Monday, February 6, 2017

Julie and Julia: LFB Reviews

Week 4:
Julie & Julia, My Year of Cooking Dangerously
Adult Memoir/Cooking/Humour
The Movie Adaptation
Cover
by Julie Powell


I was putting some cookbooks away at the Library Friends Bookshop and I came across Julie & Julia.

Firstly, it caught my eye because it isn't really a cookbook, and in my humble and unschooled library-bookshop-volunteer opinion, it shouldn't have been shelved with them. There are no real recipes in the book, although there are lots of references to Julia Child's Mastering The Art of French Cooking. The Memoirs are shelved very close to the Cookbooks in our wee little shop, and I guess I can see how the mis-shelving could have happened.

Secondly, I'm a purist when it comes to book-to-movie adaptations and I've passed by the Julie & Julia movie many, many times on Netflix or On Demand because I hadn't read the book. Why would I want to ruin the book? In my humble and unschooled movie-connaisseur opinion, book-to-movie adaptations are so much more enjoyable when you've read the book first and have a bit of background info...although sometimes the screenwriters/director fail miserably at bringing my mental picture to life. It's a problem.

The original cover (not the movie version) of this copy made it even more appealing and I may be one of the only book lovers on the planet who hadn't read this book...Soooo, into my bag of goodies it went.

Now I have to say that this book is the reason why I started LFB reviews. I picked this book up just after New Years, and I was looking for a project. Something to energize my writing. Something to push me forward and make me see alternative ways of doing things. Similarly, Julie Powell was feeling a trifle stagnant in 2004, when she picked up Mastering the Art of French Cooking and for some insane reason  decided to spend 365 days cooking up every single recipe in the book and blogging about it daily.

If you've seen Mastering the Art..., you'll recognize that this was no easy undertaking. Julia cooks with calves hooves, with freshly-scraped bone marrow, with quails eggs and pigeon and any number of bizarre ingredients that are not readily available, even in modern-day New York City.

On top of all of this, Julie is in a dead-end job (sorting through the aftermath of 9/11) and still in love with her patient high-school sweetheart while all of her friends are having crazy-exciting affairs. She has a tightly-wound biological clock with incoming pressure from her parents, and is moving to another (under ventilated and mouldy) apartment. She deals with black-out power outages and unexpected blog popularity, and even the death of Julia Child, herself.

Being a rather lackadaisical blogger, I am in awe of Julie Powell's determination to not only cook something crazy every day, but to blog about it EVERY DAY. That's insane. Seriously. Who does that? All while dealing with all of the other things that life threw at her, and while maintaining her sense of humour. It's pretty amazing.

Her writing is humorous, poignant and un-pretentious...all three things I need right now in a book. We all could use a good laugh in today's world climate. It's a book you can put down for a few days and not feel lost when you pick it up again--although you won't want to put it down in the first place.

I loved it. It inspired me. The result is my tiny commitment to read and review books from the LFB, and share them with you. Heck, if Julie can write a blog while cooking calves hooves in a New York City loft, I can put a few words down more regularly.

So there you go.

Total Keeper (10) to Back to the Library Friends Bookshop Post-Haste (1)?

A good, solid 9.5/10. If you haven't read it yet, you should go get it. 

Incidentally, I searched for Julie's original blog, and although there are lots of references, I couldn't find it. But you can my other LFB reviews here:

My Name is Memory
The Bar-Code Tattoo


Brenda

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

My Name Is Memory: LFB Reviews

Week 2 and 3:
My Name is Memory
Adult Action/Adventure/Romance
by Ann Brashares

I loved the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants books. LOVED them. My copies have been read and re-read and passed on and passed back. And I'm always curious how an author with a well-known series of YA books moves on to something else afterward--like J.K. Rowling after Harry Potter. My Name is Memory came into the Library Friends Bookshop three weeks ago, and I hadn't read it, so into my bag of goodies it went.

Although Sisterhood is considered YA, this book is not. It is, however, an adult book with a YA bent, as the book opens up with two high school kids around the time of graduation. Daniel 'remembers' Lucy from a previous life...in fact from many, many previous lives...but she does not remember him.

It's a cool concept, starting their relationship in ancient civilizations, and then following their connections from life to life, never quite connecting in the right age-level or circumstances. Always close enough that he could be with her, but not close enough that they could be together as a couple. Though the concept is fantasy, the lives are told in very real terms, and the two fall in love in various ways throughout many different centuries and settings.

But then there's the evil older brother Joaquim, who also remembers, and who has made it his purpose through time to hurt Daniel through his infatuation with Lucy.

The story dances through time until modern day, when the three come together a final time to determine their fates.

I very much enjoyed this book, but the ending...not so much. I don't think it can be compared to the Sisterhood books, as it's such a different premise, but Ms. Brashares still writes with a quiet, lyrical style. I loved how the stories mixed and mingled, with different situations each time, but I felt the ending did not suit the intensity of the story.  I hope that's because Ms. Brashares is setting it up for a sequel, but I'm not sure the storyline warrants it. I guess we will all have to wait to find out.

On a scale of Total Keeper (10) to Back to the Library Friends Bookshop Post-Haste (1)?

I give it a 6/10. I'll keep it, but would have liked a better conclusion to what was a fabulous love story through time. 


Brenda

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Teaser Tuesday: SKIN Sequel



I've been typing away at SKIN #2, tentatively called SWIM, and it's going surprisingly well. This sequel thing is not my forté, but I hope to keep picking away at it to get the sequel out this year. 

We'll see. 

Ocean and Sam are back, but there's all sorts of trouble in selkie-land, A.K.A. Prince Edward Island. Starting with Ocean's mom. Here's a sneak peek: 

“What is the problem tonight?”
He’s beautiful sitting there in the dim porch light, freckles barely showing. 
“You,” I say.
“Me?”
“Yes, you. It seems she’s having second thoughts about my ‘involvement’ with a nasty Black.”
His grin stays, but the corners of his eyes shift. He doesn’t like to be associated with his father. 
“Well, that is a problem.” He faces the water, the lilt in his voice coming out more because he’s upset. Like Irish music playing to the tune of his emotions.
“I told her I wasn’t an ‘involvement’,” I say.
This catches him, and he turns back to face me again. “No?”
I try not to smile. 
“No. Involvement is too businesslike. I told her it was lust.” 

If only life could stay that simple, huh? Don't worry, things don't stay fun and simple for long. I'm 165 pages in, and Ocean and Sam are in a lovely mess. Unfortunately you'll have to wait to find out what that means. 



Enjoy your day!

Brenda



Monday, January 16, 2017

The Bar Code Tattoo and LFB Reviews

One of the nasty (or beneficial, depending how you look at it) things about following my military husband from place to place in what seems like a never-ending sequence of moves is that sometimes it takes a while to re-employ myself. Being a physiotherapist by trade, usually this is just a matter of filling out the paperwork for the local licensing board, putting my name out to a few places looking for PTs, and voila! I have a job. Often it's faster than I'd like it be, sometimes it's not. Being a Canadian in a different country, I need a little more than proof of my degree and experience. I need THE CARD. This card is not easy coming. In fact, it's been a bit of a challenge.

So, to make a long story short, five months into our new living arrangements, I remain unemployed.

Don't take this as I'm sitting around twiddling my thumbs. I'm not. I'm writing. I'm social-mediaing. I'm still spending several hours a week on Canadian volunteer positions I haven't given up. The social obligations of being married to my husband are not to be taken lightly. I drive a mean SUV in the high school kiss and go lanes, and am an avid supporter of extra-curriculars. I am the opposite of a twiddler.

But still, I need something to focus my days and the extra funds in our bank account do not hurt. So I wait.

In my quest to fill my days with unpaid meaningful things while awaiting the chance at doing paid meaningful things, I sort of fell into a volunteer position. I was dropping off books at the local library's donation box (by necessity, not by desire--there was literally no room on any of our bookshelves), and the lovely woman who was in charge of the Library Friends said they were looking for volunteers and gave me their info.

Books, organization, self-determined hours? What's not to love about that? My junior high school-day friends will remember the wonders of being a library helper (oh, the power of charging a late fee! Getting first dibs at new books! And first looks at the Scholastic book fair!) and my librarian friends (I have a surprising amount of friends with Library Science degrees) will appreciate the joy of putting a book on a shelf exactly where it belongs--well, in my current situation, where I THINK it belongs. Library Friends Bookshop is only slightly picky about things like alphabetization.

So starting two weeks ago, I walked into a room full of crazily disorganized donated books and began my journey as a Library Friend Bookshop (LFB) volunteer.

Now I will preface what I hope will be many blog posts by saying that I had no idea, when I signed up, that one of the perks was an honour system of hours worked = books. I just thought the act of organizing and selling donated books would provide me with a different view of the book world, introduce me to other bibliophiles, and perhaps expose me to books I had never noticed before, later to be signed out or purchased (very cheaply) for my personal reading pleasure. Imagine, doing something you enjoy, and getting 'paid' in something else you enjoy?

There are just SO. MANY. BOOKS. What is a girl to do, but read them? So I've vowed to bring home a few a week (and likely return them, as there is still no room on my bookshelves) and challenge myself to read differently. To read books I wouldn't normally pick up. To expand my brain, while waiting for meaningful employment.

I figure the least I can do is tell you my thoughts about them.

And so...thus begins the LFB Reviews*.

Week 1
The Bar Code Tattoo 
YA Dystopian
by Suzanne Weyn

It's no secret that the world is a wee bit shaken up right now. 2016 was a year of bizarreness. And this week is, without a doubt, going to go down in history. How that history will play out has been wildly speculated, and I am not the one to discuss the pros and cons of any side. But the last few months have felt mildly dystopian. And with one of my yet-unsold finished manuscripts dealing with similar world-gone-crazy scenarios, this book jumped out at me on the shelf as I was trying to cram two Harry Potter books and a Maze Runner book in beside it. I've seen it before, and was curious...but not curious enough to buy it. Yet there it was, in the pile of crazy mixed up MG and YA. Not hugely out of my comfort zone, but not something I would normally have purchased. And then, SURPRISE!, it jumped into my pile and came home with me.

I wish I could say I loved this book. I really do. I wanted to love this book, I wanted it to be the first of a love affair with Library Friends Bookshop literature. The premise is so real right now--adults (over 17) being forced to be tattooed and DNA typed and having their entire lives dictated by said tattoo and the company which administered it. It could happen. It's a strong storyline.

But the book got mired in relationships and when the main character, Kayla, started having visions and speaking telepathically with a mystical leader of the Resistance. At that point, I found it increasingly hard to follow. And it seemed less and less realistic. There were some deep questions--Should our genetics dictate our employment, our livelihood, our existence? And some scary possibilities, including that of a society which 'euthanizes' its elderly. Frightening and thought provoking. But the writing did not highlight those issues, and sadly I had to fight to finish the book.

On a scale of Total Keeper (10) to Back to the LFB Post-Haste (1)?

I give it a 4/10. I'll take this one back for someone else to enjoy.

Enjoy the week, folks. From where I sit, it's bound to be a doozy.

Brenda

*Please note,  the views on this blog are my own, and do not, in any way, indicate opinions of the Library Friends, the Canadian Forces or anyone. They are mine. Also note, I tend to be perfectly awful at regular blogging. You probably know this already, but I warn you in advance that there will likely be weeks I miss. Maybe months I miss. So I apologize in advance.


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Book Release! All the Way Home

Adult romance BY KIM MILLS

So a while back (five years ago? Maybe more?) I started following a sassy Canadian soldier's wife (@reccewife) on Twitter. She shot from the hip, and told it like it was, and I liked her style. Her resolution to treat people to dinner while her husband was deployed was intriguing. And her blog posts were poignant and real.

Fast forward a few years, and Kim and I have become virtual friends through several other platforms, including a group of Canadian military bloggers on Facebook. She recently MC'd a national event to mark the 25th Anniversary of Canadian Military Family Services. And her name has been mentioned more than once since I arrived in the US--she had spoken the year before to Canadian military families here in the US National Capitol region.

While managing a busy family, a well-visited blog, speaking engagements and a meaningful life as a military spouse, Kim has written a novel--a Canadian military romance novel, to be exact. And I'm so happy to be able to support her as she releases it to the public today. In her words:

"I wrote this book because I wanted to read a story about average Canadian combat soldiers and the people who loved them during the war in Afghanistan.

I’m hoping that maybe there’s a few others out there who were looking for stories like that, too." 

Kim's bio:

Kim Mills intended to grow up to be a psychologist with a loft apartment and 3 cats. Instead she dropped out of college and married a teenage soldier and had babies. No one ever asks her to speak on career day.

After working and volunteering in Social Services for years, Kim began writing in 2011 on what is now the Canadian military family blog She is Fierce. Somehow, that led her here. No one is more surprised than she is.

You can find Kim with the childhood sweetheart she's been married to for over 15 years, along with her 3 kids and their border collie Trooper, making home wherever the army sends them.

ALL THE WAY HOME is book one of a series of books (The Way Home Series), and today is it's Book Birthday! 

More about the book (from Amazon):

Juliette has been walking through life broken and hurting for years, always relying on her friend Tavish to be there for her when she needs him. As soon as he met her, Tavish knew he would do anything for her, that is, until he enlists in the infantry and leaves town, and possibly Juliette, for good.
Soon the events of 9/11 change everything, and an upcoming deployment to Afghanistan prompts him to reconnect with Juliette 5 years later. Despite the time apart she soon finds herself leaning on him again as their reunion leads to something much more. That’s when tragedy strikes during his deployment, and Tavish comes home shattered. Is Juliette strong enough to offer him the support he has always given her? Will it be enough for both of them to find their way home?

All The Way Home is a Canadian-based military love story, the first in the Way Home series but is a stand-alone with it's own HEA. 

This book is intended for audiences 18+. For those dealing with combat related PTSD, some scenes may be triggering. 


You can purchase ALL THE WAY HOME on Amazon. And find out more about Kim on her blog: She is Fierce which is well worth a read.

Congratulations Kim!

Brenda


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Teaser Tuesday: SKIN

Ahhhh. Coffee by my side, warm golden retriever at my feet, kids at school, hubby at work and a whole day of writing and organizing things ahead of me. Nice.

Step one is to get some blog posts up and running. I spent most of the pre-Christmas build up getting Dependent's 2nd Edition back up and online, so I thought I'd give my new release some love today. 

Here in Virginia it's cold and snowy and as much as it's nice to see the snow, I'm missing warm days on the beach. I love my golden retriever foot-warmer, but hot sand is so wonderful! And a nice cold lemony drink....sigh. I'm also working on the sequel to Skin...and the northern Atlantic beaches aren't so warm in October and November. Brrr! No wonder I need that coffee.

PEI in summertime...

To fortify you on the cold, dark days of winter, here's a little beachy teaser from Chapter 1 of Skin:

...When I get to the edge, Declan’s puny frame is already knee deep in one of the pools, and all I can think about is how good the water will feel on my toes. Wet sand is not satisfying at all. I want the real thing.
Then, like it’s some big event that I’ve been waiting my whole life for, I step in. 
The water reacts
It’s like a brain slap. A sense of recognition hits me, and a roll of emotion I’m not ready for swells up from under my feet, shocking me right to my chest. I gasp and step back, almost tripping over my own feet in my haste. 

Hmmm...what's happening there? If you want to read more, and haven't already purchased my latest YA, you can find Skin on Amazon HERE. Don't forget to review it when you've finished!

Happy Tuesday!

Brenda




Friday, January 6, 2017

New Year, Same Me.

Snapchat improved me
My kids have gotten me onto Snapchat. So, I suck at it...forget to send things, send them to the wrong person, navigate the wrong way... I'm not a teenager anymore and the whole thing boggles me a bit. But it's a great way to connect with my three teens--especially the one in college. I was 'snapping' her on New Years Day, and one of the filters that came up said. "New Year, New Me!", all bubbly and smiley and celebratory--like it was super-cool to change everything up about my life and show it in one bizarre deer-faced picture.

Not so improved.
I cringed. Really. I should have used it and saved it and shared it here like a super-cool snappy mom, but I was so weirded out, I flipped on and forgot to send the snap in the first place. I get that the idea was to change all of those horrible things about myself...starting right then. Um, no. I am not a fan of New Year's resolutions. I've mentioned it before here on the blog, and my dislike hasn't changed. Why set yourself up with unattainable lists of distant possibilities? The NEW ME is skinny and organized and goes to the gym and has a spotless house and makes a five-layer cake every Tuesday! Even if I liked baking five-layer cakes, I could never eat the whole cake and stay skinny. ;)

I am, however, a huge fan of making goals and ATTEMPTING to stick with them, recognizing that circumstances change, and sometimes it's just not possible to reach those goals in a year.

What I also love about New Years is the opportunity a new year brings to reflect upon the previous one, and recognize just how much has been accomplished. When things get busy I forget to celebrate the smaller achievements, and they add up! 2016 was a crazy year, that's for sure, but a lot of good and exciting things happened in the many aspects of my somewhat crazy life. Here's Dunne-central's list of good things from 2016 in rough chronological order...

*Watched as the wonderful Canadian Military Wives Choir Comox celebrated it's 1 year anniversary.

*Recieved my rights back to DEPENDENT

*Published SKIN, my third novel with an amazing launch party surrounded by friends and family. 💙

*Supported my eldest daughter as she graduated High School with many awards and scholarships

Sea turtles!!
*Had an incredible family trip to Oahu for two weeks during which I had a VIP tour of the USS Stennis (aircraft carrier), swam with sea turtles and visited the Pearl Harbour memorials.

*Packed up another home, and drove for 10 days from Vancouver Island, Canada to Northern Virginia, USA--visiting Mount Rushmore, Craters of the Moon National Monument, Old Faithful and Devil's Tower.

*Dropped eldest daughter off for her first year of university (back in Canada)
Dependent: New and improved!

*Was privileged to take part in a three state west coast military tour, visiting Arizona (Grand Canyon), Nevada (Las Vegas) and California (Napa Valley and San Francisco).

*Published DEPENDENT's second edition.

*Continued work as the President of the Canadian Military Wives Choirs Association while working part-time as a physiotherapist and writing in my spare (?) time.

New Years, Ottawa

*Visited a grand total of 24 states and 3 Canadian provinces in one year--not to mention the many embassies and international events I've been privileged to attend.

*Had a wonderful New Year's Eve on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

See? At the time, it didn't feel like I was doing that much. But as I write it down, it's like, WOW. I did all that. How did I manage to get it all done and still stay relatively sane?


2016 was a busy year. 



So now, looking ahead, I see how much can be accomplished, merely by picking small goals (publishing a new book, republishing another, enjoying our move, sucking the marrow out of life)

Just being me, without the new, is more than sufficient.

My New Years goals?  I've got four right now. Start small, right? But they are serious goals.

1. FINISH at least one manuscript. All of these crazy things have meant less time at the keyboard, difficulty focusing and difficulty putting words down on the page. I don't even care how much I write. I just need to write. At least a few days a week.

2. ORGANIZE my inbox. And my writing area. And my basement. Okay, maybe not the basement. That's hopeless. But I have over 7000 unread emails that need to go (not kidding), and I need to unsubscribe from those hotels I stayed in 8 years ago in Austria (also not kidding). And if I'm going to do goal number one, I need to have a place to work that is not looking like a disaster zone.

X-scream. Insanely
high up. Why do I do this
to myself? 
3. LIVE healthier. I know, this is bordering on the new year, new me mentioned above, but I did okay in 2016. I actually did a gym-organized health challenge last year and felt soooo much better. I don't need crazy diets, just healthier choices and a more active lifestyle. As I write this, I'm eating chips (also not kidding), so I've got a way to go.

4. SUCK the marrow out of life. It takes effort for me to leave that comfort zone and get out there and live. My comfort zone is so comfy! Why would I leave it? But 2016 has proven to me that life doesn't always turn out the way I planned, and I need to enjoy it anyway. I'm going to love more. Get up earlier. Hug my kids. Ride the roller coaster (unless it's X-scream. I'm never doing that again). Read the book. Take the chance and recognize that big changes start small.

So there you have it. New Year, same me, but with goals.

What are your New Years goals? Are you looking for a complete change? Do any of the above sound familiar? Let me know below!

Happy New Year!

Brenda