Saturday, June 29, 2013

Basket Case - A Review of A Really Awesome Mess by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin

A Really Awesome Mess 

by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin

Goodreads Blurb
A hint of Recovery Road, a sample of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, and a cut of Juno. A Really Awesome Mess is a laugh-out-loud, gut-wrenching/heart-warming story of two teenagers struggling to find love and themselves.

Two teenagers. Two very bumpy roads taken that lead to Heartland Academy.
Justin was just having fun, but when his dad walked in on him with a girl in a very compromising position, Justin's summer took a quick turn for the worse. His parents' divorce put Justin on rocky mental ground, and after a handful of Tylenol lands him in the hospital, he has really hit rock bottom.

Emmy never felt like part of her family. She was adopted from China. Her parents and sister tower over her and look like they came out of a Ralph Lauren catalog-- and Emmy definitely doesn't. After a scandalous photo of Emmy leads to vicious rumors around school, she threatens the boy who started it all on Facebook.

Justin and Emmy arrive at Heartland Academy, a reform school that will force them to deal with their issues, damaged souls with little patience for authority. But along the way they will find a ragtag group of teens who are just as broken, stubborn, and full of sarcasm as themselves. In the end, they might even call each other friends.
A funny, sad, and remarkable story, A Really Awesome Mess is a journey of friendship and self-discovery that teen readers will surely sign up for.
I really wanted to like this book.  The description spoke of great potential.  My main problem with this book is the striking similarities to a Twilight fanfiction story that I read about two years ago by the name of (Don't You) Forget About Me.  This story followed the same formula of six teenagers in a mental institution/alternative school.  The teens even had some of the same disorders that landed them in the school.  In both stories, the teenagers learn to trust each other and thereby learn to trust in themselves.  In both, they leave the school for a wild visit to a nearby fair/carnival.  There are many more ways that these stories are alike, but I will refrain from listing them.

The interactions between the teens was witty and interesting, but the complete incompetence of the hospital staff was laughable.  At times it felt like the authors wanted us to take the story seriously, but the absolute ridiculousness of certain serious situations made that impossible.

I was completely in love with the idea of this book, but the book itself fell far too short.

2 out of 5 stars.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Give a Damn - A Review of Manicpixiedreamgirl by Tom Leveen

Manicpixiedreamgirl by Tom Leveen

Goodreads Blurb
Sometimes the most dramatic scenes in a high school theater club are the ones that happen between the actors and crew off stage.

Seventeen-year-old Tyler Darcy's dream of being a writer is starting to feel very real now that he's sold his first short story to a literary journal. He should be celebrating its publication with his two best friends who've always had his back, but on this night, a steady stream of texts from his girlfriend Sidney keep intruding. So do the memories of his dream girl, Becky, who's been on his mind a little too much since the first day of high school. Before the night is over, Ty might just find the nerve to stop all the obsessing and finally take action. 
Tyler Darcy has been in love with Becky since the first day of his Freshman year of high school.  Too bad he has had a girlfriend for almost as long.  

Sydney noticed Tyler that first day and made every effort to make him hers.  Though Sydney knew of Tyler's interest in Becky, she never doubted his commitment to her.

Throughout the Sophomore and Junior year of high school, Tyler and Becky become friends through the drama club and although Becky talks with Tyler, he notices that no one talks to her.  He often wonders what is wrong with these people that they can't see how amazing she is.

This isn't exactly a love story, but more the story of a boy struggling to figure out who he is and what he really wants in life.  It's the story of friendship and how sometimes friendship is greater than anything.

Manicpixiedreamgirl is a great high school story filled with friendship, angst, longing, and heartache. What makes this one unique is the author's ability to paint a picture using well developed characters. And in the end, he doesn't try to tell us what to think or believe, but still gives us hope for a future. 

I love Tom's style. He has a way of putting things together that fascinates me. I cannot get enough. 

4 out of 5 Stars.

This song seems perfect.  Especially for Tyler's freshman year.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Location, Location, Location

Today's Acquisitions 

I have discovered two great used book stores within 10 minutes of my house.  This is extremely dangerous to me.  Tonight I took my husband to one so that he could find a few things to read while I'm busy (reading). Anyway, after 30 minutes, he comes to me and says, "Did you find anything?"  I pulled out my stack of eight (8) books and place them next to his one lonely book.  He did ask me to dial it back a little, so I came home with only four (4) books.  I'm not sad though because I know that one of these stores will always provide for my reading needs. 

Love Rules by Dandi Daley Mackall

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

Infinite Days by Rebecca Maizel

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Help! I'm Being Stalked - A Review of This Gorgeous Game by Donna Freitas

Goodreads Blurb
Seventeen-year-old Olivia Peters is absolutely over the moon when her literary idol, the celebrated novelist and much-adored local priest Mark D. Brendan, selects her from hundreds of other applicants as the winner of his writing contest. Not only is she invited to take his class at the local university; she also gets one-on-one sessions with him to polish her story and prepare it for publication. But the writing sessions escalate into emails, and texts, and IMs, and gifts, and social events. What was once a delightful opportunity has become a dreadful burden. What kind of game is Father Mark playing? And how on earth can she get out of it?
Seventeen year old Olivia wins an award and Scholarship given by her idol, and local priest, Mark D. Brendan.  Her story is selected as the winner from a multitude of entrants in a writing contest.  As a result, she is invited to take the priest's exclusive class at the local university.  She also gets personal attention in the form of invitations to join him for coffee, ice cream, and the priest even joins her family for dinner in their home.  

Father Mark begins helping Olivia polish her story to ready it for publishing.  As the editing sessions grow more frequent, and the texts become more urgent, Olivia begins to feel manipulated and that she is excluding her closest friends.  

When Olivia tries to renew her relationships with her friends, Father Mark becomes more insistent.  When she ignores a few texts and phone calls, Father Mark follows with a full court press of texts, IM's, secret gifts, and demanding emails leaving Olivia feeling cornered and threatened.

This is a short easy-to-read story that had my skin crawling.  The well-loved Father quickly shows obsessive and downright creepy behavior.  I often yelled 'No! Don't answer it.' to Olivia as I read.

The writing is captivating and easy.  No forced feelings or situations here.  I felt exactly what the author wanted me to feel without her having to tell me to do it.

4 out of 5 stars

Here is a photo of the paperback version which I like much better than the hardcover version that I read. (Photo Above)

The Eats:

I decided to take a little liberty here.  The book is about stalking, which had me thinking about food with stalks, which lead me to broccoli, which reminded me that I love Broccoli Slaw.  Did you follow that?  Anyway, this is the recipe I used to make broccoli slaw on Memorial Day.  It's from



cup  KRAFT Zesty Italian Dressing


pkg.  (3 oz. each) ramen noodle soup mix


pkg.  (12 oz. each) broccoli slaw


 green onions, sliced


cup  PLANTERS Dry Roasted Sunflower Kernels

cup  PLANTERS Sliced Almonds, toasted

MIX dressing with Seasoning Packet from 1 soup mix package. Discard remaining seasoning packet or reserve for another use.
BREAK Noodles apart; place in large bowl. Add slaw, onions, sunflower kernels and nuts; mix lightly.
ADD dressing mixture; toss to coat. Serve immediately.
My Alterations:
I would only use 1 packet of noodles
I didn't have any almonds, so they were left out
I added about 10 strips of chopped cooked bacon.
The color is a little odd in the photo, but you get the idea.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

I'm Your Huckleberry - A Review of Geoducks Are for Lovers by Daisy Prescott

Geoducks Are For Lovers

Goodreads Blurb
Food writer Maggie Marrion is just getting back on her feet after a horrible year, or two, or three. With their twentieth reunion approaching, she invites four of her closest friends from college for a weekend at her beach cabin on Whidbey Island. What she doesn’t expect is her best friends, artist Quinn Dayton and part-time erotica novelist, Selah Elmore, to play matchmaker. The two plot a surprise that will make the weekend, and her life, a lot more interesting.

Gil Morrow, a former grunge musician turned history professor, joins them as Selah’s date for the weekend. Facing his own ghosts, Gil decides he’s waited long enough to get the girl. With the support of college sweethearts, a hot lumberjack, a few wishing rocks, and the world’s largest burrowing clam, Gil reminds Maggie that forty-something isn’t too old for second chances.

Can we learn to love the life we have and let go of who we expected to be? What happens when the generation from The Breakfast Club and Reality Bites meets The Big Chill? Come spend a weekend with these Generation X-ers as they share laughter, tears, life’s ups and downs, old stories, and new beginnings.
This book was such a refreshing change from the books I've been reading lately.  Maggie Marrion is a 40-something year old woman living on her own after divorce, the death of her father, and the illness and then 2 years ago, the death of her mother.

Living on the island in the house that has been passed down through her family, Maggie is finally starting to feel accepted and at peace with her life.  She has established a routine and she and her dog, Biscuit have made a few friends in the area.

She invites her college friends to come to the island for a long weekend visit.  When she discovers that her friend Selah is bringing a date, Gil Morrow, Maggie determines to make things as un-awkward as possible.

Gil Morrow, history professor, former grunge rocker, and once Maggie's best friend, is the one that got away.  Or rather, the one Maggie ran from.  After secretly hooking up with Gil in college, Maggie went to France and there met her would be ex-husband.  Things never were the same for Maggie and Gil, but now they are both here.  And unattached.  

I very much enjoyed reading a grown-up romance.  Maggie and Gil did have some awkwardness and communication problems, but they are also adult enough to not let these things get in the way of what could be a very good thing.  

I love Maggie's relationship with her college friends.  Their closeness is to be envied.  I absolutely had a blast reading this book and recommend it to anyone who enjoys books by Jill Shalvis and Kristan Higgins as it falls into their styles.

4 out of 5 stars

I'm trying something different for this post.  The lead in this story is a food blogger and at one point was asked by her friends to make Huckleberry syrup. I decided it would be fun to make some Huckleberry syrup myself in honor of Maggie and her friends.  Here is the recipe I used:

Ingredients: (8 servings)
    2 C huckleberries (if frozen, thaw in the saucepan before adding remaining ingredients)
    1 C water
    1/2 C sugar
    1 Tbsp cornstarch (or 2-3 Tbsp flour)
    1 Tbsp cold water
    juice of one lemon
    zest of one lemon (optional)

This is a completely basic recipe, which makes it equally as good on pancakes as over cheesecake.

1. Combine huckleberries, water, and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat.
2. While berries are warming, in a small bowl, mix cornstarch and cold water. Add to saucepan.
3. Add lemon juice (and zest) to saucepan.
4. Bring sauce to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cook another 5 minutes.
5. Remove from heat and allow to thicken for 10+ minutes.

It was delicious and recommended by my 11 year old.  He kept going back for "just another taste".  He almost didn't leave enough for the pancakes.