If you’re into scary books for this month, check out “Shaman.” It’s really scary. I don’t recommend reading it at night or before bed. Right now it’s free on Kindle until October 20th. mybook.to/shaman
The photo above is a dish I made trying out roasted purple cauliflower. It’s hard to see but to the right of the salmon is purple cauliflower rice, which I made too. The fish is salmon sprinkled with fresh dill, paprika, garlic salt, black pepper, and topped with slices of limes. I’ve never cooked with cauliflower before but I think this will be my new favorite thing because I really like the flavor and how easy it is to cook cauliflower.
I’m very proud to say that I accomplished two of my five goals this year. One of them was to start school again…actually, to resume my master’s program from 2010. So far, I’ve completed three classes and have four to go. I’m going to try and load up on classes so that I finish by end of Spring 2018. The other goal was to read 12 books. I ended up reading 34 books. A lot of it was due to freelancing as a book reviewer. I was doing about three to four books a month starting in July. I still read for leisure and still enjoy it
Here are my favorite books of the year:
1. Caraval by Stephanie Garber. This was such a lovely and fun story with romance, magic, and suspense.
2. Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon. This was a beautiful story told through the eyes of a young boy growing up in the 60’s. The world building was fabulous. I felt like I was right there with the boy. The characters were well thought out and vivid. McCammon really knows how to tug at your heart.
3. My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier. This was a well written classic about a man upset about the way his cousin died. He was determined to get to the bottom of the mystery but somehow he becomes completely mesmerized by Rachel. I saw the movie after reading the book and didn’t think it was as good. If anything, read the book.
Can’t live without music. For a sci-fi story I’ve been writing, I’ve got a few songs that go along with certain scenes. Initially, I was going to submit the story to an anthology but I missed the deadline. Okay, I have to remember I’m not going to focus on my failures (lol). Anyway, here’s the cover for the book, and yes, that’s my pen name because I write different genres.
If you want to know a little about the story (the background story), you can check out my writing blog at, The Writing Sparrow. It’s a new blog and I don’t have much there yet, but come 2018, there will be.
These are the songs that go with a few scenes in my story, but they are also favorites:
1. Immortal by Missing in Action
2. Last Hope by Antoine Heid (it’s just coincidence that my title has these two words in it).
3. Love on the Brain by Rhianna.
4. Elastic Heart by Sia
5. Wings (acoustic) by Birdy
I’ve been somewhat of a movie junkie this year. I could barely count how many movies I’ve watched at the theater and at home. It feels great to be able to watch all these movies. When I had my two kids, I went into a strange zone where I couldn’t watch movies or even TV shows and not think everyone was pretending. For some reason that bothered me to no ends. Now, I’m relieved to say that even if they were acting, it’s no problem. It doesn’t bother me one bit. My favorite movies this year are:
2. King Arthur – Legend of the Sword
3. Blade Runner
4. Star Wars – The Last Jedi
I didn’t do as much drawing and painted as I had wanted. There’s just isn’t enough time to do everything so I’ve had to just focus on what mattered to me. And, what mattered this year was getting my stories out. I submitted a fantasy to an anthology earlier in the year but they are backed up so they haven’t gotten to telling the submitters who made it or not. I also sent the same fantasy story to my professor who enjoyed it and gave me an “A.”
Thanks for stopping by and see you in the new year!
Author: Anthony Ryan
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy
There is more to that though and this is where the story gets interesting. The story follows the boy into adulthood where he learns more than just fighting. He forms a tight knight friendship with his “brothers” and learns who his mother was. He becomes a Lord for the king, he wins battles, and he falls in love. Through it all, he learns that there is an internal battle within himself. There is something or someone whispering to him, wanting to help him, or destroy him.
I enjoyed the writing and the flow of the story. I found it slightly on the fast side. A lot of information was provided in a telling kind of way to move the story to the main points. I found that I could easily skim over certain parts and I wouldn’t be missing much but skim too much and you’ll find yourself having to backtrack. Having said that, it was a fun read with great character development and world building.
A goal this year is to only read about 12 books. One book per month or around there. I’ve really reduced it because I want to focus more on writing than reading. I know I’ll probably end up reading more than 12 books but if I do, that’s okay. I don’t want to stress out over trying to hit my numbers. So far, I’ve read two books this month. It wasn’t expected but once I learned Veronica Roth’s book, “Carve the Mark,” was out, I had to buy and read it. Below are the reviews for the books I’ve read this month.
Behind Closed Doors
Author: B.A. Paris
Genre: Fiction, Psychological Thriller
This story is about a couple whom everyone thinks has the perfect relationship but deep down there are secrets.
Although the pacing is fast, the story starts out a bit slow. There is a tenseness in the beginning especially when one of the supporting characters, Esther, questions their “perfect” marriage.
The characters were well developed and stayed true to themselves. The back stories to the main characters really helped in shaping them. The setting was clear and done well. The story line was interesting and kept me in suspense and intrigue, which was what kept me reading.
What bothered me most about the story was the protagonist and the main antagonist. Grace didn’t seem very smart or wise and Jack wasn’t as evil as he could be. I felt that Grace could have easily gotten away from Jack and even reported him but she let it go on for too long, doubting herself all the time, and not trusting her own intuition. She was so strong and determined at taking care of her little sister, I didn’t get why she suddenly gave in to Jack and put her sister on the sideline. As for Jack, I wanted him to be even more evil than he was but he seemed to also give in. There was no explanation why he gave in to Grace so much since his back story made him to be this person who enjoyed torture/pain, etc. If it was because he was afraid he’d get caught, then that fear should have somehow made it into the story or the back story.
Overall, I enjoyed the book. The suspense stretched out further than I had anticipated which almost led me to stop reading because it got to the point where I almost just didn’t care what happened (because as mentioned, Grace wasn’t very smart) but Esther got me hooked. She was the person who made the story interesting. I was annoyed by her at first but I was also curious as to why she was always prying. I was surprised by her at the end, and have to admit, I cried. She was amazing.
Carve the Mark
Author: Veronica Roth
Genre: Fiction, Sci-fi, Fantasy, Young Adult
This story is about…I’m not even sure exactly what it’s about, to be honest, but I’ll do my best to describe it. I believe it’s about two families who are enemies, where the evil family gains rulership and tortures the other family in hopes to continue ruling.
The story was interesting and the powers the characters had were unique. I liked the idea that it took place in outer space and other planets.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t as good as I had expected. It was pretty fast paced. Too many characters were introduced so I couldn’t feel for the main characters. Some characters were introduced and then only had small, almost irrelevant, parts. I tried to visualized the world they lived in and found it difficult because I felt as though there were pieces of Dune by Frank Herbert and Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. Every time I came across the word “Benesit, ” (the name/title of one of the families) I kept wanting to say “Bene Gesserit” from Dune.
As for the relationship between the two main characters, I felt very little for them. As mentioned, because it was so fast paced and so much information was being thrown in, I really couldn’t relate to the relationship or to their situation.
What was very obvious was the pain the protagonist felt and how she learned to deal with it. I think if the focus was solely on this as the story, how she was chosen to have this type of power that would cause herself pain, and how she learned to control or manage it, would have been a great story on its own.
I really wanted to like this story. I love sci-fi and fantasy combined and I love Veronica Roth’s style. The scenes merge seamlessly and the transition from first to third person was well done. I’m just a bit bummed that there was so much thrown into it and it felt rushed.
Twenty-sixteen went by fast. I now have a feeling technology makes life move faster. Not literally, of course, but just the time spent on the Internet on social media, blogs, and smartphones takes up almost every minute of our lives. I’m happy to say that I was still able to accomplish 2 of my 5 goals set earlier in the year. The ones I accomplished were:
1. Read 40 books. Favorite out of the 40 was The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey. To see all 40 books I read, click here.
2. Wrote 50K words toward my novel. I actually put down ‘finish my novel’ but I felt that 50K words was a lot so I’m going with that. 🙂
The other 3 were: organize the study (which I tried but didn’t finish), eat a lot less junk food/carbs and more fruits/veggies (I tired too but those carbs are hard to get rid of), and draw a lot. I think I painted more than drew/sketch but I really wanted to just draw with a pencil/pen and maybe color pencils. I was only able to turn out about 6 and they were just sketches while I was doing other things on the computer, except the bottom right, which was drawn in my Midori.
There was one thing I did accomplish that wasn’t included on my goals list and that was to knit. Out of nowhere, I had this urge to learn to knit so I went for it. I was afraid I wouldn’t finish because it was really boring once I got the knitting started but I’m glad I kept with it because it’s a great feeling seeing this knitted scarf and knowing I made it. You can see the beginning of it here.
Tonight and tomorrow and maybe all week next week, I’ll be honing down the goals I want to accomplish for 2017. I have a very general idea what I’d like to accomplish, but I’d like to be more specific and so I think that’s what I’ll spend some time doing.
Happy New Year!
I’ve got quite a few book reviews to share. It’s a busy time but I still found time to read, usually right before bed, and while I wait for my girls at the dance studio. Lately, I’ve been finding that I’ve spent way too much time researching Korean skin care products. Not sure how that was brought on but I think I was initially looking at Korean makeup (and I can’t think why I was looking at Korean makeup!) which then lead to skincare. I learned that Korean skin care technology is about 2 to 5 years ahead of the U.S. I was fascinated and continued to read and learn about Korean’s advance products, including sunscreen, which I’m hoping to get my hands on because I am sold on the high SPF, broad spectrum, gel consistency or just less opaque compared to the ones I’ve used in the past, and cost. Oh, and I might add that my curiosity got the best of me and I YouTube-ed a handful of Korean before and after plastic surgery. I was saddened by their obsession for the V-shape jawline, big American eyes with thick eyelid folds, and super pale skin. It made them look all very similar and reminded me of a book I read a couple of times called, Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley. Interestingly, there was a time in my teen years in which I had wished everyone looked the same and lived in a socialistic totalitarian society, and I had good reasons for feeling that way, but as I got older I realized how bad that would be.
Anyway, let’s get the book reviews started.
Title: Shatter Me
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Genre: Sci-fi, post-apocalyptic, dystopian, paranormal, YA
This story is written in the first person through the eyes of a girl named Juliette. She is gifted with the ability to absorb life from others and in the process kills them but she is aware of this so she tries not to touch anyone in fear that she’ll accidentally kill them. She also has super human strength that she was unaware of until she broke down a metal door in her haste to escape The Reestablishment. There is a love triangle going on. Juliette likes Adam-a soldier of The Reestablishment, and Warner-the leader of The Reestablishment, likes her. Warner wants her to use her ability to gain power but she doesn’t want to. She escapes eventually and ends up in a facility with others who also have abilities of their own.
This book was recommended to me by my teenage daughter. She loved it to death and couldn’t decide if she liked Adam more or Warner. She compared the post-apocalyptic totalitarian world to the book, The Giver, by Lois Lowry. Personally, I just found this book to be okay. Juliette’s ability was exactly like Rogue’s from X-men so I couldn’t get a good description of her in my head because I just kept seeing Rogue. The relationship between Juliette and Adam was okay. Nothing new, nothing exciting. The coddling was overdone and unrealistic. I liked that Adam had a cute little brother whom he wanted to keep protected and that Juliette finally met up with others who had supernatural abilities as well, although, their abilities again reminded me of X-men.
Title: American Sniper
Author: Chris Kyle
Genre: Memoir, biography, war
This books is a memoir by Chris Kylie on how he became a SEAL and then a SEAL sniper and the four tours he fought in during the middle eastern war in the mid 2000’s. He goes into some pretty good details about the weapons he used and what he did as a sniper. He also talks about the friends he made and the soldiers, his “brothers”, whom he saved or tried to. He talks about his family life and wife and their struggles while he was overseas. There are clips of his wife’s point of view of his deployments which really helped in understanding the stress war and military life can bring on.
Overall, it was a good read. Chris came across to me somewhat cocky but he is also quite humble. He’s very proud of his country and would do whatever it took to take down the enemy for it. I was very heartbroken over the other SEALs, marines, and army men who died. The language/prose was very simple like someone speaking to you about their life. This book is not for the faint of heart.
Title: Ralph S. Mouse
Author: Beverly Clearly
Genre: Children, fiction
This book is about a little mouse named, Ralph. He lives in a hotel and is friends with a boy named Ryan and his mother who also live in the hotel. He decides that he wants to get away from the hotel and maybe live in the school Ryan goes to. While at the school Ryan tells him to stay quiet and not peek out of his shirt pocket but curiosity got the best of him and he peeked. A classmate saw him and suddenly he becomes the center of attention. He is put through a maze and also makes a new friend.
Read this with my daughter. We both thought it was okay.
Author: Beverly Clearly
Genre: Children, fiction
This book is about a dog named Ribsy who jumped out of his owner’s car to be with him but accidentally got into someone else’s car. He escapes, and while trying to find his owner, ends up in meeting strangers who take him in. Some treating him better than others. In the end his owner finds him and they return home.
Read this with my daughter. She didn’t like it so much but I thought it was cute.
Title: The Boy In The Striped Pajamas
Author: John Boyne
Genre: Historical fiction, war, children
This book is about a boy named Bruno, who’s father got promoted to Commandant, and they moved from Berlin to Auschwitz. Bruno became very lonely and wanted someone to play with. He saw people working in the distance from his bedroom window and found his way to where the people were to see if there was someone he could play with. He becomes friends with a little boy his own age named, Schmuel, on the other side of the fence. He doesn’t know why there is a fence separating them but he is determined to become good friends with Schmuel. At one point Schmuel ends up at his house and he’s excited but when he learns that Schmuel was only there to clean the wine glasses for a big gathering he becomes confused. He realizes that Schmuel is hungry so he gives some food to his friend to eat. The soldier that had brought Schmuel in to do the work saw the food in Schmuel’s hand and berated him. Schmuel told the soldier that his friend, Bruno, gave him the food. The soldier asked Bruno if that was true and Bruno, scared of the soldier, said he didn’t know who the boy was nor did he give him any food. Later on when Bruno went to the fence to meet Schmuel, he saw the bruise on Schmuel’s face and felt terribly bad. Schmuel forgave him and they continued to be friends. Bruno would sometimes bring food and pass it under the fence where a small opening existed. Bruno’s mother, who didn’t like their new living arrangements in Auschwitz, decided that she was going to return to Berlin with him and his sister. Bruno didn’t want to move back to Berlin because he now made a new friend that he really liked. Just before they were to leave, Bruno and Schmuel arranged for Bruno to cross over the fence to help Schmuel find his father who mysteriously disappeared. Life on the other side of the fence was not what Bruno had thought and he wanted to go home. The soldiers were loud and vicious. They made Bruno and Schmuel and a bunch of other people wearing the same clothing, the striped pajamas, get into a line and had them enter a large metal room. The soldiers told them it was time for a shower. The two little boys had no idea what was going to happen.
This was a very very very heartbreaking book. This book was recommended to me by my teenager who read it in her language arts class and whom also saw the movie. She loved it so much she had myself and her dad watch it with her her second time. I totally loved the movie, more than the book, but both were very good.
Title: Tuck Everlasting
Author: Natalie Babbitt
Genre: Fiction, children
This book is about the Tuck family, a mother, father, and two sons, who drank from a spring in the Treegap woods that stopped them from aging and dying. Over a hundred years had passed and the Tuck’s felt it was safe to return to their old home since everyone they knew had either died or were too young to remember them. Jesse, the younger Tuck son who is about 17, stopped by the spring in Treegap to drink from the spring and a 10-year-old girl named, Winnie Foster, saw him and wanted to drink from the spring too. He wouldn’t let her and told her she couldn’t. They got into a little disagreement but luckily Jesse’s mother, Mae, and older brother, Miles, caught up to him and they were both surprised to see the girl. The girl told them that because the wood belonged her her family she would drink from it when they left so in fear they kidnapped her. They took her to their home and explained to her why she couldn’t drink from the spring and that for her to never tell anyone about the spring. They didn’t know but there was a man who followed them who had heard rumors about the Tuck’s. He stole their horse who had also drank from the spring and returned to town to tell Winnie’s parents that she was kidnapped and he knew who did it. He told them that he would return Winnie to them in a trade for their woods. He also reported the kidnapping to the constable. Winnie was at first scared she was kidnapped but she learned to trust the Tuck’s and soon called them her friends. Jesse really liked her and asked her to drink from the spring when she turned 17 so they could marry. The man returned the next morning to the Tuck’s home and was going to take Winnie with him but Mae shot him. The constable was on his way to the Tuck’s and saw the scene and took Mae in to be hanged for her crime. The day before Mae was to be hanged she escaped. Years rolled by and Mae and her husband returned to Treegap to find that the woods were no longer there.
Read this with my daughter. She cried. I cried. Such a wonderful book. I’ve read this book probably about 4 or 5 times and every time I always get so teary-eyed.
Title: Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea
Author: Barbara Demick
Genre: Memoir, biography, war, history, political
This book is biographically written following six North Koreans in their lives and escape from North Korea to South Korea from the mid to late 80’s up to about 2005. I enjoyed the read and all the research gone into it. The escape process was similar to the book, In Order to Live, by Yeonmi Park, whom is actually mentioned in a paragraph or so in this book. It is really strange how I too have wondered about a free and united Korea. I’ve wondered when that would happen, if it will be something similar to the coming down of the Berlin Wall in a nationally televised way, or if it would happen subtly, and if it will happen in my lifetime.
Title: Charlotte’s Web
Author: E. B. White
Genre: Children, Fiction, Classic
I’ve read this book to my oldest when she was younger and now have also read with my youngest. After we read the book we watched the movie. I also watched the movie with my oldest when we finished the book. At the time, when I watched it with my oldest, my youngest was too young to enjoy the movie so when the camera zoomed in on the spider’s face, she got scared and couldn’t watch it. This time of course she was fascinated by the spider.
Title: In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom
Author: Yeonmi Park
Genre: Memoir, Non-fiction
This memoir was an eye-opener about North Korea. I enjoyed it, although I found the usage of, “we Koreans….” this and that, annoying. I’m glad that the author found her way to freedom. The world we live in is strange. Some of us have freedom and some of us don’t even know and will never know what freedom feels like.