30 September 2016

Cooking for Picasso - A Book Review & Giveaway #amreading

Recently I finished a charming book called, Cooking for Picasso and I can't wait to tell you about it! I happened to pick up this next book following the heels of a vivid thriller. So the transition for me to this book, which reads at a totally different pace, made my initial experience of the first couple of chapters a bit rough. But you know what? I was very nicely surprised about how this book turned out.

First, here's what the book is about -

A novel inspired by a true incident: In the spring of 1936, Pablo Picasso, unable to paint because of his turbulent love life, secretly left Paris and rented a villa on the French Riviera. No one is certain what happened to him, but suddenly, Picasso picked up his brush and created a series of remarkable paintings, including two pictures of an unidentified young woman. From this intriguing episode, author Camille Aubray creates a fictional story about Ondine, a young chef working in a local café, whose life is transformed by the artist's visit to her seaside village of Juan-les-Pins. Running parallel to the tale of Picasso and Ondine is the contemporary story of Ondine's American grand-daughter, Céline, who ventures to the South of France on a quest to uncover family secrets about what really happened when her grandmother crossed paths with Pablo Picasso. In the lush, heady atmosphere of the Côte d’Azur, and with the help of several eccentric fellow guests attending a rigorous cooking class at her hotel, Céline discovers truths about art, culture, cuisine and love that enable her to embrace her own future. Like Hemingway in The Paris Wife, Picasso is one of a handful of early 20th century figures who still has real star-power. COOKING FOR PICASSO explores the great artist and his work in a human, intelligent and highly engaging new light.

I finished reading it over one of the last hot weekends of this summer/fall season. First you meet Camille, who shows up (in the present) on this elaborate boat for a very elusive reason that you will later figure out. You jump right into the 1930s where you now are introduced to Ondine who works at the restaurant owned by her parents. She's instructed to deliver meals to a patron who lives nearby. And then she realizes who the patron is - the famous, Picasso. But how does the modern tale of Camille enter into it? Well, there is a portrait of Camille's grandmother Ondine, painted by Picasso, which she's not even sure exists. And so the journey begins to find out if the portrait exists, and if it does, what happened to it?

Like I said, it took me a little bit to get involved in the story, the first couple of chapters were just a bit slow for me, but once I delved into the heart of the story, I loved it. The mix between the two generations - the 1930s and the present - went seamlessly for me. I loved the contrasting world and the battle to discover a painting that may or may not even exist. The portrayal of Picasso is interesting and although I really don't know too much about the painter's life, this really provides intriguing insight into who he was as a person. 

I think if you love historical fiction, this is the perfect book for you. It's a mix of mystery and romance. It's a light-hearted read with a lot to give and I was so happy to have read this. This will be a book I plan on re-reading, actually.

I am so happy to announce that I get to giveaway a copy of this book to one lucky reader! Enter a comment letting me know if this books interests you and what you like about it. Ends 10/15. US Only.

If you can't wait to read this, make sure you visit Amazon and purchase your copy today!

**UPDATE: Thanks to everyone for entering! The winner is Teresa Young. Thanks for entering everybody!

I received a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. Affiliate links are included in the above posts for which I will receive small compensation if you purchase through my link. 

13 September 2016

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch - A SciFi Thriller I Won't Long Forget

I had the chance to receive a copy of the book Dark Matter by Black Crouch in exchange for an honest review.  And I was reluctant at first, I mean I hate to judge a book by the cover, but there was something jarring about the bold red and the dark text. So it sat on a shelf for a while until a exhausted my stack of "to be read" from the library. It was the long Labor Day weekend, and knowing that this book was there, I started reading it.

Now, you are first introduced to Jason who has a normal evening with his wife and son, Charlie. Until his wife convinces him to go see an old friend who is celebrating his recently received prestigious award at a local, nearby bar. Jason goes to say hello and congratulate his friend, but he doesn't stay long at the bar. He leaves with the slight twinge of resentment and maybe even regret over his own choices with his life and career. Walking the long way home though, brings him back to center a little bit, until he senses the presence of someone. When the masked gunman prods him to get into Jason's own car, telling him to drive, his life isn't the same after that. 

This is just the beginning in this intense thriller. Just as the description says, before Jason blacks out, someone asks him, "Are you happy?" The answer to that question is the core of the story.

I read a review that said that you can't describe this book without giving things away. And I kind of agree. So I won't launch into a more descriptive review here, but I will summarize how I felt by saying this is a very unique and amazing thriller that I was very impressed by. I read it (nearly) one day, except I savored the ending over the course of two days because I hated seeing this come to an end. This book made me think about all the decisions I've made in my own life that brought me to where I am and makes me wonder that very question myself, "Am I happy? What would I change if I could?" It's science fiction but the science doesn't distract or confuse me. The characters are strong and the core plot of the story kept me enthralled to the end. The bizarre situations this main character finds himself in are very vivid and real feeling, despite the weirdness. Plenty of people seemed to criticize the writing and I didn't have any issues with it. I felt like the short sentences helped build upon the pressure and intensity of the moments and actions in the story.

I am highly recommending you check this book out. Purchase this book now on Amazon.com. Or get this from the library! Overall, you will be glad you read this.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This post includes an affiliate link for which I will receive small compensation if you purchase through my link.

06 August 2016

Lisa Unger's Ink & Bone - A Book Review #AmReading

About the Book (Courtesy of Publisher)

In this explosive psychological thriller by New York Times bestselling author Lisa Unger, a young woman’s mysterious gift forces her into the middle of a dangerous investigation of a little girl’s disappearance.

For as long as she can remember, twenty-year-old Finley Montgomery has been able to see into the future. She dreams about events before they occur and sees beyond the physical world, unconsciously using her power to make supernatural things happen.

But Finley can’t control these powers—and there’s only one person who can help. So Finley moves to The Hollows, a small town in upstate New York where her grandmother lives, a renowned seer who can finally teach Finley how to use her gift.

A gift that is proving to be both a blessing and a curse, as Finley lands in the middle of a dangerous investigation involving a young girl who has been missing for ten months and the police have all but given up hope.

With time running out there’s only so much Finley can do as The Hollows begins to reveal its true colors. As she digs deeper into the town and its endless layers, nothing is what it seems. But one thing is clear: The Hollows gets what it wants, no matter what.

What I Thought

When I first started reading the book, I thought the language was a little flowery. Then I really started getting involved in the thriller and getting to know, Finley, a young seer who lives with her grandmother Eloise, and who fights and resists against the abilities she's had since a child (of course those with a powerful gift resist it!) Alongside getting to know Finley, you also get to know a family who has been dealing with their missing child, a young girl who got taken in the middle of a family hike.

When the connection is made between Finley and this family (thanks to the help a doubtful detective named Jones) the book got really exciting. Along with Finley's point of view, you also get the point of view of the young girl who was taken and you experience what she experiences in horrid conditions. Although that part of it isn't overdone (which I appreciate). 

This is a memorable book that hints of a sequel, which I am really hoping will happen. I enjoyed the character Finley, although I was mildly annoyed at the whole 'I'm gifted and hate it' type of thing that seems to always happen with those who have special gifts like hers (at least most of the time in the literary world). The characterization of the couple, Merri Gleason and Wolf dealing with the missing daughter was powerful, and you felt a love and connection to the whole family (even the scoundrel husband who was cheating on his wife). 

I've read Lisa Unger books before and this one definitely didn't disappoint. The setting wasn't as vivid as the story line and the characters, despite the fact that the "Hollows" as the town was called, played an important part of the mystery. Some of the paranormal parts seemed to be a bit overdone to me, but I didn't mind because I do like that kind of stuff anyways. I think it's a great summer read - not too dark but definitely a mystery you won't want to put down. Buy now on Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble.

I received this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

31 July 2016

The Assassin Game by Kristy McKay #AmReading #BookReview

I had the chance to review this young adult thriller called the Assassin Game!

About the Book (Courtesy of the Publisher) 

Who will be left after lights out?

At Cate's isolated boarding school, Killer is more than a game- it's an elite secret society. Members must avoid being "Killed" during a series of thrilling pranks, and only the Game Master knows who the "Killer" is. When Cate's finally invited to join the Assassins' Guild, she know it's her ticket to finally feeling like she belongs.

But when the game becomes all too real, the school threatens to shut it down. Cate will do anything to keep playing and save the Guild. But can she find the real assassin before she's the next target? 

What I Thought

I enjoyed this book! I thought it took me a few chapters to really get into it. You first get introduced to Cate when she's taken by classmate's to kick off the beginning of a game they call "Killer" (what could go wrong with that kind of game, right?). She has to go through a pretty gross initiation into this exclusive game along with three other kids getting initiated into the game.

Then comes along a guy from her past, a guy named Vaughan that she last saw when she was 8 years old and changes the dynamic of the game and how things end going for Cate and her friends. I really really liked this character a lot. In fact, he was my favorite character. He reminds me of a guy I once knew in high school actually. 

As for the setting was an isolated coastal island that is set in Europe. It's rocky, beachy, cold feeling. I thought the setting was vivid enough to make it feel real but wasn't an important factor to the story.

For the plot line, I thought it got to be very exciting when the game really started and especially got excited when there was a real threat that begun for the students playing the game. I'm a sucker for a traditional whodunit as I love seeing if I guess right and of course, I usually am NOT right. But it was still fun and this book kept me guessing (my suspect list was not right at all!). 

There was a little romance that occured in the book, it was a perfect amount without making it distract from the suspense. Also being that this is a young adult book, if you are a parent considering recommending this, the romance doesn't go beyond kissing and handholding. 

Overall, I'd give this about three and a half stars. Which is not bad at all for me! I think there were some slowish parts, but overall, I think this an exciting young adult thriller perfect for YOU and the teen/pre-teen in your life you want to recommend this to.

You can purchase this book on Amazon (it's titled as the "Killer Game") or Barnes and Noble.

I received this book courtesy of NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

05 July 2016

When Reality Becomes Real - The Last One by Alexandra Oliva

The book starts out with a haunting prologue laying out the fates of some of the production team members that are part of the reality show. A disturbing beginning that is quickly forgotten as you are introduced to the reality show as it plays out for the viewers, which is sharply contrasted by other chapters which lay out the point of view of one contestant in particular who is now off on her own for a solo challenge.

Before I go forward, read this excerpt of the prologue -

The first one on the production team to die will be the editor. He doesn’t yet feel ill, and he’s no longer out in the field. He went out only once, before filming started, to see the woods and to shake the hands of the men whose footage he’d be shaping; asymptomatic transmission. He’s been back for more than a week now and is sitting alone in the editing studio, feeling perfectly well. His T-shirt reads: coffee in, genius out. He taps a key and images flicker across the thirty-two-inch screen dominating his cluttered workstation.

These contestants have been brought together for a survivalist challenge - what's real? what's not? At first it's easy to tell, fake props, fake set ups. But as you get into the weeds of the solo challenge with the main character who you are watching, you do wonder...what IS reality here?

This book has stayed with me long after it's over. I just finished it yesterday afternoon and it still isn't over in my head. I think of what the main character saw and what she lived through. The book has chapters in third person that portray each of the contestants as reality show caricatures (Waitress, Zoo, Tracker, are some of the nicknames assigned to each of them) Each playing their part as reality show producers have created for them (either knowingly or unknowingly). Then there are chapters where have the first person account of a contestant off on her own (unsure who this was at first but after a while you do realize her former caricature; surprisingly, we don't learn her real name until the end) as she figures out clues and where to go next.

This book was a surprisingly excellent and I'm not much of an outdoorsy person. But honestly this is as close as I will ever (and ever want to) get to living outdoors and being a survivalist. Although it does leave me with the feeling that I should brush up on my skills at least a LITTLE bit. There were some gruesome parts I had to flip past...some religious doubt/criticism that I wanted to skip past (and thought was mildly unnecessary, but didn't distract me from the story when I did move beyond it). Again, the story stayed with me long after it was over. It was a disturbing and adventurous story all at once. Honestly the experience and the setting was so vivid for me that when the character became thirsty, I took a sip of water. 

This is a highly recommended book for the summer and if you have any mild enjoyment of reality shows, outdoorsy or survivalist themes, or even mild apocalyptic type of themes, I highly recommend this story. I know it will take you by surprise.

Purchase this on Amazon today.

Best of all, I get to giveaway this book to one of my lucky readers! All I would like you to do is to comment with what sounds interesting to you about this book! Ends 7/25.

The winner of my giveaway is Stephanie Matthis who I chose using Random.org. 

I received this book in exchange for my honest review. I included an affiliate link with this post which I receive small compensation if you purchase through my link.

21 June 2016

My Resolutions for the Second Half of This Year

Happy Belated New Year!

 I feel like June is a great time to dig out the dusty resolutions and re-evaluate them. So for me, there's a few on the list that I've long since forgotten. For one, this story I promised myself I'd get published this year, I'm ready to move onto other things for a while. Well, I got too deep in the editing and revising weeds and lost sight of whether or not the story was any good so I need a healthy step backwards. 

Then I'm in need of some exercise which also means I'm in need of some better walking shoes. I'm thinking about these New Balance shoes or these Naturalizer shoes. 

I kind of accomplished an unintentional resolution! I refamiliarized myself with some of the books in my bookshelf. I haven't read so many in so long that I felt like I fell in love with so many old favorites again. I kept saying to myself, "I forgot that book! Ooh! Ahhh! I forgot THAT one! Oooh! Ahh!" So I re-read a huge amount. That was pretty awesome! Now I have plucked out the ones that I should probably donate or try to sell.  And that is a resolution for part two of 2016.

My blog. Oh how I've neglected the blogging community I once enjoyed so much. I don't really know where to begin to resolve anything there, but maybe starting with one normal post a week. Today I knocked out a couple, that does make me feel better about things. I once read that a writing blog can do more harm than good for a writer. See, once you get to talking about writing than it can feel more fun to talk about writing than to write. Well, I'm not sure I agree with that anymore so I'm going to see if I can pick up the steam on this and talk about the writing I'm not doing enough of with the community I've lost sight of. I hate that I ended with a preposition by the way.

Have you thought about what your resolutions were this year? What were they? Did you accomplish them at all?

This post contains sponsored links for which I received small compensation for including them in my post.

20 June 2016

The Battle With Your Inner Critic

My Muse vs My Anti-Muse

Don't you hate when you are writing a story and the little worm that's the inner critic peers at your story and goes, "You're kidding right?" It'll start to rattle off all the reasons the story won't work. If THAT doesn't stop you, than it starts to remind you of all the things you should be focusing on that isn't THAT story.

So that's when I seek out my muse which is tragically easily intimidated by the site of the inner critic (the anti-muse). But you know there are a few things that I find helps improve the strength of my muse in order to battle the inner critic.
1) Get exercise.

Lately it seems like the best approach to clear my head, which in turn, clears out that inner critic, is going for a walk. I head outside. Luckily this weather is suitable these days to clear my head - it's cool but not too hot - and since I can't afford to find a fitness instructor these days - it's also a good way for me to get exercise. I'm sure the wellness and fitness community in my heart appreciate my efforts to exercise!

2) Just go ahead and obsess on those worries for a while.

Once I listed out all of the things plaguing my mind these days and you know the second I did that, I felt better. I let myself obsess for a while and actually I've kept those list of worries and when the anti-muse hits, I'll look over those worries for a while and drop off that anti-muse onto THAT page and go back to the story I was writing before.

3) Be flippant.

The anti-muse may taunt and say that your first draft isn't any good, but you know what? All of the writing advice that I hear tells you that it's okay for your first draft to be crummy. As I write, I tell this to the anti-muse and it humphs and pouts and storms off.

So these days those are my three tactics for battling against my inner critic. What are yours?

This post contains sponsored links for which I received small compensation for including in my post.

03 May 2016

"All Things Cease to Appear" by Elizabeth Brundage [A Book Review]

I was lucky enough to receive a complimentary three month subscription to the Book of the Month club.  I'm by no means obligated to write this review, but I decided to for this particular book.

When you first start reading Elizabeth Brundage, you are having dinner with the neighbors living nearest to the couple who moved to town recently - the Clares. Then there's a knock at the door - the husband, the unlikeable George Clare, is holding his child and the the little girl says to the couple who have opened their door to them, "Mommy's hurt."

Thus the mystery begins. Wife and mother, Catherine Clare has been killed. But by who? But wait, there's another story to tell first.

That's when we meet the original family who owned the farmhouse that the Clares now live in. The Hale family. And they suffered their family tragedy - one resulting in a death.

My first impression

There are no quotations in this book. You get used to it fairly quickly, though. It's definitely weird at first.

I noticed a lot of the words associated with this book are "chilling" and "haunted" and "suspense." Those aren't quite the words I would associate with this novel. Close, but not quite.

The mystery surrounding Catherine Clare's murder doesn't get addressed until much, much later in the book. What follows that initial scene is the background of the Hale family and the marriage between Catherine and her husband George. George proves to be a cunning, smarmy, unlikeable con who only seems to fall apart when his image is threatened. Catherine, more likeable, but annoyingly devoted to a man who she soon realizes doesn't like her one bit.

Then the Hale boys. All three are troubled, all are likeable. You meet Cole who becomes more part of the story than the other two, especially with his loving nature towards Catherine's daughter. The three boys are strongly connected to Catherine as she makes a home for her family in the farmhouse they used to grow up in.

The farmhouse itself is haunted, although don't expect the usual jumps and creepiness you'd find in a ghost story. This isn't like that. It's more like the awareness of another presence in the room and the memories of the death that happened in the Hale family that Catherine doesn't quite figure out until later too.

My overall impression

This is a book filled with unhappy people trying to make their life work. It was a book that switched around points of view a LOT and once I felt like I got going with a character, it would switch around. It felt like I was riding in a car with a person who kept pressing the breaks.

But this book did keep me interested and coming back to it. I wanted to see how the lives of these characters played out. And despite how I knew things were ending up for Catherine, I wanted her in some way to get out of the situation.

I would recommend this book, especially if you sort of are interested in a challenging, troubling mystery that keeps you coming back for more. Not my top five picks but certainly worth reading. It stays with you.

Last week I wrote a blog post asking, will justice be done? Will Catherine's killer get away with it or will he (or she) be caught?

Well....I can't tell you without giving too much away. I can tell you it isn't quite the clear cut ending and justice that I was hoping for, but it was worth it. The ending was fair and that's pretty awesome to me.

If you want to read this book, purchase it now through Amazon. I also highly recommend signing up for the Book of the Month Club. They're offering a 30% off a 3-month subscription if you use the coupon code MAY30. Purchase the subscription today!

This post contains affiliate links for which I will receive small compensation if you purchase through my link. Which pays for things like coffee.

28 April 2016

Book Thought of the Day - Will Justice Be Done? #AmReading

I decided to try out a new feature to my blog and see how well this goes. I'm currently reading "All Things Cease to Appear" by Elizabeth Brundage. And I'm nearing the end of the book. The process of reading this book has been entirely revolving around, "Will the person who did this get away with it?"

You get to see first hand what this killer is doing and how he manages to get away with it, even when someone gets close to finding out. He STILL manages to get away. Well, the end of the book has jumped ahead about 20 years and now I'm plagued with that question still, "Will the killer get away with it?"

When I'm reading a book like this, when you have very little sympathy for the killer and what he does, I find that I'm so afraid that somehow this person will get away with it. Reading this book has been quite the ride too because it starts out with you know who died, yet you are following along her story and life for the rest of the book. It has some other complications thrown in of course and it is more than just a murder mystery book. It seems to be about the plight of the unhappy if I was being honest.

I sure hope it doesn't turn out the way I fear it will. But we'll see. I'll make sure to write my review once I'm done with the book.

By the way, I got this book through the Book of the Month club which I am now partnered up with in their affiliate program. Personally if my budget wasn't so tight right now, I would go for this subscription! It's a lot of fun and I find that I enjoy getting the mail each month. You can get 30% off your 3 month subscription by using the code MAY30, so subscribe today. This next month's book will be chosen by "How I Met Your Mother" star Josh Radnor.

Until then, what are you reading? I would love a suggestion! 

This post contains affiliate links for which I will receive small compensation if you purchase through my link.

20 April 2016

10 Scary Movies I Would Hate to be Stuck In

scary movies, horror movies

I have to say that I love a good scary movie. And the horror genre is one of my favorites to take a look at! (Except when it's gory. I hate that.) So there's a few movies out there that I've thought to myself, "I'd be miserable from the get go in that movie." Or some that have just stayed with me long after the movie has been done. So I was thinking about this lately - the movies I would absolutely HATE to be stuck in. Here's my ten -

1) Blair Witch Project

This classic movie that introduced the whole faux found footage to the horror genre. It isn't one of my favorites though and I have to tell if I managed to be stuck in this movie, it would be horrible. And horrible not because of the Blair Witch rumors. For me, I hate the woods and I don't like camping. I'm really sure I would make everything worse.

Check it out on IMDB.
Watch it now on Amazon 

2) Nightmare on Elm Street

Although this is a movie on my "watch list", I'm a little nervous about the whole idea of someone coming into your dreams and killing you in your dream for real. The whole concept would be pretty awful for me especially, because I dream so vividly. So, this one may be a must see but would be horrid for me to be stuck in.

Check it out on IMDB.
Watch now on Amazon.

3) Devil

It's one of the movies I really like, but you know what has recently changed my mind completely about whether or not I'd like to be stuck in the movie? This story about a woman in China who died after being stuck in an elevator for a month. Read about it here.

So considering the idea of not only being stuck in an elevator on a high rise, just think about the company you'll be keeping in THIS movie.

Check this out on IMDB.
Watch now on Amazon.

4) Cloverfield

My favorite monster movie! I am sort of a sucker for found footage horror movies too. And I'm really looking forward to seeing this movie's follow up 10 Cloverfield Lane (although not TECHNICALLY a sequel). But I wouldn't want to be stuck in this movie because aside from the fact that the entire city is under attack by a monster, I would NOT want to face those horrid underground spiders!

Check it out on IMDB.
Watch it on Amazon.

5) The Exorcist

The music for this movie is awesome, but there's a little too much in this movie for me to want to even be stuck in it for a minute. Reading the book is as close as I want to get!

6) It Follows

The concept of this movie is creepy - you sleep with someone and then the curse they've been carrying has passed along to you. The curse? Some creepy looking monster people only you can see start to come after you! Scary. I saw this one last year and it was VERY good. But it gave me a nightmare and so that killed the whole idea of me wanting to be stuck in the movie. The idea of someone unseen coming after me *shudder*. No thank you.

7) The Conjuring

I really like this movie and I love the transition from a pleasant happy start to something very disturbing and all consuming. One scene that gets me every time - that I still think about as I sleep - was when that one girl is in her room and smells something really nasty and then the ghost or SOMETHING near her bed starts tugging at her feet. Watch it here -

So no-go on this movie. I could not be stuck in this one!

Check it out on IMDB.
Watch it now on Amazon.

8) The Strangers

So I live in an apartment complex. So you wouldn't think I'd be this freaked out by this movie. But you know what? Any time I hear a neighbor come home late at night, I always think of this movie and how horrid it would be for some weirdo to knock on the door - AND NOT LEAVE. This would be way too terrifying and I don't think I'd be much help here.

Check it out on IMDB.
Watch now on Amazon.

9) The Mist

I think I'm most afraid of movies that include large mutant insects. This is one of them. I wouldn't want to be in this movie AT ALL. I do like it though, although [SPOILER] the ending was VERY stupid.

Check it out on IMDB.
Watch now on Amazon.

10) The Descent

Not a movie I have seen yet, but I know I wouldn't do well in this movie at all. The whole cave thing and spelunking and then you have these terrible awful things after you. *shudder*

Check it out on IMDB.
Watch now on Amazon.

This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase through my link, I'll receive a small compensation. This pays for things like coffee.
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