We begin by following Gill, Rosamond's niece, shortly after Rosamond's death. Gill comes across recorded tapes Rosamond had made for Imogen to listen to. Imogen, who Gill had only met once, had a strange connection to Gill's aunt Rosamond. In an attempt to find Imogen, Gill listens to the tapes.

It was an extremely interesting perspective, to have Coe develop characters and a backstory through an old lady narrating photos from her life to someone she had only met a few times. That part, I felt, was done masterfully. But the story itself? It was good, without being wonderful; it was interesting, without being exciting; it was slow without being torturous. After putting the novel down, I had a hard time convincing myself to pick it back up. When I was reading it, it was an easy read. However, because it was so hard to convince myself to pick it back up, I'm only giving it a rating of 2/5. I'm not even sure what audience I would recommend it to. How about this: read it yourself, and let me know your thoughts. I'm curious, as I haven't found many reviews on it.

I did find a great quote I would like to share with you, though:
"I went on: 'You see, there's no such thing as the rain before it falls. It has to fall, or it isn't rain.' It was a silly point to be making to a little girl; I rather regretted starting on it. But Thea seemed to be having no difficulty grasping the concept; rather the reverse--for after a few moments she shook her head pityingly, as if it was testing her patience to discuss such matters with a dimwit. 'Of course there's no such thing,' she said. 'That's why it's my favourite. Something can still make you happy, can't it, even if it isn't real?'" (142).

Here are my stats:
The Rain Before it Falls by Jonathan Coe
Rating: 2/5
Pages: 240
2012 Reading Goal: 5,389/15,000

And, in honor of St Patty's Day, I'll share one of my favorite Irish blessings with all of you:

May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures.
May all life's passing seasons
bring the best to you and yours!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Munchie Madness

Happy Thursday, readers!

It's been a very relaxing week for me, as it is Spring Break and I don't have any classes. I've been working during the day and impressed by how much time I have in the evening. Of course, I haven't taken advantage of that extra time like I should. Instead, I had intentions tonight of curling up in front of the TV and relaxing.

The problem? It's March Madness. I'm not big on watching sports on TV. I'm an audience person; I love being in the stands cheering on the team and watching the live event.

So, bored, I turned to my stockpile to see if I could do some baking. Yesterday, I discovered just how large my cereal collection is. I keep buying the same cereals with the belief that I will use them baking. Then they sit up there in the stockpile until nights like tonight.

What did I make? Well, I'm going to share with you:

Leah's Perfect Puppy Chow

Once upon a time, in high school, I made a little "business" for a class. My business was puppy chow. I made batches and batches night after night. I also made a hefty profit in the end. What have I taken from my entrepreneurial lesson that I can apply today? The perfect puppy chow recipe. After weeks of research and experimentation, I found a great, low-cost, foolproof recipe. And I'm willing to share that with you, my favorite readers.

You'll need:
6 cups Rice Chex cereal
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup peanut butter
powdered sugar, to taste

1. Melt chocolate chips in microwave 30 seconds. Stir. Microwave an additional 30 seconds. Mixture should be smooth; mix in peanut butter.

2. Pour Chex into a large bowl. Cover cereal with the chocolate-peanut butter mixture. (Note: the best, easiest way to mix this is to dig in with your hands!)

3. Pour powdered sugar (probably 1/2 cup) into a gallon-sized Ziploc. Dump in 1/2 cereal mixture. Put an additional 1/2 cup powdered sugar into Ziploc. Finish dumping in the cereal mixture. Top with another 1/2 cup powdered sugar.

4. Seal Ziploc bag and shake until well covered. Add powdered sugar as needed.

After making my famous Puppy Chow (seriously, people remember this little yummy "project" of mine), I realized I still have a lot of Chex left. The back of one of the Chex boxes had quick and easy recipes, so I thought I'd try one, which involved simple ingredients I already had in my stockpile. Woo hoo!

Chex Lemon Buddies

 This recipe came from the Chex box, and is definitely worth trying, especially for those of you who like lemon bars!

You'll need:
9 cups Rice Chex cereal
1 1/4 cups white vanilla baking chips (I used vanilla almond bark)
1/4 cup butter or margarine
4 tsp grated lemon peel
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 cups powdered sugar

1. Into large bowl, measure cereal; set aside.

2. In 1-quart microwave bowl, microwave chips, butter, lemon peel, and juice uncovered on High 1 minute; stir. Microwave about 30 seconds longer or until mixture can be stirred smooth. Pour mixture over cereal, stirring until evenly coated. Pour into 2-gallon (I used a one gallon and it was fine) resealable food-storage plastic bag.

3. Add powdered sugar. Seal bag; gently shake until well coated. Spread on waxed paper or foil to cool. Store in an airtight container. (I just stuck mine in a Tupperware bowl and then in the fridge)

Both of these recipes took me under 30 minutes to make, with a hand-washed load of dishes, too. And my stockpile isn't quite as full:

 I've now got one Rice Chex in my cupboard (I do eat these as cereal, too, from time to time) and only 5 in my stockpile. Woot woot!

So, March Madness caused me to create Munchie Madness. The best part? Friday treats for work! :)

Happy Friday, everyone!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Book Review: Sail by James Patterson

Before you judge, let me paint a not-so-pretty picture of my weekend.

Maybe I'm being a little harsh. It is beautiful here, even
without a beach. Man, do I love the badlands! <3

Outside, it was in the sixties (not exactly normal for a North Dakota March) with a light breeze. It was beautiful. Inside, I was curled up in a corner on my couch. Tissues were littered around me. My coffee table was full of mugs used for tea and glasses from 7UP. Yes, that was my weekend. So please don't judge that I read so much. The good news is that I think I'm almost over this flu/cold thing! But I really would rather have spent the weekend shooting, fishing, or outdoors doing something.

Now, onto the book. I replaced The Love of Her Life on Sunday with James Patterson's Sail (found by my silly little Goodreads scrolling technique). I actually ended up selecting this one twice, definitely a sign that it was "meant to be". I scrolled and my mouse landed on it. I resisted the temptation of falling into yet another Patterson book for the year. I scrolled again. Would you believe that, out of 170 books, this was the exact book my cursor landed on again? Crazy.
The cover promises the book to be a perfect beach read. I looked around at my land-locked, flat-ish surroundings and decided a 60-degree day 20 miles from a lake (aka in town) would have to do, since I certainly won't be seeing a beach any time soon.

Here's the Goodreads summary for Sail:
America's #1 bestselling thriller writer, James Patterson presents his most suspenseful, explosive tale ever. Only an hour out of port, the Dunne family's summer getaway to paradise is already turning into the trip from hell. The three children are miserable-and not shy about showing it. Katherine Dunne had hoped this vacation would bring back the togetherness they'd lost when her husband died four years earlier. Maybe if her new husband had joined them it would all have been okay.

Suddenly, a disaster hits-and it's perfect. Faced with this real threat, the Dunnes rediscover the meaning of family. But this catastrophe is just a tiny taste of the true danger that lurks ahead-somewhere out there, someone wants to make sure that the Dunne family never leaves paradise alive.

Patterson again kept me entertained with this edge-of-your-seat thriller. The characters were introduced to give readers a negative image, but as the characters develop, the reader's relationship with them does, too. I found myself so sucked into the novel that I read it for quite a few hours on end, unaware of my surroundings (except my stupid congestion!). It was quick-paced and surprising. I hadn't predicted the ending, which just kept getting better and better! Also, this Patterson novel isn't quite as vulgar or violent as many of his others, so it made for a bit smoother of a read.

Definitely recommend this one to those of you who like thrillers. In fact, for those of you who aren't big on Patterson, try him again. Try this one. I think you'll like it.

And time for my numbers (which were greatly increased, thanks to this weekend's reads):
Sail by James Patterson
Rating: 4/5
Pages: 414
2012 Reading Goal: 5,149/15,000 

I hope you all have a great week! I'm pretty sure I will, as it's going to be uber productive at work! Maybe I'll be able to hit the gym a couple of times, too.

Also, there's a poll at the bottom of my page. I'm curious to know your thoughts. Please cast your vote! :)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Book Review: The Love of Her Life by Harriet Evans

I'm back! Already!

Here's a brief overview of what I've done since my last blog post, yesterday evening:
  • Read The Love of Her Life
  • Read The Love of Her Life
  • Read The Love of Her Life
  • Watch Netflix
  • Go to bed
  • Wake up
  • Read The Love of Her Life
  • Read The Love of Her Life
  • Brew coffee.
  • Read The Love of Her Life while drinking coffee
  • Read The Love of Her Life
  • Read The Love of Her Life
I promise you that I'm not exaggerating one bit. The only thing I left out is how many times I've had to blow my nose because I'm sick (ewwww!). This book was that addicting.

Here's the summary, courtesy of Goodreads:

In London, Kate Miller had an enviable life: an exciting job at a fashion magazine, an engagement and a wedding to plan. Then it all fell apart -- spectacularly, painfully, and forever. That was three years ago...and she fled to New York City to live with her mother and stepfather.
Now Kate is a true New Yorker, in love with the pace and rhythm of Manhattan. But deep down, she knows her life is in a holding pattern, that there is something -- someone -- more to love. But when her father becomes ill, Kate realizes it's time to return and face the friends and the memories she left behind. What really happened before Kate left London? Can she pick up the pieces and allow herself to love life again?

This book has been on my bookshelf for a couple of years now. I remember seeing it on my bookshelf in my parent's house when I was in college. I didn't recognize it, but it had a B&N clearance sticker on it, so I assumed I had purchased it at some point and forgotten about it.

I kept picking this book up, reading the back cover, and putting it back on the shelf. Why? Have you read the summary? This sounds like any other generic chick-lit novel. And it has a super corny title.

So, you're probably wondering why I picked it up. After all, I'd thought numerous times about just getting rid of it, assuming I wouldn't like it. Well, on Goodreads, I have a shelf called "tbr-bookshelf". Those are the (currently 173) books, e-books, and audiobooks I own but have not yet read. When I'm unsure what I'd like to read next, I go to that bookshelf, close my eyes, and scroll up and down multiple times. I stop scrolling, then open my eyes. Whichever book my mouse cursor is on is the next book I pick up. I've found that it stops me from avoiding the same books forever (including this one) and diversifies what I choose to read. Corny, I know, but it works!

Anyway, I picked this book up on February 28th. I was only 24 pages into it and wanted to get rid of it. There was a confusing web spun and I was too impatient to want to read the next 375 pages to figure out what was going on. However, I promised myself I would give it until page 100, to give it a fair chance. I'm so glad I did.

The start to this novel was super slow and confusing. The reader finds out Kate, the main character, ran away from London to New York for some reason, but we really aren't sure why. We're following Kate around her first few days back in London, as her father has fallen ill. We don't understand her background or why she is as uncomfortable being in London as she is.

Finally, we get some insight. And that's when the novel really picks up. I found it so hard to put down, even to eat! On the front cover, Glamour magazine promises this book to be "A page-turner...An unputdownable, gripping story". And they weren't lying.

Seriously, anyone who loves chick-lit needs to pick up this novel! Ms. Evans, I will definitely be reading the rest of your works!

Here's my stats:
The Love of Her Life by Harriet Evans
Rating: 4/5
Pages: 427
2012 Reading Goal: 4,735/15,000

This was one of those novels that was so good, I now have a hole in my heart from finishing it. I guess I'm just going to have to scroll through my virtual bookshelf to find my next read!

Happy Saturday reading, everyone! :)


Friday, March 9, 2012

Book Review: Life From Scratch by Melissa Ford

Hi readers!

I hope you're all doing well! I think I may be coming down with the flu, so I'm taking advantage of lounging around and resting a lot!

I've also gotten a little reading done throughout the week. I began reading Life From Scratch on my Kindle last Friday. It's one of those books I got free in Amazon's Kindle Store. The freebies tend to be hit-or-miss: some are really good and with others, it's no question as to why they're free. This one was the former.

Here's the Goodreads Summary:

Divorced, heartbroken and living in a lonely New York apartment with a tiny kitchen, Rachel Goldman realizes she doesn't even know how to cook the simplest meal for herself. Can learning to fry an egg help her understand where her life went wrong? She dives into the culinary basics. Then she launches a blog to vent her misery about love, life and her goal of an unburnt casserole.To her amazement, the blog's a hit. She becomes a minor celebrity. Next, a sexy Spaniard enters her life. Will her souffles stop falling? Will she finally forget about the husband she still loves? And how can she explain to her readers that she still hasn't learned how to cook up a happy life from scratch?

The premise of this novel is much like any chick-lit novel, so its quality really depends on how the author tells the story. This was pretty good story telling. I often found myself thinking about this book at work and other times throughout the day, which always tells me a book is good. Unsurprisingly, it was a little predictable, especially at the end. The characters are warm and familiar, which I really like. Rachel's best friend is much like any woman's best friend: supportive at all times, but still share opinions on what they believe is best for their friend. 

I recommend this for those of you looking for a cozy, warm chick-lit novel. Bonus if you're a blogger and/or a cook, and relate to the main character on that level.

My stats:
Life from Scratch by Melissa Ford
Rating: 4/5
Pages: 266
2012 Reading Goal: 4,308/15,000

Just a few more things:
  1. I've posted a new poll at the bottom of my website. Check it out! I'm curious to know what you guys like to read about!
  2. My readership has skyrocketed over the past few weeks, especially at the international level. Welcome, new readers!
  3. I finally reposted my book review lists. I've broken them down by year, and am debating how far back to go. You can find them here: 
    1. 2012 Book Reviews
    2. 2011 Book Reviews
Happy readings! :)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sew & Serge

I know I'm behind on my blogging, sorry readers! I've got 3 books on my need-to-review shelf on Goodreads, which I'm hoping to get to reviewing soon.

Today I submitted my last assignment for my first Grad School course, and it feels good! I really enjoyed the class, my instructor, and the discussion. The time committment wasn't too unmanageable, and it was a great way to prepare myself for what's to come. I will have 9 more classes left before I can apply for graduation, so I'm excited to continue with my studies!

Next week is Spring Break, and my assignment is submitted already. That means that, academically, I'll have the next two weeks off! Not at work, but for my classes. This is a well-needed break, since it's been such a busy semester for me so far!

I'm really looking forward to this "break" with no classes so I can teach myself something else:
How to use a serger.

My parents got me this for my birthday last month. I'm so excited! This is the exact serger my mom has had since the early 1990s, so it's the only serger I've ever really known. I've only used her serger 1-2 times. This will definitely be a learning experience for me!

I'm so excited to have a serger. A lot of what I sew (when I sew, that is) is for work clothes. I like them to be polished, professional looking ensembles.

This pattern, for example. What a cute skirt! I managed to find a lightweight fabric that really matches what's on the pattern cover. I would love to wear this skirt to work. My concern, though, is that it might fray or unravel if I simply sew around the edges. I want to make quality pieces to really build up my wardrobe. Serging will give my homemade clothes that polished look I'm wanting. I'm so excited!

So hopefully you will all stick around to see my upcoming sewing and serging projects as I continue to learn my machine! :)

Happy Sunday, readers!