Thursday, December 29, 2011

Book Review: Tempest by Julie Cross

Tempest (Tempest #1)Tempest by Julie Cross

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I won this ARC on Goodreads.

The Cover and Stuff:
I liked the cover. I know some people have compared it to Hush Hush (I think it was Hush Hush), but it stood out to me. I like the dark clouds and I like the font. I don't know that it necessarily says "time travel," but I don't care. I still like it.

And now for the other stuff. Tempest (the ARC, at least) has stuff on it's covers like "The first book in an epic trilogy" and "A major success already in the making" and how Summit Entertainment (the people that made Twilight) are already going to be doing a movie with it. So first, it feels kind of weird since the book isn't even out yet. And second, it sets the bar really high. But I know none of that is under the author's control, so on with the review.



Tempest gets off to a fast start. The voice hooked me on the first page, and it was fun being inside the head of a teenage boy (even if his thoughts were occasionally girly for a boy). I love books and movies about time travel, so I was excited to see where this was going. And I did end up liking Tempest, but not OMG-fan-girl loving it.



Here's what I liked:

- Any time Jackson thinks semi-mean thoughts. Boys are funny.

- Adam. He is a nerd, and I do love the nerds.

- Every scene with Jackson's little sister. These were incredibly moving. I think I cried over that letter he wrote her.

- The plotting. It's amazing. This will be a great movie.

- The ending was very fast paced and exciting and leaves you wanting more.

- Also the scene with the smoothie, I really loved.



Here's what I didn't:

- Holly. (More on this later)

- Some of the time travel stuff confused me. And just so you know, I am getting a PhD in Neuroscience right now, so it's not like I suck at science. I think part of it was that sometimes Jackson's information about time travel would change, and I had never seen time travel done this way, and it made it that much harder to keep up with what was currently true.

- The middle kinda dragged.



And now to talk about the Holly stuff, because I have a lot to say about her. I didn't love her. I didn't hate her or anything, but I just couldn't see what was so special about her. And since everything driving the plot of Tempest hinges on the reader loving Holly, this was an issue. There is so much drama surrounding her, and Jackson makes so many decisions based on their love, I kept thinking, 'Man, if I liked Holly, I would be freaking out right now.' She needed to feel like the epic love of his life. But to me she just felt like a perfectly acceptable girl to be dating while waiting for "the One."

I've been trying to figure out why it is I didn't like her more. I think part of it is that Jackson wouldn't confide in her, so it made me not take their relationship seriously. He confides in Adam, his friend, but not Holly. And it was supposed to "protect her," but I felt like there was this boy's club that she couldn't be a part of. The whole trend in YA of protecting females by withholding information or making decisions for them without their input really bothers me. But I'll hop off my soapbox and get back to my review.

Ultimately, I did like this book and I'll probably go see the movie.



View all my reviews

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

IF I LIE Cover Reveal

Today I'm very pleased to share with you the cover of IF I LIE by Corrine Jackson. It's the first time I've ever been part of a cover reveal, so I'm pretty psyched about it!



Isn't it gorgeous? I love the font and the black and white shot and how the tag line "Some secrets change you" gives me shivers. But most of all I love the intensity. There's something about the hardness in the way his back is turned to her and the hopelessness of her head against his shoulder blades that tells you this relationship is packed full of complex emotions.

Here's the blurb:
A powerful debut novel about the gray space between truth and perception.

Quinn’s done the unthinkable: she kissed a guy who is not Carey, her boyfriend. And she got caught. Being branded a cheater would be bad enough, but Quinn is deemed a traitor, and shunned by all of her friends. Because Carey’s not just any guy—he’s serving in Afghanistan and revered by everyone in their small, military town.

Quinn could clear her name, but that would mean revealing secrets that she’s vowed to keep—secrets that aren’t hers to share. And when Carey goes MIA, Quinn must decide how far she’ll go to protect her boyfriend…and her promise.

                                                             ***


IF I LIE debuts on August 28, 2012, and with this cover and that description, I'll definitely be picking up a copy!


Add to your Goodreads shelf here.
You can find Corrine Jackson on Twitter, Facebook, and her blog.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Giveaway: Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare


I got to see Cassandra Clare speak at the Decatur Library last week, and she is a trip. She's witty and snarky and awesome, and, man, does she have some fangirls. I've never been to a book signing where so much squealing was involved. She could give the Biebs a run for his money.

Anyway, her book CLOCKWORK PRINCE just came out this month, so to celebrate, I'm giving away a SIGNED (yes, signed!!!) copy.

Here's how you can win it:
1) Be a follower of this blog.
2) Leave a comment telling me you want it.

+1 bonus entry for tweeting about this contest (just let me know in your comment)

I'll pick a winner on January 1st!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Books I'm Excited About

There are so many books that just came out or will be out soon that I am dying to read. Um, so here's a list:


Zombie Tag by Hannah Moscowitz (coming soon!!!)
Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins (not coming soon enough. sigh.)
The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler
Divergent by Veronica Roth (I know, I know, I should have read this already!)
Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
Shut Out by Kody Keplinger
Larkstorm by Dawn Rae Miller (Just came out December 6th! And my friend Dawn wrote it! And you can win it here if you hurry with the quickness.)



*I know I'll probably be adding a few more soon*

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Other Fun Fall Stuff

Ansley had a packed social calendar this fall, including her first pumpkin carving (we didn't actually let her do any carving, she mostly just gummed the pumpkin) and her first Ga Tech Homecoming Game. Go Jackets! We won!









Halloween Photos

I know, I know, I should have posted these a month ago, but things have been CRAZY with school and are just now starting to calm down.

In case you don't already know, Zack and I are really big on Halloween. We begin planning our costumes months in advance, and they often involve things like wigs/spray glue/every tube of green body paint in the city of Atlanta. This was our 8th Halloween together (one year Zack was out of town), and this one was really special because it was our 1st Halloween with Ansley. Instead of our usual couples costume, we had to find a theme for the whole family. The possibilities were endless.

After intense debate over the best way to utilize a baby in a Halloween costume, we decided on Alice in Wonderland. Here's a picture of me as Alice and Ansley as the white rabbit. She is checking her clock to discover she's late for a very important date.




In this shot, Ansley is looking at the camera. Doesn't she look happy about her bunny costume?


Is anyone else reminded of this?



Here's one of Zack as the Mad Hatter. I'm pretty proud of my make up job! Ansley actually cried the first time she saw him with the wig on, and it took us a few minutes to convince her that it he was still her daddy under all that orange hair.



And here are a couple of Ansley asleep at her first costume party.

Guest Post by Ansley

The post below is not a mistake. Well, it is, but not the kind you're thinking. I had opened up a fresh, new blog post with the intention of updating you all after my school-induced absence, but Ansley decided she needed to post first.

Somehow in the ten seconds it took me to refill my glass of water, Ansley managed to maul my computer (I swear, she waits for me to get up so she can do this), type her post, and hit send. She has moved on to Daddy's playstation. It's a good thing he's in the shower.

'

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Book Review: Liesl and Po by Lauren Oliver

Liesl and PoLiesl and Po by Lauren Oliver

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I won this ARC on Goodreads and I’m so glad I did. I loved this book. Liesl and Po is Oliver’s first middle grade book (she wrote the young adult books Before I Fall and Delirium), and what a debut. I almost teared up just from reading her letter at the beginning of the book, and you can tell she poured her soul into every page.


Here are some things I loved:

- How Po's physicality changes with his mood.

- How the voice feels like you're being read a bedtime story, complete with your favorite blanket and a mug of hot chocolate.

- How she takes huge grown up issues and makes them approachable for a middle grade audience without watering down the emotion.

- How the story follows a few characters and plot lines. It’s such a fast read because you can’t wait to see what happens when the characters meet. I devour books like that.

- And, also, I loved Bundle the Ghost Dog-Cat!



Like most debut authors, Oliver visits some common tropes of the genre, but while some of the themes and elements in this book felt familiar, Liesl and Po never felt clich├ęd. For me, the familiarity gave the book a nostalgic feel.


Oliver paints a vivid picture of this grey, bleak world and the people in it. I especially enjoyed the stepmother and her warts that pulsated with her mood. I know her ugliness bothered some people, but I didn’t see this as an ugly = evil book. The Lady Premiere is evil, and she isn’t ugly. And I don’t remember Will or Mo being described as gorgeous.


The ugly = evil issue is overdramatized in my opinion. Guess what. Lord Voldemort is ugly and no one cares. I think the ugliness/beauty of a character in relation to their personality bothers people a lot more when the character in question is female. But back to Liesl and Po…


My only issue with this story was I wish we had gotten to find out what Po’s story was and also what happened to the guard’s sister. Oh, and while I love the cover, the action taking place on the cover isn’t entirely accurate.


Overall, a fantastic book, and I can't wait to see what's next from Lauren Oliver.


Recommend for: Anyone looking for a good middle grade read, especially kids dealing with the loss of a friend or family member.


View all my reviews

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Falcons Rise Up!


We went to the Falcons-Eagles game last weekend as the final segment of Zack's month-long birthday extravaganza. It was probably the best pro football game I've ever been to (the best college game being either Ga Tech v. Auburn 2003 or Ga Tech v. Clemson 2004). And we took the little one.

Here's a picture of Zack and Ansley waiting for a MARTA train. (Please note her infant sized Matty Ice jersey.)




Little does he know that in less than an hour, he'll be vigorously groped by the Georgia Dome staff. Thanks to a moronic Cowboy fan (of course his name is Leroy) who got taser happy at a Jets game, every NFL game is now stationed with security guards who are grabbier than a teenage boy at prom.

After getting some chicken tenders (Zack) and some cinnamon covered almonds (Me), we made our way to our seats (Thanks, Maxie!). The game was opened by none other than Mr. Go the F@k to Sleep himself, Samuel L. Jackson.


Since we were worried about the noise level, Ansley wore headphones. They seemed to work because she passed out during the 1st quarter.


With Michael Vick bringing his new team, the Eagles, to Atlanta for the first time, this game was huge. It started out great. Falcons - 21. Eagles - 10. Seven of those points belonged to Roddy White (Fantasy Points!), but rookie Julio Jones was an unexpected star.

I went to the bathroom thinking everything was great. By the time I got back, the Eagles had turned the ball over once and scored twice. Zack requested that I not go to the bathroom for the rest of the game.

Then Vick got hurt and had to leave the game. And Matt Ryan took a rough hit too - the kind that made Falcons fans across the stadium bite their nails. Or, in Ansley's case, her Falcons flag.



But the Falcons won in the end. Check out that score board.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The YA Curator

Exciting news! I'm now part of an indie book recommendation site with some friends who also love reading and writing Young Adult books.


Check it out: The YA Curator


I was trying to figure out exactly how to describe what we do, and decided it would be much easier to paste Dawn's description directly from The YA Curator site:

We’re a group of Young Adult writers and enthusiasts who are spelunking the depths of the internet to find self-published and small press gems. Every Wednesday, one of us will post a review of a book we RECOMMEND. No bad reviews here. Just things we think you may enjoy reading.

Have a book you’d like us to consider? Remember it must be YA. If it is, tweet us the title & genre along with a link. We don’t read everything – only things that pique our interest.

Twitter: @TheYACurator

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Nutrition Nuclear Arms Race

As far as nutrition and being a mommy goes, I feel like nothing is ever good enough.

Example:

Mom 1: My kids are eating boneless skinless chicken breasts.

Mom 2: Mine too. And we buy our chicken from a local free range farm.

Mom 1: Oh, so do we. And our farm names their chickens and lets them do water color paintings.


It never ends! And it's ridiculous! And the ladies at Rants From Mommyland agree, and there's a hilarious post about it that involves that new My Plate thing from the USDA.


http://www.rantsfrommommyland.com/2011/09/good-nutrition-can-bite-me.html


For the past couple months I've been driving myself crazy with trying to make homemade organic baby food (looking up recipes, pureeing like crazy, freezing the food in little IKEA ice cube trays so Ansley can have wholesome homemade vegetable goodness in the shape of hearts and stars). Well, this week I'm saying screw it. I'm buying Earth's Best and calling it a day. It's good to know I'm not alone :-)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Decatur Book Festival

I had so much fun at the Decatur Book Festival this weekend. Hearing some of my favorite authors speak (Libba Bray, Lauren Myracle, Simone Elkeles, Stephanie Perkins, and lots more!), getting books signed, and hanging out with writer friends.

Here are a few highlights (also Hayley does a fantastic job of describing the festival on her blog):

- Mad Libs with Libba Bray. And Libba Bray in general. She is hilarious. The room was packed during her talk, so I had to watch it in the overflow room (a room with a screen showing what was going on in the main room). And even the overflow room was standing room only AND I had to throw bows to get one of those standing-against-the-wall spots.

- Meeting Lauren Myracle (one of my most favorite authors evah!) and getting some books signed. She was super nice even though I kind of acted like a spaz because I was so excited about meeting her.

- Stephanie Perkins asking me to take a picture of her with Lisa McMann (we were sitting behind them during Lauren Myracle's talk). Of course, I couldn't figure out how to work her camera phone and accidentally turned on the voice command, but luckily Regan was there to swoop in and save the day.

Here's the one Stephanie Perkins took of Regan, Hayley, and me:



Can't wait till next year!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Chunky Baby Alert!

As some of you might know, Ansley had a little trouble eating when she was born. She lost almost a pound (which is a lot for a 7 lb, 10 oz newborn), and the doctors were having us weigh her every three days because her weight was in the 10th percentile. Here is a picture of Ansley’s leg at the time, and yes, it is still an adorable leg, but it is too too skinny.



Then we discovered that Ansley had a “tongue tie,” which means she had a bit of extra frenulum (that thing that connects your tongue to the bottom of your mouth). We had it clipped, and Ansley started eating more. A lot more. In fact, at her 6-month check up, she weighed a whopping 17 lbs, 3 oz (that’s the 75th percentile!). Here is a picture of her leg now:



Check out those hammy hamhocks! I couldn’t be happier about my juicy, chubby baby…even if it does mean she can’t fit into her Bumbo seat anymore.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

What to do when you forget to wear deodorant

You’re probably thinking, how often do you actually forget to wear deodorant? Well, pre-baby, I forgot maybe once or twice a year (I can be a little spacey), but post-baby it happens almost once a month.

I’ll have my hand on the deodorant, just about to remove the cap, when Ansley cries, and, being the stellar mommy I am, I go pick her up. Then I finish getting ready, completely forgetting the deodorant. It’s awful. You have to spend the whole rest of the day worrying if you smell and doing surreptitious underarm monitoring.

On one such day, I confessed my lack of deodorant to a friend at work:

Me: I totally think I forgot to put on deodorant today.
Her: Ohmygosh. Now that you mention it, I think I forgot too. That’s so funny.
Me: We are both going to smell.
Her: Do you have any antibacterial hand sanitizer? Because you can use that in a pinch.

Shut the front door. You can use what?! But it turns out, she’s right. You can use antibacterial hand sanitizer in emergency situations.

Here’s the science behind deodorant:

Source: http://www.instructables.com/id/Deodorant/

- Sweat doesn’t stink. Not really.
- The bacteria that live in your armpits ferment the sweat (gross), and that’s what makes body odor. Kind of like what yeast does when you make wine only the end product isn’t nearly as pleasant.
- Deodorant usually contains a few things:
1) Alcohol and other chemicals that kill/slow the bateria
2) A sweat-reducing chemical or antiperspirant
3) Some kind of essential oils to make you smell like cucumber or jasmine or whatever

So, the antibacterial hand sanitizer can act as ingredient number 1 if you forget deodorant. And it works too (mostly). There are a couple of drawbacks:
1) It stings like a mo-fo. Especially if, like me, you shave your underarms.
2) It doesn’t work 100%. Don’t plan on using this in lieu of actual deodorant on a regular basis or you will become the smelly kid in class.

Armed with this information, my friend and I ran downstairs to find a hand sanitizing station. (We didn’t have any sanitizer, but we work in the same building as a clinic, and there’s one of those hand sanitizer stands at the entrance.) Then, we waved our hands under the sensor so the machine would squirt out some antibacterial foam. That’s when it occurred to us that we were about to publicly embarrass ourselves. Using our powers of stealth, we sneaked over to a nearby bathroom with our handfuls of foam concealed at our sides. Thank goodness no one walked in while we were rubbing our underarms with hand sanitizer and giggling.


Source: http://www.unoclean.com/deb-SBS-Hand-Sanitizing-Dispenser-Stations-Restroom-Hand-Sanitizer-Stations.aspx

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Book Review: Invincible Summer by Hannah Moscowitz

Invincible SummerInvincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Pre-cap: A heartbreaking and beautiful book about a dysfunctional family and sign language and summer and more. I loved it to pieces.

Review:
Full disclosure. I went into this book thinking I wouldn’t like it. From the adjectives I’d seen used to describe it (raw, edgy, gritty, etc.), I was expecting one of those books that shows you one scene after another of pain and loss and misery with no joy or beauty to balance it out. One of those books that leaves me queasy and sad for the next few days. I hate those books.

But I love books that take you on an emotional journal, and that’s exactly what Invincible Summer does. Sure, there’s grief and sadness and loss - enough that you’ll probably cry. I did. But there’s also a family that so obviously loves each other and gorgeous descriptions of summer. And hope. You feel so much hope for the future of Chase and his family at the end of the book without having an ending that is overly sweet and happy.

Invincible Summer follows Chase and his family for four summers. You think it’s going to be a book about two brothers (Noah and Chase) that fall in love with the same girl (Melinda) but it so so isn’t. Chase is desperate to hold his family together. His parents don’t love each other but can’t seem to stop having babies. His little brother Gideon is deaf. His little sister Claudia is trying to be a woman too early. His older brother Noah won’t stop running away. Oh, and also he and Noah both end up tangled in Melinda’s web of seduction and manipulation (yeah, I didn’t like her most of the time).

I loved the characters, particularly Chase and Gideon. And how Moskowitz uses sign language dialogue and I got to see inside that world. There’s a part where Chase comforts Gideon in the middle of the night that I loved. And another part where Gideon signs something to Noah in regards to his college major that just broke my heart.

One of my favorite parts about Invincible Summer is that it is full of lines that are just these beautiful truths about the world. I can’t believe the author is a teenager! I feel like you need a lifetime of wisdom to dole out observations like that.

And she isn’t afraid to tackle difficult subject matter. A couple of scenes with Claudia made me uncomfortable because she acts so old/sexy for a girl who is 11-13 (the book spans multiple summers). At the same time, I feel like this is a problem with girls today – they’re trying to grow up way too fast. And I feel like Moskowitz called attention to it without being all look-at-me-I’m-an-issue-book.

I wasn’t a Noah fan. I’m more like Chase. I can’t help but want to stay and try to fix problems, and I tend to dislike characters who run from them. I wouldn’t call this a flaw in the book, though, because I was feeling a strong reaction to Noah even if it wasn’t a good one.

So, now you’re asking yourself, was there anything I didn’t like about the book? Well, not much, but here goes:

There was a hotel room scene with Melinda, Noah, and Chase, and what Melinda said about Chase didn’t move me the way I think it was supposed to. It kind of just weird-ed me out. Also, there was a bit too much Camus. Sometimes I wanted to know what the characters were actually thinking and I got a Camus quote instead.

And that’s it. Because I loved this book SO MUCH. It’s the first time since I had my baby 6 months ago that I’ve been hooked enough to finish a book within 48 hours.





Content Warning: There’s at least one pretty graphic love scene, so if you’re squeamish about stuff like that, you might want to skip that page. There’s also a good bit of swearing.

Other Reviews: Loved it/Hated it.

Note: Don’t judge this book by its cover because the cover doesn't fit. The author agrees and she's holding a look-for-the-new-cover contest.


View all my reviews

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Get Your Ansley Fix!

Hey! As promised, here are some pictures of Ansley. I went to great lengths to get them. I had to brave Zack's computer and everything :-)

Ansley at her first doctor's appointment.


Ansley plotting to take over the world.


Ansley watching the Kentucky Derby. Please note she is wearing seersucker and a "hat".


Ansley passed out.


Ansley rocking a ponytail in her Bumbo seat.


Ansley with her Nana.


And Ansley at her Grammy's.



Hope you enjoy the pictures! I'll post more soon!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Ready. Set. Blog!

Hi. I’m blogging!

And if you’re reading this, it means you might be interested in how the Allen family is doing (great, thank you), or you might want to hear about the science I’m learning or the books I’m reading (either way, you’re a nerd, but it’s cool because so am I), or you might just want to see pictures of Ansley. Let’s face it - that is totally why you are here :-)

No matter the reason, thanks for stopping by! Ansley pictures to follow.