Monday, August 30, 2010

The Bridegrooms by Allison Pittman

When Vada was only eight, her mother abandoned her and her three sisters.  From that moment on, she had to become a mother to her sisters and her childhood was over.  As Vada becomes a grown woman, she continues to care for her sisters and her father while trying to find romance and her own place in life.

The Bridegrooms are a baseball team that have come to Vada’s town to play.  When a horrible accident leaves a man in a coma, the entire team descends upon Vada’s home, as her father is the doctor in the area.

With the mystery of who the coma victim is, three younger sisters constantly getting into trouble, a baseball team wreaking havoc, questions unfolding about her mother and her own romantic issues, will Vada remain sane by the end of the book?

For me, this book was reminiscent of Alcott’s Little Women.  We have four sisters with the eldest being the responsible one in charge, a middle sister who’s constantly getting into trouble, a middle sister who’s quiet and sweet, and the youngest sister who is the pretty, spoiled child.  Though these characters aren’t created quite to the depth that Alcott’s are, they’re still rather enjoyable.

Throughout the book we have dark undertones constantly tugging at us, but the light-hearted manner in which the book is presented keeps us from feeling that deep sadness.  Every time something tragic is brought up in the story it’s immediately followed by mirth and merriment which makes this an enjoyable read.  I don’t think I’ve ever read a story about abandoned children and a man near death that made me smile so much.

A Wretched Man by RW Holmen

Before Jesus, the Jewish life was all about Torah.  Torah must be observed above all else.  Torah was law.  With the death of Jesus, the Jewish faith was left in a political, as well as religious, wreck.  One man, Paul, was given a vision on the road to Damascus.  It was a vision from God that showed Paul what Jesus was attempting to accomplish while here on earth.  After that night, Paul’s life was forever changed.  He became the prime reporter, memorialist, essayist, interpreter, and promoter for the new faith that he believed Jesus had been trying to establish.

First off, remember this is a novel.  There are no hard facts proving that what is contained in this book is what happened.  I love the fact that the learned author took all of the facts that he did have and combined them into a novel of what may have happened.  Given my own lessons in religion, they’re entirely plausible.

We start off the book with getting to know Paul as a person.  It was interesting to me to see him humanized.  Oftentimes it’s ‘Paul the apostle’ but you don’t really think about what he was like as an individual.  You don’t stop to realize that he had hopes and dreams and desires just like the rest of us.  For me, this really made the book.  Whether any of the theories in the rest of the book are correct or not, it was wonderful for me to be able to take Paul out of the ‘fictional person’ category.

Another great aspect for me is that the book isn’t just about Paul.  We also get to follow Jesus’ family and find out what became of them after his death.  Although Jesus himself makes a very short appearance in the book, it’s his family that really drew me in.  It made me really stop and think about what it must have been like for his family when everyone was calling him ‘the messiah’ when all along they’d just known him as their dreamer brother.

Regardless of your personal religious background, this book is absolutely breathtaking.  The time period is so vividly painted that you can’t help but feel real imagery for what it was like then.  Both the religious and political aspects of the time are brought to light.  This is not a quick read to flip through in a day.  I found myself contemplating each chapter after I finished it, just letting it really sink in. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Garnier Fructis Blow Dry Perfector

Recently, I moved to a much more humid climate than I'm used to so I was really excited when Bzz offered me a chance to try out Garnier's new Blow Dry Perfector.  As a Bzz Agent, they send me the product to try out and then tell others about.  I have naturally wavy/curly hair that I straighten nearly every day.  Since the move, instead of wavy/curly hair, I have a huge frizzball that I can't do anything with.  I turned to Garnier in the hopes of taming the massive mess that was my hair.

In the Blow Dry Perfector system you get two different products.  The first is a 20 minute deep Smoothing Serum.  This serum has an ingredient in it called 'cyteine' which I did a little research on.  Cyteine is actually derived from hair and is what gives it it's glossy sheen.  At least that's what I found out about it.  Any scientists out there, feel free to set me straight.  The second product is a heat activated Perfect It cream.  This product you put on your hair after you wash and condition it. Then heat from the blow dryer or straightening iron activates it.

My personal experience wasn't quite what I was hoping for.   The smoothing serum has a horrid smell!  It reminded me of those perms everyone used to get in the 80's.  Thankfully after about 24 hours the smell dissipated, but it was really distracting and stung my eyes for awhile.  The perfecting cream smells like a heavenly citrus, however.  After a few uses, my hair is definitely shinier and smoother.  It feels soft to the touch and I don't have any difficulty with tangles at all.  The disappointing part for me, other than the odor, is that I'm still plagued by horrid frizz.  I was hoping for at least a bit more ease in using the straightener, but no such luck.  It did help, but not as much as I was hoping it would for the price. 

L'Oréal® Paris Collagen Micro-Pulse™

As a Bzzagent, I often get new products to try out and tell others about.  Recently, they sent me L'Oreal's Micro-Pulse Eye kit.  I'm in my mid-thirties.  Though crow's feet and wrinkles aren't a part of my daily life yet, I know they're just around the corner.  The first thing I did when I received my package was rip it open and play with it.  On one end we have a wonderful eye cream and on the other end a tiny little micro-pulse 'vibrator' that feels just wonderful!  According to L'Oreal, as soon as you use it, crow's feet and eye bags appear reduced.  After four weeks, crow's feet appear reduced, dark circles appear minimized and eye bags appear visibly diminished.  I'm sure you're noticing the word 'appear' in there a lot, but that's the entire point.  That we appear to not have those wrinkly, baggy eyes!

Personally, I really didn't notice any difference to my face using it.  As I stated earlier though, I don't really have crows feet or bags under my eyes.  I'd love to hear feedback from someone who has noticed a difference.  I will say that I enjoyed using the product.  It made me feel more relaxed and as if I was doing something wonderfully girly.

Look up L'Oreal Paris on Facebook for more information regarding their products, beauty tips and special offers.

Shadows in Summer by Crescent Varrone

When injured ballet dancer Katrina Nielsen and her American husband, Richard, purchase Sound House, they hope that the charming home will ease their transition from New York to Copenhagen.  Katrina was just nineteen when she fled gloomy Denmark, leaving behind her mother, Ingrid, and her grief over her father's death.  Seven years later, she returns home to face the ghosts of her past.  Yet when weird events begin to occur at Sound House -inexplicable smoke and footsteps, a ghostly face at the window - she starts to think she is being haunted by the ghost of Karl Damsgaard, the original owner.  After she's 'attacked' by an unseen force, Katrina becomes convinced that something is trying to drive her out of the house...or out of her mind.  (Taken from the back of the book)

What a fun book!  It's dark and delicious the entire way through!  Each character is carefully constructed with a background full of skeletons and riddles.  Though most of their backgrounds have nothing at all to do with the story, they add an intrigue that just keeps you flipping page after page.  The fact that each chapter is written in first person by a different character in the book just adds to the realism of each character.  Together they form a complex web that snares you into the very core and keeps you guessing until the very end.  Is Sound House haunted?  You be the judge!  I still have no idea!

Overall, this is an excellent read for someone wanting a taste of haunting.  It doesn't go overboard on the paranormal, but just gives you enough of a teaser to make it realistic and plausible.  If you're still in the mood for a breezy summer read, this isn't it.  With fall fast approaching though, I strongly suggest you pick it up for the haunting month of October!

Apple Turnovers

In a sweet craving mood this morning, I decided it was a great day to make apple turnovers.  After a bit of browsing online, I came up with a turnover crust that looked like it might be tasty so I gave it a shot.  Honestly, these are the best turnovers ever!  I used the crust on this page and filled them with apples, cinnamon and sugar.  Then topped with just a simple powdered sugar icing.  There were flaky and delicious!  I haven't had a chance to peruse through the rest of this web site, but I'm hoping I'll find some more wonderful recipes to try out!  Check for yourself and if you try one out, let me know which one and how it turned out!  Go here!

Giveaway Scout

With the recent moving, I haven't been checking in as often as I should.  Hopping on here this morning, I found a comment from Josh at asking me to check out their site and possibly add my blog to it.  I went to check it out and I'm decently impressed!  Giveawayscout has a huge blogroll that they go through and then they take all the freebies and giveaways and contests and post them for readers to see!  It's a great, convenient location to pop in and find a few freebies as well as gain a bit more exposure for your site.  There's also a gadget where blog owners are able to go in and post their own contests/giveaways instead of waiting for the site to catch them!  Genius idea that I think will catch on quickly!  I'm off to add my blog and see what wonderful freebies I can find!  Go here!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Soul To Soul Parenting by Annie Burnside, M.Ed.

My favorite part of parenting books is using the knowledge they contain and comparing them to both the way I was raised as a child and the way I'm currently raising my children.  I hoped to find some interesting insight and perhaps useful tips when reading this.  I did find those, but what I also found is that this is not merely a parenting tool.

Most of the book is actually geared towards enlightenment and soul searching.  Annie talks about her life's journey as well as how she's made it a family journey.  Basically, she gives us the tools, questions, motivations we need to seek our own fulfillment.  She then goes further and teaches us how to make it a family affair. 

Each chapter is well written and entertaining.  Usually with self-help books, I find a level of dryness, but I didn't with Annie's book.  Also, for those who don't want to take the time to read every word, she has nuggets of information posted on each page.  If you simply want to get the core of the book, you could begin by skimming through and reading those and then go back and read the pages you're most interested in.  At first I wasn't sure if this was a Christian book or not, but I found that it works for both Christians and non.  At the end of each chapter there are activities and questions to use individually or as a family.

Over all, this is a great tool for anyone seeking to further their knowledge of themself. 

Rolling With the Punches by Jamie Kerrick

Rolling With The Punches is what Joey Douglas's dad always told him when things got rough.  He explained that the punches in life were something you always had to deal with.  Joey grew to understand this once he got older, but it was a life long lesson.  We start with a young Joey feeling he was different due to his sexual feelings toward men.  Living in a  small town in Kentucky only made it worse.  There were three things Joey didn't want to be:  gay, alone, and an alcoholic.  he was all three.  This is his story, which can only be described as a dramedy because it's both funny and tragic.  We follow him as he grows up, goes to summer stock in Virginia, to study in Europe, New York, California, and finally back home.  At one time alcohol was his answer to life.  But it took over his life and he had to ask for help.  But Joey is a slow learner.  It takes him nearly 21 years before he found Alcoholics Anonymous and a new way of life.  But the punches continued to come.  The only difference was, he became aware of how to handle them.  Find out how in this entertaining novel.  You'll find yourself rooting for him, while identifying with him as well. (Taken from the back of the book)

Being termed a 'dramedy', I was expecting a mixture of both humor and tragedy.  That wasn't the case.  The opening of the book is full of humor but about halfway through it turns to the more serious, tragic parts of the story.  Joey is telling us the story of his life and thankfully has found humor in growing up gay in a non-supportive society.  The part that Joey  never finds humor in is his own addiction to narcotics and alcohol.  Reading this book starts out with a light-hearted 'poor kid, at least he figured it out' feeling and leads into a more severe 'poor kid, i sure hope he gets help' feeling.  I found myself laughing through several parts and wishing I were around to steer Joey in the right direction throughout the rest of the book.

If reading this for pure entertainment value, it's definitely worth a look.  Joey's written in a way that you just can't deny him as a person.  He's not one of those one-dimensional characters but has graceful flaws that keep you pulled into his life.  If reading this for support in the area of sexual preference or addiction, there's a lot of useful information.  Joey takes us on a journey and allows us to learn right along with him.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Exit Blue by Ivan G. Goldman

In the future, the Blue States have seceded from the union. The country is broken up into two different areas. Blue States are the democratic states and have their own laws and ways of doing things. Red States, or republican states, are run in their own chaotic fashion. Both sides are in a sort of war and neither can see eye to eye.

Delmore LeCorte used to be living high until his father-in-law throws him to the wolves in a nasty corporate scandal. Fresh out of rehab, Delmore finds that things have changed quite a bit on the outside, and not for the better. He’s now facing the loss of his family as well as being homeless and jobless. Under the instructions of a ‘friend’, he visits a well-known journalist who gives him a rather confusing job. Del is slated to go under cover and write a tell-all book about the blue states.

I found this book to be quite an enigma. On one hand, we have the political satire, but on the other we have amazing creativity beating us over the head. It seems that throughout the book both are at war with each other. I found myself tuning out in spots because I just couldn’t force myself to read one more dry word. Other places in the book, I couldn’t stop giggling at the sheer hilarity. It was a mixed book for me. Half of it I loved, while the other half I despised.

For me, the best part of the book had to do with the characters. They’re well-drawn and imagined. Every single characters has some lively trait that just pulls them to the front of your brain and keeps them there until the next comes along to replace it. I found myself being reminded several times of the film ‘Idiocracy’. In the film, it’s the future and mankind has turned into dullards. The Red States remind me of valley girls and frat boys in the same manner. The fact that they’re able to keep the states running at all is a miracle.

The biggest downfall to this book for me came with the political aspects. I’m not the world’s greatest authority on politics and most of the time I couldn’t care less what’s going on where they’re concerned. That may make me a bad American, but it’s the truth. Though the politics are written in this book with a definite flair to make it more entertaining, unless you have a basic knowledge of politics, most of what’s happening is going to be completely lost on you in the beginning. I found that I had to do a bit of research in order to know what was happening in the first few chapters. Once I’d finished that, however, reading it became much more simple and enjoyable.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Emma and the Vampires by Jane Austen and Wayne Josephson

Jane Austen lovers will recognize Emma Woodhouse from Emma.  Pop culture lovers will recognize Alicia Silverstone from Clueless.  Either way, this book is a rollicking good time!

In this regency era book, we find aristocratic vampires have taken over the town of Highbury.  They live among the townsfolk and no one is the wiser.  Our young Emma is more oblivious than most.  She notices odd fangs and black curtains to keep the sun out, but doesn't put that together with the vampire threat to her town.  Malicious, wild vampires are attacking the young girls in Highbury and something must be done to put an end to it!  Emma straps a stake to her thigh and decides it's time to take action!

I love the trend of taking classics and remaking them with the paranormal added in.  This is the third book that I've read.  This book definitely takes more after Pride and Prejudice and Zombies than Mr. Darcy, Vampyre.  The humor in this book is evident from the first page.  For me, Emma was a non-stop source of enjoyment.  She's so completely clueless as to what's going on around her.  This stretches from the vampires to herself.  Emma sees things from her own unique, and naive, perspective. 

Over all, this book was an excellent read.  It pulls you in from the beginning and holds you tightly in it's grip.  Characters are alive and wrought with scandal.  It's difficult to put down and easy to pick back up.  The lightheartedness with which it's written allows the reader to hold fast to the original feel of Jane's writing, while keeping it upbeat for today's reader.

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All books (unless otherwise specified) belong to me already, have been borrowed, or are sent to me by the author, publisher or review company for review. I do not receive any monetary rewards for reviewing books. The opinions expressed in my reviews belong solely to me.