Saturday, August 31, 2013

Snapshot Saturday 8/31

Snapshot Saturday is hosted by West Metro Mommy Reads.

I haven't participated in Snapshot Saturday most of the summer - just too busy with kids home from school, vacations, etc.

So, I thought I'd share some photos from our recent vacation. I thought I'd do some this week and some next week. So, today's photos are from the Cape Cod area, where we camped for 6 days - next week, I'll post pictures from Maine. Hope you enjoy the pics:

My Sons on the Boardwalk in Sandwich, MA

The Sandwich Town Beach - empty on a rainy day!

One of the local residents.

Gorgeous multi-colored rocks just under the clear water.

Morris Island, near Chatham, MA - tide is in!

Our home away from home.

My sons enjoying a beautiful evening on Race Point Beach.

A perfect day on Head of the Meadow beach at Cape Cod.

Enjoying a campfire with my sons after a wonderful day!
Enjoy your holiday weekend!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Book Adaptations On TV

We all know about the huge trend of making popular books into blockbuster movies which has exploded in the past few years, following the big successes of the Harry Potter movies and The Hunger Games adaptation. It seems like half of the movies being released these days are derived from books, which is fine with me.

Now Hollywood is cashing on on that trend for the small screen, with 10 new shows this fall based on books, both new and classic. As an avid reader, I'm excited to hear this! Of course, the adaptations have to be done well, but I think starting with a great book provides a greater chance of ending up with a great TV show.

There are quite a few vampire adaptations here, which don't't really interest me much. Some of the others sound really intriguing, though. Interestingly, I haven't read any of the books these shows are based on, but maybe seeing a decent TV show will lead me to discovering some new reads!

The shows I'm looking forward to on this list include:
  • Sleepy Hollow (I'm a sucker for time travel plots!)
  • The 100
  • Resurrection
  • Surviving Jack
  • About a Boy (loved the movie)
I know my sons will be excited about Crossbones.

Which of the shows on this list are you interested in watching? Have you read any of the books they are based on? I'm always open to suggestions!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Two Writing Challenges

I am trying something new this week!

I have joined reading challenges for the past several years and enjoyed them. This weekend, I was reading Mom's Small Victories, one of my favorite blogs (the author writes about books and lives with chronic illness, just like me), and the author posted about two writing challenges she had signed up for. At first I thought, "Why bother? I don't have time to write anyway," but then I remembered my kids start back to school this week, and I will finally have some writing time again! So, the timing is perfect, and I really need this extra motivation after a stressful, non-writing summer, so I am signing up for the same two writing challenges.

The Monster Review-a-thon is hosted by The Book Monsters (another bonus - finding new blogs!). That one is just this week and just reviews. Since my kids just went back to school today (and my son has Friday off!), my writing time is somewhat limited, so my goals for this one are modest:
Sit Down and Write 4 is being hosted by Stories Inside: the Writing Blog of the True Book Addict. Just the name of this challenge is perfect for me! This is what I need help with - ignoring the long list of to-dos nagging me and the messy house and just Sit Down and Write! This one lasts two weeks which is great because I will have 4 days next week with the kids in school and the house QUIET for a change. So, here are my goals for this one:
  • The book review goals listed above, plus two more reviews and/or book blog posts next week.
  • Write and publish 3 new posts for my chronic illness blog, Learning to Live with CFS, which has been badly neglected this summer.
  • Write and send 4 new pitches, including 2 for travel articles.
  • Finish the first draft of chapter 1 of my book on living with chronic illness.
  • Edit my article on CFS into brief guest blog posts for a supplement website (paid work!)
Yes, it's a lot for two weeks (one and a half at this point, really), but that's the point of a challenge, right? I want to use this as motivation to kick off the fall writing season and make up for a very unproductive summer.

So, join in the fun! Do you have a backlog of reviews you'd like to catch up on or some other writing project you have trouble finding time for? There is still plenty of time to sign up for these challenges - just follow the links here. Wish me luck!

Monday, August 26, 2013

It's Monday 8/26! What Are You Reading?

Two more days! My oldest son moved back into the college dorms yesterday, and my youngest starts back to high school on Wednesday, so in two more days, the house will be quiet during the day and I can stop the constant running to doctor's appointments every day! Not that I'm counting... I love my kids, but it's been a difficult summer and I am looking forward to being productive again.

With the end of vacation and school looming ahead, we had a very busy week and all had far less reading time than usual:
  • I am still reading The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness, book 2 in the fabulous Chaos Walking trilogy. I am enjoying this book as much as I did the first one!
  • My husband, Ken, is still reading Secrets to the Grave by Tami Hoag, a psychological thriller.
  • He and I did manage to finally finish an audio book, a new release of The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. I'd never read the original, and we both enjoyed this classic time travel story very much. Now I understand why Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory has nightmares about the Morlocks!
  • Jamie, 19, spent the week at the beach with his friends, so he had very little reading time! He is still reading Luck in the Shadows by Lynn Flewelling, book 1 of The Nightrunner series.
I spent a lot of times in waiting rooms last week, so I did bring my laptop along and managed to post a couple of book reviews last week:

Review of The Twelve by Justin Cronin, sequel to The Passage.

Review of The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, Book 1 in the Chaos Walking series.

And a Weekend Cooking post with a couple of very tasty summer recipes.

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Unleashing Readers.) 

If you have been participating in the Big Book Summer Challenge, summer is almost over! Be sure to add your links for any Big Book reviews to the review link list on the challenge page. Later this week, I will post a summary post with another link list for your own wrap-up posts.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Weekend Cooking 8/25

Each weekend, Beth Fish Reads hosts Weekend Cooking.  This is perfect for me since I love food and cooking almost as much as I love books!

I see that it's been a month since I wrote a Weekend Cooking post - that's because we have been busy with an unexpected surgery (successful), a 2-week vacation, a weekend with extended family, and getting ready for the kids to start school next week. Whew. The house is quiet for the moment since I am the only one up, so I want to take advantage of this brief window of me time!

My plan for this week was to make all of my older son's favorite meals before he moves back into the dorms (today) for his sophomore year of college, but he ended up spending the entire week at the beach with his friends! So, we had mainly quick, easy and traditional meals since the week was so hectic. A couple of great dishes stand out, though:

One night, I made Grilled Pork Chops with Shallot Butter, a favorite of ours for summertime. The flavors in this simple dish are incredible, thanks to an abundance of fresh herbs, plus finishing the pork chops with a touch of lemony shallot butter - so good! I usually follow the recipe exactly, but this time I subbed fresh parsley and lemon basil for the other herbs, since we had those from our CSA pick-up this week, and it was just as good. On the side, we had some fabulous yellow beans from the farm and a simple cucumber-tomato salad (also made with fresh farm ingredients). Perfect summer meal!

My older son was home for just one dinner this week, on Friday, and since it was his Last Dinner with us for a while, I made one of his all-time favorites, Adobo Flank Steak with Summer Corn and Tomato Relish, another Cooking Light recipe that is packed with flavor. It takes a bit of prep the night before, to make the rub for the steak, but the result is amazing. My son loves the spice in this dish (plus, it's steak - his favorite!), and I love the depth and complexities of the flavor. It's another great meal for a summer evening, made with fresh corn and tomatoes.

So, those were the culinary highlights of our past week. I hope you are enjoying some of those great fresh summer flavors, too!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Fiction Review: The Twelve

I finally found time to read The Twelve, Justin Cronin’s sequel to the critically acclaimed and popular The Passage, as a part of my Big Book Summer Challenge. I was saving this hefty novel for summer, when I knew I’d have more time to read, but I wish I had read it sooner after finishing The Passage. I enjoyed The Twelve and never had trouble finishing it, but it’s a complicated and sometimes confusing novel. It was, however, well worth the effort to find out what happened next in this unique post-apocalyptic trilogy.

This second novel fills in more details of the action in The Passage and also follows some of its characters further, beyond the point where the first novel left off. In The Passage (don’t worry – no spoilers here!), a secret government project to create an indestructible soldier goes awry when the virus they were experimenting with is unleashed on the public. The first half of that first novel deals with the events surrounding the virus’ release, and the rest of the book focuses on a small surviving colony of people 90 years later.

The Twelve goes back to the time when the virus was first let loose and the events immediately following. The author focuses on a number of different characters – some familiar from the first book and others new to the reader – with varying viewpoints and roles. At the same time, the novel also continues the story where the first book ended, 90-some years after the virus (A.V.), and it also looks back in time to certain critical events that occurred earlier and affected the future.

So, perhaps you can begin to understand how confusing this novel is at times! It jumps around among dozens of different characters’ viewpoints and also skips from one time to another. So, you might be reading about the ex-wife of the main FBI agent (Wolgast) during the time of the viral release…and then all of a sudden you are reading about a new character 79 years A.V…then jumping to a character from the first book in 97 A.V. I often found myself starting a new chapter and just saying, “Whaaat??”

However, Cronin is an excellent writer, as anyone who read The Passage can attest, and the disparate strings of the story do eventually come together. For me, the initial confusion was worth the pay-off, as the story builds to a startling and action-packed climax (though some questions still remain – hopefully to be answered in Book 3!). I was never tempted to set the book aside, and the suspense kept me reading and (patiently) waiting for things to come together.

I highly recommend that anyone who isn’t reading The Twelve immediately after The Passage remind themselves of the characters and plot-points first. I found a couple of thorough plot summaries of The Passage online (just search for “plot synopsis the passage”), and reading those helped…somewhat. There are still some characters in this novel that were only vaguely mentioned in the first book. I also discovered – after finishing the novel – a list of characters in the back of the book! I wish I’d known that was there before I read it.

Overall, as with The Passage, Cronin has created a fascinating and compelling story about an unthinkable kind of apocalypse and the future world that it creates. This trilogy is a unique combination of post-apocalyptic fiction, thriller, and paranormal fiction, and the story pulls you in and keeps you reading. Although The Twelve is complex and sometimes confusing, it is a gripping sequel for fans of The Passage. I can’t wait to find out what’s in store in the final book!

564 pages, Ballantine Books


Monday, August 19, 2013

It's Monday 8/19! What Are You Reading?

We're back! I haven't posted since July because we took a 2-week camping vacation to Cape Cod and Maine, then headed to Pennsylvania for a weekend with our extended family. Lots and lots of fun all around - hiking, kayaking, and eating way too much delicious food! If you want a peek at our vacation adventures, check out our Road Trip Blog - scroll down to August 1, 2013, to see the photos in order.

So, with all that vacation time, we read a LOT of books these last few weeks!
  • I read The Twelve by Justin Cronin, sequel to The Passage and my fourth Big Book of the Summer. I enjoyed it and am glad I read it, but I liked The Passage more (and just gave it to my sister for her birthday this weekend). I wish I'd read The Twelve sooner because I'd forgotten a lot of what happened in the first book. 
  • This weekend, I started The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness, sequel to The Knife of Never Letting Go which I read earlier this summer and loved (another big book). The two books are part of a YA trilogy that is a mixture of science fiction, dystopia, and post-apocalyptic fiction, with a heavy dose of action and adventure.
  • My husband, Ken, had eye surgery before we left. Fortunately, it went well, and he was able to get back to reading during vacation. He read The Lost Ones by Ace Atkins, an Edgar Award winner that I gave him for Father's Day. He really enjoyed it and is looking forward to reading more by Atkins.
  • Now, Ken is reading Secrets to the Grave by Tami Hoag, a freebie I picked up for him at the library when I completed their adult summer reading challenge (I got a total of 5 free books!).
  • Jamie, 19 (as of Friday!), took full advantage of vacation and read at least 6 books over the past two weeks! He is lucky that he can read in the car and not get sick. First, he finished the David Eddings' trilogy The Tamuli, reading Book 2, The Shining Ones and Book 3, Hidden City. He liked this fantasy series that his dad lent him.
  • Jamie also read a couple of free books on his Kindle. When he first got it for last year's birthday, he downloaded a dozen free fantasy novels and has been making his way through them. One of the ones he read last week was The God King by James A. West, Book 1 of the Heirs of the Fallen series. He loved it and is looking forward to reading more of the series.
  • Jamie and I were thrilled to find a bookstore in Bar Harbor, Maine, so I treated him to two more books for his birthday. He already finished the 700-page novel The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks and absolutely loved it!
  • Now, Jamie is reading his other birthday book, Luck in the Shadows by Lynn Flewelling, Book 1 of The Nightrunner series (as you can see, he loves fantasy). He says this one is good, too. His reading is going to come to a screeching halt next week when college starts up again, so he's enjoying it while he can!
  • Craig, 15, finally started his second book for required summer reading, The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa. He's not too excited about this one, even though his brother told him it's pretty good! I want to read it when he's finished.
  • Despite all those hours on the road, we didn't listen to much in the way of audio books (to my great disappointment!). The boys don't like listening to books with us anymore (sniff, sniff) - Craig would rather listen to music, and Jamie would rather read on his own. I did talk Jamie into listening to Insurgent by Veronica Roth with Ken and I - all three of us read the first book, Divergent, and enjoyed it. However, he got frustrated because he didn't remember much from the first book and soon gave up. Ken and I still listened while the boys had their earbuds in, but we didn't get very far - I'm not sure when we'll find time to finish it now that we're home!
Believe it or not, I did manage a couple of posts before we left, in the flurry of packing:

Review of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain, an amazing and moving novel.

My summary of Books Read in July.

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Unleashing Readers.)