Month: September 2013

What I read: August 2013

I managed to get through quite a few books this month! Some were great, some were so-so, and some weren’t even worth a recommendation. Here are the seven, with brief reviews:

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs (hardcover, 352 pages). 3 out of 5 stars. From the book jacket this sounds like a really creepy horror novel, but it’s not as scary as it seems and it’s actually more of a teenage adventure novel than a spookfest. It was pretty well-written and the weird photos scattered throughout are an interesting touch, it just wasn’t quite what I thought it would be. I think it’s the start of a trilogy or series, because it ends on a rather abrupt note.

The Host, by Stephenie Meyer (paperback, 619 pages). 4 out of 5 stars. I didn’t expect to like this as I wasn’t a fan of Twilight, but it’s actually pretty good. The pacing was quick without feeling rushed and I felt like Melanie/Wanderer was a much more relatable heroine than Bella Swan. I knocked off a star because I felt like the story kind of got mushy and stupid at the end, and also because I hate the fact that every teenage adventure novel ever these days has to involve a love triangle. Seriously! Dumb romantic angle aside, it was really good. (Note: I’m not against romance in books, I just want it to be more realistic.)

Snow Falling On Cedars, by David Guterson (hardcover, 460 pages). 2 out of 5 stars. This bored me to death. It’s a good story–an island split by racial differences, war and a murder trial–but the author’s writing style was so painfully slow and some parts (cough, the sex scenes, cough) were so poorly written they made my mind wander. Also, the big “mystery” doesn’t turn out to be too mysterious in the end. I think as a movie this might have worked better, because it would have moved at a less turtleicious pace.

False Memory, by Dean Koontz (paperback, 751 pages). 2 out of 5 stars. HUGE HUGE SPOILER ALERT! This book is supposed to be about phobias so terrifying they put your nightmares to shame. It’s not. It’s about a scumbag psychiatrist who brainwashes his patients and uses them for his own evil ends. I think if the book jacket had been more straightforward about this, I wouldn’t have been so disappointed, because I admit mind control is freaking scary. Or, it would have been scary if there had been more mystery about the source of the phobias and why the main characters are losing their minds; it’s the old rule of horror–what you can’t see and don’t know is scarier than what’s right in front of you. But you find out early on what’s going on, and then you’re treated to hundreds of pages of Mr. Smug Psychiatrist being smug and our characters figuring out how to beat him, which is interesting, but not all that scary. That’s the first strike.

The second is the wordiness; the book is too long and the writing drags on and on in places with descriptions of clothes, food, people, etc. Draggy pacing ruins the horror. The third strike is the stupid and annoying haikus, repeated throughout the book. I’ll add another strike for the fact that I just never felt much of a connection to the main characters. Overall, it was okay, but I felt duped by the book jacket and annoyed with Koontz’s writing. This was the first Koontz novel I’ve sampled and if it’s indicative of his work on the whole, it will also be the last.

Bleeding Kansas, by Sara Paretsky (hardcover, 448 pages). 4 out of 5 stars. Okay, this one was better. The story of a small Midwestern town and the feuds between families and neighbors, this contemporary story was fast-paced and very interesting. I felt like I’ve met all of the characters within and so many of the events and conversations that take place were so true to life. I’m not sure if you have to live in the Midwest to feel that way about the story. Anyway, I really liked it up until the end, which seemed a little too pat and left a character or two without the comeuppance they so richly deserved, but on the whole I loved it and will be reading more of Paretsky’s novels soon.

And She Was, by Alison Gaylin (paperback, 384 pages). 4 out of 5 stars. I’ve read lots of books where the protagonist has memory loss, but never one with a hero who literally cannot forget anything, ever. I think the author did a good job of balancing this quirk of memory as both a blessing and a curse. The mystery–the disappearance of a little girl, which comes back to haunt her neighbors a decade later–had a couple of good twists in it. I recommend this one to any mystery or crime lover.

The Nightmare Thief, by Meg Gardiner (hardcover, 368 pages). 2 out of 5 stars. This book was incredibly fast-paced and would be an awesome way to blow through a few hours if you were stuck with an airport layover or something like that–the time will fly by before you realize it. So why only two stars? Because after I finished it, nothing about it stuck in my brain. The characters were generic, the villains were garden-variety psychos, and none of the plot twists really felt unexpected. The whole thing was just very…meh. Very action-packed, but not much substance. Also, thanks to a jacket blurb from Stephen King, I thought there would be a horror element involved, and there wasn’t. In terms of readability, this was definitely exciting and I don’t feel it was a waste of time; there’s just nothing to distinguish it from any of dozens and dozens of other cheap paperbacks on the shelf.

That’s it for my August reads! Did you read anything this month worth recommending? Tell me about it in the comments, and don’t forget to connect with me on Goodreads here!

Product review: Eat Green Tea edible tea leaves

I received one or more of the products mentioned below for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

I have a very busy lifestyle and am used to gulping coffee or energy drinks to stay alert throughout the day (and into the night!). The trouble, of course, with chugging down coffee and energy drinks is that the caffeine boost is usually short-lived and all of that caffeine and sugar coursing through your body can leave you feeling pretty jittery and wired. Too much caffeine makes my heart pound, too much sugar makes me feel sick to my stomach, and then when I want to go to sleep I have trouble drifting off because I’m still so wired. I think anyone bolting from one obligation to the next fueled solely by Starbucks and Monster Energy can relate to this dilemma!

Enter Eat Green Tea. When the company sent me my sample package I was very skeptical that such a small thing could keep me on my feet all day. However, after trying it out for a week, my opinion has changed–I’m totally hooked! This product mixes easily into a smoothie or oatmeal for breakfast, but you could also sprinkle it over salad, into a sandwich, in soup, into pasta sauce, etc. It has a bit of a grainy texture that reminds me of adding oregano or other spices to a dish, so it’s easy to disguise–and there’s no unpleasant taste, unlike some other energy supplements that I’ve sampled in the past. I’m sure in the grand scheme of things taste & texture should be secondary to how well the product works, but personally, if something tastes off-putting I won’t use it, no matter how well it works!

According to the Eat Green Tea website, one serving of this edible tea is supposed to deliver 100x the antioxidant power of simply drinking a cup of tea, which offers everything from increased energy to fat burning, improving heart health, and repairing skin damage. Obviously I haven’t been using it long enough to say if it will help me lose weight or improve my skin, but it definitely delivers on the promise of an energy boost! It makes me feel much more energetic and alert, both physically and mentally, and it doesn’t have the accompanying jitters of too much caffeine or sugar. It’s also a sustained energy boost, versus a quick spike, so I still feel the effects after several hours instead of reaching for another cup of coffee. My heart isn’t pounding and I don’t feel like I’m going to crash in an hour, but when I’m ready to sleep at the end of the day, I can lie down and go right to sleep without the post-buzz jitters keeping me awake.

I feel like it’s a very practical purchase, too–a one-month supply costs $25 and qualifies for free shipping from Amazon (score!), whereas I can easily blow through more than that amount in a month if I’m buying energy drinks, candy, coffee on the go and sodas from the vending machine to keep me on my feet. Not to mention–this is a much healthier choice than all that sugar and chemical additives! I like that it’s organic and unprocessed, so you know you’re getting the most for your money with no hidden harmful ingredients.

Overall this has to be the best health-related product I’ve tried all summer, and I will definitely be ordering more–I am head over heels in love. If you want more information on this product or want to order your own bag, you can find Eat Green Tea via their website here or order from Amazon.com here.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Sunday Confessions: slacking and reading

I can’t believe another week has gone by already! This one really flew. And the next one is bound to fly by too, since I agreed to work on one of my days off. Ugh. My big mouth!

Anyway, since it’s Sunday again already it’s time to link up with Alyx for Sunday Confessions. I didn’t have a lot of time to get into mischief this week but I do have to confess that…

1. I spent most of the past few days blowing off housework and blogging to curl up on the couch with a stack of novels.

2. I don’t feel the least bit guilty about #1.

3. As much as I love animals, I’m slightly freaked out by my friend’s new Thai Water Dragon. It’s supposed to wind up being 18 inches long! I just can’t get into reptiles.

4. I hate to ask for favors, but would you pretty please mind voting for my friend Jamie’s cat Taylor to win a photo contest? Milo’s Sanctuary is a rescue devoted to cats with special needs, and they’re currently holding a photo calender contest–if Taylor is one of the top twelve cats he will get a spot in the 2014 calender. I know that doesn’t sound like a huge deal, but he almost died this year after emergency stomach surgery and it’s been quite the source of stress for his momma (as any pet owner can imagine!), so it would be pretty awesome if he got a spot on the calender. :) You can vote daily here through September 20th (you’ll have to to “like” the Milo’s Sanctuary page first).

5. Last confession: I need more pitas and hummus. Last week’s dinner was not enough!

What do you have to confess this week?