Monday, January 31, 2011

Massive Book Giveaway at The Secret Adventures of WriterGirl

See those books? Those are just SOME of the books being given away at The Secret Adventures of WriterGirl!
Please say Throuthehaze referred you if you enter!

enter HERE
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Review and Giveaway: Notorious Pleasures by Elizabeth Hoyt


Notorious Pleasures (Maiden Lane, Book 2) by Elizabeth Hoyt
  • Mass Market Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Vision (January 25, 2011)
Goodread Description:

Their lives were perfect . . . Lady Hero Batten, the beautiful sister of the Duke of Wakefield, has everything a woman could want, including the perfect fiancé. True, the Marquis of Mandeville is a trifle dull and has no sense of humor, but that doesn't bother Hero. Until she meets his notorious brother . . . Until they met each other. Griffin Remmington, Lord Reading, is far from perfect - and he likes it that way. How he spends his days is a mystery, but all of London knows he engages in the worst sorts of drunken revelry at night. Hero takes an instant dislike to him, and Griffin thinks that Hero, with her charities and faultless manners, is much too impeccable for society, let alone his brother. Yet their near-constant battle of wits soon sparks desire - desire that causes their carefully constructed worlds to come tumbling down. As Hero's wedding nears, and Griffin's enemies lay plans to end their dreams forever, can two imperfect people find perfect true love? ******************************

Lady Hero is engaged to the Marquis of Mandeville. A perfect match many would say. Both of them appear to be above reproach and are very dignified. Mandeville's brother, Griffin, is another story. He is know to be a rake and rumor is that he seduced his brother's first wife. Hero first meets Griffin when she saves him from being discovered by the husband of the woman he was being intimate with. To get his attention Hero actually had to throw her earring at his bare behind! She had no idea he was her betrothed's brother at the time and of course their personalities clashed immediately. Needless to say she wasn't exactly thrilled to find out who he was.

Throughout the story Hero and Griffin find themselves drawn together and Hero learns that Griffin is not such the bad guy he seems. He may not be a perfect angel but he is a good man with good intentions. I thought it was pretty interesting how Griffin and Hero seemed to be at opposite ends of the spectrum from each other but in the end it seemed like they really met in the middle. He seemed like such a bad boy but he turns out to be pretty good and she was so dignified and perfect but it turns out she has a lot of passion and is kind of naughty. Meanwhile, Mandeville has problems trusting women because of what happened with his first wife. He doesn't trust his brother around his fiance but for a guy with trust issues he doesn't freak out as much as I would have thought when his brother spends time with Hero. I'm sure that is because his heart is not in it. He cares for another woman, but she is bold not very proper which is the opposite of the very proper Hero. This woman has had many lovers, one of them being him at one time, and he could never really trust her.

If you have read the first book in the series, Wicked Intentions, you probably remember Silence. She is the sister of the main female lead in that book. To save her husband she basically had to make a deal with the devil. Ultimately she did save her husband but at the cost of her reputation and the love and respect of her husband. In this book her husband has gone back to sea and she is now helping at the foundling home and taking care of the baby, Mary Darling, that was dropped off on the doorstep of the home she shared with her husband. On a regular basis there are small gifts left on the doorstep for the baby and it is a mystery who it is that is leaving them. I am very excited that the next book is going to be about Silence. Her part in Notorious Pleasures just whet my appetite for her story. It is pretty obvious who her leading man will be but it is definitely going to be interesting to watch how it will actually unfold.

4.5/5

*****GIVEAWAY*****

Thanks to Hachette I have 3 copies of this book to give away!

-Only open to residents of the U.S. or Canada
-No P.O. Boxes, please
-Winners are subject to the one copy per household rule, which means that if you win the same title in two or more contests you will only receive one copy in the mail.

To enter Fill out the form below:
You DO NOT have to be a follower to enter
The Giveaway ends February 7 at 11:59 pm EST




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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

CSN Stores Review

First Alert 8 Sheet Cross Cut Shredder

It took me awhile but I eventually decided to review a paper shredder. I'm slightly paranoid that someone will steal my identity from the bazillion credit card offers I get in the mail daily. I always try to remember to tear them up before throwing them away but it probably wouldn't be hard for someone to patch it back together if they really wanted to.

I received the paper shredder and put it together which was super easy because it is basically a little trashcan you set the shredder on top of. I happened to have one of those annoying credit card offer on hand so I fed it into the machine and watched it shred through the little window on the machine. I can't even begin to describe how immensely satisfying it was to shred something. As soon as it was done I jumped up and scoured the house for something else to shred. I'm not sure why, but it was a fun thing to do.

The machine does all the work. All you have to do is turn it on and put the paper in the opening. The shredder then sort of grabs hold of it and brings it on through (kind of like a printer does to paper). There is also a reverse button on it. I guess that it for if there is a jam or something. I haven't had to use it yet so I'm not sure. If you don't own a paper shredder you should! Other than burning bills and things with your info on it the best way to get rid of it effectively is to shred it...plus it is just fun. I feel a bit safer (and less paranoid) now that I can shred my mail instead of just ripping it up by hand.

**Be on the lookout soon for a CSN Stores giveaway on my blog!**

I was provided a gift code to purchase this item for review. Any opinions expressed are my own.

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Friday, January 21, 2011

and the winner is...

The winner of the giveaway for a copy of Lockdown by Alexander Gordon Smith is...


Congrats! I have sent you an email. Please respond within 48 hours.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Review: How to Woo a Reluctant Lady by Sabrina Jeffries

How to Woo a Reluctant Lady (Hellions of Halstead Hall, Book 3) by Sabrina Jeffries
  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Star (January 18, 2011)
Goodreads Description:

The third novel in Sabrina Jeffries's “Hellions of Hallstead Hall” series, featuring the independent and talented Lady Minerva Sharpe.

When a charming rogue proposes she marry him to meet her grandmother's ultimatum, the Sharpe clan's strong-willed sister makes a tempting counter-offer that preserves her inheritance and ignites his imagination.

Lady Minerva Sharpe has the perfect plan to thwart her grandmother's demands: become engaged to a rogue! Surely Gran would rather release her inheritance than see her wed a scoundrel. And who better to play the part of Minerva's would-be husband than wild barrister Giles Masters, the very inspiration for the handsome spy in the popular Gothic novels she writes? The memory of his passionate kiss on her nineteenth birthday has lingered in Minerva's imagination, though she has no intention of really falling for such a rakehell, much less marrying him. Little does she know, he really is a covert government operative. When they team up to investigate the mystery behind her parents' deaths, their fake betrothal leads to red-hot desire. Then Minerva discovers Giles's secret double life, and he must use all the cunning tricks of his trade to find his way back into her heart.
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Of all the Sharpe siblings, I have been looking forward to Minerva's story the most. I think a lot of it has to do with her being a popular gothic romance writer. It is a bit scandalous for her to do that, not to mention she uses her real name instead of a pen name. Minerva isn't some simpering weak-minded female you find in many historical romances, she has a backbone and is intelligent.

In order for the Sharpe sibling to get their inheritance, their grandmother Hettie has made it a condition that they all must marry. That is a tall order for them because they are a bunch of hellions who don't seem to want to marry. When they were children their parents were killed. Speculation is that their mother shot their father, then killed herself because her husband was blatantly faithless to her so much. The Sharpe's feel there is more to the story and are trying to solve the murders because there is so much mystery about what happened that night.

Minerva's main fears about marriage are that her husband will make her stop writing and that he will turn out to be just like her father. Those reasons are all very valid, however when she puts in ad in the paper for a husband (to annoy her grandmother in hopes she will make an exception for Minerva) a man she used to love answers. Giles Masters is a friend of Minerva's brothers and she was in love with him since she was nine until she was nineteen when he broke her heart. Another nine years have passed and in that time she has created a villain in her books that bears a striking resemblance to Griffin which is part of the reason Griffin answered her ad for a husband. He wants to marry her in part because he figures he can get her to stop writing about him and in part because he has had some feelings for her for a long time.

Minerva and Giles's story was a lot of fun to read. They had a lot of personal issues to overcome and things got rocky for a bit but they make a great match. I think it is pretty obvious now after reading this book who the two remaining unmarried Sharpe siblings will end up with and I can't wait to read how it all goes down. The mystery surrounding their parents death seems to get even more mysterious and I have a feeling it won't be cleared up until the last book. In the meantime I will wait impatiently to find out what really happened that night.

5/5

I received this book for review from the publisher. Any opinions expressed are my own.

CymLowell
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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday #27

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Sirenz by Charlotte Bennardo and Natalie Zaman
  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Flux (June 8, 2011)
Goodreads Description:

Bickering frenemies Meg and Shar are doing some serious damage at a midnight sample sale when they find themselves arguing over a pair of shoes—with fatal consequences. One innocent bystander later, the girls are suddenly at the mercy of Hades—the god of the underworld—himself. To make them atone for what they’ve done, Hades forces the teens to become special-assignment Sirens, luring to the Underworld any individual whose unholy contract is up.

But just because they have an otherworldly part-time job now doesn’t mean Meg and Shar can ignore life’s drudgeries (work) or pleasures (fashion!). Finding that delicate balance between their old and new responsibilities turns out to be harder than they expected, especially when an entire pantheon of Greek deities decides to get involved. Then there’s the matter of the fine print in their contracts . . .

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Review: Halfway Hexed by Kimberly Frost

Halfway Hexed (Southern Witch, Book 3) by Kimberly Frost
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley Trade (February 1, 2011)
Goodreads Description:

New witch Tammy Jo Trask has a whole town full of trouble, in the latest from the national bestselling author of Barely Bewitched.

First, there are the local residents who form a scripture-spouting posse and kidnap Tammy to "defend" Duvall, Texas, against witchcraft. Next, someone saddles her with a secret package chock full of dangerous visions, just as the president of WAM-the World Association of Magic- arrives with his entourage to investigate her. And who worse to examine Tammy's entanglement with off-limits and drop-dead gorgeous wizard Bryn Lyons than his ex-girlfriend? Not to mention that the clash between the locals and the magical visitors leads to a series of unnatural disasters that may doom them all.

While the fate of the town hangs in the balance, one thing's certain: this would-be witch is ready to rumble, Texas style.

***************************************

I love this series! If you haven't read the previous books then you should hold off on reading this one until you do. If read out of order you probably would have no idea what is going on or why. The first two books were excellent and this one is as well. Tammy Jo Trask and one of her love interests, Bryn Lyons are being investigated by the World Association of Magic due to events that occurred in previous books. This is not good at all. All while this is going on Tammy is being kidnapped, threatened, and harassed by some holier than thou residents in her town. These people are serious nutcases but through it all Tammy carries on...often times like nothing happened. She gets shot and calls it a scratch, she gets kidnapped then escapes and she goes on with her day like normal. She is brave (sometimes foolishly so) and resilient which I can admire in her character. One of the few things that DOES seem to manage to get under her skin is her complicated relationship with Bryn. She is torn between him and her ex-husband whom she promised to wait for to come back before she makes a decision between the two. Bryn doesn't make the waiting part easy for her though. They share a special magical synergy with each other that is rare. I find myself torn at times about who I want her to end up with. I mostly am leaning towards Bryn but sometimes he just seems a little to slick and sure of himself for my tastes. Also I occasionally wonder if his motive for wanting to be with her isn't just because he loves her but because of the incredible power he would gain by being with her. Very complicated. There are some action moments (fights, escapes, etc.) and some romance that all equal out to a great story. I don't really think it is quite as action packed as the previous books but it is still exciting to read. Duvall is kind of a wacky place if you ask me but it is so interesting. It is a small town where everyone seems to know everyone's business. The people that live there are definitely unique and really round out the story. I would love to read more about them in the future. I would also like to learn more about Tammy's family. If you enjoyed the previous books in the series you won't be let down with this one!

4.5/5

I received an uncorrected proof of this book for review from the publisher. Any opinions expressed are my own.

CymLowell

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Guest Post/Giveaway: Alexander Gordon Smith


Hi there, thanks so much for letting me write a guest post for your blog! I wanted to talk a little bit about Furnace Penitentiary. It’s the Furnace of the series title, but it’s more than just a place – it’s also one of the most important characters in the book.

The idea for Lockdown began with Alex, this character in my head who was a version of me as a teenager. He was a bad kid who got into trouble – a lot worse trouble than I ever did, I should say. And I knew that the story would be about him being sent to prison. But I wanted the book to be a horror book, not an issues book, so really the first character I spent time thinking about, other than Alex, was Furnace, the prison itself.

I say it’s a character rather than a place because it always felt that way in my head. There are bad guys in the prison – the hellish Warden, the awful Wheezers, the sadistic Blacksuits – but I wanted the prison itself to be the true villain, to be the ultimate evil that needed to be overcome. And a villain is exactly what Furnace is. It is soulless, it is immortal, it devours children, and once it has you it never lets you go. It is the thing that Alex and his friends have to fight, it is the force that they must defeat if they stand any chance of survival. As terrifying as the human faces of Furnace are, at least they have faces – even if they’re covered with gas masks. Furnace Penitentiary is a faceless monster, which makes it so much worse. It is a villain which cannot be reasoned with or understood, which cannot bleed, which cannot be killed.

The majority of the planning I did for the books was trying to work out what this prison looked like. Surprisingly, it wasn’t always underground. When I first came up with the idea of Furnace I assumed it would be a normal prison, the kind you get in pretty much every major city in the world. It was actually my little brother Jamie who made me think of the place as a subterranean dungeon. Jamie, who was eleven when I started writing Lockdown, helped me write my previous series of books, The Inventors. He is a great source of inspiration, and especially loves the research that goes with writing a book (when we were working on The Inventors he built dozens of gadgets and traps, testing them all out on me)! It was Jamie who suggested going to visit a prison to see what the atmosphere was like.

I have to confess I’d never actually been to a prison before, and I thought it was a great piece of advice. So one day Jamie and I tried to get into the prison in Norwich, which is where we live. Unsurprisingly, we didn’t have much luck! So Jamie said that we should visit a medieval dungeon instead. Norwich is a very old city, and it’s full of these ancient buildings, many of which have cellars or vaults or creepy subterranean passageways. There’s one building in particular, called the Guildhall, which used to be the city’s law court hundreds of years ago. Underneath the Guildhall, buried deep beneath the ground, are the old dungeons. Jamie and I got permission to go down there, and it was terrifying! There were no windows, hardly any of the lights worked, and it was full of these cramped, rock-walled cells covered in centuries-old graffiti.

I was totally freaked out. I saw the place as this heartless, faceless entity in which people had suffered and probably died. Even though it was made of stone I imagined that it was alive, that it fed on misery and pain, that we’d be stuck there forever in some kind of horrific ghostly purgatory – along with all the other poor spirits down there. Needless to say, I didn’t want to stay any longer than I had to. I thought Jamie was scared as well, because he told me to pop inside a cell and see what it was like. ‘Five seconds and then we can get out of here,’ he said. That sounded good to me, so I ducked into the nearest cell, took a deep breath of the atmosphere, turned to go…

Only to see the cell door slamming shut. Jamie had locked me in! It was pitch black in that cell – they had solid oak doors rather than more modern barred ones – and I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. I knew the cell was empty, but I swear I could feel ghosts running cold fingers down my spine, whispering in my ear. I kept thinking about the prison as this soulless, ageless evil, how it had grown out of the earth like a tumour, how there was absolutely no way for me to get out. And I was banging on the door screaming for Jamie to open it.

Fifteen minutes later, he did. I bolted up the stairs and into the sunshine, more relieved than I’ve ever been in my life! I was angry with Jamie for pulling a stunt like that, but I was really grateful to him as well. As soon as I’d left the Guildhall I knew that I wanted Furnace Penitentiary to be more like a medieval dungeon – buried beneath the ground, no natural light, hardly any air, with these solid rock walls that go on for miles. Being trapped inside that cell – those fifteen minutes that felt like fifteen years – allowed the idea of this monstrous prison to develop. It’s where Furnace was born.

Of course the prison isn’t really alive, it isn’t an entity at all, but I wanted it to feel that way to Alex and to the other kids who were locked inside. I wanted it to feel that way to the reader, too. I wanted the prison to be the beast which seemed to creep from the book, the real horror which haunted their dreams, the true villain of the story.

And hopefully it is!


Thank you for the awesome guest post and insight into Furnace Penitentiary! I love how you got your inspiration and that your brother was a part of that.

**********GIVEAWAY**********
1 copy of Lockdown by Alexander Gordon Smith
Open to US and Canada ONLY
ends January 20 at 11:59 pm EST

To enter, leave a meaningful comment about this guest post or the books. You DO NOT have to be a follower to enter.
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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Upcoming CSN Stores Review

Ducti Danger Utility Messenger Bag in Red - 10308RD

As a CSN Preferred Blogger I was given the opportunity to review a product. I still haven't decided yet what I will review but I found this cool laptop messenger bag on the site. Now I don't have a laptop (which is a travesty), but I still ogle all the accessories, ya know...for when the day comes that I can finally afford a laptop (in the very distant future). I really like this bag. It's different and it doesn't necessarily LOOK like a laptop bag. If you are looking for a new laptop messenger bag you might want to check out CSN Stores because they have a ton of different ones to choose from. I have also found their prices to be pretty good and a lot of items come with free shipping.
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Waiting on Wednesday #26

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Vampire Mine (Love at Stake, Book 10) by Kerrelyn Sparks
  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Avon (March 29, 2011)
Goodreads Description:

Nothing on earth can make this vampire fall in love . . .

After 499 years of existence, Connor Buchanan has arrived at an inescapable conclusion: he is a cold-hearted SOB. He's been watching his friends—those poor romantic fools—plummet off the cliff into love like a dazed herd of sheep. But not Connor. He knows that love leads to nothing but heartache.

Until Marielle . . .

She is an angel cast down from heaven for disobedience. Trapped in mortal form, she finds a protector in Connor, a Scottish vampire haunted by a dark past. Marielle hopes to heal his broken heart and earn her way back home, but suddenly she has these . . . feelings. This strange yet pleasant physical yearning—for a vampire! Is this the work of a demon luring her into hell, or has this angel found heavenly bliss?

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Review: Vesper by Jeff Sampson

Vesper by Jeff Sampson
  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Balzer + Bray (January 25, 2011)
Goodreads Description:

Emily Webb is a geek. And she’s happy that way. Content hiding under hoodies and curling up to watch old horror flicks, she’s never been the kind of girl who sneaks out for midnight parties. And she’s definitely not the kind of girl who starts fights or flirts with other girls’ boyfriends. Until one night Emily finds herself doing exactly that . . . the same night one of her classmates—also named Emily—is found mysteriously murdered.

The thing is, Emily doesn’t know why she’s doing any of this. By day, she’s the same old boring Emily, but by night, she turns into a thrill seeker. With every nightfall, Emily gets wilder until it’s no longer just her personality that changes. Her body can do things it never could before: Emily is now strong, fast, and utterly fearless. And soon Emily realizes that she’s not just coming out of her shell . . . there’s something much bigger going on. Is she bewitched by the soul of the other, murdered Emily? Or is Emily Webb becoming something else entirely— something not human?

As Emily hunts for answers, she finds out that she’s not the only one this is happening to—some of her classmates are changing as well. Who is turning these teens into monsters—and how many people will they kill to get what they want?

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I was floored by this book. I didn't really know what to expect because the blurb is kind of vague. My initial thought was that maybe it would be like a paranormal version of The Lying Game by Sara Shepard. That was so far off base. There were some very unexpected twists that made me eager to keep reading more. I just could not put this book down. I don't want to give away any of the plot twists so I can't really get into any of the specifics about the book. The main character Emily Webb is someone I could really identify with. She is kind of nerdy, lacking self confidence, and just sort of blends in with the background. She is the "sidekick" kind of girl who is there to listen to and support her friend without bringing any attention to herself. When she starts to change at night her personality does a 180. She has confidence (maybe even too much) and she does what she wants. Her daytime self and nighttime self are two separate entities but eventually it seems like they sort of merge. This change in Emily as she comes into herself is fascinating. With the way the books ends you know that this is just the beginning. It feels like the surface has only been scratched and I am so excited to delve further into what is going on and learn WHY this is going on.

5/5

I received this book from the publisher to review. Any opinions expressed are my own.

CymLowell
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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Review: Cate of the Lost Colony by Lisa Klein

Cate of the Lost Colony by Lisa Klein
  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books (October 12, 2010)
Goodreads description:

Lady Catherine is one of Queen Elizabeth's favorite court maidens—until her forbidden romance with Sir Walter Ralegh is discovered. In a bitter twist of irony, the jealous queen banishes Cate to Ralegh's colony of Roanoke, in the New World. Ralegh pledges to come for Cate, but as the months stretch out, Cate begins to doubt his promise and his love. Instead it is Manteo, a Croatoan Indian, whom the colonists—and Cate—increasingly turn to. Yet just as Cate's longings for England and Ralegh fade and she discovers a new love in Manteo, Ralegh will finally set sail for the New World.

Seamlessly weaving together fact with fiction, Lisa Klein's newest historical drama is an engrossing tale of adventure and forbidden love—kindled by one of the most famous mysteries in American history: the fate of the settlers at Roanoke, who disappeared without a trace forty years before the Pilgrims would set foot in Plymouth.

****************************************

I was born and raised in Virginia and in school we focused A LOT on Virginia history. Being so close to many historical sites we were able to go on a lot of field trips to Jamestown and Yorktown where we learned a lot about how colonists lived. The most interesting subject for me though was the lost colonists. It is a true mystery with lots of speculation about what may have happened...the perfect subject for a book. I was very excited to read this story since the subject is something I have had interest in since elementary school. I was not disappointed at all.

The story is told from 3 different points of view: Cate, Walter Ralegh, and Manteo. I liked that it was told this way because it let me get to know each character better and know what their motivations are. I didn't find the beginning of the book (set in England) that interesting, but that is mostly because it is about court life (which kind of makes me sick). Everyone has to act like loyal dogs to the Queen, who controls just about every aspect of her courtiers lives. The most ridiculous things can be construed as traitorous and can get a person thrown in the tower or hanged. There was definitely a lot of paranoia and ego. Speaking of ego, Walter Ralegh was full of it. A very self important, greedy, vain, and selfish man is what he was. How anyone could fall in love with him is beyond me but then again, expectations were not high back then. He was famous and in the Queen's favor and that is what mattered then. Cate is naive and a little desperate for the Queen's love and eventually Walter Ralegh's. I enjoyed seeing her evolve and become more assure of herself. It was a gradual thing which I think made it more believable. Manteo (a Native American) is basically the guide for the English when they get to his homeland. He tries to pave the way to good relations between the different tribes and the English. His intentions are good and although he is an intelligent person he is also a little naive.

The colonists endured a lot of tragedy, much of which I believe they brought upon themselves. Once again, egotism and intolerance causes a lot of damage. The self destruction of the colonists when overwhelmed by fear and desperation seemed inevitable from almost the start. There are some historically accurate aspects to the story but ultimately it is fiction. I can appreciate the effort the author made to make it all seem so real though. The ending was amazing. I loved the author's take on what happened to the colonists and in my mind that is how I would hope it happened as well. Although this is a young adult book I believe that adults who enjoy reading historical fiction would like this book as well.

4/5

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for me to review. Any opinions expressed are my own.
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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday #25

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Scars of Mirrodin: The Quest for Karn by Robert B. Wintermute
  • Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Wizards of the Coast (April 26, 2011)
Goodreads Description:

Mirrodin—a world of living metal, an artificial ecosystem created by the Planeswalker Karn to support organic life—is on the cusp of cataclysm. When the Planeswalker Venser goes in search of his former mentor, he learns Karn’s life hangs in the balance—and with him the entire plane of existence. For fans of the mega-selling trading card game, Magic: the Gathering®, the full story behind Scars of Mirrodin, a revisitation one of Magic’s most popular settings.

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Review: More Make it Fast, Cook it Slow: 200 Brand-New, Budget Friendly, Slow-Cooker Recipes by Stephanie O'Dea

More Make it Fast, Cook it Slow: 200 Brand-New, Budget Friendly, Slow-Cooker Recipes by Stephanie O'Dea
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion; Original edition (December 28, 2010)
Goodreads Description:

The New York Times bestselling author of slow-cooker cookbook Make It Fast, Cook It Slow returns with budget (and gluten-free!) meals that will satisfy the entire family. Stephanie O'Dea's 200 delicious recipes include

* Baked Herbed Feta

*Smoky Bean and Corn Soup

* Maple-Glazed Pork Chops

*Moroccan Chicken with Lentils

* Apple-Pecan Bread Pudding

*Orange and Honey Tilapia

* Chocolate Pot de Crème with Ganache

--and many more. More Make It Fast, Cook It Slow is the perfect cookbook for easy-to-prepare meals that don't take a toll on the family budget.

***************************

I love to cook, but here is the problem...I'm kiiiinda broke and honestly, I'm lazy (yeah, I will admit to that). If I can just throw stuff in a pot, come back 4-8 hours later and it is edible I am all for it. Slow-cookers are the way to go. This cook book has 200 recipes! All of them are simple and budget friendly. The majority of the ingredients for most of the recipes are things that I typically already have in the pantry. I really like the convenience of that.

The recipes are sorted by price: $7 and Under, $10 and Under, and $15 and Under. In each of these sections it is then broken down again by type of recipe (beverages, breakfasts, etc.). I prefer it when ALL beverage recipes are together, breakfast recipes together, etc. I think it is a little easier to navigate that way, however I am sure many people can appreciate the way this cookbook is organized when they are on a budget.

There are no pictures of the final dishes. That is something that normally bothers me with a cook book, but not this one. Slow-cooker food is not usually the most attractive (tasty yes, attractive no) so a visual of it would be pointless.

There is a large variety of recipes in the book. Many of them were for things I didn't know you could even cook in a slow-cooker (like pesto lasagna). Here are some of the recipes that caught my eye:

  • Root Beer Pulled Pork
  • Greek Ribs
  • Chicken with Apricots and Dates
  • Maple Banana Oat Bread
  • Pizza Potatoes
I can't wait to try them! I also want to point out that these recipes are gluten free. When something like flour is used, the author specifies to use gluten free. If you aren't gluten free and want to use regular ingredients it does not change the recipe so go ahead (that is what I did).

The recipe I tried (and LOVED) is the Loose Meat Sandwiches. I used to watch the show Roseanne and she had a loose meat sandwich place. I always wanted to try one because of that and now I finally got to. The meat is so flavorful. As for the texture of the meat, it was a little mushy but I got over that quickly because it tasted so good! Here is the recipe from the cookbook:

Loose Meat Sandwiches
serves 8

The Ingredients

1lb extra-lean ground beef or turkey
1 onion, finely diced
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp prepared mustard
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 cups beef broth
8 hamburger buns (you can use gluten free, toasted)
hamburger fixin's: pickles, lettuce, sliced tomato, additional mustard

The Directions

Use a 6-quart slow cooker. Crumble the ground meat into your slow cooker. Add the onion, dry spices, and sugar. Add the prepared mustard and apple cider vinegar. Pour in 1 cup of beef broth, and stir the contents of the cooker very well. Pour in the other cup of broth and cover. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours. Stir well before serving and scoop onto hamburger buns. Top with the desired fixin's.

As with any recipe you are going to have to tweak things to your personal taste a bit. I ended up adding a little extra of the spices and vinegar to get the taste I really wanted. I love that I was able to throw everything in the cooker with almost zero work. I didn't even chop an onion...I went the lazy route and bought the frozen diced ones. This is a great cookbook and I can't wait to make more meals from it!

4.5/5


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Review: The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade

The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade
  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion Book CH (June 29, 2010)
Goodreads Description:

Alona Dare–Senior in high school, co-captain of the cheerleading squad, Homecoming Queen three years in a row, voted most likely to marry a movie star… and newly dead.

I’m the girl you hated in high school. Is it my fault I was born with it all-good looks, silky blond hair, a hot bod, and a keen sense of what everyone else should not be wearing? But my life isn’t perfect, especially since I died. Run over by a bus of band geeks—is there anything more humiliating? As it turns out, yes—watching your boyfriend and friends move on with life, only days after your funeral. And you wouldn’t believe what they’re saying about me now that they think I can’t hear them. To top it off, I’m starting to disappear, flickering in and out of existence. I don’t know where I go when I’m gone, but it’s not good. Where is that freaking white light already?

Will Killian–Senior in high school, outcast, dubbed “Will Kill” by the popular crowd for the unearthly aura around him, voted most likely to rob a bank…and a ghost-talker.

I can see, hear, and touch the dead. Unfortunately, they can also see, hear and touch me. Yeah, because surviving high school isn’t hard enough already. I’ve done my best to hide my “gift.” After all, my dad, who shared my ability, killed himself because of it when I was fifteen. But lately, pretending to be normal has gotten a lot harder. A new ghost—an anonymous, seething cloud of negative energy with the capacity to throw me around—is pursuing me with a vengeance. My mom, who knows nothing about what I can do, is worrying about the increase in odd incidents, my shrink is tossing around terms like “temporary confinement for psychiatric evaluation,” and my principal, who thinks I’m a disruption and a faker, is searching for every way possible to get rid of me. How many weeks until graduation?
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In The Ghost and the Goth, the popular and beautiful Alona Dare is outside for gym class when she sneaks off to make a call. She distractedly walks into the street and gets hit by a bus. Just a few days later she is back at school in her ghostly form and frustrated with what is happening. The social outcast of the school, Will Killian, has the ability to see and communicate with ghosts…something he has to keep secret (even from the ghosts!). Everyone thinks he is schizophrenic, including his mom, and the principal has it out for him because he is different from everyone else. When Will sees Alona’s ghost he gives himself away by laughing at her. The secret is out! Now Alona is determined to get him to help her to move on from being stuck in “limbo”. Obviously a mismatched pair, neither one is happy to be stuck with each other but to accomplish what they want they have to work together.

I really enjoyed the main plot, but it went a little off course for me when it came to Will’s friends Joonie and Lily. I think that having more back story about what happened with Lily would have made me enjoy it more. I really didn’t like Joonie, but then again I might have if things were told from her point of view. Some of the explanations were a little out there and too easily accepted by other characters which baffled me a bit but it really didn’t detract from the story. Ultimately I would say the characters were the main draw for me in this book. I think it will be interesting to see how the story progresses as Alona and Will try to do some good.

3.5/5


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My blog has a new look!

This is my first post in the new year and my blog has a new look to go with it! I was lucky enough to win a giveaway at NovemberGirlxoxo for a new blog design from Laura at Eight Day Designs. Laura did a great job with the design and was very helpful with any questions I had. Thank you Laura!

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