What I’m Into :: August 2014

What I'm Into :: August 2014

Ahhh, the end of August, you’re the best. We’re saying goodbye to summer (which makes me sweat) and saying hello to school (which makes me smile). And best of all? The end of you means the beginning of fall. And fall is my favorite.

That doesn’t mean August is all bad, of course! It’s not. Really. {What’s that? I’m protesting too much? Psh.}

Seriously, this August has been full of family drama and blistering high temperatures. (Yes, fine, after a gloriously mild summer. But I don’t care how many nice days we’ve had, the nasty hot ones still make me mad. I am reasonable that way.) So I’m doubly thankful for What I’m Into this month – both because it means the end of a less-than-awesome month and the chance to remember the GOOD things that have been going on.

Here we go!

Reading August 2014

What I’m Reading

Lucky for me, it’s been a season of book reviews around here. I’ve had four (FOUR!) recent posts about books, and I have another one coming up next month. But that’s not all I’ve been reading!

The ones I’ve already mentioned: The Cure for the “Perfect” Life, Dark Hope, and The Best Time Travel Books of All Time

The ones on sale until Monday: Jesus Calling

Other books I’ve read: The first book in the Katie Parker series by Jenny B. Jones (Christian YA by one of my favorite authors) was on sale not too long ago and reminded me that while I’d read that first one, I hadn’t read the other two. So I fixed that problem. Oh – and to make it even better? Jenny is releasing a follow-up novella soon, so I’ll find out what’s happened to the main character since the series ended!)

I also read the fourth book of Dani Pettrey’s Alaskan Courage series, Silenced. I enjoyed it a lot more than the third book, thankfully. I’ve so enjoyed this series that reminds me – in all good ways – of Dee Henderson’s O’Malley series, and I’m glad there’s still one more book to come. I hope Pettrey continues writing after she completes this series. I like her mix of suspense and romance, and she writes good dialogue (the most important thing to me).

The ones I’m reading right now: Book of Life by Deborah Harkness, All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, Deluge by Lisa Tawn Bergren, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith, and Power Play by Catherine Coulter.

Basically I need to take a week off from life and just read. That’s the dream…

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What I’m Watching

You guys. Have you seen Guardians of the Galaxy? It is SO GOOD. Completely hilarious.

Look, I was wary. I only know Chris Pratt as schlubby-but-lovable Andy Dwyer on Parks and Recreation, and despite his ab selfie heard ’round the world, I just wasn’t sure he could pull off space cowboy hero.

Well, he did. And the other characters were great, too. (Not so much the big bad – sorry, Lee Pace – though.) The story itself isn’t anything innovative, but the movie is just pure fun and seriously funny. It reminded me of Star Wars, with more colors and less drama. I loved it. You [probably] will, too.

As for TV, we’re entering the end-of-summer wasteland now, as summer shows wrap up and we wait for new and returning shows to begin their fall seasons. I’ll talk more about those upcoming shows soon, but for now, I’ll report that I’ve been watching the same old, same old: Perception, Suits, Covert Affairs, Franklin & Bash, and So You Think You Can Dance. They’re all fantastic.

Especially Suits – holy cow, tell me somebody else is still reeling from the last few minutes of that finale!

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What I’m Listening To

Hold on, folks, because I’m about to get up on a soap box.

Now, if you don’t like country music, you might want to skim this section. (NOT THAT YOU EVER DO THAT.) But I do like country music. I love it, as a matter of fact. It – along with Barry Manilow, Chicago, the Beach Boys, Lionel Ritchie and hymns – is the music of my childhood. And, I’m not ashamed to say, it’s the music of my adulthood as well.

In the past year or so the biggest sub-genre of country is, well, I don’t know what it’s called. Country rock? Bro-country? (I saw that somewhere. I swear on my George Strait CDs I did not make it up.) Whatever it’s called, it’s fun. It’s loud and pretty much all about having a good ol’ time and not relevant to my own personal life, but I like it a lot. (Except when they add rapping, and then I have a problem.)

So I like this current trend except for one thing. What I don’t like (in addition to the rapping situation, in case you forgot) is the lame songwriting. I’m not talking about the fact that we have both a song called “Dirt” and a song called “Dust” playing on the radio right now. I am not even worked up about two songs – off the top of my head! – that start (THAT START!) with the word, “damn,” negating all attempts I make to only listen to profanity-free music when Annalyn is in the car, no matter how fast my ears and station-surfing fingers are.

No, I’m sick and tired of songs using empty words and phrases that mean absolutely nothing at all. Like “This is How We Roll,” “Yeah,” “Where It’s At,” and “All Alright.” I’d include, “Aww Nah,” but forgive me, I love that one. I just feel like, as a society, as a world in which talented songwriters live, WE CAN DO BETTER.

Right? CAN’T WE?

I don’t know. Maybe you all don’t care. But I just needed to get that off my country-loving chest.

Also, it’s funny. Because though I’ve been annoyed by the bizarre prevalence of rapping and the loss of decent turns of phrases in these country songs I otherwise love (I do. Honest.), it never once occurred to me to be offended as a woman. Even though these songs? They really are pretty stereotypically sexist. Nope. I’ve just sung along, forgetting everything I ever learned in COMM 560 Women’s Rhetoric (aka, one of my favorite college classes ever).

That is, until I heard the brilliance of “Girl in a Country Song” by the talented (and adorable) Maddie & Tae. Guys, these two 18-year-olds debuted this summer, swinging at some of the biggest names in country right now with their first song. They mock all these obnoxious lyrics in the best way. All in good fun, but still. Maddie and Tae can’t just play the guitar and sing. They’ve got nerve!

This song – it’s hilarious and catchy and, oh my word, SO TRUE. I love it. And I still love the other songs. But this is priceless.

Also, for you pop music lovers, I’m also going all girl power with All About That Bass. (And anything Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato or the likes of them sing. And Taylor Swift’s new song. Because yes, I am 14, thank you for asking.)

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What I’m Eating and/or Cooking

Well. See. The thing is…I’m tired all the time. So I wanted to try to learn to drink coffee. But coffee is gross. It is! I know. Everyone else in the world loves it, but I don’t. I want to, but I don’t. But I’m tired. So I keep trying it.

And then…well…I found a coffee drink I like.

Unfortunately it comes with a whole lot of sugar and about a million (or 600) calories. Even without whip.

OOPS.

Seriously, though, I have discovered the McDonald’s Frappe. And it is delicious and wonderful and I want one every day. Mocha or caramel, doesn’t matter. I love them equally. And I always get it without whip, but I looked up the calories and some things you can’t unsee. You know?

So I’m not sure if I’ve made any progress in my effort to learn to drink coffee. More likely I’ve just gained a few pounds. I mean…I’m not even sure if these delicious drinks give me any more energy! They just taste SO GOOD.

Maybe next month I’ll have something better for you in this department. But for now, I’m not gonna lie. I’m all about the bass AND the frappe.

How about you?

What were YOU into this month? Tell us in the comments!

I’m linking up with my friend Leigh at What I’m Into.

{Frappe Photo Source}

Dark Hope: A Book Review

My first job was at the public library in the next town over. I loved that job for many reasons, one of which was getting first dibs on returned books. This was years before online requests and self-checkout. This was before Amazon and Goodreads and Oprah’s Book Club.

The only way to find a good book to read was simply to walk the aisles of a bookstore or library.

Then, I loved doing that. I loved walking up and down the aisles, picking up the books with the pretty covers or by familiar authors, making sure I’d read every book in a series. But other than spotting an appealing cover or coming across a book while shelving returns, I didn’t know where to look for good, new (or at least new-to-me books).

Fast forward a thousand years, and on one hand, the last thing I need is a recommendation for a good book. Between the to-read stack next to my bed and my to-read list on Goodreads, I’m ALL FULL UP with good book to read.

Except . . . is there really such a thing? NO.

I’m always on the hunt for a good, new book to read – even if it means setting aside the books I swore I’d read next and return before accruing a late fine. again. And while I now enjoy following the click-y rabbit trails of reviews on Goodreads just like I used to enjoy wandering through the actual library, sometimes it’s hard to find a new novel to read. (And sometimes my Kindle leads me astray with recommendations that … how to say … don’t make sense.)

All that to say – when I’m asked to review a YA pararnormal novel – the first in a new series by an author I hadn’t heard of, I jump at the chance. A new book and new-to-me author? Yes, please!

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Dark Hope is the first book in the Archangel Prophecies Trilogy. As I’ve really enjoyed a couple other series about angels, I thought this sounded great. It’s written by Monica McGurk, an author known (though not, previously, to me) for her fan fiction based on the Twilight series. As I’m not a fan of that series, I was a little unsure about this.

But my angel story interest won out over my fanfic author bias, and I cracked it open the day it showed up in my mailbox. Here’s the summary:

For years, Hope Carmichael, survivor of a shocking child abduction, has lived a sheltered existence under the protection of her fanatically religious father. Now, liberated by her mother, Hope prepares to start life over as a normal kid in an Atlanta, Georgia, high school. Normal, that is, until Hope meets Michael, a gorgeous emancipated teen with a mysterious past and a strong interest in her.

Soon, Hope’s life is filled with questions. What’s behind the angry looks she gets from Lucas, leader of a gang of students? Who’s responsible for sending Hope strange valentines inscribed with Bible quotations? How does this relate to the sinister business of human tracking that operates on the periphery of Hope’s suburban world? And is Michael really a protector, or something more sinister-and just why does he seem so familiar?

In an epic narrative that takes readers from the back streets of Atlanta to the height of Vegas penthouses and beyond, DARK HOPE introduces The Archangel Prophecies, a saga of extraordinary love, vast mythological scope, and great moral urgency.

I liked Dark Hope a lot. I read it in just a couple days, and I’ll definitely read the next book in the series when it’s released. (Another pro in the Monica McGurk column is the news that she’s already completed the second book!)

The story was intriguing – combining a mysterious childhood abduction with a supernatural conspiracy that only comes out a decade later. The idea of an angel falling in love with a human seems a little far-fetched – but no more than any other paranormal romance plot, I suppose.

There were a couple things I didn’t love about this book. For one, a high school girl being left alone so often while her mom traveled on business (especially after spending most of her childhood with her extremely overprotective dad) didn’t ring true at all. Secondly, while I understood the hot and cold personality and affections of the main angel, it was still annoying to me (on behalf of Hope, because yes, she needs my help).

The list of things I liked is much longer! Even without the paranormal business, the decaying relationship between Hope’s parents following her kidnapping rang true to me. I imagine that happens quite a bit in families that experience that kind of tragedy. I also liked the main character, Hope – her voice, her personality, her perspective. Also? This novel uses vocabulary that is higher than the typical sixth-grade reading level I find in a lot of books, both YA and otherwise. I like that.

This book did a great job of highlighting our nation’s problem with sex trafficking. I felt like it was obviously a big deal to the author and an important part of the book – but it never felt preachy. Hard as it is to learn about something like this, I’m always thankful when reading a “fun” novel educates me, too. Win-win.

Oh, also? This book felt longer than a lot of books in the genre, which I appreciated. Because even though the next book in the series is reportedly written, I don’t know when it will be actually on the market. I may have a long time to wait for answers to the mysteries Hope faced in the first book (and I’m crossing my fingers the next two books also flesh out some of the supporting characters a bit, too).

If you like YA paranormal novels, I’d recommend this one for sure. You can find Dark Hope by Monica McGurk as a paperback or an ebook at Amazon.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

No More Putting Off the Cure for Perfectionism

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I wrote this post at 11:30 last night. I could give you a list of reasons why I just didn’t have time until then – and, thanks to years in public relations, I could make it sound real convincing – but the truth is I just procrastinated.

Like I do.
All the time.
ALL THE DANG TIME.
Because I’m a procrastinating perfectionist.

{Did I mention this was a review of The Cure for the “Perfect” Life?}

When I learned that Cheri Gregory and Kathi Lipp were writing a book about perfectionism, I had a couple reactions. First, I was disappointed. From the sounds of it, they were writing the book that I wanted to write. Second, I was annoyed. Not because they were writing “my” book – but because I knew I’d have to read it and then God would probably try to change me and THAT IS HARD.

Clearly I was not – and AM NOT – ready to write a book about fighting perfectionism! And, to be completely honest, I haven’t even been ready to READ a book about it, either.

I’ve had Cheri and Kathi’s book for weeks now. It’s got an adorable cover – the kind that makes you want to open it and read. And I really like Cheri and Kathi. And you know what else? This book is full of personality tests. I LOVE THOSE THINGS! Oh, and you know what else (again)? They sent me a hot pink highlighter with the book, with a note encouraging me to mark it all up.

Well, that is just too fun!

So, of course you know I devoured this book the day I got it…right?

Except…no. I didn’t. I’ve held it a lot. I’ve skimmed it a couple times, sure. But the part where I sit down, kids in bed and TV off, highlighter in hand and heart open? Um, no. I haven’t done that yet.

You know what’s funny? One of the early chapters of the book gets to the bottom of perfectionism by explaining that perfectionism is rooted in fear. And the subtitle of the book is “Ways to Stop Trying Harder and Start Living Braver.”

And yet…I’ve been afraid to dive into this book. So – to come full circle – I’ve put it off. Like I do so many things.

Kathi and Cheri talk about four major instigators of what they label “Try-Harder Living”: Perfectionism, People-Pleasing, Performancism, Procrastination.

Huh.

I’m off the charts on Perfectionism and Procrastination (with occasional bouts of People-Pleasing and Performancism). Strangely enough, when I took the quiz to discover what kind of rebel I am (as in, what’s my personality type and how does it relate to Try-Harder Living), I had equal high scores for being Analytical and Driving – which do not correlate directly with Perfectionism and Procrastination.

I’m so complicated.

Except – not really. Even if my personality test results aren’t textbook, THIS BOOK still identifies, understands and addresses head on the things I struggle with most. Which is why I’m not putting off a serious read any longer.

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I’m going to start reading – REALLY reading – The Cure for the “Perfect” Life this week. Will you join me? I’d love to hear what you’re learning from this book as we read it together!

And I’d also love to give away a copy to a fellow perfectionist.

To enter the giveaway, tell me which of the Try-Harder Living instigators you struggle with most. And for an additional entry, take the Rebel Quiz here and tell me what kind of rebel you are.

This giveaway is open to readers in the U.S. only {sorry, international friends!!!}, and it will close on Friday, September 5.

Photo source

The Best Time Travel Books of All Time

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I read a lot of books. I do not read a lot of books twice. Actually, I read VERY FEW books more than once. Aside from the Chronicles of Narnia (when I was a child) and the Percy Jackson series (when I was – OKAY FINE – last year), two of the only books that come to mind as second-readers both happen to be time travel stories.

Like I’ve mentioned before, I am a sucker for anything time travel. Sometimes – as in the case of Deja Vu, a less-than-successful Denzel movie from a few years ago – I even resort to drawing pictures to demonstrate how the story was or was not plausible.

Yep. Because time travel can be plausible. Mm-hmmm.

ANYWAY. If you haven’t heard, a new TV show premiered last weekend about time travel. Based on the very popular series by Diana Gabaldon, Outlander airs on Saturdays on Starz.

Now, I’m a big wimp when it comes to graphic…anything. So shows on Starz – time travel or no, really great trailer or no – don’t fit into my regular television viewing schedule. I am slowly working through the first Outlander book, however. So far I really like it – but I’m only 100 or so pages in. I’ve read reviews that make me a little nervous about what’s to come…but then again a lot of people love this series. And, well, time travel.

Since I’ve recently read a few other books featuring time travel, I thought I’d do a little research. What I found was a great list of the time travel books I’ve read – and quite a few more I hope to read soon. And just in case you all are big time travel dorks like me, I figured I’d share.

[Side note: These may or may not be the BEST time travel books of ALL time. In other words I reserve the right to use blog post titles that are clever but possibly not quite 100% accurate. Possibly.]

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22 of the Best Books About Time Travel

  • Outlander by Diana Gabaldon: A woman reunites with her husband after World War II, and they take a trip to Scotland…where she accidentally trips through a portal to 1743. I like the strong, sassy voice of the main character. Full review to come soon.
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger: This is a time travel love story. I read it a long time ago, but a few years after it was super popular. (And I haven’t seen the movie.) If I remember correctly, I loved it and hated it. Both. At the same time.
  • 11/22/63 by Stephen King: A high school teacher’s dying friend shows him a portal back in time – and a way to potentially change history. Amy from MomAdvice recommended this one, and I checked it out of the library earlier this year. It was a huge book, really long – and I didn’t make it halfway before the thing was due. I blame that on the 8-10 feedings a day (and very few consecutive hours of sleep) that were happening then, and I’m determined to try this one again soon.
  • Timeline by Michael Crichton: A group of young scientists travel to medieval France. I LOVE THIS BOOK. It’s the one I’ve read twice. Except, actually, I’ve read it at least three times and plan to read it again this year. I don’t know. I just love it.
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle: Time traveling teens! Secret government work! WHY do I not remember more of this book?!? I know I read it as a child, but clearly I need to give it another read since I don’t remember much of it at all.
  • Waterfall by Lisa Tawn Bergren: In the first book of the River of Time series, a teenage girl travels to 14th century Italy. I’ve read this whole series…AND own it. That way I can read it again when I finish reading all these other books on my to-read list!
  • Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut: I read this book just a few years ago, when some of my co-workers at the ad agency and I formed a book club. I did read it. And it was good. I remember that part. But I cannot recall a single other thing about it – even after reading the book’s description three times. So – I got nothing.
  • A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux: You guys. I just…I just can’t. When I started researching time travel books, this one showed up on everyone’s list. I even saw it called a classic…more than once. So I got it from the library. And I read it. (Then I remembered that I’d read it before. *sigh*) It is definitely classic romance novel – woman is sad, man from the past hears her crying and travels through time to heal her broken heart, blah, blah, blah. I debated including it on this list, but full disclosure and all…
  • Timebound by Rysa Walker: A teenaged girl’s grandma tells her their family has time traveling abilities. The Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 is involved, as well as a serial killer murder and some time-traveling villains. I read this right after Adrienne was born and loved it – and am really looking forward to the sequel this fall.
  • A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness: There’s a witch and a vampire and a book. And to solve their problems, they have to travel through time. So, okay, fine. When I first read this, I said I didn’t see what the big deal was. But then I read the second book. And I realized that even after I was finished with them, I kept thinking about them. So, obviously I liked them a bit more than I first believed. I have the third book in the trilogy from the library right now.

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And then there are the time travel books I haven’t read. Several of them are on my to-read list, and one is already on my bedside table. Others I may never read, but maybe they’re your cup of time travel tea. Or not. But they are about time travel. So. Here they are.

So – am I alone? Or do you like time travel stories, too? What’s your favorite?

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What I’m Into :: July 2014

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August! It’s AUGUST! And school starts in 12 days! (Not that I’m counting. But I totally am.) July went by fast, as evidenced by my shorter-than-usual lists of books read, recipes tried and hours worked. But it was still a good month, and I’ve got a few things to share.

How did YOUR July go? I hope you’ll tell us all about it in the comments!

What I'm Into July 2014

What I’m Reading:

  • Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson – suspense that’s kind of like What Alice Forgot meets Sleeping with the Enemy. And it’s being made into a movie. EXCELLENT.
  • Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen – YA retelling of Robin Hood, if Robin and his men were teenagers and not all men. I really enjoyed it but the dialect of the main character got on my nerves.
  • The Target by David Baldacci – Corrupt government and assassins doing assassin things. It’s the same old, same old for Baldacci, but darn it, I love it every time.
  • The Cure for the “Perfect” Life by Kathy Lipp and Cheri Gregory – I’ve just started this one, but it’s fantastic so far. More to come.
  • How I Fall by Anne Eliot – This is a self-published YA novel about a sixteen-year-old girl with cerebral palsy and the super cute boy she likes. I’m not going to be able to write a description that makes it sound good, I know, because it didn’t sound good to me either. But I’ve read Eliot’s other two books and they were really good. This one was, too. Just believe me. I wouldn’t lead you astray!

What I’m Watching:

Well, basically all the same stuff I was watching last month: So You Think You Can Dance, Suits, Covert Affairs, Perception and Chasing Life. Most importantly, though, we’ve finished the first season of Friday Night Lights and are DYING for season two to come in at the library.

So, I have to ask those of you who watched FNL a million years ago (or Breaking Bad, I guess) – don’t you think Jesse Plemons looks JUST LIKE Matt Damon? In a, I don’t know, Ron Weasley sort of way?

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Finally. Tell me you saw this video. IT IS BRILLIANT.

So, spill it: What were you into last month?

I’m linking up with my friend Leigh. Check out other What I’m Into posts over there!