Month: April 2015

Book Review: The Dragons of Dorchester by: Jack Campbell

I give this book five out of five stars for keeping me up until the wee hours of morning, characters I was tied to almost instantly, and for a scene that made me laugh so hard tears came to my eyes. I can’t wait to read the second book in this series and I’m already anxious I’ll have to wait to read the third.

What I loved:

1) The characters. The goal oriented Mari was a female that was easy to root for. She was practical, capable, and views the world with an engineers mind. Alain is a young Mage savant, who has been taught to conceal all emotions. Both have been sent on their first assignments. Each has remarkable growth in the story, as young people in the major transition from school to the real world, and face learning how many of the ideals ingrained in them are false.

2) The plot, it shifted and changed allowing the satisfaction of guessing certain things and seeing them unfold, while uncovering added layers to a larger story. The world in which this story takes place is complex, but everything the reader is taught is relevant to the plot going forward.

3) The romance, was much better than I expected. I really liked how theirs was not a love at first sight kind of spark. They came together as two strangers, who under other circumstances would never have talked to one another. They built a friendship on mutual respect, and their attachment grew from there. It was a pleasant change of pace to read each protagonist reflecting on the others merit and quality of character; not just lusting about looks. I enjoyed how the obstacles impeding the two lovers are major problems and not trivial. Both Mari and Alain could loose their hard earned guild status or potentially be killed. Alain deals with overcoming his emotionless training, but risking the loss of all his power to do so. I ended the book hoping they would be together because they were a fun duo, and I sincerely enjoyed the friendship they shared. Alain’s Mage training to conceal all emotion, and how he espouses the values of his Guild made for some really comical moments with Mari. These were so funny I found myself laughing so hard I was crying.

New Release Tea time from Pixelily found at Ginger Scraps, and Blank Space template from Southern Serenity Designs by Amber Morrison.

New Release My Reason from Tami Miller Designs found at her store at The Digi Chick; template This is January by Southern Serenity Designs by Amber Morrison found in her Scrap Stack Store or her reopened Store at the Scrapbooking Studio.

Using Lazy Hazy Day Bundle by Tami Miller Designs & Keep In Touch Designs found at Pickle Berry Pop; template Sketch it Out 2 by Tami Miller Designs. 

Project Life Album, Week 15 2014

  • Card: Camelot by: Studio Calico; Cut & Paste Edition by: Amy Tangerine for Project Life; Good Times by: Project Life
  • Markers: Black Soot Distress Markers by Ranger
  • Stamps: Splendid by: Finn’s + Studio Calico
  • Embellishments: Durable Artisan Studs, and Honey Mini Medley from Close to My Heart; Wood buttons from American Crafts, Black Metal embellishment and book plate from Club Scrap
  • Adhesive: ATG gold from 3M

Project Life Album, Week 16 2014

  • Card: Blue Grass Farm from Studio Calico
  • Markers: Dried Marigold, Evergreen Bough, Worn Lipstick, Squeezed Lemonaide, Tumbled Glass, Mulled Lavender, Shabby Shutters, and Salty Ocean Distress Markers by Ranger
  • Stamps: Sensational Season, and My Peeps from Close To My Heart
  • Ink: Smoothie from Close To My Heart
  • Stickers: Jolee’s Boutique
  • Foam Squares: Scrapbook Adhesive

 

Author George R. R. Martin is famous for killing off beloved characters in his popular Game of Thrones, A Song of Ice and Fire book series. I’ve often wondered however, how he feels about the writer saying, “kill all your darlings.”

I think writer Lisa Cron best describes what happens to a reader when a writer does not abide by the old adage “kill your darlings”. In the chapter Cause and Effect in her book Wired For Story, Cron outlines why digressions are deadly. Explaining the chemistry behind the human need to sense if not see casual connection in everything that is presented to the reader.

Okay, now imagine the story is a car and it’s zooming ahead at sixty miles an hour. You’ve completely surrendered to its momentum; you’re one with the story. Then a real nice field of flowers off to the left catches the writer’s eye. So he slams on the brakes, and you slam your head against the windshield as he hops out and frolics in the meadow. Just for a lovely, lyrical second. Then he’s ready to get back on the road. But will the story still be going sixty? No, because he just brought it to a dead stop, which means-provided he can coax you back into it-the story is now going zero.

Cron’s analogy is exactly what happened to me reading Game of Thrones. I was acclimated to the pacing and characters Martin used through the first three books of the series. Then I read A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire #4), and Martin slammed on the breaks and my head hit the windshield. The fans who have only encountered the show are fortunate they did not experience the pain of reading an eight hundred page tomb with none of the characters loved and admired from the first three books in the series. They are privileged to experience the story as it was intended, with books four and five combined into one narrative. They are also lucky that the show’s writers, David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, are killing off the many darlings Martin presents in books four and five. My best examples of the darlings killed so far are:

  • Omitting what happened to Berric Dondarrion
  • Omitting the reincarnated Catlyn Stark
  • Never presenting the character Cold Hands
  • What’s happened to Breanne and Pod

These four changes can account for several chapter’s worth of material. I think it’s significant Martin endorsed these deviations from his story on screen. It’s a concession to his readers, admitting what he presented in those chapters was irrelevant to his overall story. If the material is not crucial to the cause and effect of the story then it’s a digression. Those chapters were some of Martin’s digressions, his darlings; scenes he enjoyed and assumed we the reader would as well despite their lack of connection to the progressing story.

I am fascinated by the fact that Martin spent years writing for television, but the choice to remove darlings and condense repetitive material in the last two books was made by his television writers.  As a Game of Thrones fan, I hope Benioff and Weiss push Martin’s focus back to presenting readers with only those chapters relevant to the cause and effect of the story. I would appreciate it if the pacing of Martin’s next installment, Winds of Winter (A Song of Ice and Fire #6), is nothing like A Dance With Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire #5). Where the reader covers a thousand pages while the plot moves forward by a millimeter.

Martin would be doing his readers a service if he were to run his current draft of book six by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. They’ve succeeded in killing Martin’s darling’s, and could point out those needing to be destroyed before his next book goes to print. As Renni Brown & David King present in their book Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, “It’s far better to rewrite your story in a way that makes use of the good stuff than to simply use your story as an excuse for writing the good stuff.”

My younger two children either play exceedingly well or they are at each others throats fighting. I melted when I caught them playing with the loving family doll house together. I used the Pixel Club exclusive kit Cheerful by Silvia Romeo from Gotta Pixel. 

Augustine wanted a new pair of fashion boots since her feet outgrew the pair she had last year. She found these pink knit ones on sale and her first day wearing them she came down in an entire pink outfit to match. I used The Wonder of it All kit by Mandy King and available at Gotta Pixel.

A good measurement of how well a recipe is received is by the sheer number of people asking for it. My husband wants me to make my lasagna on the weekly dinner rotation, and friends request it for events and get togethers. I promised this recipe to a dear friend, and here it is with a picture and everything. So sorry it’s taken me this long.I think anyone is capable of having success with this recipe so long as you have three things. Don’t start this recipe without these, or you will more than likely regret it:

  1. A dedicated time, a time you can settle in, maybe have a glass of wine, and enjoy the process of preparing a good dish. This is not a recipe you can whip together in under an hour, so time-you need it.
  2. A deep 9×13 pan. The Bobby Flay deep lasagna pan sold at Kohl’s is fabulous. It’s SO fabulous that I went out and bought a second one. When I take the time to prepare this, I make two and freeze one.
  3. The willingness to use quality marinara sauce. Why spend the time preparing this if you are going to use stink cheap marinara. Don’t skimp on any of the ingredients. Get nice cheese, get quality sausage, and fresh tomatoes. You will not regret it.
  • 2 pounds mild Italian sausage
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 4 Roma Tomatoes sliced (as thin as you can manage)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 Jar mariana sauce (*or a quarts worth of homemade)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (or 1/2 cup dried)
  • 2 boxes of lasagna noodles, cooked
  • 16 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 16 ounces cottage cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 pound mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 6 cups mozzarella cheese shredded
  • 2 cups five cheese Italian blend shredded cheese
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Directions

  1. Brown sausage, onion, and garlic over medium heat. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and water. Season with salt and pepper, and simmer, while the noodles cook approximately 15 minutes.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, the shredded five italian cheese blend, the egg, parsley, basil, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  4. Cook lasagna noodles in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes. It’s better to have slightly undercooked noodles. Drain noodles, but keep enough water in noodles so they are playable. Cut noodles to fit 5 across in pan.
  5. To assemble: Coat deep lasagna pan with a thin layer of olive oil. Spread a thin layer of marinara sauce on the bottom lasagna pan. Add first layer of noodles: coat with meat mixture and lightly sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese. Second layer of noodles: and add marinara sauce with 2 cups shredded mozzarella. Third layer noodles: spread ricotta cheese mixture. Fourth layer of noodles: add marinara sauce, can of diced tomatoes and 2 cups mozzarella. Fifth layer of noodles: Top with sliced roman tomatoes and sliced onion and sliced mozzarella cheese. Cover with foil: to prevent sticking, either spray foil with cooking spray, or make sure the foil does not touch the cheese.
  6. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil, and bake an additional 25 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.

 

Project Life Album, Week 13 of 2014

  • Card: Office Hours and Blue Grass Farm by Studio Calico
  • Markers: Barn Door Red, Dried Marigold, Spun Sugar, Antiqued Linen, Tatterd Rose, and Milled Lavender Distress Markers by Ranger
  • Stamps: Cutie Pie Stamp Of the Month by Close to My Heart; Paisley Press + Studio Calico
  • Wood Veneer: Michaels
  • Butterfly: Michaels
  • Ink: Smoothie by Close to My Heart
  • Foam Squares: Scrapbook Adhesive

Project Life Album, Week 14 of 2014

  • Card: Office Hours and Camelot by Studio Calico
  • Markers: Pumice Stone Distress Markers by Ranger
  • Stamps: Cutie Pie Stamp Of the Month by Close to My Heart; Paisley Press + Studio Calico
  • Washi Tape: Reflections at Michael’s
  • Butterfly Brads: Reflections at Michael’s
  • Wine Glass Sticker from Jolee’s by you, by ek success

It was a sad day when we traveled home from Disney World this year. Within a few days Augustine started telling me, “I miss Disney!” All I could say in return was, “Me too!” I used the new kit Dream On from Tami Miller Designs released this week at Pickle Berry Pop, and a Insta Me Weekly template from Cornelia Designs.

We had a fun day out during winter break, we went rollerskating at Cheap Skate with friends. I used the Life Worth Living Bundle from Pixelily found in her store at Gotta Pixel, and Louder Than Thunder Template by Southern Serenity Designs by Amber Morrison and available at Scrap Stacks.

Book Review: Deep (Stage Dive, #4) by: Kylie Scott

I was happy to see this book made the New York Times Best Seller list. Even though this is not my favorite book from the Stage Dive series, the series as a whole deserves to be there. I gave this book three out of five stars for some laugh out loud humor and a plot centered around a topic that would place any couple into some genuine conflict. After reading the other three books in this series, I was eagerly awaiting this book. Maybe my opinion of the book is just a reflection of my expectations, but I give it three out five stars since I feel this was not the strongest of the stage dive novels.

What did I like:
1) Seeing the characters I know and love from the other three stage dive novels. It was fun to watch their lives progress.

2) The humor, I love how often I laugh out loud reading these books.

3) The narrative voice, Scott does a great job-writing first person. She keeps a nice balance of internal dialog, external dialog, and the action of the story.

What disappointed me:
1) I was looking forward to Scott showing me how the quiet Bass Guitarist Ben was going to shine as a romantic hero. It didn’t happen for me; I was turned off by Ben. The guy is a big scardy cat weakling, and I don’t like my men weak. I left the book liking Ben less than when I started it. Scott only proves how lame Ben is by contrasting his behavior against Jimmy’s, take that all you Jimmy haters. Ben is too scared to tell his friends he has feelings for someone they’ve declared off limits. That’s weak. He hides his budding relationship and when he is with Lizzy ends up treating her like another one of the hundred or so groupies he’s been with. That’s not romantic, that’s sad. Then when they are forced together you don’t see their initial pull reignite with sweet conversation or moments where they see each other because they need to, there’s just dead air. Ben’s afraid to talk to the woman he claims later to love. That’s weak. Poor Lizzy is strapped to a man who would rather fly somewhere cross country to hang out and play music with strangers than spend time talking to her, and he basically tells her this on two occasions. That’s not romantic to me in the least, those are break up words in my world.

2) Insta-love. Ben and Lizzy persevere through what I would see as arguably the largest conflict of the four stage dive novels, how? Because of insta-love. That just depresses me and undercuts the strength of Ben as a hero. He was going to be infallible no mater how stupid he acted toward Lizzy. Yes many can relate to being stupid in love, but this story gives a happily ever after based on a relationship that’s just not really there for three quarters of the book.

Book Review: Mistress of Rome (The Empress of Rome #1) by: Kate Quinn

If you want a book with some teeth in it’s fight scenes, depth in its characters, and a rollercoaster ride of plot development so intense you forget to make dinner-this is your book. I give this book five out of five stars for living up to its well deserved acclaim, taking me back to ancient Rome, making me girl crush on some amazing strong female characters, and throw up my hands and cheer like my team just won the super bowl at a surprise plot twist.

What I loved:
1) The fight scenes, it takes talent to write scenes this good and Quinn dishes out combat of both the physical and verbal variety. There were several gladiator scenes, each unique, and served to push the story forward and sometimes pull out unique details about different characters. I really liked the banquet/orgy/catfight between Thea and Lady Lepida, It was a rare sequence I found fiercely intense. I loved hating bad girl Lepida, she added all kinds of fun crazy.
2) The relationships, wound the books plot together and breathed life into a fantastic cast of characters. The tension and connection displayed between families, friends, and lovers was marvelous. The romance between Thea and Arius was built in a few simple scenes, but it was true to life and unique. It was wonderful to see how their connection carried through the rest of the book.
3) The environment was drawn well. The beauty as well as the ugly underbelly of ancient Rome was portrayed masterfully. The details of this historical place and culture are used in the right amounts and never became gratuitous or irrelevant to the action in the story.

*Content disclaimers for squeamish or under age readers: The violence is graphic but appropriate for the era and theme of the book. The sexual content is discussed more than it is portrayed, and what is shown is mild and tastefully done.