Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What's Up Wednesday - Gluten Free Goodness!!

I found out almost two years ago that I am not able to eat gluten. It was tough at first, having to give up so many foods (you'd be surprised at how many foods have hidden wheat or gluten in them!!), but the health benefits have been phenomenal.

So, what is a gluten allergy? Basically, it's an allergy to wheat, oats*, barley and rye. *Oats, if they are gluten-free, are often able to still be eaten by those who suffer from gluten allergies.

Today on Facebook one of my pals posted an incredible Kickstarter gig that would allow a couple to start up a Gluten Free bakery right here in my area!! That would be such a wonderful addition to our community, because even though Omaha houses the National Celiac Sprue Association, we don't have a single dedicated gluten-free bakery or restaurant. The few options we do have include both gluten and gluten-free options, which can increase the chance of cross-contamination and thus sometimes make me sick.

I have posted the video for the Kickstarter project below. If you want more info, visit their gig or their blog. I'm asking you personally to consider donating, even if you can only give $1 - every little bit will help!! I really want to see this become a reality, as our community really could use this.

Thanks to all my lovely readers who help me with this! Even if you can't donate, please spread the word so that we can reach as many potential backers as possible.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Recommended Read - Black Silk by Jan Gordon

Black SilkBlack Silk by Jan Gordon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There were so many things I loved about this story - but the one thing I didn't like is that it ended a bit anti-climacticly, and it was too short!!

The character development was lovely, and the mundane details drew me in and made me wish that there was more length to this story. As an avid bibliophile and animal lover, I was instantly familiar with the female protagonist, who is addicted to great paranormal romances and spending time with her cat.

Some of the details were new and refreshing, compared to the abundance of "spin-off" paranormal novels out on the market today. Overall, I feel that if there were a little more thought towards the end of the story, this book would earn five stars. As it is right now, I can only give it four.

View all my reviews

Recommended Read - Throwaway by Heather Huffman

ThrowawayThrowaway by Heather Huffman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Never before have I encountered such a brilliantly written novel about something so profane as prostitution! This story follows a woman named Jessie who has grown up the hard way, and describes the many struggles faced by her and the choices she finds herself making. When she finally meets a man that sets her pulse racing, she learns what it finally feels like to love - but her choice is made more difficult due to her undesirable past, and her new lover's secret life.

The characters are believable and undeniably human, while the story is filled with action and interesting plot twists. It reaches to the depths of readers' souls, and inspires them to try to make a difference within their own lives.

View all my reviews

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Special Guest Post - Martin King, Author of Jack Hunter: Secret of the King

Today I have a special treat for my readers - a guest post from the author Martin King! His book has been my Recommended eBook of the Week, and I have reviewed it here as well. He is currently doing a blog tour recounting childhood memories. Enjoy!!


So this is the deal yeah. I am about seven years old and going to a new school for the first time. At the break or play-time, whichever you used to call it, the boys went into one playground and the girls into another. Just as a side point, although it was years before my time, the school had an air raid bunker in the playground (although it had a locked door so we never went in there).

So anyway back to the story. In the playground was a really filthy toilet. If it was in this modern era, it would be condemned. Well on my first day or so, I went to the toilet and saw this boy. I was in shock. I ran back into the playground to double check and there he was again. How could this be?

Again I went back into the toilet to find he was still in there. It was almost like an episode of Dr. Who or Star Trek where he kept getting beamed from one spot to the other. So I went up to this kid in the toilets mumbling my disbelief at what was happening.

He must have thought I was some lunatic. But after he didn’t respond to my garbled conversation, I dragged him into the yard to prove my theory. And low and behold I was right – there were two of him. They must have thought I was some weird nutter when in fact I had never seen twins before.

These blogs are all about fun and sharing. Thank you for reading a ‘#100blogfest’ blog. Please follow this link to find the next blog in the series:

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Recommended Read - My Baby Has No Name by Rob Batista

My Baby Has No NameMy Baby Has No Name by Rob Batista

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a beautiful, poignant story with a brilliant message of hope. It is about a girl who falls in love with a member of a gang and ends up pregnant. I can't say much more without giving a spoiler, but it is a really wonderful short story that I highly recommend. You really feel for all the characters involved, and the story is very realistic.

View all my reviews

Friday, August 26, 2011

Recommended Read - The Last Man by James Bailey

The Last ManThe Last Man by James Bailey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This story is a glimpse into a future where a race is slowly dieing out, and searching for a new planet to live on. I really liked this, but it reminded me of a Stargate: SG1 episode, so I'm not sure it was very original. The only thing different was the ending, which I greatly enjoyed and was surprised by!

View all my reviews

Thursday, August 25, 2011

7 Marketing Strategies for Your eBook

One of the hardest things about self-publishing my eBooks hasn't been the self-publishing - it's been the marketing!! Yes, I'm working on a Master's degree in Management, which covers some marketing, but I still don't have all the answers when it comes to increasing downloads of my eBooks.

So today I decided to do a little research, and came up with the 7 best marketing strategies for eBooks:

1) Set up a blog, website, or landing page. You need to create a web presence so that your potential audience knows you aren't just some crazy out there writing garbage to try to make money, but an actual artist who cares about what you are writing.

2) Get reviews. That means you'll need to contact other bloggers and give them your eBook for free, but it also means you can reach a much larger audience.

3) Give away something for free. There's a great post out there right now that gives 12 different ideas for freebies, so I won't bother posting all of them here, but you should really check it out.

4) Use social media. There's a lot of options out there, pick one or two you are comfortable with and use it to plug your book and also to create conversations with your followers (so that they don't feel like they are spammed).

5) Use word of mouth. Tell your family and friends via email or in person, and have them talk to their family and friends, etc. in the hopes that this will reach many people without spending advertising dollars.

6) Write articles or guest posts. This makes you an expert, and someone much more credible to buy a book from. It also gets your name out there, and exposes you to a larger audience.

7) Become an affiliate marketer. If you use Smashwords, this will happen automatically as long as your book is being sold and not given away for free. Otherwise, try other sites like Clickbank.

Recommended Read - A Table for Four by Yuri Alkin

A Table for FourA Table for Four by Yuri Alkin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In this age of social networking sites, it's easier than ever to reconnect with old friends, enemies, and even old flames. This is a story of two old flames reconnecting, and each is determined to make the other feel less successful and thus "win" at their reunion. The characters were enjoyable and believable, but I wish the story had been longer! I didn't want it to end where it did.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sorta Recommended Read - Serial by Jack Kilborn

SerialSerial by Jack Kilborn

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Incredibly disturbing and graphic, but a great read if you are into scary stories! Follow a trucker who picks up and then torments hitchhikers, and a hitchhiker who catches rides and then torments the drivers, as they meet up and find each other formidable foes.

I personally prefer psychological thrillers to "hack n' slash", but this story was still very creepy and kept my interest (even though I gagged through certain parts).

View all my reviews

Sorta Recommended Read - Syndrome by Thomas Hoover

SyndromeSyndrome by Thomas Hoover

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I found this story to be rather boring until closer towards the end - it just seemed to drag. I kept hoping for more action, more mystery, more SOMETHING, but nothing really pulled me in until the ending. I think that if it were a little shorter and/or had more action, it would be a much more interesting read!

There were some interesting medical ideas, but I don't know that they were truly believable. The story switches between the two main characters' points of view, which can sometimes get a little confusing. Overall, I just didn't get into it like I wanted to.

View all my reviews

What's Up Wednesday - Giveaways and Giving Away

Today I am focusing on the plethora of giveaways that rule the blogosphere and beyond! :)

First, from the blogs I follow - you could win worsted wool (for all my other fiber freaks out there! woot!), an adult content book called Coyote Night, a PREORDER (yay for being able to get a book before it's released!!) of The Iron Knight, two FREE nights at a bed and breakfast inn in South Carolina, and an eBook of Credo's Hope. Yes, I realize these are mostly book giveaways, but since I'm a book nerd you'll have to deal with that. ;)

Speaking of book giveaways, I frequently visit the Giveaways page on Goodreads, and have won 5 free books so far! I highly recommend it if you are a bibliophile like myself.

I also found a couple of interesting sites that have a ton of giveaways - FreeBlogGiveaways and Etsy Giveaways. I personally sold on Etsy for years, and still occasionally post stuff for sale there (though I've been a little too busy since I decided to go back to school for my Master's degree), and love all that Etsy has to offer.

But life isn't always just about winning giveaways - sometimes it's about giving things away, too! For example, Feed Your Reading Habit is doing a month of giveaways, and yesterday's giveaway was donating old glasses. I personally like to donate items to my local animal shelter, and love the idea of , though I'm usually too cash poor to donate monetarily. I currently have a stack of books staring at me which I am considering donating to my local library (which is pathetically small and doesn't offer enough in my opinion, but I don't want to pay to use the larger Omaha library system) or selling to a bookstore.

Are you doing a giveaway? Post the details below! :)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

eBook #2 is up for sale on Smashwords!!

That's right, I finally got around to publishing another eBook!! It's an eBook version of a hard copy book I published through Lulu, but it has some updated content and is a lot more affordable. I really like eBooks so much more than regular books for that reason!

Anyway, come check it out and help me get the word out: . Thanks!

P.S. To see if anyone is actually following this - if you want a hard copy without the updated content, leave a comment below with your email and if you send me $5 to cover the Priority Mail Shipping, it's yours for FREE!! ;) I'll even sign it...

New Recommended eBook of the Week

I'm going with something completely different this week - it's an eBook that is also an RPG! For all you non-nerds out there, that stands for Role-Playing Game. Here's the description:
"The year is 2185. The human race has gone to the stars, and found that they're not alone. Local space is teeming with civilizations, some hostile, some friendly, and some indifferent. This is the universe of Ephemeris.

Ephemeris is a game of galactic trade and galactic conquest; of inter-species conflict and cooperation. Ephemeris is a science fiction role playing game. Here you will be able to take on the role of your favorite alien species and your favorite class. You will be able to trade, fight, negotiate, conquer, whatever you'd like to do with your fellow players. You can play the role of an Althani Trader, or maybe an Arbonix Cyber Wizard, or maybe even a Human Nanist. You can create a party made up entirely of one species and set out to upset the trade routes of a rival species. Or maybe you want to create a party with a variety of species that preys upon the trading routes of the various civilizations. Or maybe you want to explore the ancient ruins on long dead planets, ruins that clearly show that there were other species roaming the spaceways in the past...but where are they now? You can fight in great wars, negotiate grand peace treaties, and explore sections of the galaxy that no sentient has ever explored. Or maybe your party has joined with one of the interplanetary corporations; corporations whose motives are never entirely clear. These are just some of the possibilities open to you.
The universe of Ephemeris is yours to do with as you please. What you now hold in your hands are the basic guidelines for the games. Here you'll find the races, classes, abilities, skills, weapons, and ships that allow you to create your own Ephemeris universe.

Now, step inside for the greatest science fiction adventure you've ever been on...

Sounds like fun, right? :) So click here to check it out, or you can click the link on the left side of the page - it will be there all week! :)

First Reads Flop - What It is Like to Go to War by Karl Marlantes

What It is Like to Go to WarWhat It is Like to Go to War by Karl Marlantes

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

What It is Like to Go to War by Karl Marlantes was a book that I won through Goodreads, and I was looking forward to reading it. My husband is an Army vet who spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as on the Korea DMZ. I thought that perhaps the book would touch on war experiences of multiple soldiers and provide insight on how the war affects soldiers.

However, I found that I just couldn't get through this book. It read very slow with lofty psychological language (and I even have my BA in Psychology!) and just didn't capture my attention. I made it through only the first half, but I couldn't find the desire to continue reading as it just wasn't inspiring me to continue. Therefore, if you are interested in this nonfiction genre, I do hope that you will still consider giving it a try and not basing everything off of my one review.

I think it's great that the author was able to share his experience, and perhaps this book was a cathartic experience for him. But overall, I didn't like the book.

View all my reviews

Recommended Read - Circle of Fire: The Maya Brown Missions by S.M. Hall

Circle of Fire (Maya Brown Missions)Circle of Fire by S.M. Hall

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Circle of Fire by S.M. Hall is a great young adult read that not only provides suspense but also some intelligent discussion about the Muslim faith. The characters are interesting, and the situations are just believable enough to make the story realistic. I found the story to be a little too slow at parts, and the difference between British English and American English sometimes confusing, which is the only reason why this book did not merit five stars from me.

I won this book through Goodreads, and I'm really glad I had the chance to read it!

View all my reviews

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Recommended Read - The Spear of Destiny by M.E. Brines

The Spear of DestinyThe Spear of Destiny by M.E. Brines

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really loved all the historical facts scattered within this action-filled book! It was a great read, especially since you can download it for free. It follows a young agent who goes behind Nazi enemy lines in order to steal the spear of destiny. It is fast-paced and has a story that will keep you reading!

View all my reviews

Recommended Read - Children of the Apocalypse Part One: The Beginning

Freebie Flops: Puppy Dog Tales and M

Even though I love free books, sometimes those freebies just aren't worth reading. That's what I discovered with these next two books, Puppy Dog Tales by Alice V and M by Kody Boye.

Puppy Dog Tales was very juvenile and boring, and was only three short stories about dogs. Yes, I love dogs - I happen to own one - but I don't like reading stories about them that seem to have very little point.

M was too short, lacking in character development, and honestly doesn't even make sense unless you read the book description. Even so, it doesn't live up to the description and makes you wish you hadn't read it.

I gave these books one and two stars, respectively, on Goodreads.

Recommended Read - The Night They Nicked St. Nick by Carl Ashmore

The Night They Nicked St. Nick by Carl Ashmore is an adorable read for anyone from children to adult! It reminded me of the movie The Santa Clause mixed with the movie Big, which made it a little cliche at times but still really fun to read.

It's about a little boy who is startled to find out that Santa is missing, and the since he is slated as the next Santa he has to go to the Pole and save Christmas! There is a fun cast of characters and the entire story is very lighthearted. I gave it five stars on Goodreads.

Friday, August 19, 2011

It's Fan Fiction Friday!!!

I just came up with this today, so I'm hoping it will be a fun activity for my Facebook and Twitter followers - and blog followers, please feel free to stop by my Facebook Page and join in!!

Here's the details I posted this morning:
Let's do "Fan Fiction Friday"!!! I'll start off a story with one sentence. Then, the next person who comments writes up to four sentences continuing the story, and so on until we have a fun new story! For my Twitter followers, please stop by my Facebook page ( to leave your comment! The first sentence will be in the comment below. Have fun!!
And here's the first sentence that I posted:

The day I woke up with green skin, I knew that something was horribly wrong.

I hope you'll consider joining in so that we can write a really fun story!!

Recommended Read - Brain Twister by Mark Phillips

First of all, the author Mark Phillips is actually the collaboration of two authors - Randall Garrett and Laurence M. Janifer. Together, they wrote three novels with the character of agent Kenneth J. Malone.

Brain Twister follows Ken Malone into a new and exciting case where he discovers that telepathy is real, and is being used to obtain secrets from the FBI. Along the way to discovering the spy, he collects a group of telepaths who have been living in insane asylums, including one who believes herself to be Queen Elizabeth I and insists that all members of her party wear period-appropriate attire. Yep, that means tights for the guys!!

This novel was absolutely hilarious, while also being action-packed and interesting. I couldn't put it down and finished it in only a few hours! I gave it five stars on Goodreads.

Awesome Giveaway - Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult

I found this incredible giveaway today, and just had to pass on the link!! I love Jodi Picoult's style of writing, and My Sister's Keeper brought me to tears - though I hated the movie version, since they messed up the story.

So, check out Feed Your Reading Habit for how to submit entries into the contest, which ends Wednesday August 31st. Good luck!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Recommended Read - The Witchcraft Wars Trilogy

I was very pleased when author Tracey Alley approached me to review her series. I love the fantasy/action genre, and knew I'd get into her stories. However, I was surprised at just how much I enjoyed them!!

The first book is Erich's Plea, and it introduces us to a wide cast of characters including a former assassin halfling, a prince-turned-druid, a half ogre/half troll, a necromancer, a mage without memory, and more! The setting is a magical realm in which there are many species, all divided into twelve kingdoms. There is a little bit of back story in this first novel, but nothing that takes away from the action and suspense, which I appreciate - I'm not a fan of too much or too little back story in the books I read! This first book focuses primarily on Slade, the former-prince-turned-druid, and his mysterious capture by The Dark One. From the breakout (not a spoiler, trust me) to the journey ahead, this book keeps you interested!!

The second book is Ursula's Quest, and we learn more about Slade's sister, the beautiful princess Ursula. She also partakes on a journey, and we meet some additional characters along the way. Her quest is going on at the same time as Slade's, though they don't realize that they are both working towards a similar goal until the end. We also learn more about Ulrich, their eldest brother who has taken over the throne in a deceitful manner and has alliances with The Dark One and his counterpart, the witch Shallendara. This book still had quite a bit of action, but I felt it not to be as interesting as the first and third books.

The final book is Slade's Destiny. The title foreshadows happenings towards the end of the book, though I won't give it away because I'm not a fan of spoilers. ;) Everything really comes together in this book, and it is so filled with action that you honestly won't be able to put it down!! There is war, intrigue, and a lot of mystery that all becomes clear in the end. Some doubtful characters become good, while the most evil become more glaringly evil. All of the characters really show their depth in this book, and it was probably my favorite of the three!

Overall, this series is a fantastic read for anyone into the fantasy genre. I know some reviews have found the writing to be hard to follow, but I think it was tied together wonderfully and appreciated how the story moved from one character's point of view to another, so that you got a well-rounded feel for the story. The only thing that did bother me was some formatting and editing issues, but they were fairly few and far between, and it could have been because I was reading a pdf on my Nook, which sometimes doesn't format as well as the epub file formats do.

I gave Books One and Three five stars, and Book Two four stars, on Goodreads.

What's Up Wednesday - 24 hours of learning

In the last 24 hours, here are some things I learned from the blogs that I follow:

1) The recession causes craziness - on What I Learned On Facebook.

2) There's a beautiful fiber up for grabs as a giveaway - on Phat Fiber.

3) Karina Halle does a great interview - on Earth's Book Nook.

4) However, character interviews are a little weird for me, like Anya Millar's - on Intoxicated by Books.

5) I should read The Devil All The Time, since the review caught my attention - on From the TBR Pile.

6) I should probably skip Junonia, since it doesn't sound like my style from the review - on A Bookish Libraria.

7) James Patterson is still one of my favorite authors - from Live to Read.

8) Spoilers in a book review kinda make me sad - on Do Not Disturb My Books.

9) Most authors deal with secret traumas, but it can make their work terrific - on Peace from Pieces.

10) I still don't like Naomi Kramer's style very much, but I guess she's one of those authors you either love or hate - on Big Al's Books and Pals.

11) Even self-published authors can advertise to libraries (if they want to spend the money on it) - on Release Your Writing.


See what you can learn in only 24 hours just by following some blogs? ;) lol. If you want to know more about any of the topics, please follow the links to the blogs and check them out.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Two Book Wins - and Finley the Fearful Dog

Got great news in my inbox today - I won two more books from Goodreads! One is a nonfiction book titled What It is Like to Go to War, which I thought would be a fitting tribute to read in honor of my husband who is an Iraq War veteran. The other is a YA Fiction book called The Incredible Origins of The Onyx Sun. Both sound like excellent reads - I can't wait to get them!

In my actual mailbox today I was happy to receive the first book I won, Circle of Fire. Woot! Too bad I didn't have it before I went to work today.

In other news, I found this children's story contest and entered (even though winning means that I would give up rights to the story and I wouldn't make any money), because I like the inspiration a good writing contest gives me. I'm doubtful I will win, as I couldn't find a way to come to a good ending in 400 words or less! So, here's the story in all its glory:
Finley the Fearful Dog
by Jessica L. Buike

Finley was a special dog. He had one blue eye and one brown eye, and was very good at guarding his people’s house. He watched over the cats, and when they got cold they liked to cuddle with him. He watched over the rabbits, who liked to hop around him to show that they liked him. He even watched over his humans, who petted him and fed him and took him on rides in their car.

But Finley had a secret – he was afraid of thunder. Not just a little afraid, a lot afraid! When he heard a storm coming in, Finley tried to become small so he could fit under the bed – but that didn’t work. He tried cuddling up to the cats - but they were too warm to cuddle. He even tried to fit into the rabbit cage - but he was too big! Finally, Finley decided to go to his humans.

His humans told him not to be afraid. They petted him and explained that thunder was just lightning singing a song, and lightning was just a way for the clouds to feel better by getting rid of some electricity. They also showed Finley that as long as he was inside, he would not become wet or get hurt by the lightning. They told Finley about a special system called a tornado siren that would warn them if the storm was going to be dangerous. At that time, the humans would help all the animals to get downstairs where they could be safe.

Finley was still afraid. The thunder didn’t sound like singing to him! He closed his eyes and shivered. Soon, he fell asleep. He dreamed that he was running in the clouds, and they were singing him a song and throwing beautiful lights all around him. He realized that his humans were right – thunder wasn’t scary, it was just music from the skies.

When he woke up, Finley knew that he no longer had a reason to be afraid. He checked on the cats, who were peacefully purring in the bedroom. He checked on the rabbits, who were chewing hay contentedly in their cage. Finally, he checked on his humans, who were watching television and laughing together. He could still hear thunder, but now he knew it was only music, and he was no longer afraid.

Monday, August 15, 2011

New Recommended eBook of the Week

Since I was in a scary movie mood yesterday, I thought a horror book would be appropriate this week! I chose Neverglades by Michael Newton. Here's the synopsis:
"The wanton murder of a Seminole shaman ignites a chain-reaction of supernatural vengeance in the Florida Everglades. "

Sounds great!! Just click the link above or on the left of my blog to check out this book.

My first review!! - and, Paranormal vs. Paranoid

I got my first review today on my book Twin Rivers!! :) What an incredible feeling - I've been hoping for quite a while that someone would be able to take the time to review my story and give me their honest feedback.

To check out the review, please visit Krystal's blog Live to Read. I got 4 out of 5 stars - not bad for my first eBook!

In other news, my hubs and I had been working overtime in our yard this weekend, so we decided to take a break yesterday afternoon/evening and watch some movies. We headed to the video store, and picked out two movies - Arthur, and what was supposed to be Paranormal Activity 2. We got home and immediately popped in the scary movie... and wasted 90 minutes of our life for approximately 5 minutes of scary! :( We took it back out, stunned that we disliked it so much, only to find out that it was Paranoid Activity 2, not Paranormal Activity 2. BIG DIFFERENCE, let me tell you!! We headed back to the movie store, exchanged it for the correct movie, and allowed our minds to be blown by the awesomeness that was Paranormal Activity 2! Our advice? If you are headed out to rent Paranormal Activity 2, make sure that you take the time to really read the title to make sure that it is not Paranoid Activity 2! ;)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Blog-a-licious Blog Tour #7: Fame or Fortune?

Today I am participating in my first blog tour! The topic for today is: Fame or Fortune - which would you pick? Here's how it works - there are twelve of us blogging on this topic today. To get all points of view, see if you can visit all (or most) of the blogs! :)

Before I get started on my answer, I'll direct you to the blog before mine - Book Fare - and the blog after mine - Invincible Woman. That will give you two whole other points of view other than my own, if nothing else! If you want the whole list, go here.

Now on to my answer... To me, Fame is a double-edged sword. You are now suddenly recognized, which can lead to Fortune without you really trying, but it could also be your downfall as you are watched for your every move. I mean, look at people like Tiger Woods - coulda been awesome, now he's just kinda pathetic. Some famous people do use their celebrity to help others, but I think most lash out and turn into crazies like Mr. Winning Charlie Sheen himself.

Fortune, on the other hand, can also have some downfalls. Some people, when suddenly gifted with millions, find themselves turning into hoarding tightwads. Or they can find themselves in the Fame limelight, with plenty of unknown "relatives" coming out of the woodwork. Plus, sometimes they just plain make bad decisions and blow it all right away.

That being said, as much as I'd like to be a well-known author, I think I'd rather have Fortune. My husband and I jokingly have a "plan," though we don't actually ever buy more than one lottery ticket per year. Our plan is as follows: 1) Pay off our house, 2) Pay off my car, 3) Buy two new cars, 4) Pay off my brother's house, 5) Pay off my sister's house, 6) Pay off our parents' houses, 7) buy a new house that is one level with a small basement and laundry on the main floor, 8) give our house to his brother, 9) give our previous cars to our friends Angey and Phil, 10) max out one year of retirement account contributions, 11) put half of what is left into savings, and 12) donate the remaining half to various charities we love.

Not a bad plan, right? :) It's mostly just focused on paying off our major debts and our family's major debts so that we can all live a little easier in this horrible economy. The only major splurges would be getting us a house that I can do laundry in again (I can't make it up and down stairs very easily, so I currently don't get to do the laundry because it is downstairs) and getting cars, and in both cases we would be giving away our current home/cars, so it makes me feel a little better about it. :)

What would YOU choose, and why?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Another Book Win and a Series Review!

I won another book through Goodreads this morning! :) The book is titled Galileo's Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith and Love by Dava Sobel. It's based off the surviving letters between Galileo and his oldest daughter, who was a cloistered nun. Sounds really cool! Can't wait to get it in four to six weeks (the waiting is the worst part).

Also, I received a book series via email that I will be reviewing! It is The Witchcraft Wars trilogy by Tracey Alley. Book One is Erich's Plea, Book Two is Ursula's Quest, and Book Three is Slade's Destiny. Looks like an interesting read!

In other news, my writing has been intermittent this week because of finals - getting a Master's degree is tough work! ;) I'm debating whether I should post my final paper on here - it's a business plan for a bed and breakfast. What do you think?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Recommended Read - Jack Hunter: Secret of the King

A couple of weeks ago, I had this book listed as one of my weekly Recommended Books on the left side of my blog. The author, Martin King, was kind enough to send me a free full copy so I could review it for him!

Jack Hunter: Secret of the King has a lot going for it! The characters are likeable, and the situations are interesting. This book reminded me of some of my favorite movies as a kid - it was a good read! I liked the action and suspense, though muddling through the British English was a little hard for me since I'm American. Isn't it crazy how English doesn't always translate from one region to another?

As for the bad, there were a lot of examples of poor grammar and run-on sentences with WAYYY too many commas. Seriously way too many - some sentences felt like they had the hiccups! ;) There were also a couple of content errors - at one point, the author calls Jack "Trevor," and towards the end the author has Holly saying something when he wasn't actually present with the other characters. Very annoying.

However, issues aside, I was still really glad I got the chance to read this book! I liked the extra touch with the chapter titles... if you read the book, you'll see what I mean. If the errors were fixed, it would easily earn five stars. As it is right now, I gave it four stars on Goodreads.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Almost a Crazy Cat Lady

As I mentioned in my first post today, the weather was gorgeous, so I decided I'd take the dog for a walk. We usually just let him run and play in the yard, because he's not a fan of the leash, but I thought he'd enjoy something different.

We had only made it part of the way up our street with this gray blur comes right at us, and immediately starts rubbing all over me and my dog (thankfully, I already own cats, so my dog is used to it). He was purring and purring and kept rolling over asking for belly rubs - just a sweet thing! He had no collar or tags, and was very thin. However, he was front declawed, so I thought maybe he had gotten out at some point and gotten lost and he might have a family looking for him.

So, I walked back to the house with kitty in tow, and got him up on my porch. I got him settled with some food and water, then headed back outside to finish my walk with the dog, who was waiting patiently in the car since it was easier than juggling a cat and a dog through our porch door.

We hit the top of our hill, only to be assaulted by another kitty! This one was black and white, and she wasn't as sure about the dog but sure wanted a piece of my attention. She rubbed and meowed... so I carefully picked her up and carried her back down the hill and over to our house. I put her in the car, not sure if the cat on the porch would get along with her, and the dog decided to hop in there since by now he was thoroughly confused as to whether this was a walk or a car ride.

I went inside, grabbed a pet carrier, and came back out. The first kitty, a cute gray and white with big green eyes, absolutely refused the carrier and kept hissing at it. He apparently didn't like the smell of my cats on it. So, I left him up on the porch and went to kitty #2. I put the water and food back in the carrier and she walked right in. Once she was safely inside the carrier, I went back to the porch and picked up kitty #1 and brought him back to my car and sat him in.

Then I made the long drive out to the local Humane Society to turn them in, with kitty #1 howling and hissing the whole way at kitty #2, who just sat there happily eating the food. My poor dog Finley sat in front with me and looked like he wasn't too sure what to make of these two new cats.

After a long check-in, I finally got them safely in the Humane Society, where I hope their owners will claim them if they were owned (though I'm almost positive kitty #2 was a stray, as she was fully clawed and looked pregnant).

What a crazy morning! I didn't want to take the chance of finishing our walk and having more kitties find me, so I took the dog to the dog park instead. I'm pretty sure I'll never walk the dog again - at least not in our neighborhood! ;) I just don't have room for any more kitties right now - though someday, with my luck, I'll probably end up a crazy cat lady by default. ;)

What's Up Wednesday

Today, the weather here is so WONDERFUL that I think I might have to spend some time outside... but first, I want to share what's happening with some of the blogs that I follow. :)

Autumn at From the TBR Pile wrote a review about White Sleeper - I think I might have to check it out!!

The very incredible, very awesome Amanda Hocking shared an inspiring music video from Fallout Boy on her blog.

Krystal at Live To Read wrote a review about Caged in Darkness - yet another book to add to my "to-read" list on Goodreads!

Heather at Earth's Book Nook wrote a review about The Stone of Time, and gave some insight about it's author Joe Naff.

By now you're probably thinking I only follow book blogs... but my last "what's up" is actually from a yarn/fiber blog that I follow (so there!!):

Phat Fiber is doing a giveaway of some awesome yarn from Color Bug Yarns!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Recommended Read - Demon Day by Penelope Fletcher

After reading the first book, I couldn't wait to get my hands on this one! It was just as good (if not better) than the first book, though there were still typos and grammatical errors.

In Demon Day by Penelope Fletcher, Rae makes a choice between her two lovers with grave consequences, and really starts learning the life of a fairy. All the magical creatures in this novel are so interesting and complex, and I like that her characters aren't one-dimensional. There's plenty of action, and it's easy to get wrapped up in the story - I read the entire book in only a little over a day!

This book would seriously be worth five stars if the errors were fixed!! Since there are still editing errors, I gave the book four stars on Goodreads. Can't wait to read the third and final installment of this series!

Best Simple Gluten Free Cookies EVER!

In honor of me making some Pina Colada cookies today, I decided to repost this great recipe that I put up on my former blog. :) Enjoy!!

It's been almost a full year** Now going on two years!! ** since I had to go gluten free (per my doc), and it's been difficult finding "goodies" that I like that aren't dry and kinda gross. The few I have found cost a whole lot more than I'd generally like to spend just to enjoy a cookie or a cupcake. :(

Yesterday, I decided to experiment with a Betty Crocker Gluten Free Yellow Cake Mix to make some cookies. I didn't use the chocolate cake mix because I'm also allergic to caffeine/chocolate, but I bet they would also work!

You'll laugh at how easy these are to make, yet how delicious they turn out!!

I made two versions, but once you get the hang of it you could basically make any kind of cookie you desire. :) This doesn't make a whole lot of cookies if you make them large like I do, but they are worth every single bite!

Gluten Free Super Moist Pistachio Cookies
1 Box Betty Crocker Gluten Free Yellow Cake Mix*
1 Box Pistachio Jello Pudding Mix*
1/2 c. oil
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients together until they form a wet yet clumpy batter. Place heaping tablespoons or rounded balls of the dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet, a few inches apart since they spread a little. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the bottoms have just started to brown but they are still slightly moist on top. Let cool on cookie rack.

You can still enjoy while they are warm, or just eat them cool. Either way, they are light and crispy on the outside and soft and gooey on the inside! :)

Gluten Free Super Moist Cheesecake and Reese's Pieces Cookies
1 Box Betty Crocker Gluten Free Yellow Cake Mix*
1 Box Cream Cheese Jello Pudding*
1/2 c. oil
2 eggs
1/2 c. Reese's Pieces

Follow same baking instructions as above!

*Since I have a gluten allergy, I have to use these specific brands. However, if you do not have a gluten allergy, you should be able to substitute a regular cake mix and a store brand pudding if you'd like!

Enjoy!! Feel free to post comments of other mixtures you try, or how they turn out for you! I think I personally will need to invest in some Betty Crocker and Jello stock lol!! ;)

Monday, August 8, 2011

New Recommended eBook of the Week

I like vampire books (though some of them are a bit cliche), so my book of the week this week is a new vampire series that fuses history with mythological creatures including vampires. Sounds pretty interesting!

Here's the description:
"Mythic Blood is a introduction to a new vampire series. Fusing mythological creatures with fantasy and history, the vampires must find their way in the world of man. They are free to walk about in night and day, yet still they need to feed. There are stern and serious rules in place of those with the Mythic Blood, rules that if broken, would mean a very horrible death for those who dared to disobey. "

To check it out, click here or click the link on the left side of my blog.

Product Review - Eggies

I have a confession to make - I love to watch infomercials! It's kinda weird, but there's something about the things that they do and say that just makes me laugh, and I get a sick enjoyment out of finding the holes in their statements or flaws in their designs.

Every once in a while, though, I end up ordering one of the products... sometimes because I was drunk while watching (Slim in 6 fitness system - but I kept it and it was actually a good buy!), or in this particular case, because I was hungry while watching.

The premise of Eggies is simple - you use the containers to make hard-boiled eggs without having to deal with peeling the shell when you are done. It looked so easy and amazing that I couldn't pass it up!

Now that I've tried them out, here are the pros and cons:

Pro: You don't have to peel the eggs afterward.
Con: Putting together the flimsy, poorly designed plastic product was a pain in the ass and took just as long.

Pro: You can make a hard-boiled egg out of just the egg whites.
Con: Personally, I like the yellow part the best anyway, so this didn't benefit me.

Pro: You can just crack the egg over the opening and let the water do the rest, rather than worrying about the eggs cracking when you place them in the water.
Con: Unless you want to dirty a funnel, it was SOOO messy to crack eggs over the tiny opening they give you without having some of it dribble down the sides!

Pro: The pieces are dishwasher safe.
Con: I don't have a dishwasher, so washing each little piece was very annoying.

Pro: You can order online or over the phone.
Con: Ordering online didn't give me any sort of confirmation on the page, so I wasn't sure it went through. So I called, and they had so many "add-ons" before you could get to a confirmation that I ended up hanging up. Then a few hours later I finally got an email confirmation for both, so then I had to call and cancel one. Their customer service wait is RIDICULOUS and their customer service is overall lacking in quality... just all around bad customer service.

Overall Opinion: It's ok, but nothing that I'm super excited about. The thing I like the most is that I don't have to worry about missing a little piece of eggshell and having a nasty crunch with my hard-boiled egg... but I don't know if it's worth the hassle for me. I'll give this three out of five stars, right in the middle, since I neither hate nor love this product. I could see how some people could really benefit, if they had a dishwasher and wanted just egg-white hard-boiled eggs... but I could also see how people like me who like the yellow parts and hate washing dishes would find it a pain to use.

** Please note: I did this review because I bought and own the product, not because anyone is paying me to review it. The opinion is my own. **

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Recommended Read - The Demon Girl by Penelope Fletcher

The Demon Girl by Penelope Fletcher was a really great read for anyone who loves the paranormal romance genre!!

The story revolves around Rae, an abandoned orphan who discovers she may be more than just another human. This book was riveting, and held my attention the entire way through! There were fairies, vampires, humans, witches, shifters... just about everything you could want in a paranormal realm. True, some of it just felt borrowed from some of the great paranormal writers of this time (like Stephanie Meyer and Charlaine Harris), but honestly I guess I didn't really mind because these characters still had depth.

There were some editing mistakes (typos and some bad grammar) but overall it was good enough that I can't wait to read the second book. If it was edited and the mistakes corrected, this book would easily get five stars from me!! :) Instead, I gave it four stars on Goodreads.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Sorta Recommended Read: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow

I saw Magic Kingdom, and saw that this was in the sci-fi/futuristic genre, so I thought I'd love the book. Sadly, I was mistaken.

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
by Cory Doctorow is about a future world where money is no longer currency - instead, you have to earn peer approval through a system known as "whuffie." While some of the concept is interesting, there needed to be some more back story because a lot of it didn't make sense. It was frustrating not understanding what certain terms meant, and I almost put it down and didn't finish it - a rare thing for me to do!!

I think with a proper back story, and with more depth to the characters, this would actually be a fairly good futuristic novel. Instead, it comes off as a confusing read where there are interesting things that could have been expanded, and uninteresting things that take up the majority of the book. It would make a decent topic of discussion, though, and I'm pretty sure someone could take his idea of the future world and turn it into a better novel. I gave this book three stars on Goodreads.