Sunday, 28 February 2016

Book Review: Splintered by Kelly Miller

*I was sent this book free of charge so I could read it and create this review*

I thoroughly enjoyed Splintered by Kelly Miller. This thriller is told from five characters viewpoints.  Fast paced storytelling combined with short chapters made it easy to read, even in short bursts of time.  Ideal for a working mom like me!

A teenage girl makes up a story about an attempted abduction in hopes to win back her father's affections.  Her mother is emotionally absent and as a result the young girl doesn't have anywhere to turn when the story gets out that she lied for attention.

A young man was raised by an abusive father who abducted young girls to "play with" at his whim.  He now feels his ability to restrain those feelings in himself crumbling.  Enter the young teenager on the news who lied about an abduction attempt.

The teenage girl does disappear not even a week later, but police label her a runaway, due to her home situation and lies about a previous abduction.  Can she survive until someone finds her?  Will the young man become his father?

I found it took the book a little while to create the suspense required for a thriller.  The backstory was very well fleshed out, but by halfway through the book I started wondering where the "real" conflict is - what kind of climax was likely to happen and when.

The book did not disappoint.  Once the pace picked up and the stories of all the characters began to come together I had a hard time putting the book down!  And after finishing the story I wanted to find other titles by this author.  I really enjoyed this story and all the characters involved.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Snow Day or My Day As A Stay Home Parent

This winter was slow getting started, but February seems to be making up for it.  We've had two snow days in two weeks.  One of those days I was lucky enough to get to be home with the girls all day.

Let's be frank here - I love going to work and being away from the kids.  I'm almost never home alone with them for 8+ hours (unless you count overnight, which doesn't actually count.)  Now that they're older, and play together pretty well, it's not quite the stress-zone it used to be when they were completely dependant on constant adult supervision and interaction.

I'm happy to say my "mom anxiety" has actually settled down a bit.  I feel as though the girls are learning how to be independent, and slightly more responsible (post about that here), and sometimes they even can get their own food - as long as it's cereal or granola bars.

I took some pictures during our "snow day" so I could share with you all the joys of being home with the kids all day long.  I chose to empty the dishwasher in the morning and when I returned to the living room they had emptied the toy box completely, and every stuffy they own (except for the 100 they each have in their rooms) was on the floor.

People wonder why I don't sit down and watch a movie with the girls.  This was a perfect example.  They put on a movie (after cleaning up 10,000 stuffies) and sat and watched it until it was about 3/4 of the way through.  Then they turned it off and went upstairs to play.  Like what?  Who watches 3/4 of a movie?  I mean it's not like they hadn't seen it before (it was Toy Story 2), but man.  Luckily I was trying to sit and read so it didn't really impact my life much.  And they did return to it maybe an hour later and watch the end.  I'm still amazed how quickly kids can be distracted, or get bored, by what they're doing.  Odd ducks, kids.

Lunch was fine - random stuff, you know.  Carrot sticks, cheese and crackers, bagels and cream cheese, eat what you feel like and then go play.

Afternoon play included craft time.  Which, for my kids, is just another excuse to make a huge mess.  And this was the time I decided to take a few minutes outside to check the build up of snow/ice/water that was falling from the sky.  I got soaked, they created chaos.  But then they cleaned up - without a fight.  I did hope Rose would practice her cutting skills - so she came upstairs while I was showering (after getting soaked outside) to tell me she made one cut in one piece of paper!  That's great Rose, but that won't improve your scissor skills.  Emma is the great crafter in our household.  Rose would rather just look at everything, make a huge mess, and then go find something else to do.  In this case it was have a freezie.

While I was in the shower (for 10 minutes, at the most) Rose came upstairs to talk to me.  "Look at what I have Mommy!" she says.  How does she know I'm right in the middle of washing my hair, with shampoo about to run into my eyes?  And she's not the most patient.  "LOOK MOM!"  So I peek out around the shower curtain.  Now I have to point out that I wear glasses.  I can barely see clearly past the end of my nose.  So I look out, see that a small figure is standing there holding something.  I say "Cool!  What'cha got there?" and she tells me "Emma got me a thing from the freezer!"  Huh?  "Oh, have you got a freezie?" I ask.  "No, there was none, so Emma said 'You can have a frozen yogurt tube, or you can have nothing.'"  That sounds like Emma.  So she was eating a frozen yogurt tube.  I have never had success getting her to try one.  She gobbled it down like it was candy (but not before managing to dribble some onto the couch - where they are not supposed to sit with food...)  Sisters, eh?

After crafts they asked for a 3D movie.  My first thought was that I didn't know what I needed to do to play a 3D movie.  We have the tv and the blu-ray player for it, but I was worried I'd need to actually do something.  Well worry not, the dohickeys all work together and it automatically works in 3D.  Yay!  The hardest part was finding where the 3D glasses were...

Of course the movie they picked for afternoon viewing was Toy Story 3.  This is my 'guaranteed to cry like crazy at the end' movie.  So didn't they wait until almost the end to ask me to sit with them and watch.  And since I spent a decent part of the day reading my book (in the same room as them but not really engaged) I had to do it.  And so I watched, and the tears came, and it was sweet like it always is.  Then I had to make dinner.

Despite the crazy weather Emma's dance class was still on.  Hubby got home at a good time, we ate dinner and off they went to dance class.  I was actually quite impressed with our day.  Almost all messes were cleaned up without much fuss, and no major meltdowns occurred.  I got some reading done, and a book review created.  Makes me feel like I could do this full-time parenting thing, once in a while.  The only thing the day was missing was a nap - for me!

Friday, 26 February 2016

First Product Review Coming - VoxBox

Fun news!  I've been approved to try out a VoxBox!  This box is a L'Oreal hair thing - something about hair colour.  Not sure yet what it really is, but I'm totally excited!

It looks like I'll be colouring my hair - not really a big deal.  My "28 washes" colour from October is still hanging around, although growing out quite nicely.  I'm curious how this will work - are they just sending me hair colour?  Do I get a choice of shades?  Guess I'll see what arrives in this VoxBox.

VoxBox is just a name this influencer company, Influenster, gives to its giveaway boxes.  They send you qualifying surveys to see if you fit with their products.  The one I did about hair colour was probably a month ago, so I had almost forgotten about it!

This is my first non-book review type thing.  I guess once I get the box and "check in" with it I get further instructions.  There's also a Twitter party to participate in (let's hope they pick some time when I'm actually home!) and a survey to do when I'm "finished."

Sounds interesting.  I don't know how long until the VoxBox gets here, but I'm sure it'll be soon.  They have a "days to complete" on my profile page so let's hope it's on its way!

Watch for my review of this L'Oreal product - with pictures!  I hope it works out okay for me.  And I hope this means I also get to try out other new products, between books I'm reading, of course!

Okay, enough rambling about this - now I wait and see.  Stay tuned to see what really shows up with the VoxBox, and what I really need to do.  Til next time!


Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Book Review: Mind Over Murder - A Jake Roberts Novel

*I was sent this book free of charge so I could read it and create this review*

Reading Cary Allan Stone's next instalment in the Jake Roberts series was more enjoyable than the first one.  The story flowed coherently, the characters were well rounded (bonus - I knew most of them from the previous book), and the third person switches were much easier to follow.

I really enjoyed this detective story.  Another book where you know what happened and who's committing the murders right from the beginning.  It was very enjoyable to follow Roberts along in his quest to figure out "whodunit."

I'm not sure if it's due to the author having more writing experience, but I had a much easier and enjoyable time reading this book.  There were still some comma placement issues, and a few areas where I had to read a sentence over again, but much better writing and grammar use in this story.

There are 2 more books that follow Jake Roberts - I have both to read yet and I'm looking forward to them!  Mr. Stone has created a great character (and he's killed off a few great characters too!) and I hope his next "situations" are as riveting as I found this one.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

My Disrupted 'Me Day'

Wednesdays are my day for me.  I'm (usually) home, husband and kid free, for most of the day.  I use this time to do laundry, sometimes tackle an organizing project or area of the house, do some other random cleaning (or baking!), and on a good day also throw in some exercise time.  Oh, and I have at least one show I watch recorded from earlier in the week that I catch up on on a Wednesday.

This has been my schedule for a while now.  When I'm home alone I feel like I can be so much more productive.  And now I schedule in blog stuff on Wednesdays as well.  I aim to create one post and do 2 hours of reading of books I've been asked to review.  Oh, and I try to sift through Twitter and FB feeds of other people (and blogs) I enjoy, as well as visiting my influencer-style websites I've joined.  My days are pretty full up now, I guess, after I see it all written out!

Anyway, this past Wednesday started out just fine.  I shovelled out the end of the driveway (with hubbys help) and then I came in and had ice cream for breakfast - with bananas so it wasn't a total fail! - while I watched my show.  After that I spent a few minutes online, browsing through Twitter and other blog-related pages, and half-assed watching another show on tv.  And then hubby came home.

It's not especially abnormal for him to come home occasionally during the day.  Sometimes he needs lunch, or he forgot something, or he just had a half hour to spare between jobs.  But this week he was HOME.  As in not going anywhere.  And it wasn't even lunch time!  I hadn't done anything (besides the hefty load of shovelling) but put some laundry in and watch some tv.  I thought I might go for a walk with the camera and see what snow-related beauty I could find. (Did I mention we'd had almost 50cms of snow the day before?)

So that disrupted my whole day.  I didn't know what to do.  Do I make him lunch, or go ahead and have that entire freezer pizza I'd planned to eat myself?  Should I pretend to look more busy than I was?  I don't think he knows how much stuff I do checking up on all my blog related sites and pages and influencer stuff.  It just looks like I'm wasting time on the net (which I'm sometimes doing too.)

And then he wants to talk to me.  I'm trying to be wife-y and sit near him while I'm reading my book and he's "working" on his computer - which I'll say looks to me like what I'm sure I look like to him when I'm trying to catch up on other people's blogs and stuff - but then he wants to talk.  Not saying I don't like talking to him, but I'm reading here!  And for reviews even, so can I just sit and read?

Then we get the call that Rose is not feeling well at school.  So we collect her and bring her home, but at least she then goes to bed and sleeps for an hour or more.  But now I feel my day is shot.  It's 2pm, I've only got one load of laundry through, we might as well meet Emma at the bus so we don't have to schlep over to daycare later to collect her, and I'm thinking about what time I should start dinner so it's ready to eat before we have to take miss Emma to dance class.

My saving grace was actually being the chauffeur parent, and taking Emma to her Wednesday night dance classes (for 2 hours!)  I managed to sit quietly with some other Moms also doing work and finish reading my book and create my review.  I even got a chapter into my next book!  My dance teacher and some of the ladies from the Monday night adult ballet class thought I should join them for the Wednesday adult ballet (which is a level above what I do on Mondays) but I'm not ready.  I do love to watch them though!

Moral of the story?  Don't put too much stock into alone time - it doesn't always work out like you hoped it would!  At least not when you're a parent.  I survived my day, and did feel accomplished at the end of it.  And it gave me fodder for a blog post - so win win!

Leave me a comment about your botched "me time" plans (or lack of plans), or just say hi so I know you read this to the end!  Thanks loyal readers.


Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Book Review: The Military Communications Unit

*I was sent this book free of charge so I could read it and create this review*

Gordon Smith approached me and asked if I'd read his work of Australian fiction.  Of course, I couldn't say no.  I don't read a lot of historical fiction, but I'm willing to try out any genre as a book reviewer.

The Ministry Communications Unit was an easy read.  The story layout was clear, the approach and flow was straightforward, and I felt like it really could have happened just the way it's written.

I did have a little confusion with the characters in the beginning as the character development was lacking in some areas.  A lot of names without a lot of backstory can create a tough environment to keep straight.  Eventually the names became more clear which allowed me to follow the story more smoothly.

This book evolves over a very long time span.  As it takes place during the second world war, we are quite invested in the characters over the time of the war and it seems quite natural to follow the characters to their logical endpoint.

The only real issue I had is the proofreading and/or editing is absent in this book.  There are misused commas and semicolons, as well as spelling mistakes and just wrong word usage and grammar mistakes.  I think this book would have benefited hugely by having a few other people read it to check for errors before it was published.

As a work of historical fiction I think The Ministry Communications Unit is a very successful story.  The plot is well conceived, the characters actions seem fitting for the time and the background of the war provides an easily researchable and acceptable scenario for this story.  With a little editing I would say this book could be extremely successful.

Kids And Responsibility - We Must Have Done Something Right

I never imagined, in my wildest dreams, how "good" my kids would turn out to be.  In the beginning I (almost) thought we had made a mistake choosing to birth out our first tiny creature that consumed every minute of our existence for the first 6 months of her life.  The non-stop crying and nursing (and sleepless nights, and mom tears) I now see were totally worth it.

My first baby is now 7 years old.  We have had tons of struggles with her in the intervening years, but I am now starting to see her blossoming into her own person with her own personality.  Not to say she hasn't had personality since she's been born (because she definitely has!) but she has begun to display more independent and responsible traits.

Since my first baby we did create and birth out a second creature, but she's only 4 and is still a bit stuck on her toddler traits (like how she never leaves me alone and is always in my lap!)  This creature number 2 was not nearly as demanding as number 1 - or not until the last 2 years or so.  Now the two seem to get along very well (most of the time) and apparently are "so good" when they're out with anyone else.  Frankly, that's the highest praise you can give a parent - if my kids are going to misbehave, I'd much rather they do it with me!

Anyway, back to the 7 year old.  She has now taken on the responsibility of looking after the 4 year old.  I don't mean that in any "child labour laws" way, just that if we are out and creature 2 suggests she has to go to the bathroom, number 1 immediately suggests she'll take her.  Sure!  I do go and check on them after a few minutes if they seem to be dawdling, but usually they go and come back, and sometimes they've even washed their hands!

Creature one also takes direction very well.  She listens when I tell her the "rules" of a new place or scenario (and promptly tells when creature two is not following those rules), looks after her sister when they need to cross the road (or are in a parking lot), and has really learned to help re-direct a game when bossy little sis is mad about the way they're playing.

I'm not saying that my little miss #2 doesn't listen to rules and such, she's just very young yet and doesn't necessarily understand the importance of having these rules.

Every day I'm feeling more confident in creature one's level of responsibility.  She can can be bull-headed and easily distracted, and when she digs in her heels, watch out!  But overall I'm glad she's the first born.  I'm sure my second born will be more responsible and independent over the coming years, but she's also more easily scared, and more emotional than my first.  I think that's where creature two's clingyness stems from - she's a lover, but can also be a fighter.

Raising kids is such a roller coaster.  Every day is different, and sometimes it's hard to enjoy every minute of it.  I don't think I will ever lose my "mom anxiety" but I'm happy to report it does lessen as the years go by.  My next hefty mom anxiety time will be with dating and driving and all those other teenage year joys.


Monday, 15 February 2016

Book Review: After The Evil - A Jake Roberts Novel

*I was sent this book free of charge so I could read it and create this review*

Cary Allen Stone has created a series of books around a character named Jake Roberts.  This is the first book in this series.  Cary sent me all 4 books in this series but asked for them to be reviewed separately.  Definitely not a problem for me as I have a few other authors waiting to be read as well - I can intersperse his novels with theirs.

The story of After the Evil is a police drama.  Not quite a murder mystery because you know who's doing it right from the first page.  But the story plays out about how you'd expect.

I had a very hard time getting "into" this book.  There was quite a bit of jumping from one character to another, and it was sometimes tough to realize who was speaking (or thinking.)  As the novel progressed, the scattered feeling dissipated so the storyline was easier to follow.

Another minor problem that detracted from the story was the punctuation and editing of the sentences and paragraphs.  Often times commas were incorrectly placed, opening or closing quotations were missed in spots and and other grammar items (contractions etc) were not used in the correct context.  Unfortunately all the grammar errors contributed to my not enjoying this story as much as I could have.  I had to re-read parts of some paragraphs just to figure out what was meant, when all it needed was a little editing.

Overall (once I got past the grammar issues) I thought the story was well thought out, and well executed.  The characters were interesting, the plot flowed quite smoothly and the end leaves you wanting more.  Good thing, since there are 3 more books in this series!

I'm looking forward to reading the next stories, and now that I know the editing could be a bit better I can try to gloss over the errors to get to the great storyline.  I look forward to seeing what Cary Allen Stone has in store for Jake Roberts next.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Cold Days, Cabin Fever and Reading, Reading, Reading

It's February.  It's cold (at least this weekend).  I'm suffering from Cabin Fever.

Yes, my birthday is in February, but that was 11 days ago - ancient history.  Yes, Valentine's Day is tomorrow but we "celebrated" yesterday (dinner and movie) - almost ancient history also.  Yes, there's a holiday this Monday - seems too far away to think about.

Today the "high" temp didn't even reach -20C.  The kids asked to go outside to play and I had to say no.  "Maybe tomorrow or Monday" I told them.  I hope that's the truth.

This time of year I start to yearn for the garden, for the kids to just "go outside" without 15 minutes of preparation, and for the days of hanging out the laundry - although I did this last week during the unseasonably warm spell.

I'm creating my own "isolation" by saying yes to reading all these books for review.  And also by trying to stay warm, indoors.  Hubby took the girls to a movie this afternoon and I spent 2 hours reading.  Finished one book and created a review (yet to be published) and got 1/3 of the way through the next book.

Sadly I'm having trouble with these few books.  The editing is sub-par and they have a lot of grammar mistakes.  It's almost impossible for me to read "over" grammar mistakes.  I desperately want to correct them.  I have to practically turn off that side of my mind, but then reading is not as fun.

Anyway, the family is home, Rose is clamouring to be in my lap, and the laundry is in various stages of being done.  Oh, and dinner time is approaching.  I guess I'll make something delicious and healthy that no one will eat - that seems to be the norm these days too!

Enough Mom-griping.  I think the Groundhogs didn't see their shadows this year so spring must be on the way, right?  Until then I'd like some ideas of stuff to do, inside, to ward off these cabin fever feelings I'm hating having right now.  So share with me in the comments, would ya?


Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Blog Update - 9 Months In

Today's post is just a "what's up with me" post.

My blogging and social media world is going pretty well right now.  I feel like I have some "regular" readers (besides my family), my Twitter following is growing well (almost 1000 followers!), and I'm getting some more likes on my Facebook page.  This is all very exciting for me.

I've had lots of interest in my book review side of this "business."  So much, in fact, that I'm starting to feel a little pressure there.  And right now I'm reading a book that I'm having trouble with.  I can't get into this book and I really don't want to have to write a negative review.  I'm so not a negative person!  I can only hope that setting aside some time this afternoon to really give this book my full attention will help me enjoy it better...

And on the topic of book reviews, I've been approached by a website which wants to list me as a "reviewer resource" for his authors.  I was asked how much I charge for a review, so I had to come up with something appropriate.  I was actually glad to give a dollar figure as this is getting quite time consuming.  Once (if?) this gets up and running I'm going to have to start paying attention to this blogging stuff as an income source. (Which is what I was hoping would happen from the get-go!)

Something else of interest (I hope!) that happened to me in relation to my blog: My dance teacher asked me if I'd blog for them!  I said "Get me the details!" so now I'm waiting to hear what exactly they want.  I also sent an email to ask if I'm volunteering this service (which is likely, and totally fine with me) or if I could blog in trade for some free dance classes.  The blog will be either at the Kingston School of Dance website or the Tett Centre's website - or maybe both.  Stay tuned to find out how this plays out!

I've joined an influencer website and I'm finally seeing the potential as far as being able to review items.  I've gotten a few email links to follow and answer some questions about whether they'd like me try out items (sent to me at no charge) and then review them.  Similar to what I'm doing with the book reviews.  The last email I got sent me to a questionnaire about hair dye and whether I'd be willing to try out some hair colour and review it.  I said sure!  My hair colour from October could use some sprucing up.  I may have to join up with Instragram to share my photos of such experiments, but I'll deal with that later if I have to.

If anyone reading this is interested in helping me get further along with doing reviews or anything else that fits my "niche" my email is and I'm open to collaborating with or for any brands, other bloggers or similar.  I like to think I'm pretty friendly and flexible, and I try to check that email at least twice a day so I can stay on top of all my blog-related things!

Thanks for reading today's update.  I want this blog to stay as transparent as possible.  If there's anything you'd like to know about what I do (or don't do) please leave a comment or send an email.  And if you have a line on another influencer site or brand or anything I can join up with to further my blog "business" you can leave that in a comment as well.

Until next time!

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Book Review: Wreck of the Gossamer

*I was sent this book free of charge so I could read it and create this review*

True to it's name Wreck of the Gossamer is the story of a shipwreck which takes place just off Cape Cod in the late 1800s.  Shawn P. McCarthy paints a vivid picture of a ship tossed by storms on the open sea.  It's what happens after the shipwreck that is the main content of this 202 page story.

A young lady discovers a puzzle box washed ashore amongst the wreckage, and by the end of this book she's only discovered a few of the boxes 27 secrets.  She has a few secrets of her own, and the end of this book sees her fleeing an abusive husband.

A man, a thief and a killer, is hunting down items that may have washed ashore from the Gossamer.  He frequents the bars and taverns near to where the wreck occurred, hoping to glean information from the locals about the folks on the boat and what may have been recovered from the sea.

Wreck of the Gossamer is the first in a series: The Puzzle Box Chronicles.  As Book 1 it fulfils it's niche as an introduction to some characters and creates some storylines I'm sure must connect as the Chronicles go forward.  I'm intensely curious what happens to the characters in the next instalment.

This book was a fairly quick read for me, It wasn't one I really needed to sit and concentrate on, so reading a few minutes here and there was great.  Some stories I've read really need my full attention because there are so many characters or such an involved plot.  This book has a very good plot but it also very easy to follow.

A good bit of mystery keeps the reader interested and involved in Wreck of the Gossamer.  I recommend it, especially if the next instalments are close at hand!

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Primary Parenting or How Jobs Fall In Our House

My husband thinks, in our household, there's no such thing as a "primary parent."  I see what he's thinking but I'm convinced that's a natural thing, and no matter how you try there is always a primary parent.  I do think that the primary parent can change at any point - daily, seasonally, or even from morning to evening.

Of course I consider myself the "primary parent" most of the time.  Honestly this is just because I am at home the most.  I feel that parenting also encompasses household tasks.  We have pretty defined "pink" and "blue" jobs (please don't be offended, someone explained them to me this way I thought it was so fitting, if a little stereotypical) in our home.

My "pink" jobs are the laundry, the tidying up (after the kids mostly), and more than half of the meal prep.  His "blue" jobs are putting out the garbage, looking after the cars and the house, and mowing the lawn.  We both can, and do, perform all these tasks, but typically this is how they fall.

In my opinion my jobs are a bit more kid-centric while his are less so.  Doesn't make me a better parent then him - just makes me the one the kids ask for: food items, clothing locating, and any other "where is my..." question.  I'm happy to do those jobs, and sometimes be able to answer those questions.

His jobs allow the kids to "help" him - clean up the yard, tidy the basement (tools and stuff), and carry the recycling bins.  Still equally able to spend time with the kids doing these things, but less likely the kids will ask to take out the garbage, you know?

Dad, though, is also the one who takes them "shopping" the most.  I don't go "shopping" unless I have to.  Groceries are enough for me.  Hubby likes going out and happily lets the girls follow him through Canadian Tire or Home Depot looking at whatever they want.  And apparently he enjoys it and doesn't feel like it's "work" trying to keep track of the kids in a big store when they just stop without saying anything, or wander down aisles when you're busily trying to find either what you're looking for, or someone to help you find what you're looking for.  That's not fun for me.  The kids like to hide, and not listen to me.  This does not help me get my jobs done quickly and efficiently.

And in my home, when it comes to bedtimes I'm still the first choice.  That helps me feel like I'm the primary parent.  Occasionally Rose will ask for Daddy to put her to bed, and I love that!  But mostly the story reading is all me.  I'm secretly sad when I don't get to put them to bed.  But also elated that someone else (Dad or babysitter) can get the job done well in my absence.

I mostly like feeling like the primary parent, but sometimes I just need to hand over the reigns, you know?  I don't want to do it all (and I don't.)  When the kids are constantly asking for "MOM!" I almost lose it.  This is why I started taking ballet class once a week - gives me a break from bedtimes and other "primary parent" duties, and allows hubby a different connection with the girls.

How do the jobs fall in your house?  Do you feel you suffer from "primary parent" syndrome in your house as well?  I'm always interested to hear other's stories, so leave me a comment!