Monday, June 23, 2014

Book review: Across Eternity

Across Eternity is.... something. It's a beautiful love story, written by Aris Whittier. But it's not a typical love story. It is the story of soul mates Logan and Amber. It begins with Logan spotting Amber as he's driving down the street in the California coastal town he lives in. She is walking into a restaurant, and the prologue ends with the words "It's really her." Then the first chapter begins with the first time Logan meets her, when he is three years old.

Warning: This will be a bit spoilery, but there is no way for me to talk about this book otherwise.

Logan has a best friend, who no one else can see. She is a little girl that is his constant companion, playing together and reading books together. She is there for him through the difficult times in his life. Then, when Logan is ten, she tells him she's about to be born into a body, and she won't remember him. He is special, she tells him, because he can see her when not many other people can, and he will remember her. She, however, won't be able to remember him. When he is fifteen, he starts dreaming about her, but as a partner, lover, spouse, instead of just as a friend. He goes to college, earns several degrees, and travels the world repeatedly.

But I'm getting ahead of the story. He gets a table at the restaurant she entered, because it turns out she's a waitress there. He watches her for a while, then convinces the manager to let her join him and they talk for two hours. She things he's familiar, but can't place him. He knows who she is, and they have a connection that confuses her as it thrills him. She later finds out he owns the restaurant, along with several others, and gets angry, thinking he's playing a game to find a girl to have some fun with. They end up talking all night after she confronts him, and start to spend more time together. He knows she is his soul mate, the spirit of his childhood, and knows from his dreams that they have always been together, married in many past lives. She can't understand the connection and familiarity she feels with him, but the memories of him that haven't happened convince her to give their relationship a try.

He tells her that all his degrees were killing time, and his world travels were searching for her. He knew when she was born, when he was ten, but not where or in which body. He was shocked to learn she lived in the same town as him. She meets his family, and eventually leaves her waitressing job and they travel together for a while. Before they start traveling, he reveals a secret to her: he is going to die soon. He insists he is not sick, and definitely not suicidal, but he just knows his time is near. He had been waiting for her since he was ten, and now that he found her he is sure it won't be much longer. They end their trip in Ireland, since she mentioned once she'd always wanted to visit there. He surprises her with a cottage, and proposes over dinner at a local pub. A judge is dining the same night and marries them on the spot.

A few weeks after returning from their travels, he begins having strange symptoms. Dizziness, headaches, fatigue, and then he passes away in his sleep, holding onto Amber as he goes. Heartbroken, she calls his family. When they arrive, his mother tells Amber that when Logan was four he was diagnosed with a rare, terminal disease. His insomnia, and his intellect (he began college at age 13) were caused by the disease. The doctors had predicted he'd die by the age of 12, but he always told his mother he would live until he found his mate. He made it possible for Amber to fulfill her dreams of going to college and becoming a doctor. The book ends ten years later, with Amber watching the sunset from the balcony of a restaurant they loved, and being addressed as Doctor Richards.

What I liked: This was a beautiful story. Logan and Amber have something special and it's easy to see. I loved Logan's relationships with his mother, sister, and nephew. I also liked the book's way of viewing death: everyone will die, so there is no need to be afraid. Instead, live life fully and without regret.

What I didn't like: The mystery, unnamed terminal illness with no symptoms other than genius and insomnia. It's reminiscent of the John Travolta movie Phenomenon. Also, I was getting a City of Angels feeling from the book. so the ending did not really surprise me.

Overall, I give the book four stars.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Meet Angus

We have a new family member! A few weeks ago we lost our older dog Daisy, leaving us with just our Pointer, Tucker. He has not been adjusting well to his only dog status. He went from active, outdoor-loving, playful dog to a homebody who only wanted to be outside long enough to relieve himself. If we leave him in the backyard he finds ways to escape. Then yesterday evening, my husband called me about a German Shepherd puppy needing rescuing right away, or else he was going to the pound. The mama dog had suddenly rejected her 4 week old litter of puppies, and he was the last one to be placed.  Because (1) GERMAN SHEPHERD!! and (2) saving from the pound, we now have a puppy! He's an adorable thing, a little butterball. Tucker is a bit wary and afraid of him, but he's always been a big chicken so I'm not surprised there. He will adjust.

We went to PetSmart last night and got puppy formula and a bottle for him, and a bag of large breed puppy food. (BTW, if you get a puppy, purchase their puppy starter kit. It is SO worth it.) They had a lot of dog toys on clearance, and they were buy two get one free, so we got three soft toys for him to chew on. I was amazed to see that with the two stuffed animals, he uses one only for sleeping/cuddling, and the other for chewing and playing. This morning he was sleeping in his box, and when he turned around to the other direction he took the zebra with him for his head.

Now for the pictures!
Worn out from his visit to PetSmart

First feeding

Happy girl!

Sleeping on his zebra toy
As for his name? When my husband and I were first married, he told me about a German Shepherd puppy he bought at a pet store right before he moved out of the state he lived in at the time. The puppy had something that needed to be checked by their vet, though, and wouldn't be ready before my  husband moved. He had already named the dog Angus, but was unable to take him. That was the first name that came to mind for this one, and it stuck.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Book review: "Letters To My Mother"

Letters To My Mother is a novel by Rebecca Heath that is written in a memoir style, based on letters the fictional Kate wrote to her mother from college in the fifties. The book begins with a brief introduction, where we learn that Kate has inherited the neglected house her mother lived in, and is cleaning it out to sell when she discovers that her mother kept all the letters ever written to her. She briefly reads letters from old family friends, and the letters her father wrote her mother when they were dating, and then discovers a box with letters she had written to her mother over her lifetime. Then we read the first letter.

The format is different - we get a letter, then narration of the time itself. A majority of the story takes place Kate's junior year of college in Seattle, where she is an anthropology student applying for a job as a typist for a professor. Being fluent in Spanish, she is the chosen candidate. Dr Rosenau is a middle aged (47 to Kate's 19), handsome, charismatic, professor with a German father and Argentine mother. Kate is a military child, who has lived all over the world and attended three years of boarding school in Spain. Despite her background, she is naive and innocent.

Kate and David (Dr Rosenau), become close and after a few months embark on a passionate love affair. They are aided by graduate student Frank, who is a friend to both of them. David teaches Kate to sail, and they spend a lot of time sailing around the bay, and attending concerts and other events together, having a similar taste in the classics. Despite their age difference, they seem to be a well-matched couple and are madly in love. Unfortunately, even though Kate was using birth control, she ends up pregnant and in 1957 the choices for an unwed, pregnant minor were limiting. They decide to give the baby up for adoption, and she flies home to her parents with plans on returning after to finish her schooling. Instead, she never returns and finishes college in California. She and David write each other occasionally, but she eventually meets and marries someone else.

Fast forward 27 years, and she is attending a conference in Seattle and she and David meet for dinner. They immediately fall into bed together, like they've never been apart. At dinner, she gives him photos of their son, now grown and in medical school, and tells of the disastrous meeting with him. They catch up on each other's lives, and decide to remain in contact and continue their affair around the country as she travels for business. Then, the narration switches back to the time of the prologue, and she tells us, the readers, that she kept the letters from her father and herself to share with her children someday.

What I didn't like:
I still am not sure how I feel about this book. It is a lovely story of a lifetime love, that storybook "great love, once in a lifetime." However, David is married with two teenage children. He says that he only married his wife because she was pregnant, although she lied about that and didn't confess until she was actually pregnant for real with their first child. She hates sex, doesn't participate and tells him to hurry up and get it over with, they don't get along, but she likes his money and status and will not grant him a divorce. Their children are only one and three years younger than Kate. Then later, when they decide to continue their affair, Kate is married with two children (David's wife is deceased at that point). She reveals she married him so he could stay in the country, but she also has no interest in divorcing her husband for David. Instead, she suggests the illicit affair again. I have a real problem with this.

What I did like:
Overall, it is an engaging, lovely story that was wonderfully told. Kate really grew and matured, in more ways than one, over that time period. She made horrible mistakes, and she did great things. She was perfectly 19.

I give it three stars, because I just can't get past the whole overlooking the spouses issue.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Book review: "When Lightning Strikes"

 When Lightning Strikes by Brenda Novak is the first book in the Whiskey Creek series, stories all set in the small town of the same name. It's a nice, if predictable, romance.

Gail is a publicist in LA. Simon is a big-time movie star with behaviour problems, and Gail has fired him as a client causing her other clients to leave as well. Simon is embroiled in a nasty custody battle with his ex wife, who has used all the negative press surrounding Simon to gain full custody of their young son and file a restraining order against Simon. Not knowing the situation, Gail's assistant drunkenly leaks a false story that Simon sexually assaulted Gail, and the press runs with it. To fix Simon's reputation and win back her clients, Gail comes up with a plan with Simon's manager for Simon to marry someone safe for two years, to clean up his image and his behaviour. The manager agrees, and decided Gail is the only safe option, since they can't trust anyone hired to be Simon's wife won't spill the story to the press for a bigger payout. They marry at the courthouse, and after an injury that was nearly much worse, Gail convinces Simon to leave LA and his work for three months and go to her hometown with her to recover.

What I liked:
Gail and Simon have known each other and worked together for a while, so it's not the typical "Two weeks and BAM we're pledging undying love" scenario that many romance novels use. That's so annoying. Both Simon and Gail are smart people, and good business people. Both are successful in their chosen careers, and it's mentioned that Gail graduated from Stanford with honors after being valedictorian of her high school class. She's not the Hollywood airhead type at all. And, she's a redhead. Ok, I'm a bit biased towards redheads. I also like that Gail's friends and family (a father and older brother, both divorced and a bit skeptical) are protective of her and aren't blindly welcoming of Simon just because he's a famous movie star. Her best friend Callie, and her father and brother give him a really hard time and make him prove himself. The minor characters, who have their own Whiskey Creek novels, are introduced smoothly without seeming like they are being primed for their own spinoffs. Another big thing I liked was after the "big drama event" happened near the end (as it always does in romance novels), when Simon called Gail to tell his innocence, she listened to him. She didn't hang up on him, she didn't collapse in hysterics, she looked at his evidence and helped him solve the problem.

What I didn't like:
There wasn't much I didn't like. I didn't like the predictability, but that's to be expected I suppose. A majority of these types of novels follow a pattern, and the same type of story - fake marriage leads to a real marriage when the couple falls in love - has been told repeatedly. This is just a different version. But still, it's a nice, easy read.

I give it four stars.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Book review: "Too Late to Panic"

I like to read - a lot. Many of the books I read are Kindle freebies, usually free for a short time but several are continuously free. I decided to start reviewing the books I finish.

Too Late to Panic is a novella of 47 pages written by C. G. Elmore. It is no longer available on Amazon, but you can find it on Goodreads.

The story focuses on Carolyn, a teacher who was left at the altar some time ago by her fiance, and travels to Texas to visit her best friend Kate and her husband Bobby. Kate sends "Uncle Joe" to pick her up at the airport, and Carolyn is shocked to discover that Uncle Joe is really younger Jonathon, Bobby's brother.  He takes her to Kate and Bobby's house, but the couple isn't home yet and she falls asleep before they return, so she doesn't see Kate until the next morning. She is shocked to discover Kate is pregnant and due in six weeks. Kate didn't want to tell Carolyn at first, since apparently she was in such a fragile state from the failed wedding, and then decided to surprise her when she visited.

 Now for my issues with this book.

First, we have zero back story. We know Carolyn was left at the altar by her fiance, and for some reason related to this she has to find a new job. We have no idea what happened, and if he was the principal at her school? Another teacher? Administrator? He has to be involved somehow because she mentions in the book that he still gave her a good reference for a new job despite what happened with them.

Secondly, Carolyn was supposedly a confident, strong, vivacious woman pre-jilting, and then turned into a scared, jittery, panic-attack-suffering girl who can't make any decisions on her own and has to take lots of naps because she's so delicate. At one point Jonathon mentions her excessive napping to Kate, who tells him she has a "condition" but everything will be fine. He assumes she is pregnant with the ex-fiance's baby, since they never mention the wedding was a long time ago and she acts like it just happened.

Third, and this is my biggest issue by far and the reason behind my one-star review on Goodreads, Carolyn is visiting Kate for two weeks. That's the entire time span of the story. TWO. WEEKS. She first meets Jonathan when he picks her up at the airport (I guess he didn't go to his brother's wedding, even though she remembered everyone else she met at that point five years ago, when she was IN  the wedding and helped the couple move into their house?) They share one brief kiss a couple days in, then he disappears for the remainder of the week. Seriously, the kiss happens on a Tuesday and she doesn't see him again until the weekend because he's ashamed of himself and avoids her. That is when he has the conversation with Kate and assumes Carolyn is pregnant. A few days later (because Carolyn is either shopping with  Kate or sleeping), they actually speak to each other again and Carolyn tells him she is in fact not pregnant and the wedding disaster was too long ago for that to have been the case anyway. She has a phone interview for a new teaching position back in Montana, and accepts the job. Then at the end of her stay, Kate goes into premature labor and Jonathan drives Carolyn to the hospital to be with the rest of the family. After the babies are born by Cesarean, with Bobby pacing the lobby like fathers of decades past, he drives her back home again and proposes to her. And SHE FREAKING ACCEPTS.

Seriously?? You've known this man for two weeks, had a handful of conversations that were mostly misunderstandings, a lot of avoidance on both sides and one kiss. That's enough to fall madly in love, ditch a new job that was supposedly just what you wanted, and move across the country?

Jonathan needs to run far, far away from this girl. Although he's the one who proposed, so maybe they're actually suited for each other and can be codependently blissful for the rest of their lives.

Oh, forgot to mention -Jonathan was engaged at the beginning of the story, and his fiancee even came to the airport with him to pick up Carolyn. Red flag, anyone??

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Breakfast pizza

A couple weeks back, my husband was teasing Sophie, saying we were having pizza for breakfast. The kid loves her pizza. We started thinking, though, and came up with a way to make a breakfast version.

Here is what we came up with:

1 can large crescent rolls (Grands type)
1 can regular crescent rolls
12 eggs, scrambled
1 roll sausage, browned, crumbled, & drained
4-5 slices bacon, cooked and chopped (I use the pre-cooked microwave bacon and chopped straight from the package, approximately half-inch cuts.)
1 cup each shredded cheddar and mozzarella

On a large pizza pan (16 in), lay out the large crescent triangles first. Arrange them with the points in the middle, like a wheel. Two horizontal, two vertical, then the ones in the middle. Then use the smaller ones to fill in the gaps and press all the seams together.

Spread the scrambled eggs over the dough, then the sausage. Sprinkle the cheeses all over, and lay the bacon pieces over the pizza similar to how pepperoni is laid out.

Bake at 350 for 15 minutes, then cut into pieces and serve.


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