Tuesday, January 26, 2016

It's Almost Time for the A to Z Challenge

Writing Tuesday

I just signed up for the 2016 Blogging from A to Z Challenge. I did it last year for the first time. I ended up enjoying it and I decided to do it again this year. Taking place in April, I will be blogging from A to Z every day except for Sundays.

For example:
April 1 - writing about something that begins with the letter A
April 2 - B
April 3 is a Sunday
April 4 - C
and so on...

I didn't go with a theme last year. Will I have a theme this year? Come back and find out on March 21.

If anyone is interested in joining or finding out about the A to Z Challenge, click the link above.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Sunday, January 24, 2016

Snow Day! Sunday Funday

Sunday Funday

Since everybody's talking about the East Coast snow storm, I'm going to talk about it too. It's been given several names including: Jonas, snowmageddon, and snowpocalypse. I don't get why media and people in general name these storms (except for hurricanes). It's simply a blizzard. And guess what, the East Coast tends to get blizzards each year. Of course, that's mostly the New England area, but most of the East Coast is used to getting a good amount of snow as well. It's only big news since this just happens to be the first snow storm of the season and it decided to give us a lot of snow at once.

Philadelphia's official amount came in at 20.8", which is actually a lot for us. I also measured the amount in my yard this morning and it came in at a whopping 22". I happen to like the snow, as long as I don't have to go out in it. However, I don't like a lot of snow at one time. Each year, I really want one nice size snow storm, but not exceeding 3 or 4 inches. Since I do have to worry about family members who have to work during these things (it's what happens when you're in the medical field like my sister-in-law).

Here are a few snowtographs from my area:

the intersection on my street
view from my house

neighbor's yard

outside the door
this is deep! me in the snow

bad angle, but it measured 22"
Now it's time for the East Coast to start cleaning up all this mess.


Friday, January 22, 2016

2015 Reflections and 2016 Goals

This only refers to blogging reflections and goals.

2015 Reflections
It was a little bit rough, but I did start out good this year. I participated in the April A to Z Challenge. It was a good experience and I learned a lot. I went through a tough and emotional time near the end of the year and I blogged the best I could under the circumstances. I know I didn't really stick to my blogging schedule. There's nothing I can say about that except for I'm sorry.

2016 Goals
January hasn't been the greatest month for me. Unfortunately, I've been sick with a couple of issues. Although I'm not quite 100% yet, I am starting to feel better. With that being said, here's what I'm going to be up to this year:

1. Regular Blogging Schedule. Clearly something that I've got to work on and be more consistent at. I will be resuming that either this week or next.

             ~ Writing Tuesday (might be changing the name)
             ~ Author Spotlight Friday
             ~ Sunday Funday 
             ~ Book Reviews on any day except Friday and Sunday

2. I will be participating in the A to Z Challenge again. Details to come in a couple days. At this time, I don't know if I will be doing normal posts during April.

3. My new blog devoted strictly to Writing will be coming soon.

4. I'm thinking about doing NaNoWriMo this year, so I may not be blogging in November.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Meg's 2015 Book Awards

Meg's 2015 Book Awards

Disclaimer/Reminder: These are based on what I've read this year.

Best Book Overall:
1. The First Phone Call From Heaven
2. An Irish Country Doctor
3. White Oleander
4. Oceans Apart
5. Dashing Through the Snow

Worst Book Overall:
1. Bead on Trouble
2. Unleashed
3. Paranormal Public
4. Carnival of Souls
5. Finding Margo

Best in Classics:
1. Les Miserables
2. Anna Karenina

Best Book by an Author I've Read Before:
1. The First Phone Call From Heaven
2. Looking For Alaska
3. Dashing Through the Snow
4. Oceans Apart

Best Book by a New Author I've Read:
1. Thirteen Reasons Why
2. The Thorn Birds
3. White Oleander
4. An Irish Country Doctor

Book that Surprised Me (thought I wouldn't like but did):
1. Thirteen Reasons Why
2. Anna Karenina
3. The Shining

Upcoming Post:
Saturday - 2015 Reflections and 2016 Goals

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Monday, January 18, 2016

A Little Help From My Friends Book Review

2015 Reading Challenge

44. A Little Help From My Friends by Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt
      Theme/Topic: book set in high school

Zoe is used to being overlooked. As the youngest and shyest Miracle Girl, she was happy to fade into the background last year. But when she sheds her baby fat and shoots up four inches the summer before her junior year, everything changes. Now she's turning heads at school, and this new attention is beginning to strain her relationship with her sweet, serious boyfriend, Marcus. Pressure builds when Zoe's assigned partner for history class is Dean Marchese--a handsome New York transplant who isn't afraid to show her how he feels. Just when she needs her three best friends the most, the Miracle Girls are suffering from boy troubles of their own. Even Zoe's rock-solid home life begins to shake underneath her when her parents' relationship frays in the face of serious financial burdens. As this uncertain year of growing pains comes to a frenetic head, the quietest Miracle Girl must find her voice at long last and take control of her own destiny...with more than a little help from her friends.

My Review:
This is a coming of age story for Zoe. Teenage years can be difficult, especially true for girls. However, it's possible to get through if you have a good support system. You can't get through tough times alone. Zoe and her group of friends have a great relationship. Throughout this story, they realize how much they need to rely on each other and show how much they really care for one another. Anything is possible with a little help from your friends.

The title of this book stems from the Beatles "With a Little Help From My Friends" hit song. It's one of my favorite songs because it has a great message. Enjoy!

This is my last book review from 2015. I will be posting my 2015 Book Awards in a couple days, as well as a 2015 Reflections post.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Adventures in Funeral Crashing Book Review

2015 Reading Challenge

43. Adventures in Funeral Crashing by Milda Harris
     Theme/Topic: book written by an author with your same initials

Kait Lenox has a reputation as the weird girl in her high school, mostly because of her ex-best friend turned mean popular girl, Ariel, but maybe it has a little to do with the fact that Kait has a hobby crashing funerals. At one of these, Kait is outted by the most popular guy in school, Ethan Ripley. Yet, instead of humiliating her for all the world to see, he asks for her help, and Kait finds herself entangled in a murder mystery. Not only is the thrill of the mystery exciting, but more importantly Ethan knows her name! A little sleuthing is well worth that!

My Review:
This was just okay. As the title basically says, Kait likes to crash funerals. She goes for the fun of it and likes to see how many people show up for them. When she ends up getting caught by Ethan (since the funeral is for his sister), Kait is asked to help him figure out what happened. Ethan believes his sister got murdered (which she did) and it turns out that there's more to it than meets the eye. As they investigate her case, more suspicious deaths occur and they're thrown into a whirlwind. It did take me a little while to figure out who was behind them all, but I wasn't super surprised by the ending.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Love's Providence Book Review

2015 Reading Challenge

41. Love's Providence by Jennifer H. Westall
      Theme/Topic: book with a love triangle

College athlete Lily Brennon has always been the piece that doesn’t quite fit in the puzzle, especially in her blended family, and no amount of rule-following perfection seems to bring her any closer to the love and acceptance she desperately seeks. If not for Jackson Carter, her childhood best friend and the only boy she’s ever loved, she’s sure she would have run away years ago. But when Jackson loses his father and a future basketball career within months of each other, his faith is so shattered, he shuts out everyone, including Lily. After months of heartache, Lily begins to piece together a life without Jackson, and while vacationing at the beach on a beautiful island off the Georgia coast, she begins a long-distance romance with Alex Walker, a police officer with a quick wit and a cocky grin. He revives her hope in love again, but their intense attraction and his devastating secret test Lily’s commitment to save herself for marriage. Through her struggles to remain true to her principles, an agonizing choice between Alex and Jackson, and a series of terrifying events that threaten all of them, Lily must endure losing everything she’s been grasping so tightly. Only then will she discover the depth of the love that already surrounds her.

My Review:
This was a good read. Lily is the main character in the so-called love triangle. In the beginning, Lily struggles to move on after the break-up with Jackson. She takes a much needed vacation and soon forms a relationship with Alex. Doing so, Lily struggles with staying true to her beliefs and values. as Jackson begins his fight to show Lily he's not ready to give up, she gets caught up in having choose between both men. I liked all the twists and turns this story took up until the very end.

Lily and Jackson have a one of a kind relationship. Their relationship proves that true love can prevail despite going through some challenging times. Sometimes a break is all that's needed to show what one is missing, as well as seeing what they had all along.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Saturday, January 16, 2016

Falling Women and Other Stories Book Review

2015 Reading Challenge

40. Falling Women and Other Stories by Ellen Herbert
      Theme/Topic: book by a female author

A collection of short stories about families in turmoil and children in peril, from a homeless mother forced to put her son in foster care to a suburban mother afraid of passing her water phobia to her son. Braxton, North Carolina is the where in these stories, an imaginary coastal town adjacent to Camp Corregidor, a stopover for recruits on their way to Vietnam and later to Iraq. Braxton is the home front, where citizens battle alcoholism, marital breakups, and scandal. In Braxton, when a sister or father does wrong, the whole family shares the blame. Even Braxton's babysitters are dangerous, snooping, stealing secrets - and husbands. But love abounds. Sisters driven apart by scandal reunite when their father remarries. The babysitter who ran off with the mayor is welcomed back into her family when she returns to Braxton pregnant. A woman on the verge of being committed to an asylum for alcoholism is pulled back from the brink by a devoted friend.

My Review:
If I'm going to be honest, I have to say that this is the first time that I get to review a family member's book as this is my aunt. Regardless, I'm going to do this like any other book review.

Falling Women and Other Stories is a collection of twelve short stories. I enjoyed a few. I thought they were compelling and some were funny. A couple others just weren't my cup of tea. With those, I thought they dragged just a bit and lacked interest.

Instead of reviewing each story individually, I'm going to list them all and point out my favorites:

The World as I Know It
When the Forsythia Blooms
Higher Ed
The Calling
The Yellow Sneakers
Falling Women
The Hurdlers
Prodigal Pirates
The Bad Thing That Happens to Good People
To Hold But Not Touch

I've listed them in the order that they are in the book. The ones highlighted in blue are the ones I enjoyed the most.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Running Toward Fate Book Review

2015 Reading Challenge

39. Running Toward Fate by Kate Benzin
      Theme/Topic: book based on a true story

Peter was definitely not the type to believe in love at first sight. He was too logical for that. But when a mysterious woman named Rina mesmerized him from across the restaurant on his last night in Indonesia, he couldn’t get her out of his mind. And Rina didn’t even realize that she’d had such an effect on someone. Peter left Indonesia the next morning without ever having talked to his mystery woman. Could he find a way to meet her? And would she be willing to get to know him?

My Review:
Would you go halfway around the world for someone you fell in love with at first sight? Sounds crazy right? Well that's exactly what Peter did. After meeting Rina on the last night of vacation in Indonesia, Peter is beside himself back home in the States. She becomes his infatuation and it seems that nothing else matters besides finding a way back to her. At first, they only communicate back and forth by mail and then followed by email. Peter eventually can't take no more and devises another trip back to Indonesia so he can figure out if Rina's the one for him. It ends up being the perfect love story.

It was an interesting story. I did think Peter was crazy for falling head over heels about a woman he met one time. However, I did appreciate his determination and resilience in going after Rina. He didn't let anyone stop him from finding out once and for all if Rina was the one for him. I did like how well Indonesia was described, but at times it stopped the story from progressing forward. It was interesting to learn how travel agents book tours.

Since this is based on a true story, the question I have is: do you believe in love at first sight?
I like to believe that love at first sight is possible since I believe that there's someone out there for everyone.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


A Map of Heaven Book Review

2015 Reading Challenge

38. A Map of Heaven by Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson
     Theme/Topic: book more than 500 pages

What would you do if you had one week to live and a lifetime of unrealized dreams to fulfill? After a series of blinding headaches sends thirty-four-year-old Elizabeth to the hospital, she receives news of an inoperable tumor. Defying doctor’s orders, she heads to Paris in search of a different form of healing and one last chance to experience the life she locked away in a room of her paintings. In Paris, Elizabeth’s days are spent in a budding romance with a doctor escaping his own demons, while her nights are inundated with surreal dreams. In these dreams, she navigates a labyrinth and confronts pivotal moments from her past. Upon waking, she receives mysterious notes hinting that her life may be saved if she could only find the map of Heaven described to her as a child. During her nocturnal journeys through the endless labyrinth, Elizabeth meets an astronomer searching for forgiveness, an artist searching for immortality, and a mother searching for revenge. As her dreams progress, she travels back in time to a small Midwestern town, follows a Parisian tunnel down to the depths of Hell, and eventually reaches a sandy beach offering a possible glimpse of Heaven. In a cruel twist, for her life to be spared, Elizabeth is required to give up everything that has brought her so much joy, including the man she loves. Which will she choose? A return to her old life or a chance to grasp the meaning of life?

My Review:
This is a deep and thought provoking book. It's good for anyone who is at a crossroads - don't know what direction to take in life. Everyone of us all have those times when we question who we are, who we want to be. That's what Elizabeth goes through when she's diagnosed with terminal cancer. In her case, she has to choose between life and death.

Religion is a major theme throughout Elizabeth's journey through her past and possible future life (when she glimpses heaven and hell in her dreams). The Christian viewpoint is the most prevalent, but not overly preachy. I did like how other views of God were discussed through the people Elizabeth met. We have to be open to differing opinions and accept their point of view.

Elizabeth gets to experience what would have happened if she would have shown her paintings at gallery openings. She let fear get in the way of being happy, so she stuck with her normal career choice. Is there a dream that you have but had to put it on the backburner? It's never too late to follow your dream and be truly happy for going after that dream.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Sunday, January 10, 2016

7th Heaven Book Review

2015 Reading Challenge

42. 7th Heaven by James Patterson
      Theme/Topic: book with a number in the title

A terrible fire in a wealthy suburban home leaves a married couple dead and Detective Lindsay Boxer and her partner Rich Conklin searching for clues. And after California's golden boy, Michael Campion has been missing for a month, there finally seems to be a lead in his case--a very devastating lead. As fire after fire consume couples in wealthy, comfortable homes, Lindsay and the Murder Club must race to find the arsonists responsible and get to the bottom of Michael Campion's disappearance. But suddenly the fires are raging too close to home. Frightened for her life and torn between two men, Lindsay must find a way to solve the most daunting dilemmas she's ever faced--at work and at home.

My Review:
Another page turner by James Patterson. I've read the previous six books in this series and with each book, it gets better and better. James Patterson does a wonderful job of putting so much action and suspense together to want to keep reading. Not to mention some great twists along the way. I was surprised by the ending with Michael Champion's case and the arsonists were pretty clever.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


2016 Reading Challenge

Since I didn't quite get up to my goal of reading 52 books last year, my goal this year is to yet again aim for that 52.

For this year's reading challenge, I am following the same site as last year: 2016 Ultimate Reading Challenge.

The topics this year are the following:

Book based on a fairy tale
National Book Award winner
Young adult bestseller
Book you haven't read since high school
Book set in your home state
Book translated to English
Romance set in the future
Book set in Europe
Book that's under 150 pages
New York Times bestseller
Book that's becoming a movie this year
Book recommended by someone you just met
Self-improvement book
Book you can finish in a day
Book written by a celebrity
Political memoir
Book at least 100 years older than you
Book that's more than 600 pages
Book from Oprah's Book Club
Science fiction novel
Book recommended by a family member
Graphic novel
Book published in 2016
Book with a protagonist who has your occupation
Book that takes place during summer
A book and its prequel
Murder mystery
Book written by a comedian
Dystopian novel
Book with a blue cover
Book of poetry
First book you see in a bookstore
Classic from the 20th century
Book from the library
An autobiography
Book about a road trip
Book about a culture you're unfamiliar with
Satirical book
Book that takes place on an island
Book that's guaranteed to bring you joy

While this is a challenge, it is not a requirement to read every book featured. It's a challenge to read other books outside of what you normally read.

Upcoming Posts:
I've got a few book reviews from what I read last year.  Following that will be my 2015 Book Awards. I'll be doing a 2015 Reflections post. And finally, a couple book reviews from what I've read so far this year.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Monday, January 4, 2016

A Million Steps Book Review

2015 Reading Challenge

37. A Million Steps by Kurt Koontz
     Theme/Topic: a memoir

Kurt Koontz thought he was well prepared for his 490-mile walking trip on the historic Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in Spain. He was fit and strong. He had a good guidebook and all the right equipment. His pilgrim passport would grant him access to the shelter of hostels along the way. But all that, however helpful, did not begin to encompass the grandeur of his external or internal adventure. A Million Steps climbs over the high meadows of the Pyrenees, quests through the unceasing wind of the Meseta, and dances in the rains of Galicia. While following the yellow arrows that mark the route, Koontz also navigates through his personal history of addiction, recovery, and love. With outgoing humor and friendliness, he embraces the beauty of the countryside and joyful connections to other pilgrims from around the world. Part diary, part travelogue, A Million Steps is a journey within a journey all the way to the Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela and beyond.

My Review:
In recent years, I have really been interested in reading stories about self-discovery or life changing adventures. A Million Steps was exactly that. Kurt is not a natural writer, but everyone has a story. While his actual writing was far from great, Kurt accomplished the task of getting his story across. I've never been Spain and to be honest, I don't have any desire to go to Spain. However, it was interesting to read about all the towns he passed and stayed in on his journey. It was also neat to hear about all the people he met along the way as well. He opened up about his own life stories and struggles and how he was able to meet them head on during the trip.

If you could take a trip of a lifetime anywhere in the world (no matter what the reason), where would it be? For me, that would be Australia and Ireland.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Sunday, January 3, 2016

Dashing Through the Snow Book Review

2015 Reading Challenge

36. Dashing Through the Snow by Debbie Macomber
      Theme/Topic: book set during Christmas

Ashley Davison, a graduate student in California, desperately wants to spend the holidays with her family in Seattle. Dashiell Sutherland, a former army intelligence officer, has a job interview in Seattle and must arrive by December 23. Though frantic to book a last-minute flight out of San Francisco, both are out of luck: Every flight is full, and there’s only one rental car available. Ashley and Dash reluctantly decide to share the car, but neither anticipates the wild ride ahead. At first they drive in silence, but forced into close quarters Ashley and Dash can’t help but open up. Not only do they find they have a lot in common, but there’s even a spark of romance in the air. Their feelings catch them off guard—never before has either been so excited about a first meeting. But the two are in for more twists and turns along the way as they rescue a lost puppy, run into petty thieves, and even get caught up in a case of mistaken identity. Though Ashley and Dash may never reach Seattle in time for Christmas, the season is still full of surprises—and their greatest wishes may yet come true.

My Review:
This was a light and easy read during the holiday season. While Dashing Through the Snow doesn't compare to some of Debbie Macomber's other works (particularly her series'), it is the perfect pace for a stand alone title. It seems that everybody rushes around during the holiday season, especially the last couple of days before Christmas. I don't know if this is the case for everyone, but when I'm rushing to get stuff done, things tend to go wrong and get in the way. This is exactly what happens in this story. Ashley and Dash may seem like two completely different people, but as the saying goes, opposites attract and they end up falling in love with each other. The story had it's laughable moments and I couldn't put this book down. I enjoyed its bittersweet ending.

Taking this off from Debbie Macomber, what one word do you want to incorporate into 2016? She chose the word joy. My word is change.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! Hope everyone has had a great holiday season and I wish you all a great 2016! Unfortunately, I have been sick over Christmas and New Year's with a horrible cold/sinus flare-up kind of thing. Being that I have a heart condition, I'm not really allowed to take anything and just have to tough it out. Saying this, though, I am still thankful and grateful for everything else in my life and that outweighs the bad times. 2015 had its ups and down for me. I am making some new changes this year and I can't wait to feel better to start implementing those changes.

I will be posting a 2016 reading challenge soon. First, I will be finishing up a few book reviews from 2015 and give a final update on the 2015 reading challenge. Following that will be my 2015 Book Awards, based on what I've read over the past year.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Unleashed Book Review

2015 Reading Challenge

35. Unleashed by Emily Kimelman
      Theme/Topic: book with a one word title

When the series begins Sydney Rye is named Joy Humbolt. She does not like people telling her what to do, so it comes as no surprise that she was just fired from her last job. When she buys Charlene Miller's dog-walking business on Manhattan's exclusive upper east side, it seems like the perfect fit: Quiet environment, minimal contact with people. But then one of her clients turns up dead, and Charlene disappears. Rumors say Charlene was having an affair with the victim--and of course, everyone assumes Joy must know where she is. Joy begins to look into the crime, first out of curiosity then out of anger when there is another murder and threats start to come her way. When police detective Mulberry is assigned to the case, Joy finds a kindred spirit--cynical and none-too-fond of the human race. As they dig deep into the secrets of Manhattan's elite, they not only get closer to the killer but also to a point of no return. One last murder sends Joy Humbolt hurtling over the edge. Her only chance of survival is to become Sydney Rye.

My Review:
When I came across this book for free from Bookbub, it sounded good. Unfortunately, things aren't always what they seem like at first. That was the way with this. For starters, it was filled with more profanity than could have ever imagined. And yes, there was a warning about that, but certain words were overused.

In short, Joy can't get her life together. Right from the start, we find out that she lost her dog (as well as job) and to deal with that, she adopts an enormous mutt and names him Blue. She reluctantly takes on a job as a dog-walker and is thrown into a world of gossip and such with the other dog-walkers. Joy stumbles across the body of a client and then rumors start up. Since she's kind of considered a suspect by the police (as is the case with anyone who finds a body at first), Joy gets involved in trying to find the killer by investigating on her own. In the meantime she also fools around with one of the detectives. When it starts getting personal and close to home, Joy doesn't let anything get in her way. Without going into detail, at the end Joy has no choice but to change her name to Sydney Rye to run away/go into hiding from the police.

Overall, Unleashed was an example of bad writing in a way. Not to mention that a couple of the plotlines were either out of place or lacked spark. It's safe to say that I won't be reading any more in this series.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!