Book Review: Ashes by Ilsa Bick

Ashes Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In this first installment of Ilsa Bick’s dystopian thriller trilogy, Alex is a teen with a dark secret who goes backpacking in the wilderness. While in the wilderness, an EMP blast takes out most of humankind and the few who survive are either Changed (turned into carnivorous monsters)or must fight the Changed and scavenge for supplies in order to survive. Alex finds herself part of a family of Spared (young people who survive and are not Changed) as she, Ellie (an 8-year old girl) and Tom (a 22-year old Afghanistan war veteran) fight to survive.

I found myself up late at night past my bedtime unable to put this one down. Bick has created a world with deep characters and a well-planned storyline that kept me guessing as to what would happen – all the way up until the end of the book when I was left hanging. Only then did I realize this was part of a series.

For those who loved the Hunger Games series, this book is a sure hit. I can’t wait for the next installment in the series!

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Book Review: Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky

AwakenAwaken by Katie Kacvinsky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Awaken is the story of a future world where people live their lives online for the most part. All their social interactions are online, all school is online (DS – Called “Digital School”). People rarely leave their homes, and when they do they find themselves tracked by their fingerprints whenever they use public transportation (which is what most people use) and in a world of fake trees, grass, even food.

Maddie is the daughter of the founder of DS. She has a rebellious streak in her and is contacted by Justin, who leads a group trying to give people a choice between DS and face-to-face school. Justin introduces her to a world where people get together to socialize, food is made from scratch, and DS is optional. And Maddie introduces love to Justin.

What I love about this book: ACTION! There are actual chase scenes in the book. I also love that Kacvinsky has created characters that question the status quo and attempt to shake things up and create a revolution (much in the same way that Katniss and Peeta changed things in Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series). And I love that Kacvinsky has created a world where online social interaction has become the main means of socializing. Why? Because this book takes what I see in my library every day (chatting online, Facebooking, texting) and makes you question the hold these online interactions have on us and how out-of-touch we can become by living our social lives online.

Part of me wishes that the romance played a lesser part in the book because with less of a romantic focus it could be a great YA book club book to discuss the affect of technology on our lives. I can see this book appealing to teen girls but not so much to boys.

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Book Review: Blood (Mercian Trilogy #1) by K.J. Wignall

Blood (Mercian Trilogy, #1)Blood by K.J. Wignall
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

William, Earl of Mercia, has been “undead” (his preferred term to describe a vampire) and frozen at the age of 16 for over 750 years. He has been in and out of hibernation for all those centuries and seen his earldom given to his younger brother and then crumble as famine, plague and wars have given way to modern society. When he awakes from hibernation in the present day, he discovers that this awakening is unlike any other. He soon meets Eloise, and finds his fate intertwined with that of the runaway teen. With her help, he learns more about his past and why he was bitten. He also learns that he is no longer alone in this world.

This book was quite the refreshing read for a YA paranormal novel. While it is set in the modern day, the backstory goes into the 13th century – a time of superstition and fear about anything not normal. Witch-burnings were common then and the theme of witchcraft has been woven in nicely. It was a fast read and really kept me going, trying to guess where the author was going to take me. While there is the slight element of romance, it is downplayed and is not the dominant theme in the book.

I think this will be a very popular YA series and I’m already looking forward to seeing what book #2 in the trilogy will bring!

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reason #837 why I’m married and shouldn’t be left alone

Here I am at 11:52 pm on a work night on my computer writing a blog post for a blog that no one reads. And it’s all because hubby is out of town. And I drank 2 glasses of wine after I put the kids to bed. And answered an email about our foster dog and our upcoming trip for a family reunion. And then thanked my foster coordinator person for saving me from adopting another pup. And then thinking about why I want to adopt another pup. And then thinking about how sad I am that my boy who so loves animals should have the luck of getting the pup that doesn’t really want to hang out and snuggle with people.

But then how much of it is the pup (Vito) and how much of it is Sam and his lack of self-control in being calm and patient around Vito? How do I teach him to practice more restraint? How do I encourage gentleness in him? I know he has it in him – he just needs to channel it more often. What do I do to encourage the gentle spirit in him? Or do I just need to get him a different dog? Is that wrong? To adopt and dog and after a couple of months decide that the dog is not the right dog and add another dog to the family? What *is* the right thing to do?

After the email was sent, I probably spent at least 30 minutes looking through pups available for adoption. And none really tickled my fancy. And then for some goofy reason, I looked at the golden beginnings rescue site (where we got our sweet Dixie nearly 12 years ago). And I marveled at how many “old gold” dogs they have for adoption. And I want to take home one of those dogs and give it a home for the next couple of years of its life. And then I’m reading about their adoptions and the older dog who was adopted by a visiting author who lives in California and all the people involved in getting this dog to CA. And I’m just in tears. Because I SO want to help but I’m just too overwhelmed. I can barely handle my current life as it is. But I want to feel like I make a difference – that I’m doing something for the world. And I want to feel like my kids are learning something from me – that I’m imparting some values that will make them into better people. Not that I’m the best person in the world. But I’m not horrible, I hope.

My house is a mess, my kids are a mess, my hubby is hardly home, I procrastinate like nobody’s business, and I’m up at 12:08am writing a blog that no one reads. There is seriously something wrong with me! Or it’s hubby’s fault for going out of town. One or the other. Maybe I’ll just blame the hubs. He’s not here to defend himself anyway…  :-)

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doggie trouble

Crazy people that we are, we have taken in another dog. The pups have settled in for the most part and it was time to do our thing again for the pup rescue group. So we took in Red Duke on Wednesday. He’s been through a couple of other fosters, and now he’s with us. The first foster was just completely overwhelmed by her other foster dog and her own dog who has cancer and just couldn’t deal with another foster dog. The second foster was overwhelmed by the craziness of Red Duke and some perceived aggression between her dog and Red Duke.

So now he’s at our house. And he’s wild. And crazy. He jumps. And he slobbers. And he chews.

Did I mention that he chews?

And in one evening he’s chewed through a leather leash, a very thick nylon leash and one of the laces on my very favorite Keen sandals. I’m hoping I can get a replacement lace for it soon.

And Red Duke is getting a chain leash. And being tethered far away from anything he’s not allowed to chew on.

I can’t believe we’re this insane.do

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things I love (belated valentines post)

I love that my girl sings thousands of songs – all that she made up herself. I love that the songs sometimes follow a theme. Today’s theme was “teeth” – because she has a loose tooth. I love that my girl loves to dance in front of the mirror or any reflective surface – even though I also find it maddening because she gets distracted from what she is supposed to be doing.

I love that my boy can fill a page with amazing drawings of things I’d never imagine – but I don’t love when he gets in trouble for doing it on the homework he is supposed to be self-checking. I love that when he finds something funny, he has to come and show it to you and you can’t help but laugh because he’s so excited about it. I love that he can get so immersed into a book that he’s oblivious to the world around him – but I also find it maddening when the world around him is me trying to get his attention. I love that my boy will still come up and hug me for no reason – and I hope he continues to do so forever and ever and never finds that he’s “too cool” to hug his mom.

I love that my hubby sweetly says “okay” and turns over when I tell him he’s snoring. I love that he agrees with the kids that the pancakes from mix are crap compared to the homemade ones that I make. I love that he gets as excited about camping with the kids as they do. I love that he’s a big ‘ol softie and loves the puppies that I adopted when he was gone – and even helps clean up when they poop in the house. I love that he’s not *too* mad that I found the birthday gift he had bought for me in his trunk (although he wouldn’t even know about it if it weren’t for the boy telling on me).  I love that after almost 15 years I still find new things to love about him.

I love that even though I’m all grown up and have been on my own for MANY years, my parents are still there to help me. I love that they moved to a new house to live closer to us after we moved. I love that they drop (nearly) everything to help out with my kids (and dogs!). I love that they have embraced retirement and found things that they truly enjoy doing. I love that after nearly 46 years of marriage, they are still together. I love that I see them bicker…and know that it’s normal and that hubby and I can continue bickering and hopefully see our 46th anniversary and many more.

I love that I’m blessed to have a family that makes me warm and happy inside. Even though there are times that I find life difficult, my hubby and kids and parents are the glue that keeps my life together.

T

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picture frame makeover

I have some boring picture frames purchased back in the day when I thought I liked the look of naked wood. I no longer like naked wood. But why toss perfectly good frames when I can just give ’em a makeover?

Here’s my sweetie back in his archery heyday:

Take the picture out, clean the glass well and set it aside. Then head to the garage. Get out a hammer and beat the crap out of the frame:

Enlist your kids for some help:

Paint it with some black paint, then sand off some of the paint on the edges of the frame:

Slather with some Mod Podge (I used the matte finish, although I’ve also used the Glossy finish for a previous project and like that look as well).

It starts out looking all milky white, but will dry clear. Once it is completely dry, put your glass back into the frame, add the picture of your sweetie and attach the backing and you have a fantabulous distressed picture frame to be proud of!

Put the picture back where you found it and enjoy your totally “new” picture frame!

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snow day…busted!

After all the hype on the local news, we wound up with a bit of freezing rain. Which ultimately meant that it was smart for the entire city to shut down for the day since the roads were very icy and dangerous. But meant that our fun snow day turned into ice day  instead. But in true Williams family fashion, we made the best of it.

Freezing rain means a slide covered in ice. And what does an icy slide mean? Fun! Scott used the plastic dish scraper thingies to knock the ice off the ladder into the kids’ playhouse. And then they had a great time sliding down the very slippery slide. And knocking ice off of things. And running around with bits of ice. And throwing bits of ice on the patio to watch them shatter. You know – all the things that kids do when they don’t get snow.

And who says you have to have snow for a fun snow day?

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Twas the night before snow day…or so we hope

Half the country is covered in snow and ice begging for the winter weather to end and we sit here in our nice cozy house hoping for snow. That’s life in Houston for you.

The kids are out of school tomorrow and the college I work for is closed tomorrow. So we’re hoping that the snow actually comes and our poor deprived children get to catch a snowflake or two on their tongues. I’m even planning on waking them up in the middle of the night if I notice that it’s snowing. I just don’t want them to miss it!

Last year, we had a bit of snow one afternoon. Other parts of the city got a pretty good bit, but ours didn’t stick. I thought about pulling the kids out of school early when the snow was coming down pretty good. But I didn’t. And by the time they got out, the snow was gone. A tiny little flurry occurred later on that day and my poor sad pitiful children ran around the backyard pushing a wheelbarrow hoping to catch some snow. Have I mentioned how pitiful they are?

Please, weather gods, make my children less pitiful!!

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Getting ready for the holidays

peanut's tree

Halloween is over and Peanut’s tree says that it is officially fall in our neck of the woods. And that means it is time to start thinking about holiday cards.

I LOVE photo holiday cards! I don’t care if it is a picture of grandkids, dogs or a snapshot from a favorite vacation taken during the year – the degree of personal attention that goes into a photo card makes it SO much better than the ones you find in a box at the discount store.

Usually, I wind up procrastinating with my holiday card order and wind up ordering from a nearby big-box discount store that has a 24-hour turnaround on cards. The major drawback I’ve found is that their designs aren’t anything spectacular. And many of the times I’ve used them, I have to go back to get more envelopes or just buy some more because they give me too few. Seriously? You give me 20 envelopes and I have 50 cards? How does that work out?

This year, however, I am making a pledge: I will start working on my cards NOW and I will order them through Shutterfly. Why? Well, I’ve used Shutterfly in the past with nice results. Here are a couple of the photo books I made. The grandparents really loved this one when they received it for Christmas last year. I guess I have to start working on a new one for this Christmas! Eeek! Too many things to do and so little time!

Shutterfly really has some wonderful designs this year. I’m quite fond of the colors on this one:

Shutterfly Colorful Joy 2010

Shutterfly’s calendars are really nifty. How cool would it be to give your family personalized calendars with birthdays and anniversaries already on the calendar? I’m totally in love with the Playdate theme. Maybe the grandparents get a wall calendar this year instead of a photo book?

And if all of my holiday prep gets put off due to the myriad of fiascoes that tend to befall me when I have grand plans for projects, I can always send out a bunch of New Year’s cards! Considering all the swanky New Year’s designs available, it might be a good thing for me to procrastinate!

shutterfly new years card

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