Absolutely Oozing Goodness!

2014-05-25 17.01.32 2014-05-25 17.02.41

 

 

 

 

Do you ever have one of those moments in life where you are utterly and completely content and satisfied? It’s kinda like snuggling into a perfectly indulgent comforter on a cool, rainy evening, or taking the first bite of a Ghirardelli salted caramel sundae. Absolutely heavenly. That, my friends, is how I felt when I opened the package I ordered from Briana Bryan, creator and owner of “My Name Painter” on Etsy.

I have purchased painted names in the past, one for each of my daughters. Those were limited to graceful sea creatures. Highly overpriced from a street artist in Las Vegas, but worth the expense due to the art’s unique and colorful presence framed and hung in their rooms.

Deciding I needed similar art for my classroom, I searched Etsy and stumbled upon Briana’s nirvana. Oh my. However would I choose? Sea creatures. Zoo animals. Disney princesses? STAR WARS CHARACTERS?! The choice was agonizing. Since my class room is decked out in a galaxy far, far away, I went with Star Wars. The magnificence of this find couldn’t possibly limit its awesomeness to one room, so I commissioned a second piece for my nerdy neighbor.

The unveiling of this sensational creation occurred near the end of the school year, but news travels fast when brilliance is found. The price was right (trust me! I just got back from Disneyland.), the choices vast, and the artistry phenomenal.

Briana’s talent, now proudly on display in two Idaho class rooms, is a splendor that will be gushed about for years to come. Thank you, Briana!!

5 Squares!!

5 squares review copy

Boom, Baby! Book Three of the Vortex Series Is Here at Last!

Deuce Cover PhotoEnjoy the next exciting installment of Janine Caldwell’s Vortex series. The following a an excerpt from chapter one…

 READY OR NOT

CASSIE

A cyclone, a black hole, and an earthquake of epic proportion. Add to that my shock, and, well, I’ve pretty much summed up the hell I unwillingly experienced. There I am one moment, ecstatically kissing my boyfriend, imagining all is right again in my world, and the next I’m whirling in the dark, gasping for air, while an invisible giant hand squeezes the bejeezus out of me.

“They’re not daydreams, they’re flashes!”Those were the last chilling words Trent screamed at me and . . . Poof! Gone in a blink is the boy I love. Ripped from my hands before I could ask him why his eyes were flashing with terror in the middle of our sweet reunion. My body, previously rooted outside my tennis club’s locker room, was hijacked and thrown into a horrific virtual roller coaster. Death, I thought surely, was the only possible outcome.

Is that torture a sampling of traveling through time? Because, as insane as the idea is, I think that’s precisely what happened. I jumped time.

But how could that be? I’m not a time traveler. That burden falls on Trent. Has his supernatural power suddenly become contagious, like mono? That would be just my luck. Or maybe he somehow accidentally transported me along with him. It’s never been done before, but I guess there’s a first for everything. Although it does defy everything we know about his powers.

Afraid to open my eyes, I grope around me, hopeful that Trent’s body is near and waiting to be discovered. Unfortunately, I only come up with handful of dirt, fingering objects that resemble sharp, dry needles.

“Trent?”I croak. “Are you here?”

I swallow a bitter taste in my mouth—a cocktail of fear mixed with panic. My mind races through questions as fast as my heartbeat. Where am I? Am I alone? What exactly has happened to me?

Ready to at least face wherever it is I am, I attempt to crack open my eyes. They begin to water immediately, blurring from dizziness. The world rocks around me. Moaning, I reach for my head and tuck into a ball, willing the spinning to stop. I can’t think. All I can do is breathe. The deeper I fill my lungs, I learn, the better the recovery. The cool, heavy air smells like pine and damp woods, which is both soothing and terrifying.

Slowly, with careful movements, I manage to shift around onto my hands and knees. I think it’s progress, but before I can choke it back, I vomit. When that wave of nausea ends, another comes charging through me. I vomit again and again, ejecting my insides like someone being exorcised. My muscles from feet to neck are clenched tight, aching with the slightest movement.

After one last exhausting cough, my stomach calms down. The dizziness ends as well. I chance opening my eyes, and this time I’m able to keep them open, a sense of being more steady and grounded to the earth resonating through me. Sinking back onto my heels, I take in the scenery. I’m awestruck by the view of a grand forest. It’s very green and heavily wooded. Diagonal beams of light filter through an array of giant spruce, redwood, and pine trees, warming my face and highlighting the layer of mulch I polluted with my filth.

I’m stunned, petrified that I really did travel to some other place. My gaze roams around me, still clinging to the hope of finding Trent, but as far as I can tell, I’m all alone. My throat tightens at the thought—alone in a mature, wild forest. God only knows what year it is or for what purpose I’ve been sent here.

I hang my head in my hands. Wow, am I sincerely debating what year it is? I have so lost it. Never in my wildest imagination could I foresee something this insane happening to me. But as I take another gander at my current setting, I can’t deny I’m no longer home in Pleasanton, California.

Although there’s nothing left in my stomach, it doesn’t stop me from a surge of nausea at the harsh reality of my situation. All I want to do is huddle back into a ball until I can wake up from this nightmare. A sob escapes my mouth, echoing into the vast forest before it’s swallowed up by thick layers of bark. Tears threaten to fall until I sniff and force them to retreat.

No! This blubbering has to stop. There’s no point in feeling sorry for myself. Wallowing in self-pity will not get me home any faster. That’s right. Get up and do something, Cassie. Don’t wait for someone else to rescue you, because this time it looks like you’re on your own.

I take a moment to regroup, coaxing strength to arise in me. I consider everything I’ve learned about time traveling. If my instincts are correct and I can make sense of all this, I have to start accepting the facts. Somehow I’ve miraculously become a time traveler like Trent. A flyer through time. How this happened is a question to debate later. But understanding this much means I’m probably the only one who can get myself home. Me. To play this game and win, a mission has to be met before I’ll be given a ticket back to the present. It’s the only way.

Freshly determined, I straighten my spine, eager to figure out this puzzle. In the next moment, an arctic breeze cuts through my skin, and I’m promptly reminded of what I’m wearing, or not wearing, as the case may be, for an adventure gallivanting through Sherwood Forest. My yellow tennis dress looks practically neon compared to the surrounding russet and emerald hues. It’s of little warmth and even less protection from lethal branches. By the angle of the sun and the increasing shadows, I can tell it’ll be dark soon, too. The notion causes me to involuntarily shudder.

Using the aid of a nearby boulder, I claw my way to my feet. It’s an improvement from crawling on all fours, but I have Bambi legs, wobbly and feeble. With stiff fingers, I rub my bare arms and bump into Trent’s leather cuff, too big for my wrist. I forgot I had slid it on at the tennis match to show Trent that I remembered him. It seems suiting I would have it in my possession at the moment and certainly comforting to have a piece of him with me. The necklace he bought me for Christmas, regretfully, is tucked safely away in my locker back at the club.

A tad more inspired by the bracelet, I trek through the forest at a pace my Grandma Bertie in her last days could’ve kept up with. Of course, I have no idea where I’m going. It’s trunks, leafy bushes, and speckled boulders as far as the eye can see. I’ve yet to find any sign of other people, which makes trying to save someone a real conundrum. And besides the occasional squawk followed by a fluttering of wings high up in the trees, there’s no sign of animals, either. I should probably be grateful for that, but the eerie silence is creeping me out. The isolation pricks at my nerves. I have zero supplies unless you count the extra hairband I have in my pocket, which I don’t. No food or water, no shelter. I can’t think about what I’ll do if I have to stay the night out here.

As I roam, teeth chattering at the dropping temperature, I contemplate what Trent would do on one of his missions. Probably not wig out like me. I’m sure he’s above that by now, having years of completed missions under his belt, but, hey, this is my virgin jump, so I think I’ll give myself a break.

Hmm . . . let me see. I suppose Trent would think back to his flashes. Yes, that’s it! He explained once these spontaneous, uncontrollable flashes are visions conjured from . . . well, I don’t know where they come from. From a supernatural force he can’t fully explain. A spiritual dimension of guides championing his missions, perhaps. These images play through his mind to give him clues of the victims he’s been summoned to save. As I told Trent, I thought I was only vividly daydreaming these last few weeks. Apparently not.

Before I begin to pick through my brain for images that might help me figure out what I’m doing here, a lone wolf howls a hundred or so yards away. A second wolf howls until a chorus of haunting wails sends an icy chill through my bones.

Come on! Seriously? Did it have to be wolves? It couldn’t have been a horde of gentle bunnies or a herd of harmless, grass-eating deer?

I’m about to run as fast as I can in the opposite direction of the howling when a human scream pierces through the forest. With that scream reverberating through my mind, time stands still. Suddenly, I become hyperaware of my surroundings, as if I can hear the blood surging through my veins, sense the microscopic particles floating on my fingers, see the forest breathing in and out. Soon a flash of a panicked child in harm’s way burns through my brain, clear as water and impossible to forget.

Got it. It’s no longer a question. As warm adrenaline courses through my veins, I’m reminded I’ve seen this kid before in what I thought were meaningless daydreams. An instinct planted somewhere deep in my core assures me I’ve been sent here for him.

With no more time to ponder, I gallop, weaving through the thick brush. I am strength. I am power. Leaping over boulders, I swipe at any branch blocking my path as if I’ve been raised in the forest and know how to command my way through it. It’s easy to ignore the thrashing on my naked skin, distracted by the thousands of sharp tingles invading my nerve endings. It’s an odd sensation—like I have a fever, though moments ago I was shivering from the cold.

When I reach a small clearing, I find a young boy, a raccoon hat on top of his head. My heart stops. He’s sitting on the ground with at least five sandy gray wolves snapping and circling him. He not only appears to be in horrible pain, but beyond terrified by these beasts inching closer. I can understand why. These wolves are not your fluffy Hollywood specimens, but real savages—scrappy, ravenous-looking. Backed up against a tree, the boy continues to pull at his bloody leg with desperation, but he can’t seem to free himself. It’s caught in something. A metal animal trap of some sort. In the meantime, his only weapon is a long branch he periodically strikes in the air, but it has little effect of scaring the wolves away.

As I hunch down behind a patch of shrubbery, my heart caught in my throat, I rack my brain for what I’m supposed to do next. This is so beyond my expertise. I’m a high school tennis player, for Pete’s sake, not Davy Crockett. Think, Cassie! What would Trent do?

I scan my surroundings, searching for anything that might help distract the wolves from wanting to gobble up this poor kid, but there’s nothing! Only rocks, spiky foliage, and a few dead, sap-spattered pinecones. I’m debating whether I should take off my tennis shoes to chuck at the beasts when I hear the boy scream in a way that makes my stomach lurch. It sounds like a wolf has moved in near enough to nip at him. If I don’t hurry up and do something, they may all attack him at once. There’ll be nothing to stop their eating frenzy at that point.

Wait a minute. Rocks!

Without hesitation, I seize a few jagged rocks the size of my palm that my eyes previously swept past. I spring out from behind the shrubbery with my ammo, ready for battle. A primitive roar spews from a deep-rooted part of my spirit, drawing a couple wolves away from the boy. With superhuman strength, I launch the handful of rocks at them until I nail one between the eyes. It yelps and stumbles before shaking its head in a daze. This gets the rest of the pack’s attention. They reassemble, growling as they tentatively move away from the boy and face my direction.

Oh, crap. This can’t be good.

The wolves advance as one unit, creeping toward me, stalking me with their raised tails and hackles. Their orange irises are fixed directly on mine, appearing as feral as their unruly coats. Their razor-edged teeth are bared, columns of foamy drool spilling out of the corners of their black gums.

A fit of trembling wreaks my body, my mouth as dry as the dusty forest floor. Way to go, genius. What’s your next brilliant step? Sure, you prevented the boy from being attacked, but by way of offering your own flesh for them to feed on. Nice. Some time traveler you are. One mission and you’re already finished!

I’ve lived through a few nail biters—being held at gunpoint by a lunatic scientist and plummeting to my most certain death in a hot-air balloon mishap, for example—but at the moment, feasted on by wolves is ranking up there as the most horrifying. The pack has moved in dangerously close, growling at me from deep within their chests. They’re pushing me back out of the clearing, cornering me against the same dense patch of shrubbery I was hiding behind. In another second, my plan is to turn around and sprint like an Olympian track star, but I’m already doubtful I can outrun them. They’ve got to be familiar with every nook and hollow in this blasted forest. There’s nowhere I can hide they won’t track my human scent.

As I continue to cautiously step backward, one eye steady on the wolves, my foot catches on a root. I trip and land on my backside with a painful thud. So much for running. My vulnerable position excites the wolves. They look moments from pouncing, leaning back in their haunches, licking their chops at their easy prey. A scream escapes from my lungs.

I’m sorry, Trent. I really did try. I love you.

 

Recipe Variables Make for a Good Cookie: After Life Lessons

Title:                          After Life LessonsAfter-Life-lessons

Author:                     Laila Blake & L.C. Spoering

Genre:                       Adult Supernatural/Zombie Romance 17+

Pages:                       269

Publisher:                Lilt Literary

Publish Date:          April 5, 2014

Recipe Variables:   Language, Violence, Sex

Series:                       Yes

Book Blurb:

“Hulking shadows emerge out of the chaotic flurries of the blizzard. Something is dying, and so they come, like vultures.”

After months of struggling south to escape the zombie-infested remains of New York, a snowstorm traps 23-year old artist, Emily, and her son in an abandoned gas station. Starving and desperate, they encounter Aaron, an Army medic on a mission of his own, who offers them a ride to ease the journey.

The road is a long and dangerous place to travel, and every day brings a new threat. But fear and adrenaline also drive the two closer together; they find laughter and a budding attraction that starts to thaw at their numb and deadened feelings. And that’s when the pain really starts to hit, when places long thought lost prickle back to life. Eventually, they will have to fight not just for survival, but for a future together, or their broken world will swallow them whole.
This novel contains language some might find offensive, some gore and situations of a sexual nature. Reader’s discretion is advised.

Review:

There are some great cookies out there, am I right? But we all know that some…say, an oatmeal cookie…go from being a standard sugar fix to a mouth-watering treat with just the right addition of a little somethin’-somethin’. Whether you prefer raisins or chocolate chips in that oatmeal is up to personal taste (by now you should be well aware of where my vote is cast), but without one or the other, it’s just another cookie. That’s where I found myself while reading After Life Lessons by Laila Blake and L.C. Spoering. It was more than oatmeal, but it didn’t hit the chocolate high I was looking for.

The opening pages of this NA zombie romance immerse the main character, Emily, in a blinding snow storm, trying to find shelter before the elements—and the undead—catch the hapless pair of mother and son. There is no question the two emerging authors of this novel get things off to a gripping start. And once our co-tagonist, Aaron, shows up to lend a hand, the trio continue to find themselves in perilous situations that rival that other tasty storytelling treat on TV, The Walking Dead.

Once the action subsides, however, the authors try a new slant on the genre by adding the recipe variable of sexual situations. If you’re up for that variation, no worries, but it’s the conversations between the co-tagonists that turn things into a bland mix. Aaron and Emily would start a conversation that would turn monosyllabic ending with one or the other walking away in a huff, but…er, why? The dialogue between the two bordered on bland, and I found myself two or three bites into a chapter where I would have to stop and say, “What the hell did I just eat?” There was way too much narrative spent on Emily hung up on a lost love in a world that didn’t leave time for those kind of parameters any more.

Luckily, that’s right around when the zombies would come back into the fray, and all was engaging in the story again. This cookie isn’t for the palettes of those easily offended as the recipe contains considerable variables (see above), but it’s worth sitting down to enjoy with a glass of milk all the same.

3 and half squares review copy

 

3.5 Squares

Finding My Chocolate Fix: The Sowing

Title:                        The SowingThe Sowing

Author:                    K. Makansi

Genre:                     YA/Dystopian/Sci-Fi

Pages:                     292

Publisher:               Layla Dog Press

Publish Date:          December 15, 2013

Recipe Variables:   Language—F-Bomb!

Series:                     The Seeds Trilogy

Book Blurb:

The Resistance Has Begun.

Remy Alexander never thought she’d be hunted. Growing up in the posh comfort of the elite meritocracy of the Okarian Sector, she knew nothing of genetically modified food, drug regimes used to control and manipulate citizens, or the mysterious disappearances of powerful Sector scientists and politicians. But when her older sister Tai was killed in a brutal classroom massacre, Remy and her friend Eli swore to find the truth behind her sister’s murder. Now, three years after the massacre, Remy and Eli are fighters for the Resistance, a fledgling group of renegades trying to stop the Sector’s systematic enslavement of citizens. But just as Remy and Eli think they’ve found a clue into the mystery of her sister’s death, Valerian Orlean, Remy’s old schoolgirl crush, is put in charge of destroying the Resistance. While Remy and her friends race to unravel the mystery behind her sister’s murder, Vale is haunted by the memory of his friendship with Remy and is determined to find out why she disappeared. As the Sector hunts the Resistance, and Vale and Remy search for answers, the two are set on a collision course that could bring everyone together – or tear everything apart.

In this science-fiction dystopia, the mother-daughter writing team of Kristina, Amira, and Elena Makansi immerses readers in the post-apocalyptic world of the Okarian Sector where romance, friendship, adventure, and betrayal will decide the fate of a budding nation.

Review:

To satisfy my chocolate itch, I’ve shopped the candy aisles thinking, “huh, that looks like a good one, but chocolate is chocolate…it really doesn’t matter, just as long as I get some.” Oh contraire! Choosing just the right brand of yum to achieve a chocolate fix makes all the difference in the world, and also, incidentally, aligned with my assumptions when it came to reading The Sowing by the Makansi mother-daughter writing trio. This addition to the dystopian genre packed a punch that woke me up to the realization that not all chocolate (or dystopian novels) are created equal.

The strongest part of the book? The very first bite! Rarely do stories immediately suck the reader into the thick of things, but the Makansis do so in the prologue by getting us to love Tai within a couple of pages…then killing her off in a school shooting! What. The. Hell?!? Are you kidding me?! The amazing work of the authors, however, lies in the fact they are able to create a ripple effect through the rest of the novel, with Tai haunting the storyline and characters throughout the rest of the novel. The genealogy of both the younger and adult characters is also engaging; the reader is not dealing with two or three people the same age from one or two families, but rather, relationships are layered through jobs, politics, and family—both close and extended. What’s even better? It’s not confusing. At. All. There was no need of a complex glossary of characters because everything was smooth; it kept me involved, challenging my thought process, while in the meantime, not frying my brain to the point where I couldn’t keep up with what the hell was going on with the twisted helix, double strands, and genome sequencing.

Oh! And that’s the other cool thing about this read. It tackles a completely new and relevant topic to what’s happening in our own society. Food! With all the talk about GMOs, it’s fabulous to see the theories in action; best of all, the science is explained in a manner that any supermarket shopper can understand, as told through the lens of Remy, the main heroine. The dual narrative between the main characters of Remy and Vale is sharp and lends a dichotomy that is not to be missed. Get on down to the store and taste this dystopian treat, peeps!

5 squares review copy

 

5 Squares

Needs Thoroughly Mixed: Roanoke Vanishing

Title:                      Roanoke VanishingRoanoke Vanishing

Author:                  Auburn Seal

Genre:                   New Adult, Supernatural, Mystery

Pages:                    306

Publisher:              Keys Publishing House

Publish Date:        October 27, 2013

Recipe Variables: None

Series:                   The Vanishing Series

Book Blurb:

Avery Lane is driven to discover the fate of the 117 missing colonists of Roanoke. When she encounters a mysterious group called the Descendants, who are determined to keep the colony’s secret hidden, Avery must choose between her obsession for the past and her own survival. Will solving this mystery cost her everything? Is there more to this secret than what is buried at Roanoke? Haunted by visions of the past, she must find answers before the Descendants stop her and forever banish the truth.

Review:

In the anticipation of eating a homemade chocolate chip cookie, but still needing to suffer through the rigors of baking, I sometimes take shortcuts. For example, I don’t bother with separating the dry goods from the liquids; I just dump them all in together. No one is the wiser until biting into the baked goodness. Make no mistake, I wolf down at least five before I pause and think, “Hmmm, this could have been a luscious masterpiece if I just would have slowed down and followed the directions. That’s how I felt after reading Roanoke Vanishing. The concept was fabulous, the story line solid, but the end results…meh.

The core drawback happens with the main character, Avery Lane. She’s unlikeable…and not in a cool, Walter White/Dexter Morgan kind of way. The opening sequence has her being dumped by her long-time boyfriend, and by the end of the story, I understood why. The author, Auburn Seal, paints Avery as a tenacious, stubborn, head-strong gal—which I like—but she is completely compartmentalized—robotic—in her emotional development. She has little to no regard for her own feelings, let alone for others’. For example, her boyfriend of five years breaks it off? No problem, she goes for a run, has a coffee with Jen, the bestie (where Avery spends most of her time talking about her college thesis), and is over it because he’s a jerk. Spoiler! Her bestie is shot? No worries, she walks out of the hospital (while said bestie is fighting for her life on the operating table), continues her research, and solves the mystery because…well, it apparently can’t wait until BFF is conscious. The lapses in transitions between time sequences, scene shifts, and character interaction have major fault lines, directly impacting all the character and their motivations.

The blend of history, suspense, and mystery are enough to push through the read and arrive at an adequate conclusion. However, following the instructions on the recipe would have made a more appetizing morsel as the end result.

3 squares review copy

 

3 Squares

Cover Reveal: A Strange Kind of Familiar

A Delicious Read…

Strange Kind of Familiar

A Strange Kind of Familiar

By

Hannah Harvey

 Release Date: March 1st 2014

 Synopsis

Phia’s summer gets turned upside down when her sister Lucy arrives home from college and declares that she no longer wants to be a lawyer, and instead has decided to become an actress. While trying to figure out what’s gotten into her sister, Phia is repeatedly thrown into the path of Lucy’s best friend Daniel, who’s also back in town after his first year at college.

As Lucy begins to draw away from her family and Daniel in the pursuit of her newly acquired acting dream, it leaves Phia and Daniel spending a lot of time together. As they begin to get to know each other, they discover that they have a lot in common, especially their love of music.

About the author

Hannah Harvey is a twenty two year old author of young adult fiction. She’s self published two previous books, ‘How I Got Here’ and ‘After Summer’ both of which are available on the Kindle marketplace.

She runs her own blog where she reviews all the books she reads, talks about her writing and does other book related things.

When not working on her writing, Hannah is an avid reader.

Links

Website: www.the-book-tower.blogspot.co.uk

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/bookish92