8/28/15

Book Review: Resist, Book 2 of the Resistance Series by Tracy Lawson


 I read a lot of young adult, dystopian themed books throughout the year.  I had not yet read the first book in the Resistance Series by Tracy Lawson--but, I have been looking forward to reading it and the newest release, Resist, as part of a book tour.  What did I think of Resist by Tracy Lawson?

I received complimentary copies of both books in this series with participation in the book tour.  All opinions are my own.

Quick Summary of Resist by Tracy Lawson.  Book Two, Resist picks up this fast-paced dystopian series with the resistance forming against injustice. After their plan to rescue a group of dissenters imprisoned by the OCSD spins out of control, Tommy and Careen are on the run, dodging the quadrant marshals in a headlong dash for the remote mountain headquarters of the Resistance.

Their budding relationship is tested when an attempt to spark a revolution goes awry, and the pair move toward an inevitable confrontation with the forces that terrorize the nation. Will their differing viewpoints drive a wedge between them? And where does love fit in when you’re trying to overthrow the government?

Resist is Another Fast Paced Thriller. Lawson starts the action a little more quickly in this book than she did in the series opener.  Readers are pulled immediately into the storyline and follow some twists and turns through to the end of the book.

Plan to Read the Series in Order.  While you could certainly read this book as a stand alone novel--it was much better in combination with the first book.  Some of the pieces that seemed to be missing in the first novel began to fall in place in Resist--but, the author leaves room for some resolution in the third book.

Would I Recommend Resist by Tracy Lawson?  Once I settled into the author's writing style in the first book--and sorted out the characters and their roles and motives--I enjoyed the storyline.  Resist was a nice bridge from that opening book toward the final book.   While this genre appeals to younger, young adults--middle school ages--some of the scenes in Resist are more geared toward older teens/young adults instead. If you enjoy young adult, dystopian fiction, you may like the author's approach to the story.  

Buy Resist on Amazon

Buy Counteract (The Resistance Series Book 1) on Amazon

About the Author:

Tracy Lawson is an award-winning author of two nonfiction books, and The Resistance Series is her first in the world of young adult novels. Tracy lives in Dallas with her husband, daughter and three spoiled cats.

Aftermath Lounge by Margaret McMullan Book Tour


Hurricane Katrina is still fresh in our memories and our hearts--even 10 years later.  The suffering and loss during that storm were just heartbreaking.  I recently had the opportunity to read and review Aftermath Lounge by Margaret McMullan.  What did I think of her collection of stories about the communities and lives impacted by Hurricane Katrina?

I received a complimentary copy of this book as a book tour participant.  All opinions are my own.
  
Quick Summary of Aftermath Lounge by Maragaret McMullan.  On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina destroyed 95% of the small coastal town of Pass Christian, Mississippi. With a 28-foot storm surge, the highest recorded in U.S. history, 55-foot waves, and winds reaching 120 mph, the town was wiped off the map — temporarily.

Award-winning author Margaret McMullan saw the destruction firsthand. Her family's historic Gulf Coast home — her father’s beloved southern jewel — was one of the houses in Pass Christian devastated by Katrina. Despite the chaos immediately following the storm, McMullan's family was among the first to rebuild and donated to the Red Cross, the Pass Christian fire station, and the Pass Christian library.

During this time, McMullan witnessed small acts of heroism that inspired her to write about the community and its people, and how tragedy shapes our character. In 2010, she was awarded a National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship to complete the project.

Born in part out of her family's deep connection to the community, Aftermath Lounge: A Novel in Stories (April 2015, Calypso Editions) releases at the 10-year anniversary of Katrina and comprises fictional vignettes about the people of Pass Christian in the storm's wake. The stories are connected by a setting near to the author's heart —the McMullans' home, which was originally constructed in 1845 and restored by her father numerous times over the years.

Aftermath Lounge is a compelling tribute to the Gulf Coast and resurrects the place and its people alongside their heartaches and triumphs. It is a riveting mosaic that feeds our desire to understand what it means to be alive in this day and age.

Aftermath Lounge offers Real World Reflections via Fictional Characters.  McMullan does a wonderful job creating very real stories from the fictional characters featured in her Aftermath Lounge stories.  McMullan writes such descriptive, human stories that she is able to surround readers in them.  While the stories are short; they weave together a picture of a community.  The individual stories create a picture of the people who remain strong after their lives were shattered.

Aftermath Lounge isn't a collection of sadness.  While the pain of Katrina's aftermath presents itself in each story--the strength and perseverance of the characters, families, and friends remind readers of the strength required to rebuild and move forward after the storm.  McMullan focuses on the strength and struggles rather than the despair.

Would I recommend Aftermath Lounge by Maragaret McMullan?   I was pretty far removed from the destruction of Hurricane Katrina.  I wasn't sure if the stories would impact me as strongly as they would had I been a storm survivor.  I was impacted immediately.  The stories are well constructed and flow together seamlessly to create an overall story of hope, survival and strength. While the stories are fictionalized; the pain and struggles presented seem all too real.  I would recommend this book to anyone interested in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath.

Buy Aftermath Lounge on Amazon

About the Author 
 Margaret McMullan is the author of six award-winning novels including In My Mother's House (St. Martin's Press), Sources of Light (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Cashay (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), When I Crossed No-Bob (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), and How I Found the Strong (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) .

Her writing has appeared in The Chicago Tribune, Ploughshares, Souther n Accents, TriQuar terly, Michigan Quar terly Review, The Sun , a n d m a n y o t h e r publications.

She received an NEA Fellowship in literature for Aftermath Lounge and a Fulbright award to teach at the University of Pécs in Pécs, Hungary, for her upcoming non-fiction work, Where the Angels Live.  Her anthology of essays by 25 well-known female authors writing about their fathers, Every Father's Daughter (McPherson & Company), is also available in Spring 2015.

She currently holds the Melvin Peterson Endowed Chair in Creative Writing at the University of Evansville in Indiana

8/27/15

Quick and Easy Lasagna Recipe


If I could pick one food for my last meal on this Earth...it would be lasagna.  (Maybe chicken pot pie....but, probably lasagna!)  I love lasagna.  I can't tell you how happy I was when my middle little one chose my lasagna as her birthday dinner a few years ago!  She hates food...literally...so, if she chose my lasagna...it has to be good, right?  I thought I would share my "chosen" lasagna recipe today. It's really a quick and easy comfort food--that works well for those fall potlucks and PTO dinners!

Ingredients for Our Quick and Easy Lasagna Recipe
9 Lasagna Noodles, Prepared for Baking

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 1/2 Pounds Ground Beef or Ground Turkey
1 Medium Yellow Onion, Diced
1 c. Chopped Fresh Mushrooms
1 Tbsp. Italian Seasoning
1/2 tsp. Garlic Powder or 1 Clove Garlic
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. Pepper
4 c. Marinara Sauce (I use Del Grosso Pasta Sauces...every time.  Sometimes I choose the Organic Garden Medley or the Tomato Basil--or use the traditional meat sauce.  The brand has a wonderful base flavor that works well for the lasagna.)

Cheese Filling Ingredients
1/3 c. Parmesan Cheese
2 c. Ricotta Cheese or Cottage Cheese (I use Michigan Cotage Cheese because of its Ricotta-like texture)
12 oz. Shredded Mozzarella or Italian Cheese Blend--with 1/2 c. reserved to sprinkle over the top of the layered lasagna.
1 Egg, Beaten

Instructions for Making our Quick and Easy Lasagna Recipe:

Prepare the sauce.  Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a LARGE nonstick skillet or dutch oven. Crumble the ground turkey or ground beef into the heated oil and cook until the meat is cooked through.  Add the chopped onions and mushrooms to the meat and continue cooking until the vegetables become tender (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper..and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Stir in the pasta sauce, bring to a boil--then reduce the heat and allow to simmer (stirring occasionally) for around 30 minutes.  Set aside.

Prepare the cheesy lasagna filling. Place the cottage cheese (or ricotta cheese) in a large mixing bowl. Add in the Parmesan cheese and the mozzarella or Italian blend cheese and combine well. Mix in the beaten egg.

Assemble the Lasagna.  Preheat oven to 350 F. Begin by spraying a 9x11 or 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray. Add 1 1/2 cups of the meat sauce to the bottom of the pan and spread evenly. Make a layer of three noodles. Then divide the remaining sauce into thirds and the cheese filling in half. Layer 1/3 of the meat mixture and 1/2 the cheese filling next over the noodle layer. Be sure to spread each layer evenly. Follow with a second layer of noodles, another layer of meat sauce, and the remaining cheese filling. Follow again with a layer of noodles and top with the remaining meat sauce.

Bake and serve.  Bake the lasagna covered at 350 for 30 minutes. Uncover, top with 1/2 c. shredded Italian or Mozzarella cheese reserved--and return to the oven for an additional 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.  Let sit for 5-10 minutes before cutting into squares.


Serve with salad and garlic bread.  We usually make our own garlic toast by toasting bread and buttering with our Italian Garlic Butter Spread recipe.  


*Busy Mom Tip:  These are super easy to prepare ahead of time and send to PTO or Athletic Banquet dinners with baking instructions--or even bake and carry in as you can probably fit 4 in your home oven!  I would certainly use these for those athletic "team meal" hosting obligations.  Simply build them in disposable, aluminum baking pans and bake according to directions.  Add salad and crusty bread--and you have an easy meal.



Book Review: Hello, Agnieszka! by E Journey & a Book Tour Giveaway


Last week, I shared a review of the first book in a series from a new-to-me author, E Journey.   I enjoyed Hello, My Love--Book One in her Between the Worlds Series--and looked forward to reading the second book; Hello Agnieszka.  It seemed that the 2nd book was written as both a "prequel" to the first book--and as stand alone second story for the characters. What did I think of Hello, Agnieszka?  After you read my review--you may wish to enter for a chance to win a book from the series--or the entire series in the book tour giveaway at the end of this post!

I received a complimentary copy of this book for use in a blog review.  All opinions are my own.  
Quick Description for Hello, Agnieszka!  (Book #2): A raw tale of early love, rivalry and betrayal. Her oldest son’s suicide attempt shocks the Halversons and forces Agnieszka to reveal a past she has kept from her children.

Passion for music. Hearing her talented, irrepressible grandaunt Jola, a concert pianist in Poland, give a piano recital; young Agnieszka discovers a passion for music. Jola hones her talent and feeds her dreams.

Shattered dreams. Real-world problems, thorny relations with a mother tied to her roots and betrayal by Jola shatter her dreams.

A 70s love story. Agnieszka falls in love, but fate deals her first love a death blow. She rises from the losses she has suffered and gets a second chance at happiness.

A mother’s youthful dreams thwarted and renewed, amidst the exciting promise of the 70s.

Hello, Agnieszka Takes Readers Deeper into Elise's World.  As Agnieszka's, Elise's mother's,  life story unfolded in her words to her children--readers were taken further into Elise's family.  Secrets, betrayals and hidden stories from the past surprise the family as their mother opens up and tells all.  E Journey tells a wonderful story from Agnieszka's point of view--and keeps readers turning the pages through the emotions all the way to the end.

E Journey Creates Very Realistic, Human Centered Fiction.  
This is only the 2nd book that I've read from E Journey--but, her stories flow easily and completely--making her one of my new, favorite storytellers.  This book tugs on the heart strings of mothers--and hits home as well for many daughters.  E Journey keeps the emotions real and the scenes well focused, well grounded, and realistic enough for readers from so many walks (and stages) of life to relate.  The characters are very human and very real.

Hello, Agnieszka!  Offers Two Stories in One.  Generally, I love books set in the present while allowing the characters to narrate the stories of the past.  This probably comes from living with a storytelling grandfather!  Sometimes; however, this format may be distracting.  I think E Journey accomplishes the two stories very well--with no reader confusion or distraction.  The scenes of the book flow smoothly and allow for a full "life" story by the end of the book.


Would I recommend Hello, Agnieszka! by E Journey? I think, as a mother, I enjoyed this book a little more than the first of the series.   Again, I love stories where characters relive their pasts--and share the good, the bad, and the less than perfect of their struggles.  Readers will gain some insights into the characters--and their flaws and personalities.  While I think this book would really stand alone as a complete story--there is always a better sense of order when the entire series is read as a whole.  If you enjoy life stories--with, again, the good, the bad, and the less than perfect--this book was a wonderful second book to E Journey's series.

Buy Hello, Agnieszka!
 

Buy Hello, My Love!  (aka: A Modern Love Story) (Between Two Worlds Book 1)
  


About the Author

EJourney is a realist who thinks she has little imagination. Credit that to her training (Ph. D., University of Illinois) and work in mental health, writing for academics and bureaucrats, and critiquing the work of others. She’s been striving ever since to think and write like normal people.

She’s a well-traveled flâneuse—a female observer-wanderer—who watches, observes, listens. And writes. A sucker for happy endings, she finds enough that depresses her about real life, but seeks no catharsis by writing about it. For her, writing is escape, entertainment. She doesn’t strive to enlighten. Not deliberately. But the bias of her old profession does carry over into her writing. So, instead of broad shoulders and heaving bosoms, she goes into protagonists' thoughts, emotions, inner conflicts, insecurities, and struggles to reach balance and grow.

Connect with the Author: Website Twitter Facebook
Enter to Win a Single Book or the Entire Series!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

8/25/15

#OneLastBeachRead : Tawdra Kandle's The Path Available Now


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My girls are back in school here in our little corner of the world.  Summer's almost officially over, but there's still time for #OneLastBeachRead. And you're in luck because the perfect way to end the summer is now live and available everywhere!  I am not sure if I will have time to review it before the end of the summer--so check it out and let me know what you think!

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Abby Donavan came to the small beach community of Crystal Cove to start over. After a painful affair broke her heart and derailed her burgeoning career, taking over management for the just-opened bed-and-breakfast was the safe choice. In this sleepy town, Abby figured she could bury her memories and forget the pain. When the chance to have her own hotel falls into her lap, though, she can’t resist the temptation. Making the old Riverside Inn into the showplace she’s always dreamed of running offers the second chance she never expected. Abby didn’t expect another kind of second chance to land on her doorstep at the same time. Ryland Kent wants to help her bring the Riverside back to life, and his passion for restoration is irresistible. But as much as she wants to ignore it, she can’t help seeing another spark in his eyes . . . one that offers to reignite her own flame. Sometimes the path to a happily-ever-after is anything but smooth.

Buy it now! iBooks/Amazon/All Romance Ebooks/Nook/Google Play/Kobo/Smashwords

And join us here today at the HUGE release party, featuring both Tawdra and author Olivia Hardin!

If you haven't read the first two Crystal Cove Romances . . . now is the perfect time.


Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00020]THE POSSE (Crystal Cove Book 1) is free for a limited time only!
iBooks/Amazon/Google Play/Nook/Kobo

"It is rare for characters to stay with me for weeks or months, but these are etched in my mind and heart." Amazon review    




And don't miss THE PLAN (Crystal Cove Book 2). Emmy and Cooper's story has both sizzle and heart.
Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00020]  Buy on:  iBooks/Amazon/Nook/Google Play/Kobo

"Real. That's all I can feel for this story. Real. Real life. Real love. Real emotion. Real characters. They stick with you from the first book, to this second one in the series." Amazon review





About the Author 

TK03Tawdra Kandle writes romance, in just about all its forms. She loves unlikely pairings, strong women, sexy guys, hot love scenes and just enough conflict to make it interesting. Her books include YA paranormal romance, NA paranormal and contemporary romance, and adult contemporary and paramystery romance. She lives in central Florida with a husband, kids, sweet pup and too many cats. And yeah, she rocks purple hair.

Follow Tawdra:
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