Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Weekend Away with Me Means...

I have the wonderful opportunity to go away this weekend with some great Homeschool Moms, some I know really well and others I'm just getting to know.  (I can NOT tell you how excited I am!) None of these women have spent 24/7 with me so I thought it best to give them an idea of what to expect. I'm always on my best behavior when I'm away from home (just like I've trained my boys to be) but you never know what can happen when you put a bunch of women together, especially those of us who spend all day, every day with our offspring. I e-mailed them an open letter that said this...
Dear friends (who are brave enough to spend 24/7 with me this weekend), here's a few things I thought you should know because I *hearts* you!

1) I'm prone to random dancing & singing which may occur at any time of the day or night.
2) My dancing skills FAR outweigh my singing abilities.
3) If you choose to approach me in the a.m. before I've had a cup of coffee, you are doing so at your own risk. (Took my Mom 20 years to figure this one out.)
4) I do not like to have my underthings frozen. (This goes back to middle school sleepovers & people touching my stuff without asking.)
5) I require any photos/videos taken of which I'm a part of, to be pre-approved & notarized by me before posting on any website.
6) My inner toddler comes out when I'm overly tired, hungry or hot but once I've been fed, cooled off or had a nap I'm good as new.
7) I take more than 20 minutes to get ready. It's not vanity, it's just me not wanting to scare you or the general population.
8) I laugh in awkward situations. It's not meant to be cruel, it's just how I'm wired. So if you hurt yourself, I'll be the first in line with the band aids but I'll be giggling the entire time.
9) While I enjoy a good practical joke now & then, I do not enjoy ANY that involve spiders or owls. (real or fake btw)
10) I'm very competitive. VERY. I play to win no matter the game. I don't know if I can stress this enough. (Dutch Blitz is treated like a swear word in our family, oh-kay?) This is such a problem that I'm not allowed to play games with most members of my family. When I am granted permission, it's with restrictions (for me) & supervision (for me).
Did I mention how much I *hearts* you?!  ^___^ 
(^ all tongue in cheek of course, mostly, maybe...) 


Saturday, November 26, 2011

"The Way We Fall" (ARC) ~ Megan Crewe

The Way We Fall

Thank you to NetGalley and Disney-Hyperion for this ARC.  "The Way We Fall" is a modern day nightmare because it could very easily happen.  As I was reading, I thought back to the swine flu epidemic that broke out just a couple years ago and the panic that virus caused.

How do you hold onto to hope when all that you love is gone and a deadly virus threatens to take away what little remains?  What do you when your part of the world is spiraling out of control, those left behind doing whatever they can to survive with no help in sight?  Well...you write everything down - every detail so that once you're gone someone, someplace will know exactly what happened. 

There's a strange virus attacking the small Canadian island that Kaelyn lives on.  It starts off like any normal illness that lasts only a few days but there's a catch.  After you get the itch that won't stop, a cough that won't go away, the fever that never breaks, you begin to speak your mind (with brutal honesty) and act in ways that would otherwise mortify you and then...you die.  

It sweeps through the island community rapidly, claiming the lives of many of her schoolmates and neighbors while leaving the doctors and local government clueless about how to contain it.  Fear of a full blown epidemic is rumored and when all communication to the outside world is cutoff, desperation sets in and the remaining island residents take matters into their own hands.  The lines between right and wrong begin to blur as the fight to survive becomes crucial.  Kaelyn will have to decide whether to give in to the hopelessness or join forces with the enemy.   

As the days turn into weeks and more people are lost to the virus, Kaelyn comes to expect the pain and loss but what she doesn't expect to find in this whole nightmare is love and friendship.  She finds both in the most unlikely places and under an odd set of circumstances but that's what brings warmth and humanity to this story.  At one of her lowest points she realizes that regardless of all she's lost, she's right where she needs to be with the people she needs to be with even if they aren't the ones she would've chosen to be with when the virus first hit. 

"But I've got people.  People who care, who I care about.  Maybe they're not who I'd have picked to be with if I'd been given the choice four months ago.  But that doesn't mean they're not exactly who I need."  ~ Kaelyn

Kaelyn's story is one of love, loss, bravery and perseverance.  It has the capacity to both break your heart and give you hope in the human spirit as you witness her unwillingness to give up even when everything seems forgone .  
This was a difficult story to read because of it's "realness".  I wasn't a huge fan of the journal format but I know that there are plenty of readers who will enjoy it.  The ending left me frustrated because I felt like there wasn't a real resolution to the virus plus, I wanted to meet Leo.  However, I wasn't aware that this was going to be a series until after I'd finished the book and not meeting Leo yet made more sense as did leaving the virus situation unresolved.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Top 10 Awesomesaucers I'd Wanna Talk Turkey With

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, books and cupcakes, here are the top 10 YA Awesomesausers (aka Authors) I'd love the chance to talk turkey with.  Each of these Authors have positively impacted my  imaginative life this past year and for that, I'm thankful.  

If they were to come for a turkey chat feast, I'd most likely serve up some cupcakes because that's what I "do".  They write, I bake. 

Our turkey would probably look a little something like this...

In no particular order...

1) Veronica Roth ~ "Divergent" was my absolute FAVORITE book of 2011! I read all 487 pages in 24 hours, something I had never done before. Ever. In doing so, I earned myself another nickname, "rapid reader" and have since taken to reading books at lightening speed. (I'm convinced this is some sort of super power.) Thank you Veronica for giving us Tris who was so inspiring in her bravery and desire to be true to herself that I decided to dress up as her for Halloween, tattoos and all. Thank you for Tobias who is not just cute, but strong, courageous and doesn't hesitate to kick some rear when the need arises. (Are you listening Peter?)  Veronica, your humbleness in interviews and your sincere appreciation for all the success "Divergent" has seen is a testament to your faith, so thanks for that too. :)

2) Myra McEntire ~ "Hourglass" was a truly unique story and I connected with Emerson in ways that I wasn't expecting, especially during her cafeteria scene.  Thank you for giving us Emerson, Michael and the ever so yummy Kaleb in all his tortured self. (If I was single, young & fictional, I would let him read my emotions all day long!) Thank you Myra for also taking the time to read and respond to the e-mail I sent you a few months back.  I don't normally e-mail authors but your time and kind words were an immense blessing to me. Thank you also for all the times that you RT or reply to my Twitter ramblings.

(My husband laughs at me when I get excited about that kind of stuff but I tell him it makes me feel special for like 5 minutes and then it passes and life goes on.) 

3) Julie Kagawa ~ Thank you for literally giving me Ash or "Cupcake Boy" as he's known in my house now. ;)   I have a healthy respect for you because a) you write enchanting stories full of magic and adventure, making the land of the Fey the "It" place to be b) you've managed to make winter - my least favorite season - totally hot somehow and c) you can kill me with a stick. A stick! OK, so hopefully, I won't ever give you a reason to kill me with your stick but still...I know you're capable of it...I've seen your pictures on Facebook. *bows in submission*  Thank you for changing my opinion of faeries from something to swat at with my fly swatter to look upon with appreciation - great, adoring, sometimes drooling appreciation. *sighs happily while looking at signed ARC of "The Iron Knight" yet again* 

4) Michelle Hodkin ~ "The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer" is one of the most intriguing and CRAZIEST books I've read in a long time and I loved that I walked away gasping, "WHAT.JUST.HAPPENED?!"  Thank you for making me drool over the cover and swoon over the would be bad boy with the British accent.   Thank you also for the Goodreads invite to the live blog chat a couple weeks ago where I kept looking at those long time blogger names and saying to myself, "How the HECK did I get invited to this party?!"  Thank you for answering our questions for 4 hours even though it was only supposed to be 1 and for handling the awkward Noah moments with grace and humor even after we all realized your Mom had hijacked the chat. (By far the funniest part!)  Thank you for taking that time away from your busy schedule for all of us and for making the night feel more like a campfire chat full of ghost stories and fun with s'mores being the only thing missing. 

5) Cassie Clare ~ Thank you for writing stories that include Jace, Simon, Sebastian, Will and Jem, whether they be called "The Mortal Instruments", "The Infernal Devices" or "The Cupcakegirly Warriors", it doesn't matter to me, as long as you write them so I can read them. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!  Oh yeah, I DO enjoy the strong, butt kicking, take no "you know what" girls in there too but if we're being honest, it's all about the Shadowhunters and the lone Daylighter. *sighs*

6) Suzanne Collins ~ Thank you for giving us "The Hunger Games" Trilogy and strong, intelligent, influential characters in Katniss, Peeta and Gale.  Katniss is a positive role model for girls everywhere and Peeta is an example of quiet strength and leadership. Thank you for not killing off the boy with the bread because I was on his "team" from the beginning and had a hard enough time when the books ended. I would have been devastated if Peeta hadn't survived, especially since he's the one who frosts the cakes...we are kin, he and I. <3

7) Jenny Han ~ Thank you for writing a "it could totally happen" love story with your "Summer" Series. (I considered just saying thank you for Conrad but that doesn't seem like thanks enough does it?) "We love you Conrad oh yes we do..." *sighs* I happen to be partial to his last name because we have that in common *squeals* but then again, so does my husband.  (not the best place to squeal I guess)   Thank you for writing characters who were complex, flawed and lovable.  They made me laugh, cry and a couple times I wanted to smack some sense into them but that's what a good story does.  You've made it so I can no longer listen to the songs, "Summer Love" and "Stay" without thinking of Beck's boys.  Finally, a GREAT BIG THANK YOU for announcing that when "We'll Always Have Summer" comes out in paperback, it will have Conrad's letters to Belly in it...I think that might require a box of tissues.  *sniffs*

8) Stephanie Perkins ~ Thank you for Anna,  St. Clair,  Lola & Cricket (who I thought was a girl at first thanks to the Young & the Restless) Both of your books make me happy when I'm reading them and I literally laugh out loud. (this creates awkward moments while reading in public though.) Thank you for characters who are fun, quirky and relate able. Your attention to detail is incredible and I feel like a) if I blink long enough I'll open my eyes to find myself in the very place your describing and b) when I'm finished reading I'm ready to book my flights. Thank you for boys who are sweet, kind, and unique - St. Clair with his British accent and his Daddy issues and Cricket with his tallness and that incredible brain of his!  I'm sooo looking forward to reading Isla!

9) Hannah Harrington ~ I can not say enough good things about "Saving June" - Thank you for writing it! Thanks also for introducing me to Blind Pilot (the lead singer will ALWAYS be the voice of Jake for me) and John Coltraine.  Having struggled with depression and attempting to take my own life in high school (something I'm not proud of)  your characters gave me a glimpse of the pain the survivor's are left with so, thank you for that too. The friendship between Laney and Harper was refreshing and the slow burn that builds between Jake and Harper was truly romantic. I think "Saving June" is just the beginning for you Ms. Harrington! 

(Do you see what I see what I did there with the number 10?  Yeah, sometimes I have an issue with rules, following directions, coloring within the lines and all that...)

10A) Becca Fitzpatrick ~ Thank you for sharing Patch with the rest of us. (I don't know if I would've been so generous...) I stumbled upon Patch while voting in the YA Sisterhood Crush Tourney this past summer (I'm thankful for them too) and I'll admit it was the picture of Patch that lured me into the voting booth & ultimately into the "Hush Hush" series.  The slogan said, "Patch's Army Needs You" and I didn't need to be asked twice, neither did several of my friends.  Again, thank you for Patch - for showing us that fallen angels can be good and that they can whip up a mean taco too. (I looove me some tacos!)  Thank you also for the Special Edition of Silence with the Patch Chapter.  I have to say I was a little frustrated at first when I heard there was going to be another book in the "Hush Hush" series but only because I have to wait to find out how it all ends for he and Nora (I like her too btw) but then I remembered that just means more Patch, so thanks! 

10B) Ally Condie ~ Thank you for Cassia, Xander & of course, Ky *swoons*.  Thank you for not only giving us an interesting concept in "Matched" - that the government would choose who we spend forever with but also for weaving great poetry back into the YA world!   I'm a visual person and your books have brought the Dylan Thomas poem to life for me and I'm grateful for that.  

10C) Sarah Mylnowski ~ Thank you for causing me to spit my lunch out all over my kids by page 3 of "Ten Things We Did and Probably Shouldn't Have".  Seriously, I took a bite of my lunch while I was reading, started laughing so hard I cried then proceeded to spit my mouthful of food across the table onto my two boys.  (After they got over the initial shock they got hysterical.)  I felt like I was reading scenes taken right from my younger years but without the regrets.  Thanks for the ab workout too - all that laughing does a number on the obliques!

Thank you to all these Awesomesauce Authors for sharing their stories with the rest of us.

~ Jen aka Cupcakegirly  

So who would make your Awesomesauce list of Authors this year?

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Death Cure (Maze Runner Trilogy Book 3) ARC ~ James Dashner

The Death Cure (Maze Runner, #3)

James Dashner = genius!

"The time for lies is over." The problem? Whose telling the truth and whose telling more lies? Thomas knows WICKED has lied to him before, when they sent him into the Maze and again when they dropped him into the Scorch. He knows they've used those closest to him as weapons of betrayal in attempts to collect data for their "cure" blueprint but now they say he and the other Gladers need to trust them one last time.

This much anticipated final chapter in The Maze Runner trilogy is filled with action, and edge of your seat suspense that will leave you wondering who can really be trusted right up to the last page. Alliances will be formed, friendships will be put to the ultimate test and choices made that beg the questions, "Are the lives of a few worth losing to save countless more? and Do the ends always justify the means no matter what?"

The Trials are finally over, the Gladers, having survived both the Maze and the Scorch are now at the WICKED complex and being given the option of having their memories fully restored, but Thomas and a few others aren't sure they want all of them back. For Thomas, regaining all of his memories means facing his past mistakes and the truth about what happened between he and Teresa. She pushes for him to get all his back, claiming they can work together to make things right again but he doesn't trust her especially since she still thinks, "WICKED is good." He resists even harder when Dr. Janson aka Rat Man, tries to convince him that he once believed a few lives were worth losing if it meant being able to save a lot more in the long run.

Thomas is only more confused when Brenda and Jorge also appear to be working for WICKED instead of against it. What?! Don't they both have The Flare? If so, how can they be working for WICKED? (Maybe they really are past the "Gone" already) He begins to question if everyone has been lying to him? Janson tries a different approach, encouraging Thomas to think of all the good he'll be doing by having his memories back but Thomas still refuses. You see, he's already remembering things on his own, things that contradict what WICKED is working to accomplish.

There's buzz about a Resistance and Thomas plots to escape the WICKED complex to find them along with Minho and Newt. When they turn back, deciding to take their friends with them they discover that Teresa and a group of others have already left - without them. If she believes "WICKED is good" why did she leave? Why didn't she take him with her? Once again, Teresa has betrayed him.

As he sets out with Minho and Newt, he realizes fairly soon that even the Resistance aren't what they seem. Together, the friends will face challenges and trials more violent than anything they faced inside the maze. These will both strengthen their bond and stretch it to it's limit. Their past will catch up to them and it will be revealed that their futures are not all the same because one of them has the Flare. Knowing how the infected, or the "Cranks" meet a horrible end, one friend will ask another to do the unthinkable and the scenario plays out in a truly gut wrenching way, leaving the reader as heart broken as the character himself.

In his search for answers, Thomas will be asked to endure a final test, one that could change the course of the human race. His decision to participate will give him the chance to make amends but it will cost him in ways he never imagined. He'll discover that sacrifice is not only about what you give up but how far your willing to go to save another's life.

I know that Thomas is the main character throughout this series but my absolute favorite was Minho! His sarcastic, "take no klunk" attitude was just awesome. He's the shank you want on your side for sure. Yes, he's got an attitude, yes, he can be a slinthead at times but you know without a shadow of a doubt that he has your back, no.matter.what. I definitely want that shank on my side if I get caught in a dark alley, or a maze or a scorch.

Where can I buy my TEAM MINHO shirt?! 

Favorite quote of the series: 
"Anybody else wanna pee their pants and cry for Mommy?" ~ Minho (The Scorch Trials) I.heart.him.  

The YA Sisterhood: YA-Sisterhood's Tournament of Heroines Nominations...

The YA Sisterhood: YA-Sisterhood's Tournament of Heroines Nominations...: And.....drum roll please....the time is finally here for our very first, YA-Sisterhood Tournament of Heroines !!!! Our Crush Tourney was ...

Monday, November 14, 2011

Teen Bookcase of Wayzata: Happy Holidays Contest!

Teen Bookcase of Wayzata: Happy Holidays Contest!: We were lucky enough to be graced with two copies of Everneath by Brodi Ashtion, Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver and Born Wicked by Jessica ...

Friday, November 11, 2011

"Hallowed" (Unearthly #2) ARC ~ Cynthia Hand

Hallowed (Unearthly, #2)
Check out the dual covers. One shows Clara and the other shows Christian.  One question... Where's Tucker?! 

Thank you Netgalley for this ARC.  "Hallowed", the second book in the "Unearthly" series picks up where the first book leaves off which is shortly after the two fires, one of which destroyed Tucker's land and claimed both his truck Bluebell and his beloved horse, Midas.  Clara, feeling conflicted about having not fulfilled her purpose when she flew off to save Tucker begins to wonder if she'll be punished in some way as a result. She's also become more aware of the tension brewing between the White Wings and the Black Wings but is unsure how she fits into it all.

Clara would like nothing more than for everything to go back to the way it was before the fires and though she knows that's not possible, she can't even get her hair to to co-operate. (That's why God invented hats girlfriend!)  It's developed a mind of it's own and is determined to stay it's luminous blonde self despite Clara's efforts to dye it back to the red Tucker loves so much.  He still calls her "Carrots" but other people seem drawn to her hair in a creepy, "scratch & sniff" sort of way.

Angela is back from Italy and even more determined to seek out all angel-bloods in the vicinity as well as any information she can get her hands on about the Black Wings. (She's seems to have developed a condition known as OBW - Obsessive Black Wing). Clara's brother Jeffrey is more aloof than ever and seems to be playing the role of angst ridden half angel teen to a "t".  He's still not dishing on exactly where he was the night of the fires, claiming he was out looking for Clara and their Mom but  Clara thinks there's more to what he's told them, but so far, that's his story and he's sticking to it.

Christian's interest in Clara has increased, making both she and Tucker uncomfortable.  (Seems his Heavenly Hotness and Clara have switched roles with him stalking her now instead of vice versa like in Book 1).  He seems genuine in his interest which makes it hard for Clara to put aside her growing feelings for him. To top things off, her Mom still hasn't fully recovered from her run-in with Samjeeza which only adds to Clara's anxiety.

When Clara begins to have visions again, the turmoil surrounding her life escalates and the only thing she can be certain of is someone she loves will die.  Her feelings for Christian become more complicated as she discovers that not only do they share visions, (talk about being on the same page)  but they're connected in another way too, one that could seal their fate.  Clara's once again torn between Tucker, the boy she loves and wants to have a future with and Christian, the boy she's told she belongs with. 

It doesn't help matters when Angela decides to start an "Angel Club" with Clara, Jeffrey and Christian as a way to share information and to help and protect each other.  (First rule of Angel Club? No one talks about Angel Club.)  The extra time spent with Christian and Angel Club equals even more time away from Tucker.  They both begin to feel the strain and in an attempt to strengthen their relationship, Clara decides to keep no secrets from him even if it means breaking the super secret angel code.  She doesn't consider the danger she's putting Tucker in by sharing everything with him until Samjeeza shows up again and the lives of those she loves hangs in the balance.  In order to protect those she loves, Clara will have to choose between the life she wants to live and the one that's been chosen for her.  Can she make the right choice if it means losing Tucker forever? 

This story is filled with love, devastating loss and heartbreak but it's not without hope and the promise of future happiness.  While it does have a few unexpected twists, if you're expecting fast paced action or steamy romance then this book isn't for you.  Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of kissing, the kind that will fog up your glasses (assuming you wear glasses) but most of the romantical stuff is the heart wrenching kind. 


Here's what I think we'll see or I'd like to see in Book 3.  Please remember this is just MY opinion.

*Something tells me Jeffrey is gonna go all Black Wing on us...as is Angela.

*Samjeeza will turn out to be Angela's Dad.

*Christian will be killed therefore eliminating the love triangle scenario. (Before the hate comments start...I'm not saying I want him too.)

*Tucker will discover that he has angel-blood in him too (YAY!) & then he and Clara can live happily ever after or until they're 120 yrs old whichever comes first.  (He seemed to be holding his own against Christian when they were fighting over Clara or am I the only on who picked up on that?)

*Clara's vision of she and Tucker, married, on the ranch with the little boy comes true. AWESOMESAUCE! (She outlives him and THEN she and Christian can be together. They're gonna live for a loooong time and it was awhile before her parents got together.)

BTW - If Clara is really giving Tucker up, I'll take him!  Shoot, I'll dye my hair red/orange (this time it'll be on purpose - don't ask), let him call me "Carrots" and gladly spend my days wearing flannel shirts, fishing and horseback riding on the Lazy Dog Ranch. I'll have to check with my husband first, but I'm pretty sure he won't mind. ;)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

"Before I Die" ~ Jenny Downham

Before I Die

If you knew you only had a few months left to live, how would you spend them?  Would you wallow away the time feeling sorry for yourself or would you make a bucket list of all the things you still wanted to do and start checking them off?  For 16 year old Tessa, this is her reality and her time is running out thanks to the big "C".  Instead of giving up to death, she makes a "Before I Die" top 10 list of the things she wants to do before she's gone forever and with the help of her BFF Zoey, she might just get them all done, unless her Dad stops her.

I expected this to be an emotionally charged book but I had no idea it would be full of hilarious, romantic, bittersweet and heart wrenching moments too.  In order to accomplish the tasks on her list, several of which are illegal, Tessa will have to try to keep from getting caught not just by the law, but by her Dad as well. 

She writes her list on her bedroom wall and the #1 item on her list is "to feel the weight of a boy on top of me" otherwise known as sex.  In a perfect world, Tessa would be married or at least be in love with said boy and he with her but since she's currently single and time is not on her side, her options are limited. (Zoey wants to help her check that one off her list A.S.A.P. and begs the question, "What's love got to do with it?"  Me thinks Zoey's a Tina Turner fan).   Some of the other things Tessa hopes to do are drive a car (she has yet to take her driving test), travel, get drunk, do drugs, say "yes" to everything for an entire day (this one ends up costing her more than she expected), and being famous.  

Thankfully, Tessa is surrounded by people who love her, even if they have odd ways of expressing it. Zoey is the only friend who wasn't scared off by her cancer and her "tell it like it is" attitude has a strange way of anchoring Tessa to the present.  Together, they keep each other grounded especially when their worlds begin to spiral out of control.

Cal, Tessa's younger brother is always full of energy and his childlike honesty is refreshing and humorous.  He often asks says the things the others are thinking but are afraid to ask.  At one point he complains to Tessa that he'll be the only kid in class with a dead sister.  She tells him that's not so bad because all the girls will "fancy him then."  Tessa and Cal live with their Dad (Mum left when Tessa was 12) and while he may not be the model of single Dad perfection, he loves his kids and would give his life for them.  Dad's been the one constant in Tessa's life and he wants nothing more than to find a cure for her but when he stumbles across her list he's left feeling hurt and betrayed.  Mum decides to make a reappearance in Tessa's life, stirring up a flurry of emotions in everyone with some surprising results.

Adam, Tessa's new neighbor isn't scared off by her illness either, he shows interest in her list, even offering to help her and he makes a point of telling her that despite her fate she's "worth knowing". (Are you in love yet?!)  As she gets to know him better, she discovers he's dealing with a pain and sorrow all his own and what neither he nor Tessa expects is just how much they'll end up helping each other.

While this story has it's share of sad moments, one of the funniest is when Tessa decides to try drugs. I laughed so hard I cried and it almost made me want to take a trip of my own, if it weren't dangerous, illegal and wrong, of course.  Her Dad attempts to fulfill her desire to become "famous" but Adam is the one who ultimately comes through in a way that both blows Tessa's mind and breaks her heart.  (What he does makes John Cusak's boombox over the head trick from "Say Anything" look like child's play...sorry John!) 

As the weeks go by, life continues to change not only for Tessa but for those around her too.  Zoey is faced with a tough decision and while she's sulking around, Tessa wonders if she'll even be around  long enough to see the outcome of her friend's decision.  This forces her to re-evaulate her list, the time she has left and how she wants to spend it. 

Tessa and Adam's relationship isn't perfect but one can't help see the positive in it.  In Adam, she finds someone she can be real with. He isn't shocked or freaked out by her illness, even as she gets progressively worse (the hospital scene will have you grabbing the tissues) and he takes the time to listen to her, to really hear her.  In Tessa, Adam discovers he can hope again after his own family's tragedy.  They quickly find themselves falling in love but to what end?  While Tessa truly feels blessed by their relationship she struggles with the cruelty of the timing.

As her life comes to a close, she tries desperately to make sure those around her are cared for after she's gone and wants them to live even if she can't.  The ending of this book is a mix of emotions as promises are kept and tears are shed.  Author Downham paints the final moments of death in a way that are both haunting and beautiful and even though I knew what was coming,  I didn't anticipate my reaction.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

"Sound Bender" (ARC) ~ Lin Oliver & Theo Baker

Sound Bender

Do you ever stop and listen to the sounds around you? I mean really listen? The ticking of a clock? The rhythmic sound of tires running over pavement? When you're listening to a song, do you only hear the lyrics or do you hear the sounds all the other instruments are making? How about objects? Do you hear the sounds they make? Can you hear the danger in them? Twelve year old Leo Lomax can.

Click here to read my full review

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Power of a Cupcake

Yesterday, I gave away 125 homemade cupcakes at the carnival celebration of "Tabitha's House", a ministry that was started by a lady in our church 13 years ago.  Tabitha's House provides support for our local community whether it's through their thrift store, food pantry or the backpacks in the fall for kids who are in need.  Each year they put on a family friendly carnival in their parking lot with lots of music, games and food and it's all free! I have my little cupcake business on the side and was asked if I would be willing to donate cupcakes for this years event and I jumped at the chance!

Baking cupcakes usually takes me to a happy place and provides me with a creative outlet much in the same way scrapbooking does for others.  I have playlists that I listen to on my iPod while I bake specific flavors (much like authors do while writing) and there tends to be dancing involved - lots of dancing for which my family makes fun of.  I do everything by hand, all my fondant, coloring, cut-outs, etc. and yes, I know there are printable sheets you can buy (they're kinda pricey) and yes, I know fondant comes colored but have you tasted that stuff?  It's nasty.  (My husband said once that the colored stuff tastes like play-dough.  HOW he knows that is not my problem.)  I don't know about you but if I have to choose pretty or yummy, I'm going for yummy.  If I can achieve both then more power to me but if not, yummy wins out every.single.time.

I learned a few things this weekend about the power of a cupcake and here they are...

1)  If you hand make 100 marshmallow fondant toppers, coloring them & cutting them out into cute little fall shapes, only 8 will survive.  Nevermind that you've made these many times before and never had a problem.

2)  You never thought it was possible to mourn the death of the little orange fondant pumpkins.

3)  You learn that cupcake liners are in fact, flammable, as is the human finger.  (You learn this lesson as you are torching the frosting on your nutella s'more cupcakes.  Again, a task you've performed numerous times with out incident or injury.)

4)  When you have reached the end of your rope and you don't care to see another cupcake ever again in your life, you rejoice at being able to eat the leftover frosting in the bowl.  You've earned it after all,  only to walk around the corner and discover a pan of unfrosted cupcakes. 

5)  When you arrive at your destination, you will climb out of your vehicle,  almost dropping the box containing your precious frosted cargo, at which point you would not be the least bit surprised.

6)  The last chocolate chocolate chip cupcake will cause people to threaten violence against one another.

7)  The last nutella s'mores cupcake will leave young children in tears (literally).

8)  The discovery of a forgotten nutella s'more cupcake will have the capacity to dry tears while making you feel like a superhero (minus the cape),  all because it was deemed "unpretty" and not suitable for display.

9)  After all your hard work, complete strangers will walk up to your table and make the following comments:

"They look fake.",  "Are these even edible?",  "Is there shortening in your frosting? Because I don't eat shortening. I only eat straight up butter." ,  "Why are you here?"

The best conversations were these:
Lady: "Where did you get these from?"    
Me: "I made them"
Lady: "Where?"
Me: "My house."
Lady: "Oh. Well, what box did you use?"
Me: "Box? Oh no, I made them from scratch?"
Lady: "All of them?! How did you do that?"
Me: "Magic." :)

Man (eating a nutella s'more cupcake): "This is just that marshmallow cream stuff on top"
Me: "No, actually, it's a homemade frosting."
Man: "Really? Are you sure?"
Me: "Yep. I made it. Burned myself in the process."

10)  Lastly, just when you're ready to pack up, one teenager will come up and politely point to the cupcake that has one of your beloved little orange pumpkins on it and ask if he can have that one?  You'll nod, he'll start to walk away but then he'll pause, turn around and say these words, "I just want you to know that I've been looking at this one all day and I think it looks perfect!"  (You think to yourself that you could totally kiss him right now but that would be awkward (his mom is right there) and inappropriate for many reasons, or, you could cry.) After he tastes it, he'll come back to tell you it tasted as good as it looked.  Sigh....

Yep, the power of a cupcake. :D  

Saturday, November 5, 2011

"A Promise of Safekeeping" (ARC) ~ Lisa Dale

A Promise of Safekeeping: A Novel

This was another good read from Netgalley!  Interesting storyline, complex characters and positive themes of facing the truth, forgiveness and second chances.

Lauren sends Arlen to jail for a crime he doesn't commit and he loses nine years of his life as a result.  Will, Arlen's best friend, spends those years hating the woman who ruined his friends life and thus, had a negative effect on his own.  When she shows up in his store looking for Arlen, Will isn't too quick to let her back into Arlin's life or his own.  Lauren claims she's only seeking forgiveness for her mistake but Will doesn't trust her as far as he can throw her.  (Not, that he's throwing her anywhere.) 

But when his hopes for Arlin's reacclimation into society aren't going as smoothly as he'd hoped, Will decides to give Lauren a chance but only if he gets something out of it.  He needs short term help "picking" for his antique store and she needs access to Arlen so together, they come to an agreement for the few days she's in Richmond.  Things don't work out quite the way they planned, in fact, they begin to head in a direction neither one of them expected but is exactly what they both need.

Will and Lauren are both harboring secrets, ones they aren't ready to divulge to their families, leaving them no choice but to confide in each other.  This not only brings them closer together but allows them to see each other more clearly.  Will realizes maybe Lauren isn't so morally bankrupt as he originally thought and she realizes maybe there's more to this backwoods guy then he's letting on. (That and it might be really nice to run her hand through his slightly messy hair...) 

Lauren also comes to the realization that Arlen may never forgive her and if so, she'll have to find a way to live with that.  Will will have to figure out how to let go of not only the anger he's held towards Lauren for so long but a lot of other stuff too and Arlen, well, Arlen just has to learn to live again.

This book focuses a lot on the importance of truth within the justice system but also touches on the need to face the truth in our lives.  What are we hiding from?  What do we use as our safety blankets?  Forgiveness is a running theme but it comes with a price and while we may seek it, it may not be readily given. 

I enjoyed this book but thought the ending was a little abrupt. It was heading in the right direction but it would've been nice to have glimpsed the future, maybe five or ten years down the road to see how or if the characters had overcome their issues. (Go Team Epilogue!) 

Book Club Fans will enjoy the Q&A in the back as well as the author's personal invite to have her join your book club session. (How cool would that be?!)   

Friday, November 4, 2011

"Crossed" (Matched Trilogy #2) ~ Ally Condie

Crossed (Matched, #2)

This book kept me awake at night, or at least it felt like it. My dreams were filled with helping Cassia as she first risked escaping her work camp to search for Ky and then as they journeyed through the Carving, climbing, running, and hiding, in their struggle to reach either the farmers or the Rising before the Society caught up to them. (not saying they did)

In this much anticipated sequel in the "Matched" trilogy, "Crossed", picks up where "Matched" left off and we find Cassia still willing to do whatever it takes to find Ky even if it means risking her life. We're introduced to new characters in Vick, Eli and Indie and while we see very little of Xander (insert disgruntled sigh), we learn he has a secret he's been keeping from Cassia.

Cassia, along with the others will face quite a few obstacles as they attempt to cross the Carving which I imagined to be similar to the Grand Canyon. Throughout her journey, she's discovered a strength in herself that she never imagined possible and she's excited at the prospect of what her future with Ky will hold, especially once they reach the Rising. What she doesn't expect is his resistance or they way he begins to close himself off to her. What's going on? What's happened to the Ky she fell in love with back on The Hill? When they first reunite everything seems to be as it should (with lots of kissing) but the closer they get to finding out where the Rising is, the more he pulls away from her.

Cassia begins to question everything, her feelings about Ky, her sorting ability and when she discovers Xander has a secret and that both Ky and Indie have known about it and kept it from her, she questions her trust in both of them. To make things even more interesting, Ky has a secret (or two) also, including something he has in common with Cassia but he can't reveal it to her just yet because it could put them both in danger.

Nothing is what it seems (including those pesky little blue pills) and everything and everyone seems to have an ulterior motive. Who can Cassia trust and whose really in charge, the Rising or the Society? Is she really just a pawn in a game? Cassia is faced with tough choices, none of which are black and white, (or should I say, green, blue or red?) The things she'll discover about herself and the two boys she loves will change her forever. Even though she's still "matched" with Xander, she's continued to "choose" Ky but will that all change once she learns Xanders secret or Ky's for that matter? When the truth comes out will she still feel she ever really had a choice to begin with?

I enjoyed how the chapters alternated between both Ky and Cassia's POV's and I can only hope the third book will include Xander's as well. I did find the story a little slow in the beginning with the feeling of Ky and Cassia being "so close yet so far away" as they both were trying to get back to each other. It wasn't until page 191 where everything changes and begins to pick up. I happened to be up reading late one night and stopped at page 190 which was probably a good thing, otherwise I would've stayed up the rest of the night to finish the book. Overall, I think this was a really good sequel and I'm really looking forward to the final book.

I like Xander but I'm still Team Ky!