Sunday, September 28, 2014

Bend Your Brain from Marbles: The Brain Store (Mini-Review)

Bend Your Brain: 151 Puzzles, Tips, and Tricks to Blow (and Grow) Your Mind

So, I've kinda held off on reviewing this book as well. Mainly because I've never reviewed a book like this before.

Bend Your Brain is advertised as a workout for your brain to help you build mental mental muscles. In fact, it's a puzzle book with a bunch of information on how these different puzzles work different parts of your brain. So it's an educational puzzle book.

The format of it is nice and I like the variety of puzzles. The problem is, after a while I treat it just like I do other puzzle books, I do the puzzles I want and forget about the ones I don't.

Overall, it's an okay puzzle book and the factoids interspersed are interesting. I give this book 3 Hoots out of 5.


***I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Darkness Concealed by D. Emery Bunn

Darkness Concealed cover 900x564

Once again I am left yelling at the author, demanding the sequel now even though the current book was only JUST published. Fortunately the digital copy I received came with the promise of a sequel and the author's website promised a trilogy. 

For all of my complaining, though, Bunn does something that few authors I have read lately have been able to do. He prepped me for the story to end so that I was accepting of it. Previous authors have ended their books in such ways and at such times that I felt I had missed something or I couldn't believe they ended their books there. Bunn, however, does a masterful job of leaving me wanting more, but also leaving me satisfied with the ending.  

Darkness Concealed is a book that could easily be a D&D campaign. I even posted a few jokes about that on twitter. But it really does work for this story. How else are you going to get a thief, a warrior, a scholar and a farmer to go on a quest? And what a quest it is! Find the source of the Darkening, a mysterious even that happens every 149 years when everything goes pitch black and terrifying creatures reign supreme, killing everyone they come across in terrible ways. 

I had so much fun reading this book! I'm disappointed in the fate of the Library of Antiquities, but this book is definitely the start of something awesome. At no point did I ever want to put this book down. I had some concerns about the character development, but that was mostly caused by empathizing with the characters and being able to notice the changes in the behaviors. 

Overall, I am happy to give Darkness Concealed 4.5 hoots out of 5 and happily encourage you to buy your own copy and help me cheer Bunn on to continue writing.


***This book was provided in digital format, free of charge, from the author. This does not affect my review.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Recipe Review: Soft Chocolate Cookies

I found the original recipe for Soft Chocolate Cookies on I've made this several times before but this time I documented it. I always have a fear that, though I've successfully made a recipe 100 times, there's no guarantee I won't fail the 101st time.

The recipe itself is fairly simple, standard cookie ingredients that mix well together.

I do recommend taking the option of refrigerating the dough if you can keep it safe from wild snackers.* This will make the dough a lot more solid when you go to roll it into balls.

If I had the time, I probably would have gone to the store to get some alternate ingredients to make these cookies healthier. If you're interested, I find that baby food prunes work as a great replacement for butter in chocolate foods. It actually makes them come out more moist. You can also replace eggs with cornstarch to cut out calories and cholesterol. I'll probably go into specifics if I do a review of my Vegan Oatmeal Raisin cookies.**

The resulting cookies look and taste delicious. Fluxxdog and Veonoss both dove right into them. Fluxxdog actually said that they taste like mini-cakes. I made them promise that they will allow some to survive to tomorrow.*** Next time I make them, however, I will either do the previously mentioned substitutions to make them more diet friendly, or I will go the opposite route and try my hand at a peanut butter frosting for them at Fluxxdog's request.**** Or I could go another route and add a 1/2 Cup of Bailey's to the mixture to give them a great flavor.

Overall, this recipe has been a repeated success in my household and can be easily modified to fit desired flavors or just be played around with. I give this recipe 5 hoots and encourage you to try it for yourselves.


*Fluxxdog managed to sneak a "pinch" of dough before dinner.
**The only meal I am willing to eat vegan is dessert.
***We'll see how that goes.
****I'm one of those weird people that absolutely does not like combining peanut butter and chocolate so he was hesitant to request this for next time.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Intern's Handbook by Shane Kuhn

The Intern's Handbook: A Thriller

I was introduced to this book during the 2014 Armchair BEA. The waitlist for it at my library was even longer than the one for Tolkien's Beowulf. But a few days ago I was finally able to get my hands on it. After reading it I can certainly see why it is so popular.

The Intern's Handbook is definitely not one of my usual genres, The only thrillers that have ever left me wanting to read more or that I have re-read were the Hannibal Lecter books. That being said, I did find this book to be well worth the read. It was entertaining, engaging and even funny and surprising in some parts. While I will probably not buy this book myself, I will say that if you enjoy the thriller genre, you will quite likely enjoy this book.

John Lago, the main character, is writing this book at the onset of his retirement from HR, Inc. a place that trains kids, that would otherwise spend their lives in juvie, to be assassins. They learn how to be the best interns as well. There really isn't a lot of room for error in their business. Many of the people John entered the program with have died. The book follows John on his last assignment. The exact target is unknown. He only knows it's one of three guys, partners in a prestigious law firm.

I have to say, as someone who grew up around foster kids I find the story of John's childhood to be, sadly, believable. It definitely makes you feel for the guy. He is hyper-aware of what is going on inside his own head and has no illusions about what he does for a living or has done in the past. I appreciate this in a narrator and a story. John does not write this book to clear his own head or think things through. He writes it as a cautionary tale for the kids that are following in his footsteps and at no point does he ever want to lie to them. This means, for the reader, that we get everything the character knows and is thinking without a lot of wishy-washy, pity-me stuff to muck up the story.

Overall, I enjoyed The Intern's Handbook and I am glad that I read it. But I won't be actively looking for more thriller novels and I will not be buying it for myself, though I wouldn't object to getting for someone else as a gift. I give this book 3.5 Hoots and encourage thriller readers to pick up a copy.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

October 18th Dewey Read-A-Thon Plan (Tentative)

One of my Bloggiesta goals is to come up with game plan for next month's Dewey's 24-Hour-Read-A-Thon. Everything in this plan is completely tentative because there will always be factors I could not account for before-hand. There is also the problem of "Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel" earlier in the week. I will be up late the night before playing video games with Fluxxdog and Veonoss. I'll even be taking Friday off so we can get maximum game time before I have to fall asleep to prep for Saturday's Read-A-Thon.

I will, of course, be checking twitter and Dewey's blog for hourly updates, but will remind myself to set the Kindle down for a bit every 3 hours. I'm pretty sure I'll be able to eat and read on my Kindle at the same time, I've done it before. I'm also allowing myself to get up and walk around as I need to. The late night shower is because I'm used to taking a shower when I need to wake up and really did help last year.

Tentative Schedule
7 AM - Wake up, Prep
8 AM - Starting Post on Blog
11 AM - 3 Hours Post, Challenges, Visiting other blogs (30 minutes)
2 PM - 6 Hours Post, Challenges, Exercising/Stretching (30 minutes)
5 PM - 9 Hours Post, Challenges, Visiting other blogs (30 minutes)
8 PM - Halfway There Post, Challenges, Exercising/Stretching (30 minutes)
11 PM  - 15 Hours Post, Shower (30 minutes)
2 AM - 18 Hours Post, Challenges, Visiting other blogs (30 minutes)
5 AM - 21 Hours Post, Challenges, Exercising/Stretching (30 minutes)
8 AM - Final Post, Shower, SLEEP

I'm planning on using the Read-A-Thon to at least try to make a dent in my eBook TBR list. I'll end up wearing my reading glasses all day, but it will be worth it. Last year I managed about 5 books (including 1 audiobook) but I read eBooks faster than hardcopy. With this in mind, I created a list of 10 books to read, but with the understanding that fewer than 10 is acceptable.

Tentative Reading List

1) Darkness Concealed by D. Emery Bunn
2) The Realmsic Conquest: The Hero of Legend by Demethius Jackson
3) Inherited Danger by Brian Rathbone
4) NPCs by Drew Hayes
5) Water Saga: Part 1 by Claretta Maynard
6) Thrall by Jennifer Quintenz
7) Neuromancer by William Gibson
8) The Book of Dragons by E. Nesbit
9) American Dark Age #1 by Jean Michel
10) Escape: Omega Book 1 by Keith Latch

Well, that's one Bloggiesta goal down and so many more to go. I'm happy to have a tentative plan for the Read-A-Thon. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

September 2014 Bloggiesta To-Do-List


I really had a good time participating in a recent Mini-Bloggiesta, a full weekend of brushing up my blog and doing things I hadn't been able to get around to doing. So I'm going to go ahead and participate in the full Bloggiesta, starting September 18.

As I am a part-time blogger my to-do list will probably not be as extensive as others, but it is still a list of things I have been needing to do for a while now.

  • Write up at least one recipe review.
  • Come up with a game-plan for the 24-hour Read-a-thon.
  • Come up with a game-plan for Sci-Fi Month.
  • Create a Review Policy.
  • Clean up my Goodreads account.
  • Update my Riffle account.
I may end up having a few more ideas during Bloggiesta, but for now I feel this will take up plenty of time. I'm really looking forward to learning more.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Princeless 2: Get Over Yourself by Whitley and Martin

I'll admit, I held off on writing this review because I just didn't get the same OMG! reaction that I did from the first one. But do not take this to mean that this second installment is not great. I had a number of laughs and even more intrigue as the history of this world and King Ash's personal history are explored. The depths to which this world is starting to be explored has left me craving more. I will be stalking the comic book stores around here until the next book is released. 30 minutes after, I will have read the next book and will be stalking them for the fourth book. I'm psychic about these things. Also Whitley and Martin are just so talented! 

So, Princeless 2: Get Over Yourself picks up where the first book leaves off. Princess Adrienne and Bedelia are looking to rescue Princess Angelica, only to find she doesn't want to be rescued. She enjoys being The Beautiful Princess and being the muse for so many artists. Meanwhile, King Ash has enlisted the aid of the greatest knights in his kingdom to kill the "guy" he believes killed Adrienne. This includes his closest friend, the Black Knight who is later seen kidnapping Queen Ashe. 

This book is steeped in world building and intrigue. It is a marvelous continuation of the first book and I am sincerely looking forward to the next one.


I Bring the Fire Part 1: Wolves by C. Gockel

It really is a rare occasion that I get to read a book that has magic, science, Norse mythology, elves, and dinosaurs. In fact, I think this is the ONLY book I have ever read that has had all of these, especially the dinosaurs part. In fact, dinosaurs in the description and on the cover are what got me to read this book. I do find the tag line on the cover to be misleading, though. At no point do I feel that Loki feels "right at home." Other than that, though, this was a really good read!

In I Bring the Fire, however, we are shown an aspect of Loki's life that makes you root for him to succeed against Odin. Loki is questing to save his wife and sons but in the process saves a mortal, Amy, instead. Amy and her grandmother, Beatrice, end up getting caught up in Loki's attempts at a rescue mission, even going so far as to drive to the castle of the Elf Queen. 

I almost always enjoy a book that breaks apart our preconceived notions of who is a villain. Thanks to Norse mythology, comic books and movies, Loki is not seen as a sympathetic character. However, this book gives us an alternate mythology, where Loki is forced into the role of Mischief Maker by Odin, yet is constantly berated by Odin. It's hard not to feel for this character who is forced to live a life where he is constantly either laughed at or yelled at. Whose first crush falls for his greatest enemy. And all the while, despite everything that happens, manages to make jokes, at his expense or others, the entire time.

Despite all of these elements, some seeming rather random, I feel Gockel did a great job of keeping the story together and keeping it from going over-the-top. There are a couple of questions in my mind, "how can Amy know when guys are hitting on her but not pick up on Loki's innuendo?" "What happened to the Elven couple that wished to study magic?" My hope is that they are answered in the next book...I may settle for the book after that.Goodness knows I'm buying the next book.

This was definitely a delightful read and I am looking forward to the second book! I give I Bring the Fire Part 1: Wolves by C. Gockel 4 out of 5 hoots!


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Kerrytown Book Fest

Kerrytown Book Festival
So, part of being a bibliophile/book blogger is attending book based events. I've never done this before, but once I found out about the Kerrytown Book Fest in downtown Ann Arbor, I figured I'd give it a go. I'll admit, I'm not a social person by nature and tend to avoid events that require interacting with others, but I figured I'd give it a try. At the very least I'd be able to learn some tricks and must-haves for next year's festival. I didn't spend nearly as much time as I thought I would, but considering I've never done this before, I feel I stayed long enough. I'm still not entirely sure on how to talk to publishers/authors and would welcome any advice on the topic.

As it is, I have received a lot of information on independent book publishers and book stores around Ann Arbor and will be taking advantage of this information almost every payday. I especially wish to thank World Weaver Press, Grey Wolf Publishing and Shelby Patrick for their patience with me while I was still trying to figure out what to talk about. I also appreciated World Weaver Press' advertising technique of having a cute puppy with them to attract visitors. Also, many thanks to Book Bound, Dan Waltz, Vault of Midnight, and the Children's Literacy Network for willing to let me talk to them and look at their books without making feel guilty about not being able to buy them.

Information Freebies
Ultimately I did leave the Book Fest with 4 new books and an information pamphlet with information on all the publishers and book sellers there. Two of the free books by Shelby Patrick are samples of a couple of her short story collections. The books only provide snippets of the stories, but I am liking what I'm reading and after each long snippet she provides information on how to get the full version. The other free book I received was Cloudy With  A Chance of Meatballs. I couldn't remember if my nephew had it or not, so when proffered a free book, I chose it. The last book I got at the festival is a discounted book from World Weaver Press called Far Orbit, a collection of Sci-Fi short stories. I was torn between that one and Fae, a collection of Fantasy short stories.

Naturally there were also books that I saw that I could not purchase at this time. I asked if I could take pictures of the books I wanted but was unable to get and was almost uniformly told "yes".
From the Vault of Midnight booth.

A picture book from my childhood!

Out of my price range!

From the Book Bound booth.
Overall, I found this to be an incredibly informative outing and am already working on creating a "Better Prepared This Year" list for the next Kerrytown Book Fest. The biggest thing will be saving up money so I can buy more books! I'm also hoping to improve on my social/networking skills before the next book fest so that I feel less awkward during my visit. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have reading to do.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Platypus Police Squad: The Ostritch Conspiracy (Mini Review)

So I finally got around to reading Platypus Police Squad: The Ostritch Conspiracy by Jarrett J. Krosoczka. I won this book during an Armchair BEA Twitter Party and requested this book specifically because it sounded like so much fun. I was not disappointed. I normally don't read Middle Grade books, but I'm glad I got this.

This is the second book in the Platypus Police Squad series, but don't let that deter you. There are a few mentions of the events of the first book, but this is a complete story in and of itself. It's also a great way to introduce kids to government corruption. Basically you have a couple of cops trying to solve a mystery that goes all the way up to the mayor. The criminal ends up being who I thought it was in the early chapters, but let's face it, it's for Middle Grade readers.

All in all, this was a good read and I'll be recommending it to my nephew. 4 out of 5 hoots!


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Call of the Herald (Godsland Series Book 1) by Brian Rathbone

So, I've had this book in my Kindle for a while now and finally got around to reading it. And you know what? I'm glad I read it and I'm even happier that Rathbone has already published the sequel. I kid you not, I got to the end of Call of the Herald and I was complaining about the book ending too soon.

At the very least, Rathbone has used this first book wisely in creating the world of Godsland, establishing its rules, history, and boundaries. The best part is, he is able to do this without the book being boring. Rathbone has an effective balance between action and exposition that I greatly appreciate. There may be a few slower parts, but they are filled with good information. I'm fairly certain that my own wilderness survival skills have improved through simply knowing what the characters learn.

There is so much going on in the world of Godsland and there is so much history there that has yet to be explored. Catrin's wandering through the caverns revealed an ancient world that leaves me hungry for more. Are there more things that she can use to focus her power as she does the amulet she found there? What is the story behind her mother's sword? I'm hungry for answers and want to explore this world more.

Probably the only thing I had problems with was how easily Catrin was able to manage the social intricacies of dealing with the Arghast. I don't recall if she had received that kind of education, if so she owes Elding an apology. If not, how was it so easy? It could be that it was all about confidence, which, throughout the book, she develops more and more of, but I'm not completely convinced.

Other than this small part of the book, though, I have to say this was a enjoyable read and I have the next one queued up. I give Call of the Herald 4.5 hoots out of 5!