Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Pumpkin Roll: 3 Stars

Pumpkin Roll by Josi Kilpack

I must fully admit that this is NOT my type of book.  It's one in a culinary mystery series.  It's very cookie cutter (pun totally intended). The only reason I read the book was because of my book club. In fact, it was my sister's pick.  Both her and my mother and big fans of Josi Kilpack. I am not. I guess that just shows you how different a family can be.  :)

Now, just because I was not a huge fan of the book, doesn't mean it was terribly written or a horrible book.  The book had a purpose and target audience.  I was not in that target.

The books was meant as a lighthearted mystery with some delicious recipes. The story wasn't supposed to be legendary, life-changing, or earth-shattering. Its just supposed to be a fun read with recipes.  Personally, I didn't like the addition of the recipes.  She talked a lot about cooking and how she did it, which added nothing to the plot. That being said, the recipes are her gimmick and it works for her and her readers.

In Pumpkin Roll, we join Sadie Hoffmiller on what seems to be one of many adventures. This is the sixth book in the series (the first I read) but works fine as a stand alone novel. Sadie is visiting Boston with boyfriend Pete as Pete is watching his three grandsons while their parents are out of town. Its doesn't take Sadie long to find trouble.  The young boys are convinced the neighbor across the street is a witch and after seeing her act strange a few times, Sadie's curiosity has been peaked.

This is where the story begins to turn.  Sadie decides to try different tactics to get closer to the woman to find out her story, including baking cookies for her and offering to help her when she seems in pain while doing yard work.  As things get spookier, Sadie goes much further and begins to dig up information on the woman and attempts to call the woman's sister.  When the sister does not respond as Sadie had hoped, she basically begins to stalk her to meet her in person.  In doing so, she somewhat attacks the woman verbally and reveals just how much "research" she has done.  Call me crazy, but I would have run from Sadie and called the police.  I mean, can you imagine a woman calling you on the phone and you giving her the brush off, only for her to show up at an event you were invited to that night spouting off information about your sister and recently deceased father?

But of course the story doesn't end there.

There begin to be "attacks" on the house. Items showing up unexplained, light bulbs bursting, bedroom doors slamming, lights being turned on and off, and so forth.  How does someone keep getting into the house? How have they been unseen and unheard?  Is it a ghost? 

By the time Sadie and Pete finally call the cops, things get much worse.  The "witch" gets attacked in her own home and Pete and Sadie are the top suspects.

The story was good and an interesting read.  I did not predict the ending, so it was a surprise. But I can't get over my issues with Sadie's character.  I just didn't like her.  There were also dropped plot lines ( of my pet peeves!). Seriously...who killed the dog? (And really...killing a dog?  I hate when the dog dies!)

This is my first, and last, culinary mystery.

Rating: PG 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Ominoius/Scary Book Covers

It's time to participate in The Broke and the Bookish's Top Ten Tuesday!

This weeks theme:  Top Ten Scariest Looking Book Covers

They say don't judge a book by it's cover, but we all do.  How can you not?  Images evoke emotions. 

Books I Have Read: 
1. The Dinner: I picked this book up solely because of the cover. 

2. Red Rain: I was so excited for this one and the cover was amazing.  But it was more than disappointing.

3. The Black Dahlia: The story sounded so intriguing and the cover is can't describe it.  Even then, the book was disappointing.

4. The Devil in the White City: This book is just the Chicago World's Fair location, but with a touch of evil.

5. Dracula: What a face!

Books I Want to Read:

6. I Am The Cheese

7. I Hunt Killers

8. The Replacement

9. Haunted

10. Hush, Hush

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Am I a Better Writer in my Sleep?

I learned real quick in college that I am a better writer late at night than at any other time. I can recall several times crawling into bed after a long day and slowly drifting off to sleep, when suddenly whatever paper I had been researching that day would suddenly start writing itself.  So I drug myself out of my nice, warm, and cozy bed, to purge the words from my brain. As annoying as it was, I did very well in college and aced most of my papers. Then I graduated.

No longer required to read and write every day, I stopped.  I didn't read books and I never wrote.  I got a full time job and that was that.  Late at night I would still feel inspired to get up and write, but since there was no urgency, I would roll over and go back to sleep.  When I finally decided years later that I wanted to write again, I was no longer feeling inspired at bed time.

That's when I started reading A LOT more and writing reviews. Its slowly helping my creativity come back.

But is it coming back in my sleep?

I have weird dreams in which I make up word or phrases!

I try to fall asleep on my back but always wake up on my side. This isn't great because my hips hurt. Well, the other night I had a dream that I went to see a doctor about my aching hip.  He told me I was a victim of the "self-prop".  Apparently the "self-prop" is when you prop yourself up on your side in your sleep. I was so convinced this was a real thing, I Googled it the next day.

Also, not long after I got my dog I had a weird dream about her name.  My husband named her Codex (after Felicia Day's character's avatar in her web series, The Guild). In my dream, I told people her full name was California Codex, which made her nickname Cali Cody. Cali Cody?  Seriously?  Where did my brain come up with that one?

The list goes on and on.  So this begs the questions, am I a better and more creative writer in my sleep? I guess I better learn to use a pen in my sleep then!

Sarah Klockars-Clauser for

Friday, October 25, 2013

New Content Rating System!!!

It has come to my attention that many people who read my blog and take my recommendations are often caught off guard with the content of some books.

So for those of you who are a little more conservative, I am now rating all my reviews with the standard movie ratings!

At the end of all my reviews you will see one of the following ratings:

G: Safe for all readers
PG: Safe for most readers, likely not for children under six
PG-13: Safe for teen readers and adults; some language possible
R: Adult content; a lot of language possible

Happy reading!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Perks of Being A WallFlower: 3 Stars

 The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Charlie is a 15-year-old boy who begins to write anonymous letters to someone he heard was a good listener. He needs to vent to someone about his life and he chooses this tactic. Charlie is struggling with high school and his family. Like most kids of that age, Charlie is trying to find out who he is a where he belongs. He also has black outs and a stint in a facility he simply doesn't understand. With the help of new friends like Sam and Patrick and a teacher who sees his potential, Charlie is slowly figuring out life.

I was torn with this book. Initially, I didn't like it. This kid is supposed to be like a quiet, sensitive genius, but he writes like an 11-year-old and that really bugged me. Plus, the first half of the book is filled with sex. Not steamy, hot sex (which I am not a fan of reading anyway) but explanations of date rape, teenage masturbation, and more. I don't want to read about a 15-year-old kid jacking off. But about halfway through the book, I began to love Charlie. It took awhile but I finally started to understand him. But not only him, I also loved Sam and Patrick. The characters were real with real issues dealing with them in a real way.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Character Names

Its that time of the week again. Time for The Broke and The Bookish's Top Ten Tuesday! 

This week's theme: Top Ten Character Names

As a Wannabe Writer, I am always looking for a good character name. A character name really needs to embody the character.  You want the name to represent the character and all the characteristics that go with it.  This....this is not easy.

1. Major Major Major Major:

By far one of the best names ever created. His name represented a horrific childhood and an exterior no one could ever get past. Major Major Major Major is of the the characters in the book you pity the most; not only because his name is terrible, but because it basically isolates him for the rest of his life.

2. Sherlock Holmes:

The name is bold and unique, yet simple and memorable. Perfect for the world's most famous detective.

3. Augustus Waters:

This is a name you hear about a thousand times in this novel. Its spoken with love, admiration, and originality.  Its a name that encompasses all that he stood for.

4. Sirius Black:

Let's face it, this name is kind of badass. Just like Sirius.

5. Dexter Morgan:

While not overly sinister, the name Dexter sounds a little....well...evil. Perfect for a serial killer that only kills bad guys.

6. Rooster Cogburn:

The name sounds like a drunk, hardcore cowboy. It fits the character to a T.

7. Atticus Finch:

Its wise, its warm.  Its Atticus.

8. Boo Radley:

Ok, so Boo isn't his actual name. But you have to admit, its a rather fitting nickname for a ghostlike character.

9. Abraham Van Helsing:

Now here is a sophisticated man with an extreme side. Abraham is a biblical name, the name of an old wise man. Val Helsing is just hardcore.  Add the two together and you get one smart tanker.

10. Edmond Dantès/The Count of Monte Cristo/Lord Wilmore/Sinbad the Sailor/Abbé Busoni/Monsieur Zaccone/Number 34/The Maltese:

Now here is a writer that knows what he's doing. In The Count of Monte Cristo, the main character changes repeatedly during the book.  Each time, he take on a new name.  Each name represents who he is at that time. Brilliant!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Year of Magical Thinking: 4 Stars


 The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

I chose this book because I needed a "Y" to read through the alphabet and this popped up on a list of books at the library. I ordered it without looking into what the book was about. The book is a non-fiction about writer Joan Didion's year of attempting to cope after her husband's sudden and completely unexpected death. The timing of this book was rather bizarre.

Two nights before starting this book, I had a rather vivid dream that my husband died. I don't know how it happened; all I knew was that he was gone.  I was trying to understand that in my head and figure out what to do, all the while thinking that I needed to talk to him. I was craving conversation with him, since in moments of tragedy (or really anytime), he's the first person I go to. I was torn between knowing he was gone and thinking I really needed him to come home now so we could talk.  Needless to say, I woke up panic stricken.

Joan Didion felt the same way, but unfortunately for her, it wasn't a dream.  For weeks she woke up, wondering why her he wasn't in bed, only to remember he was gone. She refused to give his clothes and shoes away for months, because he would need them "when" he came back.  This was a woman who, when finally seeing the doctor after he was rushed to the hospital, said "He's dead, isn't he?" She ordered the autopsy, made funeral arrangements, and made sure to call and let everyone know personally before the newspaper reported it.  As an outsider, one would say she was handling it very well. She was, as the doctor referred to her, a "cool customer".  But she wasn't.

She missed her husband. She was not ready, nor prepared to say goodbye. Her brain was responding to her grief and trauma by making her feel like he was coming back. She simply kept this to herself.

On top of losing her husband, at the time he died, her daughter was in a coma. She was her only child. Although her daughter eventually recovered and was released, she suffered a brain injury and was soon back in the hospital. She too, eventually passed away, less than two years after her father.

Joan Didion was forced to cope with her husband's death while attempting to cope with her daughter's deteriorating health.While this book is heavy-hearted, I liked how honest she was with her grief. While many of her reactions were normal or typical for someone who is grieving, they were not normal or typical for her. They were reactions that she didn't fully understand.  How can you KNOW your husband is dead and still plan for his return? How can everyone say how well you are doing, yet you feel lost?

The truth is, no matter how well people handle death on the outside, grief is not easy to deal with.  Nor does it go away after a few weeks or months. While this book only covers her first year after her husband's death (and another book covers her daughters death), I am sure she still suffers from the grief of both deaths.

I think this is a great book to read to help understand trauma and grief, especially if you yourself have not gone though it.

However, I will give this warning. Considering her and her husband are extremely successful writers, her lifestyle is very different than mine.  I found at times that I was jealous of her life, despite the fact that all of her immediate family had passed away in less than two years. But that is simply because making sure all my bills are paid every month is a challenge.  Due to her success, she does not worry about money.  Does that make her tragedy any less traumatic?  Of course not.  But if you are sensitive to people who live a higher lifestyle than you, you might skip this. While I never felt like she came off uppity, she does talk about many things I will never experience and people I will never meet.  But that is her life and that's what the book was about. To skip over that, would be untrue to her reality.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Fahrenheit 451: 3 Stars

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

I wanted to like this book far more than I actually did. I read a few of Bradbury's short stories when I was in college and loved them. One in particular, The Murderer, really stuck with me. Considering that Fahrenheit 451 has a very similar theme as The Murderer, I was excited.

Overall, this was a good book. I found it very interesting that Bradbury described so much of today's technology before it actually existed. I also feel similar with the two themes I noted in the book, although his story is obviously greatly exaggerated.

The first theme is that of technology actually hurting us despite it's purposing of helping. While I love technology and obviously use a lot of it, it does have some disadvantages. For instance, with a profound numbers of ways to watch entertaining shows and the ability to create them with ease, there is a plethora of crap out there. Most of America could tell you what happened on the latest episode of Jersey Shore, but not what's happening in the world. Not to mention our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. If we aren't entertained immediately, we often stop paying attention.

The second theme I noted was that we can lose individuality with our need to end pain, sadness, and offense. We spend so much time trying to make sure everyone is happy and that no one feels offended or left out. While that is not bad, the fact that we are losing personal rights and individuality is. It is not happening to the extreme we see in the book, but it is happening. We take pills when we feel sad to help us feel better. We avoid saying anything that might possibly offend anyone within earshot, often times hiding who we are and what we believe. We believe more and more that what we have to say shouldn't be heard, just in case.

The main reason I didn't like the book is that I was bored. I could see where the novel was going from the beginning and felt that Bradbury took too long to get there. After awhile I was bored. I realize that this wasn't a long novel, but I feel like he could have shortened this novel a great deal and still made the same impact.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Was Forced to Read

 Its time again for The Broke and The Bookish's Top Ten Tuesday!

This week's theme: Top Ten Books I Was Forced to Read

1. To Kill a Mockingbird: Freshman Year, High School English

This class was practically torture.  It was sixth period, in a portable building (a.k.a. a trailer) towards the end of summer.  It was hot and muggy in that room and the teacher smelled, well, like he had been in a hot trailer all day.  But, I was introduced to a book that I could not put down.  Not only that, but it's the only book I have read more than twice.  In fact, I have read it about seven times.  I love it!

2. Dracula: Book Club, last year

I picked up this book about a year ago before Halloween.  While it has a few parts that drag, I found it thrilling and exciting.

3. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: College Freshman, English 101

This was my first quarter in college and the professor had a whole slew of "banned" books for the curriculum.  After we read this one, we had a huge debate about whether or not it is considered a "racist" book.  I am still in awe that I was one of the few who said absolutely not.

4. The Secret Garden: Sixth Grade

I read this book in the sixth grade. I didn't want to at all.  A book about a garden?  Ugh.  But I loved it!

5. The Outsiders: 8th Grade, English

I had never even heard of this book before this class and I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite it making me very sad.

6. The Odyssey: Sophomore Year, High School English

We also read The Iliad this year, but it was the Odyssey I really enjoyed.

7. James and the Giant Peach: 4th Grade

I honestly can't remember the full plot of this book, other than I loved it when I was a kid.

8. The Diary of a Young Girl: 6th Grade

Every person should read this book. Everyone.

9. Langston Hughes: Freshman, Poetry 101

I didn't read this book, just a bunch of his poems.  He was pretty awesome.

10. Romeo and Juliet: Freshman Year, High School English

Ok, so I am not a big fan of this play, BUT....this was my first Shakespeare play and I have gone on to read many more. It was my gateway drug.  :)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Art of Racing in the Rain: 3 Stars

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

A cute story from the perspective of a dog. At the end of his life, a dog (Enzo) reflects on the time he has spent with his owner and the trials they have faced together. The dog feels that, lacking only a human tongue and opposable thumbs, he is practically human.

The story is cute and dear to the hearts of dog owners. I enjoyed it because I would like to think my dog thinks as much as Enzo does.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

My Haul

This last weekend there was a sale at the local library.  Being an avid reader who is not a fan of the Kindle or Nook, I have one dream in regards to books.  Ever since I first saw Disney's Beauty and the Beast as a child, all I wanted was the beast's library.

Seriously, what reader doesn't love this?!

Anyhow, hopefully that background helps explain what I did....

I bought 78 books! 

Ok, so it only cost me about $30, but it was a little crazy.  Especially when the worker's told me I need to pull my car around because I had so many books.  Eek! 

Here are some highlights: 

My husband LOVES Tom Clancy and I was able to get quite a few hardbacks.

 Three books on tape were included in this haul, including The Yankee Years by Joe Torre, a book I have wanted to read.  Plus the Oxford Thesaurus is going to help with my writing. :) 

I LOVE John Grisham!  I have read most of these but don't own them.  Now I have them in hardback. 

 I got an F. Scott Fitzgerald set.  Whoo hoo! 

Ok, so in my mad dash to buy books...I accidentally got two duplicates.  Whoops!

One step closer in my dream of the beast's library!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Disappointing Series Enders

Its time again for The Broke and the Bookish's themed Top Ten list of the week. This week's theme is Top Ten Disappointing Series Enders.

As I have mentioned several times before, I do not like series. In fact, the only series I have read and completed is the Harry Potter series. So it, by default, would be the most disappointing series ending I have ever read.  It also is the BEST I have ever read, since it's the ONLY one I have read. So I can't really make a list.  I asked my sister, who did one of my previous series related lists for me, and she had two.

Danylle's Picks:

1. A Series of Unfortunate Events - I would seriously like to meet the person who finished this series and did NOT think "Hey, I just read 13 books (13 BOOKS!!) for NOTHING!"  It was a complete waste of time that I will never get back.  The series really went nowhere.  It was very lame!

2. The Uglies - I liked the 1st book until it ended with the need to start completely over at the beginning of the 2nd book because the main character's memory is wiped. Then we get somewhere plot-wise in the 2nd book only to have it all undone again causing us to start over in the 3rd book.  The only likable characters die in the 3rd book and it ends sad and depressing.  It felt like a waste of time. Hated this series!

So since this week I was only able to name two (and that wasn't even me!), I decided I needed my own top ten.  I decided to go in the route of disappointing books. So here you go, my top ten most disappointing books:

1. Inferno by Dan Brown: Being a fan of Robert Langdon, I was excited for the release of this book but it was filled with disappointment.

2. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card: I have heard nothing but great things about this book.  While it wasn't awful, I was incredibly disappointed.

3. The Collectors by David Baldacci: This is actually the second in a Camel Club series.  I liked the first one and decided to carry on, thinking they were stand alone novels with the same characters.  Sadly, this one ended on a cliff hanger.  I hate that.

4. The Dinner by Herman Koch: I had been looking forward to reading this one for awhile.  It wasn't a bad book, but it wasn't great either.  It didn't live up to the hype.

5. Red Rain by R.L. Stine: Ugh....this one destroyed my childhood.

6. Codex 632 by Jose Rodrigues Dos Santos: I may have only picked up this book because my dog's name is Codex, but it sounded so good.  Nope, disappointing.

7. The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy: A murder mystery based on a real murder mystery?  Yes!  A crappy book about two annoying cops and little about the actual crime?  No thanks.

8. Dexter in the Dark by Jeff Lindsay: I love the character of Dexter....but this book was way off track.

9. Sex on the Moon by Ben Mezrich: This non-fiction was definitely more fiction and excuses.

10. The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane: BORING!  That's all I can say.